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.
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.
Bringing 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Professor 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.
Next week, demonstrators will gather at a meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in Lisbon, Portugal to make the same demand as was made at the last major W3C meeting in March: stop streaming companies from inserting DRM into the HTML standard on which the Web is based.
The Defective by Design campaign organised a similar protest at the W3C’s last meeting at MIT in March. In the week before that protest, Dutch activists held their own demonstration at the Amsterdam W3C office and a Brazilian Web expert met staff at the W3C office in São Paulo. The night of the MIT protest the W3C’s leadership released a factsheet to justify its involvement with DRM despite all the criticism.
Besides preventing people from sharing media, DRM often causes security vulnerabilities or files to disappear or become inaccessible. Users are treated as adversaries. Few outside the entertainment business like DRM and many agree it is ethically wrong. However, the W3C, which sets official Web standards, has allowed streaming video companies to work on a new, universal DRM system together with its blessing. The new system is called EME – Encrypted Media Extensions. Now Netflix, Microsoft, Google, and Apple want to hang their new EME on the existing infrastructure of the HTML standard, making it cheaper and easier to impose restrictions on users.
Although support for EME is limited to a few powerful companies, opposition is widespread. Defective by Design hopes that the W3C recognises this and accepts feedback from the actual people that use the Web, otherwise Defective by Design believes it has no right to claim it is setting Web standards in the public interest.
As part of the strategy to create a single European digital market, the European Commission is preparing to invest €120 mn. to promote access to wireless connectivity in public places under the heading of Wifi4EU.
Wifi4EU access points aim to benefit both EU citizens and visitors to the Member States.
Other beneficiaries will include public administrations, hospitals, libraries and other bodies
with a public mission. The EU will fund the equipment and installation costs with vouchers, whilst public bodies will be responsible for paying the monthly subscription costs and keep the equipment in good order. These bodies will be able take advantage of the access points to develop and promote their own new digital services, such as e-government, e-health or e-tourism.
Who can apply?
Local communities will need to show that they commit to providing very high speed internet via Wifi4EU and show under state aid rules that they are not competing with a similar, existing private or public wifi provision since the initiative will help cover areas which otherwise would not offer such connectivity.
Furthermore, these free wifi hotspots are not the only levers of the Commission’s plan to increase the number of Europeans connected to the internet. In its project to reform telecommunications regulations, it is also planning to make high speed internet access a universal service obligation for telecommunications providers. It will be up to the governments of the Member States to ensure that people on low incomes or with special needs can access these services, perhaps by offering vouchers to cover the cost or requiring providers to give them a special rate.
The Wifi4EU scheme is intended to run until 2019.
Will Brexit vote hamper UK’s inclusion?
The European Commission’s office in London has been approached asking whether public bodies in the UK will be eligible to apply for this scheme in the wake of all the uncertainty following the UK’s advisory vote to leave the EU in the recent referendum. Any response will be published when it is received.
Update:The following reply to our queries about Wifi4EU and the definition of what constitutes a “public mission” has been received.
This initiative is a proposal for legislation, which has to go through the EU decision-making process before any funding/projects can be launched. It is not possible to say how long the process will take to formally adopt this initiative. As long as the UK remains a Member State of the EU eligibility to participate in EU programmes should remain possible.
The proposal does not specifically define “public mission” , but the preamble states:
Support of this kind should encourage entities with a public mission such as public authorities and providers of public services to offer free local wireless connectivity as an ancillary service to their public mission….
Speculation about the demise of Apache OpenOffice may be premature (news passim).
German IT news site heise reports that a mailing list for new developers has been set up.
By establishing this new list, the OpenOffice team wants to make entry to the open source project easier for programmers.
After recent discussion of a possible end for the free and open source OpenOffice productivity suite, more developers who are interested in helping with future development have approached the project. The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has now established a recruitment mailing list to facilitate their access to the source code. Via the list, newcomers will receive answers to questions and suggestions about their next steps from more experienced developers.
Billed as “Europe’s biggest event for the leading third sector CRM“, it’s now less than a month until CiviCRM’s Civicon 2016 in London, which is being held on 6th and 7th October.
CiviCRM is the leading open source CRM for the voluntary and community sectors. CiviCon is now in its sixth year and the event is going from strength to strength as the community around it grows and finds new ways to help raise funds, communicate and manage organisations.
Alongside this year’s conference, the organisers are also arranging training sessions and a code sprint.
CiviCon, the training and the sprint are designed to welcome new people to the community, to bring them together to share, learn and work.
The conference itself will run from Thursday 6th October to Friday 7th October 2016, the training from Tuesday 4th October to Wednesday 5th October 2016 and the code sprint from Monday 10th October to Friday 14th October 2016 and registration is required.
The conference venue is Resource for London at 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA (map).
Finally, here’s some feedback from last year’s conference.
Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda ended this year’s QtCon, free software community conference with a keynote speech on, inter alia, free software in the European public sector.
Ms Reda explained how proprietary software has often left regulators in the dark, becoming a liability for (and often a threat to) citizens’ health and well-being.
As an example Ms Red cited the recent Dieselgate scandal, in which motor manufacturers installed software that cheated instruments that measured emissions of pollutants in test environments, only to spew illegal amounts of toxic substances into the air when they were on the road.
Ms Reda also explained how medical devices running proprietary software posed a health hazard for patients, giving the example of a woman with a pacemaker who collapsed while climbing some stairs due to a software bug in her device. Doctors and technicians had no way of diagnosing and correcting
the problem as they did not have access to the code.
A further cause for concern is the threat posed to democracy by software with restrictive licences. The trend of replacing traditional voting ballots with voting machines is especially worrying, because, as these machines are not considered a threat to national security, their software also goes unaudited and cannot be audited in most instances.
Ms Reda remarked that although voting machines are built and programmed by private companies, they are commissioned by public bodies and bought with public money. However, there are no universal EU regulations that force companies, or, indeed, public organisations, to make the source code available to the citizens that have paid for it.
She further noted that, despite free software technologies (web servers, CMSs, email servers, etc.) being used extensively throughout the public sector, the latter assumes very little responsibility in the way of giving back to the community via
patches or bug reports.
Ms Reda commended the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) for
advocating that all software commissioned by public entities and paid with public money, be made available to all under free/libre licences. She also noted that it is essential to get governments to see the merits of free software to get them on side.
When your ‘umble scribe first started using the GNU/Linux operating system over a decade ago, the default office suite for most Linux distributions was OpenOffice.
However, it now looks as if OpenOffice just could be heading towards the software graveyard if other members of the development team concur with an email from the chairman of the OpenOffice Project Management Committee, Dennis Hamilton, as reported by LWN.net.
A long history
To find the earliest origins of OpenOffice, one has to go back nearly 30 years to 1985 and an early office suite called Star Office. The timeline below shows the genesis of OpenOffice and other packages from StarOffice 1.0. StarOffice itself survived as a proprietary software package until discontinued by Oracle in 2011.
To understand the various twists in the OpenOffice story, one also needs to know that StarDivision, the creator of StarOffice, was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999, whilst Sun Microsystems was in its turn taken over by Oracle Corporation in 2010.
After the 1999 takeover of StarDivision, Sun released a free and open source version of StarOffice as OpenOffice.org under both GNU LGPL and the SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License). OpenOffice.org supported proprietary Microsoft Office file formats (though not always perfectly), was available on many platforms (Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris) and became widely used in the open source community. OpenOffice.org had native support for the OpenDocument format (ODF).
Following Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems in 2010, some members of the OpenOffice.org project became worried about its future with Oracle. As a consequence they formed The Document Foundation and created the LibreOffice fork. The LibreOffice brand was hoped to be provisional, as Oracle had been invited to join The Document Foundation and donate the OpenOffice.org brand to the foundation.
Oracle’s response was to demand that all members of the OpenOffice.org Community Council involved with The Document Foundation step down from the Council, citing a conflict of interest. This prompted many community members decided to leave for LibreOffice, which already had the support of Red Hat, Novell, Google and Canonical. LibreOffice produced its first release in January 2011.
In June 2011 Oracle donated the OpenOffice.org trade marks and source code to the Apache Software Foundation, which Apache then re-licensed under its own open source licence. IBM donated the Lotus Symphony codebase to the Apache Software Foundation in 2012. The developer pool for the Apache project was seeded by IBM employees and the Symphony codebase was incorporated into Apache OpenOffice.
However, Apache OpenOffice has not flourished, whilst LibreOffice has gone from strength to strength, OpenOffice has languished. LibreOffice releases updates every few months, whereas the last major update to Apache OpenOffice was in September 2015. Furthermore, a hotfix released at the end of August to remedy a memory problem has still not been announced by the project on its home page.
Apache applies pressure
In the meantime the Apache Software Foundation has been applying increasing pressure due to security concerns and has since demanded monthly reports (instead of the previous quarterly reports. Ed.) as to how problems can be solved.
In his email Hamilton describes in detail what the retirement of the OpenOffice project could look like and what consequences will be involved for the source code, downloads, website, mailing lists and other matters. For the time being Hamilton only wants to start a discussion. A decision to end the OpenOffice project has still not been taken, although it is already being suggested that the project should consider donating the OpenOffice trade mark registration to the LibreOffice project.
This afternoon, our members Nigel Legg and Benedict Gaster turned up at the lab with the piece of hardware shown below that’s going to be tested on the Bristol Wireless network.
It’s an IoT gateway configured under LoRaWAN, a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification, that’s fully open source. Not only is it open source, but Benedict built it at home from components that are easily available and not at all expensive.
Once it’s up and running, the gateway will connect to the Things Network.
It’s believed that by deploying this gateway, we’ve actually beaten the top-down, proprietary approach adopted by Bristol is Open (news passim) in having the first working IoT gateway in Bristol (if we’re wrong, let us know in the comments below. Ed.).
The boys have now returned from the top of a tower block and informed your ‘umble scribe the gateway is working.
For ordinary citizens perhaps the most significant feature is its universal service commitment.
We will deliver high speed broadband and mobile connectivity for every household, company and organisation in Britain from the inner city neighbourhoods to the remotest rural community. The National Investment Bank will fund the public sector backbone of this vital infrastructure project, regional banks will support local access cooperatives and Ofcom will coordinate the private telecoms companies’ contribution to its realisation. Because ubiquitous access to digital networks is now a prerequisite of 21st century life and business, we will ensure that high speed broadband and mobile connectivity is available at the same low price without any data transfer cap across the whole country.
That definitely sounds better than the present government’s commitment to a universal 10 Mbps broadband service (news passim), although how good such a commitment is will ultimately depend on the party’s definition of what constitutes “high speed“.
Mr Corbyn pledged a “bill of rights” for internet users who would be entitled to a “digital citizen passport” which would ostensibly provide a secure and portable identity for their online and data activities.
The previous Labour government tried to introduce identity cards to the UK – something it has previously only imposed during wartime. It ultimately dropped that idea after major public outcry. Will the new “digital citizen passport” be an online version of the ID card? I think we should be told, to echo the cry of Private Eye down the decades.
A further interesting aspect of the digital agenda comes under the heading of “Programming for All“, i.e.
We will encourage publicly funded software and hardware to be released under an Open Source licence. Where possible, government agencies will upgrade their computers and networks with these improved versions of democratic programming. The National Education Service will enthuse both children and adults to learn how to write software and to build hardware. Public bodies will financially reward staff technicians who significantly contribute to Open Source projects. We will host official events which celebrate the achievements of both the professional and hobbyist designers of the networked future.
This would bring the UK public sector into line with the United States, where the Obama administration has been actively promoting the use of open source software (such as Drupal for the White House website. Ed.) and recently released its federal source code policy (news passim).
Other ideas that sound attractive at the launch of the digital agenda were:
Of course, it must remembered that politicians’ promises are more often than not like pie-crust and to implement his digital manifesto Mr Corbyn still faces twin obstacles of surviving the current challenge to his leadership of the party and then winning the next election – whenever that happens to be.
Web Africa reports that Uganda’s ICT Ministry has recently developed a free and open source software (FOSS) policy.
The aim of the policy is to regulate the deployment of open source software and use of open standards to accelerate innovation and develop local content.
Commenting on the use of FOSS, Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s Minister of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda declared the following:
Free and open software services will help my ministry to innovate better because it forms the platform (for) many of the innovative ideas. Free and open source software in Uganda is certainly something we have been talking about and I am sure we will do so even more in the next few days. Some of the things Uganda has put in place to harness the benefit from free and open source software include a Software Strategy and Policy in accordance with the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development’s (UNCTAD) Trade, Services and Development expert meeting’s determination that free and open source software is an inseparable component of the global technology ecosystem.
The Minister also remarked that FOSS also presents an opportunity to develop the software industry in Uganda, which is in its infancy.
Furthermore, FOSS was recognised earlier this week for its contribution to innovation at the 7th African Conference on Free & Open Source Software held in Kampala with the theme of “Open Source Solutions for Open Government & Open Data in Africa”. The conference attracted over 500 delegates from academia, policy makers, software developers, innovators, open source activists, researchers, investors and ICT practitioners from all over the African continent and other parts of the world.
Twenty-five years ago today, 25th August, an unknown Finnish computer science student called Linus Torvalds wrote the following email to the comp.os.minix mailing list.
Hello everybody out there using minix –
I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).
I’ve currently ported bash (1.08) and gcc (1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them 🙂
PS. Yes – it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.
Today Linus Torvalds is somewhat better known, having won a raft of awards, and works as a software develope. However, Linus is still involved with developing a free operating system and is the chief maintainer of its kernel.
That free operating system has come to be known in full as GNU/Linux and just Linux by most people. GNU/Linux is available in hundreds – if not more – distinct variants which are running everything from supercomputers and web servers to desktop machines and small devices running on embedded systems.