Why I wish I could reject your email attachment

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today launched a campaign calling on all computer users to start politely rejecting email attachments sent in secret and proprietary formats: for freedom and the good of the web!  I believe that open standards are the best form to convey information and I think that attachments contribute to spread proprietary formats.

Unfortunately I think that this campaign cannot be joined by mobile phone users because it’s damaging them. None of the mobile operating systems I have stumbled upon offers support for OO.org. Maybe on Android there is a way to read attached ODF files, but through Google Docs (support of Impress file format is missing, though). ODF support on BlackBerry was announced but I couldn’t find mention on their website. I think Meego (formerly known as Maemo) has native support for ODF, but very few people use it. Not sure about other OSes. A search for OpenOffice.org/ODF on Nokia Ovi Store produced no result. That alone excludes 40% of European mobile phone users (millions of people, including me) from joining this campaign. I wish I could join this campaign, but for me is still impossible to view an .odt or .opd on the move, so I prefer to receive a .doc or .ppt that I can use on my OpenOffice.org desktop and also look at it on my phone.

Mobile users still have too little freedom to reject proprietary formats. For Document Freedom Day I would like to add a new item to the FSF’s list of priorities: support for ODF on mobile operating systems, from Android to Symbian to others.

via Why I’m rejecting your email attachment — Free Software Foundation.

Le assurdità italiane

Certi giorni mi sveglio e vengo investito da sensazioni orribili. Oggi è uno di quelli. Chiamo Fastweb per disdire il mio costosissimo contratto e mi sento dire che devo mandargli una raccomandata con ricevuta di ritorno. Il costo di una raccomandata è almeno 2 ore di tempo bruciato, tra andare in ufficio postale, fare la fila e tornare al lavoro. Come professionista sono costretto ad avere un indirizzo di posta elettronica certificata (PEC) e il ministro si affanna a pubblicizzarla in tv come alternativa della raccomandata. Ma Fastweb non accetta la PEC per la disdetta (non sia mai, solo carta, per carità … la vuole vergata col sangue, dico io?), mentre per l’attivazione basta riempire un formulario online.

Assurdo che le leggi siano così ‘avanti’, ma addirittura le aziende ‘hi-tech’ non ci stanno dietro.

Things I said on 2010-03-28

A free decentralized social networking platform

Eben Moglen’s call for a free and decentralized social networking platform seems to have been heard 🙂 OneSocialWeb, Apache2 license, developed by Vodafone R&D Labs

The purpose of onesocialweb is to enable free, open, and decentralized social applications on the web. Its protocol can be used to turn any XMPP server into a full fledged social network, participating in the onesocialweb federation.

Looks interesting: did anybody play with it?

via Docs – OneSocialWeb – Creating a free, open, and decentralized social networking platform..

Things I said on 2010-03-21

La matematica non è un’opinione: non sono un milione

Neanche se ammettiamo che possano stare stipate 4 persone per metro quadro si può immaginare che ci siano 1 milione di persone in piazza.

piazza s. giovanni 120x120m (stima per eccesso)

Pur ammettendo che la piazza sia lunga 120m e larga altrettanto (ho fatto la stima in fretta con Google Maps e GIMP) sarebbe 14400 metri quadri. Pur ammettendo che ci stiano 4 persone stipate per metro quadro, l’occupazione massima di piazza S. Giovanni, guardando pure le foto della manifestazione sarebbe 57.600 persone. Vogliamo raddoppiarle per essere buoni? Tripliciamole pure, giacchè ci siamo. Ma un milione?

Un milione di cazzate non contraddette dal Corriere

Questo titolo del Corriere è ignobile! Non si può titolare con la dichiarazione visibilmente falsa di un politico. Ovvio che vada citata, ma col contraddittorio, altrimenti passa per verità Dove sta la responsabilità civica dei giornalisti? Amici giornalisti che ne dite?

UPDATE: un amico (anonimo nerd) mi fa notare che:

in una manifestazione c’e’ gente che va e che viene e uno scambio di 20 piazze piene da 50000 persone fa un milione. È altamente improbabile e poco credibile, ma cio’ non toglie che l’argomentazione della dimensione della piazza e’ matematicamente insufficiente per contraddire quella cifra

Mi fa ricordare di quelle barzellette tra fisici, ingegneri e matematici.

Update 2: la piazza e le misure più precise confermano che siamo troppo lontani dal milione per fare titoli così. Giornalisti: dove siete?!?!

It’s all about Contacts: who do you know?

When it comes to doing anything, finding a job, an apartment or a used car, what counts most is who you know. In the old times it was the size of your rolodex, now it’s the size of you digital addressbook. Being so powerful, it’s no wonder that everybody out there wants it: Facebook, Plaxo, Vodafone, AT&T … all want YOUR addressbook because who you know says a lot about who you are, what you like. Also the FBI likes to know that 🙂

It’s good to notice the quantity of efforts from the free software community revolving around your social capital. After my disappointment with the pretty lame addressbook in Thunderbird 3, I was amazed to learn about MozillaLabs Contacts. It’s a Firefox extension that makes the browser aware of your online contacts and friend lists. Why should you care? Because your addressbook is yours and you shouldn’t be sharing it with everybody only to invite them to join yet-another-social-networking-site. As Michael Hanson puts it in his blog post

This information is also special, because it represents the boundary between “my data” and “your privacy”. When you disclose your friends’ email addresses on a website (maybe you want to invite them to a cool new site you just joined), you are trusting the website to keep that address private. […] The disclosure of your friends’ contact information is an important step: we think you should be in control of it.

Contacts also uses the Portable Contacts definition internally. I aggregate and keep all my contacts in sync with Funambol, so I’m thinking that the best way for me to use Contacts would be if I could have it grab the addressbook from Funambol server. How hard would it be to add a Portable Contacts representation of the contacts stored in Funambol? If anybody is interested, I can sponsor the investigation of the issue and the development with Code Sniper grants.

Why free software applications are a priority on mobile platforms (not device drivers)

Bradley wrote about mobile software freedom, a field that I’m obviously deep into because of my work at Funambol. His quite long article Musings on Software Freedom for Mobile Devices contains an analysis of the situation, which mobile platforms are more freedom-promising and why (in short: Maemo/Moblin merged as Meego and Android/Linux). I only disagree with Bradley on the priorities he sets. He says:

The challenging and more urgent work is to replace lower-level proprietary components on these systems with FLOSS alternatives,

I don’t think that device drivers are really the first problem the free software movement needs to tackle. I believe that the most important issue is to have good applications, with superb usability and that are innovative in order to attract users, fast. Some of the tactics used in the GNU project will need to be adapted to the speed of mobile, while others are not applicable.

Stallman’s project started in a time when PCs were slowly becoming relevant in society. It took almost 10 years before they were cheap enough to be in the bedrooms of young, smart programmers for them to easily contribute to the project. GNU also started developing applications first, and it took almost 10 years to start working on kernel and device drivers. The early adopters of GNU were highly skilled users, in a world with few computers with a clearly winning platform (the standard/commoditized platform IBM/Intel x86). Stallman and the whole free software movement had a lot of time to develop a nice free-as-in-freedom operating system and applications on standardized hardware. They also had the Unix design to follow: how the system had to look was pretty clear, it only had to be ‘better’.

Compare those first ten years and the quantity of computers in the ’80s/’90s to today’s speed and the quantity of mobile devices in everybody’s pocket (not just in developed countries), without a clear plan to follow(like Unix was for GNU): the game is radically more challenging. Take Google’s G1 as an example: it’s only one year old but its operating system version is obsolete (and customers are complaining). With users changing phone every 18 months in the US, the lifecycle of a free driver is too short to justify the effort.

On the other hand there are many applications that need to be liberated, like social applications that respect freedom in the cloud, mobile email client that don’t suck, mobile music players with stores that are not defective-by-design. And many more need still need to be imagined.  Developer’s focus should be on what appears in freedom-giving mobile applications markets: we made the application market concept popular (apt-get repository anyone?), now we need to move to mobile and to fill them with good and free applications first. Device drivers can come at later stage, eventually after hardware manufacturers will have battled each other to the death and one winner will emerge (like it happened with x86).

Things I said on 2010-03-14

Perché fatico a decidere chi votare

Negli ultimi 15 anni ho sempre sentito parlare di tutela del lavoro ma intorno a me vedevo solo 50enni col ‘posto fisso’ e 30enni sempre in cerca. Con gli stipendi dei miei coetanei ridotti a livelli infimi e le prospettive di ricchezzapraticamente annullate, ho maturato un sentimento avverso alle posizioni antiche dei sindacati e di tutta la sinistra italiana. Come si fa a prentedere di mantenere posizioni insostenibili per la società quando ormai si è divisi tra un 20% di super-privilegiati mai-licenziabili e un 80% di poveracci? In un articolo di Lavoce.info si intuisce come lo sciopero di venerdì scorso fosse una manifestazione antica e fuori dalla realtà:

il problema del mercato del lavoro italiano non è nella tutela processuale del lavoratore ma in quella sostanziale. E per tutela sostanziale intendiamo una tutela che si estenda ai periodi di disoccupazione e ai moltissimi lavoratori che oggi non sono affatto tutelati dalle leggi sui licenziamenti.

Peccato che il dibattito politico sia radicalizzato e ridotto a insulti: ci sarebbe tanto da fare. Via Lavoce.info – ARTICOLI – TUTELIAMO IL REDDITO, NON IL POSTO FISSO.