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20th April is Hardware Freedom Day

Here’s something that’s bound to appeal to our friends at Bristol Hackspace and Dorkbot Bristol: 20th April has been announced as the date for Hardware Freedom Day 2013. Hardware Freedom Day (HFD) is an annual celebration of Open Hardware.

Open Hardware Day was initiated in 2012 by the Digital Freedom Foundation, the organisation responsible for Software Freedom Day; its aim is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using and promoting Open Hardware. It also provides an international day to serve as a platform to raise awareness to existing projects and communities around the world as well as encourage participation in local Open Hardware initiatives. The Digital Freedom Foundation coordinates HFD at a global level, providing support, give-aways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organise the local HFD events to involve their own communities.

Hardware Freedom Day logo

HFD’s vision is to empower all people to freely connect, create and share in a digital world that is participatory, transparent, and sustainable, whilst HFD’s objectives are:

  • To celebrate Hardware freedom and the people making this vibrant community;
  • To foster a general understanding of hardware freedom, and encourage adoption of open hardware;
  • To create greater opportunities by encouraging people to learn to use and hack “their stuff” and share their knowledge about it;
  • To be inclusive of organisations and individuals that share our vision;
  • To be pragmatic, transparent and responsible as an organisation.

If you’re organising an event for HFD 2013, you can register it here.

Free University’s not so free knowledge

The words free (as in freedom. Ed.) and open are quite commonly associated with academia and education: free thought, open access to knowledge and such like. Indeed, these concepts are actually embodied in the names of some academic institutions, such as the UK’s Open University and Germany’s Free University of Berlin.

However, there are signs that the commitment of some universities to the concepts of freedom and openness are now crumbling.

Seal of Free University of Berlin
Free University of Berlin. Ditching freedom for proprietary software
According to a report in Austria’s Der Standard yesterday, the Free University of Berlin wants to make the content of lectures available online. However, the fact that the university has evidently chosen Apple as its exclusive partner for this is now leading to criticism. Apple’s iTunes software is required for access; this is available for Mac and Windows, but not for Linux.

With iTunes U Apple is offering a learning materials platform which is used by many training institutions. The Free University of Berlin says it also wants “to arrange an official appearance on iTunes U like many other German and international universities have already done”. However, from an internal letter it emerges that lecturers are being urged “to refrain from using other external platforms for the distribution of recorded courses and audiovisual materials.”

“Present of data” to Apple

This exclusive deal is being criticised internally. Hannes Hauswedell of the Bioinformatics Faculty that in principal any project to make knowledge available is welcome. “However, what the University’s governing body is planning does not appear to be universal access at all but rather a present of data to a major company.” Ingrid Pahlem-Brandt, the University’s data protection officer, sees it as “problematic in terms of the data protection law” if content were to be distributed exclusively via iTunes. It would not be obviously what would happen to the data when retrieving videos.

Besides internal critics, the Free University’s moved is also being criticised by outsiders. The Free Software Foundation Europe is denouncing the fact that “a publicly funded university is only making its knowledge available to outsiders if those outsiders are using a certain software package from a certain manufacturer.”

The message from openistas to the Free University is clear: your work is not good enough; please see us after class! 🙂

Spain’s Galicia region to switch to open source office suite?

ODF_textdocument_48x48A report on Joinup, the EU’s open source public sector news website, suggests that the government of Spain’s autonomous region of Galicia is considering a switch to open source office productivity tools. Galicia’s Agency for Technological Innovation and Agasol, the Galician Association for Free Software Enterprises, announced last week that they have started assessing the financial impact of such a migration, including its technical and organisational requirements. Agasol expects that the study will be ready this year.

Agasol also expects the government to make free and open source software a regional strategic initiative. Galicia is already promoting its use in schools. Last September, the government began the Abalar project to introduce free software to 43,000 pupils in the region’s schools. Free and open source software is also used for the Galicia’s free public ICT training courses. To date, some 21,000 Galician citizens have been schooled on desktop PCs running free and open source software. By using this kind of software for training, the project saved some €2.5 mn. in 2010 and 2011, according to Agasol.

Neelie Kroes criticises lack of women in ICT

image of EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes
EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes
Today is International Women’s Day and Neelie Kroes, the European Union Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has drawn attention on her blog not only to the opportunities that ICT can provide for women, but also to the dearth of women employed in ICT.

She writes:

I think every woman should have the tools and skills she needs to take control of her own life. Not to be trapped by social expectations, financial dependence or a lack of the right skills.

There’s no doubt for me that ICT is a powerful tool here. Not only is it the key to tomorrow’s labour market, with ICT skills in strong demand. But it can also help achieve your life goals, whatever they are.

From the confidence to use an online forum to find out about family health problems – to the web design skills that can turn that hobby into a viable business: ICT can help you for every kind of profession and for every kind of life ambition. And improve your salary prospects too: today the gender pay gap is equivalent to women working 59 days a year for free: and ICT is one way to catch up, as women in the ICT sector earn an average of 9% more than women in similar positions in other sectors.

So it’s disappointing that women aren’t keeping up. Yet less than 30% of the ICT workforce are women! We should be doing everything we can to change that, and to encourage more women to access those opportunities. It’s not just good for equal rights – it’s essential to our competitiveness.

Neelie Kroes ends her post by saying that she’s going to be talking in the European Parliament on Girls in ICT Day and hopes to have lots of fresh ideas by then.

We wish you luck in your quest, Commissioner.

Bristol Raspberry Pi Bootcamp

The BCS is collaborating with @Bristol and Bristol University to organise the Raspberry Pi Bootcamp at @Bristol, Anchor Road, Bristol BS1 5DB (map) on Saturday, 20th April 2013 from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm. This day will involve a range of activities to help the beginner get going, as well as enable the expert to share ideas with others. The activities will include:

  • a drop-in centre for those who have just got their Pi out the box but don’t know what to do next;
  • workshops on some basic applications for your Pi that you can build in 90 minutes;
  • advanced workshops to build cool applications involving LEDs and remote control cars;
  • a chance to meet experts and see what advanced applications they’ve built;
  • a chance to buy additional equipment.
image of Raspberry Pi board
Learn how to hack your Raspberry Pi

The event is free, but registration is required.

Both BCS members and non-members are welcome.

Anyone requiring additional information, please contact simon.thorp (at)

Dell resumes Linux laptop sales in UK

Ubuntu logoSome years ago, computer retailer Dell made an abortive, half-hearted effort to offer a limited range of machines – one entry level desktop system and a couple of laptops – running Ubuntu Linux (news passim).

It’s now back with another Ubuntu offering in the UK and Germany, according to a report in the H Online.

image of Dell XPS 13 laptop
Now available in UK & Germany with Ubuntu for less than the equivalent Windows machine

Once again, the offer is restricted to one machine – the Sputnik or XPS 13, a high end laptop aimed at developers. This time round Dell seems to have got one thing right: in the UK the basic machine running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS starts at £899 (excl. VAT & shipping), i.e. £120 cheaper than the same model with Windows 8 pre-installed. In Germany the difference between the free software and proprietary versions of the machine is slightly less at €50, with the Ubuntu offering retailing at €1,050.

While we commend Dell for giving its customers a slightly greater choice, we have a modest suggestion to make to them: why don’t they offer a choice of operating systems between Ubuntu and Windows on all their product range? Or this that too hard for you, Dell?

Open Data Manchester Special – An Open Data Future

If you’re in the Manchester area in mid-March, this event may be of interest to you.

A panel discussion on the aspects of an the future of open data will be held at MadLab, 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HN (map) on Tuesday, 19th March 2013 from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.

Over the past few years open government data has evolved from a niche concern to one that has been embraced by national government, the European Commission and other states and organisations around the globe.

It has been advocated that Open Government Data will expose the inner workings of state institutions and thus enable an environment for greater understanding, accountability and efficiency.

The release of open government data has also been seen as an opportunity to add value to national economies through the creation of new services, new intelligence and a more networked economy through the free flow of data.

But ultimately what are the drivers behind this movement, who are the winners and losers and what should a society based upon open practices look like?

The panel will feature:

The event is free to attend but you’ll need to register via Eventbrite.

Dresden to host LibreOffice Impress sprint

The LibreOffice project has been offered a project weekend from Friday 22nd March to Sunday 24th March at Dresden Technical University which will focus specifically on Impress, LibreOffice’s presentation tool (an open source alternative to death by PowerPoint. Ed.).

Dresden 2013 sprint logo

The main aims of the weekend will be to:

  • get into the code that is on stage with boatloads of presenters each year;
  • go bug hunting and help bug fixing;
  • find paper cuts and look into usability – life on stage is stressful enough without your presentation software acting up;
  • have a good time and meet new people!

The main venue for the event will be the Beyer Building (map) at Dresden Technical University’s main campus physics faculty (map).

The rough programme for the weekend is as follows:

  • Friday 22nd March – arrival and introduction, knowing your way around Impress;
  • Saturday 23rd March – bug hunting and fixing;
  • Sunday 24th March – wrap-up, future work.

More details are available on The Document Foundation wiki.

This article originally appeared on the chief scribe’s blog.

DFD 2103 registration opens

Today event registration opens for Document Freedom Day 2013 which will be held on Wednesday, 27th March. Local event teams can add details of their activities to the Document Freedom website and have them marked on the global campaign map.

Last week 50 promotional packs were dispatched to hackerspaces to kick start event preparations. They contain posters, fliers, stickers, and advice, including how to apply for financial support. Packs are now also available to order online.

dfd 2013 banner

“Last year trail-blazing Open Standards advocates introduced thousands of people to better standards,” said DFD Campaign Manager Sam Tuke. “Teams now have more resources at their disposal and fresh ideas including switching from Adobe Flash to HTML5 technologies”.

“Markets for digital products such as audio-books and cloud documents have grown dramatically in recent months, but without open standards customers are victims of vendor lock-in and anti-consumer market control,” said Erik Albers, Community Manager at the Free Software Foundation Europe.

This year the DFD campaign aims to have more events in more locations. In 2012 groups of volunteers ran 54 DFD events in 23 different countries, including Belgium, Colombia and Indonesia.

Coming soon – env[:hack]

A couple of dates for your diaries, readers: 16th and 17th March 2013. On those dates env[:hack] will be taking place all day in Bristol.

According to the blurb, env[:hack] is a Hack Day organised by the Environment Agency with help from Geeks of London and the Ordnance Survey. The Agency will be bringing together around 80 software and hardware developers, Environment Agency experts and interesting data. The goal is to create cool demos that showcase how technology can help us all be more green and environmentally responsible.

env[:hack] will be taking place up at Bristol University’s Merchant Venturers Building, Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UB (map) from 10.30 am to 10 pm on Saturday and from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm on Sunday.

More details are available on the dedicated env[:hack] website, where you can also register. Entry is free (apart from for Environment Agency staff), but registration is essential

Open data a closed book to most civil servants

An Open Data Insitute blog post of the first ever survey* into civil servants’ awareness of open data reveals an astonishing level of ignorance.

Among the survey’s main findings were the following:

  • 78% of civil servants do not know about government plans for open data and the benefits that follow;
  • 75% say they don’t know where to find useful data to help their decision making;
  • 57% do not know how to access data sets, how to interpret them or how to best apply data standards;
  • Only 52% recognised that ready access to data and data standards will generate new enterprises, jobs and services in the public and private sectors.

Sir Humphrey and his Whitehall mates (plus their counterparts in local government. Ed.) are essentially saying that they find it too difficult to access and reuse the right data and – more importantly – that they do not have the technical knowledge and expertise to exploit what data is available.

What implications does this have for the UK government’s aspirations to be a world leader in open data – aspirations that Chancellor George Osborne voiced in his 2011 autumn statement? (news passim) Negative ones probably, unless better skills, training and communication are introduced across government departments, local government and the public sector in general.

* The research was conducted in December 2012 on behalf of Listpoint and involved over 1,000 responses received from central and local government, non-departmental bodies, the NHS and the police.

NB: This post originally appeared on the chief scribe’s own blog.

Security alert: SSHD rootkit in the wild

malware imageIf you run a Linux system using the RPM-based package management system, you might like to give your system a security check following news from the Internet Storm Center (ISC) of a SSHD rootkit affecting such distributions.

To quote from the ISC article:

The rootkit is actually a trojanized library that links with SSHD and does *a lot* of nasty things to the system.

At this point in time we still do not know what the initial attack vector is – it is unknown how the attackers get root access on the compromised servers that is needed to change the legitimate libkeyutils library with a trojanized one. We are, of course, keeping an eye on the development and will post a new diary or update this one if we receive more information about the attack vectors.

The trojanized library is very, very nasty. Upon execution it performs a number of actions, as described below.

The code first deobfuscates the text strings needed for it to work. The original text is only XORed so this is very easy to retrieve and the deobfuscated strings have already been posted on a lot of sites.

Once that has been done, the library sets up everything needed for it to work. It resolves symbols for the following functions which are used later: PEM_write_RSAPrivateKey, PEM_write_DSAPrivateKey, MD5_Init, MD5_Update, and MD5_Final. As you can already see, it is definitely messing up with the authentication mechanism.

Besides resolving the symbols, the library also hooks the following functions: pam_authenticate, pam_start and crypt as well as audit_log_user_message and audit_log_acct_message. By hooking these functions, the rootkit can modify the flow of the SSHD – as you can see, this is a user-mode rootkit, as it does not affect the kernel.

The main activity of the rootkit consists in collection of credentials of authenticated users. Notice that the rootkit can steal username and password pairs as well as RSA and DSA private keys, so no matter which authentication mechanism you use, if the target host is infected it will successfully steal your information. The hooking of audit_log* functions was done to allow the attacker to stay as low profile as possible – if the attacker uses the hardcoded backdoor password to issue any commands to the rootkit, no logs will be created.

The current version of the rootkit supports three commands: Xver, Xcat and Xbnd. The first command just prints the rootkit’s version; the Xcat commands print the collected information back in the session for the attacker while the Xbnd command allows the attacker to setup a listener.

Besides this, the rootkit can automatically send collected credentials to the attacker. In order to do this the rootkit has a DGA (Domain Generation Algorithm) implemented that will create random looking domain names in the .biz, .info and .net domains (in that order). It will then send a DNS packet containing collected credentials to the target IP address, if it was able to resolve it (meaning the attacker has registered that day’s domain). If no domains have been resolved, the DNS packet is sent to the hard-coded IP address, which in all samples we received was

The rootkit itself looks very similar to the Ebury trojan which was detected back in 2011. In fact, I’m pretty sure that a lot of the code has been directly copied, however, the Ebury trojan patched the whole SSHD and required the attacker to change it.

This was easier to detect and prone to being overwritten with patching. The libkeyutils library, which comes as part of the keyutils-libs package is not changed that often so the chance of it being overwritten automatically is much lower.

If you run a RPM-based system you can check the integrity of the file with the rpm command:

# rpm -Vv keyutils-libs-1.2-1.el5
…….. /lib/
S.5….. /lib/
…….. /usr/share/doc/keyutils-libs-1.2
…….. d /usr/share/doc/keyutils-libs-1.2/LICENCE.LGPL

This will check a lot of things, the most important being the MD5 checksum so if you see the output as one above you have a trojanized library. Proper output should have all (and only) dots. Keep in mind that the RPM’s verification, of course, depends on the integrity of its database and the kernel itself.

We will keep an eye on the development and will update the diary accordingly – if you have samples or more information, especially on what the initial attack vector is please let us know.

Since the original article was posted, an important update has also been added, as follows:

Over the night (depending on where you live :), a lot of things happened. Thanks to one of our readers, Steve, I got access to a compromised server and hopefully might shed more light on what is going on here.

cPanel also posted a notice to their users that they have been compromised. What’s even worse, it appears that one of the main support servers in cPanel has been compromised which again means that the attackers got *loads* of passwords. cPanel recommends that passwords are changed, but keep in mind – if your servers are infected with the SSHD rootkit, the attackers will get your passwords/keys *anyway* (see below). So make sure that you check if your server has been compromised and that you clean it accordingly.

While analyzing the rootkit I noticed that, similarly to the Ebury trojan, it uses shared memory for communication between processes (and Steve e-mailed about that too). On Linuxes, you can check the status of shared memory with the ipcs command:

# ipcs -m

—— Shared Memory Segments ——–
key shmid owner perms bytes nattch status
0x7400845c 1769472 root 600 4 0
0x00000000 2129921 root 644 52 2
0x7400845b 1736706 root 600 4 0
0x00000000 2162691 root 644 16384 2
0x00000000 2195460 root 644 268 2
0x0052e2c1 2228229 postgres 600 10469376 16

In order to check the owner, use the –p flag:

# ipcs -mp

—— Shared Memory Creator/Last-op ——–
shmid owner cpid lpid
1769472 root 1975 1975
2129921 root 2931 2940
1736706 root 1965 1965
2162691 root 2931 2940
2195460 root 2931 2940
2228229 postgres 4011 6813
Now you can verify if SSHD owns any of the shared memory segments – normally it shouldn’t, so if it does you can try to inspect the system further.

Finally, unSpawn also wrote a ClamAV signature (a logical signature – so store this in a .ldb file):;Target:6;(((0)&(1)&(2))&(((3)&(4)&(5))|((6)&(7)&(8))));636f6e6e656374;73656e64;736f636b6574;62696e64;746d7066696c65;77616974706964;646c636c6f7365;737472636174;737472637079

It should help detect malicious libraries. Since the attackers can store it in a different directory, make sure to use the find command to locate all potential copies. Something like this will work:

# find / -name libkeyutils*

Should sysadmins of Linux distributions that use the deb package management system also run some security checks? Your comments would be welcome below.

Mayor wants to get more of Bristol online

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson would appear to favour getting as much as Bristol online if we read the tweet below correctly.

As can be seen Mr Ferguson’s tweet was in response to one from Sam Downie all about the possible negative effects of the impending introduction by the government of Universal Credit – a benefit which will be administered almost entirely online.

What Bristol Wireless would like to ask Mr Ferguson (and expect him to answer in the comments below in more than the 140 characters permitted by Twitter. Ed.) is how does he intend to fund/enable getting people online at a time when he’s implementing some £35 mn. of cuts to the Bristol City Council revenue budget?

C’mon George, don’t be shy now. 🙂

Bristol Uni researches efficient distributed quantum computing

University of Bristol logoMany groups of research scientists around the world are trying to build a quantum computer to run algorithms that take advantage of the strange effects of quantum mechanics such as entanglement and superposition. A quantum computer could solve problems in chemistry by simulating many body quantum systems, or break modern cryptographic schemes by quickly factorising large numbers.

Previous research shows that if a quantum algorithm is to offer an exponential speed-up over classical computing, there must be a large entangled state at some point in the computation and it was widely believed that this translates into requiring a single large device.

In a paper* published earlier this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Dr Steve Brierley of Bristol University‘s School of Mathematics and colleagues show that in this is not in fact the case. A network of small quantum computers can implement any quantum algorithm with a small overhead.

The key breakthrough was learning how to move quantum data efficiently between the different sites without causing a collision or destroying the delicate superposition needed in the computation, allowing the sites to communicate with each other during the computation in much the same way a parallel classical computer would do.

Dr Brierley said: “Building a computer whose operation is based on the laws of quantum mechanics is a daunting challenge. At least now we know that we can build one as a network of small modules.”

* ‘Efficient Distributed Quantum Computing’ by Robert Beals, Stephen Brierley, Oliver Gray, Aram W. Harrow, Samuel Kutin, Noah Linden, Dan Shepherd and Mark Stather in Proceedings of the Royal Society A

London CiviCRM meet-up

CiviCRM logoThe email below has been received from CiviCRMInfo for a meet-up in London next week. The venue is Gamesys, 10 Piccadilly, 4th Floor Reception, London, W1J 0DD (map) and the event will be held on Wednesday 27th February from 6.00 pm to 8.30 pm.

Hi UK CiviCRM folks,

I thought you might be interested in coming along to next London CiviCRM meet up on 27th February.

Registration and more info here:

The agenda for February is filling up! So far we have:

  • Community update – (15 mins) Michael
  • CiviCRM Lightning Overview – Events (15 mins) – Parvez Saleh
  • CiviCRM Case Study – Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Events (15 mins) – Owen Bowden, Richard Oakey
  • Break – 15 Mins
  • CviHR Update from Zing (15 Mins) – Andrew Tombs, Simon
  • Session 2 – 15 mins – TBC
  • CiviCRM Open Workshop – 30 mins

If you’d like to present at this or a future CiviCRM meet up, please get in contact with Parvez Saleh – parvez (at) – and we’ll put you on the agenda.


Bath time for rms

Richard Stallman
Coming to Bath… soon
Richard Stallman, aka rms, the Founder and President of the Free Software Foundation, will be giving at talk entitled “Copyright vs Community” at 6.00 pm on Thursday 21st March at the University of Bath as part of this year’s Bath Digital Festival.

Admission is free, but booking is essential. More details are available on the Bath Digital Festival site, which also has a potted biography of rms.

Python under threat in Europe

Python logo image
Python – under threat for open source in Europe
The use of the term Python for free and open source software is at risk in the EU due to a Community trade mark application by a UK company, as is explained in the post below from the Python Software Foundation News blog.

There is a company in the UK that is trying to trademark the use of the term “Python” for all software, services, servers… pretty much anything having to do with a computer. Specifically, it is the company that got a hold on the domain 13 years ago. At that time we weren’t looking a lot at trademark issues, and so we didn’t get that domain.

This hasn’t been an issue since then because the domain has, for most of its life, just forwarded its traffic on to the parent companies, and Unfortunately, Veber has decided that they want to start using the name “Python” for their server products.

We contacted the owners of repeatedly and tried to discuss the matter with them. They blew us off and responded by filing the community trademark application claiming the exclusive right to use “Python” for software, servers, and web services – everywhere in Europe.

We got legal counsel in the UK and we (the PSF) are opposing the community trademark application, but our own trademark application hasn’t yet matured. Accordingly, we are going with the trademark rights we have developed through using “Python” consistently over the past 20 years.

According to our London counsel, some of the best pieces of evidence we can submit to the European trademark office are official letters from well-known companies “using PYTHON branded software in various member states of the EU” so that we can “obtain independent witness statements from them attesting to the trade origin significance of the PYTHON mark in connection with the software and related goods/services.” We also need evidence of use throughout the EU.

What can you do?

1. Do you work for a company that uses Python? Are in the EU, do you hire in the EU, or do you have an office in the EU? Could you write a letter on company letterhead that we can forward to our EU counsel?

We would want:

just a brief description of how Python is used at your company how your company looks for and recognizes “Python” as only coming from the PSF, and your view that another company using term Python to refer to services, software, and servers would be confusing.

This doesn’t need to be long – just a couple of paragraphs, but we would want any description of how you use Python for software, web hosting, Internet servers, VPNs, design and development of computer hardware or software, hosting websites, renting servers (like Openstack), or backup services. For those who are interested the specific class descriptions are at the bottom of this message. [1][2]

You can send a PDF copy of the letter to

2. Do you have, or know of, anything that was published in the EU and uses “Python” to refer to Python-the-language? Can we get copies, pictures, or scans? This includes:

  • Books
  • Pamphlets
  • Conference programs or talks
  • Job listings
  • Magazines or other publications
  • Prospectuses

You can send a PDF scan of the materials to

3. You can also help protect the Python intellectual property with financial support.

Since the costs of a trademark opposition are in the range of tens of thousands of dollars, we will need to find a way to refinance the legal costs of the opposition.

Please consider donating to the Python Software Foundation at:

or get in touch with me directly.

This is the first time the PSF has to take legal action to protect Python’s intellectual property. Please do consider helping the PSF in any way you can. The threat is real and can potentially harm your business in Europe, especially if you are in the web hosting business and provide Python as part of your hosting plans.

Please let me know if there are any questions that I can answer. If you know someone who might have this information, please feel free to forward this.


Van Lindberg, Chairman
Python Software Foundation

[1] Class 9 – Computer software; Servers for web hosting; VPN [virtual private network] hardware; Internet servers; Internet servers.

[2] Class 42 – Design and development of computer hardware and software; Website hosting services; Hosting computer sites [websites]; Hosting the websites of others; Hosting of websites; Hosting the web sites of others on a computer server for a global computer network; Hosting websites on the Internet; Hosting the web sites of others; Web hosting services; Hosting of digital content, namely, on-line journals and blogs; Application service provider [ASP], namely, hosting computer software applications of others; Website hosting services; Hosting of digital content on the internet; Hosting of web sites; Hosting web sites; Hosting web sites for others; Hosting websites of others; Hosting of internet sites; Hosting the computer sites (web sites) of others; Web site hosting services; Hosting computer sites [web sites]; Hosting web sites of others; Rental of web servers; Servers (rental of web-); Servers (Rental of Web -).

Munich responds to FUD report on LiMux

Limux icon
Munich – fighting the FUD
The City of Munich has responded on its IT blog to a report commissioned from HP by Microsoft alleging that migrating to open source had cost the city millions of Euro more than opting for proprietary software. The following paragraphs are a translation of the relevant blog post.

The City has only had a short summary [of the report] at its disposal, which does not enable a properly well-founded critical analysis of the study. Even in the field of costs, many statements are based on the author’s assumptions or claims or could not be understood due to the lack of detailed information.

The support costs were thus calculated for 12,000 clients from the start of the project in 2003. The actual expenditure here has of course increased over the project period to a current total of 13,000 clients.

The study’s figure of 1,000 IT support workers which are being employed on user support on the LiMux project is also not correct. This figure, which was obviously taken from a presentation by the LiMux project manager, refers to the local authority’s total number of IT staff.

As regards hardware costs, the study postulates the same hardware requirements for Linux “as for the comparable Windows solution”. It thus ignores the experience that Linux clients have lower hardware requirements than Microsoft clients.

In addition, the study does not distinguish between “migration” and regular life cycle management since it counts regular updates of the same operating system as “migrations”.

Finally, the claim that current administrative procedures could not be migrated to Linux is also incorrect. All web-based administrative procedures can be used under LiMux with no conversion expenditure and most procedures which are closely integrated with Microsoft, can also be used on a Linux client via other standard techniques.

The City therefore shares the assessment of Prof. Dr. Helmut Krcmar of Munich Technical University that the study “cannot be termed scientific on the basis of the text submitted”. There is therefore also no reason at all to currect the individual statements.

Boy saves Irish businessman €3,000 by installing Ubuntu

Ubuntu logoFrom France’s Gendarmerie Nationale (news passim) to an Irishman with 6 machines, using free and open source operating systems and software is saving businesses of all sizes money. The Irishman appears in a report in today’s Meath Chronicle of how an 11 year-old boy saved him €3,000.

Sean Mullen’s 3 laptops and 3 desktop computers needed replacing due to age and virus infections; this would cost an average of €700 per machine, including the added software needed for the business. He replaced the first one but did not trade in the computer for €60 as suggested by the retailer.

Fortunately Mr Mullen’s son had heard of 11 year- old Andrew Von Tonder installing the free Ubuntu Linux operating system around the area and told his father, who decided to see the result on the machine he hadn’t traded in.

As Mr Mullen told the Meath Chronicle: “The computer came back two days later. The computer started up in less than a minute in Ubuntu where it used to take up to five minutes in Windows Vista. It had all the software we needed – word processor, spreadsheet and more and it is all legal without licence payments. In the end, we saved around €3,000, which was very welcome”.

Mr Mullen said the work was carried out for free by Andrew and they gave him a present as a ‘thank you’ for his efforts.

Andrew’s father, Andries van Tonder, used to work in IT before becoming disabled and said that Andrew had been learning from him over the past two years.

To us, open source is child’s play and saves companies money; we just can’t think why business is so rigidly tied to legacy proprietary systems. If you’re thinking of migrating to Linux, why not contact us? 🙂

Hat tip: Dan Wood

NAO warns UK needs more skilled cyber-crime fighters

image of screen with magnifying glass & word 'password' highlightedThe BBC website posted an article today highlighting the concerns expressed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) that a lack of skilled workers is hampering the UK’s fight against cyber crime and that it could take up to 2 decades to fill the skills gap.

The internet economy in the UK accounts for more than £120 bn., a larger share of of GDP than any other G20 country. However, the cost of cyber crime in the UK is estimated to be between £18 bn. and £27 bn. a year.

Despite efforts by the law enforcement authorities to intensify their efforts and increase their staff numbers to combat online crime, the NAO warned that the UK faced a current and future cyber security skills gap, with “the current pipeline of graduates and practitioners” unable to meet demand.

Moreover, education officials interviewed by the NAO said it could take “up to 20 years to address the skills gap at all levels of education”. These officials also raised concerns about a lack of promotion of science and technology subjects at school, resulting in a low uptake of university computer science and technology courses by students.

Commenting on the National Audit Office report, Bristol Wireless’ Rich Higgs said: “If the government didn’t treat children with hacking skills in a draconian manner, either banging them up or extraditing them, we would have plenty of security experts”.

What Rich says is quite true. The chief scribe has also met former ‘hackers’ who’ve decided to turn their skills to positive use and have found that Google is their enemy rather than their friend when they canvass for security work.