Archive for the ‘March 2008’ Category

Document Freedom Day

Freedom – the  rallying cry for revolution, is  the absence of restraint of various forms.  Freedom of expression  , or the ability to   seek, receive and impart  information or ideas, through various media, is a characteristic of  a free society. 


Free your documents 


Documents play a key role in the construction of social reality (Searle, 1996) . Throughout centuries, documents were seen as valuable sources of information that  shape our understanding  of  the evolution of  human society and culture.  For example, cave drawings, hieroglyphics, scrolls of sheepskin, sheets of papyrus, ink on paper, magnetic tape and electronic files are all documents that provide historians , researchers and academics with valuable clues as to how our ancestors lived their lives. 


The  social aspects of documents arise from their historically unchanging character, or its  immutability with respect to oral forms of communication. 


Documents store  records that will be considered authoritative in the future, particularly with respect to government. For example,   receipts, titles, and deeds provide proof of ownership, while  passports or driver’s licenses serve  as proof of identity.


Canadian philosopher  Marshall McLuhan, in 1964 declared , “The medium is the message.” It   means that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a “symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time”.   The written word,  such as a document, is a form of media that impart  the principles of uniformity, continuity, and linearity.  He   explains that  a medium is  “any extension of ourselves”, or more broadly, “any new technology”. Thus, the document,  as an extension of ourselves, deserves to be free. 


Liberate your country


“Document Freedom Day (DFD) is the global day for document liberation.  It will be a day of grassroots effort to educate the public about the importance of Free Document Formats and Open Standards in general”, according to the Document Freedom  website.


The first celebration of Document Freedom Day happens on the last Wednesday in March, 2008.  It focuses on facilitating community action ,  promotion and adoption of free document formats and open standards, and making a global network.  


The event  complements the Software Freedom Day, an annual worldwide celebration of free/open-source software that aims to educate the public on the  virtues of free/open-source software and encourages its use. 


DFD is  a collaborative and volunteer driven effort that goes back to discussions between various participants in the ODF Alliance. The following groups have declared their support for Document Freedom Day: Ars Aperta, COSS, Esoma , Free Software Foundation Europe, Google, IBM , Nlnet , ODF Alliance, Open Forum Europe, OSL , iMatix , Red Hat , Sun and The Open Learning Centre.


Organizers are seeking  local teams from all over the world to organize events. Interested parties can register at http://www.documentfreedom.org/.


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Whether you are  computer teacher  or someone who simply utilizes a networked computer lab for instruction purposes, you’d be glad to know that there’s a  new, open source teaching and learning tool  that could make teaching much easier for you.   iTALC, or Intelligent Teaching and Learning with Computers, is a didactical software program  that is designed for use  in networked  learning environments. It offers a lot of possibilities  :


1. Teachers can monitor  and control each student’s computer   from his/her is own computer during  classes using  remote desktop control features .  This saves the teacher the labor of  running around the lab to check out each student’s progress.

2. The student can  learn new procedures by viewing the  teacher’s actions on his/her computer screen rather than through a projector.  To make a demonstration  , the teacher can get into demo mode , which  displays the teacher’s screen on a pop-up window on all connected computers . The demo can be in full screen mode, to prevent students from simultaneously using the computer for other tasks. Students can  also show a demo to the teacher , but can’t broadcast their screens to all other students in the class.

3. iTALC can  lock students’ input devices  so that they are unable to use the computer  when they must pay attention to the teacher.

4. Teachers can send new instructions to all active users through the ”Text message” window .

5. Teachers  can set  up virtual classrooms by  grouping student computers  using the classroom manager .

6. With the proper settings and hardware, teachers can power on/off and reboot  computers from the master (teacher) computer. The teacher can also   execute arbitrary commands/scripts remotely.

7. Students can join lessons from their own homes  via VPN-connections just by installing iTALC client on their home computers.


Network admins could also use iTALC as a network management tool.  By installing  iTALC clients on all the computers in the  network ,  systems could be administered remotely.  The downside for the client, however , is that network admins will have full control over computers on the network , thus allowing them to  snoop into  the activities of all users  on the network without the client’s knowledge.


iTALC can be installed on several Linux distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE, Fedora and Gentoo. It can even manage clients running other Linux distributions and Windows XP.


It has very modest hardware requirements  :  512MB RAM and 1GHz processor and a graphics card on the master (teacher) computer.   iTALC must be installed on all client (student) computers as well.  A user manual is available on the iTALC wiki at  http://italc.sourceforge.net/wiki/

One of the best things about iTALC is that it is free.  It is also open source, so that users can customize  the software to meet individual requirements as long as   the terms of iTALC’s license (GNU General Public License) is respected.


You can download iTALC at http://italc.sourceforge.net/.

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Small businesses are often tight on cash. When times are rough, the first thing that small business owners do is to rethink its spending. One expense item that would probably catch their attention is the spending on software licensing and upgrades – money  that could have been spent on more important investments like employee trainings,  facility improvements , or marketing.  Your business will benefit from substituting free, open-source applications for those expensive software.


The transition is not as difficult as you might think. Several open source software   support not only Mac and Linux machines, but also Windows machines.  Thus, you do not have to give up your current operating system. In many cases, the software user interface are  similar. Thus, you should not expect a steep learning curve for open source software.  Here are some suggested open source software substitutes for  commonly used proprietary software:


1) Open Office.org for Microsoft Office

OpenOffice.org is a free, open-source office suite which is a good substitute for  MS Office. The suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet , equation editor, visual database, presentation   and drawing application. But just because it costs nothing, it does not mean that Open Office.org is an inferior product. It has many of the features of MS Word . In fact, some users claim that  OpenOffice.org Writer (word processor) actually bests MS Word in a number of areas, including page layout, lists, headers, footers and endnotes.   Writer even offers more, such as the capability to export documents to    PDF format, the Navigator, which provides easy navigability within documents, and the Stylist, which automatically updates document styles and formats.


Even if your current files are in MS Word format (.doc), you can open these files with OpenOffice.org and have the option of saving them as .doc or as .odt, the OpenOffice.org word processing document format. However, note that some layout features may be lost during export, depending on the complexity of the document formats.  MS Excel and Powerpoint files can be exported as well.


2) Firefox for Internet Explorer


Firefox  web browser is  an extremely popular alternative to Internet Explorer.   One Firefox feature that users will appreciate is “ tabbed browsing”, which  lets you open  multiple pages within a single browser window using tabs . Thus you do not have to open several windows to access several webpages at the same time.  Shifting to  Firefox will not require any major shift in your daily browsing habits. It can import your favorites automatically.  In addition, Firefox can block  popups  that often appear when browsing unknown sites.  


3) Mozilla Thunderbird for Microsoft Outlook


Mozilla Thunderbird is a full-featured messaging client that works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It provides  support for POP and IMAP e-mail, NNTP newsgroups, and RSS feeds. You can add calendaring features  with the Lightning extension, which you can share through WebDAV servers . It is also compatible with Apple iCal. However,  it does not communicate with Exchange servers for access to Outlook calendars.   You might otherwise consider Yahoo  Zimbra, which supports both Outlook and its own free open clients.  However, it requires the installation of server software.



4)  GIMP for Adobe Photoshop

Undoubtedly, Adobe Photoshop is a superior product that is  the de facto standard for image editing software. If your business relies hugely on image editing ,  there’s no better alternative than Photoshop.  However,   if your business will survive without the power of Photoshop, a free yet high quality alternative is GIMP  (“GNU Image Manipulation Program”) , which boasts of similar capabilities and tools.  A modified version of GIMP, GIMPshop,  offers a Photoshop-like interface . GIMP can be used on Linux, Mac and  Windows. 


5) Amanda for Windows’ built-in data backup tools
You can use   more sophisticated free and open source solutions like Amanda  (Advanced Maryland Automated Network Disk Archiver) Open Source Backup software .  It has the capability to protect  servers and desktops running various versions of Linux, UNIX, BSD, Mac OS-X and Microsoft Windows operating systems.  Amanda supports common tape drives and other backup devices . It can compress software either on the client system, where the data to be backed up lives, or on the backup server. It can  perform full and incremental backups, automatically selecting an incremental level based on its specified configuration parameters. It even  provides protection against accidental media overwriting.



6) UltraVNC  for Microsoft’s Remote Desktop

Not all Windows licenses include the Remote desktop server even if it includes the client terminal.   UltraVNC  is an open source  remote desktop client and server application for the Microsoft Windows operating system that uses the VNC protocol to control another computer’s screen remotely. 

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Access  text, images, audio, video, software and  educational resources   instantly when you install  LiveContent 2.0.   


Live Content 2.0 is a comprehensive collection of open source content , neatly organized and compiled into a small 2.3 GB package .  It will introduce you to the concept of open source, and the great  possibilities brought about by Creative Commons licenses .  It will also allow you to explore non-proprietary software and dip into alternative media.  What’s even more remarkable about   Live Content is that it allows you to take your operating system with you and use it in any computer. 


You can download   Live Content 2.0 at the Fedora website ( http://spins.fedoraproject.org/ ) and then torrent the files using a torrent client .  When you boot the Live DVD,   a Creative Commons boot screen appears, which then boots up a Fedora desktop.


The Desktop

The desktop contains audio, educational, image, text, and video folders , as well as the following applications: TuxPaint (image editor for kids), Mozilla Firefox browser , Open Office ( office suite), Totem (media player  for the GNOME desktop environment), Jokosher (audio editor and mixer), Inkscape (vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator), Gimp (  photo editor similar to Adobe Photoshop)



The audio folder on the desktop consists of music samplers from various artists sourced from Jamendo.com, a website that features free music , and Simuze, a   Netherlands based company that distributes licensed music. The audio folder in Firefox also contains bookmarked music sites.



The Education folder  contains documents from MIT’s Open Courseware, which include subjects such as  Single Variable Calculus, Physics 1, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, and Linear Algebra. The Firefox browser contains bookmarks to  other open educational resources that  you might find useful. These include  Open Source Movies, Open of Course, and other websites that contain lesson plans or open educational content.



The Image folder features an extensive collection of JPEG images under various CC licenses from Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. Likewise, the Image folder in the  Firefox browser   contains useful links to image resources,  such as  Yotophoto, Zorger and Open Photo.   Other valuable  resources are  Open Clip Art.org, which features a collection of vector clip art , and  Design Reaction , which features cause oriented posters available to non-profits to use in their efforts.   



The  text folder in the desktop contains several books, including those that revolve around open source concepts like “Free Culture,” by Lawrence Lessig and “Freedom of Expression – Over Zealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity,” by Kembrew McLeod , “Producing Open Source Software,” by Karl Fogel . There are also books on other topics like  “Weird Shorts,” by Ginae B. McDonald and Katie Maud Stephan, as well as a science fiction piece entitled, “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,” by Cory Doctorow. 


As you might have guessed, the text bookmark folder in Firefox contains links to reading resources. These include IntraText , a digital library for research,  humanities and religions , and Public Library of Science, a resource  for medical and scientific literature.  For some light reading, there’s also  Blast Magazine and Good Magazine – online magazines that center on subjects such as  culture/fashion, society, sports, technology, politics and gaming. There’s also Unearth Travel,  a free, editable travel guide.




The video folder  contains videos on   open source and free content. The video tab on Firefox contains  open source video sites like Revver, Newteevee, Lulu TV, and BlipTV.  



Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally

Creative commons licenses allow creators like  authors, scientists, artists, and educators  to   mark their creative work with the freedoms they find appropriate for them.  Unlike traditional copyright, which is more restrictive, Creative Commons licenses restrict only certain rights (or none) of the work. Creators waive some or certain rights to their work so that other creators can remix and reuse it legally.  Thus,  CC lets you change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.” 

Each of the   files contained in the Live 2.0 CD has a CC license associated with them, which tells you how you can use the content.   You can search for media based  on the six Creative Commons licenses available. (For more on this, visit: http://creativecommons.org/)  


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“No Restitution, no Absolution. In the words of Jesus: with Restitution, there is Salvation. (Luke 19:9). An authentic conversion demands willingness to restore what has been stolen and the resolve not to steal again.” This was part of  the pastoral letter read by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the archbishop of Manila, on March 14, 2008.


The Catholic church’s call to moral rebuilding begins with ourselves as individuals.  Taking to heart the  mandate of the Seventh Commandment , “Thou shalt not steal” , is a good start.  This day and age, there’s a commodity that too many people are guilty of getting their hands on illegally, and sadly,  often without any sense of moral dilemma . The commodity:  licensed software .  I challenge all pirates out there to turn away from  pirated software, deinstall them from their computers, and take the guilt-free road to open source software heaven.

Are you one of them?


According to  the International Intellectual Property Alliance Report 2007,  the Philippines suffered an estimated $35 million in trade losses due to pirated business  software in 2006.  Plainly, that’s  economic sabotage brought upon by the collective efforts of millions of Filipino pirates across the country.


The figure was lower than in previous years,  not necessarily because people have regained their sense of morality,  but probably because  more people are  getting penalized  for the illegal use of software   – thanks to intense anti-piracy efforts by the Business Software Alliance, Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team  , the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.


Open Source and Freedom


If we teach our kids that taking something without permission is alright simply because we can’t afford it  , then we are not being good role models .  After all,  stealing in any form, however miniscule the amount, is still stealing. 


But why steal when you can have it for free? Whether you are a business or an individual , you will find that open source software , indeed is a great alternative to proprietary software. It’s cost-free and guilt-free at the same time.


The process of cleansing your computer system from illegally acquired software may seem like a  daunting task. The truth is that it’s  much easier than you think.  For example,  downloading free and open source operating system, Edubuntu Linux is easy as pie.


Just head on to http://www.edubuntu.org/Download then select a mirror site , which will be your source. Then select an image.  The Desktop CD, for example,  lets you   try Edubuntu without changing your computer. After you download it, copy it to a blank CD, insert the CD into your CD drive, then restart your computer.  Try it out for a few days then if you are convinced that this is a good alternative for you, then you can install it permanently . Edubuntu Linux is only one of several Linux distributions you can try out.  


You will be surprised to find that free software is not inferior to proprietary software. In fact, it is sometimes even more powerful.  Linux is known to be a very robust operating system, highly secure against computer viruses and less prone to crashing than most  proprietary operating systems.  


Once you get comfortable with free and open source software, you will be tempted to google for more free software. You will be amazed at the multitude of  guilt-free downloads  you can access on the Internet.  More important than  benefitting from free software, you will get sucked into a culture of sharing that is the very foundation of  open source .  Unlike proprietary software companies, who are out to squeeze every peso out of your miserable pockets,  open source communities give away many things for free –   tutorials, support, software, extensions, upgrades, etc.


Using open source software may be a miniscule step towards moral rebuilding .  Nonetheless, teaching our kids that stealing is not a good thing will go a long way in rebuilding this nation from its so-called  moral ruins.

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