Qbo Robot

In the last session of the class of ‘Case Studies II’ came Francisco Javier Paz from “The Corpora” to introduce a very interesting project called Qbo Robot.

The relationship between the Qbo Robot and free software is very important because otherwise it would not have been possible to implement it because the costs would have been very high. It was intended to reach everyone with this robot so its final price was something critical.

Qbo Robot is a robot that uses Linux as operating system (they are now considering the possibility of using Android) and other free software components like ‘Arduino‘ or ‘OpenCV‘ for example. Some of the features of this robot are: stereoscopic vision, speech recognition system which is based on Julius (an open source Large Vocabulary Continous Speech Recognition software), Qbo API’s and web control panel, wifi and Bluetooth connections…

The main objective of “The Corpora” is to create a large knowledge database and a community that along with “The Corpora” can monetize Qbo Robot developing their own applications wich can be very interesting: take care of the elderly or children, home automation, security…


ASF (Apache Software Foundation)

I recently attended to an interesting talk by Santiago Gala about the ASF, he talked us about the organization and other aspects of the project. I would like to speak about the organizational processes of the ASF as there are many interesting points:

The ASF is a nonprofit foundation that was created with the aim of establishing a legal entity to which companies and individuals could donate funds for the project. This legal entity also provides a mechanism to protect volunteers from legal attacks against any of the Apache’s projects and helps to protect the brand against potential abuses by other organizations.

The philosophy of the ASF is based on meritocracy, ie people with more merit get higher responsibilities. However, the merit can sometimes be difficult to quantify, for example, what is more remarkable: fix a critical bug or give legal advice to the project? Sometimes, developers tend to think that software contributions are more important but there are other contributions such as translations or answer questions for beginners, which are very valuable because they can help to attract new users and give a good image to the project.

The chain of merit within the ASF is:

– User: users do not have any organizational role but they contribute in a very important way, they report bugs, propose new features or help other users on mailing lists.
– Committer: committers have write access to the code repository. In order that the foundation can protect them from potential legal attacks they must sign the Contributor License Agreement (CLA).
– PMC member: PMC members are elected due to merit. They have right to vote for the community-related decisions and the right to propose an active user for committership
– ASF member: they have the right to elect the board (we will see later waht is this board), to run as a candidate for the board election, to propose a committer for membership and to propose a new project for incubation.

The ASF is governed by the following groups:

– Board of directors: the board manages corporate resources but does not take technical decisions. something peculiar about this board is that they use STV (single transferable vote) as a voting mechanism (a system to which minorities are well represented).
– PMCs (Project Management Committees): the PMCs are responsible for the technical management of the projects under the direction of the board. All decisions are taken in the development mailing lists so they are archived and new people can have access to this information. Private lists are recommended to treat personal issues (such as problems with a developer).

One of the most peculiar things Santiago told us was about decision making and conflict resolution within the ASF. They use a technique called “lazy consensus” on which three positive and no negative votes are sufficient to approve a proposal. A veto requires an alternative proposal or at least a clear technical explanation of the reasons for opposing. If no agreement is reached after a discussion and there are people interested in the proposal goes ahead, the person who made the veto has the right to try (by his own) to develop its alternative proposal (do-ocracy). This was proposed by James Duncan Davidson in an email to the tomcat-dev mailing list and was called “Rules for Revolutionaries“, James said that in open source software projects there is a natural tension between revolution and evolution, to allow both to coexist within the project he proposed that any revolutionary could establish a branch in which to go experiment with new code seperate from the main trunk.


ASOLIF

Last thursday we had the last session for the course Case Studies II, the last of the talks was about ASOLIF, the federation of Spanish free software SME companies associations, formed by 9 regional associations with almost 200 small and medium size free software companies which together employ about 200,000 people.

The person who came to give the talk was Pablo Gómez, president of ASOLIF, he gave us an overview of what is ASOLIF and which are their main objectives. ASOLIF aims to expand the use and development of free software in Spain for business purposes, increase the interactions between our free software companies by promoting collaborations through projects and give the services that ASOLIF companies need.

He was asked about the business model adopted by the most of their companies, he answered that many of their companies were devoted to software integration, software development or consultancy but almost always these companies had a strong interaction with the free software communities. As an example, ASOLIF and the Canary Island regional association (ESLIC) were one of the organizers of the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, that hosted in 2009 the Akademy (KDE ) and GUADEC (Gnome) conferences. Both Carlos Garcia (Gnome) as Aleix Pol (KDE) told us about the importance for both communities of this event when they came to talk about their projects.

I think ASOLIF is doing very important work for small and medium enterprises dedicated to free software, with really interesting projects such as ALIAL, a project that aims to encourage development of free applications with collaborative methodologies for local public administrations.


Gnome Shell

Last week we had a talk about GNOME project with Carlos García Campos, he was also our teacher for the course ‘Development and Tools’ where we had a specific session about GNOME where we learned how to develop a GTK+ application.

He told us about the history of the project, when Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena decided to start the GNOME project, a desktop environment part of the GNU Project, because although KDE was free and opensource, it used Qt widget toolkit, owned by a company called TrollTech and released under a non-free license.

We could also see what is the future of the project and Carlos showed us Gnome-Shell running on his computer, they have created a completely new desktop designed to be more intuitive and easy for accessing applications. It looked good so I decided to try it in Ubuntu 10.10, you can install it from the repository with ‘sudo apt-get install gnome-shell’ or built it following the steps described in live.gnome.org website:


curl -O http://git.gnome.org/browse/gnome-shell/plain/tools/build/gnome-shell-build-setup.sh
sudo chmod a+x gnome-shell-build-setup.sh
./gnome-shell-build-setup.sh
sudo rm -rf /usr/lib*/*.la
jhbuild build
cd ~/gnome-shell/source/gnome-shell/src
./gnome-shell --replace

And this is the result…

What do you think? I am going to try it for a while and see if I get used to it because I like it!


Mozilla: Open Web and Open Video

Last thursday we began the series of talks scheduled for the course Case Studies II, the first talk was about Mozilla project and Guillermo López from Mozilla Hispano came to talk about it. It was an interesting talk where he gave an overview of the history and prehistory of the project, its goals, its community and its future.

One of the things that I would like to highlight about what he told us is that Mozilla’s main goal is to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone although they are better known for creating the Mozilla Firefox web browser. He talked about the Mozilla Manifesto, some principles that are critical for the Internet to continue to be a global public resource that must remain open and accessible and should enrich the lives of individual human beings.

Guillermo also talked about the controversy that had as to what codec should be used in the HTML5 standard. Remaining consistent with its Manifesto, Mozilla has supported Ogg Theora project and Google’s VP8 and WebM for the HTML5 video standar better than H.264 (Apple’s video codec that contains patented technology). VP8 is released under a free license and provides even better bandwidth efficiency than H.264. The future on this regard is not decided yet but Mozilla is working (as they have been doing the last few years) for an Open Web with Open Video.

Chrome web browser last week announced that they were going to remove the support for the codec H.264 because their goal is to enable open innovation.

References:

The Mozilla Blog: http://blog.mozilla.com/blog/2010/05/19/open-web-open-video-and-webm/


Visualizing Friendships with R

Few weeks ago we saw an image made by Paul Butler (an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team) showing the volume of friendships between particular parts of the world. He was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. He wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

It had a lot of media coverage and the creator received a lot of comments many asking for more details on how he had created it. Later that week Paul wrote a post explaining that the graph was made entirely with about 150 lines of GNU R code with no external dependencies.

The truth is that the image is impressive and a testament to the scope of this open-source statistics tool that we saw in one of the first sessions of Case Estudies I.


Software patents

I was reading in opensource.com one of these typical annual compilations in these days, this time regarding patents. Some of the most relevants events regarding software patents for open source were:

In October 2007, patent troll IP Innovation LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Acacia Research Group) filed suit against Red Hat and Novell for infringement of three software patents. In May 2010 a verdict was delivered in favor of Red Hat and Novell. The jury determined that the patents were invalid and not infringed.

This year New Zealand reject software patents. New Zealand government acknowledged the growing importance of open source, and the logical reasons for excluding software from the list of patentable inventions.


We hope to have more good news for FOSS in 2011.