Archive for May, 2009

Free Software in Schools

At the moment Free Software in education is one of my main interests in the Free Software ecosystem. FSFE’s Fellowship wiki already provides some useful information on this topic. It’s quite interesting to see the development in this area. Further I think schools play an important role for the adoption of Free Software in many areas. What pupils learn and get used to during school is what they want to use and what they demand if they enter the business world. I also think that it is important to get as early as possible at least a basic idea about the role of software in the information society.

Today I read an interesting article about a school in Austria which uses GNU/Linux systems on USB sticks (German only). With LinuxAdvanced the school created their own distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (aka Lenny) and the lightweight desktop environment Xfce.

The Kremser Bundesgymnasium uses this system since two years on all computers in the computer science classrooms. Now they decided to switch from local installations to live systems on USB sticks. The advantage: The pupils can carry their system around with themselves. They can use it at school, at home or at any computer they want. About 50% of all pupils uses the system regularly at home. It seems like especially the young pupils using the system quite naturally and have no reservations. Further Rene Schwarzinger explains: “We don’t want to encourage our pupils to create illegal copies just to be able to work at home with the same programs as at school”. The obvious solution to avoid this is to use only Free Software at school and pass it down to the pupils.

In autumn they want to introduce netbooks together with the GNU/Linux USB stick to the pupils.

I really like the idea using USB sticks instead of normal installations on hard disks. Live systems are nothing new but I think it makes much sense in this scenario. With the USB sticks the pupils can work with their systems and their data wherever they want without having to convince their parents to install a new operating system at home which could be quite challenging, both technically and philosophically.

I’m interested in more success stories about Free Software and GNU/Linux in schools. Please let me know if you know schools (especially in Germany or Europe) which already uses GNU/Linux or prepare the switch to Free Software.

Fedora and gpg-agent

While it was quite easy to set up my Fellowship smartcard for SSH logins on Debian GNU/Linux following this instructions I never managed to get it working on Fedora GNU/Linux. At some point of time I just gave up. Today finally I found a solution in an on-line forum.

The problem was that gpg-agent always stopped with the error message:

$ gpg-agent 
gpg-agent[2857]: can't connect to `/home/schiesbn/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent': No such file or directory
gpg-agent: no gpg-agent running in this session

By default the gpg-agent on Fedora creates the socket in /tmp instead of in /home/schiesbn/.gnupg. So you have to move it manually over to your home directory once gpg-agent has started.

To do this I use this script:

# Decide whether to start gpg-agent daemon.
# Create necessary symbolic link in $HOME/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent
PIDOF=`pidof gpg-agent`
if [ "$RETVAL" -eq 1 ]; then
	echo "Starting gpg-agent daemon."
	eval `gpg-agent --daemon `
	echo "Daemon gpg-agent already running."
# Nasty way to find gpg-agent's socket file...
GPG_SOCKET_FILE=`find /tmp/gpg-* -name $SOCKET`
echo "Updating socket file link."
cp -fs $GPG_SOCKET_FILE $HOME/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent

To execute this script during log-in I have added this to my ~/.bashrc:

# GPG-AGENT stuff
export $GET_TTY

I still wonder why it works that easy on Debian and on Fedora i need all this scripting. But for the moment I’m just happy that I have found a solution to use my smartcard for SSH login on my Fedora systems.

Bernhard Reiter zu Gast in Stuttgart

Vom 6. bis 7. Mai wird Bernhard Reiter, Deutschland-Koordinator der FSFE, zu Gast in Stuttgart sein. Wir wollen die Gelegenheit für ein spontanes Fellowship-Treffen nutzen. Das Treffen wird wie immer im Unithekle in Stuttgart/Vaihingen stattfinden. Eine genaue Uhrzeit wird auf der Wiki Seite der Fellowship-Gruppe Stuttgart noch bekannt gegeben. Wie immer sind alle Fellows und Freie Software interessierte eingeladen daran teilzunehmen.

Am Donnerstag, den 7. Mai wird Bernhard Reiter dann an der Universität Stuttgart (Campus Vaihingen) einen Gastvortrag im Rahmen der Vorlesung “Free/Libre and Open Source Software Engineering” halten. Der Titel seines Vortrags lautet “Professionelle Freie Software in Wirtschaft und Politik”.

In dem Vortrag wird es u.a. um Folgende Themen gehen:

  • Freie Software, was ist das?
  • Eine handvoll Lizenzkategorien reicht aus
  • Freie Software und Politik, viele Chancen noch offen
  • Flurschaden in der gesamten Softwarebranche durch Patente
  • Streit um offene Standards
  • offene Entwicklung ist nicht gleichzusetzen mit Freie Software
  • Tipps vom Freie Software Profi

Natürlich wird auch genug Zeit für Diskussionen bleiben. Die Teilnahme steht für jeden offen und ist kostenfrei. Der Vortrag beginnt um 11:30Uhr und wird im Hörsaal V55.01 stattfinden.