In a reciprocal move to consolidate their relationships, TDF also acquired seats on the boards of both the GNOME Foundation and KDE.
These reciprocal arrangement with the GNOME Foundation is intended to create stronger ties between the two communities and to foster the integration between LibreOffice and one of the most popular desktop environments for Linux.
GNOME is a desktop environment that is composed entirely of free and open source software, targeting Linux but also supported on most derivatives of the BSD operating system. Since the release of GNOME 3.0, the GNOME Project has focused on the development of a set of programs known as the GNOME Core Applications, for the adherence to the current GNOME HUD guidelines and the tight integration with underlying GNOME layers.
The GNOME Foundation is a non-profit organisation that furthers the goals of the GNOME Project, helping it to create a free software computing platform for the general public that is designed to be elegant, efficient and easy to use.
KDE has been creating free software since 1996 and shares a lot of values in respect of free software and open document formats with The Document Foundation. In addition, it brings the experience of running a free software organization for almost two decades to the TDF advisory board.
Both TDF and KDE are involved in the OASIS technical committee for the Open Document format (ODF), as well as collaborating on common aspects of development of office software, such as usability and visual design. The affiliation of KDE and The Document Foundation at an organizational level will help progress the shared goal of giving end users control of their computing needs through free software.
Developers at the French Inria research institute and the Technical University of Munich have introduced a new payment protocol called GNU Taler* and released an alpha package with the version number 0.0.0, Germany’s heise Open Source news website reports. The new system should solve the problem thrown up by crypto currencies that payments in these systems can only be traced with difficulty by state institutions for taxation purposes. At the same time, a high degree of user anonymity will also be ensured.
However, no new currency is to be created as the Talers transferred are merely cryptographic tokens representing other currencies such as Euro or Bitcoins. Users arrange with their bank for a transfer to a Taler exchange and have their Taler coins delivered from it to an online wallet, which they then use for making purchases in online shops. Traders can can the Taler coins received back into the original currency via the Taler exchange, which must of course retain adequate currency reserves. All transactions will take place securely on the basis of cryptographic signatures and cannot be falsified.
Furthermore, no personal information will be disclosed during a Taler transaction. However, information about transactions will be stored in the wallet so that consumers can demand their rights in respect of traders.
Demonstration version online
A demo version for spending toy money is already online. Users will need to install the Wallet add-on for Chrome or Chromium respectively to be able to use it.
The developers are hoping to make the payment system available to the general public in 2016.
* = The original taler or thaler was a silver coin issued by various German states from the 15th to 19th century. The taler is also reputed to be the etymological origin of the mighty US dollar.
This week the House of Commons is due to debate the Investigatory Powers Bill, the latest version of the Snoopers’ Charter (news passim), that will allow the United Kingdom’s police and services to regard the entire UK population as potential organised criminals, suspected terrorists and other assorted ne’er-do-wells and enable those same services to monitor the UK residents’ internet traffic and telecommunications.
In advance of the parliamentary debate and to publicise the illiberal nature of Home Secretary Theresa May’s bill, the Open Rights Group installed a public toilet on a busy Friday afternoon in Brick Lane in east London. However, the public toilet was not all that it seemed; it was a toilet with a difference.
The Open Rights Group has also provided a helpful, fact-packed page for MPs on the Snoopers’ Charter to brief them ahead of the debate.
Today many people have digital content they created years ago and stored in obsolete and proprietary document formats. Very often these old file formats cannot be opened by any application on the user’s current operating system, leaving the users locked out of their own content.
However, it is not just individuals that are affected: public and private sector organisations are similarly afflicted; and this can have huge consequences when, say, a a government is unable to read or access digital data it has created in the past.
The Document Liberation Project was created to enable, people, private and public sector organisations to recover their data from proprietary formats and to provide a means of converting the recovered data into open and standardised file formats, such as Open Document Format, thus returning effective control over the content to the actual authors from the software computer that devised the proprietary formats.
To achieve this, The Document Liberation Project develops software libraries that applications can use to read data in proprietary formats.
The following video explains how this process works.
OwnCloud founder Frank Karlitschek has coined his own version of the synchronisation software. Until the end of April Karlitschek was the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of OwnCloud Inc., but then left the company due to differences of opinion on the direction of OwnCloud, German technology news site heise Open Source reports.
Since Karlitschek’s move, several other developers have also announced their departure from OwnCloud Inc.
A new company, Nextcloud GmbH, will provide support for the OwnCloud fork. “At least nine of OwnCloud’s top developers” will be working for Nextcloud, according to Karlitschek. Nextcloud wants to develop a “drop-in replacement” for version 9.0 of OwnCloud, which was released at the start of March.
In addition, Nextcloud is offering to take on the support contracts of existing OwnCloud customers.
More stable software promised
Nextcloud wants to take greater account of the interests of the developer and user community and is promising a more stable and reliable software package.
Furthermore, Nextcloud want to improve calendar and address book integration since these functions have not been supported to date in the enterprise version of OwnCloud.
Nextcloud GmbH is also collaborating closely with video-conferencing software provider Spreed.ME. The community version of OwnCloud 9 already includes Spreed’s software. Karlitschek is inviting the community to join in and the necessary infrastructure should be in place in a few days.
The announcement of the OwnCloud fork took place two days after OwnCloud Inc. had established a foundation to co-ordinate the software’s future development and ensure both the continuing free availability of the software and the project’s long-term survival.
Both OwnCloud and the Nextcloud fork are open source applications with which a cloud service for storing and synchronising files and other data can be implemented on users’ servers.
In addition, both OwnCloud Inc. and Nextcloud GmbH offer paid-for enterprise versions with additional features and support.
Update 06/06/16: In a further development reported today by heise, OwnCloud Inc. is closing down as a result of the departure of Frank Karlitschek’s departure, stating the announcement had left it “surprised and disappointed“. The German branch of the business, OwnCloud GmbH, is continuing its operations, as is the recently founded OwnCloud Foundation.
Collabora Productivity, the driving force behind putting the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite in the cloud, has announced the release the first production grade version of Collabora Online, its flagship cloud document suite solution. Codenamed “Engine”, it is targeted specifically at hosting and cloud businesses who wish to support both commercial and consumer document viewing, creation and editing services in their portfolios.
“Collabora Online 1.0 is the culmination of several years’ intensive work”, remarked Michael Meeks, Collabora Productivity’s General Manager. “Our objective is to enable key document suite service delivery for hosters by integrating seamlessly with their existing groupware, storage, file sharing and other customer solutions. Critically, Collabora will tailor the look and feel of the integration to complement a hoster’s identity and desired product experience.”
For this release Collabora Productivity has also updated its demo, which now includes, amongst other things:
Over the last 19 years the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has been the steward of the Open Source Definition (or OSD), establishing a common language when discussing what an Open Source licence means. In addition, the OSI has maintained a list of licences known to be compatible with the OSD.
This is being taken to its next logical step this year, with the OSI providing a machine-readable publication of approved licences. This will allow third parties to become licence-aware, as well as enabling organisations to determine clearly if a license is indeed an Open Source licence from the authoritative source regarding Open Source licensing.
Brandon Keepers, Open Source Lead at GitHub, remarked: “A canonical, machine-readable source of license metadata is a great step towards enabling developers to build tools around open source licensing and compliance. We can’t wait to see what the community does with it.”
The concept behind this API is to be a “hub” to store a central list of crosswalks and common identifiers to other services, enabling third parties who are already licence-aware to provide their mappings and pull OSI approval status programmatically. As a proof of concept, SPDX identifiers have been added, trivially allowing cross-walks to SPDX datasets. This allows anyone to take an SPDX licence ID and determine whether it’s approved by the OSI by asking the OSI API.
Today the United Kingdom witnessed the annual, anachronistic, Ruritanian pantomime otherwise known as the State Opening of Parliament, an event performed by the unelected in fancy dress which marks the formal start of a session of the UK parliament.
The substantial part of the ceremony is the delivery of the Queen’s Speech, written for her by the government and outlining the government’s programme of legislation for the coming year.
There is one major item of interest to those whose major concern is connectivity; paragraph 4 of the speech states:
Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.
After that one sentence, the speech then moves on to other matters.
One glaring omission of the entire speech is the lack of any detail. Even for the small section of the speech examined here, there is no definition of what constitutes “high speed broadband“.
Given that the UK definition of so-called “superfast” is a measly 24 Mbps, can it be assumed that “high speed broadband” will be lower than that paltry rate? By way of comparison, the EU Commission’s definition of “superfast” broadband is slightly higher, weighing in at “at least” 30 Mbps.
Update 19/05/16: Further details have now come to light. The BBC reports that the details of the Digital Economy Bill will include the following:
A minimum speed of 10Mbps to be guaranteed through the Broadband Universal Service Obligation;
Householders in remote areas may have to contribute to the costs of installation;
A right to automatic compensation when the service is unavailable;
UK companies must get consent before sending promotional emails, with fines for transgressors; and
All websites containing pornographic images to require age verification for access.
As regards the final item in the list, we wonder how the UK government is going to enforce this requirement on sites based on servers beyond their jurisdiction, since this seems like wishful thinking by technically ignorant government ministers and equally incompetent civil servants.
Some 11 years ago after the licence disputes between Linux developers and Bitmover, the producer of the BitKeeper version control system, gave rise to the development of Git and Mercurial, the most widely used version control systems today, BitKeeper is now also available as open source software, German IT news site heise reports. The tool has been covered by the Apache License 2.0 since 9th May 2016.
In 2002 Linux creator Linus Torvalds and colleagues accessed BitKeeper since it was the only system that enabled an automated retrospective rearrangement on a version control system. However, in 2005 Bitmover then withdrew from the community, on account of which the proprietary BitKeeper package could not be used any more for open source development and Torvalds began the development of Git, which has since become the top distributed version control system with the github hosting service.
Although development of BitKeeper has continued over the years, with the most recent release taking place in September 2015, use of the software is reputed not be be very widespread. Consequently, the heise report’s author believes its release as open source must be regarded as a final effort to keep the software going.
Quantum computers have significant potential to open entirely new directions for processing information and to overhaul the way that we think about and use the science of computation, Bristol University reports.
Modern computers already play a huge role in society, routinely handling and processing vast amounts of data, as well as solving calculations at an incredible speed. However, there are some problems that they just cannot solve in a useful amount of time, no matter how fast they become. The concept of a quantum computer aims to address this, exploring uncharted computation and solving at least some of these problems that classical computers cannot.
A study entitled “Efficient quantum walk on a quantum processor“* published yesterday in Nature Communications, reports strong evidence that with this method something meaningful can already be seen with a primitive quantum computer that cannot be seen with a classical computer. The very first steps towards this have been implemented in the lab in Bristol.
Dr Ashley Montanaro, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics and EPSRC Fellow from Bristol University’s School of Mathematics, remarked: “A quantum computer is a machine designed to use quantum mechanics to solve problems more efficiently than any possible classical computer.
“We know some algorithms that can run on such machines and it’s an open and exciting challenge to find more. But most of the quantum algorithms we know need to be run on a large-scale quantum computer to see a speed up.”
Building a large-scale quantum computer is one of today’s biggest engineering challenges. There’s a growing worldwide effort to develop one and this needs substantial effort from a wide range of expertise – including as part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQT). However, the results could be tremendous, offering fast and cheap ways to design new materials and new pharmaceuticals.
Nevertheless, there is a field of research emerging now that can help accelerate understanding how quantum computers will work and how users can apply them. Examining the power of smaller, more primitive designs for quantum computers indicates that quantum machines could outperform the capabilities of classical computing for very specific tasks sooner than we thought. For instance, “Boson Sampling” is a recent example that is driven by what is experimentally available very soon.
One-dimensional quantum random walk. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Big questions researchers face include what can these primitive quantum processors do that is useful and how sophisticated do they need to be. The results published in today’s paper help to answer this question by looking at how to simulate particular kinds of a phenomenon called the quantum walk.
The quantum walk at first glance is abstract, but is the quantum mechanical version of very useful models such as Brownian motion and the “drunken sailor’s random walk“. The key difference is the particle in the quantum walk is endowed with the principle of quantum superposition, thus enabling other researchers to show they are a new way of thinking about how full-scale quantum computers might operate and creating useful quantum algorithms.
Xiaogang Qiang, PhD student in Bristol’s School of Physics who implemented the experiment, said: “It’s like the particle can explore space in parallel. This parallelism is key to quantum algorithms, based on quantum walks that search huge databases more efficiently than we can currently.”
Dr Jonathan Matthews, EPSRC Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in the School of Physics and Bristol University’s Centre for Quantum Photonics, explained: “An exciting outcome of our work is that we may have found a new example of quantum walk physics that we can observe with a primitive quantum computer, that otherwise a classical computer could not see.
“These otherwise hidden properties have practical use, perhaps in helping to design more sophisticated quantum computers.”
* = Authors: Xiaogang Qiang, Thomas Loke, Ashley Montanaro, Kanin Aungskunsiri, Xiaoqi Zhou, Jeremy L. O’Brien, Jingbo Wang, Jonathan C. F. Matthews
It has emerged that so-called “superfast” broadband (defined in this instance as 25 megabits per second (Mbps) Ed.) will not be provided automatically to tens of thousands of remote rural homes, the Western Daily Press reports.
A Government consultation document says it is likely that many people in such areas would not want to be connected to better broadband, but extending it to them would not represent value for money.
However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has rejected suggestions that rural areas were being left behind, a point of view that has not found favour with campaigners for rural broadband, who are concerned that rural businesses will move away and jobs will be lost unless they are included in the better broadband roll-out.
Graham Long, chairman of Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset is quoted by the Western Daily as saying: “Businesses are moving out of rural areas here because they cannot keep their website – their shop window – up to date.
“It will be even worse if they only have 10 Mbps in 2020, because the need for better bandwidth will have grown by then, now that we have cloud computing and other shared applications.”
Open source software was an essential element in the work of 2 Bristol modern languages tutors who have just won an award.
The University of Bristol has announced that Marcella Oliviero and Andrea Zhok have won first prize in the 2016 Apereo Teaching & Learning Awards (ATLAS) for a project that helped first-year students in the Department of Italian teach elements of grammar to their peers. With support from University staff, students were encouraged to develop their own tutorials using Xerte, an open source software package for the creation of interactive teaching and learning materials, which has been developed by the University of Nottingham. As a result, students gained a greater stake in their own learning, improved their subject knowledge and acquired new IT skills.
Apereo is a network that develops and maintains e-learning software used in thousands of educational institutions worldwide. Packages like Xerte permit the use of a wide range of functions and media to make the learning experience richer and more diverse than is possible with traditional methods. The tutors’ success was announced at the 2016 Xerte Conference in Nottingham and they have also been invited to present their work at the Open Apereo conference in New York later this month.
This week there have been developments in the provision of free public wifi access in both north Staffordshire and south Shropshire.
A report in today’s Sentinel boldly announces in its headline that “Stoke-on-Trent [is] set to join Manchester and Barcelona with free wifi in the city centre“.
However, the Sentinel is in this instance following the old press maxim of never allowing the actual story to interfere with a good headline and comparing the Potteries with near-rival Manchester and the cultural and political capital of Catalonia always reads well.
A few paragraphs further down the actual story is revealed, i.e. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is advertising for a firm to install wifi hotspots within the Potteries Way ring-road and this will complement existing coverage at the intu Potteries shopping centre, other businesses and city centre cafés and bars. In the council’s eyes, this development will improve the so-called “city centre experience” for shoppers and businesses.
Furthermore, the project has been proposed by the City Centre Partnership group which represents traders and there’s not a hint of any provisional costings as yet. Finally, the council is reported as conducting a “market testing exercise” to examine the project’s feasibility.
Looking at cities elsewhere, the Sentinel report states that Manchester City Council provides free public wifi for the 30 minutes and for £3 per day thereafter, whilst Nottingham City Council signed a contract with BT to install 41 wifi hotspots around the city in 2015. Barcelona has one of Europe’s most extensive public wifi services with 443 hotspots.
This was in spite of support from councillors. The report optimistically states that hoped the idea could be reviewed at a later date, but no timescale has been set.
Gina Wilding, clerk of Ludlow Town Council is quoted as saying: “Members felt that it was a great idea but just at the wrong time.”
She continued: “The town council has been approached by a company about the idea. The installation itself will cost about £7,000 and then it would cost about £6,000 a year in running costs.”
The company involved is reported as Solvings Ltd. of Mold in Flintshire, which has yet to supply wifi technology for any town centre and whose current business mostly deals with private defence-related sites and military complexes.
CMS is also providing the simulated data generated with the same software version that should be used to analyse the primary datasets. Simulations play a crucial role in particle-physics research and CMS is also making available the protocols for generating the simulations that are provided. The data release is accompanied by analysis tools and code examples tailored to the datasets. A virtual-machine image based on CernVM, which comes preloaded with the software environment needed to analyse the CMS data, can also be downloaded from the portal.
Kati Lassila-Perini, a German physicist working on the CMS detector stated: “Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly. The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”
In our own more modest lab, we’re wondering if this is the largest open data release yet. If readers can confirm or refute this, please feel free to comment below.
First of all NfP Services is hosting a free seminar at its London offices with refreshments and lunch included. The seminar will be held on Tuesday 19th April from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. The venue will be Miller Technology Limited, 340 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8BG (map).
During the session NfP Services will be demonstrating CiviCRM’s amazing functionality and flexibility and explaining how it can help your organisation take a low risk route to implementing its use. It will also be providing live examples of existing systems and how current clients are reaping the enormous benefits of this fully functional, open-source, web-based CRM system.
The event is ideal for anyone new to CiviCRM who would like to find out more. Existing users keen to get more from their software will also be welcome.
You can register here or alternatively contact James on 020 7843 4400 / 07808 304 595 or send an email to james [at] millertech.co.uk.
Nearer the end of the month, the second CiviCRM London Meetup 2016 will be taking place on Wednesday 27th April 2016 from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m., followed by refreshment in an as yet unspecified local hostelry. The venue will be the offices of Compucorp Ltd., 4th Floor, 33 Bethnal Green Rd, London, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA (map).
The schedule for the event is as follows:
18.00: Welcome and drop in for 15 mins.
18.15 : Start
18.15 – 18.30: Session 1: Introduction to CiviCRM
18.30 – 18.50: Session 2: Case Study
19.00 – 19.15: Session 3: Community update
19.15 – 19.30: Session 4: What’s new!
If potential attendees have any queries, they are advised to email Info [at] compucorp.co.uk.
A blog post earlier this week from The Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, the popular free and open source office productivity suite, gives details of the first bug hunting session for the forthcoming release of LibreOffice 5.2.
This initial session will be held on Friday, 22nd April 2016. Tests will be performed on the Alpha version of LibreOffice 5.2, which will be available on the pre-releases servers a few days before the event. Builds will be available for Linux (DEB and RPM), MacOS and Windows.
Mentors will be available on on the day from 8.00 a.m. UTC to 10.00 p.m. UTC. Of course it will also be possible to hunt bugs on other days, as the builds of this particular Alpha release (LibreOffice 5.2.0 Alpha) will be available until the end of May.
During the day there will be two dedicated sessions: the first to chase bugs on the four main LibreOffice modules – Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw – between 3.00 p.m. UTC and 5.00 p.m. UTC; and the second to test the top 10 features between 5.00 p.m. UTC and 7.00 p.m. UTC. The list of the top 10 features will be decided during the week before the session and will be added to the wiki page.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and Italy’s Bologna University have jointly developed a microcontroller called PULPino (for “parallel ultra-low power”) and are making it available as open source hardware, Switzerland’s ICT Journal reports. According to ETH’s Professor Luca Benini, who managed the project: “It will henceforth be possible to build open source hardware starting from nothing.” He added: “In several recent examples of open source equipment, use is limited by exclusive marketing rights and non-competition clauses. Our system is not linked to any condition in licensing terms.”
This new microcontroller has been designed for battery-powered equipment with a very low power consumption, meaning it could be used for Internet of Things devices, smart watches, medical sensors or for home automation. Luca Benini gives the example of a smart watch developed in his laboratory which could be capable of determining the user’s location by analysing the visual data from the watch’s camera.
Thanks to personal contacts, Prof. Benini has been able to ensure that the microcontroller has already been used in other research projects in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe. However, each time he has needed to negotiate licensing agreements. He is optimistic for Pulpino’s future and reckons that the processor will increase its distribution still further now it has been released as open source hardware: “Pulpino is now very easily available. We hope there will be more collaborative projects in the future and that these are likewise easier.”
UbuCon Europe 2016 will be the first conference dedicated to the European Ubuntu community and will be held in Essen, Germany from 18th to 20th November 2016.
The organisers are promising two days full of talks, workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and (hopefully) great food. There will be social events in the evenings will give delegates the opportunity to meet fellow community members and visit some of Essen’s attractions.
What is UbuCon Europe about?
Ubucon Europe is a conference on everything that is related to Ubuntu Linux and open source software. In particular, it will focus on
getting familiar with Ubuntu and all its flavours and sub-projects,
showcasing everything (flavours, projects, commercial products etc.) based on Ubuntu,
providing an open and vivid atmosphere to discuss ideas and projects with members of the Ubuntu community from all over Europe;and
learning and having fun!
Where will it take place?
The venue for UbuCon is Essen’s Unperfekthaus (which bills itself as “the creative oasis of central Essen”. Ed.).