Posts tagged open source

Free software explained in under 3 minutes

Your ‘umble scribe has long been an avid user of free and open source software. For a long time, read for over 2 decades.

Indeed, GNU/Linux (often simply termed Linux. Ed.) has been my operating system of choice for over 17 years.

But what exactly do the terms free software and open source actually mean? How does software bearing these labels differ in comparison to the proprietary software used by most people and organisations? And finally, why does any of this actually matter?

To answer these questions, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has recently produced the video embedded below. It takes under 3 minutes to watch and provides succinct answers to the questions posed above.

New Turkish LibreOffice guide

Yesterday the blog of The Document Foundation – the German non-profit organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice suitereported on the release of a Turkish language guide for the productivity software.

Cover of LibreOffice Turkish user guide

Image courtesy of The Document Foundation

The guide has been translated from the English Getting Started Guide by Ayhan Yalçinsoy, a member of The Document Foundation and Board of Directors deputy.

Ayhan comments:

I’ve been using LibreOffice since 2010. It makes me happy to support and contribute to this application that I use with pleasure. For this reason, I have been trying to contribute by translating the interface and help text since the day I started using it. I know that every contribution counts in the open source world.” says Ayhan. “I would like to thank Muhammet Kara for what he has done for LibreOffice here. I learned from him how I can contribute to LibreOffice apart from interface translation. I solved some easyhack issue with his support.
After all these contributions, we established a certification team. We started the translation work for the LibreOffice Getting Started Guide 6.2 about a year ago, but for some reasons we could not continue. This issue remained in my mind. Finally, with the encouragement of Muhammet Kara and the sponsorship of TUBITAK/ULAKBIM, I completed the translation of Getting Started Guide 7.2.

Ayhan is currently working on a Turkish guide for Calc, LibreOffice’s spreadsheet program and is also appealing for volunteers to help him with this task, as his ultimate aim is to make Turkish language guides for all of LibreOffice’s constituent applications.

NASA – Open MCT 2.0.0 has landed

US space agency NASA is an extensive user of free and open source software (posts passim). Today German tech news site heise reports on the release of Open MCT 2.0.0.

With version 2.0.0 has released an update of the Open Mission Control Technologies open source framework. Open MCT was developed at California’s Ames Research Center and is used by NASA as a mission control framework for data virtualisation on desktop and mobile devices.

Screenshot of the WARP software showing a layout that includes plots, images, and other display elements

Image courtesy of NASA

NASA utilises Open MCT for analysing space missions and for planning and implementing experimental rover systems. Included in the latest release is a plug-in which enables adaptation of the framework to be used as an API from Angular to node.js, which is now supported. Critical bugs have also been fixed. Firstly, newly created items which shared a name with an existing object were not displayed in the tree structure. Furthermore, a faulty CSS selector prevented the correct mapping of plans in the timestrip display.

Additional changes include two bug fixes and seven Open MCT maintenance and testing problems, including a display error in which a grid remained visible when the inspector was closed and an error message that popped up during client-side URL redirection. The project is working on four aspects on the maintenance side: the event generator has been adapted from the Angular-based legacy API for node.js and re-implemented.

Besides its use for space missions with NASA Open MCT is an open source framework that could be adapted, according to the developers, for applications as varied as:

  • Monitoring of IoT devices;
  • Drones;
  • CubeSats;
  • Robotics;
  • High altitude balloons;
  • Electronic health monitoring;
  • Computer and network performance monitoring;
  • Enterprise data visualisation; and
  • Process control monitoring.

More information on this latest release may be found on GitHub.

Google and Microsoft finance open source security campaign

A new initiative by the Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF) should improve the security of open source applications, German news site heise reports. The campaign, called the Alpha-Omega Project, is the result of negotiations at the White House between representatives of technology companies, US authorities and non-profit organisations. The initial funding of $5 mn. is being financed jointly by Google and Microsoft.

Image courtesy of opensource.com

OpenSSF is organising the project in two parts – Alpha and Omega. In the Alpha section expert groups are analysing the security situation of the most-used open source applications to find and remedy vulnerabilities. This should train software operators and users in security awareness. In the Omega section a team of software developers is working on automated tests for over 10,000 distributed open source project to propose possible security measures to their user communities.

Open source projects and libraries are widely used in software development. The Log4Shell vulnerability in the widely-distributed Log4j Java library recently showed how critical an attack can be. Even after a month and a half it still remains unclear whether companies have survived the worst. Users and companies should therefore investigate their own systems for vulnerable instances of the Log4j library and install current patches.

More details of the Alpha-Omega Project can be found in the official announcement.

LibreOffice 7.3 to support Klingon

The forthcoming point release of LibreOffice, the free and open source office suite, will feature support for two constructed languages – Klingon and InterslavicNeowin reports. TDF logo

Klingon insigniaKlingon is of course well known to lovers of the US science fiction Star Trek media franchise created by Gene Roddenberry as the language of the alien race of the same name and created by US linguist Mark Okrand, actor James Doohan (who played chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott. Ed.) and scriptwriter and producer Jon Povill.

The Klingon language is first mentioned in the original Star Trek series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967), but is not heard until 1979 in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Interslavic flagInterslavic is a pan-Slavic auxiliary language whose purpose is to facilitate communication between people from different Slavic nations, as well as allowing those who do not know any Slavic language to communicate with Slavs by being understandable to most, if not all Slavic speakers without them having to learn the language themselves.

When it comes to classification, Interslavic can be described as a semi-constructed language, being in essence a modern continuation of Old Church Slavonic, but it also draws on the various improvised language forms Slavs have been using for centuries to communicate with Slavs of other nationalities.

These are not the first constructed languages for which there is support in LibreOffice. Esperanto is already catered for in the form of a LibreOffice Esperanto extension which provides a spellchecker and hyphenation.

Commenting on the support for Klingon, The Document Foundation remarked:

Even if Klingon and Interslavic support sounds like a novelty, it shows how versatile free and open source software is. As mentioned, LibreOffice is available in over 100 languages, and we’d like to expand that even further. The more languages the better, especially if we can help to boost IT skills in places which don’t otherwise have software in their native languages!

The LibreOffice wiki provides a full list of languages supported by the office suite.

Digital Markets Act: Device Neutrality finally becomes a reality

EU flagAfter many iterations and amendments, the European Parliament adopted the Digital Markets Act (DMA) by 642 votes in favour, 8 votes against and 46 abstentions, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports.

The Act introduced the principle of Device Neutrality. At the same time, the Parliament missed the chance to introduce strict interoperability requirements based on Open Standards.

The FSFE has urged EU legislators to safeguard Device Neutrality in the DMA. We regret the voting has not contemplated setting Open Standards as default to define interoperability. However, getting Device Neutrality in the legislation is the first step. The right for end users to use their own devices and operating systems is an important factor to guarantee the access of free software operating systems to dominant platforms. As a daily reality for many users, this option enlarges the audience for free software adoption.

Lucas Lasota, the FSFE’s Deputy Legal Co-ordinator, remarked as follows:

We strongly believe the digital markets will benefit by facilitating access to Free Software in devices. Device Neutrality translates in the DMA as stricter consent rules for pre-installed apps, safeguards against vendor lock-in and real-time data portability. Interoperability of services was also introduced, but not with the requirement to be based on Open Standards. This is a lost chance to leverage competition with accessible and non-discriminatory technical specifications. Open Standards are an important element for innovation by allowing market actors to innovate on top of technical specification standards and build their own services.

The FSFE has been working for two decades empowering people to control the technology in their devices. It will closely follow the implementation of the Act and continue its activities and initiatives to safeguard the interests of end users.

EU Commission wants to release its software as open source

The European Commission announced today that it has adopted new rules on Open Source Software that will enable its software solutions to be publicly accessible whenever there are potential benefits for citizens, companies or other public services.

The Commission’s recent studyon the impact of Open Source Software and Hardware on technological independence, competitiveness and innovation in the EU economy revealed that on average, investment in open source results in four times higher returns. The Commission services will be able to publish the software source code they own in much shorter time and with less paperwork.

One example of the benefits of releasing software as open source is eSignature, a set of free standards, tools and services that help both public and private sector organisations accelerate the creation and verification of electronic signatures that are legally valid in all EU Member States.

A second example is LEOS, (Legislation Editing Open Software), the software used across the Commission to draft legal texts. Originally written for the Commission, LEOS is now being developed in close collaboration with Germany, Spain and Greece.

Single repository

The Commission will make its software available as open source in one single repository to enable access and reuse. Before its release, each software package will be checked to avoid security or confidentiality-related risks, data protection problems or infringement of third party intellectual property rights.

The Commission already shares hundreds of software projects as open source, including software developed for the Connecting Europe Facility, Eurostat, the Interoperable Europe Programme (Interoperability solutions for public administrations, businesses and citizens programme, the former ISA² programme), and for the Joint Research Centre.

Commenting on the announcement, the EU’s Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, said:

Open source offers great advantages in a domain where the EU can have a leading role. The new rules will increase transparency and help the Commission, as well as citizens, companies and public services across Europe, benefit from open source software development. Pooling of efforts to improve the software and the co-creation of new features lowers costs for the society, as we also benefit from the improvements made by other developers. This can also enhance security as external and independent specialists check software for bugs and security flaws.

EUPL now a “legal licence” in France

On 3rd December, French Décret no. 2021-1559 of 1st December 2021 was published in the Official Gazette, Joinup, the EU’s public sector news site reports.

This decree makes the European Union Public Licence (EUPL) a “Legal Licence” for use by public sector organisations in France.

Before the approval of this decree, French public sector organisations who wanted to use the EUPL had to justify it individually in a long administrative process. Since the EUPL is a reciprocal licence stating that derivatives of the covered software must likewise also be distributed under the EUPL, this represented an additional barrier for sharing and reusing software between European institutions, France and the rest of EU.

French public sector organisations are major users and developers of free/open source software. It is estimated that some 1,000 have published about 9,000 free and open source projects.

In addition to the EUPL, the decree mentioned above also adds the Eclipse Public Licence to the French “legal” list. The Eclipse Public Licence is a free and open source software licence most notably used for the Eclipse IDE and other projects by the Eclipse Foundation, an independent, Canada-based not-for-profit corporation that acts as a steward of the Eclipse open source software development community.

Ubuntu 21.10 released

Two days ago, Canonical announced the release of Ubuntu Linux 21.10, codenamed Impish Indri.

Ubuntu 21.10 wallpaper

Canonical’s CEO Mark Shuttleworth said of the release:

As open source becomes the new default, we aim to bring Ubuntu to all the corners of the enterprise and all the places developers want to innovate. From the biggest public clouds to the tiniest devices, from DGX servers to Windows WSL workstations, open source is the springboard for new ideas and Ubuntu makes that springboard safe, secure and consistent.

This latest Ubuntu release is a short-term one with nine months of support that precedes the next long-term support (LTS) version, Ubuntu 22.04.

The new release’s default desktop interface is GNOME 40, whilst there have also been some updates to the distribution’s default desktop programs, which now include the LibreOffice 7.2 office productivity suite, the Thunderbird 91 e-mail client, and the Firefox 92 web browser.

Ubuntu 21.10 is available for immediate download for 64-bit systems (32-bit support ceased some time ago. Ed.)

Introducing Ubuntu Frame

Earlier this month, Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, announced the release of Ubuntu Frame

With Ubuntu Frame, developers no longer need to integrate and maintain partial solutions such as DRM, KMS, input protocols or security policies to power and secure their displays. This means less code to manage, fewer opportunities for bugs and vulnerabilities in untried code and more time for developing the display’s content.

Ubuntu Frame screenshot

Ubuntu Frame screenshot

When developing Ubuntu Frame, the goal was to minimise the development and deployment time for building graphic solutions for edge devices by leveraging existing applications and hardening security techniques. Ubuntu Frame is therefore compatible with toolkits such as Flutter, Qt, GTK, Electron and SDL2. Furthermore, it also has a solution for applications based on HTML5 and Java, inter alia. It is also worth mentioning that Ubuntu Frame’s users benefit from easy configuration and deployment options thanks to snaps, which is being heralded asthe next-generation package format for Linux.

Ubuntu Frame provides developers with all they need to deploy fully interactive applications: it comes with all the interfaces applications need to communicate securely with the host machine without developers needing to deal with the specific hardware. It also automatically enables all the functionality that end-users expect while interacting with digital displays, such as input from touchscreens, keyboard and mouse. Developers also don’t need to worry about window behaviours and dynamics since they are all configured.

Commenting on the launch, Michał Sawicz, Smart Displays Engineering Manager at Canonical said the following:

Ubuntu Frame’s reliability has been widely tested in the field. Its technology has been in development for over 7 years and in production for 5 years, using state-of-the-art techniques, and deployed in production to Linux desktop and mobile users. As such, Ubuntu Frame is one of the most mature graphical servers available today for embedded devices.
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