Open Source Phones at MWC

Mobile World Congress is running this week in Barcelona.  While it’s predicable that we’ve seen lots of Android phones, including the big unveiling of the Galaxy S5 from Samsung, I’ve found it interesting to see the coverage of the other devices powered by open source technologies.

Mozilla announced their plans for a smartphone that could retail for as little as $25. It’s based on a new system-on-chip platform that integrates a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 2GB of flash memory, and will of course be running the open source Firefox OS.  It’s very much an entry level smartphone, but the $25 price point gives real weight to Mozilla’s ambition to target the “next billion” web users in developing countries.

Ubuntu Touch is finally seeing the light of day on 2 phones, one from Chinese manufacturer Meizu and one from Spanish manufacturer Bq.  Both phones are currently sold running Android, but will ship with Ubuntu later this year.  The phones’ internals have high-end performance in mind, with the Meizu sporting an 8-core processor and 2GB of RAM, clearly chosen to deliver Ubuntu’s fabled “convergence story”.

There’s been rumours abound this year that Nokia have been planning to release an Android smartphone, and they confirmed the rumours were true at MWC, sort of.  “Nokia X” will be a fork of Android with its own app store (as well as third-party ones) and a custom interface that borrows elements from Nokia’s Asha platform and Windows Phone.  Questions were raised at the rumour mill over whether Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia’s smartphone business would prevent an Android-based Nokia being possible.  However, Microsoft’s vice-president for operating systems Joe Belfiore said “Whatever they do, we’re very supportive of them,” while Nokia’s Stephen Elop maintains that the Windows-based Lumia range is still their primary smartphone product.

A slightly more left-field offering comes in the shape of Samsung’s Gear 2 “smartwatch” running Tizen, the apparently-not-dead-after-all successor to Maemo, Meego, LiMo, and all those other Linux-based mobile operating systems that never quite made it.  The device is designed to link up to the Samsung Galaxy range of Android phones, but with the dropping of “Galaxy” from the Gear’s branding, perhaps we’ll be seeing a new brand of Tizen powered smartphones from Samsung in the future.

OggCamp 13 – It just keeps getting better

I’ve just come back from a weekend in Liverpool helping organise and run OggCamp, the biggest Free Culture community event in the UK.  While I can’t say for sure that it had the highest attendance of its 5-year run (numbers have been pretty much stable for the past 3 years), there’s several ways in which I think it was the best.

OggCamp is an “unconference”, meaning most of the schedule is decided on the day, and the sessions are delivered by the attendees.  We also have a scheduled track covering topics including:

OggCamp is a free event organised and run by volunteers, and as such those speakers to are scheduled talk for free as well.  Having speakers in our community willing to deliver professional-quality talks on such a range of topics is one of the things that made this event great.

That’s not to mention the unconference talks which included:

When you’ve organised a 2-day event with no schedule, there’s always the prospect of people turning up and no talks being offered, so having such an amazing community who come every year and make the event what it is was fantastic.

The final thing that made this OggCamp amazing was the support from our sponsors and community.  This year, we introduced a pay-what-you-want system where, if people wanted, they could donate to the event when they signed up for their free ticket.  This proved to be massively successful, and led to our community being our biggest single cash sponsor.  On top of that we had a huge amount of support from companies such as Bytemark and Canonical, which meant that we could provide a really fun experience for attendees, including free play arcade machines, some excellent raffle prizes, and a posh venue for the evening social.

We’ve already had some excellent ideas from the community for next year.  See you in 2014…

Open Source Junction 5 – Now in November

A couple of months ago OSS Watch took the difficult decision to postpone Open Source Junction 5 – the latest in our series of events seeking to foster cross-sector innovation and partnerships.

We’ve very pleased to announce that the event, which this time focuses is Open Source in the Public Sector, has now been rescheduled and is happening on the 7th and 8th of November.  We’ve got a great schedule of speakers taking shape, and the event is free to public sector employees. Places are limited however, so make sure you book your place through Eventbrite.

We’ve still filling the last few slots in the schedule, so if you’d like to share your experience of working with open source in the public sector, please send us an email to info@oss-watch.ac.uk

 

 

 

OSS Watch Community Workshop for TYPO3

In November, Mark and I will be in Mannheim, Germany as part of the TYPO3 Marketing Sprint Week, where we’ll be facilitating an OSS Watch workshop focussed on communications in open source communities.

TYPO3 logo

Effective communication in all its aspects is crucial for a healthy open source community, and we’re excited to be able to pull all of these aspects together into a two-day workshop.

You can find out more about the TYPO3 Marketing Sprint Week on their website.

If you’re interested in organising a similar activity for your project or organisation, get in touch with us.

OSS Watch at ALT-C next week

I’ll be at ALT-C next Tuesday to  talk about Open Source Options for Education as part of the “OERs and OSSs” session in the morning. I’ll also be around for the rest of the day so feel free to collar me for a chat about anything OSS-related!

Here’s the session details to whet your appetite:

Levelling the playing field for open source in education and public sector

Open Source Software (OSS) offers many potential benefits for procuring organisations, including reduced costs and greater flexibility.

The UK Cabinet Office has taken an active role in levelling the playing field for Open Source Software (OSS) in the procurement of IT systems in the public sector.

This has included a set of open standards principles that favour Royalty-Free standards (UK Cabinet Office 2012a), and a procurement toolkit that includes open source options for commonly procured types of system (UK Cabinet Office 2012b).

These interventions are necessary, as many organisations in the public sector have procurement policies and processes that – whether intentionally or otherwise – exclude open source alternatives from selection, even where it would save organisations money or provide them with the systems that best fit their needs.

This also applies within the education sectors, and OSS Watch, based at the University of Oxford, has worked with the Cabinet Office on extending this guidance to the education sector, publishing Open Source Options for Education (Johnson et al., 2012). This lists open source alternatives for many IT solutions used in education, including subject-specific applications.

In this session we will introduce Open Source Options and the Cabinet Office guidance, and explain how it can be used to open up procurement in education institutions.
We will also invite delegates to contribute their own suggestions for open source alternatives they have used in their own work to include in the options.

UK Cabinet Office. (2012a). Open Standards: Open Opportunities – flexibility and efficiency in government IT, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/open-standards-open-opportunities-flexibility-and-efficiency-in-government-it

UK Cabinet Office. (2012b). Open Source Options. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/open-source-procurement-toolkit

Johnson, M., Wilson, S., Wilson, R. (2012). Open Source Options for Education. http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/ossoptionseducation

More speakers confirmed for Open Source Junction 5

speaker line up

We’ve got a great variety of talks lined up for Open Source Junction 5 next month. We’re still finalising the programme, but here’s some teasers:

We’ve got Sander van der Waal from the Open Knowledge Foundation who’ll be talking about CKAN and public sector open data.

From LocalGovDigital we’ve got Phil Rumens, who’ll be looking at how we can overcome the barriers to adoption for OSS in local government.

Malcolm Newbury is coming to talk about Open Source in the NHS, and how Hackdays can be a useful activity for public sector organisations wanting to get to grips with what’s possible.

I’m also very pleased to announce that Simon Phipps will be joining us from the Open Source Initiative and talking about… well you’ll just have to wait and see!

We’ve also got a European perspective on Open Source in the public sector, with Gijs Hillenius from  the JoinUp initiative and Mike Holcombe, who’ll be sharing what was learned from the OSEPA project.

We’re still working on confirming folks from central government… we’ll let you know more soon!

If this has whetted your appetite, go sign up on our Eventbrite page. The event is free for public sector workers.

(Alternatively, if you want to give a talk, drop us an email)

image by  levork licensed under CC-BY-SA.

AT Summit

Last week OpenDirective held an Assistive Technology (AT) Summit at Mozilla’s London “Space” near Covent Garden.  The event brought developers, researchers and other stakeholders in the AT industry together to foster open innovation and open business models around new or existing projects.

The event was split over 2 days. The first day was dedicated to giving everyone a grounding in open innovation, and breaking the ice between attendees ensuring that ideas were in full flow for the second day.

The morning of the second day was a barcamp, with attendees suggesting ideas for discussion topics and splitting into smaller groups.  Discussions included Firefox OS, software foundations and accessible computer games.

After lunch came the meat of the event.  Attendees suggested projects which they’d like to commit to moving forward with the support of others at the event.  Projects that were put forward included:

  • NVDA – an open source screen reader for Windows with support for speech synthesis and Braille.  Several attendees were involved in the NVDA project which is currently reaching a tiny fraction of its potential audience.  The project needs to find a sustainable model to continue development and drive forward adoption.
  • A foundation for funding and fostering AT projects.  A recurring issue of the event was the lack of funding for AT projects and a lack of interaction between small disparate projects and companies. Mike Paciello of The Paciello Group who sponsored the event proposed forming a foundation in the spirit of existing open source software foundations to bring projects and companies together and foster open innovation.
  • A 24-hour international event on AT and Inclusive Design.  Léonie Watson of Nomensa is planning an ambitious day-long online event divided into 4-hour slots, in which groups in different time zones can participate in online sessions.

This event was the first of what will hopefully be a series of AT Summits alongside summits on other areas of open innovation.  We’ll be watching the projects fostered at these events with interest.

A big thank you to OpenDirective for running the event, Mozilla for the venue, and The Paciello Group for sponsorship.

Open Innovation at the Open Source Junction

This guest post has been contributed by Ross Gardler of OpenDirective. Ross is Vice President of Community Development at The Apache Software Foundation and a mentor at the Outercurve Foundation. Ross has been active in open development of open source software for over ten years.

Over the last couple of years OSS Watch has run a series of three events called the Open Source Junction (OSJ). These events aimed to bring together academia and the commercial sector to foster communication, collaboration and open innovation and were kicked off by Gabriel Hanganu when I was a member of the OSS Watch team. The second two editions were held after I had left to start OpenDirective. Having understood OSS Watch’s vision for these I continued to participate.

With an explicit goal of building a network to surface new opportunities for collaboration between academic and commercial participants OSS Watch had decided to tackle some significant challenges. Consequently, the OSS Watch team planned to work between events to help build on these opportunities. Each subsequent event sought to broaden these participation networks even further.

Since OpenDirective was created with the express intention of helping to take research outputs to market through open innovation the OSJ objectives are well aligned to our own strategic goals. In this post, at the request of OSS Watch, I will revisit these three events and explore some of the initiatives that can, at least in part, be credited to one or more of the Open Source Junction events. In so doing I hope to demonstrate the value of the Open Source Junction events. In a subsequent post I’ll make some recommendations for future events of this type.

The first Open Source Junction was held on 29-30 March, 2011 and had a focus on “open source cross-platform mobile apps” and “how to manage the co-production of cross-platform mobile apps in an open development context”. The structure of the event was a fairly comfortable one for workshop regulars. Presentations were interspersed with occasional “interactive” sessions that focused on introducing participants interests and skills. Being a two day event the evening social activities were important in building a sense of participation, but in the main this event sought to build a base level of knowledge about one another as well as a basic understanding of common collaboration practices in open source software development. OSS Watch’s own event report concluded that “given the enthusiastic response to the event and the firm prospect of future collaboration, the community’s life force is already looking strong.” Certainly there were a number of attendees who indicated they had new opportunities to explore.

By the time the second OSJ came around on 5-6 July 2011 some of these opportunities had progressed and small sub-communities was forming within the larger OSJ network. The second event focused a little more tightly on specific areas of interest as identified by participants in the first OSJ. The organisers defined the focus as “context-aware mobile technologies”. The OSS Watch report for this event says “a huge array of services [were] offered and requested… aided by the format of the event, with numerous … interactive sessions built in”. Indeed this event was more interactive than the first. This was achieved by having more sessions designed specifically to get people thinking beyond their self-defined boundaries of expertise.

By the end of the second event the stage had been set, the main actors had been identified and preparations for the third event began. It was at this third event the script would be written and roles cast.

Open Source Junction 3 was held almost a year after the first on 20-21 March 2012. This event, once again, built on previous events. However, this time the goal was not to narrow the focus further but instead to introduce a new, but related, topic and potential collaborators who specialised in this topic area. The third event therefore had a broad focus of “mobile technologies and the cloud”. It brought together the mobile skills identified in previous events with a broader set of skills around cloud based delivery systems. The goal was to bring a new angle to the existing community which would offer up previously undiscovered opportunities.

In order to realise the OSJ objectives this final event was significantly more interactive than earlier editions, with eight fully interactive sessions compared to two at OSJ1 and four at OSJ2. The first day consisted of a series of ice-breakers and introduction sessions leading to a second day that was designed to generate concrete ideas for collaboration. These sessions were carefully managed to ensure that where possible, the right people connected to the right people. Whilst there was plenty of opportunity for chance meetings the OSS Watch team had pre-identified overlaps between many participants and worked hard to help individuals discover and explore these potential touch points.

OSS Watch’s event report concluded that “OSJ3 built on the solid foundations of the past events with connections that had been made at previous OSJs, such as Cloud4All and Webinos, taking concrete steps forwards. With the ever increasing focus on interactivity at this event, many new connections, such as linking MAAVIS and Cellularity, were formed. Over the coming months OSS Watch will seek to assist in the further development of these relationships in order to ensure that they continue to feel that sharing early, sharing often is both comfortable and productive. For starters, OSS Watch is working with the OMELETTE and WSO2 teams to explore whether MyCocktail should enter the Apache Software Foundation alongside the Wookie and Rave (which themselves benefited from previous OSS Watch support).”

So it would seem the three events built up a number of promises of collaboration. In researching this post I decided to visit the opportunities identified in the final OSS Watch report. My concern was that events such as these often result in potentials that are not followed up on. In reality full in-boxes quickly force out new plans despite our best intentions. However, on this occasion I’m pleased to report that many of the hottest opportunities have indeed taken measurable steps forward.

The potential for MyCocktail to enter the Apache Software Foundation alongside Wookie and Rave (both of which were represented at all three OSJ’s) was examined by OSS Watch and WSO2 (a participant in OSJ3). At the time of writing this has not progressed significantly, initial explorations indicated that although the project is very interesting there is little motivation within the MyCocktail team. The MyCocktail code is open source and, in theory, could be reused easily by others. However, in practice, long term maintenance is important and it would seem that in this case long term maintenance is unlikely to be present. This is the only one of the three concrete opportunities identified in the report that has not led to a success.

Cloud4All and Webinos have engaged in a number of strategic discussions. These have resulted in the Cloud4All team exploring the use of an Android node.js port delivered by the Webinos team. This work is still at the experimental stages but implementation was started at a recent Cloud4All hackathon event in Austria. Unfortunately Webinos team members were unable to be present at this event although it is still hoped that active cross-pollination, as opposed to passive code-sharing, is possible. This kind of reuse, particularly if active collaboration is undertaken, will bring significant benefits to both projects. It is clear that the initial discovery of this potential collaboration was initially identified and explored as a result of representatives of each project attending all three OSJ events. Indeed, OSS Watch facilitated a “connect session” at OSJ3.

MAAVIS was also represented at all three events, however their emerging partnership with Cellularity was a result of the final broadening of scope in OSJ3 since Cellularity was a newcomer at that time. The Cellularity approach to building a form of private cloud infrastructure using custom hardware and open source software sparked ideas for delivery of the MAAVIS product. A subsequent demonstration of Cellularity’s commercial hardware offering, facilitated by OSS Watch, allowed this concept to be further examined. Also present at this meeting were representatives of the JISC funded DataFlow project.

DataFlow was not present at any OSJ event but synergies were subsequently identified by OSS Watch and OpenDirective staff when analysing event outputs. Both the MAAVIS and DataBank opportunities are still being explored and OpenDirective have submitted proposals for product prototyping to the Technology Strategy Board as a result of these discussions. If successful this proposal will see the prototyping of a new open hardware and software framework that could integrate all three projects in a final marketable product. Watch this space for updates in the coming months.

It is likely that other opportunities were identified by participants at the OSJ events, I’ve only explored the ones I am aware of. However, even if this is not the case and the successes identified above are the only direct results of this work by OSS Watch I think it is safe to say that the Open Source Junction events were a significant success. As OSS Watch enters a new funding period in the coming month I hope to see more events like these.

Open Source Junction 3: mobile and cloud, Oxford 20-21 March 2012

Mobile technologies have become an integral part of our lives. Research indicates that by 2015 80% of people accessing the Internet will be doing so from mobile devices. Mobile applications and services are changing the way we engage with the web, and to a certain extent with each other.

At the same time, cloud technologies deliver better and better IT services. From email and content storage to complex computing and development platforms, users can access clouds via simple browsers, thus eliminating the need for end-user applications and high-power computers.

In UK Higher Education, cloud solutions are an integral part of a JISC programme aimed at helping universities and colleges deliver better efficiency and value for money through the development of shared services. As pointed out by Rachel Bruce, JISC’s Innovation Director for digital infrastructure, cloud solutions are increasingly attractive to HE institutions. They allow universities to reduce environmental and financial costs, share the load of maintaining a physical infrastructure, be flexible and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, access data and applications from any location, and make scientific experiments easier to reproduce. Continue reading

DataFlow new release

As mentioned in an earlier postDataFlow is an Oxford-based project in the JISC UMF programme building a data management infrastructure to help researchers manage their research data.

OSS Watch, in collaboration with Open Directive, are providing licensing, development, community and sustainability support to the project, which is now getting very close to a new release.

Developers have frozen the code and are preparing beta versions of DataStage and DataBank, which will be available for testing as virtual machines. Please keep an eye on the project website and twitter channel for updates on when and where you will be able to access them.

We will hold a launch workshop in Oxford on 2 March with colleagues from the VIDaaS project, who are building an exciting cloud-deployable Database as a Service system.

Attendance is free but places are filling quickly, so book early to avoid disappointment.