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Time for nonprofits to leave proprietary fundraising software systems behind

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA — Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 — The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced that CiviCRM has earned its recommendation as a fully featured donor and contact management system for nonprofits.

The FSF had highlighted the need for a free software solution in this area as part of its High Priority Projects campaign. With this announcement, the FSF will also be adopting CiviCRM for its own use, and actively encouraging other nonprofit organizations to do the same.

Nonprofits have historically relied heavily on proprietary or web-hosted “software as a service” fundraising software such as Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge or eTapestry. The nonprofit organizations using them are locked in, have little control over the functionality of the software, and are dependent on the whims of a single company. Nonprofits also face costly migration if they wish to switch to a different proprietary system, never achieving independence. These factors mean that tools intended to enhance organizations’ effectiveness have actually ended up restricting their ability to accomplish their social missions.

CiviCRM, however, shares its software code so all organizations can see how it works, have the option of commissioning anyone to make customizations to it, and can host it on their own trusted servers. Since the code and the data format are freely available, using the system does not mean being locked into it. Because it runs on the free GNU/Linux operating system, it eliminates the need for another frequent nonprofit proprietary software dependency — Microsoft Windows.

“The features now offered by CiviCRM will satisfy nonprofits seeking to organize their relationships with donors, supporters, and the media. In addition to storing contact information, it handles online fundraising, event registration, membership management, and personalized paper and electronic mailings. Best of all, it’s free software distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License, which means nonprofits can host it themselves and retain the freedom they need to advance their missions unfettered,” said John Sullivan, FSF’s operations manager.

Free software ideals encouraging sharing and modification have been central to CiviCRM’s growth. Developer Dave Greenberg explained, “The CiviCRM project was started by a group of developers and project managers who had been working together on a proprietary donation processing application. As folks who were passionate about increasing the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofits, we came to realize that there was a need for a CRM application designed from the ground up to meet the needs of civic sector organizations. From the beginning it was clear that this should be free software — community driven and community owned. On a personal level I find the engagement with our community of users to be intellectually stimulating and rewarding. Seeing folks with expertise in a particular area step up and contribute their time and ideas to help improve the product is quite exciting.”

“The features now offered by CiviCRM will satisfy nonprofits seeking to organize their relationships with donors, supporters, and the media. In addition to storing contact information, it handles online fundraising, event registration, membership management, and personalized paper and electronic mailings. Best of all, it’s free software distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License, which means nonprofits can host it themselves and retain the freedom they need to advance their missions unfettered.” — John Sullivan, operations manager

In making the switch, the FSF joins other organizations like Amnesty International, Creative Commons, and the Wikimedia Foundation, who have also been using CiviCRM.

Executive director Peter Brown described the FSF’s use of the software and intent to publicize it: “I look forward to encouraging other nonprofit organizations to escape their current proprietary or ‘software as a service’ systems and give CiviCRM a try. As a nonprofit, the FSF manages over 40,000 contacts and 15,000 donation transactions per year, a book publishing operation, online store, and several advocacy campaign websites with associated mailing lists — all with free software. A general purpose donor and contact management system will be the final piece of the puzzle for charitable organizations looking to operate using only free software. We plan to publish a guide offering our experiences as a resource for other nonprofits concerned with the social implications of their technology.”

Nathan Yergler, chief technology officer at Creative Commons, offered further praise for the software: “CiviCRM is a critical part of Creative Commons’ infrastructure. We’ve seen the application mature and steadily improve with new features and performance improvements coming in every release. CiviCRM’s developer community is accessible and responsive, going beyond the normal call of duty to help when needed. I would happily recommend CiviCRM to organizations like Creative Commons looking for a CRM solution.”

CiviCRM core team member Piotr Szotkowski noted that despite the project’s maturity, there is still rewarding work to be done: “We could definitely use more helping hands. Being able to work on CiviCRM gives a lot of non-direct benefits, like the very warm and fuzzy feelings of great satisfaction and fulfillment: knowing that one’s code was used to help the Katrina hurricane victims, that it helps organizations like Amnesty International or Front Line fight for human rights defenders, or that it helps organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation better organize their great work on Wikipedia and all their other projects.”

Further information about downloading, using, and contributing to CiviCRM can be found at http://civicrm.org. An ongoing discussion of comparisons between free software database options is on the FSF’s LibrePlanet wiki.

For a description of the dangers in relying on “software as a service,” see “Who does that server really serve?“.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF’s work can be made at http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement’s goal is freedom for computer users. Some, especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as “open source,” which cites only practical goals such as making software powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and avoids discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at the deepest level. For more explanation, see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html.

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Operations Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license (or later version).

Written by tonybaldwin

April 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

MicroSoft gets a taste of their own medicine: MSWord sales prohibited, MS to pay $290m in damages!

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This is too awesome for words.

LA Texas judge ruled Tuesday that Microsoft cannot sell one of its flagship products, Word, in the United States because of patent infringement.
You read that right: Microsoft cannot sell Word, the judge ruled.
Judge Leonard Davis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, ordered a permanent injunction that “prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML,” according to an announcement by the plaintiff, Toronto-based i4i Inc.
(…)
The injunction (PDF), which becomes effective in 60 days, prohibits Microsoft from selling future Word products that allegedly use the patented technology. It also enjoins Microsoft from testing, demonstrating, marketing or offering support for those future products.

Davis also ordered Microsoft to pay i4i more than $290 million in damages.

Judge: Microsoft can’t sell Word anymore

It seems that MicroSoft’s appeal has been denied, and the original verdict upheld, as well.
Court upholds judgement against Microsoft in i4i case.
According to the judge’s decision:

A reasonable jury could have concluded that Microsoft ‘willfully’ infringed the ‘449’ patent based on the evidence presented at trial.

Here’s another relevant article: Court Reaffirms I4i’s Patent Win Against Microsoft.

The verdict, which the appeals court first affirmed in December, required Microsoft to pay more than US$240 million in damages and forced it to remove a feature in versions of Microsoft Word 2007 starting in January. Microsoft had been charged with infringing a patent owned by i4i with a feature in Word 2003 and 2007 that lets people create custom XML documents.

Microsoft asked the appeals court to reconsider its decision, and on Wednesday the appeals court upheld its previous affirmation of the district court ruling. Much of the latest decision is identical to the December document, except for an expanded explanation of the three-judge panel’s decision to uphold the “willfulness” issue.

“(…) there is no evidence Microsoft ever made a good faith effort to avoid infringement; internal emails show Microsoft intended to render i4i’s product ‘obsolete’ and assure ‘there won’t be a need for [i4i’s] product.”

In other relevant news Microsoft has been convicted of willfully infringing on two patents for automatic and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology. A Texas jury recommended an award of $105.75 million, to VirnetX, the holder of said patents.

So, M$ is taking their lumps over software patent infringement suits.
Perhaps it wil make them realize just how stupid and useless software patents really are.
I doubt it, though.
Software patents create a legal nightmare for all software developers and pose particular problems for the free software movement. [2]
Relevant link: End Software Patents

Written by tonybaldwin

March 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Posted in business, free software, news

Tagged with , ,

New TransProCalc manual

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Hi!

I just wanted to post quickly and let everyone know that, thanks to technical writer, Anindita Basu, we now have a brand new, shiny TransProCalc Manual available, both in on online version, and for download as a pdf document for the TransProCalc project.

I still have plans to step up development on the project and add all kinds of useful features…stay tuned.

Written by tonybaldwin

March 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

blog clients

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I know I’ve written a couple of blog clients for myself, for livejournal and insane, which I should probably consolidate into one, but they lack some features.
They’re good for tossing up a quick post, but lack the means to choose with user pic, and also download and edit previous posts, and a few other things, but they work with LJ and Insane Journal, which Logjam also does.
But neither mine, nor Logjam, will work with Blogger.
Now, I also found Petrus, which works with Blogger and Livejournal, but I can’t seem to get it to play with Insane Journal.
If I could have one client that was fully featured, but worked with all three, that would simplify my life, since, at this point, I am maintaining not one, but two Livejournals, one Insane Journal, and a one two three blogpots.

Written by tonybaldwin

January 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Posted in free software

Tagged with ,

OmegaT splash screen

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OmegaT splash screen
OmegaT splash screen

splash screen I made for OmegaT
a free, cross-platform, FOSS Computer Aided Translation program.

Written by tonybaldwin

February 25, 2008 at 1:00 pm