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Moggy brings down Trusty Tahr

Ubuntu logoLinux distribution bug reports are not a place one expects to find stuff to make one smile: they’re normally places where the faults and failings of software are described in normally boring detail.

However, today proved an exception to the rule, courtesy of one filed a short while ago for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, codenamed “Trusty Tahr, which has just come to prominence.

14.04, locked screen to go to lunch, upon return from lunch cat was sitting on keyboard, login screen was frozen & unresponsive.

To replicate: In unity hit ctrl-alt-l, place keyboard on chair. Sit on keyboard.

Resolution: Switched to virtual terminal, restarted lightdm, lost all open windows in X session.

What should have happened: lightdm not becoming unresponsive.

Ubuntu fans are now trying to reproduce this bug, including some who want to try and reproduce it with other pets, as per the latest comment on the bug report page reproduced below.

will it also work with a small dog, please some one with a small size dogs test it!

LightDM is the display manager running in Ubuntu. According to the Ubuntu Wiki, it starts the X servers, user sessions and greeter (login screen).

What’s a tahr? Wikipedia informs us that tahrs form a family of three species of large Asian ungulates related to the wild goat. The three species are the Himalayan tahr, Nilgiri tahr and Arabian tahr.

Finally, there are millions of pictures of cats and kittens all over the internet. Indeed, there’s even a Firefox add-on called Kitten Block that steps in whenever the user who has it installed attempts to access the right-wing Daily Mail and Daily Express websites. However, there are far fewer pictures of tahrs. Let’s remedy that with a fine picture of a male Himalayan tahr courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

photo of Himalayan thar

Hat tip: Softpedia

First posted on the author’s personal blog.

City of Bern wants to be rid of dependency on Microsoft

Bern coat of armsReporting on proposed changes to IT policy at Bern city council, Switzerland’s Der Bund stated last week that using Microsoft products has both alleged benefits and disadvantages. The major disadvantage is the licence fees that are due on each workstation. In addition, the choice of equipment and the the company providing maintenance are also often linked.

Most members of the city council decided a week ago last Thursday that this dependency was objectionable and that the city would be best free from it. Liberal councillor Dannie Jost painted the market might of the US giant in dark colours. Only Swiss People’s Party (SVP) councillor Friedli thought that depending on one supplier’s products wasn’t really a problem as long as systems were working properly.

Evangelical People’s Party (EVP) councillor Matthias Stürmer (EVP), who is a computer scientist and thus the council’s IT guru, outlined the project. From 2017 the city council will procure 750 new desktops and 250 laptops. All will be connected to a server that will serve up all programs and data. This will reduce Microsoft’s dominant position. The new equipment is to be procured so that other operating systems such as Linux and other programs from various suppliers can be run. Licence fees will therefore be reduced and the most cost-effective products can be chosen. Existing examples, such as the city of Munich, which have successfully completed this migration process, have been ignored or downplayed, said Stürmer.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) councillor Alexandre Schmidt asserted the council was heading towards open source and would not stick with Microsoft in any way. However, it should not be forgotten that the current Microsoft systems were working stably – and that was a not unimportant point for the council.

Green councillor Regula Tschanz was concerned that the council was only paying lip service to open source solutions.

After long debate, the council approved the new IT expenditure. It approved the budget allocation of some CHF. 6.4 mn. for renewing office IT systems. At the same time it approved a budget allocation of CHF 2.4 mn. for continuing the contracts with Microsoft for software maintenance.

The council also approved an additional cross-party resolution demanding a replacement strategy. By 2017 the city administration must set out in detail how it wants to reduce its dependency upon existing suppliers.

Jurassic connectivity for new Jurassic Coast museum

According to the project leaders, a new museum being built as a showcase for Dorset’s Jurassic Coast – a World Heritage site – and its abundant fossil record of Earth’s ancient past will be lumbered with internet connectivity with speeds slower than a nerve signal transmitted from the end of a brontosaurus’ tail to its brain.

Kimmeridge, Dorset, looking towards the coast. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday’s Western Daily Press reports that the UK government has notified project leaders for The Etches Collection Museum in Kimmeridge (est. population 100) that it is not prepared to fund any kind of broadband internet connections or mobile phone reception for the museum or its visitors.

The museum will provide a permanent home for the world-class collection of fossils discovered by collector Steve Etches.

The museum is being built by The Kimmeridge Trust – a registered charity – which has secured lottery funds of £2.5 mn. towards the project. However, their aspirations of a ‘totally immersive’ museum with high-tech displays seem to be in doubt since the Trust cannot afford the thousands of pounds required to put a proper broadband connection into the village, which currently has to endure speeds of around 250Kbps.

Furthermore, the government has told the Trust that it cannot use any of the lottery funds to improve connectivity as the village is on a list of remote Dorset villages that would be part of the alleged ‘superfast’ broadband roll out being funded by the state.

Quasi-monopoly provider BT is prepared to install fibre broadband at a cost of around £150,000, whilst another option from Wessex Internet comes in at £60,000.

Orly airport brought to standstill by Windows NT 3.1 software crash

Last Saturday, Orly airport‘s air traffic was severely disrupted, leaving thousands of passengers stranded on the ground, Le Monde Informatique reports. The cause: a computer failure of the weather data management system running on Microsoft’s antediluvian Windows NT 3.1 operating system.

Orly AirportComputer system failures in the aeronautical world are nothing exceptional, but always have a far-reaching effect, stranding thousands of passengers on the ground. This is exactly what happened last Saturday at Orly which had to halt of all its inbound and outbound air traffic for more than half an hour. Besides the inconvenience caused, it’s above all the origin of the failure that is somewhat surprising. According to the French satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, it was a failure linked to the Decor (Diffusion des données d’Environnement de Contrôle d’Orly et de Roissy = Orly & Roissy Environmental Control data distribution) system managing data provided by Météo France that was the culprit.

The surprising fact was this software is running on the Windows NT 3.1 operating system released by Microsoft 22 years ago, i.e. an operating system no longer supported at all by Redmond, with all the risks this involves in security terms, especially as it is connected to Météo France’s computer systems.

“The traffic was not particularly heavy on Saturday morning. But imagine during the Paris Climate Change Conference, the manoeuvring of heads of state disrupted by a piece of software dating from prehistoric times. What will that look like?”, stated an engineer quoted by Le Canard Enchaîné. When contacted by the satirical paper, the Transport Ministry gave an assurance that “equipment modernisation is planned for 2017” (no need to rush, then! Ed.).

Reposted from the author’s blog.

Dutch MP: “Open source can liberate local authorities being held to ransom”

Open source software is a good option for local authorities who are dissatisfied with the price and quality of their software, says Dutch Labour MP Astrid Oosenbrug. This former sysadmin believes open source and open standards can liberate local authorities from their current suppliers, who she maintains can have too much power over their customers. 

Situation “has been going on for years”

It recently became apparent from an investigation by NRC and Reporter Radio that many local authorities feel they are being held hostage by their software suppliers who are making the most of a dysfunctional market with price increases. According to Oosenbrug, the situation “has been going on for years”. She has been campaigning for a long time for open standards and open source solutions, her greatest success being a parliamentary motion passed in April according to which the government would be obliged to give preference to open source in invitations to tender. 

More opportunity for open source

From their dissatisfaction, Oosenbrug perceives that local authorities are seeking alternatives to their current software. Oosenbrug states: “The opportunities for open source are increasing and definitely now the government is giving it preference. Amongst local authorities we do find those where the councillors won’t interfere (with procurement choices. Ed.), but I’ve also sat in the council chamber myself. Not every intervention from The Hague is in itself bad or negative, but is on the contrary supportive.

Open source good option for local authorities

photo of Astrid Oosenbrug“In open source software the software’s source code is published and freely available to the public. The software can therefore be freely copied, adapted and distributed. Software standards between applications that work, services, systems and networks that work with each other can be inspected with open standards.”

Oosenbrug views open source and open standards as a good choice for local authorities. “Software companies have a hold on them with their products. If there’s no agreement with price rises, they stop providing the services and local authorities get into quite a bit of trouble. With open source local authorities can be freed from the stranglehold. With open source, anyone can examine the software used and inspect the source code. In this way security holes and clumsy coding are quickly traced.” Users with expertise are also looking everywhere, on account of which the software remains up to date and inexpensive solutions can often be found,” declares Oosenbrug. “There is a safe environment in which ethical hackers for example can play a major role.”

Open standards

Local authority websites are regularly attacked and are sometimes as leaky as a sieve. Consequently, Oosenbrug is also advocating open standards in addition to open source. “Of the 360 local authorities, only thirty comply with accessibility standards. You can overcome these sorts of problems with open source and open standards.” Oosenbrug believes there should be a template for websites with which local authorities can comply with all standards. “The remainder of a website can then be completed according to the local authority’s own preferences.”

Investment repays itself

Open source and open standards mean a considerable investment, but Oosenbrug believes it’s one that is repaid. “The bid that works best wins invitations to tender. Everything is checked for price and quality by the users themselves. Local authorities are currently in the land of the blind where the one-eyed man is king and they must always pay more. Software is becoming safer and cheaper with open source. The government must not view open source as a punishment, but as an opportunity.”

Municipality of Ede

Several local authorities have made progress with open source. In this way the Municipality of Ede has been able to make appreciable savings. After the changeover, it has been spending ten times less for software licences than comparable local authorities. On account of this, total ICT expenditure has been one quarter less than previous years.

Original Dutch source article:

World Technology Award finalists include 2 Bristol dons

The University of Bristol reports today that two of its staff have been named as finalists for the World Technology Award by the World Technology Network (WTN).

The WTN is a global community comprising the most innovative people and organisations at the forefront of science and technology and related fields.

photo of Dimitra SimeonidouThe first of the Bristol academics named as finalists is Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of the Smart Internet Lab and Head of the High Performance Networks (HPN) Group.

The High Performance Networks Group (HPN) specialises in the application of advanced hardware and software technologies. The group addresses the demands of the future optical networks and high-performance network-based services in both fundamental academic research and industrial applications. The group has world-class facilities, including state of the art optical transmission testbeds and software-defined network experimental platforms.

The group has a strong tradition in co-operating with industry, as well as being an international leader in the following fields:

  • Next generation optical transmission networks;
  • Optical packet and burst switching
  • Optical data centre solutions and architecture;
  • Grid and cloud networking;
  • Software-defined optical networking (SDN) and network virtualisation;
  • Hybrid network domains orchestration and service management.

In recent years the group has made significant breakthroughs and now focuses on the application of Software Defined Networking and programmable optical networks.

The group is currently addressing topics such as the Bristol smart city ICT solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), ultra-high performance media, distributed optical data centre architecture and technologies. This researches will support the development of the future internet and the impending big data era.

The HPN lab also forms part of the UK National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS). This network infrastructure has enabled close collaboration with leading research institutions and industry in ​the UK, ​USA, Brazil, Japan and across Europe.

The other academic named as a finalist is Professor Mark Thompson, Director of the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training and Director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics.

Both have been nominated for the award in the Communications Technology category.

Award winners will be announced at the WTN’s 14th annual World Technology Summit & Awards event to be held next week [19th-20th November] in New York, USA.

The World Technology Summit & Awards is a global gathering bringing together many of the world’s leading technologists, scientists, futurists, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers for two days of talks, panel discussions and demonstrations that explore what’s ground-breaking, imminent, possible and could change society in emerging technologies.

Bristol Data Dome launches next week

The Bristol Data Dome, which is housed inside At-Bristol‘s Planetarium, will be launched on Wednesday 18th November as part of the Festival of the Future City, the University of Bristol announces.

Data dome image
Picture credit: Lee Pullen of At-Bristol
Connected to a dedicated high-performance computer at the University of Bristol, the Data Dome is a pioneering development on Bristol’s digital scene with the potential of visualising real-time data in a truly distinctive environment.

At-Bristol’s Planetarium is the UK’s only 3D space capable of showing crisp 4K resolution and audiences will have the opportunity to see a variety of content from earth sciences and open data to sociological mapping. There’s also the possibility of experimental gaming in the dome.

Ticket prices for the launch are £7.00 online, £8.00 on the day and £6.00 for concessions. Booking fees will be applicable too.

Tickets for the 8.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. launch shows on 18th November are available from At-Bristol.

The shows will demonstrate how new technologies can be used to visualise the city and how the Data Dome could lead the way towards innovation in gaming, learning and active citizenship.

The Data Dome will also be available for hire.

A world without Linux – episode 3: no social connections

Although you may not realise it, Linux is the world’s largest collaborative project in the history of computing. It runs most of the world’s technology infrastructure and is supported by more developers and companies than any other operating system. In addition, it’s ubiquitous; it can be found in your phone, car and office. Besides that, it also powers the internet, the cloud, stock exchanges, supercomputers, embedded devices and more.

The latest episode of the series tries to show us how hard it is to have social connections is a universe without Linux.

Three more episodes of this Linux Foundation series are planned, with the final video featuring Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds himself, according to Softpedia.

First posted on the author’s own blog.

Wikipedia wins prestigious Spanish prize

Wikipedia logoWikipedia, the free, collaborative encyclopaedia has been awarded Spain’s Princess of the Asturias Prize for international co-operation. The award was presented by the Spanish king and queen, the Tribune de Genève reported earlier this week.

As a whole, Wikipedia comprises 37 million articles in 288 languages.

“We are rewarding a brilliant and generous idea, a way of working that’s a universal symbol for team working and more than a mere collection of data”, King Felipe VI stated in the presence of Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia in 2001.

Wikipedia is the world’s sixth-largest website in terms of visitors. It is managed by the charitable Wikimedia Foundation, employs some 200 persons and is supported wholly by donations.

The prestigious Princess of the Asturias awards have been bestowed each year since 1981 by a foundation of the same name, recognising people or institutions for their work on an international scale in various categories such as the arts, sciences and sport.

GUADEC 2016 will be in Karlsruhe

Gnome logoGUADEC – the GNOME User and Developer European Conference – 2016 will be held in Karlsruhe in Germany, the GNOME Foundation has announced.

GUADEC brings together hundreds of users and developers every year to further the GNOME project. It is anticipated that GUADEC 2016 will take place around July-August and the definitive dates will be finalised over the next few months.

Karlsruhe is Germany’s sunniest city and has excellent transport links. In addition, Karlsruhe combines a strong sense of science and technology with a penchant for creativity and design. The city hosts four higher education institutions that offer degrees related to computer science, so efforts will be made by GUADEC’s organisers to reach out to the local student population.