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June sees Brussels Open standards for ICT procurement conference

If you work in public sector ICT procurement and can be in Brussels from 10.00 a.m. onwards on Friday 12th June this year, then there’s a forthcoming event that may be of interest to you.

It’s entitled Open Standards for ICT Procurement: Saving While Reducing ICT Lock-In and is being organised by DG Connect, otherwise known as the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology.

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Under the EU’s Digital Agenda, the European Commission is committed to providing guidance on the link between ICT Standardisation and Public Procurement to help public authorities use standards to promote efficiency and reduce lock-in.

Using ICT open standards results in:

  • Higher savings when procuring ICT;
  • An increased level of competition among suppliers;
  • Compliance with EU Public Procurement directives.

The preliminary agenda (which is subject to change) is set out below.


Registration of participants and coffee


Introductory greetings

Speaker: Viorel Peca, Head of Unit F2 “Innovation” – DG CONNECT


Practice 1 – The Estonian Interoperability Framework: an innovative approach to the adoption of open standards

Speaker: Aet Rahe, Head of ICT Policy Department (State Information Systems Department), Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications


Practice 2 – A Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) dependent on Open Standards

Speaker: Tomas Gustavsson, CEO/CTO, PrimeKey Solutions AB




Practice 3 – The Common Assessment Method for Standards and Specifications (CAMSS): a framework for assessing interoperability standards and specifications

Susanne Wigard, Programme Manager, ISA Unit, EC DG Connect


Practice 4 – Quantifying the impacts of PCP procurements in Europe based on evidence from the ICT sector

Speaker: Sara Bedin, European Independent Expert on Innovation Procurement (PCP and PPI)




Practice 5 – Saving up to 70% of your costs in a move: from Proprietary to Open Source

Speaker: TBC


Practice 6 – The Economic Impact of migrating ICT systems to Open Standards: exit & migration costs

Speaker: TBC, EC DG Connect


Preliminary results from the ICT Procurement Survey

Speaker: Giovanna Galasso, Senior Manager, PwC Italy – Information Technology and Services



The event will be held at Avenue de Beaulieu, 25 in Brussels (map) and is free to attend, but subject to availability. Attendees will have to register in advance

The next Debian testing stable version’s codename is stretch

Debian logoWith Debian 8, codenamed ‘jessie’, currently frozen and due for release as the next stable release at the end of April (news passim), many may have been wondering what the next Debian testing stable release will be.

However, this particular question has now been answered. Writing on reddit, user dimitrifromparis has revealed the next character from the Toy Story series of films to be used as a Debian release codename.

After the jessie release, there will be a new release codename, “stretch”, and testing will be an alias for that.

See the Debian wiki for an overview of past Debian production release codenames.

Besides testing stable, Debian also has a testing unstable version, named sid. Sid is never released as such and is named after Sidney, the boy next door in Toy Story who always broke his toys. Needless to say, Debian sid is definitely not recommended for production environments.

Originally published on the author’s own site.

‘Superfast’ broadband bypasses Somerset village

Villagers in Heathfield, just five miles from Taunton in Somerset, have been told they must wait years for their dire broadband speeds to improve despite ‘superfast’ fibre optic cable lying under land nearby, the Western Daily Press reports.

image of fibre optic cableVillagers endure speeds as low as 0.7 megabits on download, and 0.36 upload. Neighbouring communities are getting 24 megabits.

The village, which comprises 30 houses, lies within a triangle of cabinets providing faster connectivity to other communities, so villagers have dubbed their home the Heathfield Triangle and have launched the Heathfield Triangle action group.

When villagers asked asked BT if they could have their own cabinet, they were told they would have to pay for it themselves. Villagers estimate the cost at tens of thousands of pounds (aren’t quasi-monopoly suppliers generous? Ed.).

Richard Payne, a local farmer who has fibre optic cables passing under his land said: “It seems ridiculous that we have this fibre optic cable around and yet we can’t receive a high speed service. It would be faster for me to train a racing pigeon to take messages. We are only getting a fraction of the service we pay for.”

A spokesman for Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), the partnership handling the local provision of so-called superfast broadband said: “CDS is working hard to make high-speed fibre broadband as widely available as possible and is on track to meet its target of making superfast broadband available to around 90 per cent of households and businesses in Devon and Somerset by the end of next year.

“Inevitably, there are some locations where it is not viable to provide fibre broadband in the current programme because of the considerable engineering challenges and costs involved.

“However, CDS is currently finalising plans for a further investment of more than £45 mn. which will bring superfast broadband to many more locations.”

Quiz your future Bristol West MP on digital rights

ORG logoOn Friday 24th April 2015, the Open Rights Group is supporting the Wild Wild Bristol West Hustings, a chance for local voters to quiz the candidates for the Bristol West constituency – rated by commentators as either a 2-way or 3-way marginal constituency.

The event will be from 7.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. and its venue is Bristol University’s Wills Memorial Building, Park Street, Bristol BS8 1RJ (map).

In alphabetical order, the candidates attending as this post goes to press include:

More information about the prospective Bristol West MPs is available at http//

The event is free, but in order to allocate spaces fairly, you’ll have to register via EventBrite.

The event is being supported by ORG Bristol as part of the organisers, the Greater Bristol Alliance, a coalition of local campaign groups.

Hungarian universities adopt ODF

ODF logoJoinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reports that Eötvös University and Szeged University in Hungary are increasing their use of Open Document Format (ODF).

Between them the 2 universities have some 45,000 students.

In addition, both universities have also signed licences with MultiRáció of Budapest for the deployment and support of 34,000 copies of EuroOffice, a free and open source office suite developed especially for the Hungarian market, but based on both major free and open source suites, LibreOffice and OpenOffice. EuroOffice is available in 2 versions – free and professional – for both Windows and Linux. It can also be installed in 7 languages – English (US variant), German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Hungarian – which MultiRáció claims are the native languages of 85% of the EU’s population.

The Hungarian government decided to promote the use of both EuroOffice and ODF in schools and universities in 2014. MultiRáció’s senior software developer Kázmér Koleszár described these initiatives as “an important policy change”, given that the country’s public sector had been reliant on MS Office for the preceding 15 years.

MultiRáció is actively involved in the ODF specification, being a member of OASIS, a non-profit consortium promoting the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society.

Reposted from the author’s blog.

Hate DRM? Tell the world on May 6th

On Wednesday, May 6th, 2015, activists across the world will come together to say no to Digital Rights Restrictions Management (DRM).

no DRM logoIn the last year, DRM has spread to more types of products; developments include Mozilla giving in to DRM in its Firefox web browser and the sycophantic media fawning over Apple’s DRM-laden “smart” watch.

However, an increasing number of people are waking up to DRM’s oppressive effect every day and the the movement to regain control of our technology is growing, from legal victories to enthusiastic input from citizens across the United States regarding DMCA exemptions.

The International Day Against DRM is one of our best opportunities to draw more concerned citizens into the worldwide fight against DRM.

More information is available from Defective by Design.

Bristol University Computer Science students win ESA app competition

An app designed by Computer Science students at the University of Bristol has won a top prize, University Business reports today.

The European Space Agency App Camp was held in Barcelona from 25th February to 4th March, attracting more than 170 participants from 30 countries. The camp’s purpose was to find innovative ways to use earth observation data to address some of the world’s greatest problems.

One of the two winning teams of the camp came from the University of Bristol team, made up of Anda Truta, Alex Dantis, Alex Dumitrescu and Julian Laval, which created FarmIQ – a crop monitoring and management tool which can analyse data to suggest field optimisation and identify problems before they happen.

photo of Bristol University's FarmIQ creators
Bristol University’s FarmIQ creators. Picture courtesy of ESA

To qualify for the ESA App Camp, the Bristol University four computer science students first of all had to win the local pre-selection Appathon in Harwell. They are focusing on analysing crowd-sourced information to develop predictive agricultural models. Offered in a product-as-a-service (PaaS) format, their app harnesses the power of Earth observation and agricultural big data to provide state-of-the-art crop monitoring, predictive monitoring (including suggestions on field optimisations), and advance warnings regarding potential problems.

In Barcelona the Bristol team faced tough competition from teams of students, researchers and programmers representing Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and Finland.

In addition to a cash prize of €5,000, the winning Bristol team has earned the opportunity to work with one of the ESA’s Business Incubation Centres, as well as SAP’s Startup Focus Program should they wish to take their idea further.

Commenting on the win, 2nd year computer science student Julian Laval declared: “Being surrounded by like-minded space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, as well as being able to converse with experts in the field at the drop of a hat was a phenomenal experience. The rush of winning was also rather fantastic.”

Alex Dumitrescu added: “Our ambition is to enhance food security and optimize farming on a global scale. On top of providing an unparalleled crop-monitoring experience to farmers using the latest and greatest satellite technologies, we’re looking towards the future and want to be the first to build and deploy predictive monitoring that identifies potential problems before they happen. Certainly not an easy feat, yet an incredible vision that we want to see to fruition.”

The other winners were a team of Finnish developers comprising Aarni Koskela, Matti Määttänen, Otso Rasimus, and Henrik Skogström with AGRAI, a personal farming solution for mobile phones. The app simplifies farmers’ work by advising them on their daily routines – such as when to fertilise or harvest – and issuing warnings on imminent anomalies like pests, drought, or frost.

Security researcher claims anonabox has amateurish security

Regular readers may recall a post from October 2014 on the anonabox, a Tor hardware router that re-routes data through the Tor network for security and anonymity. Now German IT news site heise reports that there are serious security problems with the device.

image of anonabox's label

The anonabox router out to protect its users’ privacy and route all traffic via the Tor network. Although the device performs this task, it exposes its users at the same time to the risk of being spied upon by local attackers. Massive oversights in the implementation of the device’s software don’t show the manufacturer in a good light.

User: root, Password: admin

A security analyst who has examined the anonabox has roasted the device. The WLAN network, which is configured by the manufacturer, is completely open and both SSH access and a web interface are simple to access even though they are concealed. Furthermore, the analyst was able to discover the pre-set root password “admin” at his fourth attempt. In addition, users cannot change the root password. The device is therefore surrendered defenceless to any attacker who can see the box’s WLAN.

At any rate, the WLAN network’s SSID changes with every reboot. The code responsible for this nevertheless seems to be the only source code which the anonabox’s developers have written themselves. In all other respects the device’s firmware seems to be a minimally adapted version of the OpenWrt open source project; and even then its own function is implemented almost amateurishly.

Justified criticism

The anonabox project, which was launched through crowdfunding, attracted strong criticism from the outset. On the one hand, should allegedly self-developed hardware consist of a products that is already available. On the other, security experts were still doubting whether it was sensible to route all everyday traffic via Tor. In addition to these criticisms can now be added the fact that the box itself also represents a security risk.

The manufacturer has admitted the security problems and is exchanging affected devices. According to Wired, 350 of the total 1,500 devices sold via the its second crowdfunding campaign are affected. Its first campaign was halted by Kickstarter before its end date. New devices will not be affected by the security problem and thus need no free update, according to the boss of anonabox.

Evolve OS to change name to Solus

This blog reported yesterday that the developers of the Evolve OS Linux desktop operating system had received a letter from lawyers acting for the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills informing them that BIS’ OS trade mark was being infringed and that the developers would have to pick a new name.

Evolve OS screenshot

Ikey Doherty of the development team has now posted the following statement on Google+:

Thank you, everyone for helping us in the naming process! In that time, one name cropped up time and time again. A name we do own, and one indicative of our history and roots. Most importantly, the longevity, history and direct, traceable link of this name provides absolute and irrefutable evidence of prior art, and all rights to the name within this context. We have purchased and Thus, Evolve OS will now be known (once again) as Solus. The full name for the operating system component of the project (i.e. the Linux distro) is Solus Operating System – the entirety of the project is the Solus Project.

Reposted from the chief scribe’s personal blog.

FSFE gives cautious welcome to Commission’s new free software strategy

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has given a cautious welcome to the EU Commission’s new version of its strategy for the internal use of free and open source software covering the period 2014-2017 (news passim). FSFE has provided extensive input to the Commission during the update process.

While the new strategy is broadly similar to its predecessor, there are a number of marked improvements:

  • A more determined attitude to free and open source software. This is a minimum requirement for the strategy to have at least some impact in an environment where proprietary software is deeply entrenched. The new strategy talks about creating “a level playing field” for free and open source software, and giving it “active and fair consideration“.
  • An approach to open standards that goes beyond the watered-down revision of the European Interoperability Framework: “the Commission shall promote the use of products that support recognised, well-documented and preferably open technical specifications that can be freely adopted, implemented and extended“.
  • A commitment to make it easier for Commission developers to take in external free and open source software communities.

“This document is essentially a statement of intent by the Commission,” says FSFE president Karsten Gerloff. “There are many actions the Commission could take to make use of the advantages offered by free software and open standards – procurement practices come to mind. That said, the new strategy represents a change for the better, and we are happy to see the Commission moving in the right direction.”