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Farewell Linda

Linda Bell on the micIt is with great sadness that we have to pass on the news that Linda Bell, former Chair of Bristol Wireless, passed away in her sleep on 25th January 2018 at the nursing home where she had been since Christmas 2017.

Linda had a long association with Bristol’s community and voluntary section, being perhaps best remembered for her long service as the director of the St Werburghs Community Centre, where Bristol Wireless were once tenants for 3 very happy years; 3 years which made even more enjoyable by Linda’s presence.

Besides Bristol Wireless and St Werburghs Community Association, Linda was also on the board of Khaas, an organisation which supports BME families with children with disabilities.

Linda’s funeral took place at the Memorial Woodlands near Thornbury on Thursday 15th February 2018, followed by a reception at St Werburghs, both of which were well attended by Bristol Wireless members. In line with Linda’s wishes there was no religious content to her funeral and any fuss – as she would have seen it – was kept to a minimum.

She will be greatly missed by all of us at Bristol Wireless and the wider community and voluntary sector in the Bristol area.

RIP Linda.

Thanks UWE!

Bristol Wireless is pleased to announce that funding has been secured for 2 years to keep the network running courtesy of the University of the West of England (UWE) and High Tech Bristol & Bath CIC.

The funding will be used to ensure the Bristol Wireless volunteers can continue to operate the network – including maintenance, licensing and the like – and provide a tesbed for IoT devices using the LoraWAN media access protocol.

Two of our network nodes already feature LoraWAN gateways and Bristol also plan to purchase some LoraWAN devices of our own (just so we’re not left behind in this new branch of communications technology. Ed.)

IoT gateway
IoT gateway

We’d especially like to express our thanks to Ben Glaster of UWE and John Bradford of High Tech Bristol & Bath CIC for their generosity, as well as to Tarim from Bristol Hackspace for all his help is securing these monies and a further two years of Bristol Wireless.

Protect security online with quantum mechanics

Cryptography is vital today to protect information online and keep it secure, whether that’s for ordinary folks doing online banking and shopping or for commercial organisations and governments wishing to keep commercial and state secrets confidential.

However, the advent of powerful quantum computers might leave such information vulnerable to attack.

To counter such a threat researchers at Bristol University’s Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) have developed tiny microchip circuits which exploit the strange world of quantum mechanics and provide a level of security enhanced by the laws of quantum physics.

These circuits distribute cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of entanglement, superposition and the absolute randomness provided by quantum behaviour, which is reproducible by no other means.

Principal investigator Professor Mark Thompson said: “The system we have developed allows information to be exchanged using single photons of light in a quantum state.

“If an eavesdropper hacks your transmission, they will collapse the fragile quantum states and the system will immediately alert you to their presence and terminate the transmission.”

This work, published in the February issue of Nature Communications, has demonstrated the world’s first chip-to-chip quantum secured communication system, using microchip circuits just a few millimetres in size.

This international collaboration, including researchers from Bristol, Glasgow and Japan’s NiCT in Japan, used commercial semiconductor chip manufacturers to make their devices – in much the same way as Intel pattern silicon to make the latest CPUs.

However, instead of using electricity these miniaturised devices used light to encode information at the single photon level, providing encryption keys with an unlimited lifetime.

The Bristol team has continued developing this technology, demonstrating an innovative design that allows the same functionality in a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) compatible process, with the work being published in the February issue of Optica, the journal of the Optical Society.

Whereas the initial devices used a more expensive and complex manufacturing approach, these next generation devices are fabricated in standard silicon, paving the way for direct integration with microelectronic circuits.

This will ultimately lead to integration in everyday electrical devices, including laptops and mobile phones.

Marches “broadband” round-up

Russell George AMWelsh Assembly member Russell George, who is chair of the Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure &Skills Committee, is hosting a Broadband Summit to be held Monday 20th March 2017.

Mr George has been a long-term campaigner for improved broadband coverage in North Powys and at the summit community leaders and representatives from across the area will be able to question the Welsh Government’s Minister for Skills & Science, Julie James AM, who has overall responsibility for the Superfast Cymru fibre broadband scheme.

The Summit follows a recent inquiry into broadband and mobile coverage, held by the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee.

Commenting on local broadband in his own and other areas, Mr George said: “It remains a significant concern to me that many rural communities across Montgomeryshire appear to be excluded from the fibre broadband upgrade or, at the very least, are at the back of the queue when it comes to receiving superfast speeds.”

“While the Superfast Cymru project has undoubtedly improved the availability of fibre broadband across Wales benefitting both residents and businesses, there are many areas of Montgomeryshire which still find themselves with inadequate broadband with only two thirds of premises able to receive superfast speeds.”

These remarks were also noticed on the eastern side of Offa’s Dyke in the Shropshire Star, which added additional information of recent developments in rural Shropshire, reporting that BT Openreach’s CEO Clive Selley visited areas of north Shropshire to see for himself the problems faced by rural communities, discussing problems in towns such as Market Drayton, Whitchurch and Oswestry.

A further comment on the terrible internet connection speeds in the Marches comes from newly-arrived Shropshire resident and broadcaster/actor Keith “Cheggers” Chegwin, who is quoted by the Shropshire Star as saying, “The mobile signal is fine, I can get 4G here, but the broadband – well, I could run faster than that, it’s so slow,” and, “One minute its 0.25 Mbps, the next its 0.26.”

Malmesbury – fast broadband takes the slow route

Malmesbury's market crossWhenever your correspondent visits Malmesbury in Wiltshire, it has an unhurried air. This is in spite of some past events that happened very quickly but added to its history, such as Eilmer, the local 11th century monk at the local abbey who made an early yet unsuccessful attempt at a gliding flight using wings, or the slightly later (18th century) Hannah Twynnoy, reputedly the first person killed in Britain by a tiger.

However, life in the slow lane is not always appreciated by Malmesbury residents. This is borne out by the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard which has reported that members of Malmesbury Town Council are less than impressed with BT’s deployment of ‘superfast’ broadband in the town.

BT initially announced that Malmesbury would be getting ‘superfast’ broadband by 2015. However, its deployment has been subject to a number of false starts which deferred the deadline to spring 2017.

Deeming the good burgers of Malmesbury had not suffered enough, the deadline has now been postponed again to autumn this year, i.e. nearly 2 years after the town was promised it would have acceptable connection speeds.

On hearing this latest news, Malmesbury Town Council passed a resolution to write BT to express its unhappiness with the continued delays and and seek assurances that BT would now actually stick to its revised timetable.

The latest council minutes reveal the deliberations as follows:

Councillor Grant explained that there had been numerous delays by Open Reach [sic] in providing fast broadband to the centre of Malmesbury, the latest date now being given as autumn 2017. Councillors Gundry and Budgen explained that fast broadband was available within some areas of the town but not in the central commercial area. It was proposed by Councillor Grant, seconded and RESOLVED that the Town Mayor write to the operational manager and managing director seeking a firm deadline and expressing concern at the numerous delays.

The Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard’s report quotes Councillor Gavin Grant, who describes the situation as “unacceptable” and goes on to say: “This has an implication, not only for people’s enjoyment, but also the businesses that are trying to operate in the internet age. Fast broadband is fundamental. It puts the centre of Malmesbury as a commercial destination at a disadvantage.”

A unnamed BT spokesperson is reported as saying that the company “remains committed to making superfast broadband available in Malmesbury”, but offers no explanation for the series of delays.

Longitude Explorer Prize accepting entries

In the spirit of the 18th Century Longitude Prize – a competition that set the task of determining a ship’s exact location at sea – NESTA‘s Longitude Explorer Prize focuses on how to solve a contemporary challenge using technology.

The Longitude Explorer Prize challenges young people to develop innovative, practical solutions that use the Internet of Things to improve the health and well-being of people in the UK.

Areas of particular focus for teams might include childhood obesity, physical activity, mental health and pollution, but ideas can relate to any health matter.

The prize is open to all secondary school pupils in the UK. Entries can be submitted until until 3 March 2017. Schools can submit their ideas here.

Some 10 teams will be shortlisted for the final stage and invited to an event in London on 28 April 2017. The finalists will be supported by experts from IBM to develop prototypes of their ideas.

German Federal Government drafts open data law

Germany’s Federal Government wants to make administrative data accessible as the “raw material of the future” and has published a draft for an open data law. Unprocessed electronically stored data from federal authorities should be made available to the public free of charge, transparently and in a machine-readable format. The Federal Cabinet also wants to include metadata such as information about the origin, structure and content of the data. It should be made available via the existing GovData portal, heise reports.

The new paragraph 12a of the planned reform of the E-government Law states that: “A requirement for this data to be made available is not hereby established”. However, there is a difference in comparison with the Federal Information Freedom Law in that citizens will not necessarily be able to achieve access to the data being sought via the courts.

Moreover, the open data “by design” specification is only applicable to data which is officially “stored electronically and is available in structured sets, in particular in spreadsheets or lists”. These may contain only facts “relating to circumstances outside the authority”. Data for research purposes is also not included, ostensibly not to impede further open access initiatives.

There shall also be obstacles to publishing data as there are in the comprehensive exceptions in the Information Freedom Law. These refer to the protection of industrial and commercial secrets, creative rights or privacy. There shall also not be a right of access due to IT security reasons or statistical confidentiality, national or public security or “the need to protect the interests” of the security services and police.

Update arms Raspbian against IoT attacks

Raspberry Pi + Debian = raspbianBecause the Internet of Things (IoT) has excelled in recent months as a risk not only for users’ own IT, but also as a botnet, Raspbian developers have now responded and given their operating system an update verpasst, German IT news site heise reports. This Debian-based Linux distribution is a popular base upon which to run a Raspberry Pi.

Steps to secure the Pi

In practice the developers have deactivated the SSH port and service which were previously activated as standard. According to the accompanying blog post, the developers had previously assumed that users would deactivate this port and service themselves when using a public network. To make matters worse, when first set up Raspbian pre-configures a default user account and password. This combination with the likewise pre-configured sudo could not have made it very difficult at all for attackers.

Users can activate SSH as usual via raspi-config. If anyone who wants to enable SSH, all they need to do is to put a file called ssh in the /boot/ directory. The contents of the file don’t matter: it can contain any text users like, or even nothing at all. It simply acts as a marker. When the Pi boots, it looks for this file; if it finds it, it enables SSH and then deletes the file. SSH can still be turned on or off from the Raspberry Pi Configuration application or raspi-config. However, as regards the problem of the pre-configured user account, the developers are providing a warning after the Pi has booted… if SSH is running.

Sadiq Khan unveils £7 mn. fund to help young Londoners access tech jobs

Sadiq KhanYesterday the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a £7 mn. programme to arm young Londoners with the skills needed to get jobs in the city’s thriving digital, technology and creative sectors.

Called the Digital Talent Programme, the scheme will have a particular focus on boosting the proportion of women in the industry (currently just 17%), as well as working to raise the numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic Londoners and those from disadvantaged communities employed in those sectors.

Furthermore, it will help Londoners access tech jobs by offering work placements, creating tailored learning opportunities, assisting university students and helping businesses to access the skills they need.

The Digital Talent Programme will boost the number of young Londoners finding tech sector employment by:

  • Increasing the number of high-quality learning opportunities for young people aged 15-24 years to study industry-designed courses in technology, digital and digital-creative disciplines that will lead to employment;
  • Supporting 1,000 young Londoners to access new, industry approved learning opportunities;
  • Assisting 500 university students to gain new skills and work experience through small business placements;
  • Helping 400 start-ups and small businesses to access higher level skills that will support business growth;
  • Supporting 400 school and Further Education teachers in providing industry-relevant digital skills learning and qualifications;
  • Assisting 2,000 young Londoners to access better information, sign-posting, careers guidance and events for digital, technology and digital-creative roles;
  • Working with organisations to organise events, careers advice, role models and more to change perceptions of tech being just for boys.

There are now around 40,000 tech businesses in London, employing almost 200,000 people, 3.5% of the capital’s total workforce.

However, there is a growing gap between the skills of young Londoners and those that the capital’s digital and technology businesses need if they are to continue to thrive.

Overall, the Digital Talent Programme will invest £5 mn. from the London Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £2 mn. from the European Social Fund.

Any Londoners reading this who are keen to register their interest for the Digital Talent programme can do so at

Kaspersky launches its own secure OS

Russian security software company Kaspersky has announced the development of a secure operating system. Installed on a network switch, this K-OS has been designed from scratch without borrowing from Linux, yesterday’s Le Monde Informatique reports

In security as doubtless elsewhere we are never better looked after than by ourselves. That’s what Kaspersky must be thinking when raising the curtain on its own secure operating system. Announced by company founder Eugene Kaspersky, this secure operating system has been loaded for the time being onto a layer 3 switch and it will also be used to secure IoT environments. “This OS just so happens to be ideal for applications where a small, optimized and secure platform is required,” Kaspersky remarked.

Few technical details have so far been released. One of the these is that the Kaspersky OS is based on a microkernel architecture enabling various changes to the operating system to be assembled according to specific customer requirements. In addition, a security system controls the behaviour of the OS’ applications and modules. “In order to hack this platform a cyber-baddie would need to break the digital signature, which – any time before the introduction of quantum computers – would be exorbitantly expensive”, Eugene Kaspersky warned.

Finally the software publisher pointed out that the Kaspersky OS is not based on any Linux component, thinking it was simpler and more secure to start from nothing when designing it, a process which started no less than 14 years ago.

Feeling Insecure at the Engine Shed

Bristol Wireless member Nigel Legg writes:

The focus of the fourth Bristol & Bath IoT meetup on Monday 21st November was security – making your things secure. There have been some DDoS attacks that used insecure internet-connected consumer goods to create botnets, and Carl Shaw from Cerberus Security Labs talked us through a process to ensure that our deployments would not succumb. He highlighted the recent example of Philips Hue lightbulbs all having the same encryption keys for connection as a failing.

Jon Hatton-Brown from Dyson used Carpy, a wall-mounted, WiFi-connected talking fish which uses the Amazon Alexa system, as an example of security failings in consumer IoT: in order to use Carpy, you have to send passwords through an unencrypted connection, which I insecure. He explained the more complex system for getting started with the Dyson autonomous vacuum cleaner, and agreed that a system that could “just work” would be best from the consumer point of view, but probably not secure enough.

It’s important to remember that Internet of Things security is not just about stopping someone from doing your cleaning or playing with your lights; once a hacker has control of your device they can use it to attack other sites on the internet. As security between nodes and the Gateway is embedded in the LoRaWAN protocol, and between gateway and back-end is covered by the https connection, we should not have too many issues with this, though it is always important to consider.

Mike Bartley, founder of Test and Verification Solutions, gave a lightning talk, outlining their services, and I (Nigel Legg) gave a rapid covering the content on the Bristol LoRaWAN slide I’d been asked to prepare. There was a lot of interest afterwards over beer and pizza (kindly provided by Dyson), I was able to answer most of the questions put to me. I think we will have a good turn out for the second LoRaWAN Bristol meetup (sign up here), where hopefully more questions will be answered.

Stoke to provide residents with cheap broadband

Some 15,000 households in Stoke-on-Trent (population: 251,000) don’t have an internet connection at present, but Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants to change that, according to yesterday’s Sentinel, by offering cut-price broadband deals.

Stoke-on-Trent photo montage

The local authority estimates estimates this “digital divide” is costing the Potteries’ poorest families up to £21 mn. per annum and is looking to secure cheap connectivity deals for its 19,000 tenants and other residents on low incomes.

The measure forms part of the council’s new digital inclusion strategy which seeks to support those who have been “left behind by the pace and scale of digital transformation“.

The digital inclusion strategy states that not being able to afford broadband one of four main barriers to digital inclusion, the others being a lack of basic IT skills, physical or learning disabilities and a lack of awareness of the potential financial and social benefits of being online.

Other elements of the council’s strategy include the following:

  • Providing basic ICT courses for to 4,500 people a year;
  • Offering family learning sessions in schools to train 800 parents annually in basic ICT skills;
  • Training library staff to help claimants fill out Universal Credit application forms (this benefit can only be claimed online. Ed.);
  • Exploring options for providing free internet access in children’s centres.

In addition to this scheme, Stoke-on-Trent City Council is still contemplating the provision of wi-fi hotspots in the city centre and public buildings to improve residents’ connectivity further.

Swansea to be pilot location for BT’s new technology

Yesterday’s Wales Online reports that Swansea will be first cities in Britain where residents will be able to enjoy ultra-fast broadband with download speeds of up to 330Mbps, i.e. up to 10 times the UK’s current average download speed.

Fibre-optic cable
Picture credit: By – CC BY-SA 4.0,

Details are still scant, but “thousands” of Swansea premises will be able to access this new technology in 2017, with the city forming one of BT Openreach’s 17 pilot areas that are intended to include some 140,000 homes and businesses.

The technology uses existing copper pairs to provide the high speed connectivity from the local distribution cabinets to which fibre-optic cables have been run.

Shropshire to tackle broadband “not-spots”

image of fibre optic cableBroadband “not-spots” across Shropshire will be tackled in a £12 mn. scheme to connect more than 16,000 properties, Saturday’s Shropshire Star reports.

Phase 2b of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme is now being launched with the emphasis on bringing decent broadband to those Salopians who currently don’t have it.

Of the 16,000 properties being targeted, 13,259 are in the east of the county and 2,756 in the west.

Phase 2b aims to extend so-called “superfast” broadband coverage (up to 30 Mbps. Ed.) to a further 16,015 premises in Shropshire, using £11.7 mn. of funding under the central governments BDUK scheme.

Shropshire Council has already invested £9 mn. through two earlier broadband contracts – Phases 1 and 2a.

Phase 1 will be completed this winter. Phase 2a has already started and will provide better broadband to a further 4,000 premises by winter 2017.

Free software given priority in Russian bill

coat_of_arms_of_the_russian_federationRussia’s legislators have drafted a bill (PDF – in Russian) that will boost free software on many levels within the country’s public sector.

The draft, approved by the Duma (lower house of parliament) in mid-October, requires the public sector to prioritise free software over proprietary alternatives, gives priority to local IT businesses offering free software for public tenders and recognises the need to encourage collaboration with the global network of free software organisations and communities.

The text enforces free software’s precedence over proprietary alternatives by requiring public administrations to provide formal justification for any proprietary software purchase. Purchases will be considered unjustified if there is a free software solution that meets the technical specifications and standards. In addition, all public sector IT purchase agreements must be registered with a dedicated registrar, detailing the volume and price of both proprietary and free software purchased.

IT companies that distribute and provide free software products and services will by default receive
bonus points in public tenders in order to encourage local businesses, since legislators intend to
reduce public sector dependency on foreign proprietary software providers.

Bristol’s CFMS launches new supercomputer

The Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in high value design capability, which is based at the Bristol & Bath Science Park, launched a new supercomputer last week.

Cray CS400Announced in June 2016, CFMS awarded the contract for the refresh of its high performance computing infrastructure to Cray Inc., a global leader in supercomputing. The new system consists of a Cray® CS400 cluster supercomputer, utilising Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 v4 product family formerly codenamed “Broadwell” with a parallel storage system provided by ArcaStream. NVIDIA Tesla® GPU accelerators are also included and used to accelerate applications, providing users with faster response times and enhanced performance levels for demanding computational tasks.

Up to five times more powerful than the previous system, industry organisations including Rolls-Royce and Airbus use the CFMS High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster for research and methods development, which underpins simulation-based design activities. Undertaking a collaborative role, CFMS acts as an interface between industry, academia and technology organisations, offering access to advanced simulation expertise and technologies that enable companies to accelerate product development and engineering design capability.

CFMS operates across a number of sectors including aerospace and defence, automotive, civil engineering and renewable energy. Access to the new system is open to both large and small companies.

Sam Paice, CFMS’ Chief Operating Officer said: “With an evolution in engineering design taking place, we are welcoming a new era, one where advanced simulation takes centre stage, accelerating product development and differentiation, while enabling technological advantages and business growth. We are pleased to announce the availability of the new supercomputing cluster at CFMS.”

Free CiviCRM seminar in London

CiviCRM logoMTL Group company NfP Services are hosting a free CiviCRM seminar at their offices at 340 Gray’s Inn Road London, WC1X 8BG (map).

The seminar will also include refreshments and lunch and will run from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.

During this session the organisers will be demonstrating CiviCRM’s amazing functionality and flexibility and explaining how NfP Services can help in taking a low risk route to implementing its use. NfP 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 who is new to CiviCRM and would like to find out more, as well as existing users looking to get more from their software.

Register here for this seminar or alternatively contact James on 020 7843 4400 / 07808 304 595 or email james [at]

FSFE appoints new Vice President

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has announced that Alessandro Rubini has stepped down as Vice-president of the FSFE.

Alessandro, an electronic engineer with Ph. D. in a computer science, brought invaluable insight to the internal discussions within the FSFE and has worked tirelessly to push the Free Software envelope in Italy and the rest of Europe.

He has now stood down to concentrate on his work with the free software community in Italy, but remains an active member of the FSFE and continues contributing his time generously to the organisation.

Taking over from Alessandro is Heiki Lõhmus, an Estonian student of aeronautical engineering. Heiki started collaborating with the FSFE when he “discovered some Estonianlanguage gibberish on purporting to be a translation of an English original, which it definitely was not”. He quickly became involved in the translation process and became the translation co-ordinator.

Heiki has also served on the FSFE’s board from 2013 to 2015, changing the way contributions are valued, ensuring volunteers and paying members of the organisation enjoy the same benefits for their contributions.

Beyond his work at the FSFE, Heiki has actively lobbied the Estonian government to publish the software used for the Estonian elections as free software. “Estonia is the only country in the world where it is possible to vote over the internet,” says Heiki, and relying on proprietary software to do so is a security risk and does not inspire much trust. Heiki works along with other activists to get the software published under a free licence.

Free unlimited wifi at 180 French railway stations

French railway company SNCF has announced that free and unlimited wifi is available at 180 French railway stations and deployment is currently underway at stations in the Ile-de-France region.

sncf wifi publicity

Wifi access is available in station passenger buildings; this excludes platforms, subways and station forecourts). It will also be available at underground stations in the Ile-de-France region (such as e.g. Paris Gare de Lyon, Paris Gare du Nord, Paris-Austerlitz). The service can be accessed via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

To access station wifi, SNCF instructs passengers to select the network SNCF gare-gratuit. When users open their internet browsers, they will be directed automatically to the access portal, where 2 choices are available, as follows:

  • Connecting to standard rate WiFi Classique (512kb/s): direct access to the unlimited free service for 20 minutes, with no registration required. Beyond that time, users will be asked to reconnect;
  • Connecting to high-rate WiFi Ultra-Rapide (2Mb/s): after viewing a page of advertising, users will be asked to fill in a form giving their surname, first name and password; they will then be asked to accept the service’s terms and conditions before connecting. Passengers’ user account details will enable them to connect at all stations offering the wifi service. Viewing the advertisement will allow users to connect for an unlimited time.

SNCF’s station wifi service is provided by wifi service provider Nomosphère.

LibreOffice Online now available in Pydio

Today Collabora announced that Pydio 7, the latest release of the popular open source synchronisation & sharing platform, includes LibreOffice Online functionality created by Collabora Productivity.

Collabora Online working in Pydio

Collabora Productivity is the driving force behind putting LibreOffice in the cloud, providing a range of products and consulting to enterprise and government. It’s a leading contributor to the LibreOffice codebase and community. Its Collabora Office for Desktop and Collabora Online products provide a business-hardened office suite with long-term, multi-platform support.

Pydio is the world’s largest open source file sharing and synchronisation project for business. The Pydio Project delivers a sustainable balance between the needs of business customers and the collaborative spirit of open source. Sold in 25 countries around the world, Pydio is used by leading brands such as Nikon.

Collabora Online in Pydio is available for enterprise deployments and community edition home users. For more information about the release or an online demo, readers should contact sales [at] or sales [at]