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On Monday September 16th, Richard Stallman, long-time president and founder of the FSF, has resigned from both his position at the FSF, and the MIT.

There’s a plethora of reporting around that – if you’re short on time, then I recommend reading Thomas Bushnell’s rather excellent medium piece in full.

Many things can be said about this event, but immediately coming to defend RMS as a principled old man, who was the victim of a witch hunt, is not it. I fundamentally disagree with Michael here, and like to point out (though its obvious), that his point of view is not shared nor endorsed by The Document Foundation, albeit aggregated on their planet.

This is what I posted last night to the TDF board, when we discussed the implications on Michael’s post being on that planet:


Dear board,

Björn wrote:

Or to put it much better argumented and better informed than I ever could:
View at Medium.com

Please do read the linked article in full. It echos my thoughts
exactly, but with much more authority & eloquence than I could have.

If you have some extra time, the entire story is many years, and
probably thousands of pages worth of words - but it's not a happy
story (it includes, at various occasions, RMS endorsing child
pornography and pedophilia).

For me, the sticking point is a slight remix of one of Thomas'
sentences: Michael treated the problem as being “let’s make sure we
don’t criticize RMS unfairly”, when the problem was actually, “how can
we come to terms with a decades-long history of RMS’s own mistreatment
of women and held views incompatible with broad societal norms &
ethics”.

In light of the above, I reject, in the strongest possible terms,
being seen near a statement that starts with "Really disappointed to
see the outcome with RMS". The blog post is offensive to women, the
victims in particular, tone-deaf to the wider issues at stake, and
harmful for TDF's reputation when issued by a board member on a
TDF-imprinted site.

It would have been better to stay silent.

Can someone please fix this?

Cheers,

-- Thorsten

Update 2019-09-23: Perhaps not entirely unambiguous – I wasn’t suggesting here that Michael would fully endorse RMS, but coming to his defense at this incident. Also adding the real name of my fellow TDF director, whom I was responding to in the mail above.

Update 2019-10-15: Bradley Kuhn’s statement after leaving the FSF is worth reading in its entirety, and well reflects what I believe leaders should aspire to.

Let me join Mike, Miklos and Björn in the blog reporting on last month’s LibreOffice Hackfest in Hamburg (a good old tradition):

LibreOffice Python hacking

With a nice round number of 100000 (decimal 32) participants and surprisingly non-rainy and warm April weather in Hamburg, we met at very stylish freiheit.com offices that also generously provided us with food and beverages. Further shout-outs to TDF (and all its donors) for providing travel support for our volunteers and, equally importantly, sponsoring CIB’s very own Armin Le Grand fulltime mentoring on and off site.

You can find more details on contributions and work done on the event’s wiki page, and also for the simultaneous German community meetup (wiki, blog); just as much here: code-wise, we had 55 commits from hackfest participants over the weekend –

11  Zdeněk Crhonek
 9  Stephan Bergmann
 5  Christian Lohmaier
 5  Katarina Behrens
 5  Sophia Schröder
 4  Armin Le Grand
 3  Michael Meeks
 3  Tamas Bunth
 3  Heiko Tietze
 2  Markus Mohrhard
 2  Miklos Vajna
 1  Linus Behrens
 1  Nithin Kumar Padavu

and probably another 15 or so landing in the weeks after, but with substantial work carried out during the hackfest. I’m really quite happy with the outcome, as well as with the number of new and old names in the above list!

I’d like to highlight one particular area of work (as it’s not reflected yet in the list above i.e. no commits on master yet), namely Regina’s ongoing endeavour to improve LibreOffice ODF conformance (or alternatively the ODF specification, if instead she believes LibreOffice gets it right and the spec has it wrong). This is especially noteworthy as it’s purely volunteer work, including weekly attendance and contribution to ODF technical committee phone meetings. Regina spent the weekend poring over LibreOffice drawing subsystem minutiae with CIB’s Armin Le Grand, and in the end wrote up a plan on making the layer functionality in Draw/Impress more useful and compliant to how ODF specifies layers: Make drawing layers ODF conform .

For myself, I (almost) didn’t get any hacking done but instead spent time mentoring, getting face time with many people, providing hackers with (mostly double) espressos, and had a handful of quite excellent discussions that only tend to happen with enough of smart people in the same room:

  • discussed opportunities around GPG signing and encryption for the public sector with Lothar Becker
  • pondered the future of application development (electron vs. browser-only vs. native ports – and all kinds of in-betweens) with Tim, Michael, and Benjamin
  • got the latest news around autocrypt, memory hole and delta.chat from Björn Petersen
  • went through a number of sticky problems TDF is facing with regard to upcoming GDPR end of May, with K-J, Uwe, Florian and Eike.
    • BTW for the record, I consider GDPR a broadly good thing & not an undue burden, and a useful motivation also for volunteer and charity organisations to live up to some data protection ideals.

And last but not least thanks to Armin, Bubli, Michael and Siegmund for being the local CIB posse on the ground for that hackfest; and of course thanks to CIB for letting us have such an outstanding LibreOffice team – and to all volunteers donating a full weekend to LibreOffice!

Here are some impressions from the event (thx to Sweetshark for sharing his pictures – that work is (C) 2018 Björn Michaelsen, as noted in the image description):

After 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015, another LibreOffice HackFest will take place in Hamburg this coming weekend, April 7th and 8th.

Want to meet hackers from one of the largest FLOSS projects, see what’s going in the world of large-scale C++ & document freedom, and try your hand at some easy hacks? We’ve Armin, one of our most experienced CIB developers on-site, to introduce & mentor folks in all things graphics and drawing layer.

Be cordially invited to meet us at the venue in St. Pauli, and just poke me on twitter or IRC for any questions or directions

See you there!

With the release of LibreOffice 5.4.0 today, I’m most happy to announce support for OpenPGP / GnuPG keys when signing ODF documents in LibreOffice under Linux. This is great if you already use GPG/PGP for email with your peers, as it ensures authenticity of your ODF documents regardless of the mode of transport or storage.

For any ODF document, simply navigate to File->Digital signatures in LibreOffice, and the certificate selection dialog will transparently list all suitable signing keys on your system, including those from Kleopatra, KGpg, GPA or Enigmail – that perhaps you’re using already for secure email.

Pick a GPG key, and LibreOffice will delegate all password entry and GPG crypto to tried-and-true system components (the LibreOffice process won’t even see you passphrase):

Sign document with GPG key

We also made signature status much more visible – before, signed documents only had a tiny icon down in the status bar (both for valid, as well as for broken or untrusted signatures – not ideal for noticing). LibreOffice there follows the trend set by browsers, to make security features (and broken trust) much more obvious. Your validly signed document will now show up like this:

InfoBar showing signature status

Work is ongoing on adding support for Windows (and perhaps other platforms) as well – as of today, LibreOffice 5.4 supports this feature only under Linux. Furthermore, we also plan to provide GPG-based encryption of ODF documents (currently, document encryption is based on individual passwords), stay tuned!

This work was generously sponsored by the German federal office for information security (BSI), and of course builds on top of great software like GnuPG – many thanks!

This is the fourth (and last) in a series (1, 2, 3) of quick updates on travel and meetups I attended this year, for or because of LibreOffice / The Document Foundation. The next LibreOffice event you’ll definitely meet me will be the annual LibreOffice conference, this time in Aarhus, Denmark, on Sep. 23-25th.

As I keep saying every year, FOSDEM is really the FLOSS event to go for me. If I could attend only one, I’d be hard pressed to choose between LibOCon and FOSDEM – it is that great. Fortunately, that hard choice is not upon me. The TDF board therefore uses FOSDEM for one of the two in-person board meetings (the other one being during LibOCon) per year, and also tries to have a hackfest adjacent to it. Which is rather economic on travel, since lots of people are around already.

The LibreOffice project was again co-running the Open Document Editors devroom, and this time, we hit some true home runs. Especially for the mobile topics, the room was full to the gunwales. I was looking after our own small lightning talks track, with the following talks (slides linked):

  • Jos van den Oever about font embedding in ODF (slides/demo)
  • Asheesh Laroia about ODF support in EtherCalc (slides)
  • Your truly with the Nice Slides in Seconds! pitch (slides, /code)

Next to looking after LibreBaby and socializing with tons of people on the hallways, I attended only a few talks myself. Beyond our own dev room stuff, I recall a home-made GPS watch talk, and one about making your tests fail via randomized parameterization, which were both great.

The monday after, we had a full day of TDF board meetings (good progress there on annual budget planning, and a number of smaller items), and the UX hackfest in parallel. I used the opportunity to corner both Michael M. and Michael S. on ODF topics, with now hopefully much better mutual alignment. On the actual hacking front, I spent most of the time finishing up my markdown slide generator project, the result of which was mentioned on this blog already.

Pair programming, UX hackfest

Pair programming, UX hackfest

This is the third in a series (1, 2) of quick updates on travel and meetups I attended this year, for or because of LibreOffice / The Document Foundation.

On March 19-20th already, the 2nd LibreOffice hackfest in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria took place at the ULPGC. Thanks to Fran Santana and the team from the university for hosting us, and my new company CIB for sponsoring food & drinks and diners – and a very significant infusion of people into the LibreOffice ecosystem!

Scheduling was perfect, we reportedly had the worst weather of the year thus far, so sitting down & hacking really was the only alternative. Accordingly, a number of things got done, bugs fixed, and stuff/folks bootstrapped.

There were a few encouraging contacts to local LibreOffice users, and very interesting conversations with students, some of them really new to the ideas, concepts & the way of life inside a FLOSS project.

On a personal note, I’m very happy to report that travelling, and working, with a 1.5 year-old is very much possible in FLOSS land. Both university and hackfest attendees were lovely, understanding, and forgiving LibreBaby the occasional cries of joy (and anger). 🙂

This is the second in a series of quick updates on travel and meetups I attended this year, for or because of LibreOffice / The Document Foundation.

On invitation by Michael and his Collabora crowd, this year saw the first LibreOffice hackfest ever on English soil, conveniently located, and helpfully scheduled in parallel to the annual Cambridge beer festival.

Attendees and host were great, my attention this time evenly split between hacking, personal talks, and very well-organised and entertaining evening activities (see below). I even fixed a bug! 🙂

This is the first in a series of quick updates on travel and meetups I attended this year, for or because of LibreOffice / The Document Foundation.

Thanks to Florian, the German LibreOffice community again had the opportunity to meet in person, to work and plan activities for the coming 12 months. As usual, this meetup took place in the Linux Hotel in Essen, a lovely location, and conveniently placed in the middle of Germany. The event took place a few weeks ago already, during the weekend June 19-21st. Bubli went first, since I could only join Saturday evening due to a conflicting family event.

The meeting was a blast, and with a virtual group like the LibreOffice community, a most welcome (and far too seldom) opportunity to connect in person. The agenda was packed, and a number of activities identified there got started already (IT & Business trade fair, updated flyers).

Martin and Italo, cooking

Martin and Italo, cooking

Sunday morning plenary session

Sunday morning plenary session

Was great to be there, and very encouraged by the newly-invigorated German LibreOffice community spirit! On that account, and if you’re able to read German: there’s a very nice and in-depth special edition of the iX computer magazine available, covering Office productivity in general and LibreOffice in particular.

After a 1.5 year stint in Linux virtualization and cluster file systems (thanks SUSE for the exciting times – btw, they’re hiring!), I’m most happy to report today a return to fulltime LibreOffice work.

Starting already from last Thursday, I’m now part of a growing team of LibreOffice experts at the German CIB, one more in a set of independent software vendors offering service, support, consulting, as well as migration and trainings around LibreOffice. In my other capacity as chairman of LibreOffice’s The Document Foundation, it is most encouraging to see this thriving ecosystem, providing real choice to anyone deploying LibreOffice professionally.

CIB GmbH

CIB GmbH

Did I mention that The Document Foundation really encourages everyone relying on LibreOffice in a business setup, to talk to one of the ecosystem companies for (optional) bugfixing and support? This is not because LibreOffice would not be usable as such, but instead it is my experience that bugs and other problems turn up only with specific documents. A service contract with one of the listed companies gives your specific problems the priority they need, when you need it.

What else to add at this point? I look forward being in Munich most of this month, one of the larger LibreOffice deployments in the public sector, that we’re supporting. I’d like to encourage anyone using, or considering use of LibreOffice professionally, to take a look at Munich as a wonderful example; and of course CIB — and I personally — would be most happy to support you and your company to make your LibreOffice deployment a success!

And lastly, we’re still growing our team. Please check our (German) jobs page for offers, and/or if you’re an experienced LibreOffice hacker, contact me directly. For all of the above, my new work email is Thorsten.Behrens at CIB.de.

Happy hacking, and see you around! 🙂

Over the years, I met a number of people — trainers, speakers, hackers — who produce a lot of slide-ware (decks often more than a hundred pages wide), but never really use the conventional presentation packages for it.

Instead, they script things, (partially) autogenerate text, and use one of the markup-to-presentation converters out there: latex beamer, showoff, pandoc, or S9 (there’s much more).

Asking them why, the answer is always one or more of the below:

  • I prefer my text editor over the slide editing package
  • I want to track my content in a revision control system
  • I auto-generate content, or need to frequently merge stuff
  • and (rather infrequently): because PowerPoint is just sooo not cool

I can’t really help with the last item, but the first three clearly resonate well with me. While I was preparing slides for a hands-on session about ceph last year, I thought it would be pretty nice to get some tool hacked up that formats all the shell commands in nice typewriter script, and let me re-generate slides after every major rework (we were in the middle of moving demo setup to AWS, i.e. the ground was changing under our feet substantially). Born was the first rough cut of odpdown: https://twitter.com/thooorsten/status/532881180572811266

Why I didn’t re-use one of the existing tools from above? Well, the event in question had strict requirements on the design and formatting of the slides, so I was stuck with a given Impress or PowerPoint slide template. And secondly, I think the auto-generation software space in the ODF ecosystem is under-developed — this is therefore to some extent a showcase for what is possible, and what existing libraries are there to build upon.

So the initial hack has since been refined a lot, and test-driven by a few people (12 issues filed in two days by Adam Spiers, I was embarrassed!). Therefore today I feel confident enough to announce version 0.4.1 as a beta release a bit more widely:

Using it should be a matter of installing the package (manual installation instructions and a quick usage howto here), typing up some markdown, and calling it thusly:

     odpdown \
     --break-master=break_slides --content-master=content_slides \
     markdown.md corp_template.odp out_slides.odp

A quick walk-through PDF for basic markup is available here:

Basic markup

Basic markup

(/source)

Conversely, a quick walk-through PDF for more advanced markup is here:

Advanced markup

Advanced markup

(/source)

Have fun!