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Caernarfon secures £10K for town centre wi-fi

glassy wifi symbolCaernarfon‘s Business Improvement District (BID) has secured £20,000 of funding for improvements, today’s Daily Post reports.

Of this total, some £10,000 “will pay to develop a town wi-fi which would give visitors a chance to get online“.

Measured against the town’s population, the wi-fi scheme represents an investment of just over £1 per head.

Bristol IoT developments

headshot of Nigel LeggThere’s a fair bit going on in Bristol at the moment as regards the Internet of Things (IoT) and these were reported on earlier this week by Nigel Legg, under the headline “Smart City done Smarter?“. Nigel’s post is reproduced in full below with his kind permission (with a couple of links added. Ed.).

My home town, Bristol in the South West of England, has been making a lot of noise over the last couple of years about being a leading Smart City, and about building an Open Programmable City. But this house of cards is starting to fall apart.

Videos are still appearing on YouTube featuring Paul Wilson talking about the Internet of Things Mesh Network that was planned by Bristol is Open (BiO), a joint venture company set up by the University of Bristol and the City Council, as though it exists, as though it has been installed already. But Paul has left Bristol is Open, and the mesh network remains an idea at best [if someone can give me a launch date for the network, I’d be grateful and I’ll delete this story], and it doesn’t seem as though it is going to happen anytime soon.

So the much heralded sensor network that was going to provide the data required for the Programmable City won’t happen — or will it?

The BiO mesh network plan was based around the SigFox system. This is a proprietary technology, and a top-down technology: users would have had to apply to BiO, and pay license fees, in order to deploy sensors on the network. Essentially, the City Council would have controlled all the components of the internet of things network.

The Citizen Sensing project run by Knowle West Media Centre has shown (me at least) that Smart Cities can be built another way. They do not have to be top-down, with the municipality telling us what we can do with the network and the technology. The Citizen Sensing project used workshops with techies, artists, and the public to design the work and the sensors to be used. Can we build our networks in the same collaborative, bottom up, and cost effective way?

LoRaWAN and the Things Network offer a solution, and with the delays in the roll out of the SigFox network in Bristol, alongside the Council having to make drastic cuts, now appears to be the right time for Citizen Networking to be developed in order to take Citizen Sensing to the next level — and maybe provide the infrastructure for the Programmable City we all want to live in.

With the departure of Paul Wilson from Bristol is Open, it would appear that the top-down approach is running out of steam. This situation is probably not helped by the recent announcement by Stephen Hilton that he is leaving Bristol City Council to become an independent consultant (news passim). The Bristol is Open project came under Stephen’s remit.

However, there are more woes in the pipeline down the Counts Louse. Earlier this week the council announced it was seeking voluntary redundancies as it would have to find savings of £29 mn. this year as the local authority’s finances were in a more parlous state than had previously been imagined. In addition, Bristol City Council is facing overall cuts of £60 mn. in its budget by 2020 and an expensive IoT project based on proprietary technology looks a prime candidate for the chop, especially when there are cheaper alternatives available from the community that are committed to open data, open source and open standards.

Canonical becomes KDE patron

There’s a lot of formal collaboration going on out there in the world of free and open source software.

KDE logoHard on the heels of news of the link-up between The Document Foundation and the Free Software Foundation Europe (news passim), comes the announcement that Canonical, the company behind the very popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, has become a patron of KDE e.V. (the German non-profit organisation that represents the KDE Project in legal and financial matters. Ed.) through the latter’s corporate membership programme.

Ubuntu logoCommenting on the move, Michael Hall, Ubuntu’s Community Manager, stated: “From its very beginning Canonical has been a major investor in the Free Software desktop. We work with PC manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo to ship the best Free Software to millions of desktop users worldwide. Becoming a corporate patron is the continuation of Canonical’s decade-long support for KDE and Kubuntu as important members of the Ubuntu family. Canonical will be working with the KDE community to keep making the latest KDE technology available to Ubuntu and Kubuntu users, and expanding that into making Snap packages of KDE frameworks and applications that are easily installable by users of any Linux desktop. We will benefit from sharing knowledge, experience and code around Qt and Qt packaging, pushing the advancement of QML and increasing its adoption in Unity and Ubuntu native applications alongside KDE’s own work towards convergence.”

KDE e.V. Vice-President Aleix Pol Gonzalez remarked: “We are excited to have Canonical supporting KDE’s work. It is important that we make a continuous effort to work together and this is the best way to continue offering a thriving free and open development platform to build upon. We are confident that this collaboration can be very beneficial for the overall GNU/Linux community and ecosystem.”

KDE e.V.’s other patrons are The Qt Company, SuSE, Google and Blue Systems.

Farewell Stephen

Stephen Hilton, Futures Director at Bristol City Council and an old friend of Bristol Wireless, is moving on from the Counts Louse (as Bristolians still call the local authority’s HQ, now renamed City Hall. Ed.) to set up his own consultancy.

Stephen announced his decision to the world earlier this week via LinkedIn, as shown below:

I’ve had an extraordinary career at Bristol Council achieving things I would never have imagined. From Connecting Bristol to Bristol Futures; Bristol is Open; Open Data; Driverless Cars; Playable Cities; Smart Cities; Citizen Sensing; the Bristol Brussels Office and numerous European projects. I have spoken passionately about Bristol’s vision around the world. I have relentlessly championed the brilliant Knowle West Media Centre. I have appeared on TV and spoken in the House of Lords, which has made my mum proud. And there was also Bristol European Green Capital 2015. But I have decided it is time for me to set up my own future city consultancy – more details to follow. Wish me luck!

Stephen Hilton headshotYour correspondent first met Stephen many years ago when the city council was just dipping its toes into the world online citizen consultation. In those days it was billed as AskBristol and now is firmly established as part of the local authority’s infrastructure and procedures as the Bristol Consultation Hub.

Bristol Wireless has also worked with closely in the past with Stephen and his city council colleagues, most notably in 2006/7 as part of Bristol’s bid for the government’s Digital Challenge, where we focussed on digital inclusion and social change. Despite the excellence of Bristol’s bid, the winners of the £7 mn. were Sunderland, although Bristol and its fellow finalists did benefit from additional funding that was found to keep the momentum built up from the Digital Challenge going.

Furthermore, in the intervening years we’ve also encountered Stephen in connection with many other aspects of ICT from the promotion of open source and open data to Green ICT and access to technology for the disabled.

All of us at Bristol Wireless wish Stephen well for the future.

Ties strengthened between FSFE and The Document Foundation

TDF logoIt’s been announced today that the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is joining the Advisory Board of The Document Foundation, the body behind the very successful free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite. At the same time, The Document Foundation is becoming an associate of the FSFE.

FSFE logoThe FSFE’s aim is to help people control technology instead technology controlling them. However, this is a goal which no single organisation can achieve on its own. FSFE associated organisations are bodies that share the FSFE’s vision and support the foundation and free software in general by:

  • encouraging people to use and develop free software;
  • helping organisations understand how free software contributes to freedom, transparency and self-determination; and
  • removing barriers to free software adoption.

With this mutual expression of support, both organisations mutually strengthen each other in their efforts to keep the general public in the technological driver seat. While the FSFE embodies the principles of the community movement working for the adoption of free software by companies, public sectors organisations and individuals, The Document Foundation turns principles and ethics into actual products, putting a first class, fully-featured, but completely free productivity suite in the hands of users.

“We are happy to welcome the Free Software Foundation Europe as a member of our Advisory Board. Together, we will be able to further develop the adoption of Free Software in Europe, amongst public administrations and enterprises”, said Eike Rathke, a Director of The Document Foundation.

“We believe it is important to join forces with all the organisations active in Free Software around Europe,” said Matthias Kirschner, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe, “and work together to reach our common goals. With our associated organisations we want to show that we are a strong and cohesive movement, and we work to achieve common objectives. To do this, we exchange ideas, coordinate efforts, motivate each other, and find opportunities to work together on specific projects. This is the case with The Document Foundation, steward of one of the most successful Free Software projects: LibreOffice”.

Several members of The Document Foundation will be attending the FSFE Summit 2016 in Berlin from 2nd to 4th September to celebrate the FSFE’s 15th anniversary.

Reposted from the author’s blog.

VMWare GPL complaint dismissed

Tux - mascot of the Linux kernelGerman IT news website heise reports that the Hamburg District Court has rejected the action of long-standing Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig against VMware for infringement of the GPL. According to Hellwig, VMware will be using Linux kernel code upon which he has collaborated in its ESXi hypervisor. The Linux kernel is licensed under GPL 2, which requires that the source code of derivative works must likewise be disclosed under the GPL.

Amongst other things, ESXi contains the Vmkernel operating system kernel, which VMware distributes as proprietary software without source code, and a component called Vmklinux by means of which Linux drivers can be used with the Vmkernel. VMware supplies the latter with source code in compliance with the GPL.

Hellwig and VMware agree that parts of the code of Vmklinux originate from the Linux kernel and these also include sections of code on which Hellwig has collaborated.

For Hellwig Vmkernel and Vmklinux are a unit, since not one of the components can be used without the other. As a consequence Vmkernel and Vmklinux would have to be licensed under the GPL: and that was also the claim which Hellwig wanted to enforce by legal action.

VMware disagrees with this: the Vmkernel is an independent piece of work that can also be used without the Vmklinux module and contains no code from the Linux kernel. There is therefore no obligation to disclose this core product of the company under the GPL.

Admittedly the Court did even concern itself with the decisive matter in dispute of whether Vmkernel and Vmklinux form a unit and Hellwig’s complaint was rejected as unfounded. The Court did attribute the Linux developer contributor’s rights to parts of the Linux kernel, but he did not prove definitively enough which sections of code he had jointly written were being used by VMware in its product.

Hellwig, who is being supported in his action by the Software Freedom Conservancy, expressed his astonishment that the Court had not dealt with the content of his complaint and announced that he would be appealing the decision.

The People’s Code – Federal Source Code policy released by White House

White House sealTwo days ago, Tony Scott, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, wrote on the White House blog that the Federal government was releasing the Federal Source Code policy (PDF) to support improved access to custom-developed Federal source code.

The policy, which incorporates feedback from the public, requires any new custom-developed source code developed specifically by or for the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across all Federal agencies. It also includes a pilot programme that will require Federal agencies to release at least a portion of new custom-developed Federal source code to the public and support agencies in going beyond that minimum requirement.

By making source code available for sharing and re-use across Federal agencies, the US government can avoid duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across Federal agencies. By opening more of the code to the brightest minds both inside and outside government, it will enable them to work together to ensure that the code is reliable and effective in furthering national objectives.

All of this can be done while remaining consistent with the Federal Government’s long-standing policy of technology neutrality, through which it seeks to ensure that Federal investments in IT are merit-based, improve the performance of our government and create value for the American people.

Releasing source code isn’t a novel concept for the US government. People can already view the source code for the We the People petition platform, as well as seeing how the US Veterans Administration built, where former members of the US’ armed services can now apply for healthcare online. Citizens can contribute also to the open source code that powers the General Service Administration’s, where they can find open data from across government.

Free Software Foundation Europe Summit 2016 – Not a tech conference

FSFE Summit logoFree software advocates from all over Europe will be meeting in Berlin from the 2nd to the 4th of September at the FSFE Summit 2016. Apart from working on furthering the adoption of free software in Europe, the event will also be celebrating the FSFE’s 15th anniversary.

One of the main missions of the free software community in general – and the FSFE in particular – is to put users back in the driver’s seat and have the people control technology they use, not the other way around.

Even though the conference has the word “software” in its title, it’s not a tech conference as such. It is more a conference on how free software advocates are going to shape the world of tech and the lives of computer, smartphone and Internet users everywhere.

While this may seem like a lofty goal, the FSFE has over the last 15 years been instrumental in a successful European anti-trust case against Microsoft, as well as preventing the introduction of software patents within the EU, thus avoiding a veritable apocalypse for small and medium-sized technology companies. In addition, the FSFE has worked with to get free licences enforced in the German law courts, setting a ground-breaking precedent for the whole of the EU.

More details of the Summit are on the FSFE website.

Lovers of bleeding edge high technology development may like to note that the FSFE Summit is being held as a part of QtCon. QtCon brings together developers from several free software communities which are working to reshape human-facing interfaces.

Somerset villages get 1 Mbps “broadband”

image of fibre-optic cableResidents of the Somerset villages and hamlets of Ashton, Badgworth and Stone and Chapel Allerton are currently enduring “broadband” speeds as low as 1 Mbps.

The Weston Mercury reports that the villagers recently held a meeting to discuss the situation and discovered they were eligible to apply for a grant scheme to improve their connectivity.

More than 50 villagers attended the meeting on 13th July to discuss different action plans.

The outcome of the meeting was a decision to apply for a £500 voucher through Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), which is aiming to install so-called “superfast” broadband (speed = 30 Mbps. Ed.) across all parts of the two counties by the end of 2020.