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Ada Initiative supports women in free and open source

Sexism in free and open source software (FOSS) culture has been increasingly discussed and documented over the past couple of years. However, little has been done about it. Moreover, the lack of women contributors to projects such as Wikipedia has been highlighted by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (news passim) and in Australia, Collective Action is endeavouring to counter this too with its Women for Wikipedia initiative (more news passim).

To highlight the importance of involving women, Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, says: “Open technology and culture are shaping our future and must reflect all people. Involving more women in the creation of our future is a critical step in building a healthy Internet world.”

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner, who have both been involved in women’s FOSS groups for more than a decade, are now determined to change this situation with the foundation of The Ada Initiative, a non-profit organization with the aim of encouraging women’s participation in both FOSS and related groups, such as the Free Culture Movement and Wikipedia.

The Ada Initiative is focused on helping women get careers in open technology through recruitment and training programs for women, education for community members who want to help women and working with companies and projects to improve their outreach to women.

The initiative is named after Ada Lovelace, an associate of Charles Babbage, who is often credited with being the first computer programme.

Freedom to write, freedom to read

DFD 2011 logoFree Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is inviting individuals, community groups and institutions to celebrate Document Freedom Day (DFD) this coming 30th March. DFD is worldwide day of celebration of Open Standards, open document formats and their importance. Open Standards ensure the freedom to access your data and the freedom to build Free Software to write and read data in open formats.

You can participate by organising activities in your own town or city. Distributing fliers, organising talks, adding a banner on your blog, donating money: there are many ways you can help spread awareness about Open Standards.

Open Standards are important as an ever greater part of our communication moves into the digital world. In the digital society, Open Standards and open document formats provide us with the freedom to read and write. They are crucial to ensure our ability to exchange information, remain independent of software vendors and keep data accessible in the long term (are you listening, HM Government or are you still joined at the hip to Microsoft? Ed.). Open Standards also make sure that people are able to communicate and work using Free Software.

FSFE would like at least 25 cities to take part in Document Freedom Day 2011 to help in making the event a worldwide success.

For more information about the event, please have a look at

Linux & Open Source Expo, Barbican, Wed 2nd & Thurs 3rd this week

Tux - mascot of the Linux kernelLate notice I know (you might try apologising for your tardiness. 🙂 Ed.), but the Bristol & Bath LUG has this morning had details of the above event. To quote the event’s home page:

The Linux & Open Source Expo 2011 is the UK’s only dedicated Linux & Open Source conference and exhibition. There is a natural synergy with Cloud Computing, Virtualization, Open Source, many applications and software used for Cloud Computing and Virtualization are open source solutions and as such the Linux & Open Source Expo will co-locate with the Cloud Expo Europe 2011.

The event will be co-located with Cloud Expo Europe, at the Barbican Hall 1 and will provide a unique opportunity to visitors to discuss their overall IT needs. Held on 2nd & 3rd of February, these two events with their free to attend conferences, workshops and exhibitions will provide the only platform for decision makers and influencers of IT products, solutions, strategies and services to meet with providers to discuss their needs.

The event will be a hub of knowledge with key feature areas including a dot org village, a virtualization zone, LPI Certification Exam Rooms, 2 conferences supported and run by the UKUUG, and a host of other interesting and informative workshops and presentation areas.

Hat tip: MJ Ray

Women for Wikipedia

One of the facts that came out of Jimmy Wales’ recent talk in Bristol (news passim) was that the majority of contributors to Wikipedia (aka ‘Wikipedians’) are male. Indeed, only 13% of current contributors are women.

News now reaches the lab via Collective Action in Australia that a Women for Wikipedia campaign is running between now and International Womens’ Day on Tuesday, 8th March 2011. Collective Action states:

Did you know only 13% of contributors to Wikipedia are women?

To honour the 2011 centenary of International Womens’ Day women around the world are invited to create or edit a page on Wikipedia to help redress this imbalance.

Share your page on Twitter using the hashtag #women4wikipedia and find what other women have contributed to Wikipedia.

Collective Action’s Rosie Williams has also written a blog post on this subject.

Herefordshire Open Source Day – March 26

It’s come to the chief scribe’s attention that Herefordshire, another part of the country with a fine cider tradition, is having a bit of a do on Saturday 26th March and there’s a local Bristol angle, if you read down near the foot of the email reproduced below, which was posted to the Ubuntu UK mailing list.

Hi everyone

Herefordshire LUG is organising an Open Source Day on Sat March 26 as a follow on from the very successful Software Freedom day event we ran in Sept.

It’s a free drop-in event open to everyone – we demonstrate Linux operating systems, OS cross platform software and promote and inform people about FOSS.

Many of our LUG members are Ubuntu users and Ubuntu tends to be the Linux system we recommend to first time users – we gave away over 60 Ubuntu discs at our last event (thanks to Canonical) to users who ranged from business people and students to not-for-profit organisations and home users – it was quite a mix as well as nearly 100 of our own cross platform Open disc (kindly copied and printed for us gratis by The Linux Emporium).

For our Open Source Day in March we have created our own HOSS Awards – Herefordshire Open Source Star Awards – and are looking for nominations from businesses, organisations and individuals who have done the most to promote and develop the use of FOSS in the county.

At this event we are also focusing on Open Document Standards and the need for compatibility and will be looking at Open/Libre Office in particular.

Dr Mark Wright Bristol City Council’s cabinet member and an Open Source advocate will be speaking in the afternoon about his experience of Open Source in Local Government.

So if any of you can come to the event we would love to see you there. There is more info up on our website about the event and the HOSS Awards – you can also follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Hat tip: Popey

Debian says: it’s (release) party time!

Debian logoDebian News announces that next weekend, Debian developers and users from all over the world are organizing release parties for the release of Debian squeeze, which is due on the weekend of the 5th-6th February.

For those interested in organising a local release party in their respective part of the globe, get cracking with the organisation and announce it on the Debian wiki. Follow the same link if you want to find the nearest release party to you (so far, the nearest to Bristol is in Dortmund, Germany. Ed.).

Bristol Wireless, in case you didn’t know, is proud to use Debian. 🙂

Welcome OSFON!

OSFON logoNews reaches the lab (hat tip: Lugbikaner) that Nigeria now has its own open source advocacy group called the Open Source Foundation for Nigeria (OSFON).

According to OSFON’S website, its mission is

The mission of Open Source Foundation for Nigeria (OSFON) is to promote and educate decision makers in government, educators, NGOs, businesses and citizens on the advantages of using the Linux Operating System, Free and Open Source Applications and Open Standard.

Although OSFON appears to be in its early stages, we at Bristol Wireless wish the organisation every success.

Greece: free wifi in Kozani

OSOR reports that the Greek non-profit organisation ‘Free Software / Open Source Software’ (aka Ellak, in Greek) granted the northern Greek Municipality of Kozani four wireless access points and a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) line of 24Mb down/1Mb up in the town’s Lassanis square.

Furthermore, Ellak undertook the installation, configuration, operation and technical support of the wireless network.

The total economic cost for this initiative is just the fixed cost of a broadband DSL line. In the test run it was noticed that users enjoyed the free access; the Ellak team hopes that the service will be used predominantly by students and vulnerable groups.

The name of the wifi is ‘free-lassani’ and access is open to all, but some traffic shaping has been implemented to ensure quality of service.

If your language skills are up to it, read the original Greek article.

Welcome new volunteers (and welcome back Michael)

Arriving at the lab on Tuesday this week, your correspondent was pleasantly surprised to see that an additional batch of LTSP thin clients had been set up in the lab. He was even more surprised to observe that all 4 new machines were in use and a full-blown lesson on use of the Linux command line being given to a group of 3 people.

The tuition was being given by Michael, a long-standing Bristol Wireless member and volunteer who has done a number of stints with us over the years since our early days in Bannerman Buildings in Easton. Michael is currently unemployed and the time he spends with us as a regular volunteer will, we hope, keep him in trouble and assist in his finding work. 😉

Michael’s pupils at that session were a fine group of fellows known individually as Myles, Gabriel and Darren and they’re all very new to the world of Linux and open source, but they’re already making a great contribution to Bristol Wireless and helping keep the lab buzzing.

Myles has been busy over the last couple of days testing and then securely wiping (news passim) a stack of some 40 old hard drives ready for use in our refurbishment project. He’ll also be assisting us in selling off our superfluous hardware.

Gabriel has finished doing his degree and has some skill in SQL programming, but little practice as yet. He’s busy honing his skills on producing a phone billing system for our VoIP sales under the guidance of our SQL maestro, aka Mr Treasurer.

If what I’m told is correct (if it’s not please feel free to comment below. Ed.), Darren is interested in networking and progressing to study Cisco routing.

A warm welcome to you all and I hope you enjoy your time with Bristol Wireless.

If anyone else out there fancies getting involved in our work, please get in touch.

Race Online 2012 aims to bridge digital divide with low-cost computers

keyboardToday the BBC reports that Race Online 2012, the organisation that aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults in the UK who are currently offline, will be offering low-cost computers as part of a government scheme to encourage people in the UK to get online for the first time.

Prices will start at £98 for a refurbished PC, with subsidised internet connections available for £9 a month. Distributor Remploy hopes to sell 8,000 machines in the next 12 months, and the PCs will be sold via 60 UK Online centres.

For penguinistas such as ourselves, the good news is the cheap machines will run Linux and other open source software and will include a flat-screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, warranty, dedicated telephone helpline and delivery.

Read the original BBC article.

Of course, if £98 is still a bit too much or you don’t need a broadband connection thrown in, take a look at Bristol Wireless’ refurbished computers.

BW gets critters online

Some years ago Bristol Wireless were involved in a project with a wild life sanctuary called Secret World on the levels in deepest, darkest Somerset. Recently we were approached again to stream more critters. How could we refuse? Needless to say, a couple of us went to Somerset to see what we had to achieve and set about organising how we could unlock more of Secret World’s secrets.

Secret World had some 16 cameras in and coax cabling to some of the pens; this arrangement allows monitoring without any human contact. Occasionally rare creatures. For instance, some baby otters came in just before Christmas (as did a herd of swans. Yes herd! Look it up. Ed.) and the Secret World team wanted to get the images of these up on the internet. This is where we enter the picture…

Bristol Wireless duly turned up on site between Christmas and New Year with some more kit in the shape dedicated streaming computer and a USB graphics device which was plugged into the existing coax network. Following configuration, the video from the camera feed was compressed and streamed to a dedicated, high bandwidth streaming server managed and owned by sigsys, courtesy of Mike and Coast AMS who embedded the relevant code, so the results can be viewed here.

We had a few minor hiccups on site that needed sorting out, the major ones being video noise and power phase issues. Once these were done, we were pleased with the final result. Finally, as Secret World are now looking into better quality video cameras and more streams for the future, this project is destined to grow.

Vicki Rooms become Wiki Rooms

For a couple of hours earlier today, Bristol’s Victoria Rooms, a part of the University of Bristol, today became the Wikitoria Rooms, courtesy of the presence of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, who was in Bristol as part of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary celebrations (Wikipedia was actually launched on 15th January 2001. How the world has changed. Ed.).

Jimmy Wales at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol. Photo: Dan Martin

Jimmy’s talk started with the genesis of Wikipedia and how it grew out of the open source and free software movement, including the now infamous free as in freedom (as opposed to beer) quote, and how it has grown over the years to become the fifth most visited site on the internet, based on the premise of free knowledge for all.

Some interesting facts emerged regarding the profile of the average ‘Wikipedian’, as contributors and authors are known. They are predominantly male (87%), with an average age of 26 and they have twice the general population’s average percentage of PhDs. National differences in content reading also emerged from Jimmy’s talk. For instance, Germans read lots about geography, whilst the French and Spanish read less about sex than other nations, a point on which Jimmy opined that they were probably busier indulging in it than reading about it. 😉

Looking at recent developments, Jimmy turned to such projects as Wikia – a community site to which anyone can contribute their knowledge on specific topics (or indeed start a wiki on a new topic). As an example, he quoted Lostpedia, a wiki devoted to the US TV series, Lost.

Jimmy’s talk concluded with future directions and prospects and these were reflected in the questions from the floor and those submitted online. Perhaps the most interesting of these was one about the knotty subject of net neutrality. Jimmy conceded his position on this was “complicated”, but concluded by inferring that the control exerted on access to information, such as the Apple Apps model for smartphones represented more of a threat to “diverse and open ecosystems”.

Finally, the event was streamed live and attracted an online audience of some 3,000 people (Is this a record for a Bristol webcast? Ed.).

All in all, an enjoyable and inspiring event and one which will live in his memory for a long time by your ‘umble scribe, who was conscripted to assist with covering the event in brief bursts of 140 characters on Twitter.

Growing the CiviCRM community

CiviCRM logoIn 2011 meetings of the CiviCRM user group will be be held every 2 months and the first of these will be held in Bristol on Wednesday 11th February from 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm at The Create Centre, B Bond Warehouse, Smeaton Road, Bristol, BS1 6XN (map).

The event’s theme will be “Growing The CiviCRM community” (on which Dave Greenberg has written a blog post) and will tackle the following topics:

  • What is the userbase in the UK?
  • Where is the support?
  • What joint promotion is possible?
  • Who needs to hear about us?

You can register here.

Meeting may continue informally in licensed premises after 6pm.

If you have any queries about the event, contact davem (at) or sean (at) or telephone 0117 9096967.

Hat tip: Sean Kenny

At a loose end in Bangalore on 27th? Try Ubuntu Developer Day

News reaches the lab that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, the Linux operating system which we install on our refurbished machines, is organising a Developer Day on 27th January 2011 in Bangalore, India.

The event will be held at Bangalore’s Leela Palace Kempinski Hotel.

Ubuntu logo

Ubuntu is different from other commercial Linux offerings that preceded it, since Canonical doesn’t divide its efforts between a high-quality commercial version and a free, ‘community’ version. The commercial and community teams collaborate to produce a single, high-quality release, which receives ongoing maintenance for a defined period (these are known as Long Term Support (LTS) releases. Ed.). Both the release and ongoing updates are freely available to all users.

The programme will feature keynote speeches from various members of the Canonical team, as well as hands-on technical sessions it is designed to deliver a great way for any developer to rapidly get up-to-speed on Ubuntu.

The event will be of interest to engineers and developers with a professional interest in using Ubuntu as a development platform, or in developing applications for the Ubuntu user base. And the best bit… it’s free!

Prospective attendees are asked to register before 20th January in order to guarantee a place.

Full details are available on the Canonical website.

Register for the event here.

Hat tip: Wired VC

Public sector? If so tell the FSFE about your use of free software

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is gathering information about the use of Free Software by the public sector in Europe.

The information will help them to evaluate the current situation and will also be used to decide who will be the European Free Software Champion in 2012.

The FSFE is asking public sector bodies to add their information to its website (it’s a wiki. Ed.) before 25th March 2011 and it will influence the next matches. Finally, the FSFE points out that adding information continuously will help Free Software activists all over the world.

Note for UK public sector: don’t all rush at once to follow the link to the wiki page. 😉

Live webcast of Jimmy Wales’ talk

Wikimedia Foundation logoRegular readers will be aware that on 13th January, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, will be giving at talk in at the Victoria Rooms in Bristol (news passim).

In the meantime news has been received from Ask Bristol that there will be a live webcast of the event. As Ask Bristol stated recently on their Twitter feed:

Live webcast of Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder) in Bristol:13 Jan 11:55 GMT – live blogging and suggest a question –

Come the day of the event, you can follow the webcast using the following link.

Local apps for communities at the Count’s Louse

Over at Connecting Bristol, a forthcoming event has been announced for the end of the month.

Entitled “Apps for Communities”, it will be held at the Council House, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR (map) on 28th and 29th January 2011. It is being jointly hosted by Bristol City Council, Local by Social and the Connecting Bristol team. And here’s the best bit: it’s free!

The event will explore how Apps and Widgets can be used to bring benefits to citizens, broadening social and economic inclusion and helping the whole community benefit from the power of open data. Council officers, councillors, social innovators, application developers, community developers and local residents from across Bristol and the South West are all welcome to attend.

Friday 28th will see presentations from many speakers, including:

There will be a welcome from Barbara Janke, the leader of Bristol City Council, and Connecting Bristol’s Stephen Hilton will chair the session.

Saturday’s session will run as a “Hackday” for developers, local people and other parties interested in working together to develop new apps for Bristol and the South West.

To find out more and to register for the event, please click here.

The event will be using the Twitter hashtags #apps4bristol and #localbysocialsw

What if all the world ran on Linux?

Tux - the mascot of the Linux kernelJust before Christmas, ran an article speculating on the differences if the world ran its IT on secure Linux-based systems rather than insecure closed source proprietary operating systems. One reason for such speculation is that, for as long as we advocates can remember, it’s always been the next year that’s going to be the year of Linux, especially on the desktop.

To return to the article, author Katherine Noyes foresees five major effects:

  • Life would get far more difficult for malware producers;
  • The PC (in)security sector would suffer too;
  • Less unscheduled downtime for hardware;
  • Savings on licensing and support costs; and finally
  • Better quality software!

Of course Katherine Noyes points out in her piece that no software/operating system is perfect. You can read Katherine’s article here.

¡Feliz Gravidad!

Our resident purveyor of bah-humbug writes:

It’s that time of year again; even the normally secular Bristol Wireless lab has started to acquire greetings cards. However, there’s another reason to celebrate 25th December: Sir Isaac Newton, a man of gravitas, was born on that day in 1642 (under the old calendar reckoning. Ed).

Visiting the site of Richard Stallman, pioneer of the free software movement, one discovers the following:

Merry Grav-mass!

On December 25, Isaac Newton’s birthday, we celebrate the existence of comprehensible physical laws. Remember, Gravitation is a well-established scientific theory, but Intelligent Falling is just religion pretending to be science.

One way to celebrate Grav-mass is to decorate a tree with apples and other fruits. Glue them or attach them, but not too well! The idea is that occasionally a fruit should fall. Put them on the tree no more than 2 feet up, so that they won’t get damaged or hurt anybody when they fall. Investigating and perfecting the methods for doing this is a great way expose a child to the process of scientifically studying the behavior of the physical world.

Another way to celebrate Grav-mass, in a group, is by telling each other about scientific knowledge and understanding, or discussing what kind of experiment could answer an unresolved question about the world.

We have one Grav-mass carol, We Three Laws. If you know of any others, please tell me about them: rms at gnu dot org. Other songs about science are also suitable to play or sing on Grav-mass;

The Ten Days of Newton.

  • In Spanish: ¡Feliz Gravidad!
  • In Bahasa Indonesia: Selamat Hari Gayaberat.

Please send comments on these web pages to rms at gnu dot org.

Copyright © 2000 Richard Stallman

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.