A journey to a surveillance state – new motivation to resist found in India

Bild von Johannes Mahnke (cc by sa 4.0)

Picture by Johannes Mahnke (cc by sa 4.0)

Seeing those men with machine guns at the airport entrance is not a comforting experience. By now we are used to having our passport inspected everywhere, but this time that is not enough. Only those who can show a ticket are allowed to enter the terminal building. Our case is an eventuality they are not prepared for – that someone might have an electronic ticket which they can only present in digital form. Or maybe they are: a man appears with a long list of names. Several metres of fan-fold paper containing all known data of those that will depart from this airport today. They give us the list and ask us to find our own names among all that passenger data. Only then are we allowed to enter. Still holding the list, that is – we are supposed to hand it over to the colleagues at the counter inside.
12 hours later, as I show my passport to the German immigration official, I feel relieved. For the first time I can rest assured that German data protection rules will be applied as my identity is checked. I never felt such an intense sense of protection resulting from these rules as I do at this moment.
That’s how a three-week journey to India ended for me in November 2013. Is was an exciting trip with a lot of new experiences. What stuck most in my mind is how much surveillance the Indian population and their visitors are subjected to:

For every stay in a hotel, our passports were copied and we had to pose for a photo. Travelling on a train was not possible without giving the passport number either, and that’s nothing compared to the masses of data we were asked for when applying for a visa or buying a SIM card. To enter a railway or subway station, we had to have your luggage scanned and walk through a metal detector. CCTV cameras are a regular feature of the urban environment.

South Park’s Genius Website Copyright Fail

Today I need to rant about something related to my all-time favourite TV show: South Park.

South Park is a great show, and I really appreciate that all their episodes can be watched in full on their website. I even accept that ads are shown at the beginning of each episode. They are trying out a new business model and I consider this a good thing. You have to try out stuff, even if it goes wrong.
Here’s what’s wrong with the South Park model.

Some time ago the US website for South Park was accessible from everywhere. There are nice features on it, like the SP avatar generator and a forum where fans can talk about the latest episodes. The forum is particularly interesting for non-native speakers because it’s a place to learn about all the colloquial jokes that need the kind of cultural background you just don’t acquire in other places, such as Europe.

 

This is what you get, when visiting southparkstudios.com from a german computer.

Microsoft goes kindergarten

I just visited a german kindergarten that has a concept to educate young children in computer skills.
On the one hand I was very happy to see how both, boys and girls, learn how to work with computers and are tutored by women (which is good for the gender aspect). On the other hand I watched these children work with Microsoft software and being instructed how to work with Windows.
Sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Families and in cooperation with the Cornelsen Verlag, a big publishing house for schoolbooks, Microsoft places its software called Schlaumäuse directly into german kindergartens.
The kindergarten teachers are very happy about this program because it really gives them a good peace of software that they can easily work with. (I have to confess: in comparison to other Microsoft products it is really good.) The program comes for free (only for kindergartens, of course) with a good manual and a monthly magazine and there is also merch available like stickers and stuffed animals.
It is good work of advertisement and it is no wonder, that kindergarten teachers appreciate the offer. Especially since they are not aware, that there are already free alternatives available.
Still the Schlaumäuse are quite good work. They are orientated towards linguistic support and autonomy without overburdening the children. A lot of different games have been put together in one environment and if you earned enough cheese-points within the learning-games your award is to play the most fun game (basically an easier version of pacman).
The kindergarten teacher I spoke to was very pleased with the program. But she was also very interested in Free Software and in my objection that this is very early advertisement on the most subtle level. Still I was not able to recommend her an equivalent free alternative.
I’ve already tried some software like Kturtle and Sugar and other small applications but non of those offered such a fully-fledged learning platform like Schlaumäuse.
We definitely need something that offers a full learning platform and comes with a good handbook and leaflets etc.
Otherwise Microsoft will succeed advertising its products in the very early years of our children.
Our challenge is now to compete with this and to bring our alternative to the kindergartens and primary schools.
I would do the latter, who is in for the first?

FSFE invites german citizens to ask their deputies about Free Software

FSFE (and especially I) started a little campaign to bug our deputies a little in the final stage on the hustings. On the Fellowship-Wiki we invite german citizens to write to their deputies with the help of Abgeordnetenwatch and ask questions about Free Software.
The Idea is, that the deputies not only get aware, that people have an interest in supporting Free Software, they also have to learn a little about Free Software if they want to be able to answer propperly. Or maybe they hear about that for the first time and have to look it up at Wikipedia.
However, our deputies are not often so keen to show that they are listening to the citizens and care about their interests. So we should really take the opportunity to get noticed and all ask about Free Software. The more people join, the bigger effect we’ll have.
Visit the Fellowship-Wiki to take part and get informed about what our deputies have to say about Free Software!