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Firefox now leading browser

Firefox logo This morning news arrived via your scribe’s Twitter feed that Mozilla’s Firefox, the leading open source web browser, has now overtaken Internet Explorer as the top browser and now accounts for over 44% of installed web browsers, according to the latest user analysis from

Those who feel competent in German may like to try the original article, whilst there is also a Google translation available.

Hat tip: Glyn Moody

A (non-)reply from HMG

Letter writing graphicRegular readers will be aware that Bristol Wireless wrote during September to the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer (news passim) and sent them each an Ubuntu live CD (so they could do half of Whitehall each? Ed. πŸ˜€ ).

We’ve now had a reply (sort of. Ed.) from Tim Bett, Director, Commercial Delivery, ICT at the Office of Government Commerce (OCG). The full text of his response – in all its brevity – reads:

Dear Mr Woods


Thank you for your letter of 23 September to the Rt Hon. Gordon Brown MP. I have been asked to reply.

I was interested to read about Ubuntu Linux and its potential for helping the public sector reduce ICT costs. As individual departments are responsible for their own ICT arrangements, if you have not already done so you may wish to contact them direct [sic] to let them know about your product.

Yours sincerely, etc.

Your correspondent wonders exactly what the point the OCG serves if it is supposed to set procurement standards for government departments and its ICT folks are telling third parties to approach individual government departments.

Needless to say a considered response will soon be winging its way to Mr Betts…

US readers – buy CrossOver Games 8.1 & win a PC

CodeWeavers, a leading developer of software products that turn Linux and Mac OS X into Windows-compatible operating systems, have announced the release of CrossOver Games 8.1, masquerading under the codename of Zombie Mallard.

Gamer PC

Picture courtesy of CodeWeavers, Inc.

As part of the launch, CodeWeavers will also be giving away a fully loaded, custom built, blingtastic (you just made that up, didn’t you? Ed.) CodeWeavers gaming PC (specification here) to some lucky winner, as long as you’re over 18, a US citizen and buy a copy of the new version of CrossOver Games.

Read CodeWeavers’ press release.

Do you want to find which games run natively under Linux? Consult our Linux games and Open GL games for Linux pages.

Coming soon – social networking for silver surfers @ KWMC

Makala Campbell (Cheung) of Knowle West Media Centre writes:

Hi All,

Do you know of an older person that could benefit from getting online? Maybe you know someone who works with older people or has an older relative or neighbour? Please forward the relevant info below (choose which one) and help get older people to this event.

And if you think there is someone I could contact personally to talk to them more about it, maybe a group or individual, then please let me know the contact details, and I’ll chase it up!

Social Networking for Older People
[For organisations and individuals that work with older people]

Tuesday 8 December, Knowle West Media Centre, Leinster Ave, BS4 1NL (map)

As the festive season approaches, the South Bristol Digital Neighbourhoods programme (SBDN) is holding an event for older people and the individuals and organisations that work with them.

At a time of year that can be lonely and bleak for some, this event will explore digital and social networking solutions to the problem of isolation and facilitate easier communication with and amongst older people.

On Tuesday 8 December 2-4pm, older people can receive training on our mobile laptops, sign up to the myguide website and set up their own Facebook account in a friendly environment, using KWMC’s excellent facilities. There will also be free mince pies, tea and coffee.

The event will look at digital issues affecting older people, with a focus on social networking and isolation.

For more information please contact Makala Campbell or Rachel Clarke at Knowle West Media Centre on 0117 903 0444 / makala (at) or rachel.clarke (at)

Hat tip: Glenn Vowles

Latvia to ditch Microsoft for FOSS

French newspaper Le Figaro reports that the Government of Latvia, which has been severely affected by the economic crisis, intends replacing Microsoft’s proprietary software with free and open source software. “This is being done with the sole aim of saving money”, a spokesman explained.

The decision, which was recently signed by the Prime Minister, is intended to find a financial and legal opportunity to switch the State “wholly or partially” to the use of operating systems or software “that are not produced by America’s Microsoft Corporation”.

The Prime Minister’s decision has angered local trade body, the Latvian Information and Communication Technologies Association. “The State should not start fighting Microsoft Corporation or any other company to raise the competitiveness of government administration”, the Association stated in an open letter.

The story was also featured in English by Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Green ICT at Bristol Uni

We learn from Connecting Bristol that a green ICT solutions event is being held at Lecture Theatre 2, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantocks Close, BS8 1TS (map) from 6:00pm – 8:15pm.

This event will showcase both collaborative projects and commercial providers from Bristol and Bath. Full details, including how to book, can be found on Connecting Bristol.

Weekend networking

L-platesIt’s before 10 am on a Saturday morning and there’s a dozen or so Bristol Wireless folks huddled together in Hamilton House. Besides amazement at our weekend early rising proclivities, readers are probably wondering if this gathering served some useful purpose; and of course it did – we’d all come together for a day’s networking workshop.

The day’s teaching started off in the capable hands of Mike and Ben, covering the basics of networking: what it is; LANs, WANs and MANs; the OSI network model from the physical layer to the application layer; TCP/IP and netmasks (the latter usually taxes your correspondent’s brain. Ed.); DNS and useful configuration and monitoring tools before adjourning for our bring and share lunch.

The first part of the afternoon saw us reconvened and transferred to Matt Zero for part II, wireless networking – the general concepts, plus hardware and software (e.g. Voyage Linux and OpenWRT), before heading into Part III, which brought the elements of the first 2 parts into focus and their relevance to the Bristol Wireless network.

Before going our separate ways for the day we also drew up a to-do list for future network development and the management of the project.

In summary, it was agreed all round that the day had been extremely useful and we’re now discussing arranging future in-house training sessions.

Finally, your correspondent would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Ben, Matt and Mike (not forgetting Pete for reviewing the training documentation) for their invaluable input, time and effort and for all other attendees for making the day so educational and enjoyable. πŸ˜€

Who needs Microsoft?

Freeskilling don’t – and don’t think you do either (quite rightly. Ed. πŸ™‚ ).

Tomorrow night – Tuesday, 13th October – they’re organising an event at the Better Food Co. Cafe in St Werburghs (map), starting at 7.00 pm to tell you why you don’t need Redmond’s offering.

To quote from the publicity:

Ben Smith will be giving a talk about how you can replace Microsoft Windows, and all the very expensive and security flawed software that goes with it, with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). This will save you lots of money and is more ethical into the bargain!

Another bit of good news for you – the event is also free!

More information here.

Vive le logiciel libre (long live free software), the Open Source Observatory and Repository, reports that Inria, France’s national computer science institute, says free software is essential to develop digital society. The institute is launching a research centre to focus on this type of software, Cirill (IT Innovation and Research Centre for Free Software).

Cirill’s founding was announced at the Open World Forum in Paris earlier this month. Cirill is to become a reference centre for the research and development of stable and reliable free software.

Inria (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control) says that free software requires a combination of approaches and skills. The research organisation is convinced that the way to develop this type of software is to bring together all those involved in research, training, knowledge transfer and innovation. Its new institute, Cirill, will act as a single point of contact for the scientific, technological and industrial expertise required to meet the challenges generated by the rapid growth of free software. Initial collaboration at Cirill will start before mid-2010.

The project will be directed by Roberto di Cosmo, a professor at the University Paris 7.

“We are convinced that France is fertile ground for free software. We and our public-research partners want to use Cirill to create a centre of research and innovation in free software, open to all those involved in the innovation chain”, Michel Cosnard, Inria Chairman and CEO said in a statement.

Inria identifies three major challenges linked to the growth of free software they will need to face:

  1. free software is becoming a main research topic, looking into issues such as rescaling code bases, code bases with multiple components, or enhancing collaborative development;
  2. future engineers need training on new expertise linked to the use of free software;
  3. free software can be a powerful vector in technology transfer.

The French IT research institute is very active in the field of open source; an example is the development of the web browser Amaya with W3C, the standardisation organisation for the World Wide Web. Inria co-founded the OW2 Consortium, which develops open source components for distributed applications. Inria also develops and maintains Scilab, a numerical computation software package, distributed under an open source licence.

If you read French, further information is available from Linux France and Inria itself.

Hat tip: Glyn Moody

Our Transatlantic, transcontinental telephone system

Telephone answering machineJules, our treasurer here at Bristol Wireless, is currently on holiday in the far west of the USA; he’s also gone there with one of our VoIP telephones, which is registered on our system as an extension phone for the system at our lab in Bristol.

This means the Bristol Wireless PABX telephone system is currently Transatlantic and transcontinental in extent – and Jules’ extension, presently in Albany in Oregon – is actually 4,900 miles away from the lab in Bristol.

Jules also points out that the quality of the link is excellent and it works wonderfully; it definitely did when he rang the lab yesterday afternoon.

In a recent email to your correspondent Jules points out that:

“…the fact that we have a transatlantic (and transcontinental indeed) phone extension, that works for free and has superb link quality may freak some people out who aren’t aware of such possibilities.”

Well folks, do you feel freaked out? Answers below in the comments please.

Bristol Wireless helps the government (maybe..)

Ubuntu logoIt cannot have escaped the notice of anyone in the United Kingdom that, after having slipped our profligate banks billions of pounds to prop them up, the public coffers are rather empty and that consequently central government is looking around for ‘efficiency savings’ and even the Prime Minister has been forced to say the ‘c’ word (i.e. cuts – not what you dirty-minded lot are thinking. Ed.).

Following discussions between your ‘umble scribe and Rich, another senior volunteer, at the weekend, we thought we could help the government make substantial savings on their IT costs (e.g. 60-80% on support, zero licensing costs) if they switched to free and open source software.

As a consequence we sent Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling each a copy of Ubuntu 9.04 (so they’ll be able to do one side of Whitehall each? Ed.), along with a covering letter that is reproduced below:

Subject: Savings on public sector IT costs

Dear Prime Minister/Chancellor

It has come to our attention that HM Government is currently experiencing some difficulties with the public finances and is looking for efficiency savings. Bristol Wireless, as a responsible corporate citizen, may be able to assist you here.

Attached to this letter is a CD containing Ubuntu Linux, plus a selection of software (e.g. web browser, email client, Microsoft Office-compatible office suite) that should meet the needs of most users. The CD is a live CD, i.e. the operating system and software can be run from the CD without affecting your existing PC and software, so you can try it before installing.

Please note that Ubuntu and all the software on the CD are free of licensing costs, unlike the proprietary systems and software with which you are more familiar. Besides being free of charge, the software on the CD is also free software, i.e. it gives you the following basic freedoms:

0.The freedom to run the program, for any purpose;
1.The freedom to study how the program works and change it to make it do what you wish;
2.The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour;
3.The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

Ubuntu – and Linux in general – will run on desktops, servers and PDAs, etc. and so make an ideal addition to the public sector ICT infrastructure.

Moreover, I understand from a fellow Bristol Wireless member who provides IT contract services to HM Government that support costs far outweigh the costs of licensing. Ubuntu Linux can help you here too: it is extremely reliable, secure and immune to the viruses, spyware and malware that typically afflict proprietary operating systems. Furthermore, OpenLogic has discovered that using free and open source software can result in support costs savings of 60-80% for databases, web and application servers (source:

I hope you will take time to examine the contents of the letter and CD. If you are not interested, perhaps you could leave them on your desk marked for the attention of your successor after the forthcoming election.

Yours sincerely

Steve Woods
Company Secretary & Press Officer

We await their response(s), if any, with interest and will publish them here.

Update: 8/10/09

Today we received the following acknowledgement from a Mr R Smith of the Direct Communications Unit at Number 10:

Dear Mr Woods

The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your recent letter and enclosure.

As you can imagine, Mr Brown receives thousands of letters each week and regrets he is unable to reply personally to them all.

I have been asked to forward your letter to the Cabinet Office so that they may reply to you direct.

Yours sincerely, etc.

PC Building Open Workshop at the Freeshop

Bristol Wireless volunteer phasma has posted the following article on Bristol Indymedia for a forthcoming event on 30 September at the Freeshop, 35 Stokes Croft, Bristol (map):

Open workshop coming up in preparation for an ongoing project involving the community, open source, the Linux terminal server project and general networking.

With a view to our upcoming open workshop and internet cafe, based around the whole open source movement, we are holding a one-off install fest. Whether you wish to learn (more?) about building PCs together, would like to see just what Linux really is, or wish to know it more, come along!

We will be fitting out the room with a suite of clients running the Linux Terminal Server Project – for more details.

Regardless of your level of expertise, please feel free to come along. There is a lot that needs to be done and nobody will be without work.

Please do bring along any system that may need work/upgrading. There will be many people on the day and the whole idea is a mass get-together to share skills and ideas.

Coming soon: Silver Surfer sessions in Bristol

BCC Celebrating Age logoThe curiously-named Celebrating Age Festival is being held in Bristol from 28 September to 3 October 2009, featuring events and activities at various venues around the city for those of its residents well afflicted by Anno Domini. The Celebrating Age Festival publicity page on Bristol City Council’s website announces that:

During the week older people will be able to sample and enjoy lots of different activities and events at venues right across the city:

  • Exercise and healthy activities – fitness workshop, supervised gym sessions, yoga and walks around beautiful parts of Bristol.
  • Creative sessions – painting and drawing, singing and tea dancing with refreshments.
  • Support and guidance for developing computer skills.

Needless to say, we’ll be looking at the final item in the list. πŸ˜‰ At the computer

All the sessions are being held in local libraries and the full programme of Silver Surfer ICT sessions is as follows:

Monday 28 September
Time: 3:00-4:00 pm
Venue: St George Library, Church Road, St George, Bristol, BS5 8AL (map)

Tuesday 29th September
Time: 10:30–12 noon
Venue: Henleaze Library, Northumbria Drive, Henleaze, Bristol, BS9 4HP (map)

Wednesday 30th September
Time: 11:00–12 noon
Venue: Hillfields Library, Summerleaze, Hillfields, Bristol, BS16 4HL (map)

Thursday 1st October
Time: 11:00–12:30 pm
Venue: Southmead Library, Greystoke Avenue, Southmead, Bristol, BS10 6AS (map)

Friday 2nd October
Time: 10:00–12 noon
Venues: Bishopsworth Library, Bishopsworth Road, Bristol, BS13 7LN (map) and
Marksbury Road Library, Marksbury Road, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 5LG (map)

Time: 2:00-3:00 pm
Venue: Fishponds Library, Fishponds Road, Bristol, BS16 3UH (map)

Time: 2:30-4:30 pm
Venue: Trinity Rd Library, Trinity Road, St Phillips, Bristol, BS2 0NW (map)

Tech-savvy silver surfers who’ve got beyond the apprentice level may like to download the Festival programme (PDF) and print it out for their friends.

Editor’s note: I would have written this sooner, but I’d forgotten what I went upstairs to do… πŸ˜€

Goodbye(s) to Lloyd

Lloyd Cohen RIPSubscribers to our mailing list will be aware that our long-time colleague & friend Lloyd Cohen passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of August.

Lloyd was heavily involved in the development of the Bristol Wireless network when it evolved from a purely local area project around Easton to a city-wide infrastructure when the backbone was constructed and was instrumental in the management of the network.

As yet there is no news of when Lloyd’s funeral will be held: the police are trying to trace and contact Lloyd’s next of kin on this matter (so far to no avail. Ed.), as are Lloyd’s good friends Pippa and Nick.

Pippa is also trying to raise funds for a proper send-off for Lloyd in due course, in addition to which there was a general feeling in Bristol Wireless that we should give our old mate our own send-off. In this spirit, Sean Kenny and Lu Battley posted to the Bristol Wireless mailing list today, writing:

… some of us in Bristol Wireless feel we want to meet and spend some time commemorating his brief life and think of ways to help to organise this do. If you knew Lloyd through BW or worked with him you’re welcome to come along to the Duke Of York (map here) this Sunday at 4pm to join us.

When she dropped into the lab the other day, Pippa told us that the Chelsea Inn in Easton (map here) would be having a Lloyd commemoration on 25th September.

Finally, Pippa has set up a page on Facebook in memory of Lloyd. Those of you with Facebook accounts may like to express your thoughts there.

RIP Lloyd, we’ll miss you.

Rosevear gets the bullet

Over the last few days Bristol Wireless volunteers Rich, Amias, Acesabe and Mark have been working to upgrade the network connection we provide to Rosevear sheltered housing scheme for the elderly in Newtown, Bristol.

This has seen our volunteers at work not just in Rosevear itself, but also on the top of Twinnell House in Easton, where a new 5.8 GHz sector antenna has been installed.

BulletAt Rosevear the lads have installed a new 5.8 GHz directional antenna to provide the link to the new 5.8 GHz sector on Twinnell. At the coaxial connection end of this antenna, we’re trying out a new bit of kit – a Bullet 5 from Ubiquiti Networks, Inc., which is powered at the other (network cable) end by PoE. (For those interested in the device’s technical specifications, the datasheet is here (PDF). Ed.)

Whilst the lads were there, Rosevear has also had an upgrade of its LTSP server and they now have a mono laser printer, which they didn’t before.

The work is being funded under a Fund For Older People grant administered by the Quartet Community Foundation.

Bristol Wireless helps out student campaigning group

When Bristol Wireless heard about the recent break-in and theft of computers at UK student campaining group People & Planet, who are based in Oxford, they were more than happy to help by donating two snazzy refurbished Linux desktop systems complete with flat panel screens.

People & Planet (P&P) are already using the machines in their small Oxford office that supports a UK-wide network of thousands of students in over 120 universities, sixth forms and further education colleges to help them campaign against issues that are important to them, such as campaigning to end world poverty, defend human rights,Β  protect the environment and persuade governments and corporates to take effective and lasting action against the causes of climate change.

In their own words, People & Planet are “very grateful to Bristol Wireless for its generous donation”.

The Mk. II cabinet arrives

Mk2 cabinetSome months ago Bristol Wireless were asked by Easton Community Centre to provide some new LTSP thin clients in secure cabinets, similar to those already installed in St Werburgh’s Community Centre (news passim), whilst regular readers may recall our first post on the Mk. II cabinets.

The first of the cabinets was delivered to Easton last week and, as can be seen, these are slightly different to the Burg cabinets: for a start, the new cabinets are wall-mounted whereas the first batch were for desk use (apart from one free-standing unit).

The other differences are mainly small design improvements: all the accessories fitted to the cabinets (i.e. USB sockets, audio in and out sockets) have internal fixings and cannot be unscrewed from the outside. Just like the Mk. I, the cabinets are powder-coated for a durable finish and come with a flat panel monitor behind a sheet of toughened glass.

Mk2 cabinetInside the cabinets, the thin client is of a more compact design, based on a mini-ITX board running an Atom processor. Finally, the cabinet itself has the keyboard housed on a hinged shelf, which also hides a neat little mousehole for accommodating the machine’s resident rodent.

The cabinets were designed by Bristol Wireless in collaboration with Joshua Baker, with CAD work by Jem Dumble of Steel Monkey in Bedminster and fabricating by John Chilcott down on Spike Island.

Yesterday, 2 of our volunteers – Acesabe and Rich – were round at Easton doing some cabling ready for the installation and finalising other arrangements for the arrival and setting up of the full production run – otherwise termed ‘doing the snagging’. πŸ™‚

Greyhound comes with wi-fi

Greyhound busEvery couple of years or so, just like the occasional omnibuses rumoured (and in some circles believed. Ed.) to provide a service to the travelling public, trundles up a story about wi-fi being implemented on public transport services. The last one of these that your correspondent can recall off the top of his head involved National Express coaches in was back in 2006 (news passim). However, much like the physical buses to which they refer, these stories disappear over the horizon and are never seen again. πŸ™‚ (I just hope the same thing doesn’t happen to John’s Linux Lounge bus. Ed.)

All this leaves your ‘umble scribe wondering if the same will happen to the latest of the crop. Earlier today news reached the lab that First Group, the same folks alleged to provide public transport services in Bristol by both road and rail, are to import Greyhound buses as First establishes a new coach network to compete with rivals National Express and Stagecoach.

According to Transport Briefing:

The first UK Greyhound coaches will run between London Victoria and Portsmouth and Southampton with services scheduled to launch on September 14. First says it hopes to roll-out further routes in 2010.

The article further states:

The Greyhound UK coaches will have leather seating, free wi-fi, power sockets, air-conditioning and complimentary newspapers.

Read the full article on Transport Briefing.

Hat tip: Chris Hutt

Youth to hack government

keyboardAre you young (aged 15-18) and good with IT? In London next weekend? Well, you could be interested in the Young Rewired State weekend being organised then by Rewired State (byline: Geeks Meet Government. Ed.).

Young Rewired State is a weekend event emulating the success of ReWired State’s National Hack the Government Day, but this time with hackers aged 15-18 on 22nd and 23rd August 2009, at Google’s HQ in Victoria, London (as opposed to their secret volcano headquarters? Ed.).

Rewired State are advertising the event as follows:

Fancy hacking the Government into shape? Want to create websites and applications that can help you, your school, town, country or the world?

How about we give you Google’s offices in the heart of London, technology and a tonne of the country’s best programmers and hackers to help and teach you along the way? We’ll also give you food and drink to keep you going.

If so, and you’re aged between 15 and 18, we’d love you to come to our free weekend to see what you can come up with.

There’s also a skills requirements guide, so you can check if yours are up to scratch.

At the end of the weekend there will be a ‘show and tell’ to government Ministers, civil servants, the press, entrepreneurs and interested parties/sponsors.

Full details here.

Hat tip: Tim Dobson