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OpenStreetMap launches funding drive

According to the OpenStreetMap Foundation blog, the organisation is growing fast, having just welcomed its 500,000th signed up user, and logged the 10,000,000th update to its map of the UK. The Foundation is a UK-registered not-for-profit organisation that supports the OpenStreetMap Project and some years ago, Bristol Wireless volunteers spent a pleasant day or so donating our time to the project when it came to Bristol.

Over the coming weeks the Foundation is holding a funding drive to invest in its server infrastructure to improve reliability and performance. The fundraising target is £15,000.

You can make a donation at

Details of the hardware OSM is hoping to buy can be found here.

HMV using Ubuntu-powered displays in its shops

News reaches the lab via Ubuntu Vibes that retailer HMV is using displays powered by Ubuntu in its shops in UK High Streets.

Display in HMV shop showing the familiar GRUB bootloader menu

Sharp-eyed readers will note the interactive touchscreen display is being used to give information about Nintendo’s Wii games console, whilst those with even more acute vision may not with some dismay the final item in the screen’s boot menu. Those with not such good eyesight can click on the picture for a larger version. 🙂

Happy 30th birthday, BBC Micro

We learn from the BBC that the BBC Micro is now a venerable 30 years old. This machine was instrumental in enthusing many of today’s more senior programmers in getting into coding.

image of BBC Micro
BBC Micro - 30 years young. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC Micro was series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the Beeb. Although designed with an emphasis on education, it was notable for its ruggedness, expandability and the quality of its operating system.

9 models were eventually produced with the BBC brand, the term “BBC Micro” is usually colloquially used to refer to the first six (Model A, B, B+64 and B+128, Master 128, Master Compact), with the subsequent models considered as part of the Archimedes series.

Hat tip: John Honniball

Open Data measures in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

George OsborneAs part of the Government’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne yesterday announced that ‘world-leading’ (ahem! Ed.) commitments by the Government to open up public sector data will make travel easier and healthcare better and create significant growth for industry and jobs in the UK, according to the Cabinet Office.

The Open Data measures will allegedly boost investment in medical research and digital technology in the UK, including investment by many small and medium sized enterprises, and will help realise the Prime Minister’s ambition to make London’s Tech City one of the world’s great technology centres.

The measures will specifically:

  • improve medical knowledge and practice with world-first linked-data services which will enable healthcare impacts to be tracked across the entire Health Service and improve medical practice; the service is expected put the UK in a prime position for research investment;
  • make business logistics and commuting more efficient through new planned and real-time information on the running of trains and buses across Great Britain and data on almost every road in Britain for the first time, including road works, for use in ‘satnav’ and digital technology;
  • allow the development useful applications for business and consumers using the largest volume of open, free, high-quality weather data in the world along with house prices at address level (I never realised there was a link between the weather and house prices. Ed. 😉 );
  • empower patients through individual access to their personal GP records online and encourage the market for education data management and learning platforms.

Furthermore, The H Online states that over the next 5 years, the government will provide up to £10 million to fund the establishment of an Open Data Institute near “Silicon Roundabout” (aka Tech City. Ed.) in east London; this will help industry exploit the release of this data and will be headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Southampton University’s Professor Nigel Shadbolt.

Further details of the newly announced open data measures can be found here (pdf).

Phew! That’s a fairly ambitious list of claimed benefits from the freeing up of public sector data. You may like to comment below on whether you think they are credible.

Italy – free software in Sicily

The regional assembly of the Italian island of Sicily is to consider a law encouraging the public sector to use of free and open source software, OSOR reports. The bill was presented last month by Democratic Party member Massimo Ferrara.

According to Blog Sicilia (in Italian), this is a “legislative initiative that reduces the digital divide, promotes open source in the public sector and includes a solid notion of active citizenship.”

The bill itself proposes a series of regulations on free software, access to public data and documented hardware.

The proposal is similar to a law adopted about one year ago in the Italian region of Puglia that makes the use of open source software and open standards mandatory for its public sector organisations.

YaCy 1.0, peer-to-peer web search software released

YaCy logoThe YaCy project is releasing version 1.0 of its peer-to-peer Free Software search engine, according to a news report posted today by the Free Software Foundation Europe. The software takes a radically new approach to search. YaCy does not use a central server, but compiles its search results from a network of independent peers, which currently stands at over 600 persons. In such a distributed network, no single entity decides what gets listed, or in which order results appear.

The YaCy search engine runs on each user’s own computer. Search terms are encrypted before they leave the user and the user’s computer. Unlike conventional search engines, YaCy is designed to protect users’ privacy. A user’s computer creates its individual search indices and rankings so that results better match what the user is looking for over time. YaCy also makes it easy to create a customised search portal with a few clicks.

“Most of what we do on the internet involves search. It’s the vital link between us and the information we’re looking for. For such an essential function, we cannot rely on a few large companies, and compromise our privacy in the process,” says Michael Christen, YaCy’s project leader. “YaCy’s free search is the vital link between free users and free information. YaCy hands control over search back to us, the users.”

Each YaCy user is part of a large search network. YaCy is already in use on websites such as, and to provide a site-wide search function that respects users’ privacy. It contains a peer-to-peer network protocol to exchange search indices with other YaCy search engines.

“We are moving away from the idea that services need to be centrally controlled. Instead, we are realising how important it is to be independent, and to create infrastructure that doesn’t have a single point of failure,” says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. “In the future world of distributed, peer-to-peer systems, Free Software search engines like YaCy are a vital building block.”

Everyone can try out the search engine at Users can become part of YaCy’s network by installing the software on their own computers. YaCy is Free Software, so anyone can use, study, share and improve it. It is currently available for GNU/Linux, Windows and MacOS. The project is also looking for developers and other contributors.

The MP, Creative Commons and Bristol Wireless

Yesterday morning, Bristol Wireless’ chief scribe held a conversation on the Twitter micro-blogging site with an old friend of the co-op, Will Pollard of wifiExeter.

The discussion was prompted by a visit to Exeter by Shadow Culture Minister, Dan Jarvis MP and revolved around matters such as the use of Creative Commons and other open/‘copyleft’ licences by the UK sector in the context of their growing adoption of open source, open data and open standards.

Read Will’s post, entitled “Dan Jarvis MP – the Tweets from Bristol Wireless”.

Observant visitors to this site will no doubt have noticed that our content is already covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence. 🙂

LibreOffice and accessibility checker extension released

The H Online reports that developers at Leuven Catholic University in Belgium have released AccessODF, an open source extension for the LibreOffice and Writer word processing application. With the extension, Writer users can evaluate and repair accessibility issues in documents, including the open source OpenDocument (ODF) and proprietary DOC and Office Open XML (DOCX) formats.

AccessODF finds issues in documents that make it hard or impossible for visually impaired people to read them, including insufficient text/background colour contrast, missing alternative text for images, missing language identification and the incorrect use of heading styles.

The extension then displays the errors in a panel next to the authoring area, from where they can be repaired at the click of a mouse in some cases. Any remaining problems will have repair/avoidance suggestions suggested.

The Belgian developers have also released new versions of the odt2braille and odt2daisy extensions. The new version of the odt2braille extension adds a “Braille” menu to Writer that allows users to convert documents into Braille formats such as .brf or .pef or send the content to Braille printers. It includes support for more languages and Braille embossers, as well as extended formatting settings for professional users.

The update to the odt2daisy extension, which enables the creation of DAISY3 format digital audio books from Writer, has better support for tables, long descriptions, multilingual documents and non-Western languages. The handling of title pages has been improved and it also prevents the use of incorrect bitrates for text-to-speech conversion.

What does a Pink Farting Weasel have to do with free & open source software?

Tux - mascot of the Linux kernelTo answer the question in brief, it’s a codename.

Codenames are a common fact of life in information technology; everyone large and small uses them. For instance, the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution names its releases after animals preceded by an adjective (see list), whilst the venerable Debian, from which many distros take their inspiration (and code! Ed.), names its releases after characters in the film Toy Story, with the unstable version always bearing the name sid.

Anyway, back to flatulent weasels… The chief scribe discovered today that releases of the Linux kernel have code names too. Most of the Linux 2.6 and 3.x kernels include a name in the Makefile of their source trees, which can be found in the git repository. Here’s a selection of some of the more bizarre ones:

  • Divemaster Edition (news passim)
  • Woozy Numbat
  • Jeff Thinks I Should Change This, But To What?
  • Pink Farting Weasel
  • Sheep on Meth
  • Erotic Pickled Herring
  • Saber-toothed Squirrel

Wikipedia has a full list of Linux kernel names.

Tip of the hat: Ubuntu Vibes

Doom 3 source code released under GPLv3

The H Open Source reports today that Texas-based video games development company id Software has released the source code of Doom 3, a first-person shooter (FPS) originally released in August 2004. The game’s code is available under version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv3). However, no game data such as textures, sounds and polygon models have been released along with the source code; these continue to be protected by copyright.

A tasteful Doom 3 screenshot

The newly released program source code will allow Doom 3 to be ported to other platforms, as well as new graphic effects to be added by other developers. id Software has previously released the source for earlier versions of both Doom and Quake.

CiviCRM User Group to meet up in Bristol

CiviCRM logoThe CiviCRM Community site reports that a UK User Group meeting is to take place on 8th December 2011 from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm at The Create Centre in Bristol (map).

This will be an informal way of meeting others from the community and learning more about CiviCRM. The organisers say they’ll try and make them as useful and user led as possible. If anyone attending would like to speak about or demonstrate their work, they’re advised to email davem (at)

More open source at ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to publish more of its software under open source licences. It is considering to use a source code tracking system to help untangle code that can be made available as open source and programs that cannot for whatever reason.

ESA’s plans for open source are the topic of a case study published by OSOR last week.

According to the case study, most ESA applications are developed by contractors and the agency does not have direct control over their development process. Before they can share such applications with others, the researchers need to make sure that its code does not include or make use of code with incompatible licences.

ESA says its open source strategy promotes collaboration.

At the moment, the agency is using open source licences mainly for applications related to earth observation and and earth science. However, according to the OSOR case study, it is considering using these types of licences for other software systems.

ESA wants to reduce the number of licences it uses and this should benefit its open source project.


The case study also briefly introduces five open source applications made available by ESA, such as BEAM, tools for viewing, analysing and processing of remote sensing data. Another example is BEAT, a set of tools that helps accessing and analysing atmospheric data collected by ESA’s Environmental Satellite (Envisat).

In November 2009, ESA asked ICT contractors to help build a repository for hosting and developing its open source applications. At the time ESA initially wanted to determine the requirements and architecture and prepare the implementation of a repository of open source space applications.

Now in the shops (in Portugal): Ubuntu netbooks

As of this week, Asus Eee PC 1215P netbooks preloaded with Ubuntu Linux are available in the shops – as long as you do your shopping in Portugal. 😉

The Canonical blog reports that the ASUS Ubuntu netbooks can be bought in 100 Vobis and Worten stores across the country.

A screenshot of the Worten website featuring the Ubuntu Asus netbook

The Eee PC has a slim, lightweight, design and up to 9 hours’ battery life, making it suitable for a wide variety of uses.

Here at Bristol Wireless, we’ve found Asus Eee PCs very reliable; if you need proof, just ask our treasurer for a testimonial (news passim).

Desura independent games platform gets Linux client

Desura, a community-driven digital distribution service for gamers, announced the release yesterday of a Linux client.

After a 2 month beta period, Desura a digital distribution client which supports the installation and patching of games on any Linux distribution has launched. With this release Desura is the only client which works on both Windows and Linux systems, enabling games to be installed with a click.

Desura Linux client running on Ubuntu

Desura adds that it is now looking forward to refining the client (they are currently in discussions to release their code under the GPL in a manner similar to Google Chrome / Chromium) and expanding its catalogue of Linux games, which presently stands at 65 titles.

Europass open standard CV tool increasingly used by universities and employment agencies

European universities and employment agencies are increasingly making use of a Europass Curriculum Vitae, an open standard for creating and managing CVs (that’s a résumé for our readers on the other side of the Atlantic. Ed.), according to OSOR. Also increasingly popular is the European Union’s web service to create such CVs: this year the service is used more than a hundred thousand times, according to the European Centre for Vocational Training (Cedefop) based in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Cedefop is developing the collection of software tools, online services, technical documentation and manuals around Europass.

Hwoever, it is not only a CV standard: the entire collection contains 5 documents – all aimed at helping users make their skills and qualifications clearly understood on the labour market, in education and in training. Cedefop has built a website around these documents to make all the information and services available in 26 languages.

The use of Cedefop’s Europass CV web services is growing fast from just 90 CVs in 2006 to 110,000 so far this year. According to Eleni Kargioti, a software engineer at Cedefop, the major user of the Europass tools is the European Employment Services network, a network of public employment services supported by trade unions and employers’ organisations covering 31 countries.

Europass services can be used without requiring authentication, explains Kargiotoi: “So we cannot know exactly who is reusing the web services.”

Early last month, Cedefop published the Europass Web Services Client v2.0, a client application that can be used to convert résumés based on the Europass standard into many different document types. For instance, a CV can be changed from PDF into Open Document Format (ODF), into HTML or into a binary proprietary document format and vice versa.

Government issues invitation to tender for free software support

Yes, you did read the headline correctly.

Marianne - symbol of the French RepublicHowever, the government in question is not Her Majesty’s but that of la belle France, which has just issued an invitation to tender for free and open source software support to the amount of €2 million, according to Le Monde Informatique.

The Information Systems and Communication Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior, Territorial Authorities and Immigration has just published an invitation to tender to find a contractor to provide support for the free and open source software used by the State. The public contract will be a framework contract covering three years, with a possible 1 year extension.

Bids must be submitted by 9th January 2012, with the announcement of the award being planned for 30th March 2012.

The scope of the contract covers some 10 fields:

  • Debian and CentOS operating systems and associated basic software (virtualisation tools);
  • Web and application servers – Apache, Tomcat, JonAS, CMS;
  • Development languages and frameworks – Java, PHP, XML, Perl, Eclipse, Struts;
  • PostgreSQL and MySQL databases;
  • OpenOffice office suite;
  • Network monitoring and operating tools – Ethereal, Jmeter, Nagios
  • Security tools – Tripwire, OpenSSL;
  • Directory and messenging services – OpenLDAP, Sendmail;
  • Knowledge management portals – Nuxeo, Ezpublish, Alfresco;
  • Search and indexing – Lucene, Zettair.

The invitation to tender covers two-thirds of France’s 22 ministries, including the Office of the Prime Minister and the ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Justice, Labour, Education, Agriculture and Culture.

If you want speed and power, choose Linux

Despite our best efforts over the last 10 years (and those of others all over the world. Ed.), Linux still accounts for a small percentage of desktop users – a couple of per cent at most. However, there’s one area where Linux is dominant – and that’s supercomputers.

The current biggest supercomputer - Japan's K Computer - the biggest advert for Linux

The latest list of the world’s top 500 supercomputers has just been released and Linux runs 457 (91.4%) of the world’s fastest computers, followed in descending order by Unix with 30 (6%). Just one of the top 500 is running Windows – the giant on the desktop with over 90% of the world’s PCs – a decline from 4 in the last list (is this indicative of Windows’ lack of scalability? Ed.).

The message is clear: if you want speed and power, not to mention reliability and security, choose Linux.

Lots more free public wifi for Bristol

Bristol City Council and Bristol University have reached an agreement that will result in several hundred more free wifi spots being made available in the city, the Bristol Evening Post reports.

College Green Bristol
Bristol's College Green - free wifi is available here on the Council's B-Open network

The council currently has some 50 free wifi spots around the city in places like College Green and St Nicholas Market via its B-Open network, whilst the university has 600 hotspots that were previously only available to members of the university community.

In future people using the university’s gardens and coffee shops or attending public events on campus will be able to log on gratis.

The announcement has been made in advance of the Next Gen broadband technology conference taking place later this week in Bristol.

Tip of the day: go and buy Linux Format

Yes, you did read that correctly. It’s not very often the freetards of the Bristol Wireless lab recommend you spend any money. After all, we like our software to be free in both the beer and speech senses! 🙂

A shot of the first page of the Linux Format feature on BWHowever, for once we’re changing our usual philosophy and encouraging you to go and grab some collated dead tree printing matter from your local newsagent.

Regular readers of our site will know that a couple of months ago we played host to Linux Format‘s Jon Edwards, who hopped on the train from LXF HQ in Bath to spend time with us in the lab in Windmill Hill (news passim).

When the chief scribe arrived in the lab at lunchtime clutching his copy, there were already 2 other copies being read. Needless to say we’re dead chuffed with the feature, which goes right from our earliest inception, which saw us building our own kit and rescuing redundant hardware from skips right up to the present day where we’re looking forward to celebrating our 10th birthday next year (serendipitous facts time: we’re a co-operative and our 10th birthday next year coincides with the UN’s International Year of Co-operatives! Ed.).

Anyway, if you’ve got £6.49 to spare, Linux Format is a great read and comes complete with a cover disc featuring Ubuntu 11.10 and loads of other Linux goodness; we recommend it!

Swedish activist Erik Josefsson receives 2011 Nordic Free Software Award

Erik Josefsson is the winner of the Nordic Free Software Award 2011. With the award, the Swedish Foundation for Free Culture and Free Software (FFKP) honours Josefsson for his achievements as a campaigner for freedom in the information society.

“We are proud to honour Erik for the tremendously important work he has done over the past ten years”, says FFKP Executive Director Jonas Öberg. “Erik has an exceptional ability to understand and explain the link between policy and technology. We are hugely grateful for his work. He is an inspiration to all of us.”

From a career as a professional double-bass player, Josefsson gradually moved to full-time activism for freedom in the information society. He founded the Swedish Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII Sweden) in 2004. Listed among Sweden’s 30 most influential people during the European debate about software patents in 2005, Josefsson is among Europe’s foremost defenders of software freedom.

As an activist in Brussels, Josefsson was instrumental in getting the European Parliament to reject the Software Patent Directive in 2005. More recently, he prevented the EU from passing a law to cut off people’s internet access without due process and is currently campaigning against ACTA.

Josefsson currently works as an adviser on internet policies for the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament. He is busy building tools such as ParlTrack that make the Parliament’s processes transparent
to citizens. “This information holds real power”, says Henrik Sandklef, Vice President of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). “Understanding how the Parliament works is very important for the Free Software movement. Erik does a great job of explaining software freedom to politicians, and helping freedom campaigners to understand Europe’s power structure.”

Every year since 2007 FFKP has used the Nordic Free Software Award to honour people, projects and organisations in the Scandinavian countries that have made a prominent contribution to the advancement of Free Software. Previous winners of the award are Bjarní Runar Einarsson (2010), Simon Josefsson and Daniel Stenberg (2009), Mats Östling (2008) and the Skolelinux project (2007).