Friday, December 14, 2012

Free software at the CERN, or: how did FOSS help the discovery of Higgs boson

What are the main fields in which FOSS is really important, and had given big successes in these years? Research is, probably, one of the most important. And when you talk about research, scientific research, you must speak about the CERN.
In the GNU/Linux Magazine Italy number of January, you will find an interview I did to two researchers about this topic: Sebastien Ponce is the head of CASTOR, the CERN's data storage system (based on GNU/Linux) and Brian Bockelman is an american physicist that works with CERN software to analyse data from ATLAS and CMS experiments (those who found the existence of Higgs particle).
I think you will find their answers really interesting.

Se leggete GNU/Linux Magazine Italia troverete nel numero di gennaio 2013 (in edicola giĆ  la prossima settimana) la traduzione in italiano dell'intera intervista, con una breve introduzione.

I would like to thank both Brian and Sebastien, for the time they spent answering me, but also Melissa Gaillard from the CERN press office for all the work she did.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pengpod's GNU/Linux tablets are coming. Also in Italy.

I just read the news that Pengpod is going to release a couple of tablets with a GNU/Linux system (not with Android).
I got the news from ANSA, the main italian agency ( and the title of the article is "In January a Linux tablet will challenge Android and Apple".

The news is beautiful for two reasons. First: a new tablet with GNU/Linux, hurray. Second: an italian press agency (the most important, inter alia) mentioned Linux. Ok, I know it's GNU/Linux and not "Linux" but don't demand too much: it's incredible that someone in our press world recognized just the existence of GNU/Linux. In Italy, basically, it's unusual to read about GNU/Linux on a newspaper. At maximum you will hear about "Open Source" the word "free" is not even mentioned. And, "GNU/Linux" and "Linux" are often considered synonyms. The title itself of the the article recognizes GNU/Linux as a character of the mobile challenge.

Talking about the tablets, they seems to be good products, expecially for their price. Personally, I can't wait to see them running Plasma Active.

So it's a good period for Italy in freedom of software: today we hear this news, and some weeks ago our parliament has issued a law that forces public administration to choose Free Open Source Software every time it is possible (and buy proprietary programs only if there is no FOSS alternative). This is the base for a mentality change: if everything goes well, in less than ten years FOSS will not be just "an alternative", but it will be "the normality".

Monday, October 15, 2012

Progetto Archimede: energy for everyone

Computers, obiously, need energy to work. And so do all the other machines: the problem of power sources is becoming bigger every day, since we don't have a renewable energy source that could really replace fossil fuels. Or do we?

Some months ago I wrote an article for BBC Science Italy, about the "Progetto Archimede" (Archimedes Project) built from the ENEA based on an idea of Carlo Rubbia (an italian Nobel prize winner for physics). Because of some troubles in the layout of the magazine, we decided to not publish the article. For this reason I would like to publish at least the interview I did at the italian minister of environment Corrado Clini (and former director of ENEA).

Just for those who don't know what we are talking about, Progetto Archimede is a new kind of power plant based on solar thermodynamic that works both in day and night: according to Rubbia's calculations, a power plant of this type large about 2000 Km2 (this is nothing in terms of desertic areas) can give energy to the whole Europe. Forever.

Here's the interview:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Social networks: the new major media

A few days ago, I got an email from Sarah Wenger, with an infographic she developed about the power of online people. There is a line that says "Social media is becoming the new major media". This is basically right, I think we are all aware that Facebook and Twitter (for example) are the main way for the diffusion of news. Is this good or bad? This question, obiously, is stupid. Tecnology is not good and not bad: tecnology is just an instrument. The use people do of tecnology can be positive or negative.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In memoriam

I just read on the italian main press agency that Neil Armstrong, the first man that walked on the moon, died. This blog talks about tecnology, and I thought it's important to remember that the Apollo XI mission is the simbol itself of what the human kind can do using science, tecnology, and all the amazing power of our brain. Basically, in less than a century we came from a situation where flying was just a mere dream, to seeing a man walking out of Earth atmosphere and over the Moon.
Sometimes I ask myself if cavemen would have ever been able to imagine that in the future someone would be able to touch the very surface of Moon.
Fellini, in a movie, talked about some mad people that wanted to take the Moon and bring it here, on the Earth. Armstrong, Aldrin, and all the other men of Apollo program are maybe the people who went as near as possible to this dream.
In conclusion, thank you Neil, since you demonstrated what we are able to do with science (and also a little bit of courage).

Friday, June 29, 2012

KDE on the Raspberry Pi

As you may know, there is no Kubuntu for Raspberry, due to the incompatibility of Kubuntu ARM version with the little computer. I wanted to create an image for raspberry most similar as possible to Kubuntu, so I basically took the original Debian release and add some packages to have the entire Plasma Desktop. The result is quite nice, I think, and the system itself uses about 100-110 MB of the total RAM (there is also some swap on the card image). It's also quite speddy: the only problem could be that when you launch a new program, for some seconds the CPU load is 100%. You just need to wait a little and then eveything returns fine. The image can be downloaded from this link:
and you can dd it on a 4GB SD card with the command:
dd bs=1M if=~/debian-raspberry-kde.img of=/dev/sdd
if your SD card is /dev/sdd, obiously.

Just a note: the username is "pi" and the password is "raspberry".

Have fun hacking with Raspberry and KDE.

EDIT: Now with screenshots:

I decided to shot photos with a camera, because it shows that there is no "trick" and what you are seeing is really KDE on a RaspberryPi.
If you want to look at other shots, here they are:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Raspberry Pis have arrived

Just writing to say that my RaspberryPi from Farnell and the one from RS Component have arrived yesterday.

I'm playing with them a little, doing some experiments, and actually they seems quite good, expecially for the price. The official Debian GN/Linux distro runs fast and without troubles. Actually, I'm trying to prepare a Kubuntu version for the RaspberryPi, but it will take some time, I think, to make it work smoothly.

If you want to give a look at them, you will find all the pictures in my gallery:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Internet ruining brains?

A reader send me an email, because he wanted to know what I think about an image he prepared. The graphic has an explicit title "Internet ruining your brain" (by the way: the image can be found at the address Now, what to say about this work?
I can agree with the informations (and the graphic is nice), but I absolutely disagree about the opinion expressed:
sure, the internet is reducing our use of memory. But this is not a bad thing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet the new Windows 8

Usually, if you say "linux" people think about a very hard to use OS. But is it true? Is Kubuntu really an OS for developers and nerds? I'm going to present "common people" Kubuntu, saying it's the new version of Windows 8: let's see what they think about it without any prejudice. And, since I'm a serious person, I'm filming it.
By the way: I got the idea because KDE has been awarded as best desktop environment of the year.
So, here is the result of my "investigation":

The result is that, on 14 interviewed people only one already knew Ubuntu, but everybody said that KDE is better than Windows (the medium vote reached is 8/10).
Well done, KDE.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

KDE on Diaspora... why not?

Just a little ago, I thought about a question: KDE is free software. Diaspora is free software. So, why not share KDE related posts on Diaspora? Doing this is quite easy, and I'm gonna tell you how. Every one of you (everyone that have a blog) can follow these instructions to let people share blog posts on Diaspora.

By the way, if you don't know what I'm talking about, Diaspora is a free social network, built in an interesting way that allows you to have always control on you datas. For more info have a look at and register on
A little info: on the official diaspora pod is not possibile, acutally, to create groups of users. It is, anyway, possible on another pod: Also, on joindiaspora you can't simply register, since the number of users is limited. But on other pods the registration is immedate.

Some KDE developers are already on Diaspora, and there is also the official Krita account ( But we could also create a KDE-offical account, and use it to share official announcements.
Another idea: it would be nice to put a little button "share on diaspora" in the posts of

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ubuntu for Android... and Plasma Active?

So, it's news of the day that Canonical presented Unity for Android devices ( As I seen the video I thought: well, also Plasma Active can do this. The problem is that there is no porting of Plasma Active for Android platform. So I'm asking: wich are the main techincal problems we could encounter in transforming Plasma Active in an app for this system (it's not rhetorical, I'm really asking it because I don't know)?
Talking about the ethical question, sure, Android is not really FOSS. But it's the most used quasi-free system, and having Plasma Active for this system could only improve the freedom of users. It would also became a big "advertisement" for the whole KDE software compilation.

By the way, here's a video of Unity for Android in action:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The "raspberry" that wants to change computer science

Some months ago, the project RaspberryPi has been announced. Its purpose is very ambitious: creating a good computer at a very low price, so it will be possible to reduce the "digital divide". In January, models A and B have been  presented (, and they will be available after February 20th. The B model will cost 25 euros.

The "flow rate" of this thing is enormous: having a computer, perfectly working, at about 25 euros, means that we will be able to computerize a lot of things: used with Arduino, RaspberryPi will make possible the low cost domotics.

I asked some questions to Eben Upton, and I have managed to undestand a little bit more about what they are going to do.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interviewing Ton Roosendaal: will it blend?

Yes, I could not resist to associate Blender with "will it blend" my favourite way to use an iPhone (check out this video

Some days ago, I asked some questions to Ton Roosendaal and he, really nicely, found the time to answer. As you all may know, he is the creator of Blender and the head of the Blender Institute. Anyway, for me, the most important idea he developed is the "open movie" project. It introduces a completely new concept of creating an artistic opera, where the public can be an active part during the production and expecially after it, possibly improving the opera itself or creating another version (if it's a movie, you can create your own final). Basically, it's the power of free open source software ported to art, expecially cinematographic art.

Tra l'altro: se siete italiani, potrete leggere una traduzione dell'intervista con presentazione nel prossimo numero di GNU/Linux Magazine Italia.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Free the research #3

So this is the last part of the article I'm publishing as a serial. And I will talk about chemistry. In particular, I'm going to show you something about Avogadro, a very powerful program. By the way, did you know that this program takes its name from the italian chemist/physicist Amedeo Avogadro (, best known for the definition of the "mole" concept with his follower Stanislao Cannizzaro? Basically, the mole is a unit to describe the number of objects you have. For example, having a mole of molecules means you have 6,022*10^23 molecules. And having a mole of books means you have 6,022*10^23 books. This number is now called "the Avogadro number", in honour to the scientist.

Add a dimension to chemistry

Avogadro is one of the best programs to draw molecules in three dimensions. This program, anyway, can do a lot more: it has handy tools to build complex molecules, and gives you some informations about what you have drawn. There is another interesting program (that I will not describe since it's very easy to use): Kalzium. This one is very useful for its "calculators": these are some little tools allowing us to do some simple calculations (concentration of a soluzion, mass of  a compound, etc...). There is also a wonderful chemical equation solver, and a "reader" of risk and security phrases. If you are just starting to learn chemistry, there is also a good glossay, that will show you the main laboratory tools and explain some practices.