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3ca give-away – Trubuntu released into the wild

Last night our friends at Trinity Community Arts (aka 3ca) held their first computer give-away for people who’d successfully completed their music technology course. It also marked the release into the wild of the first public version of Trubuntu (codenamed 0.2), Trinity’s custom edition of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution.

While waiting for their machines, which all had to be set up individually for each user with user name and password by Ryan, Trinity’s tech guru, and not forgetting a final check that all the software fully up-to-date, there were some fine refreshments served up (thanks Emma). ๐Ÿ™‚

Ryan talks techTrinity 3D desktop

I had a chance to try out the ten give-away boxes prepared and they certainly were impressive: fast, responsive and very easy on the eye. They all came complete with Trinity’s custom desktop wallpaper and the stunning 3D effects provided by Compiz (eat your heart out Vista Aero. Ed.). Looking at the software, these are perfect machines for creating all kinds of media, with music production tools such as Rosegarden (sequencing), Audacity (sound editing), Ardour (a full digital audio workstation), Mixxx (DJ mixing), video packages, e.g. Kino (video capture) and Cinelerra (film editing) and others such as the Gimp (image processing and production), Blender (3D animation and design) and Scribus (document layout and design), plus your usual web browsing, instant messaging, email and office suites that come as standard for Linux distros. The quality of the finished machines are a tribute to Ryan and all his hard work – the final result is very polished indeed.

The give-away is just part of the work of Trinity’s mediatech project that brings together techies and artists from a variety of fields and disciplines, to explore the potentials created by the new digital landscape. If you fancy getting involved, why not subscribe to the mediatech mailing list?

Bristol BCS looks at open source and open standards

On Tuesday 30th September, the Bristol branch of the British Computer Society (BCS) is hosting a talk from Gavin Beckett, ICT Strategy Manager at Bristol City Council, entitled ‘Using Open Source and Open Standards to Enable Transformational Government’.

Transformational Government is intended to be an intensive, structural and fundamental change in the operational processes of Government bodies and to deliver major efficiency savings for the public sector.

Gavin has been a central figure in Bristol City Council’s use of open source and open standards since 2002 and is a founder of the Open Source Academy. He also works actively with a variety of EU interest groups and government bodies on the adoption of ODF.

The talk takes place at the The Hawthorns, Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UQ (map here), starting at 7 pm and ending at 9 pm. More details are available from Bristol BCS.

Quebec Government in the dock for ignoring open source

FACIL, a Canadian voluntary organisation that promotes free and open source software, has filed a suit with the Quebec Superior Court against the Quebec Provincial Government. The suit was filed on 15th July and has come to light during the last week.

FACIL alleges that the provincial government has refused to consider competitive bids from all software providers, but has misused a legal loophole to buy software exclusively from proprietary vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle.

In addition, FACIL claims government buyers are sidestepping laws requiring competitive bidding and local source preferences by misusing an exception that allows direct purchases from proprietary vendors where no other options are available and estimates the Quebec government is wasting $80 mn./year on Windows Vista licences alone.

The Inquirer carries a full report, whilst French speakers may like to read the report on FACIL’s website.

Hat tip: MJ Ray

Watch a 25-year old GNU, Fry on camera!

Stephen Fry, well-known modern renaissance man, TV and radio personality and lesser known free software advocate, has produced a video to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the GNU Project by Richard Stallman.

In the video, Fry explains why free software (as used by Bristol Wireless. Ed.) is important, both to him and for society in general, like good science. Indeed he believes proprietary software licensing is akin to bad science, i.e. bad for science specifically and the wider community too.

Twenty-five years ago, the GNU Project started with a specific overall goal: to create a free software operating system, the GNU System. The scope of GNU is far-reaching: any job that computer users want to do should be feasible with free software.

Here at Bristol Wireless, we too would like to join Stephen in wishing GNU a many happy returns for its 25th birthday. Without the efforts of GNU and other members of the free software community, we would not have been able to achieve all that we have so far.

Stephen’s video can be watched at or downloaded from GNU.

Bristol Wireless gets reading

The weekend after next, on Saturday 13th September, Bristol’s first anarchist bookfair for 15 years will be held at St Werburgh’s Community Centre in Horley Road (home of the Bristol Wireless lab) and we’ll be there!

booksWe’ll be out in the foyer, keeping company with the bookfair itself, the Kebele Cafe and a constantly running background of silent film and image projections. More specifically, we’ll be there providing information about the free software movement and our work in providing free wireless internet connections. You’ll also have a chance to use free PCโ€™s and get to know Linux, with hands-on practical support, plus live CDs to try and an opportunity to buy one of our refurbished £50 PCs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The full event timetable is available on the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair website.

One-third of UK homes still without internet access

In its 2008 Internet Access report, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that in spite ofthe rise of broadband, more than one-third of UK households are without a web connection, ZDNet reports.

According to the ONS’s 2008 Internet Access report, 65% of homes – some 16.46 mn. households – have internet access, an increase of 1.23 million households since 2007. While 35% of UK homes still have no internet access, this figure is down from 43% two years ago.

It appears that the digital divide/deficit is alive and well.

Read the original article
, or read the original ONS press release (pdf).

St Werbians in Hoo St Werburgh

On 31st July our mobile Internet suite set out from St Werburgh’s Bristol en route to this year’s Camp for Climate Action, pitched up near Hoo St Werburgh, on the Hoo Peninsula betwixt the Thames estuary and Medway river in a great big 30′ x 45′ marquee that would be the camp’s Be The Media space during twelve days.

We were able to provide the camp with a suite of recycled low-energy usage computers running on 12VDC kindly provided by the combined renewable energy powers of Coltek and Ray-Mundo’s Renewables, as well as the knee-busting efforts of fellow climate campers who pedal-powered public access terminals courtesy of bicycle generators provided by Magnificent Revolution.

On the day of mass action on the 9th August we were able to provide facilities for a fully-fledged Field Alternative Media Centre, providing facilities for the camp and grass-roots media crew, such as Indymedia, Undercurrents and Dissident Island, who provided the Climate Camp’s very own radio station.

And if that wasn’t enough, the space offered workshops on Free Software, alternative media and renewable energy. More information about the planning behind the space.

image of bicycle electricity generation
Powering LTSP at Climate Camp

We had some great feedback from the folks at Magnificent Revolution: “Hey Bristol Wireless. Thought you might like to know we linked to your site in our blog We had a great time bike-powering your laptops. At 20w each they were a breeze!

A rewarding and productive, and even fun, time was had by all.

Climate Camp snippets

In case you hadn’t heard, last weekend saw the climax of this year’s Climate Camp near Kingsnorth, Kent.

Bristol Wireless was in attendance, providing kit and tech support for the Be The Media centre, including Camp Radio (archive here).

As usual, the event was powered by renewable energy: indeed, as can be seen below, the Bristol Wireless suite of veteran laptops was powered at times by its users, with 5 minutes cycling giving pedallers 10 minutes on the laptop!

The kit arrived back at the lab on Tuesday. Cunningly accompanied by a plea to help unload the van, Mike wrote the following en route:

Hi all,

survived climate camp, didn’t get arrested, didn’t get got at by the trotskyists, corporate moles, undercovers, socialist workers, nor pinko-greeno-conspiracy theorists! All went very well, the suite and the space performed well as usual, the party tent took a battering though, and I’m pretty knackered. Sam’s windmill worked and helped to save the day power-wise……will be driving back later and hope to get to Werbs around 5ish to drop the stuff off.

Hopefully, we’ll have a fuller report in the next few days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pre-installed Linux growing strongly in UK

ITPro reports that pre-installed Linux has arrived on the mass market and is growing rapidly, according to new market research.

Tux - mascot of the Linux kernelFigures from market researcher Context show that, based on sales of PCs shipped with a pre-installed operating system in the UK over the past 18 months through traditional distribution channels, Linux could only claim a 0.1 per cent market share in January 2007. However, Linuxโ€™s share had grown steadily to 2.8 per cent of sales last month – a factor of almost 30.

Numerous factors may be responsible: Dell starting to sell Ubuntu laptop and desktop machines, plus the rise of net notebooks and mini-notebooks.

Read the original article at ITPro.

In addition, news of this market research was also carried by The Inquirer and Austria’s Der Standard (in German).

News from the lab

Even though it’s the height of summer and we really should be out enjoying the sunshine (like our network engineer who’s actually getting to achieve his ambition of combining tech with festivals ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), work continues apace in the lab in the Burg.

One noticeable change is how much cooler it is in the lab now compared with previous summers: is this due to our switching over to running on vservers? (news passim)

At the end of last week, Rich made a trip down to Williton in West Somerset and installed wireless access in the Foresters Arms Hotel, so you’ll be able to get online while enjoying a pint and some fine food. Rich has also been working down in Easton, where a small mesh network has now been established around Shaw Close.

Andy, our LTSP project manager, has been hard at work, keeping our mobile suites in tip-top condition and making sure all the kit is ready for its next outing: the old very low-powered hardware will shortly be making its way to this year’s Climate Camp, where it will be running on renewable energy (wind and solar) for the duration of the event.

Talking of renewables, Mike, one of our longest-serving supporters, has written some fair use guidelines for renewables for the Climate Camp, which could be of use or be adapted to other events aiming at a low environmental impact, whilst maintaining full access to 21st century technology.

Bails is currently getting CCTV (affectionately termed ‘Labcam’) installed in the lab and recycling room. All the equipment will, of course, be running on Linux and free software.

Our library of technical reference material has been augmented by a kind donation of shelf-loads of O’Reilly and other prestige tech publishers by a donor who prefers to remain anonymous. The library now has good reference works on Perl, C++, Unix, security, Python and Java, to name but a few.

Of course, while all this is taking place, the regular work of Bristol Wireless continues, including refurbishing computers and making internet-ready, virus and spyware free machines with full software available for just £50.

LTSP goes to Manchester

July 15-16th Bridgewater hall

Bristol Wireless took its new revised LTSP suite for 2 days to the Substance Conference in Manchester. The Dell server laptop has been newly installed and the Evo T20 thin clients have been configured on the server, 7 flat screens and 3 laptops made up a suite of 10 machines: it all looks very professional.

After arriving at the venue, the suite went together in about 40 minutes and after a slight delay getting a network cable made and installed; we were running at 9am. The computers were for the delegates to use at break times and they were popular too, with a few people waiting for a machine to become vacant. Delegates used the Linux terminals to log on to Citrix and Novell systems or just checking websites and email through the browser.

The set up gathered a fair amount of interest and I ended up explaining the advantages of thin clients to a few organisations. In particular, the low power use and fan-less silent workstations making saving on air conditioning seemed to strike a chord, as did the fact that only the server needed occasional administration leaving time for ICT improvements instead of the usual constant maintenance cycle of multiple desktops.

Substance are Linux friendly. They make the most of the free tools available to make the most of web functionality. We discussed Drupal, Dapper, CiviCRM and plings, among other technologies.

Ujima Radio On-line

On July 4th in St. Pauls Ujima Radio was launched by the Lord Mayor, Chris Davies. Ujima Radio is run under the auspices of CEED, the Centre for Employment and Enterprise Development and its remit is to be a community station featuring local voices, to inform, represent, educate, entertain and celebrate culture, heritage and diversity within Bristol. Bristol Wireless was approached to enable the station to be accessed via the internet, so we donated a computer running Debian GNU/Linux and Darkice, which myself and Mike Harris installed in their offices. The station can now be heard on 98FM or streamed over the net and their website is at Mike has generously donated the streaming services at Radio Vague. You can read more including comments from some of our grateful citizens in the Evening Post’s article.

Tim Kirby, Media Services and Training Manager at the station, has requested that an interview from Bristol Wireless to publicise what we do and perhaps also be interviewed for their Business and Technology slot, where we can be a bit more techy. Any volunteers?

Silver Surfer of the Year Awards – apply before 31st July

Gill Adams of Digital Unite has emailed us to let us know that the closing date for nominations for this year’s Silver Surfer of the Year Award has now been extended from the original 19th July to 31st July, giving people a bit more time to think of a deserving nominee aged 50 years or over.

She writes:

We are greedy this year. We want lots of nominations so that we and the nation can really know the breadth as well as the strength of those who are ‘out there’ learning and doing, using modern technology. So, now you’ve got till Thursday July 31st to fill in your form on this link.

Nominate yourself, or encourage/help another to fill in the form. The UK winner gets fame and a hi-spec laptop; runners-up may also get fame and ยฃ250 [of] Amazon vouchers. The more nominations we receive, the better DU is able to point local press to case histories (many local journalists this year contacted us around Silver Surfers’ Day wanting to speak to a local older person who is using Internet and email and we weren’t able to supply all of them).

So, if you know or are a web wizard on the right side of 50, you now know what to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

To submit someone’s name, you’ll need the nomination form (unfortunately no open source job: it’s an MS Word template ๐Ÿ™ ) and it might be a good idea to read the conditions of entry (PDF) too.

Putting the (Linux) boot in

Mike Harris from Bristol Wireless was kindly invited by Craig Duffy at the University of the West of England (UWE) to give a talk on some of his past activities at this summer’s Linux Boot Camp (PDF flyer). An entertaining one-hour talk was duly provided to around 35 participants, which covered everything from initial faltering footsteps using Linux, as well as the setting up of Psand, the founding of Bristol Wireless and the mobile LTSP project with special focus on the Hes Fes in 2005 and the showing of a video of the cybertent at the Hes Fes.

Other talks during the three-day event, running from the 1st to the 3rd July, were provided from Guy Mather of SNsystems on Linux on PS3, Peter Griffin of MPCData on porting uClinux onto a 16-bit architecture, Larry Bull of UWE on Linux robots and Rob Williams of UWE on pipelined architectures. During the three days, the attendees took part in lab work that involved building and booting a Linux PC, scripting and configuration, networking and security, embedded Linux and controlling a LEGO buggy.

The next Linux Boot Camp will be towards the end of June 2009. Exact dates will be confirmed nearer the time.

Technology adventures at Trinity

Yesterday, Saturday 28th June, saw “An Adventure in Technology” come to Trinity Community Arts in Bristol (news passim), followed by an after-party at some city centre hostelry (although I missed the latter). It was wonderful to see the event so well supported by the local tech community: I spotted familiar faces from both the Bristol & Bath LUG and Chaostreff Bristol; Bristol Wireless also had a fairly large contingent there. I was also good to see our old friend Will Pollard from Exeter who was busy capturing the event on video.

wi-fi motion capture kit home-made plotter Lego-stylee panning camera

However, it was not just geeks that made up the attendance. Other members of the human race were there, including Christine Zaba, a journalist who writes for the Grauniad and New Statesman on data protection issues and who held a discussion workshop on these during the morning session.

The day itself was a mixture of talks, demonstrations and chances to get one’s hands dirty and ranged from hybrid/electric vehicles via retro tech (supplied in large part by John Honniball) to motion capture with wi-fi and an introduction to demos (non-interactive audio-visual presentations run in real time on a computer), plus MythTV and homebrew kit, such as the Lego panning camera rig and plotter shown above. Secreted in plain view was the hardware swap shop, whose stock changed perceptibly over the day.

In all, a wonderful and fascinating day: Trinity’s Ryan even gave some us of Bristol Wireless folks a guided tour of their new training facilities upstairs. Many thanks to Shevek, all exhibitors and speakers, plus the folks at Trinity for a splendid day.

Finally, Bristol Wireless volunteer Andy Sabel took some event photos with his camera phone. Enjoy!

A new use for Tetrapak – a waveguide antenna

In its early days, Bristol Wireless relied heavily on ‘homebrew’ equipment, such as the whisky tin wifi antenna (cantenna), some of which has survived very well (news passim). We were therefore very interested to hear that, at the recent 08 festival in Paris, Benjamin Henrion from Belgium’s Reseau was presenting a waveguide antenna made from Tetrapak packaging, which is reputed to be notoriously difficult to recycle*.

tetrapak waveguide antenna

More images and brief instructions are available on this page, which also has a link to a real monster antenna in Thailand.

* = Editor’s note: Tetrapak collection and recycling has just started in Bristol. However, its environmental friendliness may be less than optimum as the collected packaging has to be shipped to Scandinavia for processing๐Ÿ™

Hat tip:

OpenWrt announces OpenWrt Kamikaze 808 Release

Bristol Wireless has been using OpenWrt for some time now for its network infrastructure. We’re very pleased to learn from our friends at the Freifunk blog that the OpenWrt team has announced the release of its latest version, named Kamikaze 808.

OpenWRT logo

The release schedule is as follows:

  • Last day in July – final release candidate: 808 RC-1 808 RC-1 will be a feature freeze and all changes after this date will be bug fixes;
  • Last day in August – final release: OpenWrt Kamikaze 808 release.

The 808 Release will also include support for several new platforms/targets and come complete with the Luci interface.

More details are available on the Freifunk blog and the OpenWRT forum.

Tux in boots with a tent? Linux Boot Camp returns

The Linux Boot Camp returns to the University of the West of England (UWE) from 30 June – 2 July this year.

It’s aimed at folks who’ve done their A levels who want to do practical technical computing and get in touch with their inner geek.

Linux Boot Camp logoThe 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, including installing and configuring Linux, setting up home networks, web servers , routers and much more. If you already know how to do some of this stuff, don’t despair as the Linux Boot Camp’s structure will explore advanced topics in system configuration.

The numbers are limited to about 60 places, so don’t delay if you want to take part. There may also be a small number of residential places available in UWE’s student accommodation, so ask the organisers.

To book your place, contact Pat Cottrell or Craig Duffy by e-mail lbc (at) or telephone (0117) 328 4242.

For more details, visit the Linux Boot Camp web page.

Hacktionlab – the last word?

Mike Harris writes:

Hi All,

Just writing to say a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all for coming to HacktionLab and making it a success, not only did it seem to be good fun, but it also felt very productive and useful. I do hope you all got as much as I did from it. It was great to see those of you I knew again and to meet those of you I didn’t.

So nice one all, good stuff. Looking forward to being at Climate Camp with some of you and hopefully we can organise another HacktionLab in the not too distant future.



And the rest of us would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to you Mike and to Mick Fuzz for coming up with the idea for Hacktionlab in the first place. ๐Ÿ™‚

Out of Hacktion

Scary Dairy
Scary Dairy
This piece, the second on Hacktionlab, was supposed to have been written on Sunday, but that didn’t happen through a combination of circumstances, so it’s being scribbled first thing on Tuesday morning following the return home of Bristol Wireless’ final site tat-down crew yesterday afternoon.

My last post ended as Saturday’s lunch was arriving. Following that all the hacktivistas were treated to workshops from Bristol Wireless’ finest – Lloyd on routing, wifi and 12 volt power systems, then Mike on audio and video streaming.

Lloyd sets up his kit
Lloyd sets up his kit

Supper soon arrived and a fine evening’s entertainment commenced with Hamish’s death-defying vegetable juggling act. As dawn started brightening the eastern sky on Sunday, a few souls were still up partying…

Sunday arrived all too soon with an accompaniment of occasional showers and the most difficult workshop of all – the settling your bar tab one! ๐Ÿ˜‰ That done, it was down to the easy stuff – transferring video footage from mobile phones to a computer and then editing video using free software.

Acesabe seeks a DHCP lease
Acesabe seeks a DHCP lease
Mid-afternoon and the time for goodbyes came all too quickly and by suppertime, all that was left of Hacktionlab was 5 souls, including 3 of Bristol Wireless’ advance crew, now re-assigned to the rearguard detailed to strip down the temporary infrastructure and return the barn and camping field to their former agricultural role. We were finally off site at about 2 pm on Monday and unloading back at the lab in St Werburghs an hour or so later. A fine weekend – and a good one – had finally finished.

Lloyd's wifi hazel wand
Rustic wifi
Many thanks to the good folks at Highbury Farm for being such congenial hosts and for the fine food. If anyone has some decent pictures and doesn’t mind them being used for the Highbury Farm website, please get in touch with them by sending an email to highburyfarm (at)

Finally, here’s where to find some other Hacktionlab media elsewhere on t’interweb: