Wednesday, 20 August 2008

German birth rate increasing - highest level since 2000

Interesting article in the German online edition of the FAZ today: "Frauen bekommen wieder mehr Kinder" (Women give birth to more children). The birth rate increased from last year to this one from 1.33 children per woman to 1.37 children per woman.

Of course there is some speculation on reasons, as well. To me it reads rather simple: There has been less economic panicking last year and this year (so far), politics seem to run ok without big turmoils - in other words: people have some more trust in stability and their individual situation. This gives them some more certainty regarding their decision to have children.

I am really convinced that stability and some level of trust in the economic situation - both of the society in total and of ones own - is the most critical element nowadays for people to decide whether to have children or not. All the rest may be nice add-ons, but a lot less decisive.

And what's funny about that all in our mass-media democracy: last year everyone was lamenting that the birth rate was going down and down without hope and that the demographic pyramid was completely topsy turvy loosing all base for a healthy society. So here we go: give people trust and provide a healthy environment and they will take the right decisions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Assessing standards - CAMSS

A couple of weeks ago I had a blog entry on the EU Commission's draft for the European Interoperability Framwork (EIF) version 2.0. Open standards are at the core of the EIF. Because open standards are a prerequisite for interoperability. However, openness is less an absolute criterion but more a scale of more or less open. The draft for new EIF 2.0 takes this into account.

Hence, where there is need for open standards there is need for properly assessing a standard in terms of openness. For that purpose, the EU Commission has complemented the draft EIF 2.0 with CAMSS, the Common Assessment Method for Standards and Specifications. The draft document has been published, as well, and comments may be submitted by September 15 at the latest.

In my view CAMSS is an excellent initiative and the method proposed does not only make sense but gives the appropriate set of criteria for assessing a standard in terms of openness. CAMSS provides a pragmatic approach for public authorities - and, actually, anybody else - to deal with standards and specifications and get a proper idea of how to classify them.

The detailed criteria are grouped in 4 categories. Suitability, Potential, Openness, Market Conditions. The fact that "Market Condition" is included here shows the strong basis of the EIF's open standards definition. Public authorities have a responsibility towards the tax payer and thus not only good reasons but every right to consider cost as a critical element alongside effectiveness and efficiency. Most notably, if public authorities wish to benefit from the open source movement and include open source offerings into their infrastructures they need to require royalty-free licensing conditions for IPR (in this case patents) present in standards. So the scale for assessment throughout the entire CAMSS is very clear: full openness is on the top.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Special event: Eintracht Frankfurt against Real Madrid

Tonight is a special football night: my favourite club Eintracht Frankfurt plays against Real Madrid, the great royal club. It's a match in all friendship in preparation of the next round of national league starting this coming weekend in Frankfurt.

I am currently watching the match on TV. Would have loved to go there tonight but it was sold out for weeks. In other words: I was too late. Frankfurt currently leads 1 to 0. But anyway, it's nice match and the result doesn't matter at all.

I have supported Eintracht Frankfurt since I was a young boy. And I've been fascinated of Real Madrid since I was a boy, since the days of Günther Netzer and Paul Breitner with Real. I was also always very fond of Real's coach of today, Bernd Schuster. He was an excellent player in the early and mid 80s, first for Cologne, later on in Spain for Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid. So, let's enjoy the second half... Eintraaaaaaaaacht !!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Go Green with Open Source - OR: The HEIST re-visited

My all-time favourite add from IBM is The HEIST. You might remember seeing it on TV or on the web when it was out in about 2001. The guy who thinks that all servers were stolen; he's completely het up, called the police and calls it "the crime of the century". When the police investigate the almost empty server room there comes another guy who clarifies the situation: all the data were moved to an IBM eServer running Linux - a small machine in some distant corner of the large empty server room. And the guy concludes that this move will "save us a bundle".

Looking at this clip again today even adds a couple of aspects to it. In particular, it illustrates the benefits of open source software with respect to energy efficiency and green responsibility. The clip correctly illustrates the efficiency of Linux running on IBM servers. You can reduce space both in terms of office space (for storing all the servers) and in terms of disk space; and you save money both for requiring less servers, by using open source software as an operating system, and by a reduction in the energy needed to run your server farm.

Everybody talks about green responsibility nowadays. One of the best ways to act responsibly and to achieve benefits for the environment is by increasing the efficiency of the systems and machines we use. The development model of open source software has the potential for developing better software which is more efficient and thus better in terms of it's environmental balance. Linux is a great example here. And it was all already there in 2001 ... in The HEIST.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The difference between open standard and open source - the ever lasting confusion?

It's a regular déja-vu I have. Speaking about open standards and/or open source, people mix up the two concepts and get confused. Well, I wouldn't blame anybody. It's my daily job to deal with this stuff. But who am I to assume that everyone needs to know the difference and details... Far from it. It is, actually, an indication of the momentum that openness has got in the public debate and in the context of IT. People are keen on discussing these topics, on learning about it.

It happened again today over a coffee break. The typical discussion leading to the confusion about implementing an open standard on the one hand and opening up your source code on the other. One of the best descriptions of the two concepts I have read is from Bob Sutor in his essay "
Open Standards vs. Open Source: How to think about software, standards, and Service Oriented Architecture at the beginning of the 21st century".

Let me try to roughly explain in my own words: An open standard is a descripition of how to build something. If you follow the description your stuff works and everyone who implements the standard can be sure that the same basic funtionalities exist and that things are compatible with each other. Open source, on the other hand, is a specific model for developing and distributing software. Open source means that the source code is open to everyone, that the writing of the code is done in a collaborative, open way, in a communty, and that everyone can download and freely use the code for his purposes.

Clearly, openness is the overriding concept that links both open standards and open source. And both, open standards and open source are key elements of an open IT ecosystem which combines both and leverages openness for everyone's benefits - in particular for guaranteeing interoperability, interconnectivity, fairness, flexibility and choice. Yet, it is important to know the difference between the two terms and understand the concepts. There are some guys around who try to deliberately confuse people about it and confuse the public perception. So it is good that openness has a certain momentum. And everyone can build on that.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Gisele Freund - Biography announced for September

Today I "became a fan" of the James Joyce group on Facebook. They've got some handful of nice pictures of Joyce on their group page. These reminded me of the great pictures which the German-French photographer Gisèle Freund took of James Joyce - I believe it was in the 1940s. Really some remarkable pictures, full of intimacy and dignity for one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. I've got a small edition with those pictures at home. Always great to browse again.

And this reminded me of Gisèle Freund. I was wondering whether her work is still available and did some search on Amazon. Well, most of her books are out of stock. But, for September, they've announced the publication of a biography - tranlsated from French to German - right in time for the 100th birthday of Gisèle Freund. The book is simply and very adequately called: Gisèle Freund: Porträt. I will certainly look for it in September.

Gisèle Freund is definitely one of the great artists in photography of the 20th century. She was a wizard on portraits and took pictures of almost every celebrity around in the middle and second half of the last century. And she was a remarkable woman. This articles available on, reprints from the New York Times and the London Times, respectively, when Gisèle Freund died in March 2000, gives a very fine commemmoration of her and shows some of her best work.