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Debian GNU/Hurd 2015 released

Before Linus Torvalds came up with the Linux kernel over 2 decades ago, the was GNU, dubbed the Universal Operating System.

Since 1990 the GNU Project has been working on the GNU Hurd (usually referred to as the Hurd), the multiserver microkernel written as part of GNU. The Hurd consists of a set of protocols and server processes (also called daemons) running on the GNU Mach microkernel. The Hurd aims to surpass the Unix kernel in functionality, security, and stability, while remaining largely compatible with it.

And yesterday the release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2015 was announced.

Debian GNU Hurd logo

The release announcement reads as follows:

It is with huge pleasure that the Debian GNU/Hurd team announces the release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2015.

This is a snapshot of Debian “sid” at the time of the stable Debian “jessie” release (April 2015), so it is mostly based on the same sources. It is not an official Debian release, but it is an official
Debian GNU/Hurd port release.

The installation ISO images can be downloaded from Debian Ports in the usual three Debian flavors: NETINST, CD, or DVD. Besides the friendly Debian installer, a pre-installed disk image is also available there, making it even easier to try Debian GNU/Hurd. The easiest way to run it is inside a VM such as qemu.

Debian GNU/Hurd is currently available for the i386 architecture with more than 80% of the Debian archive, and more to come!

Since the last snapshot release coinciding with “wheezy”, the init system has been switched to sysvinit for a more Debian-like experience. Further changes since the last snapshot include:

* The core GNU Hurd and GNU Mach packages were updated to versions 0.6 and 1.5, respectively. Besides numerous other improvements, they bring vastly improved stability under load and prolonged uptime.

* The networking drivers were migrated to user-space drivers using the NetDDE framework and a Linux-2.6.32 codebase.

Notable new or upgraded packages which required considerable porting effort and/or are known to work well on Debian GNU/Hurd include Iceweasel 31 ESR, XFCE4 4.10, 7.7 and Emacs 24.4.

Please make sure to read the configuration information, the FAQ (or its latest version), and the translator primer to get a grasp of the great features of GNU/Hurd.

We would like to thank all the people who have worked on GNU/Hurd in the past. There were not many people at any given time (and still not many people today, please join!), but in the end a lot of people have contributed one way or the other. Thanks everybody!

Government’s fast broadband programme ‘feeble’

UK residents can hardly fail to have noticed that a general election is taking place next Thursday, 7th May.

Bill GrimseyAs is usual with elections, the record of the previous administration, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, the UK’s first peacetime coalition since that of January 1919 to October 1922, is coming under intense scrutiny from all quarters.

Our attention was caught by a piece in yesterday’s online edition of the Mirror penned by Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of the Wickes and Iceland retail chains.

image of fibre optic cableOne only has to read the headline – Ignore Tory propaganda, the high street tells you where our economy’s really at – to ascertain that Mr Grimsey is no fan of the coalition.

However, his article, whilst concentrating mainly on the perceived lack of economic recovery on the High Street and in the retail sector, Mr Grimsey also attacks the government’s efforts to modernise the country’s internet connectivity.

Mr Grimsey wrote:

Other hopeless policies include laughable attempts to tax pasties and a feeble attempt to roll out fast broadband across the UK. We know technology is transforming the way we shop and Britain needs to start preparing for the future, ensuring local authorities wire all high streets with no black spots. Yet, Tory ministers seem stuck in the 1980s and we still lag behind Korea and Finland in broadband speed. Even Latvia and Romania have better Internet connection speed than the UK.

Do you agree or disagree with Bill Grimsey? Let us know in the comments below.

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.

promotional banner

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.”

Evolve OS name change forced by trade mark dispute with UK government

The Evolve OS desktop Linux distribution is being forced into a change of name due to potential trade mark problems with the UK government, Softpedia reports.

Evolve OS screenshot

The bone of contention is not the Evolve element, but OS, which is apparently a trade mark registered to registered to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, whose trade mark agents are a company called Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.

In its headline, Softpedia describes this trademark registration as “stupid“.

Writing yesterday on Google+, the developers stated:

This is not an April Fools post

We will be required to change the name of the Evolve OS project, to avoid unnecessary legal action. All I will say right now is that the dispute is UK specific, and I have been informed that the relevant trademarks are held by the Secretary of State.

The letter goes beyond asking for a withdrawal of trademark application and asks we stop using the “mark”.

Clearly this is going to be an expensive and painful road in either direction, so we shall go with a rename.

The developers have also asked for the help of the free and open source community to come up with a new name that would be free of trademark infringements.

Debian Jessie target release date announced

Debian logoNiels Thykier of the Debian release team has announced the release date for the forthcoming version 8 of Debian, codenamed Jessie. Jessie should be ready on Saturday 25th April. The could only change, Thykier writes, if something really critical pops up or it is not possible to publish the release on time for technical reasons.

There is still time until 18th April for final bug fixes; there should be no further changes to Debian in the final week before release. Managers of packages with bugs must therefore work speedily on getting them fixed. Until the release packages with critical bugs could still be removed from the distribution. Thykier writes that there are currently at least twelve release-critical bugs which could result in the removal of the packages concerned from Debian 8.

Reposted from the author’s blog.

Another Microsoft open source release

Microsoft, purveyor of insecure proprietary operating systems and annoying, overpriced office suites, has not always had an easy relationship with the concept of open source.

Indeed, its first forays into the field were taken reluctantly since it was ordered by the European Commission to disclose interoperability information to third parties under an unfair competition ruling . Under this 2008 ruling the company was fined €899 mn. for failure to comply with a 2004 competition ruling.

In recent years the company has made some major contributions to the development of open source software, such as its contributions in 2011 to the Samba project.

More recently, the core of .NET has been released as open source and is now available on GitHub.

Clippy-letterIt has been learnt today that another open source release – and it’s an unusual one: the Microsoft Office Assistant. Better known as Clippy (or even Clippit. Ed.). Clippy was included in Microsoft Office for Windows from versions 97 to 2003 inclusive, in Microsoft Publisher from versions 98 to 2003 and Microsoft Office for Mac from versions 98 to 2004.

Clippy has been heavily mocked in popular culture, being parodied and even being made fun of by Microsoft themselves from 2001 onwards.

The Office Assistant used technology initially from Microsoft’s curious Bob GUI and later Microsoft Agent, offering advice based on Bayesian algorithms.

Click here for more details of the release of Clippy as open source.

Some major hotel wifi networks are real sieves

glassy wifi symbolResearchers from security company Cylance have discovered that some internet gateways currently used by hotels and conference centres were real sieves. In fact, malicious users could easily launch various types of attack on customers accessing the wifi networks of these establishments, Le Monde Informatique reports. According to the researchers, the equipment concerned, which is used to manage visitor networks in both budget hotels and luxury hotels throughout the world are made by a company called ANTlabs. On several ANTLabs InnGate models the rsync service is wrongly configured: it listens on TCP port 873 and allows non-authenticated attackers full read-write access to the equipment’s file system.

Rsync is a utility used to synchronise the files and directories between Linux systems, and it thus comprises download and file copying functions. The tool takes charge of authentication and can be limited to specific directories. However, on the ANTLabs InnGate equipment concerned, it has been configured insecurely by default. “When an attacker gains full read and write access to a Linux file system, it’s trivial to then turn that into remote code execution”, Cylance researcher Brian Wallace states in a blog post. “The attacker could upload a backdoored version of nearly any executable on the system and then gain execution control, or simply add an additional user with root level access and a password known to the attacker. Once full file system access is obtained, the endpoint is at the mercy of the attacker.” Last Thursday ANTlabs supplied patches to repair the fault, which has the reference CVE-2015-0932. Patches are available for the following models: IG 3100 and 3101, InnGate 3.00 E-Series, 3.01 E-Series, 3.02 E-Series and 3.10 E-Series and InnGate 3.01 G-Series and 3.10 G-Series.

The hotel’s activities are also compromised

Hotel networks are a good target for so-called hackers. In November 2014 Kaspersky Lab researchers warned of the activity of a group of cyber spies baptised DarkHotel. The group infiltrated the networks of several luxury hotels to target company bosses and entrepreneurs travelling in the Asia-Pacific region. The InnGate vulnerability could allow hackers to launch attacks against the wifi networks for use by hotel customers, like those carried out by the DarkHotel group. If this were so, the attackers could monitor traffic to steal sensitive information: they could replace the files that users were downloading from the internet on the fly with malicious files; they could eliminate SSL encryption or reduce security and much more. “Given the level of access that this vulnerability offers to attackers, there is seemingly no limit to what they could do”, Wallace writes.

In some instances the fault doesn’t only expose customers, but all of the hotel’s activities too. Cylance’s researchers mention environments in which InnGate equipment has been integrated into PMS systems used to manage several aspects of hotel operations, such as reservations, sales, planning, personnel, payroll, maintenance, inventory management and so on. Cylance has identified 277 InnGate items of equipment that can be attacked straight from the internet in 29 countries, with the greatest number of exposed gateways in the USA. “Listing those vulnerable devices at this time would be irresponsible and could result in a compromise of those networks,” Wallace stated. “Take it from us that this issue affects hotels brands all up and down the spectrum of cost, from places we’ve never heard of to places that cost more per night than most apartments cost to rent for a month.”

Commission updates open source strategy

EU flagThe European Commission has announced the updating its strategy for internal use of open source software. The Commission, which is already using open source for many of its key IT services and software solutions, will further increase the internal role of this type of software. The renewed strategy puts a special emphasis on procurement, contribution to open source software projects and releasing more of the software developed within the Commission as open source.


The specific objectives of the renewed strategy are:

Equal treatment in procurement

The Commission will ensure a level playing field when procuring new software. This means that open source and proprietary software will be assessed on an equal basis, being both evaluated on the basis of total cost of ownership, including exit costs.

Contribution to communities

The Commission services will increasingly participate in open source software communities to build on the open source elements used in the Commission’s software.

Clarification of legal aspects

To enable easy collaboration with the open source communities, Commission developers will benefit from appropriate legal coaching and advice on how to deal with the intellectual property aspects of open source software.

Open source and interoperable software developed by the Commission

Software produced by the Commission departments, and particularly software produced for use outside the Commission, will be released as open source under the European Union Public License (EUPL) and published on the Joinup platform. The software produced should aim to be interoperable and use open technical specifications.

Transparency and better communication

The updated strategy emphasises improved governance, an increasing use of open source in the field of security and this strategy’s alignment with the EC’s ISA Programme, enabling the modernisation of cross-border and cross-sector eGovernment services.

LibreOffice to take to the cloud

Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office 365 could soon face proper open source and open standards opposition to cloud-based office productivity services according to the post below from yesterday from the chief scribe’s own blog.

LibreOffice banner

LibreOffice, the best free and open source office suite produced, is set to become the cornerstone of the world’s first global personal productivity solution – LibreOffice Online – following an announcement by IceWarp and Collabora of a joint development effort, The Document Foundation blog reports today. LibreOffice is available as a native application for every desktop operating system and is currently under development for Android. Furthermore, it is available on virtual platforms for Chrome OS, Firefox OS and iOS.

“LibreOffice was born with the objective of leveraging the OpenOffice historic heritage to build a solid ecosystem capable of attracting those investments which are key for the further development of free software,” says Eliane Domingos de Sousa, Director of The Document Foundation. “Thanks to the increasing number of companies which are investing on the development of LibreOffice, we are on track to make it available on every platform, including the cloud. We are grateful to IceWarp for providing the resources for a further development of LibreOffice Online.”

Development of LibreOffice Online started back in 2011 with the availability of a proof of concept of the client front end, based on HTML5 technology. That proof of concept will be developed into a state of the art cloud application, which will become the free alternative to proprietary solutions such as Google Docs and Office 365. It will also be the first to offer native support for the Open Document Format (ODF) standard.

“It is wonderful to marry IceWarp’s vision and investment with our passion and skills for LibreOffice development. It is always satisfying to work on something that, as a company, we have a need for ourselves,” says Michael Meeks, Vice-President of Collabora Productivity, who developed the proof of concept back in 2011 and will oversee the development of LibreOffice Online.

The launch of LibreOffice Online will be announced at a future date.

Document Freedom Day: why open standards matter

DFD promotional posterToday is Document Freedom Day, an annual international celebration of open formats and open standards and an opportunity to promote their use.

The use of open standards is definitely gaining ground, particularly where it matters, such as in dealings with government bodies. This was amply illustrated last year by the UK Cabinet Office’s announcement of the adoption of open standards for collaborating on government documents.

Why do open standards matter?

Open standards are vital for interoperability and freedom of choice. They provide freedom from data lock-in and the accompanying vendor lock-in. This makes Open standards essential for governments, companies, organisations and individual users of information technology.

What is an open standard?

An open standard refers to a format or protocol that is:

  • Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
  • Without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an open standard themselves;
  • Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its use by any party or in any business model;
  • Managed and further developed independently of any single supplier in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
  • Available in multiple complete implementations by competing suppliers, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.

How do open standards affect you?

April, the French open source advocacy organisation, has produced a handy graphic in English to illustrate the difference between open and closed formats. Click on the image below for the full-sized version.

April's open formats graphic

Examples of open standards

Many open standards are in wide use. Here are 3 examples:

  • Plain text (.txt);
  • HTML, the language of the web;
  • ODF, the default file format of free and open source office suites such as LibreOffice and OpenOffice. ODF can also be handled by Microsoft Office versions from Office 2007 onwards.

Document Freedom Day is being promoted on social media by the use of the #DFD2015 hashtag.

Reposted from the author’s own blog.

Make an origami unicorn and win an Ubuntu Phone

publicity for Ubuntu Unicorn competitionAn Origami Unicorn Challenge has been announced by the Ubuntu Insights website.

Origami has long been associated with good fortune and represents the visual style for the Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu is inviting people to create their own Origami Unicorn for the chance to win an Ubuntu Phone.

The stages to participate include:

  • Create a Unicorn Origami form from a single sheet of paper
  • Take a photo of your custom creation
  • Upload to instagram with the hashtag #fingertipchallenge

Ubuntu has also provided a guide to making an origami unicorn (PDF). The most number of likes on Instagram wins an Ubuntu Phone.