“Ada & Zangemann”, a beautiful children’s book on free software

Estimated read time 3 min read

Explaining the principles of free software to adults, if they have never heard of it, is not always easy. So to children? This is what a nice book, “Ada & Zangemann, does brilliantly. A tale about software, skateboarding and raspberry ice cream” (C&F editions, 60 pages, 15 euros): just recently published in French, it opposes a resourceful little girl, Ada – a nod to the pioneer Ada Lovelace -, to an inventor whom his devices have made immensely rich (Zangemann, literally “pinch man”, evokes several figures of tech billionaires, Gates, Jobs etc.).

Apology for hacking and solidarity

Written by Mathias Kirschner – also president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) – and drawn by Sandra Brandstätter, the book sees the brilliant inventor abusing his power: he blocks electronic skateboards that roll on sidewalks, limits the volume of his connected speakers or restricts the choice of ice cream to his favorite perfume. And there, the young Ada, who discovers the notion of software, will hack these devices and with her friends work to make the choice to the users. Enough to annoy the billionaire, who is putting pressure on the government to ban these hacks that escape him. Then…

In short, I won’t spoil everything for you, but this album succeeds in describing with clarity and humor, through its examples that will speak to everyone, the notion of software freedom, and thus invites us to reflect on concrete democracy. And as “the more successful is the villain, the more successful is the film” (Alfred Hitchcock), here the antagonist is successful, this book is a success in all respects: THE recommended gift for Christmas and beyond.

In addition, the way this book is disseminated is remarkable in itself. First, its digital version is freely available (from free to donation to C&F editions, whose remarkable work is to be commended – look at their entire catalog, anyone interested in the political and social aspects of tech should find their happiness there).

A free project from A to Z

Then, the book, originally published in German, was placed under a free license (Creative Commons by-sa) by its authors, who thus favor its maximum dissemination: use, modification and sharing of the work are authorized. This is enough to facilitate his translations, explains Alexis Kauffmann, software and open educational resources project manager at the Ministry of National Education and Youth and founder of Framasoft. He also specifies that “for this French edition, Matthias Kirschner has decided to donate all the copyrights from the sales of the book in paper version to the Free Software Foundation Europe”.

– “his translation was carried out collaboratively by a hundred students who coordinated on the free tools of the Digital

– its editing chain is free: HTML, CSS, JavaScript Paged.js + free typography Firefly”

Alexis Kauffmann initiated this collaborative educational project, with the help of teachers and ADEAF (Association for the development of German language teaching in France).

Having met some of these young translators at C&F (the participants ranged from 3rd to preparatory classes, from 13 to 19 years old, in four different schools, from Alès, Besançon, Guingamp and Paris) and their teachers, enthusiasm was at the rendezvous of this beautiful collective project.

This publication in French is already covered with praise, I invite you to discover it to see how much this book deserves it.

Read also

Free and common software in education: presenting alternatives to GAFAM – November 26, 2020

Linux and Creative Commons licenses explained in videos – May 31, 2012

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