Free The Postcode - Yes, You There
Published 23:22, 09 February 09
One of the most successful open projects is OpenStreetMap, which seeks to bypass the Ordnance Survey's stranglehold on geodata in the UK. It does this by enlisting the people - you and me - to recreate the maps that the OS guards, Fafnir-like, in its lair.
The success and simplicity of that approach suggests that it could be usefully applied in other circumstances where valuable public data is being kept proprietary by those hypnotised by the glint of gold. So I was delighted to learn about Free the Postcode:
The postcode database - which turns a postcode to a latitude/longitude and back - is not free in the UK. In fact, it's very expensive. The Post Office owns it and sells it to various companies that make use of it for things like insurance or parcel tracking. There are however many people who'd like to use it for non-profit purposes. Say you want to lay out events like free concerts / gigs on a map and you only have the postcode... you have to buy the database.
Instead, wouldn't it be nice if it was free like zipcodes are in the US? To do this, you have to have a number of people collaborating with GPS units who note positions and postcodes. Hence this site to collect that data.
The great thing about this project is that it is unstoppable: even if you wanted to, you couldn't prevent the majority of people from entering their drip of information, which means that the steady swelling of the cumulative ocean of data is equally ineluctable. This is what makes collaborative open projects so resilient: there is no one choke point that those who might object to its activites can attack.
So, basically, Mr Post Office, you're stuffed. (Via TechCrunch UK.)
Posted by Glyn Moody at 9:56 PM
Fedora as Basis of Russia's Operating System?
An interesting conversation took place recently:
Несколько дней назад в Минкомсвязи России прошла встреча с участием главы Минкомсвязи РФ И.О.Щёголева и директора европейского подразделения, вице-президента корпорации Red Hat Вернера Кноблиха. В ходе встречи было объявлено, что развитие свободного программного обеспечения в России – одно из главных направлений работы Министерства.
[Via Google Translate: A few days ago in Minkomsvyazi Russia held a meeting with the head of the Russian Federation Minkomsvyazi IO Schegolev and Director of the European division, vice-president of the corporation Red Hat Werner Knobliha.During the meeting it was announced that the development of free software in Russia - one of the main directions of the Ministry.]
It's good news that Red Hat has had the opportunity to talk to senior government officials about open source - in this case, at the ministry of communications - but what's much more important are the specifics mentioned in the story:
На встрече обсуждался широкий круг вопросов, касающихся развития рынка свободного программного обеспечения (СПО) и его практического применения в действующих системах. Отдельно отмечена важность создания российского сообщества разработчиков Russian Fedora, которое может послужить одним из шагов навстречу создания отечественной операционной системы. Министр отметил: «Мы считаем, что интеллектуальный потенциал российских специалистов таков, что в России можно вести не только сборку, но и полноценную разработку кода».
[The meeting discussed a wide range of issues related to market development of free software (ACT) and its practical applications in existing systems. Separately, the importance of establishing a Russian community of developers Russian Fedora, which could serve as a step toward the creation of the domestic operating system. The Minister noted: «We believe that the intellectual potential of Russian experts is that Russia can not only build, but a full-fledged development of the code».]
This seems to be a reference to the call for an independent Russian operating system, based on GNU/Linux, that I wrote about last month. The suggestion in the above post is that a step towards such an operating system would be establishing a Russian Fedora project, which would then allow Russian coders to contribute on a much larger scale than hitherto.
The fact that these talks have taken place is an indication that the idea of a national operating system for Russia - dismissed by some as fanciful - is under serious consideration. Let's hope Red Hat responded positively to the overtures.
(NB: For fast updates on this and similar stories, you can also follow me on Twitter at glynmoody.)
Posted by Glyn Moody at 5:20 PM
Do Top Hackers Have Too Much Money?
The announcement that one of MySQL's founders, Monty Widenius, was leaving Sun, was generally regarded as a pity, though no huge surprise, given the rumours that had been swirling since last year. But its impact was redoubled following the even more astonishing news that MySQL's boss, Marten Mickos, was also moving on; together, they inevitably sent shock-waves through the open source world. Most analysis has centred on the state of Sun, and whether these two high-profile departures mean that the MySQL acquisition was a mistake, or has already failed. But here, I'd like to look at a bigger question that these moves pose: do top hackers (and their managers) have too much money?
On Linux Journal.
Posted by Glyn Moody at 5:03 PM
How is This Happening Here?
I just cannot believe this stuff:
Having discovered what a useful tool [the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act] had become, in 2005 the government amended the act in a way that seemed deliberately to target peaceful protesters and smear them as stalkers. Originally you had to approach one person twice to be "pursuing a course of conduct"; now you need only approach two people once. In other words, if you hand out leaflets to passers-by which contain news that might alarm or distress them, that is now harassment. The government slipped in a further clause, redefining harassment as representing to "another individual" (ie anyone) "in the vicinity" of his or anyone else's home (ie anywhere) "that he should not do something that he is entitled or required to do; or that he should do something that he is not under any obligation to do". This is, of course, the purpose of protest. These amendments, in other words, allow the police to ban any campaign they please. Surreptitiously inserted into the vast and sprawling 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, they were undebated in either chamber of parliament.
So I am now forbidden from trying to convince anybody about anything. God help this country. Let's hope the Convention on Modern Liberty is the beginning of the end for this utter disgrace - don't forget to get your tickets. (Via B2fxxx blog.)
Posted by Glyn Moody at 3:01 PM
Open Tech 2009
Good to see more openness being spread around:
What is OpenTech 2009?
- Open Tech 2009 is an informal, low cost, one-day conference on slightly different approaches to technology, democracy and community. Thanks to 4IP for sponsoring the event.photo BY-NC by bill thompson
What do we need?
- Proposals from people who want to give a presentation, run a panel, organise a tutorial, or run a demo of something new and interesting on something that they think matters or getting people to help.
- Publicity - please blog this announcement, write a newspaper article, forward to mailing lists, and tell your friends!
What topics do we hope to cover?
- Mashups, open data and security
- Disaster politics and technology
- Future of media distribution
- Community engagement
- Democracy 2.0
- Highlights, lowlights and lessons learnt
- Long term thinking on big problems and massive opportunities
- Tutorials & Workshops - share what you know
- If you've got an interesting proposal that doesn't fit into any of the categories above, please send it in anyway!
It's on Saturday 4th July 2009 in Central London.
Posted by Glyn Moody at 10:13 AM
Originally posted at Open... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence. Please link back to the original post.
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