Iorestoacasa.work is a solidarity and participatory project that has brought together the free software communities. The Italian Internet standard bearers, Garr and Cnr, join
Zoom, Meet, Webex, GoToMeeting and others: video conferencing platforms are indispensable with coronavirus lockdown. Birthdays, aperitifs, lessons and remote meetings will be the norm for a while and so Italian researchers have decided to give their contribution with the project iorestoacasa.work to offer everyone free and open source video conferencing tools.
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Born from the initiative of a network of professionals from Fabriano, Luca Ferroni, Riccardo Serafini, Francesco Coppola and Dawid Weglarz, I stay at home it is an all-Italian platform for communicating remotely in days of emergency. Unlike the other commercial platforms, the solidarity initiative uses an open source system, Jitsi Meet, which allows users to make video calls instantly, easily and for free. To access the discussion “rooms” just click a link from the browser, without installing programs or registering your name and surname, and you can start talking. The software, similar to the most famous commercial ones, allows you to see, chat, share the screen and make a direct streaming on YouTube. For this reason it is suitable both for the usual business meetings and for taking distance lessons.
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The result of a ten-year activity linked to the diffusion of free software in its territory, the idea of its creators was precisely to develop a socially useful product for both people and businesses, but now the goal is to use it also for distance learning.
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Precisely for this reason, the Garr, Group of harmonization of research networks, which manages the communication networks of research and the Italian University, was among the first companies to want to join by making its own server available. It’s called open.meet.Garr.it and allows, as he said Massimo Carboni del Garr “to get closer to schools that currently have fewer resources. In this way we can offer an easy-to-use solution with a normal Internet connection”.
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The platform we said, is not different from other systems, but it is free and open source and everyone can collaborate in its growth by joining the Telegram group where there are about sixty developers and systems engineers. From the two initial servers made available there are now sixteen hubs that allow you to work remotely and thus lighten the congestion of the Italian network caused by the quarantine. And with an added value: the servers are located in Italy, the data remains in Italy and the sessions are unlimited. With a simple and intuitive interface, it can also be used from a mobile phone. In short, even in design it has nothing to envy to the most famous videocall systems.
To understand it, Google Hangouts Meet, Google’s corporate video conferencing software that supports up to 250 participants and 100,000 live streaming viewers is paid while the free version of Hangouts allows video calls with a maximum of 25 participants. Google Meet also allows you to share the screen and chat with participants.
Same functions for Zoom, the homonymous software of the unicorn company founded in 2014 in California by the Chinese Eric Yuan after ten years at the helm of Webex, Cisco’s video conferencing application. These days, access to the platform is free and can be used directly from the browser or by downloading the app for iOS and Android. Compared to the corporate version, the free version of Zoom, however, connects up to 100 people for 40 minutes, following an invitation link via email or messaging. Video chat allows you to share documents, videos and photos, chat, record the session and the paid version allows access to 1,000 participants for an unlimited time.
Although now Zoom, given the emergency, has been made available for free, it is still a commercial project that must produce profits. On the contrary, the Italian platform project is non-profit, based on a supportive and collaborative approach in which multiple organizations can participate by sharing their servers. This is how the first two servers were joined by the others made available by companies such as BeFair, IFInet and Seeweb, associations such as the Italian Linux Society, institutions such as the Garr and the Cnr, precisely, with the Institute of methodologies for environmental analysis, Imaa.
And connected in videochat on I stay at home Riccardo Serafini clarifies the concept: “The community acts in a coordinated way managing to monitor the metrics of the use of the platform. The services available are visible on the web and from time to time you can choose which one to use for an optimal result. You create a room, a link is generated, a password is shared so that only the guests can participate. ” Then, you just have to start a direct streaming.
Another creator, Luca Ferroni, he reiterates that it is the result of a path taken by free software enthusiasts: “In this way there is not a great actor who profiles users and captures their data. Furthermore, open source software is on Github (a sort of library of software projects) and anyone can check the code to make sure they don’t do strange things secretly. “
The next step? “If you are a school and you want to have your video conferencing server, you can do it: much of the work was precisely adapting the software to Italian users and making it easy to install,” Serafini tells us. Richard Stallman, the free software guru, would be happy.
Meanwhile, the Garr is already experimenting with new solutions. One is the international collaboration with the European network Géant for the eduMEET multivideoconference project. In support of the schools there is also the Up2U project, an international collaboration that sees the partners Garr, Sapienza University of Rome, Géant and Cern in Geneva as providing the OpenUP2U platform, a complete suite based on Moodle and open to all. The project, designed as a path to help schools in the use of digital, will make tools for shared document creation, file sharing and eLearning available to all institutions involved in education.