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'Free software' questions for federal and local candidates

free and open source software in government

See the FSFE's 'free software' questions for federal and local government at the Ask your candidates campaign page.


The Free Software Foundation Europe published its free software-related election questions (in German) for this fall's elections to the German parliament, which will take place on September 22. All political parties have responded to the questions, which cover issues like users' control over their electronic devices, the release of publicly funded computer programs as Free Software, and software patents.

From the responses, it's clear that most parties now know more about Free Software than they did in the past. Below is the translation—done by FSFE volunteers—of FSFE's summary and an evaluation of the complete answers. In addition, FSFE encourages Free Software activists to use these questions as an inspiration for their own questions to candidates on federal and local level.

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Can Inkscape reduce the number of incarcerated people?

illegal foss

When the free vector drawing program Inkscape was first released in late 2003, I realized this software could do some part in helping to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States. This worthy goal is still within reach. Let me explain.

From 1990 to 2000, I spent quite a bit of time supporting the Adult Literacy Resource Center of the D.C. Public Libraries. Then, this division was exploring how technology could help adults learn how to read (among other things). I saw up close how computers could engage these adults, many of whom had learning disabilities.

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Want to understand open source? Live with its developers

Open source beliefs

Let's say you want to understand what makes free and open source software (FOSS) so vital today—and what makes those who write it so committed to their difficult work. How would you do this? » Read more

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Abolishing patents: Too soon or too late?

patent stop sign

"Patents are here to stay." This is the sort of statement that makes me uneasy. I guess in the 17th century the common wisdom was "slavery is here to stay." In the 18th century giving voting rights to women seemed absurd and foreseeing open borders between France and German was crazy talk in 1945. At a certain point, fortunately, those things changed for the better. Is it time to change the common wisdom on patents as well? Is the time ripe—will it ever be?—to utter the frightening word abolition? I do not have the privilege to know the answer, but I regard the question as a legitimate one. According to some patent experts, however, questioning the very existence of patents seems blasphemous. » Read more

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France government is latest to fully embrace open source

open parliament

France is the latest government to move from open source-friendly to open source-active, to paraphrase the European Commission's aspirational reference to Cloud Computing.

In late September, French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, signed a guideline (in French here and a rough translation here) urging the country's public administrations to not only make a thorough and systematic review of free alternatives when building and revising ICT infrastructure and applications, but also to use the savings realized by using OSS to develop expertise and engage upstream communities.

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Is open source democratic?

community

In his recent post, Glyn Moody asks an important question: "Can open source be democratic?" He describes how free software emerged as a distributed, bottom-up system of writing code. The central defining aspects of that culture are a uniquely open process not just of programming but also of its organization, and a close relationship between programmers and users. Effectively, users and programmers together were both contributors, they collaborated on the project. Glyn goes on to explain how this community effort changed over time to become more institutionalized, more corporate and more dull—"becoming a 'Firefox Affiliate', hardly something that sets the pulse racing." Ordinary users no longer play an important part in open source projects. » Read more

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Helping the European Parliament to release its own free software

open parliament

For the first time, the European Parliament is about to release one of its own programs as Free Software. The program in question is called AT4AM, short for "Automatic Tool for Amendments". The Parliament is in the business of making laws, and AT4AM automates a lot of the formal stuff associated with the production process.

To understand what AT4AM means for MEPs and their staff, have a look at how amendments were filed before, and how it works now. (Vimeo. Flash required, sorry.) Parliament staffer Erik Josefsson compared the introduction of AT4AM to the arrival of version control for developers. It's been in use inside the parliament for about 18 months, and it's a pretty fundamental tool for the people working there. » Read more

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5 Questions with David A. Wheeler

5 Questions

Meet David A. Wheeler. He's a Research Staff Member for the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and a well-known speaker, author, and expert on open source software and security. He helped develop the Department of Defense's open source software policy and FAQ and has written other guidance materials to help people understand how to use and collaboratively develop open source software in government. He has a Ph.D. in Information Technology, an M.S. in Computer Science, and a B.S. in Electronics Engineering. We hope you enjoy getting to know David. » Read more

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Oracle v. Google and API copyrightability

 Oracle v. Google and API copyrightability

As has been widely reported, the district court in the Oracle v. Google case has issued an order holding that the "structure, sequence and organization" (SSO) of 37 J2SE 5.0 API packages is not copyrightable. Oracle is expected to appeal. » Read more

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Is vendor lock-in costing Helsinki 3.4 million Euros per year?

Is vendor lock-in costing Helsinki 3.4 million Euros per year?

A report on the City of Helsinki's pilot project for the use of OpenOffice in the public administrations leaves the public with more questions than answers. The city trialled the Free Software productivity suite on the laptops of council members for ten months in 2011. The suite enjoyed high approval rates among its users. When the pilot was finished, the City produced a report stating that the costs of migrating the entire administration to OpenOffice would be very high. » Read more

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