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Free public wifi in the West Midlands

This week there have been developments in the provision of free public wifi access in both north Staffordshire and south Shropshire.

Stoke-on-Trent photo montageA report in today’s Sentinel boldly announces in its headline that “Stoke-on-Trent [is] set to join Manchester and Barcelona with free wifi in the city centre“.

However, the Sentinel is in this instance following the old press maxim of never allowing the actual story to interfere with a good headline and comparing the Potteries with near-rival Manchester and the cultural and political capital of Catalonia always reads well.

A few paragraphs further down the actual story is revealed, i.e. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is advertising for a firm to install wifi hotspots within the Potteries Way ring-road and this will complement existing coverage at the intu Potteries shopping centre, other businesses and city centre cafés and bars. In the council’s eyes, this development will improve the so-called “city centre experience” for shoppers and businesses.

Furthermore, the project has been proposed by the City Centre Partnership group which represents traders and there’s not a hint of any provisional costings as yet. Finally, the council is reported as conducting a “market testing exercise” to examine the project’s feasibility.

Looking at cities elsewhere, the Sentinel report states that Manchester City Council provides free public wifi for the 30 minutes and for £3 per day thereafter, whilst Nottingham City Council signed a contract with BT to install 41 wifi hotspots around the city in 2015. Barcelona has one of Europe’s most extensive public wifi services with 443 hotspots.

Ludlow looking frostyMoving a few tens of miles down to south Shropshire, yesterday’s Shropshire Star reported that Ludlow Town Council has dropped plans for free public wifi in the town centre due to lack of funds.

This was in spite of support from councillors. The report optimistically states that hoped the idea could be reviewed at a later date, but no timescale has been set.

Gina Wilding, clerk of Ludlow Town Council is quoted as saying: “Members felt that it was a great idea but just at the wrong time.”

She continued: “The town council has been approached by a company about the idea. The installation itself will cost about £7,000 and then it would cost about £6,000 a year in running costs.”

The company involved is reported as Solvings Ltd. of Mold in Flintshire, which has yet to supply wifi technology for any town centre and whose current business mostly deals with private defence-related sites and military complexes.

CERN’s 300 TB – the biggest open data release yet?

Yesterday a press release from CERN announced that its CMS Collaboration unit had released more than 300 terabytes (TB) of high-quality open data. This includes over 100 TB, or 2.5 inverse femtobarns (fb−1), of data from proton collisions at 7 TeV, making up half the data collected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) by the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector in 2011. This follows a previous release from November 2014, which made available around 27 TB of research data collected in 2010.

Visualisation of CDP experiment at CERN's LHC
Visualisation of CDP experiment at CERN’s LHC

This open data is available on the CERN Open Data Portal — which is built in collaboration with members of CERN’s IT Department and Scientific Information Service — the collision data are released into the public domain under the CC0 waiver and come in types: The so-called “primary datasets” are in the same format used by the CMS Collaboration to perform research. The “derived datasets” on the other hand require a lot less computing power and can be readily analysed by university or high-school students, and CMS has provided a limited number of datasets in this format.

CMS is also providing the simulated data generated with the same software version that should be used to analyse the primary datasets. Simulations play a crucial role in particle-physics research and CMS is also making available the protocols for generating the simulations that are provided. The data release is accompanied by analysis tools and code examples tailored to the datasets. A virtual-machine image based on CernVM, which comes preloaded with the software environment needed to analyse the CMS data, can also be downloaded from the portal.

Kati Lassila-Perini, a German physicist working on the CMS detector stated: “Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly. The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”

In our own more modest lab, we’re wondering if this is the largest open data release yet. If readers can confirm or refute this, please feel free to comment below.

Coming soon – South-West CiviCRM meet-up

civiCRM logoAt the end of April a CiviCRM meet-up for the South-West of England is taking place in Bristol, kindly hosted by One25.

The meet-up’s date and time are 27th April 2016 from 5.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.

The venue is One25’s offices at 138A Grosvenor Road, Bristol, BS2 8YA (map).

This event’s programme will include:

  • Networking;
  • Presentations;
  • News;
  • Discussions;
  • Help and Support.

Attendees will have to register, but the event is free.

The organisers have issued an important note, i.e. please don’t turn up at the venue before 4.30 p.m.

Two free CiviCRM events in London

civiCRM logoNews arrives from CiviCRM, the free and open source customer relationship management (CRM) software, of 2 free events later this month in London.

First of all NfP Services is hosting a free seminar at its London offices with refreshments and lunch included. The seminar will be held on Tuesday 19th April from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. The venue will be Miller Technology Limited, 340 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8BG (map).

During the session NfP Services will be demonstrating CiviCRM’s amazing functionality and flexibility and explaining how it can help your organisation take a low risk route to implementing its use. It will also be providing live examples of existing systems and how current clients are reaping the enormous benefits of this fully functional, open-source, web-based CRM system.

The event is ideal for anyone new to CiviCRM who would like to find out more. Existing users keen to get more from their software will also be welcome.

You can register here or alternatively contact James on 020 7843 4400 / 07808 304 595 or send an email to james [at]

Nearer the end of the month, the second CiviCRM London Meetup 2016 will be taking place on Wednesday 27th April 2016 from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m., followed by refreshment in an as yet unspecified local hostelry. The venue will be the offices of Compucorp Ltd., 4th Floor, 33 Bethnal Green Rd, London, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA (map).

The schedule for the event is as follows:

18.00: Welcome and drop in for 15 mins.

18.15 : Start

18.15 – 18.30: Session 1: Introduction to CiviCRM

18.30 – 18.50: Session 2: Case Study


19.00 – 19.15: Session 3: Community update

19.15 – 19.30: Session 4: What’s new!

If potential attendees have any queries, they are advised to email Info [at]

Once again, registration is required.

First LibreOffice 5.2 bug hunting session announced

A blog post earlier this week from The Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, the popular free and open source office productivity suite, gives details of the first bug hunting session for the forthcoming release of LibreOffice 5.2.

There is also a page on the session on the LibreOffice wiki.

LibreOffice 5.* screenshot
LibreOffice 5.* screenshot

This initial session will be held on Friday, 22nd April 2016. Tests will be performed on the Alpha version of LibreOffice 5.2, which will be available on the pre-releases servers a few days before the event. Builds will be available for Linux (DEB and RPM), MacOS and Windows.

Mentors will be available on on the day from 8.00 a.m. UTC to 10.00 p.m. UTC. Of course it will also be possible to hunt bugs on other days, as the builds of this particular Alpha release (LibreOffice 5.2.0 Alpha) will be available until the end of May.

During the day there will be two dedicated sessions: the first to chase bugs on the four main LibreOffice modules – Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw – between 3.00 p.m. UTC and 5.00 p.m. UTC; and the second to test the top 10 features between 5.00 p.m. UTC and 7.00 p.m. UTC. The list of the top 10 features will be decided during the week before the session and will be added to the wiki page.

Reposted from the author’s blog.

Open source microcontroller for IoT

Pulpino logoThe Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and Italy’s Bologna University have jointly developed a microcontroller called PULPino (for “parallel ultra-low power”) and are making it available as open source hardware, Switzerland’s ICT Journal reports. According to ETH’s Professor Luca Benini, who managed the project: “It will henceforth be possible to build open source hardware starting from nothing.” He added: “In several recent examples of open source equipment, use is limited by exclusive marketing rights and non-competition clauses. Our system is not linked to any condition in licensing terms.”

Micrograph of Pulp v3 microcontroller
Micrograph of Pulp v3 microcontroller

This new microcontroller has been designed for battery-powered equipment with a very low power consumption, meaning it could be used for Internet of Things devices, smart watches, medical sensors or for home automation. Luca Benini gives the example of a smart watch developed in his laboratory which could be capable of determining the user’s location by analysing the visual data from the watch’s camera.

Thanks to personal contacts, Prof. Benini has been able to ensure that the microcontroller has already been used in other research projects in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe. However, each time he has needed to negotiate licensing agreements. He is optimistic for Pulpino’s future and reckons that the processor will increase its distribution still further now it has been released as open source hardware: “Pulpino is now very easily available. We hope there will be more collaborative projects in the future and that these are likewise easier.”

First European Ubuntu community conference to be held in 2016

UbuCon Europe 2016 will be the first conference dedicated to the European Ubuntu community and will be held in Essen, Germany from 18th to 20th November 2016.

The organisers are promising two days full of talks, workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and (hopefully) great food. There will be social events in the evenings will give delegates the opportunity to meet fellow community members and visit some of Essen’s attractions.

Ubuntu Community photo

What is UbuCon Europe about?

Ubucon Europe is a conference on everything that is related to Ubuntu Linux and open source software. In particular, it will focus on

  • getting familiar with Ubuntu and all its flavours and sub-projects,
  • showcasing everything (flavours, projects, commercial products etc.) based on Ubuntu,
  • providing an open and vivid atmosphere to discuss ideas and projects with members of the Ubuntu community from all over Europe;and
  • learning and having fun!

Where will it take place?

The venue for UbuCon is Essen’s Unperfekthaus (which bills itself as “the creative oasis of central Essen”. Ed.).

Wikitravel has information on travel to Essen.

UbuCon Europe is being organised by ubuntu Deutschland e.V..

For those who cannot wait until November, it is preceded by UbuCon Paris (aka Paris Ubuntu Party).

0 A.D. Alpha 20 Timosthenes released

0 AD, the free and open source RTS game, has now reached its alpha 20 release, according to the latest announcement by the developers.

This Alpha features 10 new maps, core functionality for a cinematic in-game camera, the ability to share dropsites with your allies, to name but a few new features of this latest release.

image of golden island - one of the new maps available in the latest release
Golden Island – one of the new maps available in the latest release

0 AD is available free of charge for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows and the developers give an assurance that it always will be gratis.

This release is named after Timosthenes of Rhodes, who was a Greek geographer and navigator who served as the chief pilot and admiral of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus’ navy in the 280s-270s BCE.

Today is Document Freedom Day

Today, 30th March, is Document Freedom Day, an annual celebration of the benefits of using open standards and open formats for the production and exchange of documents.

Document Freedom Day robots

Open standards are essential for interoperability and freedom of choice based on the merits of different software applications. They provide freedom from data lock-in and the associated vendor lock-in. This makes open standards essential for governments, the public sector, companies, organisations and individual users of information technology.

What is an open standard?

An open standard is defined as a format or protocol that is:

  1. Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
  2. Without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
  3. Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
  4. Managed and further developed independently of any single supplier in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
  5. Available in multiple complete implementations by competing suppliers or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.

Examples of open formats include Open Document Format (ODF) and plain text (.txt).

Examples of open protocols include the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), which together as TCP/IP help determine how the internet works.

What do open standards mean for you?

Open standards ensure that you can:

  • Collaborate and communicate with others, regardless of which software they are using;
  • Upgrade or replace your applications and still be able to open and edit your old files;
  • Choose which device – (smartphone, tablet, computer) you want to use without worrying about compatibility;

What do open standards mean for society?

Open standards ensure that society has:

  • More competitive software and technology products;
  • More efficient government systems and services;
  • More accessible high-end software for innovation and experimentation.

Originally posted on the author’s blog.

Samsung is designing an IoT operating system

Le Monde Informatique reports that Samsung is currently developing an open source operating system tailored for the internet of things (IoT). Details of it will be given next month at the South Korean company’s developers’ conference.

internet of things illustration
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In order to gain a larger place in the world of domestic appliances, clothing, accessories and other connected items, Samsung has initiated the development of a new operating system for the internet of things. This OS, which will be open source and has not yet been named, will assist terminals in carrying out simple tasks quickly and without human intervention. The software could for example unlock a locked door and turn on the lighting of a house when one of its residents is approaching home.

More details will be provided next month during a technical session to be held at Samsung’s developers’ conference in San Francisco. In addition, this OS has also been announced as being real-time enabling it to process data more quickly and with no latency.

An all-out IoT strategy

Samsung’s new OS could be a stripped down version of Tizen, which is already used in the company’s smart watches and television sets. This new arrival will form part of the huge connected equipment programme foreseen by the Korean company, which includes cookers, refrigerators, washing machines and even light bulbs.

Furthermore, Samsung is suggesting the Artik card to act as the basis for the design of connected terminals. The company’s new OS could enable developers to connect their products with its SAMI cloud platform for analytics, security and other services. For example, a cloud service cloud could turn the air conditioning on or off according to the information supplied by a telemetric sensor. It could also analyse health information received in the course of time.

Samsung’s IoT OS could also be compatible with other IoT development platforms such as AMD’s mbed or Google’s Brillo. The latter is already supported by development cards, including Intel Edison.