February 22, 2005

Year-long Italian programming tournament announces winners

Author: Marco Fioretti

The winners of the first Italian Open Source
Contest
were officially announced on February 9 in Milan, during
the Infosecurity and Storage
Expo Italia 2005
. The competition, launched by the publisher of
the Italian magazines Linux&C, Linux Pratico, and Hacker & C, put a lot of interesting ideas in the limelight.

Any software project could participate, as long as it was original
(no localizations), available under an OSI certified license and
counted, as of January 1, 2004, at least one Italian citizen in the
development team. There were six categories, each with a first prize
of €1,500. The first four were Most Innovative Software, Best User
Interaction, Best Community, and Multimedia. Security, Networking, and
Communication constituted another single class, while Business
Software included database, office, and system integration tools.

In addition to these main categories, there was another unique aspect of the
contest. University and high school projects could compete for
four prizes of from €400 to €1,000. This is an excellent way to
get students interested in Free Software. A bit of
exposure in the right place and at the right moment might be just what
a budding developer needs to transform some boring, one-time homework assignment into something more stimulating and durable, including -- why not? -- a job!

The jury represented the main Italian communities involved in Free
Software: academy, business, evangelists, and developers. The
president, Renzo Davoli,
teaches operating systems at the University of Bologna. Several other
members are IT managers in their companies, including IBM, or
freelance IT consultants. The Italian Free Software
Association
was present with Christopher R. Gabriel (GNOME
developer and former vice president of the Italian section of the Free Software Foundation
Europe
) and Simo Sorce, Samba team member since 2001. Another
hacker involved was Gaetano Paolone, founder of the GNUtemberg project. Non-programmers were represented by lawyer Andrea Monti, president of the Association for Freedom in Interactive
Electronic Communications
.

The judging occurred in two phases throughout
2004. In the first phase, the jury assigned a score to each project. In the
second, anybody could vote for their favorite project by
SMS, phone, Web poll, or email. The final score was a weighted sum of
the points given by the jury and the votes by the public.

The projects were evaluated by the jury according to both technical and
not-strictly-technical criteria: innovation, extensibility, value of
the service to the open source community, ease of use, and, last
but not least, source code quality. It is a harsh reality that the source code of
many FOSS applications is indeed hard to maintain and debug for
anybody but its author. It's refreshing to see
Free Software finally judged also on this factors.

And the winners are...

Enough about the organization. Here are the projects that won in the
six main categories. Note that, with the possible exception of two, all of them are immediately useful no matter where you live and work.

Innovation:OpenSignature, a package for digital signatures compatible with the smart cards currently released by Infocamere, the official Italian certification authority for Public Administrations.Best User Interaction:Freesbie, a FreeBSD LiveCD developed by the Italian FreeBSD User Group. This package also includes a suite of scripts to create your own customized version.Best Community:Kuht.it, a portal for computing enthusiasts with a whole section devoted to FOSS issues.Security, Networking, Communication:FreePOPs, a daemon that can download messages from webmail portals as if they were standard POP3 servers. It embeds a LUA interpreter to easily add plug-ins, and can also work as an RSS aggregator.Multimedia:Hydrogen, an advanced drum machine with hooks for integration with other professional music production tools like Ardour, Muse, and Rosegarden.Database, Office, System Integration:Syntax Desktop, a content management system with a user interface similar to a normal computer desktop.

The school projects

The top student project was Remote
Mail
, a PHP client to aggregate email from several webmail or POP3
accounts. Next came Akira
(Artificial Knowledge Interface for Reasoning Applications)
, a
complete environment for building artificial intelligence agents and studying their behavior. Moio's CMS, a very
user-friendly content management system, came in third. A graduation thesis
discussing IIPimage, a
Web client/server system for efficient viewing, even through very slow
dialup links, of very high resolution images, took fourth place. Its server component is an Apache plug-in, while the client is a Java or JavaScript applet.

Wait, there's more...

While you visit the contest site, check the "random projects listing"
in the upper right corner. You might find some gems there. For example, I
discovered My Handy
Restaurant
, DaDaBIK, and
Segusoland. The first one is a PHP/MySQL two-part package for
restaurants: one section is used to collect and manage orders from
waiters, while the other takes care of contacts, accounting, employees, and
suppliers. The internal customer database also supports take-away or
phone orders from registered customers. DaDaBIK creates highly
customizable front-ends to search, insert, update, and delete records
inside MySQL databases with minimal configuration. Segusoland started
as a completely new approach to user interaction: the original project
is not maintained anymore, simply because it has evolved into the
file manager and general-purpose GUI called OneFinger. Its most
peculiar feature is the so-called dynamical "narrowing"; that is,
showing only the commands and files that, according to your
working habits, could be used together.

Follow Italy's example! Your local open source community can copy the formula and hold its own open source software contest.

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  • Open Source
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