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Paraguay government project targets exclusive use of open source for all government agency websites in 2012

Paraguay logoThe government of Paraguay has embarked on an ambitious project aimed at implementing open source software (OSS) exclusively in all government agencies in 2012.

Nicolás Caballero, IT Coordinator for the Office of the President of the Republic of Paraguay was quoted by a local newspaper as saying: “The first and most evident aim is to save resources.” He noted that the savings can be allocated to other areas and that assessments performed by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare foresee savings of about US $ 4 million for that ministry alone.

Mr Caballero added that the objective is to achieve full open source use in 2012 and to attain technological autonomy where the government decides what software is used and how.

From your correspondent’s viewpoint, the UK’s public sector is rapidly becoming an island of proprietary software use, with the waves of open source use elsewhere pounding against its shores. 🙂

Flossie Unconference next spring – be there or be proprietary!

Flossie, the network of women who are interested in, use, advocate and/or develop Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS), has just announced its unconference for next spring.

Queen Mary at University of London (QMUL) has offered to host the Flossie unconference which will be on 25/26 May 2011 at QMUL’s Mile End Campus.

Flossie will be sending out a call for collaboration soon and opening registration. This is an unconference, meaning it’s participative so send Flossie any ideas you have for talks, workshops, or ‘Birds of a Feather’ sessions you’d like to give or go to.

More details are available on Flossie’s website.

A big thank you to Sean Kenny for the second half of the headline! 🙂

Free & open source software – “the greatest success of the 20th century”

Waldemar Pawlak, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, saluted Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) as the “greatest success of the 20th century” in a conference talk on 27 September 2011, according to OSOR. He added that FLOSS is based on very sound principles and can provide solutions to some of the problems of civilisation which we will face in the 21st century.

According to Mr Pawlak, FLOSS is an example of how the free and open exchange of ideas has created a number of products that have changed the world. In FLOSS he sees the desire for co-operation between people, which in many cases constitutes a synthesis of diverging inspirations and ideas, thus leading to the creation of ground-breaking solutions and projects. Among those he mentioned were the Linux operating system and the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

He also gave examples of how FLOSS applications had been used in Poland. The website of his own ministry, the Ministry of Economy, runs on the free and open-source Drupal content management system. The Ministry’s system of reporting the parliamentary questions by Members of Parliament and information management is built on MediaWiki. Its management and organisation of group work is implemented using the PHProjekt web application and the server tools used are based on Linux and Ubuntu.

Another Polish institution that uses solutions based on FLOSS is the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Its online trading platform has been built using tools such as Linux, the scripting language PHP and the PostgreSQL database.

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that open source solutions could achieve widespread use at every level in the public sector and at the same time provide a fully professional operation. However, the main barrier to the implementation of these solutions is that people are used to using commercial solutions and there is a lack of willingness to make the effort to learn about other products. This is despite the fact that commercial products have greater exposure to viruses and have more limited program ownership rights (thus preventing the products to be adapted to the user’s own specific needs).

Mr Pawlak said that in the future the government should recommend and promote FLOSS principles and solutions, and present good examples of implementations. This would encourage major changes at lower levels of government, such as local authorities, which are still dominated by ignorance and fear about the safety and reliability of solutions based on FLOSS (does this sound familiar? Ed.). It is also very important to support open source initiatives, he said, by providing special programmes and grants at national and European levels. Activities which should be supported include platforms to promote innovation and collaboration (such as the internet platform Spinacz), research and development centres, and academic entrepreneurship.

Waldemar Pawlak’s lecture took place at Warsaw Polytechnic as part of a conference organised by the Polish Foundation for Free and Open Source Software (FWiOO). It was entitled ‘The Role of Open Source Software in the innovation economy’.

Note: The original Polish article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Licence.

Bristol Hackspace at BV Open Studios 2011

Our neighbours over the road at BV Studios are holding an open studios event starting on Friday 14th October from 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm and continuing on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th from 11.00 am to 6.00 pm. Entry is free!

Sketchy - picture courtesy of John Honniball

BV Studios also houses our friends at Bristol Hackspace, who’ve now written to us to let us know they’ll be involved in the Open Studios event. According to the email, Bristol Hackspace will be demonstrating (and letting people play with) some of their new interactive sound exhibits at BV Open Studios weekend. There will also be some old favourites there like TheEyesTheEyes and Sketchy, the portrait drawing robot.

A statement from Bristol City Council re open source

Bristol City Council logoFollowing on from recent news about the revival of Bristol City Council’s open source project (news passim), the council has now issued the following statement.

Bristol City Council Leader Barbara Janke said: “Bristol is leading the way on promoting open source solutions and supporting our strong creative media and digital sector. We held a very productive meeting with the Cabinet Office yesterday, and they were able to reassure us that there are no security or accreditation issues that should hold us back from pushing ahead with our open source agenda.

“This is very good news and was warmly welcomed by the IT companies present. Our aim is to do all we can to see a higher proportion of money from our IT procurement ending up in the local economy and supporting the city’s innovative software companies.

“We have now been given the green light by the Cabinet Office to push ahead with this open source agenda and they have promised to work closely with us on this issue over the next few months, and more widely in our efforts to support our thriving creative and digital sector as we develop the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.”

Mr Treasurer’s eeePC – an update

eee PCA couple of years ago, we reported on Mr Treasurer’s eeePC (news passim). Regular readers will be pleased to hear it’s still performing well, as evidenced by the following (slightly edited for greater legibility – although the hashtags have been left in! Ed.) tweets from a conversation between Mr Treasurer and the chief scribe on Twitter over the weekend.

The best thing I ever bought was my little #Asus #eeePC – Has run a #LAMP #stack a treat for these least three years … #Linux of course!

Three years without a single update and still going strong! #LAMP #foss #opensource

Two days work to install proper desktop & #LAMP, followed by 3 years of uninterrupted productivity! #Asus #eeePC

That’s Linux reliability for you! If you’re not using it already, maybe you should give it a try*.

* = In other local IT news, the chief scribe was contacted yesterday by Gus Hoyt, Green Party councillor for Bristol’s Ashley ward, announcing he was going to be installing Linux. That now makes 2 councillors in the council chamber who are users of free and open source operating systems. 🙂

Linux IT brought in to get Bristol City Council’s open source strategy on track

Bristol City Council logoIt’s easy to be critical of Bristol City Council; any long-term resident will vouch for that. However, amongst British local authorities it has been a pioneer for its willingness to dip its toes into the waters of open source, although even here it has not had an easy time (news passim).

News emerges today on that the City Council has called in Linux IT to help to advise it on its “ambitious open source strategy” (any chance of finding out how ambitious? Perhaps someone from BCC would care to comment. Ed.) and is now involved in the project at a “strategic level”.

Read the original post.

Public wifi access on Crete

wireless_access_point Some Bristol Wireless members have just returned from a week’s holiday on Crete – Greece’s largest island. While there they visited Heraklion and Rethymno, 2 of the largest cities on the island, as well as staying in a small village on the south coast, and thus had ample opportunity to assess the island’s wifi.

A brief assessment of public wifi can be given in a couple of words, i.e. it’s ubiquitous. One never seems to be very far away from an open wifi AP in urban areas. Indeed, municipal wifi access seems to be a standard fixture in the public squares and parks of both Heraklion and Rethymno (British local authorities please note! Ed.).

Apart from public wifi, most of the cafés, restaurants and bars provided free wifi, although sometimes the APs were locked and the staff had to be asked for the WEP key.

Apart from one night, our accommodation consisted of youth hostels, once again with wifi access as standard. Indeed in one hostel we met one web designer who’d been there since May and using the local wifi access to continue working in more congenial surroundings than the UK. 🙂

The smallest place we found wifi: the village of Sellia (population 618) where the café’s WEP key arrived along with the coffees and the ashtray.

Rich, one of the party, commented: “Having widespread wifi was very convenient. I noticed lots of point-to-point links on rooftops everywhere. Another thing I observed was that broadband speeds are faster on the north side of the island than the south.”

CiviCRM 3.4.6 and 4.0.6 released

CiviCRM logoVia the CiviCRM blog, the CiviCRM team has recently announced the release of 3.4.6 and 4.0.6. This point release includes several exciting new “Make-it-Happen” features, along with 170+ bug fixes and minor improvements. The new features include:

  • Membership Price Sets – Does your organization have national, regional and local chapter memberships? Now you can offer self-service online membership signup and renewal for multiple memberships on the same online contribution page.
  • Recurring Contributions and Auto-renewing Memberships with Google Checkout
  • Previous / Next Navigation for Search Results – Now you can easily move through the contact summary pages within a set of search results! Just click the Next and Previous buttons.

New and improved CiviCRM API

CiviCRM 3.4 and 4.0 bring you a new and improved API 3, designed from scratch by non-core CiviCRM developers (i.e. people who actually use the API calls every day). Your existing code utilising API 2 calls should still work, but you’re more than 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.


You can download the release from SourceForge. The filenames include the 3.4.6 and 4.0.6 labels, e.g. civicrm-3.4.6-drupal.tar.gz or Make sure you’re downloading the correct version: for Drupal or Joomla. Again, remember that 4.0.x works with Joomla 1.6 and Drupal 7, while 3.4.x works with Joomla 1.5 and Drupal 6.

If you’re doing a fresh install or upgrading, detailed instructions are on the CiviCRM blog.

A new slogan and hashtag arrives: #ossplease

On Friday your humble correspondent was avoiding doing paid work and discussing online the glacial pace of the UK public sector’s deployment of open source (news passim) with Mark Taylor of Sirius IT and IT journalist and writer Glyn Moody.

During the discourse, Mark came up with the term ‘OSS Please!’. Glyn then picked it up and after 5 minutes had come up a short blog post on Computer Weekly UK using OSS Please! as a title and promoting the #ossplease hashtag.

We suggest that the UK’s free and open source blogging community adopt this slogan and use it whenever discussing public sector IT, where – let’s face it – lip service has been paid for years to adopting and implementing free and open source software, but very little action has taken place. Let’s not forget that central government’s best estimate (estimate note! HM Government doesn’t even know the exact figure. Ed.) for its annual IT expenditure is £20 bn.

Now all we need is a little action in Whitehall…

Don’t hold your breath! 🙂

Linus Torvalds releases subsurface dive tracking software

Linus Torvalds, the creator and maintainer in chief of the Linux kernel, is also well known for his hobby of scuba diving and – as The H-online reports – he’s has just released subsurface, a dive-tracking program he wrote after discovering that no dive log software worked for him.

Linus Torvalds in a wetsuit
Linus Torvalds. Coder and scuba diver. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Subsurface runs on Linux and uses gtk2 for the GUI. It can process XML dive files or work directly with any dive computer supported by libdivecomputer. It supports import, PDF export and printing, and produces visual dive charts. Subsurface is licensed under the GPL2 and Linus is inviting developers to contribute patches.

A visit from Linux Format

Linux Format logoYesterday the lab received a visit from Jon Roberts, a journalist from Future Publishing‘s Linux Format magazine. Linux Format’s strapline is ‘The #1 source for Linux’ and is also known as LXF. According to the latest ABC figures, LXF has a circulation 25,000 copies per issue.

After a round of introductions and a cup of Bristol Wireless coffee, Jon then proceeded to interview the assembled volunteers, starting with the origins of Bristol Wireless when we were making home-made kit and rescuing hardware from skips, through to the present, as well as looking forward to our 10th anniversary next year and beyond, and covering the full range of our activities and services (including LTSP suites, event ICT and refurbished machines). Jon also took a load of photos of both volunteers and our hardware, both old-school and modern.

The way we were; an early Bristol Wireless cantenna (it still works too!)

Anyway, if you’re reading this Jon, it was a pleasure for us all to meet you yesterday. We’re also sure all our regular volunteers will be buying a copy of the next but one issue, in which Jon’s piece will be published; make sure you grab one too! And not just for the BW article either; there’s plenty of other open source goodness in LXF! 🙂

Swiss politicians questioned on open source

Germany’s Linux-Magazin reports that Swiss politicians at both local and national level have been questioned on their attitude to open source by the Zurich Group of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

The individual questions and answers plus a summary, can be found on a FSFE Zurich Group wiki page (in German).

Even Malta leaves UKgov behind when it comes to open source use

Last week Mark Turner, CEO of Sirius IT and the lead for the Cabinet Office’s ‘New Suppliers to Government’ Workgroup expressed his frustration with the slow pace of implementing changes to the UK Government’s IT and embracing more open source (allegedly to go along with open standards and open data. Ed.) as follows via Twitter:

To be clear #ukgovit is procuring the same way it always has, from the same people it always does, even after 1.5 years of new rhetoric…

It now appears that the UK Government’s glacial pace of change is being outstripped by the likes of err,…….. Malta!

OSOR reports that the number of open source applications installed by default on public sector desktop PCs in Malta increased by 47% between December 2009 and May 2011, according Michel Bugeja, enterprise architect at Malta’s Information Technology Agency (MITA). “The biggest increase is on tools to handle PDFs, for creating diagrams, for mind mapping and for project management.”

The agency maintains a list of applications, both open source and proprietary, that it evaluates for use by governments. The most recent open source applications it added are Open Office (office productivity suite) Dia (diagram drawing) Gimp (image editing) and Openproj (project management).

MITA is assisting other government agencies with its research on open source tools and business models. Recent studies include Postgresql(database management system), Sugarcrm (customer relationship management) and Openfire (instant messaging server).

VolvoIT makes savings with Linux workstations

VolvoIT, the IT division of the major car manufacturer, is testing an open source workstation based on Ubuntu amongst its Chinese users, according to The workstations have 80% of the functionality of the proprietary workstations they are replacing but cost only one-fifth (20%) as much.

Volvo IT is a standalone organisation within Volvo, employs about 5,000 persons and provides IT services to all of the Volvo group’s subsidiaries. Following its acquisition of a Chinese company whose licensing was not compliant, VolvoIT defined an alternative workstation based on open source and SaaS elements and dubbed the “OpenSource WorkPlace”.

Ubuntu desktop
A typical Ubuntu 11.* desktop. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The project’s objective was to provide a cheaper workstation in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO), but one retaining flexibility. VolvoIT commissioned the Canadian company Revolution Linux with the development of a complete distribution package. Besides the OS, the final package features some well-known open source packages, such as OpenOffice, Firefox, Zimbra, Gimp, etc.

Besides being based on Ubuntu, the workstation exists in 3 versions: fully managed, thick client and thin client (based on LTSP).

The trial started initially with a test group of 150 users, which was due to be increased to 750 by the end of August. VolvoIT is hoping to make savings of some 29% over 5 years with the Ubuntu workstations.

Read the original article (French).

Today is Software Freedom Day

Yes, that’s right; today lovers of free software all over the world celebrate Software Freedom Day, a global outbreak of gratitude for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Its goal is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home and in business; in short, everywhere!

We haven’t organised anything specific here in Bristol, unlike our friends in the Herefordshire LUG (news passim), so as a small contribution, here’s a cover version by The Pink Stainless Tail of Richard Stallman‘s Free Software Song. We hope you enjoy it. 😀

Curriculum trial will have schoolchildren learning coding at GCSE level

computer key left bracketsThe Register reports that secondary school pupils could be taught coding, programming and how to write their own software at GCSE level as part of a major overhaul of the IT curriculum for UK schools.

An initial trial will involve 100 pupils at 4 schools (Manchester Grammar, Bradfield College, Reading, Park House School, Newbury, and Townley Grammar in Bexleyheath, Kent) in a two-term experiment that will be rolled out across the UK if successful.

For years, the UK’s IT curriculum for secondary schools has been criticised for concentrating on only one widely used proprietary operating system and only teaching the children how to be passive users of well-known proprietary software products instead of firing their curiosity to experiment.

One of the most high profile critics has been Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. At the recent McTaggart lecture in Edinburgh he was reported to have said:

“I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as a standard in UK schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made. That is just throwing away your great computer heritage.”

The scheme is called “Behind the Screen” and was launched on Thursday by the Secretary of State for Universities and Science, David “Two Brains” Willetts, at the British Science Festival in Bradford.

Norwegian street problems site now on v2.0

FiksGataMi, an open source-based service to report local street problems to Norwegian local authorities, launched an upgraded version of its website on 12 September 2011, OSOR reports. The new version – FiksGataMi v2.0 – is easier for both citizens and local authorities to use.

FiksGataMi is a nationwide service to report faults and problems, including holes in the road, graffiti, fly tipping and defective street lighting to local authorities. Using the FiksGataMi website, citizens are able to report problems they have found to the relevant municipality or discuss them with other users.

FiksGataMi is run by the Norwegian UNIX User Group (NUUG). NUUG has further developed the service together with its British sister project, FixMyStreet.

Life’s wild editing Wikipedia

Yesterday Bristol Wireless volunteers Jim and your correspondent attended the afternoon session of the two Wiki Wildlife Edit-a-thons (news passim) that were jointly organised by Wikimedia UK and Wildscreen’s ARKive project, the Bristol-based digital archive of the world’s endangered species, which has kindly donated 200 items from its text archive on endangered species to help improve Wikipedia’s content on those species.

Besides we two souls from Bristol Wireless, the session we attended also featured attendees from UWE‘s Insitutute of Bio-Sensing Technology and Bristol University‘s Centre for Public Engagement.

The event, which was held at Bristol’s Watershed, started with introductions on the work of Wildscreen and ARKive from Ellie and Helen, after which it was over to Wikipedians Martin Poulter and Andy Mabbett to introduce Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Andy Mabbett introduces Wikipedia editing
Andy Mabbett introduces Wikipedia editing. Picture courtesy of Quayside Media Ltd

After any new editors had got themselves set up with a login, Andy then put everyone through a few basic editing exercises, after which we were all let loose on a species of our choice. Jim set about improving the Wikipedia entry for the Black-necked Crane, while your correspondent opted for the Gentoo penguin (these damn zealous Linux types! Ed. 😀 )

Jim gets some editing assistance from Andy Mabbett
BW's Jim gets some editing assistance from Andy Mabbett. Picture courtesy of Quayside Media Ltd

In spite of the silence that would have been expected at such an event – apart from the gentle tap on keyboards – there was plenty of noise as people discovered that editing Wikipedia can indeed be fun.

All the time the action was being relayed via Twitter with the #glamarkive hashtag by the dedicated social media team of Steve Virgin and Christina Zaba at the back of the room.

A report of the event is also being carried by Bristol247, which describes your ‘umble scribe as a ‘veteran Wikipedian’ (can they say that? Ed.) and even quotes him, as follows:

“This is for everyone,” said veteran Wikipedian Steve Woods of Bristol Wireless. “So many people use Wikipedia, it’s only right that they learn how to edit it too – so that they can put something back into it. There was lots of enthusiasm and positive energy today, which was great to see.”

All told, it was a most enjoyable event at which even seasoned ‘veterans’ such as Andy and myself gained some knowledge.

Searching via the Twitter hashtag mentioned above, I have discovered that the editors for the evening session included BBC people, long-standing and new Wikipedia editors, and a Wildlife Trust staff member. If you can add any more to this very limited information, please feel free use the comments form below.

A question from Shearon

Last weekend your ‘umble scribe found a comment waiting in the moderation queue from Shearon, an old friend of Bristol Wireless.

Shearon used to call in to see us regularly for a chat and Linux/networking advice when we were based in St Werburghs Community Centre.

Shearon’s comment is as follows:

yo woodsy how u keepin geez, can u tel me the site to get stuff from for ubuntu. cheers mate

Ubuntu logo

At first I was going to reply to Shearon’s question privately be email. However, mulling things over, I decided it presented an ideal opportunity not only to answer the question itself, but also to give a brief round-up of recent Ubuntu developments by using it as the basis for a news item.

Firstly, let’s answer Shearon’s questions. I’m very well thank you sir and your first port of call for all things Ubuntu is, of course, Ubuntu’s website:

It’s a good time to ask as the first beta versions of Ubuntu 11.10 have just become available. This release is codenamed Oneiric Ocelot.

Of course, open source is all about sharing not just software, but skills too. If you’re a slightly more experienced user, why not contribute your knowledge to help others in the Ubuntu community forums.

In addition to this, Ubuntu has just launched a new website for developers at This site is aimed at both new and developers making their first steps with Linux development, as well as more experienced developers, and promotes the strengths and ease-of-use of Quickly, the development framework from Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

Finally, I think it’s appropriate to mention that Ubuntu is the operating system we install on our refurbished PCs, so if you’re looking for a reliable, internet-ready machine that’s not bothered by viruses and spyware (like some rival operating systems. Ed.), please contact us.

So Shearon, I hope this more than adequately answers your question and gives you some ideas for other things to do. Thanks for your comment; I bet you never thought it would end up like this. 🙂