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Open source, open days

Are you within easy reach of Weybridge in Surrey? If so, you might be interested in attending one or more of the forthcoming open days being organised by Sirius, one of the UK’s major companies of free and open software and services for both business and the public sector.

To quote from Sirius’ Open Days page:

New open source projects are constantly coming into the market. At Sirius, we invest time and energy to review their suitability for enterprise and workloads. As a service to organisations, both in the public and private sector and our customers, we run open days to explore specific business solutions.

The theme of the first open day is Identity Management and the event takes place on Friday 1st June 2012.

Another 2 days are being organised on Data Management and Online Presence respectively, but the dates still have to be confirmed.

Speaking to Sirius on the phone earlier on, the Identity Management day will involve presentations by both Sirius CTO Andrew Savory and CEO Mark Taylor, plus case studies and a barbecue!

For an invitation to the Open Days, please complete the form on Sirius’ Open Days page.

In other news, Sirius is also sponsoring this coming weekend’s Flossie 2012 unconference in London (news passim) and Maz Khan has written a post on Sirius’ reasons for sponsoring Flossie, including the low level representation of women in the IT sector generally.

Council shells out so Hackspace can lay eggs

Connecting Bristol inform us that our friends at Bristol Hackspace will be arranging a workshop to build some Air Quality Eggs which will then be deployed around Bristol. Air Quality Eggs are low-cost environmental sensors capable of sensing NO2, CO2, O3, VOC and radiation.

The workshop will take place in August (the exact date is yet to be arranged) and will be supported by Bristol City Council. The cost is expected to be £40 and potential attendees are urged to register their interest as soon as possible.

Air quality egg image
An air quality egg minus its shell

Read the original Connecting Bristol post.

A brief look at Creative Commons

While the rest of the BW crew were enjoying a sunny weekend, the chief scribe was up with the sun (almost!) last Saturday to attend the Wikimedia UK 2012 Conference and AGM at London’s Science Museum in South Kensington.

One of the great aspects about with Wikimedia community is the commitment to openness and sharing. One aspect of this was a very informative presentation by Joscelyn Upendran on Creative Commons licensing (as used by Wikipedia, its sister projects and, of course, Bristol Wireless*). From another speaker, David Haskiya of Europeana, we also learned about CC0 – “No Rights Reserved”, which can be chosen if you want to release your creations directly into the public domain.

Creative commons non-commercial attribution licence logo
There are Creative Commons licences to suit most needs

Why use CC? It encourages the sharing and reuse of knowledge; this is in stark contrast to the restrictive nature of traditional copyright, which can have a tendency to stifle creativity, particularly as regards derivative works. Want to learn more? Watch the video below.

* As it says on our ‘About us’ page, Bristol Wireless’ content is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence.

Dortmund considers an open source strategy

In the opinion of Christian Nähle, an employee of Dortmund City administration in Germany, Dortmund should prioritise open source software over its proprietary equivalents. According to Joinup, Nähle has written an open source proposal for Dortmund, which is currently being reviewed by the city’s IT department.

The strategy paper’s explanatory statement has also been posted on the Federal Administration Office’s website (German) and makes interesting reading, particularly as regards its linking of open source deployment to fulfilling democratic ideals.

A translation of the explanatory statement is provided below for the benefit of readers with little or no knowledge of German.

Open source software is the basis for software in which software can be exchanged without legal obstacles, meaning software can be exchanged freely. This offers the best general requirements for further software development since it can be worked on and improved not just by one supplier, but by the whole professional world.

For a local authority, breaking away from the proprietary software sector means being able to act in a way that is neutral regarding manufacturers, independent of the market, flexible and cost-effective. Moreover, this is the only possibility of making IT-supported administrative processes comprehensively reproducible and thus satisfy the citizens’ democratic ideal of transparency.

The decision to plan on open source software throughout the administration in the long term offers the opportunity to intensify local authority co-operation since open source software can be exchanged between local authorities without giving rise to additional costs.

The City of Dortmund is being shown in an exemplary manner that local authorities must start to break away from proprietary software and to promote open source software purposefully in order to be able to benefit itself from the long-term inherent benefits of open source software. An open software strategy adapted to the respective organisation is required for this to harness unrealised opportunities.

Read Nähle’s open source strategy (in German, PDF)

Use Windows or risk a fine?

Disturbing news from Slovakia reaches the lab via the FSFE. The east European state recently introduced legislation to help cut red tape by mandating the use of electronic filing of monthly VAT returns by businesses. However, the Slovakian state’s web application failed to observe interoperability guidelines and only works in Internet Explorer on Windows. EURA Slovakia, s.r.o, a local textile importer, thought that state had no right to force it to use specific software and a certain operating system for its business and fulfilled its legal obligations by submitting paper. Now the company faces € 5,600 in fines.

“This situation is absurd. If another public body decides to use an Apple-only solution for its public services, should then everybody buy Apple’s products just to fulfil this legal obligation? How many different products should citizens and companies have to buy just to comply with all the different laws?” asks Martin Husovec, a member of the FSFE Legal team, who is now assisting EURA Slovakia, s.r.o in appealing against the fines in court.

Husovec adds that for the past 2 years, the Slovak tax authorities have also ignored all complaints, saying that the application would eventually be made platform-independent. A new tax application was made available earlier this year. It is written in Java and runs on multiple operating systems, including Linux. However, for VAT companies are still referred to the older tool. “It shows that the government does not take the issue very seriously. They ignore their responsibility,” declares Husovec.

Read the original FSFE article.

More background on the EURA case.

4th May 2012 – International Day Against DRM

Yes, our world these days is littered with three letter acronyms and days. Today’s target is DRM or Digital Rights Management, aka Digital Restrictions Management.

Day Against DRM image
DRM is also known as digital handcuffs

DRM is applied to media by media companies and vendors to restrict their portability and reuse. While DRM has largely been defeated in downloaded music, it is a growing problem in the area of ebooks, where people have had their books restricted so they can’t freely loan, re-sell or donate them, read them without being tracked, or move them to a new device without re-purchasing all of them. They’ve even had their ebooks deleted by companies without their permission; in an ultimate irony, users of Amazon’s Kindle had copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm deleted! It continues to be a major issue in the area of movies and video too.

Find out more at Defective by Design and reading Richard Stallman’s The Right to Read.

Hong Kong is the venue Wikimania 2013

Wikipedia logoA couple of weeks ago, we reported on Bristol’s (ultimately unsuccessful) bid to host the annual Wikimania convention in 2013 (news passim).

James Forrester, Moderator of the Wikimania 2013 Jury, has sent the following email to the Wikimania mailing list announcing the 2013 winning bid as Hong Kong.

On behalf of the Wikimania 2013 selection Jury, I can announce that we have awarded the conference to Hong Kong. Congratulations to the bidding team and to the London team who also did a particularly excellent job.

There were five official bids: Bristol, Naples and Surakarta, as well as the two finalists of Hong Kong and London. The Jury and the bidding teams discussed them in three public IRC meetings in April. We determined that Hong Kong and London were the strongest contenders, and decided to focus on these two as the finalists. After further e-mail enquiries, and considering evaluation by Wikimedia Foundation staff, a final, private meeting was held to reach a final decision.

The Jury was pleased by the high quality in both the final bids, and required over three hours’ discussion to reach the final verdict. We considered each bid according to the criteria, focussing on following factors: Venue, Program, Geo-location & Logistics, Local Opportunities, Accommodations, Team & Chapter, and Budget & Finances. We found consensus that the Hong Kong bid was the stronger, especially
because of their strong advance planning; solid support by the local Wikimedia Chapter, the community, local government, and a partner organisation that is experienced in planning conferences; and their good
combination of venue and accommodation.

The Jury has confidence that the Hong Kong bidding team will pull off a magnificent Wikimania, and we are pleased for our global community to return to Asia once again. With a motivated group of volunteers who have experience in organizing smaller Wikimedia activities, and a partner with experience in organizing larger-scale events, they have found a good mix to create a successful conference. The Jury did also identify some weaker points in each the bids, and will be happy to share those privately with the teams so that the Hong Kong team can use that to their advantage in organizing Wikimania 2013, and the other teams can use the feedback to improve their bids for a future year.

We thank all candidate teams – the process is gruelling and requires a very substantial time investment. They are all to be commended for their submissions.

Congratulations Hong Kong! We in Bristol hope your event is a great success. 🙂

Greece: municipality of Pilea-Hortiatis migrating to LibreOffice

Joinup reports that the Greek municipality of Pilea-Hortiatis, just east of Thessaloniki, is migrating all of its PCs to LibreOffice with the assistance of Greeklug, the Greek Linux User Group. Greeklug explains in a statement (in Greek) published at the end of March that it has completed the migration of 91 PCs from a proprietary office suite, with 45 still to be done.

LibreOffice banner

The group reckons that replacing the previous proprietary office suite with LibreOffice will help the local authority save some €70,000 this year alone.

According to Greeklug Chair Kostas Mousafiris, the primary reason for the switch to LibreOffice was “to escape from the usual IT vendor lock-in. The move to LibreOffice obviously lightens this burden. The move is also relatively easy.”

Mousafiris says that the group discussed the migration at length with politicians and local IT staff. “We convinced them that LibreOffice would meet all their needs, it would ensure the use of open standards with all the benefits of interoperability, safety of the data and guaranteed accessibility in the future. And it would save them significant amounts of money.”

At this rate, will any European local authorities and/or other public sector bodies (apart from those in the UK, of course. Ed.) still be using MS Office in 5 years time?

CiviCRM meetup on 9th May

CiviCRM logoThe chief scribe has received the email below from our friends at CiviCRM. It’s an invitation to the next CiviCRM meetup in Central London next week.

I am emailing to let you know about our upcoming CiviCRM meetup next Wednesday 9th May. We had a great turn out at the last meetup with 3 great presentations on a range of topics. This time we’re going to take a look at:

  • CiviMobile – a new mobile app for CiviCRM;
  • Making CiviCRM webcasts;
  • CiviCRM case studies.

These meetups are a really great way to connect with other CiviCRM users and increase your knowledge and expand your CiviCRM network. If you are an existing CiviCRM user, these events are a good place to ask and answer questions, hear about other people’s experiences, tips and ideas, and meet fellow users. If you are new to CiviCRM, then coming to a meet up can be a great way to find out more about how CiviCRM might benefit you and your organisation.

The event will be held at: Tech Hub, Ground Floor, Sophia House, 76-80 City Road, London, EC1Y 2BJ (map here). The building is right by Old Street tube on City Road, opposite the small Sainsburys. If you are coming by tube, you want to get out at exit 5, walk up City Road, and Sophia House is 2-3 buildings along, on your right. Look out for the yellow Tech Hub signs. It’s free, and there will be drinks and nibbles and time to chat as well as 2-3 great presentations. We start at 6.30pm sharp so please aim to arrive around 6.15pm. We should be finished by 8.30pm.

Please register at so we have an idea of who is coming along.

Hope to see you there,

Katy and the Third Sector Design team

Hungarian government sponsors development of ODF tools

We learn from Joinup that Hungary’s government is investing some €1.23 million in a three-year project to improve applications which use Open Document Format (ODF). The funds are being split between the University of Szeged’s Software Engineering Department and Multiracio, an open source IT specialist developing EuroOffice office applications based on the LibreOffice and OpenOffice productivity suites.

The project aims to assure the quality of the ODF tools, resulting in new ways to collaborate on documents using this open standard file format and improve tools for mobile computing devices that can create and use ODF, explained Kázmér Koleszár, one of the software developers at Multiracio.

“The University of Szeged will do the quality assurance and usability related research and tool development. Multiracio will develop the office application and work on several extensions.”

The university will also work on improving ways to analyse the software source code and come up with ways to visualise and report on the quality of code. Another research topic is a tool to test the usability of the user interface.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to see encouraging stories like the above coming out of the UK public sector instead of the usual run of disappointing or worrying news?

UK Open Standards experts publish joint statement on Government consultation

Over the weeks, we’ve kept an eye of what’s happening in the Cabinet Office’s open standards consultation (news passim) and have noticed too that the usual suspects have been trying to nobble it.

News has just arrived via the Free Software Foundation blog that a joint statement has been issued by a group of UK open standards experts. The statement is as follows:

At a meeting yesterday, hosted by the British Computer Society’s Open Source Specialists Group, We the Undersigned called upon the Government to do the following:

  • Not do anything which will result in the imposition in a stealth tax upon citizens, for example by requiring them to purchase specific products for interacting with online public services;
  • Ensure that anybody and everybody be able to participate in public sector procurement, regardless of their businesses model;
  • Leverage truly open innovative technologies to achieve long term savings.

Commitment to these points is critical if The Government is to achieve its stated aims of a more competitive and diverse market for public contracts, reduction of barriers to participation in public sector IT affecting small and medium size enterprises, and realisation of the potential benefits of its existing Open Data strategy.

We believe that it is important that The Government moves quickly from setting Open Standards policy to practically implementing it, and we look forward to participating in the next steps of this process.


Howard Thomson, Martin Houston, Free and Libre Open Source Software UK,
Sam Tuke, Free Software Foundation Europe,
Graham Taylor, Open Forum Europe,
Gerry Gavigan, Open Source Consortium

If you still wish to respond to the Cabinet Office consultation, you have until 1st May.

Bristol Wikimania 2013 bid fails

Wikipedia logoBristol’s bid to host Wikimania in 2013 (news passim) has been unsuccessful.The following email was posted to the Wikimania mailing list yesterday:

Dear all,

It is my pleasure to announce that the jury has been able to come up with an intermediate result – and I would like to share with you the fact that two finalist bids have been selected. All bids have been examined and discussed at three public IRC meetings and several private conversations, and we have come to the conclusion that we will now focus our attention on the two bids with in our opinion the highest potential: Hong Kong and London (in alphabetical order).

We were blessed this year with a strong field of bids, and I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the bidding teams of Bristol, Naples and Surakarta for their extensive and well worked out bids – but also the effort they put into answering our extensive enquiries. I think all three bids had very good qualities and their strong points and with work could make a wonderful and very competing bid in a future year.

This decision has been made based on the primary evaluation of the bid quality, with a special focus to suitability of the Venue, Accommodation and the reliability and viability of the local team (did we have the feeling they were up for the task). We will not be sharing an extensive reasoning at this point for each bid – but I think we can give feedback after the final decision about the winning bid has been made, in private communication.

So what is next? The two candidates will be reviewed more extensively, we will assess the risks and whether they will actually be able to live up to the promises more thoroughly. We may be needing a few days extra compared to the original timeline, but hopefully not too much.

With kind regards, for the Wikimania 2013 jury

Shame; it would have been great to share a beer with Jimmy Wales, Cory Doctorow et al. 🙂

CiviCRM training coming to Exeter in June

CiviCRM logoA CiviCRM training session will be held in Exeter from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm on Tuesday 12th June at Exeter CVS, King William Street, Exeter, EX4 6PD (map)

This will be comprehensive hands-on training course covering the configuration, administration and every-day use of CiviCRM. The event is aimed at administrators and users in organisations that are either using CiviCRM or interested in evaluating it. It will also be of interest to staff at organisations developing or implementing CiviCRM who need a complete understanding of “out of the box” features and configuration options.

The day’s programme (which is subject to change) will include:

  • Introduction to CiviCRM – what does it do and how can it help your organisation;
  • Installation and configuration – making CiviCRM work for you;
  • Custom data and profiles – extending CiviCRM to meet your data requirements;
  • CiviCRM components – including event, mail, member, contribute, case, report, grant and pledge;
  • Website integration – the whys and hows of making CiviCRM work with Joomla or Drupal;
  • Support and the CiviCRM community – what happens after this training.

More information is available from CiviCRM.

Hat tip: Circle Interactive

Munich’s Linux desktop saves millions and is more robust

Limux iconJoinup reports that figures provided by Munich’s Mayor, Christian Ude, reveal that switching to a Linux-based open source desktop reduces costs and results in fewer calls to help desks, and that replacing the current pool of almost 10,000 open source desktops with a proprietary system would increase costs by some 25%. Moreover, the latter would entail the city not only renewing software licences, but also replacing 7,500 of the current 9,600 Linux desktops so as to meet the Windows’ hardware requirements.

The current Linux desktop deployed in Munich (under the monicker LiMux. Ed.) costs the city €11.7 million, the Mayor writes in a council bulletin (PDF, German) published on 19th March. To offer a proprietary desktop similar to the LiMux desktops would cost at least €15.52 million, Ude concludes. Moreover, that would not include the costs renewing the proprietary software licences, which would add another €2.8 million every 3-4 years.

Ude also points out that the Linux-based PCs are also far less troublesome. Since 2006 the number of malfunctions reported to the helpdesk declined from 70 to 46 per month; over the same period that the number of Linux desktops increased from 1,500 to 9,500.

Munich has been migrating its users from Windows to LiMux for many years (news passim) and the city’s IT department expects the migration to be completed later this year, when 12,000 PCs will be running LiMux.

There you are UK local authorities. Your German colleagues are finding Linux-based desktop systems cheaper and more reliable. What’s more, they also run on less powerful hardware, so you can keep running your kit for longer. Now that you know all this, what’s holding you back from following Munich’s lead?

Answers in the comments below, please.

Bristol bids to host Wikimania in 2013

wikimania bristol 2013 bid logo

Wikimania is an annual international conference for users of the various projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation (e.g. Wikipedia and its sister projects). It includes presentations and discussions include Wikimedia Foundation projects, other wikis, open source software, free knowledge and free content, and the different social and technical aspects which relate to these topics.

It’s been held since 2005 and for next year there’s a bid from Bristol to bring hundreds of Wikipedians and their friends to share knowledge, have a wee hack and experience the delights of our fair city.

The bid process is fairly advanced now and on Saturday 3 members of the Bristol bid team were quizzed by members of the Wikimania jury via IRC, along with 3 other bidding teams, Naples (Italy), Hong Kong and Surakarta (Indonesia).

To support the bid Sam Downie has produced the following video. 🙂

New e-petition

HM Government logoA new e-petition has appeared on the Government’s e-petitions site entitled ‘Migrate all government IT to Linux based systems’ (as it’s in a good cause, we’ll ignore the original petitioner’s woeful lack of a hyphen between Linux and based in the title. Ed. 🙂 )

The body of the petition reads as follows:

Responsible department: Her Majesty’s Treasury

In these austere times it seems that UK government is looking to save money everywhere except in it’s [sic] own “people nuetral” infrastructure. Up to now all savings have come at a cost to the population. However, the vast majority of UK government IT systems are still running on Windows based systems, which come with hefty licensing costs.

Linux operating systems have fully matured and are used by some of the largest institutions and governments in the world. Coming with no licesnsing [sic] costs, following initial migration costs and training costs the savings would be substantial.

We therefore petition the government to undertake a full review with a view to migrating systems to open source systems as soon as possible,

If you think getting Tux into Whitehall is a good idea, sign the petition; signatures are being collected until 30/09/2012.

Hat tip: ratsass

Yesterday’s Evening Post

Yesterday Bristol’s Evening Post, the city’s newspaper of record (really? Ed.), carried the news of Bristol Wireless’ shortlisting for the Santander Social Enterprise Awards (which were being organised locally in conjunction with the Quartet Community Foundation).

We’d originally applied for the award after a report on them was spotted by a keen-eyed Bristol Wireless volunteer on Bristol 24-7, an independent online news site for the city.

Anyway, back to the Post article, which starts:

Seven social enterprises and community organisations in Bristol could win a financial boost to the tune of up to £50,000 after being shortlisted for the Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards.

It then goes on to mention our good selves…

Also shortlisted are Aspire property maintenance services, Bristol Wireless Community Co-operative, FRANK Water, A Clean Sweep and Nature Works Training in South Gloucestershire – provides services for people with learning difficulties and mental health needs.

Read the Evening Post article in full.

As a postscript, your ‘umble scribe would add that the same day that the Post published that article, we received news that our bid had ultimately been unsuccessful. 🙁 However, the effort of applying in the first place was definitely worthwhile. 🙂

North Lancs residents make broadband history

More than 100 North Lancashire residents gathered in a field at Quernmore on Saturday to make internet history. They were all members of the B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) project, a community-led company which is about to install some of the fastest internet connections in the world into homes and businesses in the area. This is being made possible by the residents themselves who are not only investing in the company and paying for fibre cables to be connected to their premises, but are getting out their shovels and digging the trenches the cables will be laid in.

As captured in the video below, the first sod of the first trench was turned on Saturday by the Mayor of Lancaster, Cllr Paul Woodruff; the local MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw, was also present at the sod cutting.

B4RN Chief Executive Barry Forde praised the efforts of local people: “It’s been an emotional day. This has been a long time in planning and it’s fantastic finally to see the day arrive, especially as so many have tried to tell us this couldn’t be done. People here know the big telecomms companies will never get round to providing them with decent internet connectivity, and its in the spirit of how people do things around here that they’ve just got on an done it themselves”.

If the digging goes to schedule, the first houses and businesses should be connected to the network by June. This initiative is only possible because local residents have committed time, labour and money in an area where other companies cannot reach. From then on, people in this part of North Lancashire will have access to internet connections which are 80 times faster than the UK current average – all for a £150 connection fee and £30 a month line rental.

A special offer for Bristolians

TCP/IP is the open framework that makes the internet work. Of that framework, we’d like to draw your attention today to the IP bit. IP stands for Internet Protocol, of course (and not Intellectual Property address, as once written by the Digital Britain Minister in the last government. Ed.), and every device connecting to a network is assigned an IP address when doing so.

a mess of cables
Cat5 cable - the spaghetti that helps hold the internet together

The number of IP addresses available depends on the class of the network – either A, B, or C. Bristol Wireless has a Class A network. This means it has the potential to offer 16,777,216 IP addresses.

This is far more than we can ever envisage using at present. As a result, we’re making a very special offer to every Bristolian (our definition = everyone living within the city’s boundaries. Ed.)
Bristol Wireless announced today that, as a one-off gesture, it would be giving 2 IP addresses to every man, woman and child within the City of Bristol for their exclusive use for internet access.

To take advantage of this very special deal, Contact us for more details please get in touch as soon as you can before it lapses. You won’t regret it. 🙂