Home News Feeds Open Source Initiative Blog

Statistics

Content View Hits : 12066
Newsfeeds
Open Source Initiative blogs


  • Network Time Foundation Joins Open Source Initiative

    Network Time Foundation’s membership highlights larger initiative extending engagement across open source software communities.

    PALO ALTO, Calif. - October 17, 2019 - The Open Source Initiative® (OSI), the global organization working to promote and protect Open Source Software, is pleased to announce the new affiliate membership of Network Time Foundation (NTF). NTF develops, maintains, and administers a variety of open source projects, including Ntimed, Linux PTP, RADclock, General Timestamp API, and, most significantly, the Network Time Protocol, one of the oldest continuously running protocols on the internet. NTP delivers the accurate, synchronized time that is a bedrock assumption of the moment-by-moment operations of networking computing. NTP communicates and synchronizes computer clocks robustly and efficiently.

    While Network Time Foundation was established relatively recently, in 2011, to provide direct services and support to improve the state of accurate computer network timekeeping in the general community, development of NTP dates back to 1981 and has served as essential infrastructure enabling the Internet as we know it, and ensuring our modern world runs on time.  Network Time Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public benefit organization, develops, produces and maintains the most widely used open source precision time synchronization software, and has led the engineering and development of related IETF protocol and algorithmic standards.  Secure and reliable timekeeping is essential to record-keeping in all industries, from financial to medical and beyond.  Without NTF and their projects, the flow of information to the world's interconnected devices would slow, or even stop.

    The OSI was chartered in the late 1990s to advance the ideals of open source development and raise awareness and adoption of open source software. Today, the OSI continues to promote and protect open source software and the communities that create and maintain it. As the steward of the Open Source Definition (OSD), as the certifying body for OSI Approved Open Source Licenses, and by establishing such certification as the standard for open source software development and distribution, the OSI has become a cornerstone of software freedom.

    “Network Time Foundation successfully applied to OSI to have the NTP License approved as an open source license back in 2008, and NTF is pleased to increase its participation and cooperation with the OSI and its members,” said Harlan Stenn, NTP’s Project Manager, and Release Engineer.

    “It is a real honor to welcome Network Time Foundation to the OSI as an affiliate member,” said Patrick Masson, General Manager of the Open Source Initiative. “There are just some open source projects fundamental, essential, iconic, to not only making today’s technology-driven world work for us, but that can also serve as a reference point to help others understand how today's projects can work for us: NTP is one of them.”

    The OSI Affiliate Member Program allows any non-profit organization, user community or educational institution—unequivocally independent groups with a clear commitment to open source—to join the OSI in support of our mission to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source software and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community.
     
    About Network Time Foundation
    Network Time Foundation is all about advancing and supporting these efforts. The scope of this work ranges from helping to craft the precise description of how to exchange time (standardizing protocols and behaviors), writing high-quality software and documentation, understanding and accommodating how things behave in a wide variety of real-world situations and helping people and organizations trust that they have reliable and accurate timestamps.  They do their level best to make sure that Network Time is running, ready and available to everyone who needs it.  Please visit https://www.nwtime.org for more information about Network Time Foundation.

    About The Open Source Initiative
    Founded in 1998, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) protects and promotes open source software, development, and communities, championing software freedom in society through education, collaboration and infrastructure, stewarding the Open Source Definition, and preventing abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement.  The OSI is a public charity with global vision based in California.  For more information about the OSI, please see https://opensource.org.



  • Updates to the OSI Board

    Dear Members,

    Moving forward, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) will appoint two directors based on the board’s discretion, as opposed to elections held with the individual and affiliate membership. As a result, the OSI Board will consist of 4 members chosen by the individual membership, 4 members chosen by affiliates, 2 members chosen by the board, and the general manager. The majority of the OSI Board will still be elected.

    Each year the OSI holds elections, however per OSI bylaws, the elections’ results are advisory only, rather than binding. While the OSI honors the elections’ results, and appoints those with the highest number of votes as Board Directors, the makeup of the OSI Board is ultimately the decision of the board.

    With the resignation of two directors, the OSI found itself in a position to appoint two new people to the OSI Board. Current board directors have spent a significant amount of time discussing the best way to accomplish this. Should the board look at past election results? Should it run another election?

    For some time the OSI Board has been thinking about adding two fully appointed seats -- where directors are chosen by the board, rather than through an advisory election. OSI directors are concerned about the diversity of the OSI Board and its ability to represent the open source software community’s diversity in multiple dimensions. The OSI wants to ensure the board includes the skills, experience, and knowledge necessary to run a successful organization: non-profit experience, fundraising, organizing, legal expertise, advocacy, and technical expertise are just a few examples of the skills considered important to the OSI.

    After much discussion, the board agreed that the vacancy of the two seats through resignation was a good opportunity to change the board make-up from ten elected seats and one ex officio member, to eight elected seats, two appointed seats, and one ex officio member.

    Moving forward there will be one fewer affiliate seat and one fewer Individual seat occupying the OSI Board. The upcoming elections will reflect this accordingly.

    We are currently conducting a search for two new OSI Board Directors. While the decision will be made internally, you can recommend someone by emailing the OSI at osi@lists.opensource.org, using the subject line “Board of Directors Recommendation.” Please include information about why you believe this person will be a strong addition to the OSI Board. Areas of particular interest to the board are: previous board experience, fundraising skills, non-profit experience, and diversity of perspective. The OSI Board will be making a decision by the next board meeting, which is Friday, October 11th, so please have all recommendations submitted by the end of the day on Friday, October 4th, AOE (Anywhere On Earth).

    Thank you for your membership to the OSI, and your ongoing support of the Open Source Software community.

    Cheers,
    Molly de Blanc
    President, Open Source Initiative
    she/her



  • OSI Seeks Faculty (YOU!) to Teach New Open Source Courses

    You probably know a little something about Open Source Software?

    The OSI is fortunate to include in our membership, board alumni, and business partners some of the world's most renowned innovators and recognized leaders in Open Source Software. Together the OSI community represents every facet of open source, including technical development, business practices, community management, as well as licensing and related legal issues. As more organizations leverage Open Source Software, employers are seeking talent well-versed in open source methods, culture, and management practices to ensure that their investments in open source projects provide the desired benefits for the company, while aligning with the values of, and contributing to, open source communities.

    A new educational program...

    Together with Brandeis University, we’re launching a new academic specialization in Open Source Technology Management. Although the courses include some technical topics, they are meant to serve the growing demand for technology and organizational managers to work with, support, and participate in open source technology adoption, development, and community.

    Teach for us, for all of us!

    We’re seeking passionate practitioners, working in and with Open Source Software, to share their knowledge and experience with students interested in the growing number of careers supporting Open Source Software.

    These are employment positions, not volunteer roles.

    If you are interested, please visit the links above and if you have any questions please feel free to contact Patrick Masson at masson@opensource.org or Ken Udas at kenudas@brandeis.edu. In addition, please feel free to share this information with anyone who might be interested.


    Image credit: "OSTMFac01.png" by Open Source Initiative, 2019, CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication, is a derivative (cropped, scaled, and color adjusted) of "Double O Arch" a U.S. National Park Service photo, available under Public Domain, via the U.S. National Park Service.



  • The Mythical Economic Model of Open Source

    It has become fashionable today to study open source through the lens of economic benefits to developers and sometimes draw rather alarming conclusions. It has also become fashionable to assume a business model tie and then berate the open source community, or their licences, for lack of leadership when the business model fails. The purpose of this article is to explain, in the first part, the fallacy of assuming any economic tie in open source at all and, in the second part, go on to explain how economics in open source is situational and give an overview of some of the more successful models.

    Open Source is a Creative Intellectual Endeavour

    All the creative endeavours of humanity, like art, science or even writing code, are often viewed as activities that produce societal benefit. Logically, therefore, the people who engage in them are seen as benefactors of society, but assuming people engage in these endeavours purely to benefit society is mostly wrong. People engage in creative endeavours because it satisfies some deep need within themselves to exercise creativity and solve problems often with little regard to the societal benefit. The other problem is that the more directed and regimented a creative endeavour is, the less productive its output becomes. Essentially to be truly creative, the individual has to be free to pursue their own ideas. The conundrum for society therefore is how do you harness this creativity for societal good if you can’t direct it without stifling the very creativity you want to harness? Obviously society has evolved many models that answer this (universities, benefactors, art incubation programmes, museums, galleries and the like) with particular inducements like funding, collaboration, infrastructure and so on.

    Why Open Source development is better than Proprietary

    Simply put, the Open Source model, involving huge freedoms to developers to decide direction and great opportunities for collaboration stimulates the intellectual creativity of those developers to a far greater extent than when you have a regimented project plan and a specific task within it. The most creatively deadening job for any engineer is to find themselves strictly bound within the confines of a project plan for everything. This, by the way, is why simply allowing a percentage of paid time for participating in Open Source seems to enhance input to proprietary projects: the liberated creativity has a knock on effect even in regimented development. However, obviously, the goal for any Corporation dependent on code development should be to go beyond the knock on effect and actually employ open source methodologies everywhere high creativity is needed.

    What is Open Source?

    Open Source has it’s origin in code sharing models, permissive from BSD and reciprocal from GNU. However, one of its great values is the reasons why people do open source aren’t the same reasons why the framework was created in the first place. Today Open Source is a framework which stimulates creativity among developers and helps them create communities, provides economic benefits to corportations (provided they understand how to harness them) and produces a great societal good in general in terms of published reusable code.

    Economics and Open Source

    As I said earlier, the framework of Open Source has no tie to economics, in the same way things like artistic endeavour don’t. It is possible for a great artist to make money (as Picasso did), but it’s equally possible for a great artist to live all their lives in penury (as van Gough did). The demonstration of the analogy is that trying to measure the greatness of the art by the income of the artist is completely wrong and shortsighted. Developing the ability to exploit your art for commercial gain is an additional skill an artist can develop (or not, as they choose) it’s also an ability they could fail in and in all cases it bears no relation to the societal good their art produces. In precisely the same way, finding an economic model that allows you to exploit open source (either individually or commercially) is firstly a matter of choice (if you have other reasons for doing Open Source, there’s no need to bother) and secondly not a guarantee of success because not all models succeed. Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate this is through the lens of personal history.

    Why I got into Open Source

    As a physics PhD student, I’d always been interested in how operating systems functioned, but thanks to the BSD lawsuit and being in the UK I had no access to the actual source code. When Linux came along as a distribution in 1992, it was a revelation: not only could I read the source code but I could have a fully functional UNIX like system at home instead of having to queue for time to write up my thesis in TeX on the limited number of department terminals.

    After completing my PhD I was offered a job looking after computer systems in the department and my first success was shaving a factor of ten off the computing budget by buying cheap Pentium systems running Linux instead of proprietary UNIX workstations. This success was nearly derailed by an NFS bug in Linux but finding and fixing the bug (and getting it upstream into the 1.0.2 kernel) cemented the budget savings and proved to the department that we could handle this new technology for a fraction of the cost of the old. It also confirmed my desire to poke around in the Operating System which I continued to do, even as I moved to America to work on

    Proprietary software.

    In 2000 I got my first Open Source break when the product I’d been working on got sold to a silicon valley startup, SteelEye, whose business plan was to bring High Availability to Linux. As the only person on the team with an Open Source track record, I became first the Architect and later CTO of the company, with my first job being to make the somewhat eccentric Linux SCSI subsystem work for the shared SCSI clusters LifeKeeper then used. Getting SCSI working lead to fund interactions with the Linux community, an Invitation to present on fixing SCSI to the Kernel Summit in 2002 and the maintainership of SCSI in 2003. From that point, working on upstream open source became a fixture of my Job requirements but progressing through Novell, Parallels and now IBM it also became a quality sought by employers.

    I have definitely made some money consulting on Open Source, but it’s been dwarfed by my salary which does get a boost from my being an Open Source developer with an external track record.

    The Primary Contributor Economic Models

    Looking at the active contributors to Open Source, the primary model is that either your job description includes working on designated open source projects so you’re paid to contribute as your day job or you were hired because of what you’ve already done in open source and contributing more is a tolerated use of your employer’s time, a third, and by far smaller group is people who work full-time on Open Source but fund themselves either by shared contributions like Patreon or Tidelift or by actively consulting on their projects. However, these models cover existing contributors and they’re not really a route to becoming a contributor because employers like certainty so they’re unlikely to hire someone with no track record to work on open source, and are probably not going to tolerate use of their time for developing random open source projects. This means that the route to becoming a contributor, like the route to becoming an artist, is to begin in your own time.

    Users versus Developers

    Open Source, by its nature, is built by developers for developers. This means that although the primary consumers of open source are end users, they get pretty much no say in how the project evolves. This lack of user involvement has been lamented over the years, especially in projects like the Linux Desktop, but no real community solution has ever been found. The bottom line is that users often don’t know what they want and even if they do they can’t put it in technical terms, meaning that all user-driven product development involves extensive and expensive product research which is far beyond any open source project. However, this type of product research is well within the ability of most corporations, who can also afford to hire developers to provide input and influence into Open Source projects.

    Business Model One: Reflecting the Needs of Users

    In many ways, this has become the primary business model of open source. The theory is simple: develop a traditional customer focussed business strategy and execute it by connecting the gathered opinions of customers to the open source project in exchange for revenue for subscription, support or even early shipped product. The business value to the end user is simple: it’s the business value of the product tuned to their needs and the fact that they wouldn’t be prepared to develop the skills to interact with the open source developer community themselves. This business model starts to break down if the end users acquire developer sophistication, as happens with Red Hat and Enterprise users. However, this can still be combatted by making sure its economically unfeasible for a single end user to match the breadth of the offering (the entire distribution). In this case, the ability of the end user to become involved in individual open source projects which matter to them is actually a better and cheaper way of doing product research and feeds back into the synergy of this business model.

    This business model entirely breaks down when, as in the case of the cloud service provider, the end user becomes big enough and technically sophisticated enough to run their own distributions and sees doing this as a necessary adjunct to their service business. This means that you can no longer escape the technical sophistication of the end user by pursuing a breadth of offerings strategy.

    Business Model Two: Drive Innovation and Standardization

    Although venture capitalists (VCs) pay lip service to the idea of constant innovation, this isn’t actually what they do as a business model: they tend to take an innovation and then monetize it. The problem is this model doesn’t work for open source: retaining control of an open source project requires a constant stream of innovation within the source tree itself. Single innovations get attention but unless they’re followed up with another innovation, they tend to give the impression your source tree is stagnating, encouraging forks. However, the most useful property of open source is that by sharing a project and encouraging contributions, you can obtain a constant stream of innovation from a well managed community. Once you have a constant stream of innovation to show, forking the project becomes much harder, even for a cloud service provider with hundreds of developers, because they must show they can match the innovation stream in the public tree. Add to that Standardization which in open source simply means getting your project adopted for use by multiple consumers (say two different clouds, or a range of industry). Further, if the project is largely run by a single entity and properly managed, seeing the incoming innovations allows you to recruit the best innovators, thus giving you direct ownership of most of the innovation stream. In the early days, you make money simply by offering user connection services as in Business Model One, but the ultimate goal is likely acquisition for the talent possesed, which is a standard VC exit strategy.

    All of this points to the hypothesis that the current VC model is wrong. Instead of investing in people with the ideas, you should be investing in people who can attract and lead others with ideas

    Other Business Models

    Although the models listed above have proven successful over time, they’re by no means the only possible ones. As the space of potential business models gets explored, it could turn out they’re not even the best ones, meaning the potential innovation a savvy business executive might bring to open source is newer and better business models.

    Conclusions

    Business models are optional extras with open source and just because you have a successful open source project does not mean you’ll have an equally successful business model unless you put sufficient thought into constructing and maintaining it. Thus a successful open source start up requires three elements: A sound business model, or someone who can evolve one, a solid community leader and manager and someone with technical ability in the problem space.

    If you like working in Open Source as a contributor, you don’t necessarily have to have a business model at all and you can often simply rely on recognition leading to opportunities that provide sufficient remuneration.

    Although there are several well known business models for exploiting open source, there’s no reason you can’t create your own different one but remember: a successful open source project in no way guarantees a successful business model.


    About the author: James Bottomley is a Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research where he works on Cloud and Container technology. He is also Linux Kernel maintainer of the SCSI subsystem. He has been a Director on the Board of the Linux Foundation and Chair of its Technical Advisory Board. "The Mythical Economic Model of Open Source" ©James Bottomley, 2019, Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) via James Bottomley's random Pages. Reposted here with permission, under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

    Image credit: "Mythical.png" by Open Source Initiative, 2019, CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication, is a derivative (cropped and color adjusted) of "Pothole Point" a U.S. National Park Service photo, available under Public Domain, via the U.S. National Park Service.



  • Open Source Success in Schools - Something to make a "FUSS" about

    Since he was a child, Marco Marinello has always found computers and how they operate intriguing. His father introduced him to the world of computer science early, including the basics of Linux system administration. Fortunately his own school — and in fact all of the South Tyrol region where he lives — runs a modified version of Debian (“Free Upgrade in Southtyrol's Schools” or “FUSS") for both administrative computing, and significantly for Marco, on student laptops as well. Free and Open Source Software provides schools and students unique educational opportunities while enhancing the technology services offered to teachers, administrators, families, and ultimately the community they serve.

    Motivated by his own interests and with the support of the Bozen-Bolzano School District and staff, Marco began volunteering with the maintenance of his local school network. The opportunity to work hands-on with the technology, learn from working professionals, and help his community, fostered his curiosity and promoted exploration of computers and computing: he soon found himself programming, teaching himself HTML and Python.

    Screenshot of the latest version of FUSS (©Paolo Dongilli. License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

    With continued opportunities, only made possible through the Bozen-Bolzano schools commitment to Free and Open Source Software, Marco began working on the FUSS project directly. His first project was to port the FUSS distribution to armhf, and the installation of RaspberryPis in a Bolzano high school computer lab. The work not only provided Marco with the technical education one might expect, but with presentations to both his school’s teachers and technicians as well as the local Linux User Group, important lessons in writing and communications followed.

    Marco Marinello with Piergiorgio Cemin, teacher and FUSS Project member (©Emiliano Vavassori. License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

    I think that FUSS gave me the very important opportunity to approach and learn the importance of free software and I’m therefore very grateful.
    — Marco Marinello, student and developer.

     

    A workshop held by Marco Marinello in 2016 (©Emiliano Vavassori. License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Marco’s initial success led to many other projects — and learning opportunities: “PyHearings,” a project for parents to book appointments with teachers, and “Gestione piano di Aggiornamento” a teachers’ training portal, a complete web-application based on Django, that automates the district’s previous process (that required 20 employees). Fully embracing the “open ethos” Marco also contributed to existing projects integrated with FUSS like, OctoMon (the district’s central monitoring system) and OctoNet (the district’s management tool). And to make his Free and Open Source experience complete, Marco has presented on Django and LibreOffice Online: again highlighting that the activities undertaken, and skills acquired, aren’t just technical. With dedicated staff and creative administrators, Free and Open Source Software can be a valuable addition, enhancing the school’s entire curriculum.

    Considering the success of students like Marco, and the FUSS program itself, we reached out to Paolo Dongilli, Technical Inspector for the Italian Department for Education and Traininig of the Autonomous Province of Bozen-Bolzano, to learn more about the program, it’s inception, and where it is headed. We hope the experiences of the Bozen-Bolzano schools can help other schools recognize the opportunities of Free and Open Source Software to extend technology resources and contribute to educational programs.

    One of the IT-labs with FUSS - Middle School “Ada Negri” in Bolzano (©Paolo Dongilli. License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Open Source Initiative (OSI): Can you tell us a little about the schools, school district, and Bozen/Bolzano Area?

    Paolo Dongilli: The Autonomous Province Bozen – South Tyrolis is located in Northern Italy with a population of just over 525,000 people. Because of its location, along the Italian and Austrian border, residents may speak Italian, German, or Ladin, a native language common the Dolomite Mountains. As one can imagine, with such a diverse community living within a politically autonomous region, our schools face many challenges in accommodating learners’ educational needs, while respecting our many cultures, and compiling with independent local and regional governments. The school system serving the community thus includes 44,000 students attending 78 German language schools; 17,000 students in Italian language schools; and another 2,500 students in Ladin language schools. Even more interesting (i.e. challenging), is that each of these three language-based school systems have their own school boards.

    OSI: What is your background in technology generally, and with open source and GNU/Linux specifically?

    Paolo Dongilli: I graduated in 1998 with a degree in Computer Science Engineering, and began working in Computational Linguistics at EURAC Research, then for the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.

    In 2008 I left research and joined the ICT Division of the Province of Bozen-Bolzano where, I worked for the ICT Strategy and Planning Office in the Enterprise Architecture Group which, in 2016, led to a position with the Italian Department for Education and Traininig of South Tyrol to coordinate FUSS (Free Upgrade South Tyrol's Schools).

    I started exploring the Free and Open Source Software world during the 90s, when I was studying at the university. When I came back to Bolzano I and some friends founded Linux User Group Bolzano-Bozen-Bulsan to help spread the use of FLOSS and GNU/Linux in South Tyrol.

    OSI: What were some of the key drivers, issues, circumstances that led to your interest in introducing open source and GNU/Linux to the school district?

    Paolo Dongilli: Open Source Software can be extremely helpful to both students and schools. A perfect example of this would be by looking at Bozen-Bolzano schools. FUSS is a complete GNU/Linux solution, server, client and desktop / standalone, based on Debian for the management of our school network. Importantly, the project provides and promotes, “digital sustainability,” allowing students and teachers to use at home the same tools installed at school, freely and without any cost for families.

    OSI: What barriers did you have to overcome throughout the process of introducing and implementing your plan?

    Paolo Dongilli: From the very beginning [January 2005], the concept of Free Software in schools was favored by local political parties and school directors of the Italian language schools. A key motivation during planning was the opportunity for students and teachers to use the same software at school and at home, without any additional costs to families. Planners were also aware they were Investing public money, and felt the project could spark new educational projects: creating new software and manuals, reusing and modifying existing software, sharing the new outcome with the world.

    In addition to the benefits related to access and academics, planners believed FLOSS would provide financial savings, compared to purchasing expensive recurring licenses from vendors like Microsoft, while also extending the life of hardware through open source alternatives. https://docs.italia.it/italia/piano-triennale-ict/codice-amministrazione-digitale-docs/it/v2018-09-28/

    As one might expect, we experienced the typical barriers from people who did not want to exit their comfort zone, or did not appreciate the importance of investing public money in schools in a sustainable way. Fortunately those people were a minority: our teachers understood the importance of this change and the pupils started using GNU/Linux without any difficulty.

    Paolo Dongilli presenting at SFSCon 2018 (©Open Source Initaitive. License: CC BY 4.0)

    OSI: How did the transition go? How did you raise awareness, gain support, address concerns, confront objections?

    Paolo Dongilli: The project was financed by the European Social Fund, supported and sponsored by the Italian Department for Education and Traininig of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, administratively managed by the Professional Training Institute “Luigi Einaudi” of Bolzano, in collaboration with the Italian Department for Education and Traininig, and with the advice and collaboration of the IT firm Truelite Srl as technological partner. A strong synergy and convergence of intent was created between politics, public, and private sectors, and the planning phase of the FUSS project began in January 2005, with a deployment phase during the summer of that year. The project went live in September at the beginning of the new school year.

    OSI: How did the implementation go, technically, culturally, academically?

    Paolo Dongilli: The project included an analysis of the state of hardware across the district, the preparation of software packages — such as the FUSS-server (configuration of services on the server side), and FUSS-client — and the development of a variety of tools to make the server and client installation simpler and automated. We also worked to identify open source alternatives to existing applications used across the district.

    Over the years other services were added, such as Octofuss (server and user management), Octomon (technical monitoring of installations), a VPN network that connects all schools, servers with e-learning platforms (Moodle and Chamilo), VOIP services for some schools, just to mention the most significant.

    We also developed and implemented a comprehensive training course for the administration of the systems. This included seven teachers and one administrator (The FUSS Group) who were charged with not only managing the technical side (hardware and software), but just as importantly, carry out our educational and client-side support activities, helping teaching staff and students fully maximize the resources available with the new FUSS environment.

    A FUSS Group operates in every Italian school in South Tyrol meeting local needs, and becomes, in time, a point of reference and advice for all educational activities using information and communication technologies (ICT). Today, the FUSS Group also proposes new tools and services based on Debian or derivatives (Ubuntu, Mint), recommends updates suitable to specific teaching and learning needs, and assesses requests from teachers. All requests are considered.

    All this without forgetting the fundamental purpose: to support colleagues and students in the use of ICT on a daily basis for teaching and learning.

    OSI: How did you measure success, and did you meet those expectations?

    Paolo Dongilli: Success is measured in many ways. First sustainability: the ability of teachers and students to accomplish their daily work, meet educational objectives, and perform administrative tasks, through Free and Open Source Software. Secondly, influencing best-practices: the adoption of LibreOffice and open (document) formats in education positively influenced our local public administration which now uses and keeps LibreOffice up-to-date. And most importantly, educational value: the participation of students studying, modifying, creating, and publishing Free and Open Source Software and documentation, flipping the classroom and showing their efforts to colleagues and teachers.

    OSI: What failed, or did not go as expected?

    Paolo Dongilli: As the saying goes: “nemo propheta in patria sua,” i.e. “nobody is a prophet in his own land.” Although we’ve been successful for almost fifteen years, FUSS has never been able to spread beyond our Italian language schools, to the German and Ladin language schools within South Tyrol. We’ve been unable to or make headway with ethical reasons/arguments, didactic advantages of Free and Open Source Software over proprietary software, or even through demonstrated cost savings, which can then be invested in faculty development or new educational initiatives.

    OSI: What is the program like today?

    Paolo Dongilli: Today governance is provided by the Italian Department for Education and Traininig, through the “FUSS Lab for Digital Sustainability in Schools”.

    FUSS Digital Sustainability Laboratory at Liceo “Toniolo” (©Paolo Dongilli. License CC BY-SA 4.0)

    The FUSS Lab is composed by 4 people (Piergiorgio Cemin, Massimo Previdi, Claudio Cavalli, and myself) in collaboration with Mauro Valer, inspector for the MINT subjects and the great support of Marco Marinello who has been helping with great passion since when he was in middle school. In September Piergiorgio Cemin, after many years of teaching and support for the project will retire and Massimo Previdi will bring back his experience to the high school (IISS “Galileo Galilei”) where he has been teaching. They will be substituted in the team by Andrea Bonani, teacher and former coordinator of the project, and Stefania Fiore, also teacher and open source enthusiast.

    A group of 12 GNU/Linux professionals (7 FTE) of the Province of Bolzano IT division (FUSS Technicians) provides technical assistance, maintaining all the networks, clients, servers, and available devices in all schools doing a great job every day.

    Our current footprint includes 64 servers and around 4,000 PCs and notebooks. Current staffing support includes at least one teacher at each school serving as the “FUSS referent,” with a total of approximately 70 teachers across the district who act as points of contact for FUSS technicians. These teams serve to assist other non-technical staff and students, undertake maintenance, and respond to requests related to installed software, new software, or training needs.

    A few important notes about our outreach activities. First, according to Article 69 of the National Code for  Digital Administration, every line of code we develop as part of the FUSS project is distributed under the GPLv3, with all documentation carrying a CC BY- SA license. We’re also working directly with the community to share our work, and increase the use of Free and Open Source Software outside of schools. For example, a group of volunteers from the Linux User Group Bozen-Bolzano, and the Group “Digital Sustainability South Tyrol - Alto Adige”, offer twice monthly workshops  in 4 different cities (Bozen, Meran, Bruneck, and Brixen) to help the public install Linux on PCs and notebooks. These volunteers provide demonstrations and training on how to use the the GNU/Linux operating system, and the most common software packages, such as LibreOffice (a real favorite among community participants).

    OSI: What would be your three best pieces of advice for others considering implementing open source within their own schools and districts?

    Paolo Dongilli: First of all, don’t reinvent the wheel, i.e. look around to see if there are examples from other organizations that you can follow and software you can reuse. We at the FUSS Project are happy to share with you our experience and lessons learned over the past 14 years. Write to us: info@fuss.bz.it. We’re happy to share all we have: multilingual distributions for both servers and clients — all Debian — with additional packages to make configuration on school networks easier, and a series of metapackages to group the most common packages needed in elementary, middle and high schools.

    I’d also suggest, when presenting a project plan to your school or school district, in addition to highlighting all the technical and economic advantages, emphasize how “sustainable digitalization,” based on Free and Open Source Software, open formats, and free didactic material, improves knowledge sharing, fosters non-traditional educational opportunities, and extends access to students and families who may not have access to proprietary systems.

    Also, don’t underestimate the importance (and value) of communication with, and training of users (teachers, principals, pupils and their families) through your local Free and Open Source Software community.

    Lastly, invest money in people — motivated people, no matter what their role, technicians, developers, teachers, students — instead of spending money in renewing proprietary software licenses (i.e. operating expenses) in your school. Remember that when you spend money developing new FOSS or enhancing existing FOSS you also invest money (i.e. capital  expenses). Share all what you do and create (software, documentation, didactic material), especially if you use public money