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Bristol University wins special award

We learned today from Bristol247’s news wire that Bristol University has won a special award for its efforts to ‘bring knowledge to all’ through its collaboration with Wikimedia UK, the UK charity that supports the work of Wikipedia and its sister projects.

The University second in the Educational Institution of the Year category in recognition of its being the first institution to host its own Wikimedia Outreach Ambassador, a post which explored how Wikimedia UK can work with universities to promote innovative education and inform the public about research.

In addition, due to a poor ratio of male to female editors, currently 87:13, the University also hosted a Wikimedia vs Girl Geek Dinners event (news passim) to generate more interest among women who might like to get involved in editing Wikipedia, currently the fifth most visited website in the world.

Read the full story on the Bristol University website.

Geo Networks and B4RN bring world class broadband to rural UK

Today Geo Networks Ltd (“Geo”), a leading fibre network provider, announced a ground-breaking project with Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN, pronounced barn), a not-for-profit, community-led organisation. Geo will support B4RN in delivering world class internet services to rural areas, such as Lancashire’s the Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley. Geo will provide vital dark fibre which will link B4RN’s local distribution network to a national peering centre at Manchester’s Telecity, enabling superfast internet speeds of 1 Gigabit for homes and businesses in the Lancashire region (now, could someone remind me just how fast BT’s ‘superfast’ broadband is alleged to be? Ed. 😉 ).

B4RN was created to bring superfast broadband to the deepest rural parts of the UK; specifically the last 10% – the areas unable to benefit from current Government broadband schemes. With the first phase of the roll out scheduled for the beginning of August this year, this project will eventually enable 2,500 properties, across 350 square km of Lancashire to access broadband at speeds which are faster than most commercial ISPs can offer anywhere in the UK. Geo’s fibre link to Telecity ensures high capacity and high availability. It removes the bottlenecks traditionally associated with shared service offerings to guarantee speed and efficiency of internet services to B4RN’s local distribution network.

So far B4RN has not received any Government funding and the money for this £1.86 million project is being raised by the local community who have bought shares in the organisation or pledged support. The project currently has around half of the funding required to complete the planned roll-out. Furthermore, the ‘last mile’ is being delivered via trenches dug by the locals themselves. As a testament to the ingenuity of the project, B4RN was recognised by the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), when it was selected as the latest ‘Internet Hero’ of the year.

2 days left to apply for SOCIS

At 11 am UTC on 27th July the shutters come down on registrations for the European Space Agency’s Summer of Code in Space 2012 (SOCIS 2012).

ESA logoSOCIS aims at offering student developers stipends to write code for various space-related open source software projects. Through SOCIS, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from participating projects, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development scenarios, whilst participating projects are able to identify and bring in new developers more easily.

This is the second time SOCIS has been held and the programme is designed with the following objectives in mind:

  • to raise the awareness of open source projects related to space within the open source programming community, especially among students;
  • to raise awareness of ESA within the open-source community;
  • to improve existing space-related open-source software.

SOCIS’ organisers also point out that the event is in no way connected with the Summer of Code run each year by a well-known search engine.

To learn more about SOCIS, check out the timeline or visit the documentation centre.

Hat tip: Joinup

CiviCon London 2012 – a reminder and an update

We’ve already blogged about registration opening for CiviCon London 2012 – the forthcoming conference for users and developers of CiviCRM (news passim), the open source customer relationship management system (as used by Bristol Wireless. Ed.).

Our old mate Sean Kenny recently blogged about it too, publicising it via Tiwtter earlier today.

Sean’s blog post referred to in the tweet is reproduced below.

Here in the UK we’re busying ourselves with organising our second CiviCRM conference, at Westminster Hub on the 19th September. You can read lots more about it here –, and book early to benefit from the Early bird discounts now available!

CiviCon is the annual CiviCRM event bringing together the people who develop, design, implement, administer, and use CiviCRM.

We’ve already recruited many great speakers, developed breakout sessions and panels highlighting real-world examples of nonprofits growing and sustaining relationships using CiviCRM. Plus we’ve booked a great venue in the heart of London, and begun to promote the event to everybody we think it will be useful to

We’re having weekly meetings on IRC to continue developing the most interesting and enjoyable conference held to date, and are still looking for more sponsors, sessions and ideas from the community to engage with on the day – after all it’s your conference.

We’re also looking to all our users and supporters to help us promote the event either through Twitter or Linked in ( or whatever media you prefer. Need help with that? Comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Either ignore Sean’s last 2 sentences, or comment below and we’ll pass it on to him. 🙂

Update 26/07/12: Circle Interactive, for whom Sean works, have also blogged today about their involvement with CiviCon London 2012.

First Great Western to launch free wifi on Cotswolds services

Train operator First Great Western (shouldn’t that be “alleged” train operator? Ed.) has announced that it will be trialling free wifi on trains running between London Paddington and the Cotswolds.

The wifi will be installed on five Class 180 trains as part of a series of reliability and comfort modifications.

FGW Class 180 train
Soon with added wifi: a Class 180 train set in First Great Western livery. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FGW’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood said the company had been looking for an opportunity to introduce the technology for some time: “The refresh [sic] of these trains has given us the opportunity to address modern work and entertainment needs. I am delighted that within the year customers will be able to read their emails, browse the web, or simply catch friends while on the move.

“As well as reliability improvements each of the trains has been extensively refurbished, allowing us to include the technology required to offer wifi free of charge to passengers.”

Hat tip: Andy Mabbett

Finnish city of Tampere to pilot OpenOffice

Unlike their colleagues in the city of Helsinki’s IT department, who think open source office suites cost too much (news passim), the Finnish city of Tampere is to trail the free and open source OpenOffice productivity suite alongside its regular proprietary suite (probably the one with the annoying paperclip. Ed.), Joinup reports.

The pilot follows a request made by the city council’s Green Party a year ago.

In addition to trialling OpenOffice, will also have a choice between using the Mozilla Firefox or that dreadful piece of junk from Redmond that has ignored web standards for years. 😉

Copies of OpenOffice suite have already been made available to all staff on the council’s intranet. Tampere’s civil servants can download the suite, complete with instructions on how to install and use the software at home (that’s the spirit! Ed.).

However, the city’s IT department is still sounding notes of caution: “In addition to licence fees, one must consider indirect costs of procurement, in particular with regard to interoperability with other IT environments as well as the competencies needed in purchase and maintenance. The source code’s transparency is not in itself a guarantee of interoperability and easy connectivity to other software. Open software interfaces and standards are needed as well.”

Contribute to LTSPedia

We’ve been long-term users of Linux LTSP thin client systems for running both our workstations in the lab and our mobile event ICT and public access suites. Moreover, following a tweet earlier today, we’ve been contacted just now by the LTSP developers to see if we can contribute to LTSPedia, the new LTSP wiki, as follows:

If you also deploy LTSP suites, perhaps you could consider contributing too.

And finally, whenever we mention LTSP, we also like to point out that LTSP is a registered trademark of, LLC

English Wikipedia now over 4 million articles

Wikipedia logoIt’s just been announced by Wikimedia UK, the UK charity that supports the work of Wikipedia, that the English language version of Wikipedia has today passed through the barrier of 4 million articles:

So, if you’ve ever helped edit Wikipedia articles, give yourself a pat on the back.

Friday fun

There’s been a lull in carrying the standard for open source this Friday afternoon and our volunteers are indulging in some recreation, as you can see below:

Table tennis fever breaks out in the lab. Picture courtesy of Acesabe

Normal service will be resumed on Monday…. honest! 🙂

€21 mn. for a free office suite; is someone being economical with the truth?

According to the IT department city of Helsinki in Finland, migrating to an open source office suite like OpenOffice or LibreOffice will cost the city council some €21 mn., according to a news piece carried by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

Back on 10th of April 2012, FSFE filed a Freedom of Information request, asking the city council how it had arrived at surprisingly high cost estimates for running OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) on its workstations. The city council has now rejected this request and has stated that it will not release any details about the calculations.

Councillor Johanna Sumuvuori has been urging greater use of free software by the city council since 2010. Together with 50 out of 85 members of Helsinki’s city council, she is now urging the city to at least provide users with up-to-date LibreOffice installs alongside MS Office.

During 2011, the council ran a pilot project featuring OpenOffice as a secondary office suite on all 21,000 council workstations and as the only office suite on 600 laptops provided to city trustees. After the pilot ended in December 2011, a council report claimed that the cost of using OpenOffice/LibreOffice would cost 70% more than the currently used MS Office suite.

After the trial, FSFE highlighted a series of shortcomings in both the pilot and the report and has now called the city’s claims “unrealistic”.

We agree.

Free software and open data: Italy’s Puglia region says yes to both reports (in Italian) that the Puglia region has passed Italy’s first regional law that combines free software with open data.

On Wednesday this week all 48 members of the regional council voted in favour of a new law promoting the use of free software and granting citizens access to all the information and services provided electronically by public bodies.

As regards free software, the following aspects deserve highlighting:

  • use of free software is likely to result in a 15-20% costs saving;
  • choice: Puglia is choosing free software on account of its ease of improvement and adaptation;
  • greater involvement and greater control of choices made.

The fundamental thinking behind the legislation is that all citizens are entitled today to see what’s behind a piece of software, how it works, to be aware the data and the regional administration’s activities.

Puglia also aims to involve the region’s universities, businesses and citizens in helping to overcome barriers to the introduction of e-government services.

Joinup also has a brief report in English on this story.

Linux was central to discovery of Higgs boson

Scientific Linux logoAfter the leap second problems reported earlier this week (news passim), Techworld features some more positive news – that Linux was central to the discovery of the Higgs boson by CERN.

Techworld quotes a post by a Reddit user called d3pd, which we reproduce below.

I don’t see any CERN related things here, so I want to mention how Linux (specifically, Scientific Linux and Ubuntu) had a vital role in the discovery of the new boson at CERN. We use it every day in our analyses, together with hosts of open software, such as ROOT, and it plays a major role in the running of our networks of computers (in the grid etc.) used for the intensive work in our calculations.

Yesterday’s extremely important discovery has given us new information about how reality works at a very fundamental level and this is one physicist throwing Linux some love.

In the ensuing discussion, d3pd readily admits that, “In terms of data analysis, Windows could be used in principle”, but goes on to point out that Linux is ubiquitous in high performance computing environments (such as CERN. Ed.).

Linux is used because it is most appropriate for the job. Linux is ubiquitous in HPC and we use a lot of computing power in LHC physics, so the arguments for the use of Linux in HPC are very similar to the arguments for the use of Linux in LHC physics analyses. Naturally, it’s important to have an operating system that is free, open source and reliable (Scientific Linux is basically Red Hat Linux), but here’s a quotation from the Scientific Linux website that should give some idea of why Scientific Linux is needed:

“Our main goal for the base distribution is to have everything compatible with Enterprise, with only a few minor additions or changes. Examples of items that were added are Alpine, and OpenAFS.

Our secondary goal is to allow easy customization for a site, without disturbing the Scientific Linux base. The various labs are able to add their own modifications to their own site areas. By the magic of scripts, and the anaconda installer, each site is to be able to create their own distributions with minimal effort. Or, if a user wishes, they can simply install the base SL release.”

I work primarily in physics, not in computing, so I doubt that I am able to argue very competently for Linux over something such as BSD. The fact is that Linux was the operating system used in the overwhelming majority of the analyses contributing to the discovery, so, in that sense I think I am justified in claiming that Linux played a vital role in the discovery.

FSFE seeks 2 interns

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has two internship positions available from August 2012. FSFE is looking for bright, motivated people who want to make a real difference for a free information society. Applications would be welcomed from those with a background in politics, law, computer science or other fields.

The internships are for between four and twelve exciting months. Further details about the internships are available from FSFE. Unlike some internships these at the FSFE are actually paid at a rate of €400 per month.

We’ve been working somewhere secret

Regular readers will recall that we paid a site visit to Somerset wildlife sanctuary Secret World a couple of weeks ago (news passim) to do a survey for some networking they wanted doing.

Bristol Wireless’ Rich and Acesabe paid a return visit earlier today to carry out the actual work. It’s worth mentioning here that Rich had spent the previous 2 days assembling some of the hardware ready for deployment on site.

Wifi hardware installed at Secret World. Picture courtesy of Acesabe
Wifi hardware installed at Secret World. Picture courtesy of Acesabe

The lads have also managed to find time to tell Twitter (and hence the world) about the outcome of their work, as follows:

We survived the leap second change

The BBC is reporting that the leap second change and poor weather on both sides of the Atlantic last weekend caused chaos, knocking out the likes of Reddit, Foursquare and Amazon Web Services‘ cloud computing servers.

Besides, internet and IT giants, the bug also affected many other businesses, such as Quantas, whose check-in system crashed.

The cause of the failure was apparently traced to the Linux kernel, where a leap second triggered by the NTP subsystem results in a deadlock situation. The problem seemed to affect all kernel versions from 2.6.26 up to and including 3.3, according to The H Online.

At Bristol Wireless, the leap second (and weather) treated us more benignly, as we announced yesterday via Twitter.

What has the EU ever done for us? Released a DNS server as open source!

We learn from Joinup that Yadifa, the DNS server developed to administer the .eu top level domain (TLD), has been released as open source by Eurid, the not-for-profit organisation which manages the .eu domain registry.

Eurid uses Yadifa alongside Bind, one of two other commonly used open source DNS systems.

Yafida was published officially on 28th June 2012 at a meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) taking place in Prague in the Czech Republic.

Explaining the decision, a Eurid spokesman stated: “Both NSD and Bind have their strengths and flaws. We added Yadifa to strengthen our infrastructure”. Yadifa can handle more queries, loads DNS information faster and has a smaller memory footprint than BIND or NSD.

“It was simply the most practical to add our own [DNS server]”, says Peter Janssen, chief technical officer at Eurid. “This is software for a very specific niche: TLD registries must be able to respond to hundreds of thousands of requests per second.”

Yadifa is published using the BSD 3-clause licence, whilst the ‘.eu’ TLD itself was created in 2000 following a decision by the European Council at their Lisbon meeting.

Update, 01/07/12: on 1st July, the same day that this article was posted, mobile data roaming charges were also capped throughout the EU, with the maximum price set at €0.29 per minute from 1 July, dropping to €0.24 later in 2012 and €0.19 in 2014.

ForgeRock recruiting in Bristol

ForgeRock corporate logoOur friends at Bristol 24/7 recently reported that open source software supplier ForgeRock was moving its UK headquarters to Bristol’s historic Queen Square. Even more recently, Connecting Bristol alerted us that ForgeRock is recruiting staff for its Bristol office. Connecting Bristol’s post also indicates that successful candidates for ForgeRock’s jobs in Bristol will also have the chance to work in the company’s international offices in the USA, Canada, France and Norway.

Prospective employees for the Bristol Office may like to consult ForgeRock’s latest situations vacant.

Wikimedia UK seeks developer

Wikimedia UK logoWikimedia UK, the British charity that promotes and supports the work of Wikipedia, its sister projects, and other open educational resources in the UK, is now looking for a Developer to join its growing staff team at its central London offices. This role will involve contributing to the development of MediaWiki (the software upon which Wikipedia runs. Ed.), developing and supporting fundraising and event organisation systems, and supporting the office and online software and hardware infrastructure.

Applications will only be accepted by email; for an application form, prospective applicants should contact jon.davies (at)

The deadline for applications is 5.00 pm on Wednesday 1st August and interviews for the post will be held on 9th August.

For more details, please see Wikimedia UK.

Does HM Government know the difference between open source and open data?

Clearly not, if the following exchange in the House of Lords between Lord Rennard and Baroness Verma is accurately reported.

First the question by LibDem Lord Rennard:

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House the Government’s policies in relation to the development of the computer code or software they pay for and whether it should be made more freely available for others to use and extend? Does she accept that allowing this could sometimes prevent the public sector wasting money by paying more than once to develop the same software and that it would also be incredibly helpful to the private and voluntary sectors?

Next the answer from Conservative Chief Whip in the Lords, Baroness Verma:

The noble Lord is absolutely right to raise that point. As part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last year government departments agreed to release a substantial package of data including material relating to many of the major departments. Most people will also be able to access data rather freely through our Open Data Institute, which we hope to have fully launched by September.

That’s right: ask a question about open source and get an answer about open data! There are times when you couldn’t make this stuff up… 😀

Hat tip: Gerry Gavigan