"open source software" entries

The public front of the free software campaign: part I

A review of my discussion with Free Software Foundation's Zak Rogoff.

At a recent meeting of the MIT Open Source Planning Tools Group, I had the pleasure of hosting Zak Rogoff — campaigns manager at the Free Software Foundation — for an open-ended discussion on the potential for free and open tools for urban planners, community development organizations, and citizen activists. The conversation ranged over broad terrain in an “exploratory mode,” perhaps uncovering more questions than answers, but we did succeed in identifying some of the more common software (and other) tools needed by planners, designers, developers, and advocates, and shared some thoughts on the current state of FOSS options and their relative levels of adoption.

Included were the usual suspects — LibreOffice for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations; QGIS and OpenStreetMap for mapping; and (my favorite) R for statistical analysis — but we began to explore other areas as well, trying to get a sense of what more advanced tools (and data) planners use for, say, regional economic forecasts, climate change modeling, or real-time transportation management. (Since the event took place in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at MIT, we mostly centered on planning-related tasks, but we also touched on some tangential non-planning needs of public agencies, and the potential for FOSS solutions there: assessor’s databases, 911 systems, library catalogs, educational software, health care exchanges, and so on.) Read more…

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OSEHRA's first challenge: VistA version control

The VA VistA EHR resists version control systems, which prevents open collaboration.

Veteran Affairs' VistA electronic health record system is famously resistant to being managed by version control. That needs to improve if VistA development is to be run as a meritocracy.

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OSEHRA and the future of VA VistA

Veterans Affairs launches its electronic health record system as an open-source project.

Veterans Affairs is taking the bold step of making governance of the VistA system open source. If you care about healthcare software, the new Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA) is worth your involvement.

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Government IT's quiet open source evolution

Government IT's quiet open source evolution

The GOSCON conference shows that open source is making headway in DC.

Packed halls at the 2011 Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) confirmed that strong interest in open source runs throughout the federal IT community.

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Energy.gov relaunches using open source and the cloud

Energy.gov relaunches using open source and the cloud

Drupal and open source technology power the new Energy.gov.

The new Energy.gov, using a combination of open source technology and cloud computing, will save an estimated $10 million annually.

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Four short links: 18 April 2011

Four short links: 18 April 2011

Community, Metrics, Sensors, and Unicode

  1. Your Community is Your Best Feature — Gina Trapani’s CodeConf talk: useful, true, and moving. There’s not much in this world that has all three of those attributes.
  2. Metrics Everywhere — another CodeConf talk, this time explaining Yammer’s use of metrics to quantify the actual state of their operations. Nice philosophical guide to the different ways you want to measure things (gauges, counters, meters, histograms, and timers). I agree with the first half, but must say that it will always be an uphill battle to craft a panegyric that will make hearts and minds soar at the mention of “business value”. Such an ugly phrase for such an important idea. (via Bryce Roberts)
  3. On Earthquakes in Tokyo (Bunnie Huang) — Personal earthquake alarms are quite popular in Tokyo. Just as lightning precedes thunder, these alarms give you a few seconds warning to an incoming tremor. The alarm has a distinct sound, and this leads to a kind of pavlovian conditioning. All conversation stops, and everyone just waits in a state of heightened awareness, since the alarm can’t tell you how big it is—it just tells you one is coming. You can see the fight or flight gears turning in everyone’s heads. Some people cry; some people laugh; some people start texting furiously; others just sit and wait. Information won’t provoke the same reaction in everyone: for some it’s impending doom, for others another day at the office. Data is not neutral; it requires interpretation and context.
  4. AccentuateUs — Firefox plugin to Unicodify text (so if you type “cafe”, the software turns it into “café”). The math behind it is explained on the dataists blog. There’s an API and other interfaces, even a vim plugin.
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