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Croatian Linux Users’ Convention 2012: FLOSS Adoption Guidelines And Data Openness

Have you ever been in a situation when you had to wait for some documents to arrive such as your health diagnosis, documents about your house where you live or you are planning to live in? Were you ever curious how much money your country spends on certain resources? This is interesting and important data.

Openness of data was one of the highlights of the first day at the convention. There were important people from Croatia’s government (IT sector, education sector) and  IT experts from open source and open data field who held lectures about importance of open data and its benefits.

There was also an open data round table where participants were able to dynamically exchange their thoughts about openness of data. Key points which came out of the round table were problems related to the lack of open data sets in Croatia namely: organization, integration and people. The most highlighted problem was people. It is a psychological fact that people are, more or less, afraid of something that was unfamiliar to them.

Although open data is still not as accurate as it should be, the Croatian government is open to such innovations. Also, they are aware that something like that cannot be transformed or changed overnight.

As Neelie Kroes once said, “If you share your data it becomes more valuable. So, start doing it right now.” One of the participants of open data round table, Mr Milan Rajačić, said that with shared data you can help other people to create something new. This led us to the next highlight of the convention, lectures which were held by professor Brian Fitzgerald and Dr. Tony Shannon.

Professor Fitzgerald had a lecture titled “Adopting open source software: Lessons learned”. This lecture was a perfect continuance from previously mentioned open data lectures/round table. Professor Fitzgerald also highlighted that technology by itself is not an issue anymore. Today’s issue considering open source software adoption has a psychological background. Fear and prejudice are  not the only things that break open source software adoption. Lack of experience is another problem. That problem implies that when people try to migrate to open source software, they are usually restricted by the technology and that is what makes it impossible to see the wider picture. Professor Fitzgerald also said that you have to have some framework which will help you in understanding where to start from and which boundaries to hold on to. Some of the  professor  Fitzgerald’s framework highlights were:

  • Attributes of innovations – is new technology better than the old one?
  • compatibility – does it work what used to work on old technology?
  • Trialability – it has to be as simple as possible
  • Observability- if you can observe a lot of people using that new technology than you might find yourself wanting to use the same thing

More detailed guidelines about free and open source software adoption can be found in professor Fitzgerald’s book: Adopting Open source software, A Practical guide.

Dr. Tony Shannon gave a lecture on “Health care change challenge and the role of open software”. At the beginning of his lecture he pointed out that change is ahead of all of us and that open standards are not enough considering open source migration.

There is necessity for open source due to easier collaboration among doctors and hospital departments. Everyone is aware how complex are the hospital systems. Dr. Shannon highlighted the already mentioned integration issues and that a lot of departments are working separately and that is what breaks health care to be more accurate and faster due to patient recovery and hospital business in general.

He also highlighted that when we try to innovate with open source and open standard firstly we need to understand the processes of the institution where it is going to  be implemented (in this case hospitals). Main point which you need to understand is how much are the hospitals (and patients) going to benefit from this kind of work. Once implemented doctors will be able to collaborate easily, making diagnosis easier. Ultimately, they will be able to innovate easily.

You can see the recorded lecture of Dr. Shannon below:

Considering open source software adoption and migration Ivan Guštinalso held the lecture on “Open source software steps and guidelines in Croatia”. Mr Guštin’s lecture was fairly connected with already mentioned lectures. Key points that Mr Guštin highlighted were:

  • With open source you can avoid vendor-lock
  • You have to respect standards (ISO et.al.)
  • Start pilot projects with which you can move things (for example education based on open source)
  • Localization
  • Tailor made distributions
  • Firstly you have to migrate to open source applications and then to an open source OS, because once a user is adapted to open source applications he/she won’t care about the OS running in the background.

So far you have seen the big picture – migration towards open source software in general (what are the issues, what frameworks to look upon etc).

We also had view  from the school Professor Babić who teaches computer science in high school gave a good example of how to motivate students and colleagues to use open source software.

He highlighted that today students forget what they are learning. For example they don’t say: “Today we are going to edit some text”, instead they say that: “We are going to work with MS Word, or Photoshop”.

As professor highlighted there is a bigger focus on application names than what they should be taught in the beginning. You can see where this analogy goes. People are becoming dependent on names and not the work they are supposes to do with it. This is exactly connected with observability that professor Fitzgerald mentioned. If someone mentions the name of some app, soon you might get a chain reaction. Thus, professors should put the focus on work and that you can do that work with several applications. The name is not so important. Professor Babić also said that besides the app name issue, there are other issues namely motivation, parental pressure or pressure from future employers (because they are using proprietary software).

If you are trying to introduce something new you need to come up with an example of something they are familiar with so that they can easily connect to it. As professor Fitzgeral said, “You should start from their background.”

To build confidence and encourage people we organized lectures from companies like Crossvallia and Vinteh. These companies have proved that it is possible to work with open source software.

The rest of the day went on in more geeky/tech tone, (Kindle, OpenPandora, Java, Oracle, etc.), which was practically an intro to our next day of the convention where we had lectures from light subjects such as how to work with Inkscape to heavy like how to build Apache modules.

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Third day was reserved for workshops. We organized four workshops:

  • ZenOSS – the complete monitoring solution
  • Sysadmin – ninja best practices
  • Web scale monitoring using gearman, redis, mojolicious, gnuplot and PostgreSQL as NoSQL store
  • Open network project.

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