Activity Report of FSF China
loic at gnu.org
Thu Sep 6 19:10:40 UTC 2001
Hong Feng (hongfeng at gnu.org) asked me to relay the activity
report of FSF China. It will soon be published on
Activity Report of FSF-CHINA
<hongfeng at gnu.org>
September 01, 2001
This report presences the activities of FSF-CHINA in the period of
June 23 - August 31, 2001. If you are interested in the background
information of the projects mentioned hereinafter, please refer to
our previous Activity Report, which was published on June 23, 2001
Works for Community
1. Urge Universities to CS Curriculum Reform
We published an open letter to the deans and professors of computer
science departments of Chinese universities, and urge them to make
more reforms on curriculums of computer science departments. The open
letter was published on http://www.rons.net.cn
In the letter, we emphasized the importance of Free software for
the education reform. For computing science department, we strongly
suggested university to renew up the training courses on compiler theory
by GCC and data structure/algorithm theory with Lisp or Scheme.
One active response came from Prof. Zhao ZhiZuo <zzzhao at xmu.edu.cn>, he
is the author of a book entitled "Introduction to Computing Science",
in which he offered a proposal on the curriculum reform plan consisting of
two exhibitions for computer science students.
Prof. Zhao listened RMS's speech about Free software in 1999 in Nanjing,
and he will try to use Free software in his teaching practice.
RONSNET and RON's Datacom raised a reward of RMB10,000 to encourage
students to design a Scheme implementation which is R5RS compliant.
The deadline is Aug 31, 2001, though our Academy researchers have not
finished the evaluation to the feedbacks from students and we don't know yet
if any student could reach the goal required by the reward, we could
say a lot of participants showed their strong talents, it is encouraging news
that so many students have known the spirit of Free software, and they've
showed the ability and determinations to support Free software movement
in China, which is also the mission of MNM Project.
2. Chain Schools
In the previous activity report, we mentioned that we were organizing
our chain schools for training courses about Free software. and we are
going to offer training courses about free software tools over TV and
Internet in the new semester!
In the past several months, we were negotiating with Openedu, a newly
formed company in China, with the mission to become the largest ESP
(Education service Provider) in China. Their web sites are
http://www.openedu.com.cn, and www.open.edu.cn.
It is interesting to introduce the vice president of the Openedu.
Juliet Wu, she was the former managing director of Microsoft China.
Two years ago, she was unsatisfied with the company's policy in China
and left M$, and later undertook the managing director position of TCL
(Note, it is TCL, not Tcl as the scripting language), one of the
largest consumer electronics appliance manufacturers in China (their TV
sets are very popular in China), which is one investor of Openedu.
Another investor of Openedu is CRTVU, which is the largest open university
in the world, it has built large infrastructure in the past two decades,
consisting of 40 provincial branches national wide, and 1,500 training
cites national wide. At this writing, it has registered students of
1.55 millions, It owns 2 TV channels in China: CETV-1 and CETV-2,
I was told the signals are also available in Taiwan, North and South Korea,
Hong Kong, Viet Nam and several other neighbor countries (Chinese TV scheme
We are coming close to the negotiation with Openedu to offer four series
of training courses:
* Hackerdom series -- to teach how to use the free software
tools like GNU Emacs, GCC, GDB, etc.
* Electronic Publishing -- to teach how to publish information
from SGML/XML documents over the web;
* System Administration -- to teach how to become a professional
system administrator of enterprises;
* Network Administration -- to teach how to become a professional
network administration for enterprises.
3. Typesetting Workshop
RONSNET has set up a typesetting workshop on Aug 18, its main task is
to typeset the free software manuals for MNM Project. Also, we
are coordinating with FSF, as FSF is temporarily understaffed , we
could help them to typeset some FSF manuals. FSF-India will also help
FSF, and we have discussed with FSF-India <radi at gnu.org> on how to
The typesetting workshop will also offer service for authors of
free manuals for the community. The workshop also undertakes the
research task of "POD over Internet" which we mentioned in our last
report. When the experience accumulated, we will turn them as the
templates over the web, so that authors could fill the contents
into the template anywhere over the web, and the get the hard copy
output from our POD center nearby.
Also we are helping FSF on cover design for new FSF manuals. Victor Kurian
(root.escom at rex.iasnet.ru) and his sister ( who is a professional oil painter
lives in Rostov, Russia.) are helping us on this. When I visited Moscow in
the July, we discussed how to make nice covers for GNU documentations,
currently, Victor and his sister have offered several sketches for BASH
Manual, when FSF adopts the design, it will printed on each of the BASH
4. Souvenirs Made in China
We are also discussing with FSF to produce some souvenirs and marketing
materials for the community, like badges, posters, T-shirts, mouse-pads, etc.
We also could offer such services for other Free software communities.
China is perhaps the best the production place for these souvenirs.
RONSNET has made several research projects, the brief introduction
is as following:
1. Data transmission over the power supply wires/cable.
In China, nearly every building has installed the power supply
system, almost every room has the wire for power supply at 220V/50Hz,
I have noticed there are experiments in England and Germany, which tried
to transmit Internet data over the power supply wires and cables.
The sample we made uses 450KHz, and the data could be sent over the
LAN back and forth successfully at a low data speed, but the distance
could reach more than 20KM. For the next step, we will increase the
frequence by using higher frequence resonators, our goal is to
reach 200Kbps for data transmission in the building, and try to get
it plug and play with the USB port of PC running GNU/Linux, then we
could sell the design to a hardware company and put it into mass production.
2. Meta Kernel
On July 30, I met Prof. Boris Babayan, who is the director of Russian
Academy of Science Institute of Microprocessor Computer System. Prof. Babayan
design a lot of microprocessors in his life, he has a lot of innovative
thoughts on microprocessor designing, including the one largely inspired
One of the thought matches our Meta Kernel Project, i.e. to split the
hardware resources on the computer into a series of modular (Prof. Babayan
already implemented it in his E2K chip), and during the compiling time,
computing tasks could use the combinations of the scheduled hardware
modules. Prof. babayan agreed to publish one of his paper for the first
issue of our Free Software Magazine. Thanks for his support.
I discussed this idea with Prof. Wu XueMou, the founder of Pansystems,
and he pointed out Prof. Babayan created a way that our Meta Kernel project
could learn. In Prof. Wu's term, our system is self-adaptive, which
came from the root of Alan Turing's original computing model.
Stack-based computer might be the best one for our Meta Kernel based system,
but unfortunately, none of stack based chips is freely available. We are
waiting our implementation of new Scheme implementation (which is R5RS
compliant, and support 16-bit character sets, see the coming up section)
3. Implementation of Scheme with R5RS Compliant
Like Lisp, there were a lot of Scheme implementations developed in the past
26 years. R5RS is a specification of Scheme programming language
issued on Feb 20, 1998, it is freely available at http://www.schemers.org,
currently, PLT MzScheme is recommended by the webmaster of www.schemers.org
as the best Scheme implementation, and MzScheme is perhaps one of the
closest implementation to R5RS.
( In many technical aspects, I agree with him, as PLT MzScheme is quite
stable and powerful. The only one problem to discuss is the license of
MzScheme, it is not GPL, but BSD license alike.)
Guile from FSF was not so R5RS-supportive, and we want a truly R5RS
compliant implementation for our Meta Kernel Project (We expected the Mata
Kernel will be mostly written in Scheme, except the parts interact with
hardware directly.) One of the important goals of this project is to
let Scheme support 16-bit character sets directly, like Chinese. And
S-expression could be expressed in any 16-bit characters, so that non-English
natives could programming in their mother tongue freely.
During my visit to Moscow, I discussed with Prof. Vladimir Tsurkov
<tsurkov at ccas.ru>, and we decided to make a joint project to support
4. TEITools in Emacs Lisp/Scheme
TEI (http://www.tei-c.org) has been selected as the standard documenting
specification of MNM Project. We used to consider DocBook, but finally
we came to regard TEI is more flexible than DocBook, as it supports DTDs
not only IT based documentation, but also those for literature and others.
TEITools is a tool to convert TEI documents for several outputs, it is
written by Russian programmer, Boris Tabotras <boris at xtalk.msk.su>, it
could output TEI documents to TeX/DVI, HTML, Postscript/PDF, RTF, but
the program is written in Tcl, which we don't like that much, and we try
to rewrite it in Emacs Lisp and/or Scheme. ( when the Emacs Lisp port gets
ready, we will pack it into GNU Emacs.)
RMS (rms at gnu.org) asked us to keep the consistence of format of
free documentations, he insists on adopting Texinfo as the default
format for GNU's free documentations. On the other hand, he
has not refused to use SGML documents for the GNU documentation, as
long as they could be converted into Texinfo format.
5. MNM Office
The first component of MNM Office is under development now, it is
called "ZopeBoard", which is a web based conferencing system. As Zope
<http://www.zope.org> offered a nice web development framework, and
now Python's license (version 2.1.1) is GPL compatible, so we could
use Zope as the development platform for Zopeboard.
We think all the free office suites (like GNOME's, KDE's) are
quite Microsoft Office alike, but we think such importance for desktop
is decreasing in the networked environment. Also all the office suites
are too fat -- 80% of the contained functions you will never use in your
life. Also these office suites did not put the SGML/XML in the root
design. MNM Office has its goal to do so from scratch.
The reason to start MNM Office from a web based conferencing system
is because we intended to get Free software community better organized.
There are several roles defined by ZopeBoard, including:
- System administrator,
- User and
As our ZopeBoard set the PostgreSQL as the database engine at the backend,
It keeps the track of virtual meetings, messages, users, etc. The
resides on the Zope server works with PostgreSQL database engine. We need
to work out how to connect Zope and PostgreSQL database with DA.
We've noticed a team of Italian hackers designed an amazing package of
DA (database adaptor) to store and retrieve data on PostgreSQL database
via Zope. In the past, there was a DA for Zope to connect PostgreSQL,
but it limits only one user to access one database at a time, obviously
this is a serious restriction for real applications. Psycopg allows
heavily threads to access the multiple database at a time, it is under
GPL and freely downloadable from http://www.initd.org.
We will use Psycopg. At this writing, the latest version of Psycopg
is 0.99.6b1, we are testing it for the reliability.
6. Blueprint -> Blackprint
Our research staffs often retrospect various printing technologies and
try to figure out how to improve them. Recently we checked the way
how the engineering drawing is made, and we've got an inspiration from
it for our POD over Internet project.
The traditional engineering drawings (also called "blueprint") offered
us a scheme to make new POD system, now the key issue is to explore
how to change the color from blue to black, once this gets solved, then
it could be applied to print our free software documentation and other
books with a series of innovative inventions.
7. Free Chinese Fonts
Under the leadership of Professor Wu XueMou, a group of new spline
functions are under development to describe Chinese 400 basic blocks
which we used for our free Chinese font project. According to the
report I received, it uses less cubic spline functions, and it possibly
runs faster than the current software for getting high quality output.
A lot of free books for MNM Project have been listed, including
books for Exim (a GPLed MTA), GPG, etc.
Also RONSNET offers services for Chinese periodicals publishers with
Free software based solutions. There are more than 8,000 periodicals
in China, most of them have not adopted SGML based technology, we will
show them the benefits to adopt SGML technologies with Free software
in the business, which also provides the Free software community a
huge market to grow.
We have some bad news to report here too.
1. ISO standards are proprietary.
Much to our surprise, ISO standards are proprietary, they are not
freely to copy, and freely re-distributable. I wrote to ISO copyright
officers, RMS also joined the discussion, but no positive result received.
Before ISO changes their standpoint, we should avoid to use any ISO
standards in the future, as they are not free.
2. An Chinese publisher violated GNU FDL
Linux Network Administrator's Guide is a free documentation under
GNU FDL, but this book was published in China as a proprietary
publication by a shameless publisher. We try to correct the situation,
we wrote to the the authors of the book, but neither of them replied.
1. RONSNET supports FSF-CHINA not only with a web site at
http://www.rons.net.cn, but also offered a physical location in Wuhan,
the postal address is:
Room 309, No. 158, YanJiang Ave.,
Wuhan, Hubei Province
430017, China P.R.
2. MNM Project received its first donations of CHF1,000 from an
anonymous, who is a Chinese but very supportive to our MNM Project.
© 2001 Hong Feng.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted
in any medium, provided this copyright notice is preserved.
This document is created by GNU Emacs, and marked up according to
TEI-Lite guidelines, and output to html with TEItools.
More information about the Discussion