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Pound falls post Brexit, MS to up prices

Microsoft announced “important changes for customers buying enterprise software and cloud services in British pound [sic]” in a blog post yesterday.

However, private individuals buying MS products will not be affected as these pricing changes will not apply to consumer software or consumer cloud services.

Furthermore, these changes will not affect business customers existing orders under annuity volume licensing agreements for products that are subject to price protection.

This price increase for business customers follows the nosedive in the value of sterling since Britons voted to leave the EU back in June.

With effect from 1st January 2017, Redmond will be increasing prices for its enterprise software by 13% and 22% for enterprise cloud services “to realign close to Euro level“.

For cost-conscious businesses and public sector organisations, this could provide the stimulus they need for migrating to free and open source equivalents of MS’ products. For example, why pay through the nose for MS Office when the excellent LibreOffice does exactly the same job and doesn’t lumber the organisation with vendor lock-in.

Why not think about it?

Open data: French local authorities still lacking in will

A report (PDF) produced by Opendata France and sent to Axelle Lemaire, the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs and the Secretary of State for Local Authorities reveals that the use of open data in average size towns is still far from being widespread, today’s Le Monde Informatique reports.

photo of Axelle LemaireBringing together the local authorities committed to opening up data, Opendata France sent a report to Secretaries of State Axelle Lemaire (in charge of Digital Affairs and innovation) and Estelle Grelier (in charge of Local Authorities) on the occasion of a meeting in Rodez on 17 October with local elected representatives and business managers. Requested last July in order to evaluate the open data situation in local authorities in advance of the promulgation of the Digital Republic Act on 7th October, this report does indeed describe progress, but also reveals failures. Consequently Opendata France is making recommendations to improve the situation.

Opening up data is a tool for improving local services, as well as an exercise in democratic transparency. In this way several innovative services have been showcased: optimisation of urban travel for the disabled, accurate zoning and state aid to facilitate the location of businesses, etc.

Supporting medium-sized local authorities

The 3,800 or so local authorities with more than 3,500 residents are being targeted by obligations to open up data. Logically enough the largest ones are ahead of the smaller authorities with more limited resources. However, for the report’s authors, it’s a matter of showing more willingness by defining a “common base” for data to be opened up as priority (budgets, election results, local plans, etc.). In addition, a standardisation of formats would make using data easier.

Improving the training of elected representatives and is also required, particularly by creating teaching tools and using them in the usual training sessions for elected officials.

On the technical tools side Opendata France is calling for APIs for accessing national datasets so local authorities can extract what concerns them to make the data available. The government has announced it is preparing to implement these recommendations with a trial between now and the end of the year.

Snails set fire to Virgin

The strangest occurrences could affect the running of networks. For instance, part of Bristol Wireless’ own network was once knocked out of action by a squirrel trying to store nuts for the winter inside a piece of our hardware.

However, it’s not just small operators like ourselves that run this risk as big boys Virgin found out this week in Shropshire.

Garden snailAn invasion of snails caused a fire in a Virgin Media broadband cabinet in Baldwin Webb Avenue in the Donnington area of Telford, yesterday’s Shropshire Star reports.

A small number of snails found their way into the cabinet’s battery where they were electrocuted and caused a small fire with smoke issuing from the cabinet. The latter prompted passers-by to call the local fire brigade who attended from Wellington Fire Station at about 12.33 p.m. on Wednesday and left the scene about half an hour later.

A number of homes in the area were reported to be experiencing problems with internet access and TV services on the same afternoon, but these are now believed to have been resolved.

We’ve moved!

After 4 very happy years at Windmill Hill City Farm, Bristol Wireless has moved.

Our move has taken us from south of the River Avon in Bedminster back to Easton where Bristol Wireless started over 14 years ago as an idea in the minds of some under-employed local techies.

More than that we’ve moved into Easton Community Centre, which was our very first home in those dim distant days. At that time we were also running the IT training suite at the centre.

photo of Easton Community Centre
Easton Community Centre – our original and current home.

We’ve updated our Contact Us page to enable you to find and get in contact with us easily.

We’re looking forward to settling quickly into our new base.

Finally, we’d like express our sincere thanks to Steve Sayers and all the staff at Windmill Hill City Farm for making our 4 years there so enjoyable.

Building IoT London: Call for Papers ends in fortnight

German IT news website heise and our old friends The Register are joint sponsors of the Building IoT London event to be held in March 2017.

Building IoT London logoThe former reported at the end of last week that software developers doing professional work on the Internet of Things have until 7th October to suggest proposals for presentations and workshops.

The inaugural Building IoT London conference is taking place from 27th to 29th March 2017 in London. The conference, which is being organised by El Reg and heise Developer is devoted to the implementation of the fundamentals required for IoT projects, security concerns and other technical matters. Furthermore, experts from the field of networked projects will have the opportunity to share their experiences with others and gain new incentives for their own work from interacting with like-minded people.

Software developers and project managers working on products on the context of the IoT are therefore invited to send proposals for presentations (either 45 or 75 minutes) and whole-day workshops (7 hours) by 7th October. Possible topics would include protocols and standards, the connection between Big Data and IoT, architecture and tests for complex IoT systems, connectivity and prototyping, as well as the potential vulnerabilities of IoT products. In addition, reports of experiences are being sought from current projects, on the use of IoT cloud platforms, the interaction of tools in the various processes or the conversion of conventional products into networked devices.

People who are interested in the progress of the conference’s organisation can following the organisers on Twitter or sign up to their newsletter.

New Northampton business fibre broadband offer

image of optical fibre cableEarlier this week the Northampton Chronicle reported that businesses in the town could be line for faster broadband.

In the early noughties, Yorkshire-based Kingston Communications (formerly the city of Hull’s Telephone Department – the only non-nationalised part of the UK telephone network – and now renamed the KCOM Group. Ed.) laid several kilometres of fibre-optic cable around Northampton.

London-based City Fibre has now acquired the dormant 45 km network and wants to roll 1 Gbps speed broadband out to local businesses.

Local firm BDFB will be acting as the scheme’s service provider. DBFB’s chief executive Simon Pickering, said: “This is transformational technology for businesses in Northampton… From our point of view we are bringing big city technology to Northampton.”

City Fibre has already launched similar schemes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and elsewhere.

Wales: “digital skills are as important as learning to read or write”

Welsh government logoThe Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay has announced new plans to improve children’s IT skills, today’s Wales Online reports.

All aspects of the curriculum for Welsh schoolchildren will include digital skills for the first time this term to prepare pupils better for life, with such skills not being confined solely to information and communications technology (ICT) or computer science classes.

Following 2 independent reviews whose recommendation was the improved delivery of key skills, the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework (DCF) is now available to all schools. The DCF is designed for all children, including those with additional learning needs.

Ahead of the DCF’s launch today at a Cardiff school, Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “This radical new approach is about embedding digital skills and knowledge in everything our pupils do as they progress through school. Our teachers will increasingly be using digital skills into their lessons, alongside literacy and numeracy, as they are now fundamental to the modern world.”

Echoing the minister’s remarks, Owen Hathway, policy officer for the NUT Cymru trade union, said ensuring pupils leave school with proficient digital skills was critical.

Education in Wales in a devolved matter and is not controlled from Whitehall.

Introducing Taddypole

A free, innovative educational app to teach children about the lifecycle and habitats of tadpoles has been developed and launched by computer science students the University of Bristol reports.

Taddypole screenshot

TaddyPole is an interactive, cross-platform application created for Tadpoles.org.uk to help teach children all about tadpoles and where they live. The app was created as part of the second year software project engineering unit in collaboration with Professor Alan Roberts of the School of Biological Sciences.

Under the team name Winter Is Compiling, four students, Hal Jones, Bhavish Jogeeah, Matthew Plumeridge and Alex Dalton from Bristol University’s Computer Science Department, worked for six months to design, implement and launch the app across mobile devices and produce an online version.

Dr Dan Schien, Senior Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science and the unit’s academic lead, said: “We were very impressed with the level of talent and commitment shown by the students. Working alongside Professor Alan Roberts as their client, the students have shown what can be achieved in such a short period of time. Their game is a fantastic example of how project work can help with the learning of software engineering in an enormously inspiring way.”

Taddypole is also featured on a website built as part of a Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) research grant awarded to biological scientists Dr. Steve Soffe and Professor Alan Roberts. Tadpoles.org.uk aims to inform a wider audience about tadpole biology and explain how Bristol’s cutting-edge research on tadpoles can help scientists understand how nervous systems control movements such as swimming.

Taddypole is available for iOS, Android and Windows and can also be played online. To download or play the game, visit: https://winteriscompiling.uk/taddypole

Get online at J3

Your ‘umble scribe has today received an email from Kurt James, Neighbourhood Partnership Co-ordinator at Bristol City Council, announcing an event next month in east Bristol.

get online with Bristol Libraries and your local Neighbourhood Partnership

Bristol Libraries is organising a free (as in beer. Ed. 😀 ) digital skills workshop next month in collaboration with the Ashton, Easton and Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Partnership and local volunteers to help local residents who haven’t already done so get online.

The event will be held at Junction 3 Library, Baptist Mills Court, Easton, Bristol, BS5 0FJ (map).

The date and time: Tuesday 11th October, 1.30 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.

Attendees will learn how to:

  • Get online for the first time;
  • Shop and bank online;
  • Access government services online;
  • Use social media.

Those interested can book a space at the workshop by contacting the library by telephoning 0117 9223001. Call that number too if you want more information on the workshop.

Bristol academic to chair augmented reality conference

A Bristol academic is to chair a major augmented reality conference, the University of Bristol reports.

IEEE ISMAR conference graphic

Professor Walterio Mayol-CuevasProfessor Walterio Mayol-Cuevas of Bristol University’s Department of Computer Science is to chair the 2016 ISMAR conference, the most prominent academic conference on augmented and mixed reality, which is being held from 19th-23rd September in Mérida, Mexico.

Augmented and mixed reality are part of a continuum ranging from purely virtual worlds to the mixing of real objects and scenes with virtual information. At its centre are core problems such as spatial mapping, visualisation and mobile hardware architectures, as well as the human factors of perception and usability.

ISMAR, which is sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), attracts hundreds of participants from academia and industry. It has been fundamental in the development of technologies that have had an effect in other areas, including real-time Visual Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (VSLAM) which enables spatial representations of the surroundings and allows virtual information to be put in context immediately. Real-time VSLAM has had applications in areas such as robotics and is now an established area in computer vision.

Professor Mayol-Cuevas’ work with colleagues on VSLAM has been showcased at ISMAR since 2003. His areas of research comprise robotics, computer vision and wearable computing.