duminică, 4 septembrie 2011

"Informatica la Castel" Free Software Summer School, 2011 edition, Romania



GNU/Linux, Moodle, Fedora, Ubuntu, LibreOffice... Freedom... (a picture by Cătălin Donici)

Free Software at The Castle (a picture by Cătălin Donici)


At the end of August, I was pleased to participate at "Informatica la Castel" ("Informatics at the Castle") Free Software Summer School, 2011 edition.

This annual event - already a tradition among Romanian computer geeks - is kindly hosted by Universitatea de Vest "Vasile Goldiș" ("Vasile Goldiș" West University) and ARLUG, the Arad Linux User Group. It's like a pleasant summer camp, at the 1724 Cernovici Castle (position), in the beautiful landscape of Macea village - about 20 km away from the city of Arad, Romania and near the Hungarian border.

Each year, the event's goals are not only purely tech talks, but also raising awareness of Free Software ("Software Liber") benefits for the large, non-technical Romanian public. We also debated on the practical aspects - including financial implications - of Free Software implementations in Romanian Public administration - a zone where there is still a lot of work to do.

The 2011 edition was also focused on e-learning: the e-learning (free) software Moodle and its practical applications in Romanian-speaking education network. The subject stirred up much interest and participation, not only from Romania (schools, high-schools, universities), but also from Moldavian universities of Chișinău, Bălți and Tiraspol. This year, the summer school enjoyed the direct help and participation of the Moodle Romania team, which has a strong presence in Arad county.

Demonstrating GNU/Linux installation and basic operations to present Microsoft Windows users was another task for the school - each year, Linux installfests are permanent agenda. The organisers seek participation from the largest possible number of wannabe GNU/Linux users and newbies (students, pupils, public clerks, teachers of all grades). Not only a small "computer laboratory" was available (running a wide selection of GNU/Linux distros, such as Fedora, Debian, CentOS, Xubuntu, Trisquel, Ubuntu, and Fedora LXDE), but we have demonstrated the install of GNU/Linux for both desktops and servers (Ubuntu 11.04, CentOS 6.0 and a Moodle server on Ubuntu).

(Due to recent history and political regime, Romania's start in wide use of computer technology is a post-1990 matter. Thus, the Romanian computer market has a few particularities that distinguishes it from the Western countries. For one, the Romanian technological landscape is centered on desktop - large datacenters, together with their Unix-like, '70s cyberculture are virtually absent, even in universities. As a desktop Linux distro, Canonical's Ubuntu Desktop has a clear place here, together with Red Hat's Fedora. Second, the low-to-average IT educated user is deeply entrenched in proprietary programs - that's because a whole generation of IBM-PC users gained their first IT skills in Microsoft software, in a Microsoft-dominated public schools system. Third, the harsh economic conditions still encourage the illegal copying of proprietary computer software, eliminating the "price advantage" of Free Software and discouraging the use of these technically superior solutions.)

Last but not least, the Free Software Summer School brings a lot of fun for participants - some of which are "veterans". It's an invaluable occasion to make friends, share ideas and have long, passionate face-to-face discussions on technical, social and "political" matters. As for relaxation and "peace of mind" after tech talks, this year we had a short trip to Bezdin and Hodoș-Bodrog nearby monasteries - wonderful pieces of Christian faith engraved in stone - some foot walks along Mureș river and, of course, a camp fire, evening dance, fine dishes and local wine.

The Cernovici Castle is not only the center of Macea village, but also a landmark for botanists. Its 0.1 square miles park is a botanical and arboretum scientific garden, well-known over the world. There are more than 3000 species of plants and trees here, some of them rare for the Romanian geographical latitude. At night, this is a park with dark alleys, where scaring ghosts appear frequently - please see some of the following pictures  :-) 

There were many presentations available, on various subjects - from the use of Moodle in Romanian and Moldavian universities curricula to computer games and HTML 5 & JavaScript programming. This year, I tried to explain to the Romanian audience the goals of the FreedomBox Project , together with some other considerations on computer security, online privacy and the capital importance of Net Neutrality.

In no particular order, here are some pictures - that worth more than a thousand words (not only mine, but courtesy of Prof. Mihai Jalobeanu, Prof. Pavel Moș, Prof. Daniel Popa, Mr. Liviu Berecz and Mr. Bogdan Lăzărescu).

On my way to Macea, early first day
One of Macea's churches
The Cernovici Castle, somewhere in Europe
Traces of history...
Stairway to heaven...
The night falls...
In Arad
Ready for work - first day (front: Prof. Paula Spânu, Prof. Florența Mereuță)
Prof. Aurel Ardelean, University's Rector, surrounded by journalists
Tech talks (front: Prof. Valeriu Cabac, Mr. Ioan Fericel from ARLUG)
Mr. Cosmin Herman demonstrates how Moodle server runs on Ubuntu
Focused attention... (a nice smile from Anca Mustea)  :)
Along Mureș river
Bell tower at Hodoș-Bodrog Monastery
Completely surrounded... :)  (with Igor Postolaki, Paula Spânu, Florența Mereuță)
"Up to you, My Lord..." (Hodoș-Bodrog Monastery)
"Venite, adoremus..."
Detail from Hodoș-Bodrog's Monastery entrance
How we use Moodle in State University of Moldova
Me, installing CentOS 6.0
The first GNU/Linux kernel boots...
... and some explanations
From the Macea museum: an old telephone switchboard
Tasting Romanian grill ("mici") and Moldavian cognac...
Camp fire (with Florența Mereuță)
With Prof. Mihai Jalobeanu (center) and Doru Ilași
Free Software comes to Romania!
Historical Romanian locomotive ("131.000") displayed in Arad railway station
The Moodle Romania team explains technical details
"Liberate your documents! Use OpenDocument format!"
Proceedings in the main hall (front: Iuliu Oană)
I'm speaking, audience sleeps...  :)
Old trees in Macea arboretum garden
Pavel Covaci, the botanical garden's director
"Following thoughts..."
Night falls over the century-old trees...
Prof. Roza Dumbrăveanu talks about the Moldavian State University
The Castle... sunny day... friends around...
Sharing some ideas on FreedomBox and LIBERTY
FreedomBox software is based on Debian
A few "bibliographic" references: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Evgeny Morozov, Mr. Eben Moglen...

The Bezdin Monastery (Serb)
The Bezdin wall pictures
Tons of flowers at Hodoș-Bodrog
The painted church of Hodoș-Bodrog
CentOS 6.0 installer runs smoothly
OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice... (here, OpenOffice.org on CentOS 6.0)
During talks (at left, Prof. Daniel Popa)
The Macea market: "boia" is a traditional Hungarian spice
Staircases in the castle, with historic wrought iron
Prof. Sabin Buraga (Univ. of Iași) presents HTML5. Dragoș Acostăchioaie seeks freedom, running :)
Holy icon in the Monastery of Bezdin
Hunt trophies in Macea's museum
Walking in the botanical garden (with Prof. Antoanela Naaji, Prof. Mihai Jalobeanu, etc.)
Seeking for rare plants

Ghosts show up in the castle's park. Can it be Daniel Popa? :)
Dracula's castle, by night ?  :)



Group of furious ghosts attacks from behind the trees, lead by Sabin Buraga, Victor Porof and Liviu Berecz :)





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