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[K12OSN] Report from the second Free Software Congress



I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the II Congreso de
Software Libre (http://lliurex.net/congresii/cas/index.htm) in
Valencia, Spain (Castellon to be precise) last week, and I thought the
list might be interested in a report.

The congress is sponsored by the autonomous community of Valencia,
which is made up of three provinces on the Mediterrenean coast.  Like
several other of these regional groups in Spain, the Valencian
government has made a committment to free software, and sponsored
their own localized version of Linux, in their case called Lliurex
(http://lliurex.net), which is derived from Debian.

On the whole, the congress felt mostly like the kind of conference
that a medium sized American state might hold for technology in
education and government, except in this case, it was all about free
software.  It was exciting to be at a Linux conference that wasn't all
geeks or big IT companies, but regular users and admins from schools,
libraries, etc. for whom free software is simply quickly becoming the
norm.

I can't give as many details as I'd like because I don't speak
Spanish.  A few of the talks were apparently translated into English,
but it wasn't clear how one would figure out which ones were.

I gave a talk on SchoolTool.  I also met with the administrators and
developers who are responsible for the student information system that
is currently used in the region's schools.  It is a set of FoxPro
databases that run on Windows.  About 10 years old, but quite
comprehensive and stable at this point.  As part of their overall
shift to open source apps, they are interested in SchoolTool.  This is
a good case for us, since they have a functioning system, they're not
in a rush.  It seems likely that over the next 3 - 5 years we'd have
the opportunity to plan and initiate a pretty huge migration of their
systems in thousands, if everything goes well with SchoolTool
development.  Hopefully I'll be invited back next year to keep them up
to date on our progress.  They also gave me downloads of their
existing system, which is helpful to us in trying to make sure
SchoolTool will meet their requirements.

I also got a little info on a big open source admin system that the
national government is working on.  It is some kind of swiss army
knife for administering Linux and Windows clients.  Apparently they're
going to GPL it when it is done, but it isn't done yet.  If you can
read and write Spanish and are interested in this kind of thing, drop
me a line and I'll give you some contact info.

If that wasn't enough, there was also a meeting of Debian developers
going on at the site at the same time.  The government paid to bring
together about a dozen developers from around the world who work on
custom Debian distributions to work on ways to improve the process of
creating such things (including their own Lliurex).  I hung out with
these guys a lot, since they all spoke English and were staying in the
same hotel.  Petter Reinholdtsen of Skolelinux was one of the
attendees (Skolelinux is sort of the K12LTSP of Europe).  He and Mark
had a discussion about establishing some communication between
Edubuntu and Skolelinux.  This is much more contentious for them than
for K12LTSP, because Ubuntu is somewhat threatening to some Debian
developers for various reasons (real and imagined).  Anyway, a summary
of those talks can be found here: 
http://www.skolelinux.de/wiki/Kooperation/Edubuntu including snapshots
of the symbolic handshake between Mark Shuttleworth and Petter, taken
by me.

I also blogged about Mark's talk at the congress on Ed-Tech Insider:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/eti/2005/05/000825.php

--Tom


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