Show Sidebar Log in

Digital inclusion — “local and community-based”

Martha Lane Fox, the recently appointed Champion for Digital Inclusion visited Bristol recently. I was asked to come along and give a five-minute talk about the work that Bristol Wireless has been doing to promote ‘digital inclusion’. I have reproduced my notes for the talk below; although they weren’t delivered in full on the day, I think the spirit of the message was well received.

As it turned out we actually ended up having more of a round table discussion, rather than a series of presentations, which was far more productive. I was very impressed by the ideas that Martha was putting forward, including an emphasis on peer to peer learning, and how they meshed with the ideas coming from the public and third sector groups in the room. I certainly left at the end of the day feeling very optimistic about the fact that there was somebody inside government with a real understanding of the issues pushing realistic solutions.

Bristol Wireless Community Co-operative was founded in 2002 (and incorporated in 2003) with the specific aim of bridging the digital divide even then becoming apparent in the city.

Our mission is to provide computers, connectivity and the skills to use them to disadvantaged or excluded people at zero or very low cost.

We do this in three ways:

  • by building and operating a city wide wireless network which connects public, private and third sector groups;
  • by collecting old PCs, refurbishing them with open source software and redistributing them;
  • and by offering training in the skills to use them effectively and become an engaged online citizen.

We have a strong focus on social inclusion and community development; we strive to work with the most disadvantaged people and communities.

There are believed to be as many as fifteen million people in the UK who are not online.

Of those without Internet access at home:

  • 18% say they are are intending to get it
  • 30% say they ‘can’t afford it’ or have ‘no computer’
  • 42% say ‘there’s no need’ or ‘I’m not bothered’

As the Digital Britain report recognises:

It is already increasingly the case that those without access to the Internet suffer economic disadvantage. Their opportunities and livelihoods can be compromised by exclusion from the digital world.

More fundamentally, they miss out on areas of learning … easy access to relevant information, … and creative development which is
increasingly part of the “social glue” for friends, families, communities of interest and society as a whole.

The danger with centralised, top down approaches to promoting digital inclusion is that they are seen as impersonal, inflexible and irrelevant. They also risk being co-opted by large profit-driven corporations, which can engender or reinforce cynicism.

Grass roots initiatives which are rooted in local communities offer a more authentic approach to inclusion.

People learn from their friends and neighbours and come to understand how they themselves could benefit.

They have more of a sense of ownership and participation.

Over the last seven years we have distributed hundreds of refurbished PCs to everybody from the children at a local primary school to the residents of sheltered housing. We have given people access to computers, connectivity and the skills to use them.

And the way we have done it has had a real effect on social cohesion.

Supporting social enterprises like Bristol Wireless through partnerships at national and local level will be the most effective way to reach out to the digitally excluded and to motivate and enable them to get connected and engaged online.

Digital converts often become enthusiasts, even evangelists, their genuine enthusiasm proves infectious to friends and family.

The more involved and connected people become, the more they strengthen social ties within and between communities.

We aren’t in this to make money, we do it because we believe in it.

Connectivity is the lifeblood of co-operation. We have seen that this stuff can bring people together, improve communication and make it easier to work with one another and share what we care about – whether that’s politics, music, football, climate change or anything else.

The Digital Britain report describes the National Plan for Digital Participation, which combines:

an improved offer to increase motivation to get online, with social networking and outreach, and with skills training.

and, crucially, the report goes on to say:

The National Plan will be delivered through tailored local and community-based programmes which build on existing networks.

My plea to you today is to make good on that promise — to make sure that wherever possible the National Plan (and the Home Access scheme) works to strengthen and consolidate existing grass roots efforts.

It is vital that the knowledge, experience and goodwill which has built up over the years in many such organisations is not dissipated but focused and applied to the goals we all share.

Thank you.

American readers – put a pengiun on your plastic

Regular readers will be aware of the existence of Tux, the Linux kernel mascot (news passim) and now if you live in the United States, you’ll be able to show your commitment to free and open source software by carrying a Tux-branded Visa credit card, courtesy of the Linux Foundation, the non-profit organisation dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux.

Tux-powered Visa card

The Linux Foundation says it “is pleased to offer a Linux-branded affinity card for those who want to support the Linux Foundation’s activities while expressing their commitment to Linux. The Linux-branded credit card is an easy way for anyone to contribute to the growth of Linux and identify themselves as supporters of the community by carrying Tux in their pocket.”

For every card activation, the Linux Foundation will receive $50, as well as a percentage of every purchase made with the credit card. All funds via the programme will go directly towards providing community technical events and travel grants for open source community members to accelerate Linux innovation.

Visit the Linux Foundation for details.

A message from the Company Secretary

keyboardYour correspondent (for his sins. Ed.😀 ), in addition to filling the role of press officer for Bristol Wireless, also acts as the co-operative’s Company Secretary. As a part of that that role the following email has today been circulated on Bristol Wireless’ general mailing list:

Hi all

One of my duties as company secretary is to keep the shareholders’ register up to date and I’ve become aware when issuing notices for recent general meetings that some of the email addresses recorded in the register are no longer valid and that the register does not have physical addresses for some members of the co-operative.

I’m therefore asking all members of the co-operative to contact me on my email address (woodsy [at] to provide these missing details so I can keep the register as current as possible.

As I have to give notice of a quarterly general meeting in the very near future, members’ co-operation would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Kind regards
Steve Woods
Company Secretary, Bristol Wireless Community Co-operative

Dorkbot Bristol – 21st July at PMS

Rachel, the co-host of Bristol Dorkbot writes:

Hi Everyone

I just want to clarify that the Dorkbot next meeting is on Tuesday 21st July at the Pervasive Media Studio. You can sign up at the website for the meet now!

NOTE: the PMS website has it down this evening, so if anyone thinks that its this evening hold your horses there until next week!!!

Aside from a couple of interesting presentations of mystery and wonder next week, we also can reveal the plans beginning to hatch forming from the invites and different opportunities that are being put forward to Dorkbotters.

More to be seen on the website soon.

BTW if you see the website doing strange things they will be moving the site soon to a new server.

For easy quick info you can also go to the twitter stream at

Catch you all real soon.



Co-host, Dorkbot team

Linux Lounge – the bus takes shape

Linux Lounge busOur old friend John Palfrey has emailed us with an update and picture of his Linux Lounge bus, which is gradually coming together as a showcase for open source IT and green energy technologies.

The bus is a 1984 MCW Mk11 Metrobus, 9.5m in length and is powered by a 10.5L 6 cylinder Gardner engine. From 1984 to 2005 it spent its life in the North-East of England finishing up with “Go North East” as a school bus. It was then retired and converted to a mobile casino. In November 2006 John purchased it for a well-earned semi-retirement in the West Country being converted into an IT centre on the top deck and a servery below.

John writes that he still has a few jobs to do, including an LTSP suite on the top deck. John says:

“I am working with the green energy organization Panacea, who are very excited at the prospect of promoting their stuff on the bus. I will show a video of theirs and some PDF files on the prototype equipment they are working on. Have a look at their site; it is full of green OS energy projects.”

John continues:

“I don’t have any inside photos of the bus yet as its still a mess due to lack of storage space. I need to book up some events for August onwards. Have a look at the Linux Lounge website and I would appreciate any comments you may have – good or bad.”

Linux Boot Camp 2009

Tux - the mascot of the Linux kernelAre you doing or have just done your A Levels and want to do practical technical computing? As we previously reported (news passim), Bristol’s University of the West of England is staging its Linux Boot Camp from Monday 29th June to Wednesday 1st July.

The event will involve two and a half days of technical workshops exploring many aspects of modern technology and the use of free open source software. During the workshops you’ll learn how to revitalize your PC by installing and configuring Linux, plus setting up a home network and web server, making a router and hacking into various set-top boxes. At the end you’ll know how to tap into the world of open source computing and gain skills for a profitable and worthwhile career.

If you already know some of this stuff, Linux Boot Camp will still allow you to explore advanced system configuration topics.

Don’t delay as numbers are limited to about 60 places. There may be a few residential places available in UWE’s student accommodation. If you are interested, please contact the organisers to check on availability and cost. Social events are also planned.

For further information or to book please contact Pat Cottrell or Craig Duffy by e-mail lbc (at) or telephone 0117 32 84242. More details can be found on UWE’s Boot Camp page.

Hacktionlab 09 – what should have been written from site, plus a bit more

About a week ago I wrote a piece (news passim) when the forward crew for Hacktionlab were about to depart to site, since when a discreet silence has been maintained. A partial excuse for such taciturnity was your scribe’s duties on the woodpile for the event – hard physical graft for someone used to tickling a keyboard for a living.

The forward crew of Mike, John, Amias, Woodsy and Acesabe arrived on site at Highbury Farm on the Wednesday evening, pitched their tents and settled down for the night (eventually) ready for a hard day’s work setting up the site for arrivals due from Thursday: the hard work entailed erecting the big white tent, setting up the network, satellite dish, clearing the barn and establishing a workspace, servicing the site loos and myriad other minor tasks.

Hacktionlabbers started turning up from the afternoon onwards, the most thought-provoking being the arrival in the early evening of Alan who’d cycled all the way from Sheffield (150 miles away) in 11 hours. The most welcome vehicular appearance on site was Llanos, whose wee blue hatchback made it to within some 100 metres from the barn despite being fully laden with essential supplies – cider and a barrel of beer. 😉 Another welcome arrival was fellow BW volunteer Hamish, fresh from Scotland with a goodie bag of traditional Scottish fare – shortbread, potato scones, oatcakes and Irn Bru – tasty!

Friday saw Hacktionlab proper swing into action with the post-breakfast ritual of introductions and organising the schedule for the day, which set the pattern for the next 3 days. Workshop topics were wide and varied, including Mike’s ever-popular satellite workshop, networking in difficult environments, collaborative working and security tools, privacy, security sessions encryption sessions, multimedia workshops, plus the geeks’ key signing party. Perhaps the most controversial session of the weekend – mainly because its content and purport flew in the face of a lifetime’s conditioning – was round the firepit on Sunday evening, when BW member John gave a taster session on common law rights and their use.

Hacktionlab also gave a showcase for low power and renewable technologies: there was our LTSP on display and in use in the barn, whilst the marquee boasted solar panels powering a 12 volt cinema consisting of a media player, LED projector and sound system, which came into their own once the day’s work was done. 😀

In summary, a worthwhile and enjoyable event in good surroundings and company, made better by the fine weather, plus a larger turnout than last year. In Mike’s words: “We got some very positive actions out of it, got some great people together to get to know each other better, strengthened the UK network for techs and activists, and erm, drank rather a lot of cyder in a lovely rural setting”. An urban Hacktionlab is being thought of later this year, somewhere up North. Details will be posted on the Hacktionlab wiki. For now thanks are due for this event to Mike (general organisation), Amias, John Jane and Becky for keeping us fed, Llanos for vital beer and cider supply, Woodsy for a warm fire in the evenings, Acesabe for tech support (and the photos used in this piece. Ed.) and all workshop organisers/facilitators, not forgetting our hosts at Highbury Farm.

The leaving party – goodbye to the Burg

Further to the previous post on the move to Hamilton House (news passim), Julien Weston writes:

With a new beginning welcoming us at Hamilton House, Bristol Wireless are of course not forgetting those we are sadly leaving behind.

So, we will be organising a fabulous and sumptuous LEAVING PARTY, to be held in The Zoo Bar at St Werburgh’s Community Centre (our home for this past three years) on Thursday 25th June, 6pm to 10pm.

All are welcome, especially the staff and volunteers of St Werburghs Centre, who have made our residence there so enjoyable and successful.

We’d also like to welcome, members, customers, associates, friends and oddballs – in fact anyone who has been part of or touched by the Bristol Wireless project over the past six years.

The legendary Bristol Wireless bar will be open, catering for all your liquid needs; musical entertainment is promised by the famous Mr Woods and the rumour drums are beating a repeat of the famous “Geek Quiz” with prizes, prizes, prizes!

Venue: Zoo Bar, St Werburghs Centre, Horley Road, Bristol BS2 9TJ (map here)
When: Thursday 25th June 2009, 6pm to 10pm
Who: All friends of BW.
Info: 0117 3250067 or by email to info (at)

We’re in the Evening Post

Regular readers will be aware that Bristol Wireless’ move to Hamilton House (news passim) is imminent, i.e. this coming weekend.

Quite independently of our move, the Bristol Evening Post is today carrying a feature on Hamilton House and its role in the transformation of Stokes Croft. The piece includes the following on ourselves:

Among the businesses in the building are cycle repair firm Jake’s Bikes, and Bristol Wireless, which builds wireless computer networks to help social improvement.

We would like to thank the Post’s Suzanne Savill for her accurate reporting of just one aspect of Bristol Wireless’ work, unlike a previous report by one of her colleagues, which had us erroneously described as ‘recycling computer waste’. 😉

Hacktionlab – the forward crew go to site

A view of the barnI had an email from fellow Bristol Wireless volunteer Mike last night asking if I could fiddle with the order of posts on the site to bring the last post on Hacktionlab (news passim) to the top of the BW news page. After some thought, I decided to write this post instead.

For those who haven’t heard, this year’s rural Hacktionlab starts tomorrow 11th June and runs until Sunday 14th and takes place at Highbury Farm in the Wye Valley just inside Gloucestershire.

Hacktionlab is aimed at people interested and/or working in the areas of alternative media, renewable energy, on-line video distribution, free software and any other form of activism that uses technology.

The idea for the gathering has come from many years of experience gained by activists working for organisations such as Indymedia, as well as specific experience from involvement in the Horizone Eco-Village in Stirling (2005), the Camps for Climate Action in Drax (2006), Heathrow (2007) and Kingsnorth (2008), plus the No Borders camp at Gatwick (2007). There have had 2 successful gatherings so far – a rural meeting in the Wye Valley in June 2008 and an urban one in Leeds in October 2008.

This evening sees the forward crew of Bristol Wireless volunteers going to site to set up the infrastructure ready for when people start arriving tomorrow. There’s a fair bit of work to be done, such as setting up a reception tent and other infrastructure (LTSP suite, network, kitchen, compost loo, etc.).

The Hacktionlab site has full details of the programme.

Finally, it’s still not too late to sign up for Hacktionlab or join the mailing list.

We’re moving!

After more than 3 very happy and enjoyable years in St Werburghs Community Centre, the Bristol Wireless lab is on the move this month to Hamilton House on Stokes Croft.

Of course, moving is one of life’s stresses – and this is also true of organisations; there’s lots of sorting out and packing to be done at one end and lots of sorting out and unpacking at the other. In anticipation of the move, Bristol Wireless volunteer Sean has posted the following email in a search for willing hands and bodies:

Bristol Wireless are moving from St Werburghs Community Centre to Hamilton House sometime in June. It’s a big job. We estimate it will take one day of packing, another day of moving and one more day of unpacking and setting up at the other end. We will need help from supporters and friends, so we’d like you to tell us what days you can help (if you can help) to aid our planning the best dates for the move. You can email us with questions or any other offers of help (transport, etc.) at info (at) or in the notes on the doodle.

All the best and thanks in anticipation.


Hope to hear from a few of you readers. 🙂

Mr Treasurer’s Eee PC

eee PCYesterday Jules, our Bristol Wireless treasurer, took delivery of a brand new Eee PC. Needless to say, Jules chose a model with Linux – a proper operating system. Moreover, ever since he bought it he has had his nose stuck in reference materials and been hacking it around to customise it to meet his needs.

This morning he sent me the following email, the first part of which I’ve ignored and chosen to interpret in my own particular way:

You might like to tell your Twitter followers that Mr Treasurer’s project to turn his EeePC into a pocket webserver is progressing well 🙂

Stage 1: after an awful lot of fiddling with packages and dependencies last night, have just got the Eee PC into full KDE desktop mode. It now works a treat and looks just like a proper Linux desktop rather than the toy desktop Asus ship it out with 🙂

Now proceeding with the LAMP stack install … I’ll document what had to be done on the Wiki, ‘cos it wasn’t bloody well obvious.

Update 14.30 hrs: Jules has just emailed again…

It all works using XAMPP, but a lot of fiddling to make it go on Xandros.

Proof of the pudding in HTML body of this message. 🙂 A fully functional LAMP stack on a pocket PC 😀

Now loading mysql tools ….

Hardware recycling – the UK’s rubbish

WEEE reports that almost 2 years after the WEEE disposal rules came into force, the UK is still lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in recycling electrical goods.

Research by Dell found that 13 per cent of UK consumers do not recycle electrical goods at all – more than four times the figure in Germany.

Moreover, awareness of legislation such as the WEEE Directive, which requires manufacturers to offer hardware take-back schemes, is lower in the UK than anywhere else.

However, the survey suggests there is a desire for more electrical recycling services ­ since over half of those polled recycle everything they can. Nevertheless, Dell’s has found that although take-back schemes are available, they are not being used.

The European Commission estimates that across the EU only about one-third of electrical and electronic waste is treated in accordance with the WEEE Directive and that the illegal trade in waste continues from all Member States.

The original article is here.

Of course, before sending computer hardware to recyclers such as our friends Byteback, extending the life of equipment should be considered. At Bristol Wireless we’ve found that most redundant computer hardware being junked by companies* is quite capable of a new lease of life: we take these unwanted computers, refurbish them, install Linux and sell them very cheaply.

* We’ve found most companies/organisations have a 3 year replacement cycle; the better ones renew stuff over 5 years.

The migrating adventure of a Linux newbie

Tux - the mascot of the Linux kernelBeing on a low income it’s virtually impossible to find the money needed to gain access to the latest computer operating systems and software. Many times I’ve found myself angry at being denied access to software simply because of my economic status. I was therefore presented with two options: the first being to use pirated software and run the risk of being turned into a criminal as a result; and the second was simply to remain frustrated and do nothing.

This is a predicament faced by many people who find themselves on benefits and low income through no fault of their own. Do you break the law by using pirated software in the hope that you can better your employment capabilities, or do you do without? Thankfully I did neither.

After some thought and research I removed entirely the licensed software which had restricted me from my PC. In doing so I made a decision to dive head first into the world of free and open source software. It didn’t take me long to realise some of the many benefits.

Linux provides a level playing field whereby everyone has the ability freely to enhance and develop our educational and IT capabilities regardless of socio-economic status, gender, age or race. This has been and continues to be my experience as a Linux user.

I’m dyslexic and have a problem writing with a pen, yet thankfully for £30.00 I was able to buy a reconditioned PC powered with the Linux operating system. In doing so I’ve been given the capabilities to write an article such as this. This is just one small example of what free and open source software has done for me.

Over the last year I’ve also had the opportunity learn how to make and design flyers, as well as manipulate and touch up photos using the GNU Image Manipulation Program (Gimp 2.6). Furthermore, I’ve also had the opportunity to learn how to DJ in a digital format. The only reason I’m able to do this is because I’m no longer economically restricted by the licence demands of proprietary software vendors. I can simply test an application and, if it doesn’t meet my needs, remove it and legally and freely replace it with another one.

One of the major things I’ve not had to worry about is viruses, spyware or malicious attacks on my system. The reason for this is due to the fact the free and open structure of software development on Linux enhances its security, unlike that of the corporate software suppliers, who sometimes take years to fix bugs. I’ve found my system’s powerful and secure enough and I can get on doing stuff instead of spending time locking it down.

As previously mentioned, the more I learn about my operating system the more I want to know. Lately I’ve started to delve under the bonnet to investigate how the system works. Again I’m not an academic or greatly knowledgeable in IT. However, over the last few months I’ve began studying again at home and something I learnt the other day blew me away. I didn’t know that when I place a bash command into a terminal window that the terminal transforms the bash command into a binary code capable of being read by the kernel. I thought the kernel understood bash and never knew bash was the way in which we communicate with the kernel.

Like I said, I’m a newbie so I’m allowed to take delight in my little discoveries, even if they do seem obvious to others. 🙂 Knowing this makes me want to learn more shell commands and eventually reduce my dependence upon the GUI.

I’m only just beginning on the journey and to be honest still know very little, but it’s one hell of a trip so far. I just want to say a special thanks to every one at the lab for your continued support, patience and friendship. And to think a year ago I thought PC’s were just for MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.

PS: Midnight Commander ROCKS! 🙂

Guardian Tech Weekly comes to Bristol

After Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, the Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast is coming to Bristol this Friday 22nd May. The Grauniad’s team will be at the Watershed from 4pm and they’re looking forward to meeting techies, gamers, developers and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes and hearing all their ideas and thoughts about the local scene – the rising stars and ones to watch, as well as the problems holding the tech community back.

Everyone is welcome, but please RSVP here if you’re coming.

Hat tips: Sam Downie and Pervasive Media.

Linux Boot Camp – not a Bristol Wireless event

Sitting on the desk before your correspondent is page 15 from Linux Format edition 119 for June 2009. This is a page entitled ‘Events radar’ and features Linux & open source events from around the world. Looking at June there’s one in particular that caught my eye – Bristol Wireless Linux Bootcamp, Bristol UK, particularly as Bristol Wireless are not the organisers…

Whilst we appreciate the kudos of getting our name into such a prestigious publication, we do wonder how LXF’s hacks have managed to confuse Bristol Wireless with the real organisers of the Boot Camp, our good friends at the University of the West of England (Haven’t you heard of the term ‘decoy’? Ed.), although BW News has reported on both the 2007 and 2008 Boot Camps. Anyway, UWE already has the Linux Boot Camp details online.

How could the good folks at LXF get so confused, we wonder? We are going camping this year, but regard UWE’s Frenchay campus as a bit too urban for nights under canvas. Instead we’ll be off to more rural venues, such as the Wye Valley for Hacktionlab (news passim) and Somerset for this year’s Big Green Gathering.

Anyway guys, it’s gratifying to know we’re in your thoughts. 😉

First sight of Mk2 cabinets

Cabinet Mk 2 mock-upRegular readers of Bristol Wireless News may recall that in early 2008 we had a series of secure cabinets designed and built for the public access internet suite at St Werburgh’s Community Centre – our base for the past 3 years (news passim).

Last Friday Rich, one of our longest serving volunteers, spent the day with a designer working out the design for the next generation of secure cabinets to be installed in Easton Community Centre, where they’ll be housing some new slimline thin clients we’re building for the Centre: and these promise to be some of the funkiest, smallest clients we’ve ever deployed, featuring mini-ITX motherboards and laptop-sized keyboards. 😀

At the moment, the design is only a mock-up in MDF, but will be produced ultimately in sheet metal and, once complete, the cabinets will house not only the thin client, but its display, a laptop-sized keyboard, 2 USB ports and input and output for audio, so users will be able to plug in their headphones and microphones.

Work is continuing as this piece goes to press, but we’ll keep you updated on future progress.

Web volunteers wanted for Guyana

Via a very circuitous route, an email forwarded by Paul Webster arrived in your scribe’s inbox yesterday afternoon. Its text reads as follows:

Hello there

I need your help. I’m working with a Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council/British Council/VSO (soup) project which is trying to recruit four or so young adult volunteers to spend up to six-weeks in Guyana this summer running an ICT Skill Share.

Guyana right now has a massive skills gap when it comes to online skills. They had some investment in a national resource centre for using technology in education a few years back – but it’s barely been able to get anywhere because of skills gaps & lack of infrastructure in the country.

Details of the project (including a video that the Guyanese hosts for the project have made explaining it a bit more) here:

But in summary I’m asking do you know anyone who:

  • Is aged 18 – 30(ish);
  • Is based in Britain (or has very close ties to the UK even if elsewhere right now);
  • Has web development, graphics, e-commerce or digital animation skills;
  • Can train / share those skills with others;
  • Can work in a pretty tough environment in terms of climate, context and access to technical kit & bandwidth;
  • Could spend six weeks in Guyana from late June/early July this year as part of a small team

Quite a skill spec I know – but I thought if such people are out there – you are the folk who are likely to know them.

Please do forward on details to anyone (or any networks) who you think might be interested.

Hacktionlab 2009 – a call to hacktion

Following on from the two successful gatherings to date – a rural hack meeting in the Wye Valley in June 2008 (news passim) and an urban one in Leeds in October 2008 – HacktionLab is pleased to announce its next rural gathering will be taking place between Thursday 11th and Sunday 14th June 2009 and will once again be visiting the Wye Valley.

Lloyd's wifi hazel wandThe aim of HacktionLab is to bring together people interested in and/or working in the areas of alternative media, renewable energy, on-line video distribution, free software and any other form of activism that uses technology.

The idea for the gathering has come from a number of years of experience gained by activists working for organisations such as Indymedia and includes specific experience from involvement in the Horizone Eco-Village in Stirling (2005), the Camps for Climate Action in Drax (2006), Heathrow (2007) and Kingsnorth (2008), as well as the No Borders camp at Gatwick (2007) and recent experience from the G20 protests in London in March and April 2009.

Hacktionlab is primarily aimed at folk with a desire or need to learn or to share knowledge on doing mobile media access and video work in situations like those outlined above.

Please come if you have experience(s) to share with others so as to encourage the amount of shared knowledge in the UK-wide media, free software and alternative technology activist network. The weekend is most suitable for activists using media, geeks and hackers (as opposed to crackers), but anyone else that is interested in attending is most welcome.

More information on Hacktionlab is available at Hacktivista, where you can also sign up for the event, plus a mailing list.

Digital DJing

If any one is interested in trying out a bit of digital Djing I would highly recommend Mixxx. I stumbled across it a few months ago whilst having a browse through the Synaptic package manager and to be honest with you, I love IT.

It’s quite a simple application to use and the graphical features are spot-on. However, in order to get fully functioning I had to spend a little bit of cash.

In order to beat match and mix with some degree of success you have to be able to listen to one channel whilst the other is playing. For this I had to get a USB external sound card.

After some shopping around online, I found just the thing: Behringer have a nifty USB 2 input and 2 output sound card for £25.00

The Behringer UFO202 is Linux friendly. Just plug it in and it works.

After several spaced-out days messing around with soundscapes and some of my ambient collection, I decided I wanted to up the tempo, frighten the neighbours (maybe making them run for cover 😉 ) and have a go with some trance.

Trying to do everything with a mouse is a bit restrictive, so again I turned to Behringer’s website for some inspiration. After a few minutes I found just the bad boy I was looking for: the Behringer BCD3000 Next Generation DJ Machine – “Play, Mix, Perform and Scratch Your MP3 Files like Vinyl Records. Price: £140”

Again once I plugged it in the configuration for Mixxx was a simple mouse click. Just to make sure I hadn’t bought myself a piece of plastic junk I asked one of my mates to come and have a look at it. My mate’s been a successful DJ for over 10 years and held a residency a few years ago at one of the smaller clubs in Ibiza. Within the space of 10 minutes of him having ago he told me plainly that I had ‘a fully functional DJ set up.’

I can’t recommend this set-up enough to anyone thinking of having a go at DJing. Digital mixing is the way forward. I wouldn’t say I’m great at it yet, but thanks to free and open source software I now have the ability and equipment to hopefully take this further in the future.

Effective DJing using free and open source software powered by PCs rescued from the tip. This is my plan. Let’s hope my neighbours remain as enthusiastic about it as I am 🙂