Month: June 2007

Introduction aux Logiciels Libres

Après ma présentation d’hier à la soirée du Liege Linux Team, j’ai placé ma présentation en ligne : “Introduction aux Logiciels Libres” (ou directement : fichier PDF, 1.8Mo). Tout commentaire ou amélioration possible est le(la) bienvenu(e) !

English version Edit (a little bit later): since I usually write in English here, I translated my presentation in English. It’s here: “Introduction to Free Software” (PDF, 1.9Mb).

June 28th: Intro to free software conference

On June 28th evening, the Liege Linux Team is organizing a conference to introduce free software. Three topics are scheduled: an introduction, a presentation of free software related to internet and a presentation of “offline” free software. They already left some time for discussion (between and after the talks). It will take place here (Auditoire Grand Physique, 1st floor), in the city center.

Conference poster
Englarge the imagePoster in PDF

Please note talks will be held in French but feel free to come and talk in English: nearly everyone understand English

Oh and by the way, it will be shown that there are also a lot of free software perfectly working with MS-Windows!


Taking advantage of my laptop crash, I went back to some text-mode tools (vim, mutt, …): they are fast, easy to use (once you read at least the introduction section in the manual) and reliable (text files are more easily recovered after corruption than binary blobs). I also tested and adopted Snownews.

Snownews is a text-mode RSS newsreader. Installing it is very easy: download the archive, and type the usual “./configure; make; make install”. Since I’m following some blogs written in French, I configured Snownews with Unicode support: “./configure –charset=UTF-8”.

Using Snownews is also very easy (you always can get help with h). In the main interface, a adds a feed, r reloads a feed and you can navigate with arrows and the Enter key to highlight and read news from a feed. Once you hit Enter, you can use the arrows to highlight a news and read it. Simple. Easy. A snapshot? Here you are:

Snownews in action screenshot: list of all feeds

P.S. I got Beryl out-of-the-box on a second-hand Toshiba Tecra S1 and Fedora 7, what a pleasure! But it’s not really productive; so you enable it, watch and play with it for 5 minutes and then disable it before getting back to work. You’ll be able to re-enable Beryl before your next presentation

A voté !

As every Belgian citizen, I voted today for our legislative bodies (Chambre et Sénat). As always, I was confronted to the same problem: electronic voting. Technically, I’ve no problem to understand and use the system: it’s an ethical problem. I don’t know if my vote is correctly written on the card, even with all the given guarantees and technical details (you can test such a voting machine here or watch a demo of the Belgian system, both in French). Personally, I saw two problems:

  • Source code is not available to any citizen, even if they promised to release it on the day of the polling (see the official website and screenshot below). I don’t think I have enough computer security knowledge to review those sources in detail but I think they have to make them available because 1) it allows a democratic control and 2) they promised it. I usually do not believe in conspiracy theories but … 😉 See update below
  • The old lady in the voting booth next to mine was “helped” by someone she doesn’t know from the polling station. I clearly was able to hear technical instructions but one doesn’t know the exact meaning when the person told her “to point there“. Don’t be mistaken: hopefully this person was there to help her, otherwise the old lady wouldn’t have been able to vote. What I’m criticizing is the fact that all Belgians are not equal in front of the voting machine (although they are all supposed to be equal in front of the law).

I was very happy to see that all the French-speaking political parties presidents were against electronic voting (with some nuances for the MR party). Let’s see how they will act during the next legislature …

(bigger version here)

Update: at 17.00 (5.00pm) files were finally online (here and here, personal copies here and here). I guess they were not able before 15.00 (end of voting time) to avoid code substitution on some machines by hackers, like it happens with the Nedap machines in the Netherlands.

Stupid EULA!

/. has some interesting comments about a story of a man who is suing PC manufacturer Gateway. He alledges Gateway wouldn’t fix a broken machine he bought, replace it nor refund his money. But the most interesting part is that Gateway doesn’t agree to be sued in court because an arbitration clause in their End User License Agreement (EULA) “require a dispute to be settled in private forums chosen by companies instead of in public courtrooms” (the man stated he can’t read the EULA since “the computer’s graphics were so scattered he couldn’t read the box of terms and conditions or click the Accept button”).

art EULA by kampers on Flickr:

EULA were rarely enforced in court (I’m sure a bunch of them violate consumer protection laws). They are so many of them available, nearly one for each version of proprietary software. People rarely read them ; and people who do are confronted to legalese gibberish (a team of lawyers might not even agree on exactly what it means).

But there is one more thing that differentiate free from proprietary software: this license. Free software doesn’t need EULA. For a free software end-user, there should not be any need to read nor agree to obscure legal requirements stating, basically, that the company has all the rights and you don’t have any. Maybe free software can display a disclaimer, limiting the developers’liability in case of any problem (like all proprietary software EULAs do). What defines free software is the freedom of usage (“the freedom to run the program, for any purpose”) and distribution. A free software license is also there to ensure this freedom remains when you are distributing the software (either in a modified or unmodified form). No permission required. No strings attached.

Illustration from “art EULA” by kampers on Flickr (license CC by-nc-sa)

Online photos and privacy

Last week-end, I walked in the city center and posted some photos of sceneries and people on Flickr. It was the first time I posted photos of people I really don’t know (I already posted photos with people from parties where attendees want to see them online).

I recently read some articles (1, 2, 3) and blog posts about privacy and a new service from Google: Street view. I was then wondering if they are rules or regulations regarding online privacy for non-publishers (for online media).

If you have the opportunity to post your own photo and you don’t want to be online, you may just not publish it. Here I’m talking about people whose picture is being taken in public places and published online without their explicit consent.

A recent post from Slashdot discusses an article on the privacy implications of online photo-tagging (pdf). The issue here is a bit different since they are mainly talking about photos tagged with names of people on the picture (I didn’t go that far). But a stakeholder posted excerpts of the EU Data Protection Directive (already adopted in the Belgian law). You can find the text and some explanations on the EC data protection website. Other explanations and a good summary of differences regarding privacy between Europe and USA is in the Wikipedia article. Since Flickr is a US website/company, it’s not a surprise there are no references to nor guidelines regarding privacy of people on the pictures. But if I strictly follow the Belgian law, I should perhaps remove those photos. A lot of my contacts on Flickr do not take/publish pictures of unknown people. Is it on purpose?

I didn’t decided yet what to do, where is the right equilibrium between privacy concerns, hobby and knowledge/information sharing. Any insight is welcome.