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Archive for January, 2009

The new American President Barack Obama wants to strenghten the openness of the American government with a new transparency policy and use of modern technology:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

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IFPI, the music lobby group, published its annual report: Digital Music Report 2009

“Global digital music sales grow as music industry develops new business models”

* Music companies embrace new revenue models, offering consumers more choice
* 95 per cent of music downloads are unauthorised, with no payment to artists and producers
* IFPI Digital Music Report calls for ISP cooperation to become a reality in 2009

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Alexander Dymo reviews KDE 4.2. I didn’t know it was released yet. The past enthusiasm of developers turned sour when users felt the last two releases were not ready yet and didn’t “feel right”. His review demonstrates that notorious KDE3 users have to reconsider KDE4 with KDE 4.2. Of course users are always curious what features are not available yet or what breaks. Perfection is boring. So as expected KDE4 is ready but not perfect. Alexander Dymo points out a glitch with orphaned scroll bars when you use the default Oxygen style and discusses a still missing KDE3 feature:

In [KDE] 4.2 panel finally has one of two important features I need, namely the “Windows Can Cover” mode which I always use. Another one is still missing though. I very much liked the MacOS-alike menubar mode in KDE3. You could place the menubar panel on the top and add menu, application launcher, systray and clock there while leaving the task manager panel at the bottom (in “Windows Can Cover” mode). Such setup saved me some precious vertical screen space. Precious because I’m an widescreen monitor addict and on my 1920×1200 display I hate anything that takes my pixels from that “1200” side.

There are two implementations of the menubar for KDE4 already. One lies in the playground and another comes with the Bespin widget style. I tried the later which is called XBar. It mostly works, but doesn’t look good even with Bespin. With other styles it’s just plain ugly. I guess the code needs some more love to make the XBar ready for general consumption.

The old KDE3 had an immature implementation of the top menu bar, immature because it was very old old “Mosfet” code and contained some unfixed bugs. I liked it very much but it didn’t work with applications that used GTK or Gnome libraries for rendering. I would love to see a Freedesktop specification on that matter. GTK experts tell you it’s complicated to implement it. But as application ports to Mac Os X are possible it should be feasible to get is done.

Gnome has a default top menu bar but it just eats screen and it is not for the applications, the most ugly aspect of the other main Desktop Environment for the “free world”. Mac OS X got it right. In the world of Desktop reviews having a top menu bar makes you get the “like apple” brand. When you place the panel in the lower left as KDE and LXDE do as default, your desktop environment is “like windows”. Ghee!

KDE 4.2 steers into another direction, an unique desktop experience. But still the top menu bar is an argument for me.

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Chrome, the lean and simple web browser from Google will be made available for Linux and Mac OS X as well, in the Q1. This should be no big deal as the rendering engine Webkit Chrome originates from these plattforms, the khtml implementation of KDE. Availability of the Google Browser for other platforms would be just another contribution to the current trend of operating system indifference, not to mention the cloud sphere. Some commentators hyped Chrome as a the Cloud platform but it looks more likely that Google will support all browsers for its cloud applications. Firefox also gets financed by the search company, Apple’s web browser Safari uses virtually the same rendering engine.

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Harald Welte just came back from a productive Samsung week, in his blog he reflects on the need for better communication:

Especially in the embedded world, there are many companies who …just don’t know where to start or whom to talk to. There just is no (or no easily identifiable) entity catering to their needs – and since they are always busy with developing new products and working on ports for other operating system, the initiative should probably come from the outside.

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Operating system lock-ins are getting irrelevant. At least when these Operating Systems are capable to run on the small and cheap new subnotebooks at all. Hewlett-Packard has released its new netbook Mini Mi with Linux.

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Beta versions of Windows 7 are out. The Vista successor also known as “Vienna” was announced as a Cloud OS (don’t mix it up with gOS Cloud). In the next few days we will find out if it is ready to replace Win XP or Linux as a Netbook Operating Platform. For productivity purposes users are asked to stay with Vista or XP. The release cycle is said to take three years minimum.

See CES 2009: Windows 7 for some examples how Microsoft wants to get the OS more user-oriented.

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Digital Rights Management. Customers don’t like it but customers like Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is against DRM. Apple’s iTunes store is was the most successful showcase for DRM. DRM means other people control what you can do with the technical stuff you own because they have a stake in it. DRM is a modern chasity belt. No wonder the topic is controversial. So you get a nice polarised debate when you consult the different stakeholders.

The US Federal Trade Commission asks for user contributions:

Title: Notice and Request for Public Comments
Subject Category: FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies – Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Published: To Be Added
Comments Due: January 30, 2009

The FTC also explains what this DRM is all about:

Digital rights management (DRM) refers to technologies typically used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders to attempt to control how consumers access and use media and entertainment content. Among other issues, the workshop will address the need to improve disclosures to consumers about DRM limitations. Interested parties may submit written comments or original research on this topic.

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