Show Sidebar Log in

FSFE to campaign for fair public IT procurement in Finland

FSFE logoA couple of days ago, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) announced it had started an initiative to promote fair public procurement in Finland. The initiative concentrates on IT-related procurement notices that require specific brands instead of defining the functionalities required by the purchaser. To date FSFE has scrutinised over 300 procurement notices, and of those analysed in more detail, 14 have been found to be in clear violation of the Finnish procurement law. These violating notices explicitly asked for tenders for specific software brands or products and thus discriminate against other brands and manufacturers, thus stifling free competition.

“We want to raise awareness about this kind of misconduct.” says project manager and FSFE Finnish team coordinator Otto Kekäläinen. “The point of [the] procurement law is to increase fair competition and get better software for lower prices, bringing more value for the tax payer’s money. It is imperative that we get 100% of the IT departments in public bodies to follow the law, so free software companies can compete on fair terms”.

According to lawyer Martin von Willebrand, where a specific brand or product is stated in a procurement notice, it must be followed by “or equivalent“, a point on which both the Finnish law and the associated EU directive are quite clear.

Where violations of the the procurement law are detected, FSFE contacts the relevant authorities to raise awareness on procurement law and best practice. Besides highlighting the specific violation, the FSFE’s letter also includes the following recommendations to ensure fair competition:

  1. Define the procurement by functionalities and standards. Do not request specific products or require certain brands. This allows competing vendors to take part.
  2. Long-term procurement, e.g. 4-6 years, so that there is enough time to plan and execute a change of vendor. Buying new systems from the old vendor just because there is not time to migrate is not normally an acceptable excuse.
  3. Base price comparison on the entire life span costs, specifically including exit costs that arise at the end of the product’s life span, when the vendor changes.
  4. Make sure that the procured system is modular and adheres to Open Standards, so that there is always the option to change the vendor for a module or that completely new modules can be taken into use and that they can access the existing data.
  5. Ensure unlimited right to modify the software and have it delivered as source code, so that there is independece from single vendors. The original vendor does not have to waive its copyright.
  6. By favouring Free Software (also knows as “open source”) all above mentioned requirements are easy to fulfil.

Are You Experienced?

Quite unknown to the co-op Bristol Wireless I walked in not knowing what to expect. After my last placement of data input for week I was dreading another week behind a desk. I was surprised to find, that instead of an open spreadsheet, a small cardboard box containing another new toy to cram onto Bristol Wireless’s already brimming shelves.

We began to program the single board computer Raspberry Pi and soon discovered task would take longer than we’d expected. After half an hour, for what should have been a 10 minute job, and a new cable on order, the xkcd comic blue-tact to the wall stands true. However, as the week progresses I learn that, although nothing happens instantly, in the end it’s always running smoothly.

The next day we embark on a “mission”, as Bristol Wireless’s Wiki calls it, and head out of the office and into the car. An hour later we pull in at Secret World, a animal sanctuary in Somerset, to perform a site visit and access the challenges to be faced. We enter a seemingly small cottage only to emerge hours later after being led through a labyrinth of tapering corridors that branch into more even narrower corridors, rooms with deflated old sofas and a tank of African land snails, we battle our way past looming towers of boxes in storerooms, into rehabilitation facilities where baby hedgehogs tumble playfully and infant birds cry in outrage for immediate release, with a grand finale of a Gordian’s knot of rainbow wires drawing horrified gasps from the Bristol Wireless crew. We return with a haul of notes and handful of peacock feathers from the gift shop thrust upon us as thanks.

Fox at Secret World
Fox at Secret World. Image courtesy of Andy Sabel.

During my week at Bristol Wireless, I have experienced all aspects of the co-op. I have learnt the basics after studying UNIX tutorial for beginners when work I could successfully handle was scarce. Sadly my dad has seen it this as a sign to forsake the I.T support, I will have to improve rather quickly.

Kebele on the network

Yesterday Bristol Wireless volunteer Acesabe paid a site visit to Easton’s Kebele Community Coop to connect them to the Bristol Wireless network.

Being the good lad he is, Acesabe kept us informed throughout the process as evidenced by the following sample tweet:

Another wireless link in, our northern most in Easton yet!

He also documented the install by pictures too (as well as doing the all-important technical documentation for future reference! Ed.).

Antenna and Ubiquiti Bullet in situ. Picture courtesy of Acesabe.

From the lab, we’d like to wish Kebele a warm welcome to the Bristol Wireless network and hope it meets your needs better than your previous network provider. 🙂

The great British public sector IT swindle

Cloud storage: is the UK public sector in a fog?It’s rumoured that the UK public sector spends some £20 bn. per year on IT. Is this money well spent? Hardly, if the latest evidence is to be believed. reports on a FoI request by open source storage supplier Nexenta into the storage buying habits of 48 local and central government departments, of which 44 responded to the request.

Public sector departments are spending an average of £236,004 annually on storage, with some departments investing as much as £1.8m.

Each terabyte (TB) of storage is costing the public sector some £2,000, with some departments spending close to £5,000 per TB and buying an average of 101 TB of storage every year. Given that Rackspace is advertising cloud storage at some £70 per TB per annum in the UK, is the UK public sector getting value for money?

The FoI request also revealed that the IT suppliers to the public sector are still pushing legacy storage solutions to their customers and EMC and that only one local council admitted to using open source storage – and that was only for a mere 100 GB (that’s smaller than the chief scribe’s home system back-up disk. Ed.).

Commenting on the results of the FoI request, Nextenta’s CEO Evan Powell stated, “It’s incredible to think just how much of British taxpayers’ money is being wasted on expensive storage solutions due to a combination of vendor lock-in and general apathy. And it is sadly ironic that open source based storage is growing massively faster outside of the UK government despite the government’s proclaimed preference for open solutions.”

Tip of the hat: Mark Taylor

4 steps to avoid the Snooper’s Charter

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has now entered the fray (news passim) over the draft Communications Data Bill (aka the Snooper’s Charter), publishing advice for ordinary users to avoid its worst effects by using free software. The original post helpfully points out that, “Free Software provides several ways with which you can protect your privacy online, regardless of the measures that the Coalition may impose upon you or your telecoms providers”.

The FSFE then goes on to list its 4 steps, as follows:

  • Secure browsing using the HTTPS Everywhere browser plug-in (provided you use a decent browser and not IE. Ed.);
  • Encrypt your instant messaging with XMPP (also known as Jabber);
  • Use a pro-privacy social network such as Diaspora; and
  • Encrypt your emails.

We wholeheartedly recommend you read the original article.

Help the National Trust improve its website

Are you likely to be in Bristol on 26th or 27th June? Are you free for an hour? Would you like to earn yourself £40 for giving up that hour? If so, read on. The National Trust has posted the following on its website.

We’re currently looking at ways to improve our website, and we’re currently looking for people to help out for about an hour on 26 or 27 June in Bristol.

The research would involve you carrying out some tasks on a website and answering a few questions, in return you will be given £40.

If you would like to find out more, just email with your name and phone number, and we will contact you with more details about the session and to ask a few more questions.

Registration opens for CiviCon London 2012

CivivCon 2012, this year’s conference for CiviCRM users, takes place in London on September 19th.

CiviCon brings together users and developers of CiviCRM to find out about the latest developments in CiviCRM and help steer the future of this open source CRM. It is a great opportunity to learn, share, network and get more involved in the community.

Early bird registration has also now opened for the event, with places going for £65.

A big welcome to Neave

This week we’re pleased to have a new face in the lab – Neave Kenny, who’s with us for the week on a work experience placement, as tweeted earlier today by the chief scribe.

Needless to say, we’ve worked out some interesting stuff for Neave to do during her stay and hope she enjoys her time in the lab.

Bristol leads UK in work wifi use

glassy wifi symbolThe chief scribe has been known to sit in his local café writing posts to this blog using the establishment’s wifi whilst waiting for his full English and toast to arrive; and it seems he’s not alone. Quoting a study by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, Bristol 24/7 reports that nearly 1 in 3 Bristolians – 31% to be precise – use wifi for business, working remotely from wifi in cafés, pubs, restaurants and public access points around the city to keep in touch with the office and justify their wages.

This means Bristol’s business wifi use is way ahead of London (23%) and nearly double the national average (17%).

Fifteen per cent have used public WiFi in the last day, with one third logging on in places like cafés, shops, restaurants, pubs and railway stations* within the past week and nearly half (45%) doing so in the last month.

Bristol is also a leading social media city, with six in 10 wifi users (62%) using the city’s high level of connectivity for Twitter and the like.

* = Until Bristol Wireless turned off its 2.4 GHz omni on Twinnell House last year, Stapleton Road and Lawrence Hill stations in East Bristol were the first in Bristol to be covered by wifi. Ed.

Tip of the hat: Connecting Bristol

Open Rights Group: Censorship and Surveillance Campaign Training

ORG logoToday the UK Government introduced its Snooper’s Charter proposals (aka as the draft Communications Data Bill. Ed.).

To coincide with the announcement of this proposed draconian legislation, the Open Rights Group has announced a series of censorship and surveillance campaign sessions.

The ORG is billing these sessions as “training that will equip activists to help stop the Snoopers’ Charter and Mass Internet Blocking. Briefings will be followed by practicing how to talk to your MP and other campaign activities.”

The Open Rights Group needs your help to defeat the latest attacks on internet freedom and to convince MPs that they should oppose new proposals for more surveillance and censorship.

Dates for the sessions are below and following the link will take you to the event’s registration page.

The ORG is running these training sessions that will help you learn about two of the biggest current digital rights issues and practice how to discuss them with your MP. Two big topics will be covered:

  1. The “Snoopers’ Charter” – aka the Communications Data Bill – was announced in the Queen’s speech and is about to be published by the government. The bill will create new powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype will now be open to what may be a large number of government officials. ORG wants to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
  2. Internet censorship. The government is considering whether Internet Service Providers should have to block websites that contain ‘adult content’ by default, with an ‘opt out’ for uncensored access. That would mean an infrastructure of censorship that could, through mistakes, abuse or mission creep, lead to more and more content being blocked for people in the UK. ORG’s research on mobile Internet censorship recently showed how often the wrong websites can be filtered, for example. ORG wants to prevent this further move towards private policing of the internet and free speech, and recommend better ways to help parents manage their children’s Internet access.

You can help stop these proposals and don’t need any previous knowledge of the issues or experience talking with your MP as plenty of help will be given.

The training event will last for around four hours. First you’ll be given a good background briefing on the issues and an overview of the campaigns. Then there’ll be some practical training on how to speak to your MP and other campaigning ideas too.

For those interested in the Bristol event, it’s being held at the Watershed.

Local bus service to have wifi

According to the Post, Bristol’s paper of record (Ahem! Ed.), buses servicing the X1 route between Bristol and Weston Super Mare are to be upgraded with free wifi and leather seats (Kinky. Ed.).

FirstBus: the fares may be eye-watering, but the wifi's free!

To quote the Post:

BUSES which run between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare have been fitted with leather seats and free Wi-Fi to attract more passengers to the service.

Six buses on the X1 route have been given the upgrade at a cost of £150,000.

Read the original Post article.

A message from the Company Secretary

Time is fast approaching for the co-operative’s AGM, so cunningly disguised as the Company Secretary, the chief scribe has just emailed the following notice to members.


The Annual General Meeting of Bristol Wireless for 2012 will be held at 4.00 pm on Friday 29th June 2012 in the Lab, Windmill Hill City Farm, Philip Street, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 4EA. After the AGM we shall adjourn to a nearby place of refreshment.

All members are welcome to attend.

Agenda for AGM

1. Receipt of the accounts and balance sheet and the reports of the Committee and auditor;
2. Appointment of an auditor or the application of the audit exemption (in accordance with rule 54);
3. Election of committee members;
4. Application of profits:
firstly, to a general reserve for the continuation and development of the Co-operative;
secondly, in making payments for social or charitable purposes within the community served by the Co-operative.
5. Amendment to the Rules as follows:

The Registered Office of the Co-operative shall be at:
Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QY

The Registered Office of the Co-operative shall be in England or Wales.

(NB: This will obviate the need to amend the Rules after every change of address.)

We extend a warm welcome to all wishing to attend our AGM. However, voting at the AGM will be restricted to members of the Co-operative (if you wish to join, cross our Treasurer’s palm with the customary £1 fee!).

Steve Woods
Company Secretary
13th June 2012

What if computers could enjoy music?

Bristol University puts on a steady stream of public events and talks throughout the year and next Wednesday 20th June sees the latest of them, when Dr Tijl De Bie of the Department of Engineering Mathematics gives a free public talk entitled “What if computers could enjoy music?” The event starts at 6 pm and will be held at M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1 4RN (map).

When we generic carbon-based humanoid units listen to music, we unconsciously unravel it into its constituent parts: notes, rhythm, chords, repeated melodic motifs. What makes music appealing to us is a delicate balance between such structure and a degree of surprise. We take our ability to enjoy music for granted; however, for a computer the understanding of music audio is a daunting task. Dr De Bie will discuss the main challenges from an artificial intelligence perspective, the extent to which they have already been overcome, and what this means for human music listeners and producers.

Although the event is free, advance booking is required. Some places remain and can be secured either by emailing Amanda Edmondson on cpe-info (at) or visiting the online booking form.

Visit Bristol University’s information page for the event.

It’s Pi day

Now that “Queenie’s little bash” (© Mr Treasurer 😉 ) is over, we Bristol Wireless volunteers are shaking off our torpor and shuffling back to the lab.

When the chief scribe arrived, he was most taken with a hardware donation we’ve had. We’re no strangers to hardware donations: indeed, some of our earliest kit came from the cast-offs of others. However, donations of brand new kit are rare and below is an image of what we received.

Bristol Wireless' latest hardware donation

That’s right! A Raspberry Pi board for us to experiment with (some interesting ideas have been mentioned, but the chief scribe has sworn to secrecy for the time being on pain of being forced to endure hospital food. Ed.)

Anyway, our thanks go out to Martin Cosgrave for his generosity. Cheers!

Belgian Province of Luxembourg moves to open source VoIP

The Belgian Province of Luxembourg (yes, there is such a beast! Ed. ) was for a long time a user of VoIP telephony services based on proprietary technology supplied by Cisco (Call Manager + SCCP protocol), Joinup reports.

A few months ago and following a public tender, the Province decided to rid itself of vendor-lock-in and move instead to open standards (SIP) and open source VoIP telephony. Helped by an open source VoIP integrator which assisted them in the process, the Provincial administration migrated the Call Manager infrastructure to an Asterisk system whilst keeping its existing Cisco phones.

For those who are interested in finding out more information, there is a complete case study available in English, Flemish and French.

A look back at Monmouthpedia

The dust has now settled over the launch of Monmouthpedia on Saturday, when Monmouth was officially launched as the world’s first Wikipedia town (news passim).

Monmouth, an historic town close to the border between England and Wales, is now sell covered in QR codes, enabling visitors with smart phones (e.g. Android, Jesusphone) to scan them and access pertinent information in their own language (if available) from Wikipedia.

The ceramic plaque with QR code pointing to Wikipedia's entry on the River Monnow. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the morning, volunteers from Wikipedia organised an editing workshop in the library, ably assisted by library staff. It was most encouraging to find new enthusiastic editors coming forward to help add to all the hundreds of articles that have already been created and/or improved.

After lunch there was the official signing of the agreement between Monmouthshire County Council and Wikimedia UK, the charitable body that promotes Wikipedia and other wiki projects in the UK, in Monmouth’s historic Shire Hall.

The signing party. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

News of Monmouth’s achievement also travelled right round the world and back again. At the time of writing media coverage has included 212 stories appearing in 33 separate countries. Had this coverage been paid for, it has an advertising value equivalent spend of £2.12m. Before we leave media coverage, it’s worth noting that Fox News has demoted Monmouth (population approx. 9,000) to a village. You can’t win ’em all! 🙂

Before leaving Wales, it’s only fair to give a wee plug to Wicipedia Cymraeg, which now has over 36,000 Welsh language articles and a respectable 2.5 million visitors per month.

Monmouthpedia official launch this Saturday

Ahead of New York, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Beijing and Berlin, the global digital age reaches a new landmark this weekend as Monmouth, Wales officially becomes the world’s first Wikipedia town on 19 May.

Sign of the times. Picture courtesy of Sam Downie

This world-first in information sharing will provide instant multilingual access to Wikipedia pages for smartphone users through QRpedia codes. Wikimedia UK, the charitable body that promotes Wikipedia and other wiki projects in the UK, has been working in partnership over the past 6 months with the town of Monmouth and Monmouthshire County Council on the project, known as Monmouthpedia.

The Monmouthpedia project creates multilingual versions of Wikipedia pages, about every notable place, person, artefact, flora, fauna in the town of Monmouth and makes them instantly accessible to smartphone users in the town through the installation of QRpedia codes in key locations. The clever part is that QRpedia codes display the content in the user’s own language. So, if someone from France whose device is set to work in French scans a code, the Wikipedia content will display in French. The same applies to any language that has related content on Wikipedia.

Roger Bamkin, a Director of Wikimedia UK and co-creator of QRpedia,said: ”We’re delighted that Monmouth is becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town. Both the quality and quantity of the new Monmouth Wikipedia content is outstanding, reflecting the rich cultural, historical and natural heritage of the town. At last foreign visitors cannot only read information in their own language, but they can edit it too.”

The project has galvanised the local community of residents, businesses and volunteers who have teamed up with the Wikipedia community to create hundreds of new articles about Monmouth in 25 different languages, as well as improving hundreds of others and according to Wikimedia UK, helps to make this a truly global project as well as a very local one. With the focus on collaboration, many of those contributors taking part have never been to Monmouth, or even the UK. For instance, one Russian Wikipedian has so far turned out over 200 articles on the town in Russian.

Becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town has attracted numerous benefits for Monmouth, including a boost to both local tourism and business alike (one of which might just mean fewer dead tree tourism leaflets printed. Ed.).

Finally, the whole town has free wifi coverage. Well done Monmouth! 🙂