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Bristol Wireless on Techradar

Regular readers will remember that we had a visit from journalist Jonathan Edwards (news passim) which ultimately resulted in Bristol Wireless being the subject of a four-page feature in the Christmas 2011 edition (issue 158) of Linux Format (news passim).

For those who did not take our above advice and go and buy that edition of LXF, there is still a chance to read the piece, as it has now been posted on Techradar.

Of course, we’re dead chuffed to be described (still!) as “an innovative community project” as we hurtle towards our tenth birthday. 🙂

We hope you enjoy reading it!

Tip of the hat: Matt Jukes

Reasons to be cheerful – 2 parts

2012 is fast approaching and there are two reasons for celebration in the New Year.

Firstly, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives as an acknowledgement of the fundamental role of cooperatives in promoting the socio-economic development of hundreds of millions of people and have released a little promotional video to mark the event.

Bristol Wireless is a co-operative too (only we prefer to spell it with a hyphen! Ed.).

Secondly, 2012 will mark Bristol Wireless’ tenth birthday!

Happy New Year to you all.

Yesterday’s Wikipedia featured article – Bristol’s Knowle West

Regular users of Wikipedia will be aware that the main page showcases a different article every day; this is known as the featured article.

Yesterday’s featured article was the one on Bristol’s Knowle West area.

Screenshot of yesterday's Wikipedia main page featuring the Knowle West entry

Those familiar with the Wikipedia article grading process will know just how much effort has gone into getting an article to this level, so anyone who’s helped edit the Knowle West page at any stage can give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

Hat tip: Steve Virgin

Brazilian government launches preview of its open data site

To promote the implementation of the National Infrastructure for Open Data (INDA), the Brazilian Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management last week launched the beta version of the Brazilian Open Data Portal. The full version is scheduled for launch in 2012.

screenshot of Brazilian Government open data site
Screenshot of Brazilian Government open data site

INDA is a set of standards, technologies, procedures and control instruments for meeting the requirements conditions for data sharing between different government and public sector bodies and the general Brazilian population. The release of open data will soon be required as enacted in the 2011 General Information Access Law.

The beta version of the site has 20 datasets available for access. The site also features applications showcasing how public sector information can be released and used.

Public sector open source quote of the week: “EU laptops should have LibreOffice or OpenOffice”

EU flagBut who said it? According to Joinup, it was Christian Ude, the Mayor of Munich, whose local authority is a European leader in the deployment of open source by the public sector in general and local authorities in particular. It was said in a letter to Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EU Commission, a great advocate of open data (why shouldn’t she and her organisation be encouraged to embrace open source too? Ed.)

Mayor Ude wants Kroes and Joaquin Almunia, the Competition Commissioner, to make sure that the public sector throughout Europe uses free and open source software “so that public knowledge remains accessible in the future.”

The mayor urges Kroes to make compulsory the use of open document standards for all of the EU’s public institutions to ensure that data remains accessible, regardless of the software used to create the documents, he writes. “A pan-European commitment to the use of these standards would make the cooperation between authorities in Europe easier, reduce the workload and help to save costs.”

Limux iconMunich is well advanced in its adoption of free and open source software. Earlier this month, it was announced that the city was ahead of schedule in its plans to migrate the majority of its desktops to Limux, its own remix of Debian, with the total number of Limux desktops now standing at 9,000. As part of the migration all proprietary office suites – apart from a relatively small number of exceptions – are being replaced by OpenOffice.

By the end of 2012, the remainder of Munich’s 3,000 proprietary desktops will be migrated to Limux.

It’s festive closing time (soon!)

A festive TuxIn common with the rest of the country, we heathens at Bristol Wireless shall be taking a festive break and closing the lab. Our arrangements are as follows: we shall be closing from lunchtime on Friday 23rd December (aka beer o’clock on POETS Day. Ed.) and will re-open for business on Tuesday, 3rd January 2012.

If any of our customers experience any matters that need addressing in the meantime, please phone (any voicemail message will be emailed to us! Ed.) or email us as per usual.

May we take this opportunity of wishing you all the compliments of the season and the very best for 2012.

Portugal: schools advised not to renew proprietary software licences

In what could be interpreted move to increase the amount of open source software used in academia (or just public sector miserliness. Ed.), Portugal’s Ministry of Education has advised the country’s schools not to renew their licences for proprietary operating systems and office applications. The ministry, in its letter addressed to all schools in October, announced it would no longer refund these costs. This advice was confirmed by a Ministry spokesperson yesterday, according to Joinup.

“The Ministry of Education and Science suggested that schools do not renew the (proprietary) licenses for this year and next year. It announced it will not transfer to the schools’ budgets the corresponding amount”, the spokesperson explained. “However, schools are free to renew licenses by using their own funds.”

This policy affects 19,300 desktop computers, 31,500 laptops and 1,300 servers that were distributed to the country’s schools between 2004 and 2007. All of these came included with proprietary software licences that have to be renewed every year.

The ministry believes the new policy will help save €850,000 in the present academic year.

Since 2004 all computers in all schools in Portugal have offered the user to choice when booting between a proprietary system or one based on Linux and other free and open source applications.

GPL in decline?

GPL V3 logoAccording to an analysis by the 451 Group, the proportion of open source projects that uses the GPL family of licences – the granddaddy of all free and open source licences – has been declining for several years, The H Online reported yesterday.

In summer of 2008, 70% of projects were licensed under the GPL or LGPL; that percentage has declined to 57% today. In a similar period (from summer 2009), the proportion of other permissive licences (MIT, Apache, BSD license and the Microsoft Public License) has risen from under 15% to over 25%.

However, this analysis is based on data from Black Duck Software, whose provenance cannot be verified.

Nevertheless, in spite of the decline in the overall proportion of products licensed under the GPL and/or LGPL, this does not imply that the number of GPL/LGPL-licensed projects has fallen too; their number has actually increased by 15% in the last two and a half years. Over the same period, however, the overall number of open source projects has risen by 30% and the number of projects with permissive licensing has doubled.

Tricky things, statistics…

Lab report, Friday December 16th

It’s been an interesting day in the lab. Your correspondent arrived early in the lab and found Rich and Acesabe getting ready to out on a cabling job, running Cat6 round a new office for a client.

After a while Jim turned up, followed shortly after by Chris, our newest volunteer. It’s interesting working with Chris as he is blind. He uses a special remix of Ubuntu called Vinux made especially for the visually impaired along with a screenreader. This is our first real experience of dealing in-depth with Linux accessibility software, which does require some tweaking on occasions.

wrap board
A WRAP board

In other news, Acesabe has been preparing a WRAP board, Ubiquiti Bullet and configuration for a new sector antenna to be added to our network when the weather improves…

More soon.

Open data advocated to EU member states

Neelie Kroes - picture courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsThe business section of the BBC website carries an article on freeing up government data within EU Member States for re-use by anyone. This would give rise to a market worth some €40 bn per year, according to the author.

As advocates of open source, along with open standards, we have long believed in open data too and have always looked across the Atlantic to the arrangement in the USA, where it is a long-established principle that any information produced at taxpayers’ expense (providing it is not critical for national security. Ed.) can be freely accessed and used by citizens and businesses.

This sentiment is now being echoed by none other than European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes (pictured), who earlier this week stated:

“Taxpayers have already paid for this information, the least we can do now is give it back to those who want to use it in new ways that help people and create jobs and growth.”

Kroes’ statement follows on from the open data announcements made by UK Chancellor George Osborne in his recent autumn statement (news passim).

It would appear we and our ideas are now acquiring allies in high places… 🙂

Announcing CiviCRM 3.4.8 and 4.0.8

CiviCRM logoThe latest post on the CiviCRM blog announces the release of versions 3.4.8 and 4.0.8 of this popular open source CRM system (as used by Bristol Wireless. Ed.), which runs of the Drupal or Joomla content management systems (CMS).

The developers also announce that this release features a number of bug fixes. In addition, CiviCRM 3.4 and 4.0 introduce a new and improved API 3, designed from scratch by non-core CiviCRM developers (i.e. people who actually use the API calls on a daily basis). Existing code utilising API 2 calls should still work, but users are encouraged to test and upgrade it to the new API 3 calls – API 3 is the one that will be developed in the future, while API 2 will only receive critical fixes.

The new releases can be downloaded from SourceForge. The filenames include the 3.4.8 and 4.0.8 labels, e.g. civicrm-3.4.8-drupal.tar.gz or Make sure you download the correct version for either Drupal or Joomla. Once again users are reminded that 4.0.x works with Joomla 1.6 and Drupal 7, while 3.4.x works with Joomla 1.5 and Drupal 6.

Wikipedia testing new visual editor

One of the barriers frequently mentioned to getting involved in editing Wikipedia is the clunky editing interface; indeed it has come up at sessions attended by Bristol Wireless volunteers cunningly disguised as Wikipedians (news passim). Your scribe has some vague memory of the topic of the clunky editor even coming up in the course of Jimmy Wales’ speech in Bristol last January (news passim).

It’s now been revealed that Wikipedia has finally listened to all those who find working with the traditional editor and wiki mark-up a bind: new visual editor for Mediawiki, the free and open software on which Wikipedia runs, is currently being tested.

screenshot of Mediawiki visual editor
Screenshot of Mediawiki visual editor

The development of an editor for directly editing formatted Wikipedia articles is a high-priority project that is designed to make it easier for new Wikipedia contributors. Once the visual editor is finished, editors will be able to create and edit articles in both the editor and traditional wiki mark-up language.

In the 10 years since the founding of Wikipedia, users have got used to using graphical editors for a variety of uses. However, the traditional wiki mark-up has remained impenetrable to some, particularly newcomers. “When Wikipedia was created, everything was hard on the internet. We were no harder than anything else. But today most forms of interaction online are easier than editing a wiki article and that creates a barrier to entry that doesn’t do anybody any good,” says Sue Gardner, the Wikimedia Foundation’s executive editor.

In addition to the barriers faced by newcomers, some more IT-literate people, such as web developers and programmers, might also be unwilling to learn a whole new set of mark-up in addition to the tools of their trade.

For the time being, the visual editor is still a developer prototype, but you can sneak a look at the sandbox version.

Bristol GGD #11 – Wikipedia Birthday Editing Party

Girl Geek Dinners logoFrom the Bristol Girl Geeks Dinner website:

Following on from the success of our Girl Geeks vs Wikimeet event back in August, we are teaming up with Wikipedia again, this time to bring you a hands-on editing event, at the University of Bristol.

This event will run from 1pm until 5pm on Sunday 15th January at the University of Bristol Merchant Venturers Building. Experienced Wikipedians will be on hand to help you explore how to edit Wikipedia, so please bring a laptop with you.

It is also Wikipedia’s birthday on the 15th January so Wikipedia will be providing the nibbles and hopefully another fabulous Wikipedia cake.

Places on this event are limited so please only sign up if you are sure you can come and if you need to cancel do let us know for numbers. It is going to be difficult to get into the building on a Sunday so I will contact attendees with a mobile number nearer the time to ensure that you are all able to get into the building and enjoy the event.

If you’re interested, register for the event here.

The post above mentions the August Girl Geeks vs Wikimeet event. Here’s our report of that event.

Helsinki city officials report high satisfaction with free software office suite

OpenOffice logoAs the council in our home city moves away from its previous open source office suite (Star Office) to the dark side (aka Microsoft Office. Ed. ), news reaches the blogmeister’s inbox via the Free Software Foundation Europe reporting on the experience of Helsinki City Council.

City officials in Helsinki, Finland, are overwhelmingly satisfied after trying out the free software office suite on their laptops. 75% of 600 officials have been using exclusively since February, as part of a pilot project where the city installed the package on 22,500 workstations.

In the spring 2011, the city installed OpenOffice on 22,500 desktops. It was deployed as the only office suite on the laptops of 600 officials. Although these latter users only received a written manual and no actual training, 75 % of them were still satisfied. The pilot project was based on an initiative by Helsinki city council member Johanna Sumuvuori.

“This feedback is very encouraging. We congratulate the City of Helsinki on its successful pilot project and hope others will follow,” comments Otto Kekäläinen, the Free Software Foundation Europe’s coordinator for Finland. “Free software means that public bodies no longer depend on a single vendor and don’t have to pay monopoly prices for their software and services any more. This is a crucial difference in these economically straightened times.”

The key reason why some users were not satisfied were difficulties in opening files generated with the proprietary Microsoft Office. Yet according to a Twitter message from Helsinki city transport board member Mirva Haltia-Holmberg, most of these interoperability issues would be solved if all users learned to save their files in the correct format (would that be ODF? Ed.).

Helsinki is not the only city in Finland to make use of free software. In a similar initiative in Turku city council, Green Party chairman Ville Niinistö stated: “Migration into free and open source software and operating systems would save significant amounts of money on the city level. In office software the move into open source could be implemented very quickly. Migration to open source software would also be good for the general development of an information society, since this type of software makes possible faster and more free software development.”

During year 2011 a number of projects have been started to increase of use of free software in the Finnish public sector. Besides Helsinki, similar initiatives have been undertaken in the city councils of Tampere, Turku, Paimio and Salo, usually started by elected council members. In spring 2011 71% of members of the Finnish parliament said the state should give preference to free software (such as GNU/Linux and OpenOffice) in its ICT acquisitions.

Meanwhile, we await something more from the British state than prevarication and backtracking on the deployment of free and open source software…

PS: It’s not just the Finnish public sector that is a pioneer in free and open source: Finland has been a forerunner in the use of free software in the private sector for years. Research published two years ago by Red Hat and Georgia Tech placed Finnish industry first in the world in the use of open source software. Turning back to the public sector, the Finnish Ministry of Defence has been using GNU/Linux in key systems since 2006, mostly for its security. The Finnish Ministry of Justice has migrated into OpenOffice in 2007, while Finnish schools have been saving significant amounts of money by moving to the Linux Terminal Server Project (as used by Bristol Wireless. Ed. 🙂 ).

Public sector? Use open source? Take the survey

Are you in the public sector and do you use or contribute to free and open-source software for e-Government? If so, Joinup asks you to take this survey.

The survey is enquiring about the policies for sharing and reusing free and open-source software (F/OSS) in public sector organisations and the regions and countries of the EU. It is also trying to establish whether the lack of visibility and information about open source software is a barrier to its reuse.

Solar power goes open source

Open Source Solar logoFrom the heart of Leipzig in Germany, news reaches the lab of the establishment of Open Source Solar, a place for collaborative development of open source hardware for small photovoltaic systems, with the aim of assisting the construction of the highest quality, affordable solar systems.

To quote:

Photovoltaic power supplies are very useful if grid electricity is unavailable, cabling inconvenient, or in emergency situations. We provide a modular system consisting of a Solar panel, microcontroller based Charge controller, and application specific modules for LED lighting and cell-phone charging with a DC-DC converter.

Although the project still appears to be in its infancy, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on. The development blog can be consulted at

Internet Archive launches appeal

Internet Archive logoThe Internet Archive, the place where – inter alia – old websites go when they die (and a damned fine resource it is too!. Ed.), has launched an appeal for donations. Brewster, the Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, posted the following on the organisation’s blog yesterday:

Dear Supporters of the Archive,

In the last year, the number of people using the Internet Archive has increased to two million people every day, and our collections of free books, music, video, and web pages have also grown by twenty to twenty-five percent. This is great news, but we are doing it all on a shoestring budget.

This year we need your help.

In our virtual world, it is hard to see the 160 employees and countless volunteers at the Internet Archive that bring you these services, but we are here, and we are dedicated to building a global library that is free and open to all.

Please donate this year. Your continued support keeps the library free for millions of people.

Web developers – can you help Easton Arts Trail?

Easton Arts Trail logoWe’ve been contacted on Twitter by Easton Arts Trail of Bristol with the following request:

@BristolWireless We’re looking for a web designer to relaunch our website. Do you know anyone who might take it on as a project for free?

The Easton Arts Trail was founded in 2006 by a group of local artists and is organised by volunteers from the local community who have created an annual community event that celebrates the quality and diversity of creativity in the Easton area of Bristol.

If you can help, please contact Easton Arts Trail directly by email: info (at)

Verdict in the case of AVM vs. Cybits confirmed the view of Free Software Foundation Europe

GPL V3 logoIn the dispute between the companies AVM and Cybits the written reasoning for the decision of the Regional Court of Berlin is now available. The court confirmed FSFE‘s view that users of software licensed under the GNU General Public License are allowed to modify and install it even if it is shipped as a part of an embedded device’s firmware (news passim).

The court has particularly denied that Cybits has infringed AVM’s copyright by distributing its “Surf-Sitter DSL” software. According to the judge, the AVM DSL router’s firmware is a collective work. The GNU GPL clearly states that the GPL parts contained in the firmware can be lawfully modified and reproduced. Thus it is acceptable that these parts are downloaded from AVM and edited during the installation of the Surf-Sitter software.

The trademark claims were also rejected. The fact that in the router’s interface the trademark “Fritz!Box” is still visible after the installation of Surf-Sitter does not constitute an infringement.

It also unfolds from the reasoning that a modification of the GNU GPLed parts of the firmware does not trigger any competition claims. The Regional Court therefore confirms that it is in general permissible to modify firmware parts under the GNU GPL and to newly install these modified versions.

The granting part of the verdict, which parallels last year’s judgement of the Superior Court of Justice, is mainly based on the idea that the customers impute wrongly displayed information about the internet connection and the status of the parental control to AVM. Cybits must remove this misinformation if they wish to sell their product. In contrast, modifications of the firmware as such are allowed.

The verdict is not yet final. The parties can still appeal the decision.

DWP to pilot open source desktops

dwplogoWell, who’d have believed it? (The blogmeister wouldn’t have for starters! Ed.) The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to trial open source desktop software in a move which could pave the way to the large-scale deployment of non-Microsoft PC software in the public sector, Computer Weekly reports.

The DWP is to run a trial of open source software on 1,000 desktops; the Department runs some 15,000 desktop machines in total.

Mike Truran, the DWP’s customer delivery director, told the Datacenter Dynamics Convergence conference the DWP had not yet moved to open source on the desktop because the department relied heavily on Microsoft Access and Excel (makes a change from the usual excuse of the accounts package. Ed.). “If the pilot works we will take it forward,” he said.

Truran said the DWP is committed to open source to meet the challenges set by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. We have of course, heard such fine words before and it’s good to see the DWP doing more than mouthing the mantra.

If the DWP can make open source software work, Truran believes it will be difficult for other central government departments to ignore open source desktop software. “There will always be exceptions, but it will be very difficult for other departments not to comply.”