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Malta surveys open source use

Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reports that a survey to measure the popularity of open source amongst Maltese residents took place in early December. The poll was organised by MITA, the Maltese government’s Information Technology Agency. It was launched during the most recent meeting of Government of Malta Open Source End User Group, which took place earlier this month.

The survey will assist MITA in promoting the use of free and open source software.

The survey was published in the open source section of the agency’s website, which is intended to increase the awareness of open source software. That is not the same as a governmental policy, MITA adds. “(The section) is not aimed to regulate the adoption of open source within the government, which is governed by the Open Source Software Policy and the related Directive.”

MITA’s site and its work in the Open Source End User Group are intended to raise awareness and foster an understanding of open source software. MITA also hopes this will help to create and assist users and developers of open source within Malta’s public sector.

E17 – there’s no rushing a good thing

Just before Christmas, Slashdot reported that E17 – the latest version of the Enlightenment desktop environment – had just been released. The previous release of Enlightenment took place in 2000 – 12 years ago!

The release announcement is very sparse (apart from a list of the E17 developers):

E17 has been in development for a long time, and there have been a lot of people involved over the years. At this time, the first and final official release of E17, I think it’s important to name names and thank everyone who has been involved over the years.

(The names follow here)

That’s it! Here endeth the release announcement.

Screenshot of E17 - the latest release of the Enlightenment desktop environment
Screenshot of E17 – the latest release of the Enlightenment desktop environment

Your ‘umble scribe has occasionally used Enlightenment and found it to be a very lightweight, nifty desktop environment/window manager, although some of the earlier versions required some strange keystroke and mouse combinations to do stuff. Enlightenment comes as the default desktop environment in Bodhi Linux, a distribution especially made for running on older hardware.

Mansfield funding free wifi project through “crowdfunding”

glassy wifi symbolA project to provide the town centre of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire with free wifi is on track to meet its target fund after setting out to be “crowdfunded”, according to an E-Government Bulletin report.

The “Make Mansfield Your HotSpot” project has been developed by Mansfield Business Improvement District, a partnership between the council and the local business community.

The fundraising is being hosted by Spacehive, an online platform to allow citizens and local organisations to fund neighbourhood development projects. So far £36,363 has been raised for the town centre wifi project. The project has a target goal of £37,715, which it aims to reach by May 2013.

The project’s aim is to provide free wifi for visitors to Mansfield Town to ensure Mansfield remains competitive with neighbouring towns. Alongside free wifi, the project aims to provide signage with Quick Response (QR) codes that visitors can scan and be directed to information about the town, from the history of certain buildings and areas to what events may be happening in the town.

The project will:

  • Install routers on lamp posts to provide wifi;
  • Market the free wifi to visitors, giving access to the Mansfield Town app on Android and iOS smartphones;
  • Give funders a thank you certificate showing their contribution towards the community wifi;
  • Offer advertising space for businesses;
  • Run workshops for visitors to the town on how to access / use the wifi in the town.
image of Mansfield marketplace
Mansfield’s marketplace. Soon with added wifi? Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It is hoped that free wifi will encourage visitors to stay longer in Mansfield and give them access to free information about the town and its history, shopping offers or the latest events. Free wifi could also open up opportunities for independent retailers and market traders.

Basque government unveils open source repository

Basque government coat of armsLast Friday the government of Basque Country, one of Spain’s autonomous regions, unveiled its repository of open source software,, according to a report on Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news website. Making its software solutions publicly available should encourage other public sector organisations to re-use them and collaborate on development.

The site includes a catalogue of third-party open source applications that links to six other open source repositories, including those of Joinup, Cenatic, the Spanish central government and the Catalan regional government. The site lets users search for solutions on any of these sites. Other repositories will also be added to this catalogue in due course, whilst a second category of software applications, focusing on re-use, will be added to the website soon.

A screenshot of the Basque autonomous government's open source repository
A screenshot of the Basque autonomous government’s open source repository

Very advance notice

Via a friend connected with our mates at Bristol Hackspace, we have received very early notice indeed of a date for your diaries and calendars in 2013; there will be a Mini Maker Faire at MShed at Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN (map) on 23rd March (that’s the first Saturday of the Easter school holidays). The Faire will run from 10:00 am till 4:00 pm and there’ll be access on the Friday night for exhibitors to set up.

The call for makers and volunteers will be going out very early in 2013 and a strong local appearance at the Faire is being hoped for. 🙂

Charities: wake up and smell the lock-in

Ever heard of vendor lock-in? Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs.

One of the techniques used to achieve vendor lock-in is offering certain customers special deals, in this case hard-up charities. (In the chief scribe’s opinion what Microsoft does is akin to offering drugs to schoolkids. Ed.)

Bearing this in mind, Bristol Wireless has just received the email below detailing Microsoft’s latest licensing deal for charities.

We are delighted to announce that following detailed discussions, supported by the Cabinet Office, Microsoft has introduced new eligibility criteria for charities accessing discounted Charity (Academic) pricing. The principle criterion is that charity pricing will be offered to all registered charities, with a small number of exclusions for certain groups who are covered by other agreements.

Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong supporter of the voluntary sector through the discounts they offer, their donations programme and a wide range of community affairs activities to support community-based programmes and local projects enabling more people to have better access to technology.

Sir Stuart Etherington, our CEO said “We are delighted that Microsoft continues to endorse the valuable role that charities play in building and supporting our communities and that this new agreement will allow more charities to access the substantial discounts Microsoft offer through their Academic pricing agreement. NCVO has worked in partnership with Microsoft for over 15 years and we value the contribution they make to support our sector.”

In addition to the traditional licensing method for charities, Microsoft is now making subscription licenses available via the Public Sector PSA12 framework agreement, to any charity with 100+ seats and receiving over 50% of funding from government.

Many charities may also be starting to look at cloud solutions and Office 365. We look forward to supporting Microsoft in building the sectors understanding of, and access to, Office 365.

Any NCVO member that isn’t eligible to purchase Academic pricing under the new agreement will be able to continue to do so until the current NCVO Microsoft Select Agreement expires on 30th April 2013. Join now to benefit form the current Microsoft agreement.

Cheap deals to get people hooked: now what kind of trade does that sound like?

However, help is at hand: there are reliable open source alternatives to Microsoft and other proprietary products. For instance, most organisations couldn’t get by without an office productivity package consisting of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and database software. Of course, Microsoft’s Office has the market cornered here, but before locking yourself into Redmond’s offering, why not try one (or both) of the main open source alternatives – LibreOffice and OpenOffice – which can both read and write MS Office formats, are completely free of charge and come with very liberal licensing (meaning you can share the software with anyone you like without risking a visit from the software police. Ed.)?

Readers may like to suggest further free and open source alternatives to proprietary products below.

Whitehall still struggling with openness

Cabinet Office logoCourtesy of a news report today on governmental lists of open source alternatives to proprietary software on EU public sector open source news website Joinup, the chief scribe duly downloaded and read the Open Source Software Options for Government publication (pdf), which forms the basis for a Joinup case study.

A quick glance through the document reveals that at least someone in Whitehall is clued up about what types of software could be used by central and local government. Indeed, it’s a most useful document (typos aside. Ed.) and the various packages are subdivided into seventeen categories, as follows:

  1. Infrastructure and Server;
  2. Data and Databases;
  3. Middleware;
  4. Application Servers;
  5. Application Development and Testing;
  6. Cloud;
  7. Business Applications;
  8. Network;
  9. Web and Web Applications;
  10. Geographic and Mapping;
  11. Security Tools;
  12. Desktop Office;
  13. Specialist Applications;
  14. Education and Library;
  15. Health;
  16. Service Management;
  17. Agile Development and Project Management.

What struck the chief scribe was the footer on every page, i.e. © Crown Copyright

This is an indication that Whitehall, even though it’s prepared to consider the use of software produced under an open licence, is still struggling with the concept of openness and open licensing itself. After all, the document could have been released under HMG’s own Open Government Licence or under Creative Commons or one of many of the other open licences for documentation, such as the GNU Free Documentation License.

If you find Sir Humphrey’s attitude ambivalent, why not email him at and tell him so? 🙂

Visual editor now available for Wikipedia

One of the common complaints of novice editors of Wikipedia is the awkwardness of learning wiki mark-up combined with the lack of a visual (WYSIWYG) editor.

This has now been remedied with the launch of the VisualEditor on the English-language version of Wikipedia (and other sites using MediaWiki, the software upon which Wikipedia runs). However, the editor will initially only be available to experienced users and is turned off by default. However, instructions are provided for enabling the visual editor.

image of VisualEditor adding a link
VisualEditor adding a link

At present VisualEditor works in the most modern versions of the Firefox, Chrome and Safari web browsers and support for Internet Explorer (shudder! Ed.) will be investigated in 2013.

We’re in Bristol24/7

Regular readers will be aware that Bristol Wireless is deeply concerned about the implications of the Government’s proposed Communications Data Bill (news passim). Yesterday the secretary (aka the chief scribe. Ed.) has had the article below posted on local news website on Bristol24/7.

In June of this year, the Government published its draft Communications Data Bill, dubbed a Snoopers’ Charter by opponents. Under this Bill, internet service providers and mobile operators such as Virgin Media, BT and Vodafone would be obliged to log the internet, email, telephone and text message use and retain this data for 12 months.

Furthermore, the draft Bill also seeks to demand communications data from such social media sites as Facebook and Twitter that are based overseas, as well as search engines like Google.

As such, these powers are overly broad, infringe the citizen’s right to privacy and would divert crucial funds away from other areas of policing at a time when front-line policing is generally facing cuts of some 20%. The serious criminals, terrorists and paedophiles, who the Home Office says this Bill targets, would still be able to avoid detection by taking fairly simple measures. By taking such a broad brush approach, the population of the UK would be transformed from a nation of some 60 million citizens to a population of some 60m criminal suspects.

A Joint Committee of MPs and peers was set up to examine the draft Bill. On Tuesday, December 10, the Joint Committee report was published and delivered a damning verdict on the Home Office. It says the Home Office gave “fanciful and misleading” evidence for “sweeping” powers that go beyond what they “need or should”.

Furthermore, the Joint Committee’s report also criticised the projected £1.8 bn. cost of implementing the Bill’s proposals, reckoning that this cost will probably be exceeded “by a considerable margin”. In view of central government’s past record on IT projects, the Committee’s assessment will more than likely prove true.

There is no doubt that current laws to monitor communications are outdated and were not drafted for a digital age where there is more personal data being created than ever before. However, the Communications Data Bill is not the answer. It should not simply be redrafted with minor modifications and resubmitted to Parliament, as the Prime Minister and Home Secretary seem committed to doing, judging from their public statements since publication of the Joint Committee’s damning report.

Even under the present arrangements, 600 public bodies have potential access to citizens’ data and 500,000 surveillance requests were made last year.

The UK needs a full review of surveillance laws before any new laws – such as the Communications Data Bill – are drawn up. The review should consider how pervasive and personal data has become. It should also examine how to bring about proportionate and appropriate powers for the collection, storage and use of our data.

The Home Office has shown itself to be unable to strike an appropriate balance between security and privacy and appears to be wholly ignorant of the technical issues involved with policing online crime, such as the use of encryption. It should take part in a review but must not be allowed to lead it.

The Communications Data Bill is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and, if implemented would place the UK on a par with repressive regimes like Iran and China, which HM Government likes to criticise for their illiberal measures without being able to recognise their own hypocrisy.

I would urge everyone with an interest in their own privacy and liberties as a citizen to lobby their MPs to kill this Bill and request a review of surveillance laws as outlined above.

Steve Woods is secretary of Bristol Wireless – a volunteer-run community co-operative established in 2002 to supply open source ICT to businesses, the community and voluntary sector and the general public.

Linux kernel drops support for 80386 chip

IT news site The Register reports today that Linux kernel overlord Linus Torvalds has announced the Linux kernel no longer supports Intel’s 80386 processors, which were first introduced back in 1985 and pottered along at a top speed of 33 mHZ.

image of Intel i386 chip
Intel i386 chip. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Torvalds announced the demise of Linux on 386 in a post entitled “Merge branch ‘x86-nuke386-for-linus’ of git://git./linux/kernel/git/tip/tip”, stating the following:

This tree removes ancient-386-CPUs support and thus zaps quite a bit of complexity.

Torvalds also added:

Unfortunately there’s a nostalgic cost: your old original 386 DX33 system from early 1991 won’t be able to boot modern Linux kernels anymore. Sniff.

I’m not sentimental. Good riddance.

European Parliament adopts deeply flawed unitary patent

Today the Free Software Federation Europe (FSFE) reports that the European Parliament has adopted a proposal to create a patent with unitary effect for Europe (posts passim). This decision will leave Europe with a patent system that is both deeply flawed and prone to overreach. It also ends democratic control of Europe’s innovation policy.

“We are disappointed that so many MEPs were prepared to throw Europe’s researchers and innovators under the bus just to achieve a deal, any deal”, says FSFE President Karsten Gerloff. “It is natural that after nearly four decades of discussions on a single patent system for Europe, most of those involved simply want the debate to end. But we would have expected more of our elected representatives”.

In adopting the proposal, MEPs chose to disregard intense criticism of the proposal from all sides of the debate, including patent lawyers, independent legal experts, SMEs[3]and civil society groups, who all voiced their concerns to MEPs ahead of the vote. The FSFE recognises the important work done by some MEPs, in particular the Greens/EFA, in informing their parliamentary colleagues about the serious flaws in the unitary patent proposal.

With this decision, the European Parliament has essentially relinquished its power to shape Europe’s innovation policy. That power will instead fall to the European Patent Office, which has a track record of awarding monopoly powers on the widest possible range of subject matter. “We are alarmed to see both legislative and executive power in the hands of a single agency”, says Karsten Gerloff. “The separation of powers is a fundamental principle of democracy. We regret that in today’s vote, many MEPs were prepared to give this up in exchange for an ill-conceived compromise”.

The text adopted today will lead to fragmentation of jurisdiction and of jurisprudence across the European Union. Creating divergence and confusion, the proposal will make the patent system much harder to navigate for SMEs. The European Patent Office will have much greater leeway to continue its practice of granting patents on software. This will harm competition and innovation, and create unnecessary risks for businesses and software developers. It is also likely that the adopted text will lead to more intense patent litigation in Europe, including by patent trolls.

According to the European Parliament’s website, “the international agreement creating a unified patent court will enter into force on 1st January 2014 or after thirteen contracting states ratify it, provided that the UK, France and Germany are among them. The other two acts would apply from 1st January 2014, or from the date when the international agreement enters into force, whichever is the latest. Spain and Italy are currently outside the new regime, but could decide to join in at any time”.

Snooper’s Charter gets thumbs down

The Joint Committee of MPs and Lords today published its report into the draft Communications Data Bill, otherwise dubbed the Snooper’s Charter. The Committee has spent six months scrutinising the proposals, receiving a substantial amount of oral and written evidence. The final report is available from the Joint Committee website.

As predicted yesterday (news passim), the Joint Committee has given the draft Bill the thumbs down, stating that it pays “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should”.

Furthermore, the committee report is extremely critical of the Home Office, calling their figures “fanciful and misleading”.

In addition to these criticisms, the report reckons the overall cost to the taxpayer is likely to exceed the predicted £1.8 bn. “by a considerable margin”.

Finally, both the Joint Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee were critical the lack of consultation by the Home Office. Indeed, some major ISPs and communications providers were not consulted at all and were only sent a copy of the draft Bill after its publication.

In conclusion, both the Joint Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee believe that the Home Office’s proposals need rethinking.

Nevertheless, Home Secretary Theresa May is adamant that the new powers rejected by both committees are needed to help catch terrorists, paedophiles and cyber-criminals.

According to BBC News, a spokesman for the prime minister said the PM accepted the criticism from MPs and peers of the draft Communications Data Bill and would re-write it.

In view of the PM’s views, we are forced to ask the following question: what do you call an organisation that ignores the views of 2 parliamentary committees? Answer: Her Majesty’s Government. 🙂

“I had that there wifi in the cab once!”

London’s classic black cabs will be able to offer free wifi access to passengers in the New Year after Transport for London (TfL) approved a project run by Tech City start-up EyeTease Media to provide in-vehicle connectivity according to technology news website V3.

London black cab
The London black cab – soon to come with wifi as well as an opinionated driver. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The system, called CabWifi, will allow passengers 15 minutes of free wireless access during a journey after they’ve endured a 15 second advertisement. CabWifi works by latching on to 3G and 4G signals and turning the cab into a wifi hotspot.

Cabbies will also be able to access the system with their own login so they can avoid using data connections for their phones when travelling around.

Snooper’s Charter – rumours that Parliament is not impressed

IT news website The Register reports today that the joint parliamentary committee scrutinising the government’s draft Communications Data Bill – also known as the Snooper’s Charter (news passim) – will publish its report tomorrow.

It is believed that most of the committee’s members felt the Home Office had failed to make a convincing case for the scale of requested powers required to monitor British citizens’ activities online. The message likely to come from the joint parliamentary committee will probably be to encourage the police and law enforcement agencies to work out a much simpler scheme that the public can trust, along the lines of “go back to the drawing board and come and talk to us when you have something fresh”.

The cost of the scheme – some £1.8 bn. – will also come in for criticism at a time when police resources are being severely cut.

FSFE: European Parliament must delay vote on unitary patent

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports that the European Parliament is about to vote on a “unitary patent” for Europe in its plenary session on 11th December. The proposal currently on the table is widely acknowledged to have serious legal and practical problems.
In the light of these problems, Free Software Foundation Europe is urging MEPs to delay the vote until a better solution can be worked out.

Under the current proposal, the Parliament would agree to give up its power to shape Europe’s innovation policy. This is a dangerous proposition. Knowledge and innovation are crucial to the future and we cannot simply delegate their management to a technocratic body such as the European Patent Organisation (EPOrg). Europe’s political institutions must have the final say over innovation policy and this is a responsibility which MEPs cannot shirk.

“MEPs must not saddle Europe’s innovators with a rotten compromise. Innovation is a key part of our common future, and it is too important to be gambled away in a hasty decision,” says FSFE President Karsten Gerloff.

The political process resulting in the current proposal has suffered from a marked lack of transparency. The European Parliament still has not published the text of the inter-instutional agreement which it reached with the Council of Ministers on 19th November.

“We are deeply alarmed that such a crucial text may be ram-rodded through Parliament before MEPs and the interested public have had a chance to properly consider the text,” says Gerloff.

The most important practical problems with the current package are:

  • Instead of providing uniformity and transparency for market participants, the current proposal will create divergence and confusion. It will be hard for anyone to obtain clarity on how a patent may be used, or where its powers end.
  • Lack of limitations and exceptions puts Europeans’ freedom to innovate at risk. There is no provision for compulsory licences, posing a grave danger to public welfare. The lack of a research exception puts a millstone of risk around the neck of Europe’s scientists.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe’s economy. If this wrong-headed compromise is accepted, they will bear the brunt of the resulting problems. This is not something that Europe can afford, much less in the midst of an economic crisis.

The most important legal problems with the current package are:

  • The compromise would lead to a fragmentation of the EU’s internal market, as patents would not be uniformly enforceable across all EU member states. Furthermore, there would be four overlapping levels of patents existing side by side. This will inevitably create substantial confusion and business risks for innovators and companies.
  • A proliferation of courts that may handle patent litigation will inevitably lead to a fragmentation of jurisprudence. This will confuse even further anyone who comes into contact with the patent system, increase the costs of litigation and make patent risks even harder to calculate for businesses.
  • The envisioned Unified Patent Court is incompatible with European law. Europe’s policy makers have failed to address the problems highlighted by the European Court of Justice in its Opinion 1/09 of March 2011. Even the Parliament’s own Legal Services department has doubts about the package’s legality.

A package which leaves such significant problems unaddressed should not be adopted by responsible lawmakers. Policy-makers are keen to put this hotly contested issue behind them. But this desire must not lead them to rush into an ill-considered compromise with numerous known problems, in the face of widespread opposition.

FSFE is joining large parts of the innovation community, and the Max-Planck-Institute in particular, in urging the Parliament to reconsider the unitary patent package. Until a better solution can be achieved, MEPs should heed the age-old principle: First, do no harm.

Belgium willing to share open source voting software

One of the great benefits of using free and open source software is the manner in which it can be shared, modified and redeployed and the Belgian federal government certainly seems to have embraced this aspect.

Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reports today that the Belgian government is prepared to share its open source voting computer systems with other public administrations, according to an official at the Ministry of the Interior.

However, any requests for sharing will have to be formally approved by the Ministry and the requests themselves will also have to meet some conditions. The software will only be shared with government organisations responsible for organising elections.

The software will, of course, have to be adapted by other governments to meet their respective election arrangements. “Our software fits the Belgian federal and local election laws. And so the software will have to be adjusted thoroughly to the legislation of other countries, given the typical election regulations in each country,” the Ministry official declared.

Many of Belgium’s administrative regions have been using voting computers for years. Voting machines are used by default in the Brussels region and in many of the Flemish region’s polling stations.

The most recent generation of voting computers is based on Ubuntu Linux, running an election application that is tailored to each election. The voting machines have no hard disk and limited memory. The Ubuntu Linux operating system and lists of candidates are loaded from USB key.

TDF announces release of LibreOffice 3.6.4

ODF logoThe Document Foundation has announced the release of LibreOffice 3.6.4 for Linux and other popular operating systems. LibreOffice is the main office suite that comes bundled with most major Linux distributions.

According to the Foundation, this new release of the free and open source office suite is another step forward in the process of improving the suite’s overall quality and stability for any kind of deployment on personal desktops or inside organisations and companies of any size.

LibreOffice 3.6.4 is available for immediate download from the following link: Extensions to enhance the functionality of LibreOffice are available from the following link:

To coincide with this release The Document Foundation is inviting LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members to support its work with a donation. There is a donation page – with many options including PayPal and credit cards – at to support the TDF’s fundraising campaign for 2013.

NB: This is a re-edited version of a post originally published on the chief scribe’s personal blog.

Accessible Bristol launched

Accessible Bristol logoYesterday evening the chief scribe attended the launch of Accessible Bristol down at Bristol’s City Hall (formerly the Counts Louse). Accessible Bristol’s aim is “bringing together digital and strategic knowledge to champion inclusion in Bristol and the South West”.

We were welcomed to the event Stephen Hilton, the council’s Director of Futures (the man with the best job title in the council, as Stephen himself declared. Ed.), who is visually impaired himself and a man who readily admits that “my phone can see better than I can”.

The first presentation was given by Léonie Watson of Nomensa, a Bristol-based digital agency which specialises in perfecting online user experience, web accessibility and web design, who is herself also visually impaired and has an impressive record of accessibility work, most notably with the W3C. Léonie’s presentation was entitled ‘Why bother with accessibility?’ and she talked passionately about digital inclusion and set accessibility in its historical context, drawing upon such sources as the suffragettes in Edwardian England and the equal rights struggles in 1960s USA. Perhaps the most salient points that came from Léonie’s presentation were that indexing websites for accessibility is common-sense and that making websites accessible improves them for everyone. In questions from the floor afterwards, the problems experienced by screen readers for the visually impaired with PDF files gave rise to lively discussion.

The “death by PowerPoint” baton was then passed to Joshua Marshall from the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital service, who talked about “Government for all” and the work being done on the domain. Joshua made no bones about the amount of work that needs to be done since very few sites currently comply with accessibility standards. However, he stressed that in future content that is not accessible will not be allowed on the domain. At the same time, the work of Joshua’s team has to accommodate the requirements of many central government staff who are still using Internet Explorer 6 (shudder. Ed.)! What impressed me about Joshua’s work was they’re using open source accessibility libraries and all their work is being posted to github. Since the new site went live as the replacement to, Joshua said more than 1,000 small incremental changes had been made; this represents a new way of working for central government, which, like other large organisations, generally waits for a ‘waterfall moment’, implementing all changes in one great deluge.

After a short break, the event moved on to the final speaker of the evening, Tim Taylor of Lloyds Banking Group, whose talk was entitled “Getting accessibility right in a large organisation”, in this case the major bank for whom he works. Tim began by explaining that Lloyds had no consistent approach to accessibility before 2005, but all has changed since then and the bank is a member of the Business Disability Forum, which works to bring together business people, disabled opinion leaders and government to understand what needs to change if disabled people are to be treated fairly so that they can contribute to business success, society and economic growth. Tim also explained how accessibility was implemented for Lloyds Banking Group staff and their vital role within the organisation to assist its understanding of disability matters. It’s fashionable to bash bankers following the financial crisis of recent years, but the audience took Tim to task for their accessibility failures rather than their financial performance. Firstly, a wheelchair user explained how the design of cashpoints (ATMs) made absolutely no concessions to wheelchair users and were thus unusable by them. After this a visually impaired gentlemen highlighted a customer service failure stating, “Please tell your staff blind people don’t have driving licences!” He went on to explain he’d been asked this several times by different banks when trying to open an account and this bit of ignorance had made him decide to take his business elsewhere.

In summary, it was a most useful and enlightening event that was well worth attending. Hopefully this account will help Connecting Bristol’s Kevin O’Malley a flavour of what went on: Kevin had wanted to attend, but circumstances dictated otherwise, as he announced via Twitter:

Stuck on a flood diverted train and missing the fantastic speakers at #accessiblebrstl launch!

The presentations from the event are also available for download here in both PDF and PPTX formats.

Coming soon: Connecting Bristol Stakeholder event

Connecting Bristol logoOur friends at Connecting Bristol have announced that they’ll be holding a stakeholder event at the Watershed in Bristol (map) on Friday, 7th December 2012 from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm.

The event is free to attend and will be chaired by the Watershed’s director, Dick Penny.

Connecting Bristol adds that there are currently lots of major smart and digital initiatives in the pipeline, such as Gigabit Bristol. The stakeholder event will explore some of the progress that has been made since Connecting Bristol was established 5 years ago in 2007, as well as beginning to set the out the direction for the next five.

Connecting Bristol’s objective with this event is a more informed and connected group of stakeholders who share common strategic goals and understand the positioning and relationship of different initiatives and programmes. Furthermore, Connecting Bristol plans to hold a stakeholder session twice a year during the life of these programmes.

Register for the event here (Eventbrite).

Bristol Wireless will be going and we hope to see you there.

Now we are ten

About this time 10 years ago, Bristol Wireless made its initial tentative appearance online.

The very first item we posted online was the holding page (complete with the obligatory typo! Ed.) in the image below.

screenshot of Bristol Wireless' first holding page on the website
Screenshot of Bristol Wireless’ first holding page on the website. Click on the image for the full size version.

The image comes courtesy of’s Wayback Machine, which regularly trawls the web to archive its constantly changing face.

The screenshot above dates from late November 2002, following our registration of the domain earlier in the autumn.