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Open source is of better quality than proprietary software

The H-Online reports that Coverity’s latest Coverity Scan Open Source Report has found that the quality of open source code is equal to, or even better than that of proprietary software.

All told, Coverity analysed over 37 million lines of code from 45 of the most active open source projects of 2011 and also examined 3 open source projects in depth: Linux 2.6, PHP 5.3 and PostgreSQL 9.1. Coverity’s survey reached the following key findings from these analyses:

  • Open source projects that build development testing into their process reap the benefits of continued quality improvement over time.
  • Open source projects of all sizes can successfully adopt development testing, but quality must be measured as a function of codebase size and developer community.

Get the latest Coverity Scan Open Source Report (registration required).

Wikimedia UK Annual Conference and AGM announced

Wikimedia UK logoEarlier this week, the chief scribe received a cunning invitation by email to attend the Annual Conference and AGM of Wikimedia UK, the local UK chapter that supports the work of Wikipedia, the world’s largest open source project. This year, the date will be 12th May and the venue London’s Science Museum.

To quote from my inbox:

The conference will incorporate both presentations and talks about Wikipedia/Wikimedia, as well as Wikimedia UK’s Annual General Meeting. The event is still in planning stages, and the final agenda is still to be confirmed – however, the date and place have been decided, so please leave room in your diaries!

For further details and/or to express an interest in the event, see the dedicated 2012 conference page. As usual, visitors to the page are invited to add their details if they’re thinking of attending and the agenda for the conference will probably change too as the date of the event gets closer.

Bristol BCS Spring School

BCS logoThe Bristol Branch of the BCS is holding a comprehensive series of talks during March on Cloud Computing (aka ‘Fog Computing’ amongst cynics. Ed. 😉 ). The talks will be held at the City of Bristol College in the centre of Bristol. To attend, you’ll have to register and pay.

To quote from Bristol BCS:

Mon 5 March
An Introduction to the Cloud & The Future is in the clouds
To start with Ian Fish will look at risk management considerations and an overview of the security considerations associated with cloud computing – in particular:

Availability of data and business functionality
Protecting data from unauthorised access
Handling security incidents

During his talk, James will be discussing the journey of the Cloud; where it began, and more importantly, where it is going.
Speakers: Ian Fish and James Cook

Mon 12 March
Running Applications in the Cloud

Software as a Service (SaaS) applications have unique design challenges that are becoming easier to overcome thanks to cloud hosting and modern development practices.

Speakers: Michael Corbett and Ben Halstead

Mon 19 March
The most common legal and technical mistakes made in Cloud Computing
Assuming that Cloud will reduce costs, increase scalability and make businesses more Agile, the talk will outline the most common mistakes (both legal and technical) that people make in relation to cloud computing and will suggest pragmatic and practical ways of avoiding those pitfalls.

Speakers: Jeremy Holt of Clark Holt Commercial Solicitors. Justin Pirie from Mimecast

Mon 26 March
What’s different about ‘cloud forensics’

A great deal is being said about “cloud forensics”, but one has to ask how this is different from “computer centre forensics”, a subject which attracts no hype, and just happens.

Speakers: James Davenport, and TBD

Costs for delegates: (Inclusive of VAT)

  • £40 for the 4 lectures for BCS members and students
  • £60 for the 4 lectures for non-BCS members
  • £15 per lecture for BCS members
  • £25 per lecture for non-BCS members

For full details see Bristol BCS site.

Hat tip: Bristol Girl Geek Dinners

Rotterdam mental health provider implements 290 user LTSP suite

EZPress (Dutch) and Joinup report that at the end of last year Rotterdam mental health provider Riagg Rijnmond replaced its ageing proprietary desktop systems with a 290 user LTSP thin client system based on Xubuntu (that’s Ubuntu coupled with the XFCE window manager. Ed.). Riagg Rijnmond was previously using a Citrix-based thin client system, but wanted to reduce its software and licensing costs considerably.

The organisation uses business applications that are fully web-enabled, so that they run without problems on the new system. Moreover, Riagg Rijnmond has also switched at the same time from the horrendously expensive MS Office to gthe free and open source LibreOffice office suite.

The roll-out was extremely well prepared and only took 2 weeks to implement.

The new open source desktop is easy to use, fast and much cheaper. Riagg Rijnmond’s financial controller says: “Now all we need is for the central government to stop sending and demanding proprietary document formats.”

Greece: open source computer lab donated to children’s centre

Greeklug logoGreeklug, the Greek free software advocacy group, has donated a free and open source software computer lab to a children’s shelter in the village of Filyro, north of Thessaloniki, Joinup reports. Apart from providing installation and hardware, the group is also organising training courses for the children.

“We contacted the orphanage, offering our expertise, our time and efforts”, comments Greeklug vice-president Kostas Mousafiris. Greeklug members donated some of the hardware, including 7 PCs, one server, a laptop, network cables and other peripherals.

Most of the PCs and the server are running Ubuntu. One PC is is running the Debian and Ubuntu-based gNewSense distribution.

Greeklug also implemented Squid as a proxy server and configured Dansguardian to filter unwanted web content, as well as translating some of the software into Greek. The group is making these translations publicly available.

In addition, one of the group members, primary school teacher Yannis Kaskamanidis, has offered to help the children become familiar with the new set-up.

Finally, Greeklug recently started to work on a second, comparable computer lab. It will be built for a primary school in the Thessaloniki suburb of Pylaia

Coming soon – Bath Digital Festival

12 miles down the road from Bristol, the first ever Bath Digital Festival is taking place at various venues around the city next month from 15th to 25th.

Bath Digital Festival brings together an array of exciting events that will allow people to explore Bath’s thriving digital scene and get involved in a variety of interesting projects.

Bath has an active and growing digital sector, having attracted a large number of cutting-edge enterprises who’ve made the city their home. Along with the leading research being carried out locally at the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, the city is fast becoming a hub for digital technologies in the South West.

As such, the Festival will include a variety of events aimed at opening up the digital scene to the general public, from competitions for local school children to city-wide events people can get a taste for all things digital, whether that’s having a go at coding, taking part in technology workshops, enjoying digital performances or just seeing some demonstrations.

For more information, visit Bath Digital Festival.

Walmart Brazil – the best place to buy a Linux box online?

One the frequent criticisms made by lovers of free and open source operating systems is the great difficulty of buying hardware either with Linux pre-installed or that doesn’t involve paying the ‘Microsoft Tax‘ (i.e. a common complaint from those who want to purchase a computer without a copy of Windows pre-installed and without paying extra for the licence either so that another operating system can be used).

There are 2 ways around this: firstly, spend ages looking for a supplier who sells hardware with Linux pre-installed and; secondly spend ages looking for a supplier prepared to sell you a ‘naked’ machine, i.e. hardware sold without an operating system. In the UK, you can buy a Linux box directly from a specialist supplier such as the Linux Emporium and get a naked system from a volume supplier like Novatech. Dell did start selling Ubuntu machines a couple of years ago, although this now appears to have petered out (news passim).

News has arrived at the lab today that consumers in Brazil are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying Linux boxen online: Walmart Brazil has a range of no fewer than 179 machines available with Linux pre-installed – that’s 12 pages full if one filters their product range by operating system.

A screenshot of Walmart Brazil's Linux computers range. Click on image for full-sized version

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has dipped its toe in the open source pond: in 2007 Walmart in the USA was selling Linux machines for $200.

Check on the current availability of Linux hardware via Walmart Brazil.

Hat tip: Roy Schestowitz

Bristol Dorkbot next Tuesday

After this week’s Botlab AGM (news passim), this coming Tuesday sees the celebration of February’s Dorkbot meeting.

According to the Bristol Dorkbot site, all are welcome to come along whether that’s to say hello or bring along any project you would like to show and tell.

Dorkbot is held at the Pervasive Media Studio’s new location in the Watershed.

WindowMaker desktop manager development resumes

When the chief scribe first starting using Linux regularly some years ago, he ventured slightly further than the usual Gnome and KDE desktops, occasionally getting to grips with the slightly more esoteric WindowMaker window manager.

An earlier version of the WindowMaker desktop manager. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Slashdot now reports that a new team of developers has recently resumed development of WindowMaker. The new development team has added many new features, including improved support for the freedesktop standard menu layout and Mac OS X style application and window switching from the keyboard. The team’s work has now culminated in a new release, 0.95.2, following hard on the heels of the release of version 0.95.1; these are the project’s first releases since 2006. Keep up the good work; it’s great to see you back! 🙂

It’s that day of the year again, so show your love for free software

It’s February 14th and all over the world, swains are getting knock-kneed and tongue-tied as they profess their love to the objects of their desire (OK, it’s Valentine’s Day, you long-winded beggar. Now get on with it! Ed.).

Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s just say we’re once again supporting the Free Software Foundation Europe‘s “I Love Free Software Day“.

I love free software banner

The FSFE’s online campaign aims at rising awareness to Free Software and the passionate, hard-working people behind it. Show them that you appreciate their work – it could make all the difference!

Of course, there are many ways of declaring one’s love. Here are just some ideas about how you can go public and proclaim your love to Free Software.

  • E-Mail/Letters: Send active Free Software supporters a message thanking them for their work. Do not underestimate the effects of such a message. As many Free Software developers work hard for their projects without earning money, a big “thank you” / “love you” is like good fuel for their further encouragement.
  • Microblog: Especially on Valentine’s Day, microblog about how you love Free Software and use the Hashtag #ilovefs. Encourage your friends to do it as well; let us try to push our message in a high ranking on Twitter trends and hashtag timelines in identi.ca and other blogging systems.
  • Blog: If you are a Blogger, blog about the “I love Free Software” – Day and the idea behind it. Get people attracted by the idea of Free Software.
  • Banners: FSFE has set up a page showing different banners supporting the day and that are free to use.

Once again, Bristol Wireless would like to take this opportunity to thank all involved in Free Software from rms down and pledge you our undying love (WTF? Ed.). We wouldn’t exist without your inspiration and hard work.

Bristol Botlab AGM this Thursday at BV Studios

The item below was posted on the Dorkbot Bristol site a couple of days ago.

Dorkbot Bristol and Bristol Hackspace share may links. Support from ‘BotLab’ the company that runs Bristol Hackspace and made the ‘Draw’ project possible for Dorkbot is one of them.

Come along to the BotLab AGM on Thursday 16th Feb to find out more about what BotLab does and what it can do for the creative technology community in Bristol. Best of all you can help shape it. A new cooperative constitution will be adopted at the meeting. You can become a voting member at the meeting to both stand and vote for a new board of directors for the company.

The AGM will be held in the Hackspace at BV Studios in Bedminster, doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

The aim is for the business of the meeting to be prompt. Refreshments will be provided to celebrate the occasion for those who want to stay and chat and/or hack.

A fuller account for the agenda of the meeting can be found on the Hackspace Wiki at the following address:

http://bristol.hackspace.org.uk/wiki/doku.php/agm_16_02_2012_and_adoption_of_new_botlab_constitution

See you there!

Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix announced

Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distro, has announced the introduction of the Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix.

Based on Ubuntu 11.10, Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix is now available for corporate and government institutions evaluating Ubuntu as a desktop system. The combination of Ubuntu’s ease of use, outstanding free software applications, certified commercial apps and Canonical’s management solution makes for a compelling enterprise desktop scenario that saves time and money while keeping users productive.

Ubuntu Desktop featuring the LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet
Ubuntu Desktop featuring the LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet

In the past year, many businesses have adopted Ubuntu as a desktop. With the approach of the next long-term support version (LTS), Ubuntu 12.04, and its five years of support for both the desktop and server editions, even more companies are evaluating the potential benefits of this easily deployed and managed, virus-resistant platform.

Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix simplifies the process of customising Ubuntu for corporate needs. In particular, some consumer software like games, social networking and file sharing applications has been removed. Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix is a simple base image with the most common corporate changes pre-configured. It can be deployed immediately in a corporate environment or used as a basis for further customisation. The first release includes VMware View, Adobe Flash Plugin, and OpenJDK 6 Java runtime environment.

Companies wishing to download Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix can register here.

Dear Cabinet Office, what part of open standards don’t you understand?

Cabinet Office logoThe Cabinet Office has announced a consultation on ‘open standards’ for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT. This is the second such consultation on open standards: in January ComputerWeekly said it had unearthed evidence that Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) had successfully pressurised the UK government into withdrawing its January 2011 definition of open standards, which would have been favourable to open source suppliers. Whether or not there was nobbling going on, the fact that the Cabinet Office is organising a second consultation on open standards clearly shows it has having trouble with the definition of the term. Let’s help them out.

The first port of call with any unknown word or phrase is, of course, the dictionary. The dictionary definition of open is:

Free of access; not shut up; not closed; affording unobstructed ingress or egress; not impeding or preventing passage; not locked up or covered over

The above definition clearly demonstrates that open implies unrestricted: in software terms, this would exclude proprietary software and file formats. 🙂

Now, what does the dictionary say about standard?

Being, affording, or according with, a standard for comparison and judgement; as, standard time; standard weights and measures; a standard authority as to nautical terms; standard gold or silver.

Once again, there’s no hint of anything proprietary is there? 😉

Let’s put the 2 words together and see what definitions can be found for ‘open standard’. The first result to pop up in my search is Wikipedia, which states:

An open standard is a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it, and may also have various properties of how it was designed (e.g. open process).

The Wikipedia article goes on to state that where governments and organisations do have a definition of open standards these are royalty-free. Once again this precludes the use of closed, proprietary formats and standards for which fees or licensing costs have to be paid.

Consequently, we fail to see why the Cabinet Office is having such difficulty with what an open standard is. Could it be that the cosy world of Sir Humphrey and those comfortably aboard the gravy train is being threatened and the Whitehall mandarins and oligopolists who benefit from the status quo are resisting change? Compared with what has recently happened in the USA in New Hampshire (news passim), the UK government’s attitude to anything associated with the word open – be it source, standards or data – can be summed up in four other words: too little, too late.

Anyone interested in taking part in the consultation can find it on the Cabinet Office website.

Haven’t we heard all this before?

The Register today carries an article entitled “UK.gov: We really are going to start buying open-source from SMEs“.

On Tuesday last in London Liam Maxwell, Cabinet Office director of ICT futures, said that open source had grown up and it’s time to dispel lingering misconceptions about it.

Speaking at the Intellect 2012 Conference, Maxwell said: “Open source software is not three guys in a shed any more. There are a lot of misconceptions about open source but open source is the future model for delivering IT.”

This isn’t the first time that central government has promised to procure more open source and obtain it from SMEs instead of its usual modus operandi of buying proprietary software from oligopoly suppliers and even though getting Whitehall to change direction is a manoeuvre on the supertanker scale, we open source advocates can’t help feeling there’s been a lot of prevarication and far too little action on central government open source deployment. Indeed, some leading open source SMEs have heard it all before and don’t believe it. Moreover, they won’t believe that change is happening until action replaces words, since all they’ve had from central government for years is words while Whitehall continues its current pattern of spending some £20 bn. per year on proprietary IT.

Finally, another post on Computer World UK reveals that a mere 12% of government contracts awarded to SMEs, so it looks like Whitehall not only has a long way to go to reach its target of 30% procurement from SMEs, but even further to go to dispel suspicions that its words are worthless and business will continue very much as usual.

Situation vacant: British Library seeks Wikipedian in residence

The British Library, whose main reading room has in the past played home from home for such diverse characters as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Mahatma Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Lenin, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Rimbaud and H. G. Wells, is at present recruiting an experienced Wikipedia editor with a good understanding of Wikimedia and GLAM projects. The post has funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the programme of activities will be run as part of the Library’s continuing partnership with Wikimedia UK. As the official Wikimedian in Residence, the post offers the opportunity to make a considerable contribution to the public’s knowledge of the British Library’s unique collections and AHRC-funded projects by engaging with the widest possible international community of Wikipedians/Wikimedians and GLAM “e-volunteers”.

The position has been specified in consultation with Wikimedia UK and is an ideal opportunity for an experienced Wikimedian with strong communication and organisational skills. The key tasks will be to promote and establish collaboration between staff and Wikimedia volunteers, in addition to arranging Wikipedia (and sister project) training sessions and events at the Library.

British Library
The British Library in London. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For further details and to apply please visit www.bl.uk/careers. The closing date for applications is 23rd February 2012.

IRC – not just for idle chat. It’s great for meetings too

Jules, our esteemed treasurer, is currently several thousand miles away from Bristol. Nevertheless, he was able to participate in our last monthly meeting fully due to the wonders of IRC.

image of xchat irc client
The Xchat IRC client. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When he’s been away before, Jules has always emailed his report. However, this time all contact was via IRC and Mr Secretary is delighted: instead of having to decipher his usual scruffy notes to write the minutes, Jules’ contributions can be copied and pasted from a transcript of the output from his Xchat IRC client. 🙂

If you’d like to join our IRC channel, full details are on our contact page.

Ubuntu Global Jam issues call for events

Ubuntu logoYesterday Jono Bacon published a blog post inviting people around the world to organise events for this year’s Ubuntu Global Jam, which is being held from 2nd – 4th March.

The Ubuntu Global Jam is a worldwide fun event that’s a great way to meet other Ubuntu and free software enthusiasts.

Event organisers will need to find a venue with a decent internet connection, some computers and some people to share the workload of organising.

More information about the Global Jam can be found on the Ubuntu wiki, whilst for those who prefer to watch and listen instead of reading, Jono’s created the nifty little video below.

US state of New Hampshire passes open source, open standards and open data bill

At the end of last week, both houses of the New Hampshire legislature passed HB418 (2012). This bill is “relative to the use of open source software and open data formats by state agencies and relative to the adoption of a statewide information policy regarding open government data standards.”

That means that New Hampshire has adopted legislation covering all three aspects of the open agenda for ICT.

By itself, the preamble of the Bill makes interesting reading, so we’re reproducing part of it below:

1 Statement of Purpose and Findings.

I. The general court finds that:

(a) The cost of obtaining software for the state’s computer systems has become a significant expense to the state;

(b) The personnel costs of maintaining the software on the state’s computers has also become a significant expense to the state;

(c) It is necessary for the functioning of the state that computer data owned by the state be permanently available to the state throughout its useful life;

(d) To guarantee the succession and permanence of public data, it is necessary that the state’s accessibility to that data be independent of the goodwill of the state’s computer system suppliers and the conditions imposed by these suppliers;

(e) It is in the public interest to ensure interoperability of computer systems through the use of software and products that promote open, platform-neutral standards;

(f) It is also in the public interest that the state be free, to the greatest extent possible, of conditions imposed by parties outside the state’s control on how, and for how long, the state may use the software it has acquired; and

(g) It is not in the public interest and it is a violation of the fundamental right to privacy for the state to use software that, in addition to its stated function, also transmits data to, or allows control and modification of its systems by, parties outside of the state’s control.

II. The general court further finds that:

(a) The acquisition and widespread deployment of open source software can significantly reduce the state’s costs of obtaining and maintaining software;

(b) Open source software guarantees that its encoding of data is not tied to a single provider;

(c) Open source software enables interoperability through adherence to open, platform-neutral standards;

(d) Open source software contains no restrictions on how, or for how long, it may be used; and

(e) Since open source software fully discloses its internal operations, it can be audited, at any time and by anyone of the state’s choosing, for internal functions that are contrary to the public’s interests and rights.

III. Therefore, it is in the public interest that the state of New Hampshire consider using open source software in its public computing functions.

There are some interesting points in the preamble which the UK public sector ought to bear in mind, particularly those related to neutrality, vendor lock-in and the public interest. Instead of yet more prevarication and policy reviews, when are the UK government and going to grasp the nettle like their New Hampshire counterparts?

Hat tip: Rich Higgs

New Spark open tablet, complete with Linux & KDE pre-installed

PC World reports that KDE developer Aaron Seigo revealed over the weekend that a 7-inch Linux tablet named “Spark” will soon be available with KDE Plasma Active tablet interface as its default user interface. It will be priced at €200 or approximately £167 in real money. 😉

KDE Plasma Active UI
The KDE Plasma Active interface. Standard on the forthcoming Spark tablet

The Spark tablet’s specification will comprise a 1GHz AMLogic ARM processor, Mali-400 graphics, 512 MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, an SD card slot, a 7-inch capacitive multi-touch screen and Wi-Fi connectivity.

image of Spark Tablet
Spark Tablet

In addition to running Linux and free/open source software, the Spark tablet’s associated content/applications store will also offer a mix of free content such as digital books from Project Gutenberg.

TDF to base community-driven foundation in Berlin

Document Foundation logoThe Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, the fork of OpenOffice that emerged after the takeover of Sun Microsystems by Oracle in 2010, today announced that it will base its community-driven entity in Berlin, in the legal form of a German Stiftung (for the benefit of non-German speakers, a “Stiftung” is a German non-profit foundation established with an endowment and supervised by state authorities. Ed ). This kind of structure is recognised worldwide as a legally stable, safe and long term entity, providing the ideal cornerstone for the long term growth of the community and its software.

“For the first time in 12 years, the development of the free office suite finally takes place within an entity that not only perfectly fits the values and ideals of the worldwide community, but also has this very same community driving it. The future home of the best free office suite is built and shaped by everyone who decides to participate and join. And the best is: Everyone can contribute and is invited to do so, to further strengthen the free office ecosystem”, said Florian Effenberger, Chairman of the Board at TDF.

The founder of the Stiftung will be the German non-profit association, Freies Office Deutschland e.V., formerly OpenOffice.org Deutschland e.V., that has so far acted as an interim legal entity. “We congratulate the community for having achieved this key step and are proud of having played a key role in setting up The Document Foundation. Our association is looking forward to working closely with the new entity and acting as a gateway between TDF and private as well as enterprise users”, said Thomas Krumbein, Chairman of the Board at Freies Office Deutschland e.V.