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The Open Source Forum

Another special area set aside in Hall 6 for open source was the Open Source Forum. As in previous years, the forum – located next to the main open source exhibitor area – offered seating for nearly 100 attendees, plus additional standing room, and a stage for presentations from various organisations and well-known community members. Among the IT and open source experts were Erik Albers from the Free Software Foundation Europe, free software developer Klaus Knopper, and Jacqueline Rahemipour from Freies Office Deutschland, a German non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the use of open source productivity software.

Maddog Presents
Zoom Jon "maddog" Hall presenting Project Caua at the Open Source Forum on the second day of CeBIT 2013.
Jon "maddog" Hall was one of the few speakers to give a different presentation each day; his topics included the history of computer science, Project Cauã, and "Making Money with Free Software", as well as "Open Source Software and Hardware for Innovation" and "Education Using Free Culture". The full programPDFGerman language link is available online. Following CeBIT 2013, videos of each of these talks should be available from Linux Magazine's web site to download.

Knoppix 7.1

As has become traditional at CeBIT, Knoppix creator Klaus Knopper unveiled an updated release of his well-known Linux live distribution. Based on Debian "Wheezy", Knoppix 7.1 introduces new features for non-technical users and compression improvements, as well as the usual under-the-hood changes, including an upgrade to the 3.7.7 Linux kernel.

Klaus Knopper
Zoom Knoppix creator Klaus Knopper demonstrates the latest "CeBIT Edition" of his Live Linux distribution, Knoppix 7.1.
When asked what his favourite three changes in the new "CeBIT Edition" of Knoppix were, Knopper pointed to the distribution's new partitioning scheme for flash drive installations and the new easy-to-use TOR and VNC starters. The change to a new partitioning scheme on flash installations removes the previous 4GB partition limit, allowing users to access all of the space on their drives for storage under Linux. Performance has been improved thanks to the use of ReiserFS, which automatically repairs itself if the USB drive is removed by mistake while the system is running. Knopper says that this is especially important for beginners as they won't have to run filesystem checks should this happen.

A new starter for the TOR anonymisation software has been added for privacy-conscious users so that they no longer have to manually configure the tool from the command line. By default, the included starter has been configured to comply with German law to avoid any legal problems; with these settings, this means that the user's system is never an exit node. Presenting Knoppix 7.1 on stage, he demonstrated his third favourite feature: the new bundled VNC starter in 7.1 is aimed at teachers with little experience who need to quickly and easily set up VNC in their classrooms.

Additionally, Knoppix 7.1 – which uses on-the-fly decompression – can now offer up to three times the RAM to applications thanks to a change in how its compression works: a newly supported feature called zRam, which Knopper describes as "basically compressed swap-in-RAM". This makes it especially good for older computers with less than 512MB of RAM. Package updates include LibreOffice 3.5.4, Wine 1.5.10, VirtualBox 4.1.18, Chromium 22 and Iceweasel 10.0.12, the re-branded version of the Firefox ESR web browser for Debian, and many others. Like the other special editions of Knoppix for CeBIT, 7.1 does bundle some proprietary packages at the request of Linux Magazin, which includes Knoppix 7.1 in its April 2013 issueGerman language link. These include Adobe Reader, the Adobe Flash Player plugin, and an X Client. Knopper says that users can expect a maintenance update, to correct any problems reported, to arrive on the project's site within three to five weeks; this update will also remove the proprietary packages.

Speaking to me following his presentation, Knopper also mentioned that he was contemplating creating a mobile version of Knoppix to run on smartphones. The developer noted that the hardware he would need is already available in many smartphones: a powerful processor, 1GB or more of RAM, and a large, high-resolution screen. He showed us his Samsung Galaxy Note II running the latest version of the CyanogenMod Project's custom Android firmware and suggested that Knoppix would run very well on the hardware and could be useful for applications such as GIMP (the Note II includes a pressure-sensitive stylus and Wacom technologies). Phones like the Note II could also be docked for use with an external display, keyboard and mouse, turning them into fully fledged desktop devices.

However, even Knopper pointed out that, while he has been pondering the idea for some time, he too "wonders if we really need it" and whether it would be "worth the effort". Knopper said that as the primary purpose of these types of devices is not necessarily to do daily desktop work on a tiny display using a touchscreen keyboard, but rather to have quick access to mail and contacts, using applications such as OpenOffice/LibreOffice and GIMP would likely only prove to be useful should you have a complete desktop-docking setup available. Having the "right form factor for the desired purpose" is key, added Knopper, otherwise "a notebook would probably still be more comfortable".

Next: Project Cauã, 3D Printing, CeBIT and FOSS

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