Thursday, 18 June 2009

Ralf Dahrendorf died

I recently added a blog entry about Ralf Dahrendorf when he celebrated his 80th birthday. Today the news communicate that Ralf Dahrendorf died yesterday - see for instance the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and Spiegel online. This is very sad news. I - we all will miss a great thinker, intellectual and liberal, a great European citizen. For me, Ralf Dahrendorf was a fixed part in my political socialisation. I hold him and his work in high regard.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Excellent example for the threat to the openness of the internet

Were you ever worried that the internet could be controlled by single vendor technology? That there is certain information that you can only see and get when using one specific browser? That interoperability is at risk?

You are certainly not paranoid if you have such worries. Microsoft Australia now gives an example for what is possible and done by offering the chance to get $10,000 by finding information on some website - WHICH CAN ONLY BE VIEWED USING INTERNET EXPLORER 8 !!

Here's what is announced on the Microsoft Australia website:

As you can see in the picture - for me using Firefox the following statement is included right away: "But you'll never find it using that browser. (So get rid of it, or get lost)."

With this competition called "TenGrand" Microsoft provide an excellent example for the risks the internet is facing today: proprietary control over information and data in the internet. Unless you use one specific vendor's software you are excluded from access to information.

There is a role for public authorities here to ensure that full interoperability is kept and that the internet will be kept open.

For those who are interested in more details I also recommend a recent position paper from ECIS, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, on the topic.

PS: Thanks to my colleague Arnaud for drawing my attention to that.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Firefox is in Germany ahead of Internet Explorer

The German consulting and market research company Fittkau & Maaß published the results of a recent study yesterday which shows that Firefox has become the preferred web browser in Germany and surpasses Internet Explorer.

According to the study, Firefox 3 is used by about 40% of all users of the internet while Internet Explorer 7 and 8 reach together about 38%. In the study taken in April and May this year 120000 people were interviewed.

Only if also legacy versions of the Internet Explorer are added, as well, is there a slight lead for Internet Explorer. But in the direct comparison of the latest versions Firefox 3 is used by 40,2% of internet users in Germany compared to 30,6% for Internet Explorer V7. This is gigantic.

In its analysis of these results the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" concludes that people who have a choice prefer the free open source product Firefox over Internet Explorer. Best evidence is that user rates for Firefox increase at weekends when people use internet from home and from their home computers, while on workdays, when people are bound to corporate and organisational policies, Internet Explorer prevails dominant - see the respective article in the online edition of "Der Spiegel":
"Wer die freie Wahl hat, bewegt sich lieber mit dem Gratisbrowser durch die Weiten des Netzes. Was vor allem am unterschiedlichen Nutzerverhalten an Arbeitstagen und an Wochenenden erkennbar wird: In der Woche hat der Internet Explorer die Nase vorn, da sitzen die meisten im Büro und verwenden die von ihren Arbeitgebern vorinstallierten Programme. Am Wochenende aber schnellen die Firefox-Werte nach oben, wenn die Netzgemeinde freiwillig und auf eigene Rechnung unterwegs ist."

Bottom line: It is time for companies and administrations to open up their IT rules and policies and allow for efficient and effective open source and freeware technologies to be used. There is a huge potential to increase productivity and reduce cost. Go ahead, explore Linux, explore OpenOffice or Lotus Symphony, explore Firefox. The future is open...

FYI: I am totally on Linux since beginning of this year, have used Firefox for ages now, use Lotus Symphony and OpenOffice as office suits and am a happy camper throughout.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Relevant link of today: NY Times - I.B.M. to Help Clients Fight Cost and Complexity

Very interesting article in the New York Times (NYT) on IBM's stance on cloud computing as THE future paradigm for industry and governments to run and optimise their datacenters. Read the full article online in the NYT. Just a glimpse at the beginning of the article below:

"In 2000, the Linux operating system was a hot technology, but it had not spread much beyond scientists, researchers and computer programmers. Then I.B.M. declared that it would back Linux with investment, research and marketing, and the technology moved swiftly into the corporate mainstream.

"The same thing happened with the personal computer in the early 1980s, when I.B.M. endorsed that upstart technology and entered the market.

"Starting this week, I.B.M. is returning to the same playbook, introducing some initial products and services and a roadmap for its stable of corporate and government customers to comfortably embrace cloud computing."

Friday, 5 June 2009

Old poem of mine

It's more than 15 years ago since I wrote this poem. I publish it now for the first time here. The basic message is still valid, I believe.


nachdem ich nun

schon mehrere jahre lang

immer und immer wieder


nach gott gesucht hatte

fand ich ihn kürzlich

rein zufällig

wie könnte es anders sein

um die mittagszeit

in der innenstadt

in einem kaufhaus

in der parfümerieabteilung.

er roch

nach Chanel No 5.

Sorry for those who are not familiar with German – this short poem is about a person who had been looking for God for years and accidentally found him in a shopping centre smelling of Chanel No 5.

There is another strange one which I once posted on this blog - in English this time. See the entry of last July.

Relevant link to OSOR: RO: Proprietary licence deal draws ire open source proponents

OSOR - the "Open Source Observatory and Repository Europe", initated and hosted by the European Commission, provides the information that
"The Romanian government announced its renewal of a framework software licence with Microsoft in the middle of May. The framework licence deal is worth 100 million euro in software licences to be used by government agencies between 2010 and 2012. Romania will also pay the software giant another 58 million euro this fall, as the final payment for the 2004 - 2009 framework licence agreement that expired last month."
Please see the full article on the OSOR website titled "RO: Proprietary licence deal draws ire open source proponents."

For those who would like to compare these figures to some figures of the overall Romanian government budget some figures are listed here: (Please note that the conversion rate for EUR : RON is about 1:4).

You could, for instance, see from these figures that 100 mln Euros for proprietary software is equal to about 25% of the total budget that Romania has available for Research (1700 mln RON which equals about 425 mln EUR). Interesting, isn't it.

Relevant link of today: Article in the Economist on Openness and Open Source

I owe this pointer to a colleague I regularly collaborate with - many thanks to C.!

In this weeks Economist - as well as in the online edition - there is a very interesting and great article on benefits of open source software in the recession. It it titled "Born free" and shows how open source is increasingly being taken up in the market and plays an important role alongside proprietary offerings. It also shows how those companies are most successful which manage to create a proper, new balance between openness and proprietary.

The article concludes with the following statement:

"This sort of problem has spawned an open-data movement. In March a group of technology firms led by IBM published an “Open Cloud Manifesto” that has since received the support of more than 150 companies and organisations. It is only a beginning, but perhaps this time around the industry will not have to go through a long proprietary period before rediscovering the virtues of openness."
Bottom line: it's definitely worth reading the full article - either in your print edition of the Economist or online at ...ENJOY

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Elections for European Parliament starting today

I have been rather quiet over the last weeks - partially due to a lot of work, partially due to something more than a week of vacation. With my family I spent a week at the Lago di Como in Northern Italy. It was fabulous. We had a wonderful holiday home (thanks to my wife who has by now turned into a professional for sorting out excellent places to stay), fantastic weather - and simply a great time in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

This weekend will be an important one for Europe with the elections to the European Parliament. The election process starts today in some countries - those which by tradition have their voting day on a Thursday, e.g. the UK and the Netherlands. The majority of the countries will have their election day on Sunday.

I recently signed an open petition that people should go and vote. Unfortunately the European Parliament is still not really seen in its full importance by the people of Europe. While it is true that national elections are much more important and national parliaments have the real power, the European parliament does have a lot of competencies regarding legislation on the EU level. But communication and public awareness are rather low.

I will certainly cast my vote on Sunday - and will be curious about the outcome.