Karl Fischer InterviewGeeks love discussing new things. They love discussing new things over lunch even more. I had the pleasure of spending a very informative lunch with Karl Fischer recently. Here is a guy with a real passion for Open Source Software. A father of twins, he has a keen understanding of the FLOSS community in South Africa, and a passion for exposing more people to FLOSS in the country, especially youngsters.

He better have a passion for it, he is the man behind floss.pro…

Geek At A Glance:

Karl FischerPersonal OS: Currently Ubuntu Lucid Lynx
Laptop: Toshiba Tecra A11
Cellphone: HTC Tattoo (Android)
Still carry a notepad and pen?: No. Never have, never will.
Did You Know Factoid: Did you know that in South Africa MTN has more Android devices available than Vodacom? (SaGeek: Indeed, check out fandroid.org for more information…)

Right, lets start off with Software Freedom Day, when is it happening?

This year Software Freedom Day is happening on the 18th of September, at the CSIR. It will be held at the Department of Science and Technology where it was held last year.

What can we expect?

Well, this year we aim to be more family oriented. Many people active in the FOSS community in South Africa has kids, and previously it was difficult to bring your kids along – SFD did not cater for them. This year we are looking at various ideas to make the day very family friendly, with a focus on FLOSS for children.

Like previous years we will be having the Code Jam, of course, Distro Love Station, Talks and more. Neotel agreed to provide us some Internet as well!

We also want to target the schools in our area, get the youngsters involved in FLOSS, get the word out.

You are Open Source Project Manager, what is the SA Government Policy on Open Source Software?

Government FLOSS policy is based on four cornerstones:

  1. Government must promote OSS
  2. Government must use OSS unless a better alternative is available
  3. Any Code the the government develops must be licensed as FLOSS.
  4. Any content that the government produces must be licensed under a Open Content license like, Creative Commons with Attribution.

Is the policy being enforced?

Yes.

Could you cite some examples?

Sure, the Department of Art and Culture currently uses the Kolab mail collaboration suite, and is in the process of evaluating to Zimbra. 95% of the back-end at the Department of Science and Technology is OSS.

Right now we have deployed OSS Fonts – Deja Vu or Liberation are used instead of Ariel, Firefox is the default browser, OpenOffice 3.2 Novell edition is installed on all computers.

Are there definite cost advantages to going Open Source?

Yes, take for instance Document Management. We are migrating to Alfresco. Hummingbird cost the department over R6million to implement plus there is an annual license fee of R800k for only 200 users. From a pure cost perspective FLOSS makes perfect sense.

Let’s talk about FLOSS.PRO, what is it?Floss Pro!

Floss.pro is a micro blogging community aimed specifically at FLOSS professionals and users. It is much easier to pop a quick question to the community via floss.pro and receive a quick answer than waiting for a response via a mailing list or forum.

How many users are there at the moment?

Round about 600, but we have a clear road map for where we want to take floss.pro

Tell me about your plans for Floss.pro

Well, obviously we have done the first step, which is establishing a community. Next up we are aiming to evolve Floss.pro, into We want to connect skilled people with work opportunities. We currently have Project Peer on a portal for a few of our users to collaborate. Next we want to implement a portal for source code management and a Tracks instance for Task Management

We are aiming to be less twitter and more content dissemination.

What is the back end for Floss.pro?

We use status.net – apparently we are the one of the bigger status.net communities out there. The bigger ones are Identica and the twitarmy.

Wow, okay, on to Fandroid.org then, tell me about that.

I started Fandroid, because I saw that Android will be the next big thing, the way that South Africa adopts Mobile Technologies, Android would play an amazing role of getting low cost highly functional devices in people’s hands.

Fandroid HomepageWho are the biggest Android Device Vendors?

Interestingly Samsung is the No1 mobile brand in South Africa, Seven of the top ten Handsets are made by Samsung. Samsung is also very pro OSS, and their Bada will be very popular, however they’re not closed to Android devices, the Galaxy Spica is a nice device, currently running Android 1.5 but will be upgraded to Android 2.1 pretty soon, but I believe the Galaxy S will be a game changer for Samsung, awesome 4″ Super AMOLED screen and DLNA Multi Codec Support, it makes me super excited! The Motorola Milestone is also available in South Africa, via MTN and was recently one of the phones that Google gave developers at Google IO 2010, really a worth to look at if you like stock Android, HTC, was usually associated with Windows phones, but the have done a brilliant job with their implementation of Android and HTC Sense, HTC Desire (Bravo), HTC Legend and the new up and coming HTC Wildfire.

So Android is huge then?

Yes. Every day 100 000 Android devices are activated. Remember, Innovation happens in the Open. We are currently investigating getting Open Source Phones for the department.

Karl and I spent the better part of two hours chatting about these and other topics. You can visit floss.pro, fandroid.org, and follow him on floss.pro/Twitter @kmf

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