Tag Archives: Free Software

The impact of Open Source within the European Union

The results of the Open Source Impact Study tasked by the European Commission have been widely discussed mainly because of its numbers. Though being announced just now, the study identified for the year 2018 a contribution of 0.4% to the GDP worth EUR 63 billion by FOSS, if measured by the increase in commits. 10% more contributors would even raise the GDP of the European Union by 0.6% (EUR 95 billion). The overall cost-benefit ratio is estimated with at least 1:4.

But it gets even more interesting, when looking into the results of the accompanying survey covering about 900 stakeholders (mainly companies) from all around Europe.

For them, incentives for using and investing in Open Source have been, sorted by relevance:

  1. finding technical solutions
  2. avoiding vendor lock-in
  3. carrying forward the state of the art of technology
  4. knowledge creation

As benefits they have seen:

  • support of open standards and interoperability
  • access to source code
  • independence from proprietary providers of software

Within the participants the cost-benefit ratio has been estimated even with 1:10.

Quite some news outlets have reported about the presentation of the study’s findings at the OpenForum Europe Policy Summit 2021, though the final report to the Commission is still pending.

English: “How much are open-source developers really worth? Hundreds of billions of dollars, say economists” by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet
German: “Studie: Open Source trägt 95 Milliarden Euro zur EU-Wirtschaftskraft bei” by Stefan Krempl

Update 2021/02/15 – Netzpolitik.org hat heute auch ein Interview mit dem maßgeblich an der Studie beteiligten Innovationsforscher Knut Blind veröffentlicht: “Open Source braucht öffentliche Finanzierung” von Alexander Fanta

Update 2021/09/06 – The full report has now been published: “Study about the impact of open source software and hardware on technological independence, competitiveness and innovation in the EU economy”.

Virtual Conference Experiences

The current circumstances also forced conferences (those gatherings with really large audiences) completely into cyberspace. Some sticked with traditional approaches to stream talks via off-the-shelf videoconferencing applications and built upon the integrated very limited interaction features offered by these poor proprietary tools. Others have gone complete new ways and brought fascinating and well working concepts on how to still successfully connect the crowds to enable lively conversations and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences in a distant environment.

Let’s start with rc3 and its virtual conference venue in form of rc3 world, implemented with Work Adventure. In a pixel-2D-adventure-style you could walk around the area and as soon as you are approaching other characters, a live audio and video stream with those humans or other live forms controlling the character would open. Limited to 4-5 persons at a time, it allowed you to talk directly with each other – face to face. Due to the limitation of participants you were still able to have a working conversation.

Somehow you needed to get used to having an unexpected and sudden interaction with one and another – on live video, but still it brought back the heavily missed opportunity to get in personal touch with other participants who are sharing possibly similar interests.

rc3 world (screenshot by derstandard.at)

The FOSDEM 2021, the worlds biggest conference on Free and Open Source Software usually taking place in Bruxelles, had for me a very convincing overall concept. The organizers and infrastructure artists have done a tremendous job that allowed for the most impressive conference experience so far and for long. Naturally and purely based on Free Software, at its core matrix, element, and Jitsi.

How did it work and what was so great about it?

Presentations of specific areas of interest had been summarized in virtual rooms with a fixed agenda, like in most physical conferences. Participants logged into a chat infrastructure which represented the rooms by group conversations. You would simply join the room(s) that you are interested in and could start texting with each other and the speakers like on IRC. Talks had been recorded beforehand and where automatically started – by the computer (systemd) – at their scheduled time. Its audio and video were streamed right above your chat window. When the talk ended, the Q&As were streamed live for a fixed amount of time within that room until the next talk started auto-playing according to schedule. During that first part of the Q&A session of a talk, moderators where clarifying upvoted questions and comments from the chat and interacting realtime with the presenters. Those interested could then continue discussing with the speakers and further extend their conversation by switching to a separate room. So per talk you had a dedicated room for the second part of the Q&A that would open shortly after and even allowed anyone there to interact live via audio and video.

In sum that meant that you could check the schedule for topics you are interested in, connect at the announced time and be sure to really listen to that talk instead of watching tech staff doing mic checks or heavily delayed earlier talks whilst being unsure about if and when the one you came for would actually start.

In addition the highly valued Q&A and following backstage (and off the record) conversations could still take place without interrupting or being interrupted by the subsequent talk.

Just impressive and so useful! Thanks a lot to all who made this happen and work that well! These concepts are now here to stay, even when conferences will hopefully resume soon back in the physical world.

2021/02/15 – Updated link of [matrix] to point at the now available summary of their efforts for FOSDEM 2021.

GPL compliance and the persistent cancer theory

In the golden age of Open Source compliance offerings, one of the key marketing argument still appears to be: “The General Public License (GPL) is sooo risky. In case of GPL infringement, you will have to release all of your code – speak your intellectual property (IP) – under the same terms. Take our license scanner as we are the best to protect you against such nightmares.”

That statement simply is not correct. But very effective if you want to sell your services. Which company wants to be forced to release its valuable IP into the public only by not following specific license terms?

This myth was supposedly framed by Steve Balmer of Microsoft who once said back in 2001: “The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source. […] Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.”

His general understanding of one of the basic principles of Free Software and the GPL – reciprocity – speaks of great intellectual power. However this muddle-headed theory in total is utterly wrong but still persistent today serving as one of the main arguments to sell license compliance offerings.

Even infringing the terms of the GPL will never force you to put your own source code under the same license. Simple as that.

Sure, in the worst case you have violated a software license. In this aspect there is no difference between the GPL or any other even proprietary license. Copyright infringement claims are caused by

  • the actual violation of the license and
  • the unlicensed use of software.

You have to cope with its consequences. Legal remedies are

  • punitive damages and
  • injunction to not distribute your product any further.

Not more, not less.

Continue reading GPL compliance and the persistent cancer theory

HowTo: Thunderbird Maintenance

Over time Mozilla’s Thunderbird may happen to require some maintenance in order to continue running smoothly. Symptoms could be that either you cannot find mails that are supposed to be there, mails are doubling without any reason, or deleted mails show up again in its original folder.

Note that Thunderbird must be closed (and really not running) for the next steps to be successful. You then need to navigate to your profile folder and execute the given commands at the root of this directory.

Continue reading HowTo: Thunderbird Maintenance

Open Source software within the public sector

Network World has recently published a map of countries that either encourage or mandate for consideration the use of Open Source software within their governmental institutions:


The article by Jon Gold is entitled “Which countries have open-source laws on the books?” and also points out that it is not that easy to provide a distinct and reliable picture.

So there is still a way to go and if you like to see more yellow countries, support the Free Software Foundation / Free Software Foundation Europe or the Open Source Initiative.

Email encryption

As more and more people want to encrypt their personal communication to preserve and to protect their privacy, this post should give a quick introduction and some useful hints regarding email encryption based on OpenPGP.

First of all: It may initially look like being quite complicated. The available guide will require some thorough reading. But in the end it is not that complex and absolutely worth the effort. As soon as one is familiar with the basic concepts and techniques it will be nothing more than locking/unlocking your front door. And probably you did not yet remove your door lock for reasons of simplicity?

Continue reading Email encryption

Use of Open Source Software in Health Care Delivery – Results of a Qualitative Field Study

The article about my previous research has finally been published in the IMIA Yearbook 2013. It is meant to provide a practitioner’s perspective on the use of medical free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) in clinical routine. In this context I examined and presented the opinions and experiences of chief information officers (CIO) working at larger hospitals. The abstract reads like this:

Objectives: To assess and analyze the attitude of health IT executives towards the utilization of specialized medical Open Source software (OSS) in Germany’s and other European countries’ health care delivery.

Methods: After an initial literature review a field study was carried out based on semi-structured expert interviews. Eight German and 11 other European health IT executives were surveyed. The results were qualitatively analyzed using the grounded theory approach. Identified concepts were reviewed using SWOT analysis.

Results: In total, 13 strengths, 11 weaknesses, 3 opportunities, and 8 threats of the utilization of OSS in a clinical setting could be identified. Additionally, closely related aspects like general software procurement criteria, the overall attitude of health IT executives, users, and management towards OSS and its current and future use could as well be assessed.

Conclusions: Medical OSS is rarely used in health care delivery. In order to capitalize the unique advantages of OSS in a clinical setting, complex requirements need to be addressed. Short-comings of OSS describe an attractive breeding ground for new commercial offerings and services that need yet to be seen.

Schmuhl, H., Heinze, O., & Bergh, B. (2013). Use of Open Source Software in Health Care Delivery – Results of a Qualitative Field Study. Contribution of the EFMI LIFOSS Working Group. Yearbook of medical informatics, 8(1), 107–13.

The full text article available via: Apfelkraut.org | PubMed | Schattauer

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