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USB 3G – a field report

A short time ago, Matthew Edmonson of M6-IT, a long-time supporter of Bristol Wireless, posted to our mailing list about his experiences using a 3G USB modem out and about and his impressions on how it could encourage mobile working. His email started as follows:

I am writing this from a meeting in Bristol; fifteen minutes ago I was in my office, popped my laptop in a bag and drove over to Easton. I didn’t loose my connection and remained on ICQ, ssh and IRC. This surely brings a whole new level to mobile working.

What followed on from this upbeat opening was a detailed exposé of using such a device in a remote location – in this case the Doon of May in Dumfries & Galloway in the south of Scotland. (Editor’s note: In this instance, ‘remote’ is used more as a reference to distance and connectivity to the conventional telephone system, rather than several days’ trekking with bearers and machetes.)

Matthew’s detailed account follows below.

Using T-Mobile 3G USB HE220 in a remote location

Earlier in the year I purchased a 3G card for my mobile connectivity needs. I was pleased to find that it even worked (albeit slowly) from a remote location.

Location: The Doon of May, Dumfries and Galloway, DG8 9RR, 18/09/07

Hardware and software: Thinkpad T60 running Ubuntu – Fiesty

Phone Contract: T-Mobile Unlimited, £44 per month.

Power: Inverter + 240V Mains PSU, car batteries from skip, old refurbished wind generator, 2x solar (at most about 3 hours a day).

In previous releases of Ubuntu one had to faff around with modules because the device has a flash media facility from which windows users can load the drivers. I have found that with kernels higher than mine (i.e. Gutsy) the USB storage modules are loaded; I haven’t looked at ways round this (fixed as of 3/10/07).

You may need to run the following commands as root.

Firstly, if the 3G modem is plugged in at boot, this command:-
ls -la /dev/ttyU*

..should give you three lines…

root@Batu:~# ls -la /dev/ttyU*
crw-rw—- 1 root dialout 188, 0 2007-09-26 16:49 /dev/ttyUSB0
crw-rw—- 1 root dialout 188, 1 2007-09-26 16:12 /dev/ttyUSB1
crw-rw—- 1 root dialout 188, 2 2007-09-26 16:12 /dev/ttyUSB2

If so, all is well and the wvdial script should work.

If there is only one line you can try:-
rmmod option
(wait 10s)
ls -la /dev/ttyU*

A wvdial script (/etc/wvdial.conf):-

Phone = *99***1#
Username = username
Password = password
Stupid Mode = 1
Dial COmmand = ATDT

[Dialer tmobile]
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud = 460800
Init2 = ATZ
Init3 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
ISDN = 0
Modem Type = Analog Modem

#New PPPD = yes

This is run with the command wvdial tmobile.

I use the he220stat binary to generate the following:

HUAWEI E220 Statistics [q]uit

Uptime : 1162s
SpeedUp : 0kB/s
SpeedDn : 0kB/s
Trnsfd : 0.0MB
|| Recvd : 0.2MB

STRENGTH Mode: (?)

The max d/l is 4kb/s

The strength varies from 2 to 4 bars.

On two bars normal web surfing is bearable, IRC works well, IMAP is usable but not great, shh is painful and ICQ works well IF it connects. Remote applications, such as Google Spreadsheet and Calendar often fail; sometimes they work very slowly.

Further Notes:

It has been a dream of mine to be able to work from the land of the Tinne Beag Workers’ Co-Operative Limited for many years now. My first attempt involved the front seat of a car and the landline that I had commissioned. Given that I found the Toshiba Satellite Pro 420 full of pr0n a couple of years later, I figured that it worked well enough. However, in my experience it was very slow indeed and usually failed following any lightning storm in the vicinity. Given this area of Scotland outages were fairly frequent.

I heard that our exchange was the furthest in the area from the main exchange. It was also reputed to be one of the first digital exchanges and therefore unlikely to be upgraded for years.

English schools – spending millions on IT procurement

The “damning” results of a survey of local authorities by Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh show that the majority have no idea how much money is being spent on IT in their schools. Of the 59 respondents, 37 local authorities keep no information on the amount spent by schools on IT provision and procurement.

With a parliamentary adjournment debate on IT procurement held on 9th October (the day of the Chancellor’s pre-budget report and the comprehensive spending review), the survey raises particular concern at the amount being spent on software licences, with some local authorities confirming they spend as much as £0.5 mn. per year. If this figure is typical, it is believed English schools could be spending as much as £40 mn./p.a. on software licences.

The survey also found that while almost 50% of local authorities are using some open source software in their schools, there is no systematic strategy to get best value from such procurement. Only 3 of the respondents, Cumbria, East Yorkshire and Lancashire, offer an open source solution as a standard learning platform throughout their areas.

John Pugh MP commented, “The responses make for interesting reading. It became obvious that many local authorities do not know how much money they can save on software because they have no clear understanding of how much they are currently spending.”

John went on to add, “I think these findings give a worrying example of how this government is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money and is incapable of providing strategic leadership for LAs in achieving sustained best value. There is plenty of evidence of significant savings from adopting open source solutions, such as the Government’s own survey conducted by BECTA in 2005, widespread deployment in Extremadura* in Spain and strategies in progress in Georgia, Russia and Macedonia. Despite these there is no pilot, no trials and no strategy here. Our schools are becoming a technological backwater locked into yesterday’s technologies. With an adjournment debate on ICT procurement set for the 9th October, it’s time we take a hard look at whether we are getting what’s best for the UK.”

* = In 2002 the Spanish region of Extremadura migrated 70,000 desktops and 400 servers in the region’s schools to open source, saving an estimated €18m. In complete contrast, some English local authorities advise schools not to seek savings by deploying open source.

LTSP goes to Manchester

On Wednesday 26th September the Bristol Wireless mobile LTSP suite went to the Beyond Engagement: Inclusion, Sport and Popular Culture conference organised by the Substance co-op at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. The aim of the conference was to explore ways of building on developments after the target audience has been found through the channels of sport, music and such like.

substanceAfter a three-hour drive I arrived at the conference venue. The tables were laid out and ready for the suite. We unpacked the laptops and were set up connected to a wireless connection in about 20 minutes, after which we were up and running. The delegates used the suite for mail and preparation for their workshops. At each break all the computers were occupied (there were 300 delegates, so there was heavy demand for use of the suite) and the delegates had no trouble getting to grips with Linux; in fact some of them preferred Linux to Windows and were actually running it at home, so we had a few converts in the hall already.

I was impressed by Manchester, a modern city with lots of traditional buildings. The transport system was positively futuristic: they have trams, cheap buses and what little traffic there was flowed smoothly. Bristol’s transport system looks non-existent by comparison.

As for the conference itself, I had the chance to attend some of the workshops, one of which, entitled ‘Supporters to Reporters’, featured young people who were given a taste of journalism and broadcasting, with the full range of kit required for the job. Who knows? I might just have witnessed the next John Motson in action…

The Substance crew took me to dinner in a fancy restaurant with other delegates and found me a comfortable hotel. I was also shown the lights of Manchester by some friends and residents Adel, Beth and Micky, who I thank for their efforts.

Code = Poetry = Code?

Tony Hillier, poetWhile the big wide world classes Bristol Wireless as supertechies or ubergeeks, we do have artistic sensibilities: indeed, the co-op has several artist(e)s – musicians, DJs, wordsmiths, practitioners in the plastic arts, etc. – in its ranks and I reckon that collectively we have more appreciation of creative works than your average Radio 4 studio full of art critics.

It is often said that code is poetry: proof of this is the fact that software is treated as a work of literature, but is poetry also code?

You can now judge, since one of the pleasant experiences we brought back from the Ragged Hedge Fair (news passim) was community poet Tony Hillier’s visit to the cybertent. This resulted in Tony sending us a poem which we’re pleased to reproduce below:

Conversion process

Looking for
Twelve volt flat screens
So we don’t lose anything
In the conversion process

This warm co-operative hot spot
There for you and your world
This teenage crèche

These cheap café chairs
Bring you rich text format
And plain vanilla computing
Four chairs made from one coke can
They’re that comfortable in this
Solar powered penguin paradise

Flaming foxes and frozen weasels
No nose can sense the smell of diesel
From gnu to re-new in penguin suits
This apple-free cider space
Well dressed, well addressed, innit

Thanks very much Tony! We’re now wondering if any other IT co-op has had poetry written about it…

Flickring images of Bristol Wireless

Tall Paul Statue Of LibertyA Bristol Wireless group and photo pool has now been established on Flickr, the popular image sharing site.

The idea is to document the work and personalities of the Bristol Wireless project.

At the time of writing the group has 7 members and nearly 80 pictures, including some historical images from our first high-rise install on top of Twinnel House in Easton, Bristol, such as the geek version of the Statue of Liberty shown in this piece (Thanks edmittance 🙂 ).

If you have a Flickr account and some relevant pictures, please visit the group page, join up and add your photos to swell the pool.

IT Volunteering Awards nominations time

iT4 Communities, the national IT volunteering programme of the Information Technologists’ Company, is accepting nominations for the 2007 IT Volunteer Awards, which aim to recognise the best, most innovative examples of IT volunteering and projects. Charities can nominate themselves and/or their IT volunteers by submitting an application by 6 October. Anyone who has volunteered their professional IT skills, or charities which have used of IT volunteers over the last year, can gain national recognition and win prizes, including £250 for the charity involved.

The award categories are:

  • Best Accessible IT Volunteering Project – to be awarded jointly to a volunteer and charity that have worked together on a successful project that used IT to help people with disabilities;
  • Best IT Volunteer – open to charities to nominate the IT volunteer that has made a difference to their organisation;
  • Best IT Volunteering Project – Impact on Organisations – to be awarded jointly to a volunteer and charity that have worked together on a successful project;
  • Best IT Volunteering Project – Innovation – awarded jointly to a volunteer and a charity.

Last year’s top honours went to projects such as a mental-health charity website, an art gallery ticketing system and a Citizen’s Advice Bureau referral system.

“IT volunteers make an enormous contribution to both the industry and the community as a whole,” says John Davies, programme director of iT4C. “iT4C’s volunteers have already provided more than £2 million-worth of contribution in skills and time so it is vital that these efforts are recognised and rewarded. Without volunteering, many organisations and individuals would not have access to the high level of IT support and consultancy that they need in the digital age.”

Instructions for submitting nominations can be found on the iT4C website.

The winners will be announced at an evening awards event and reception on 29 November 2007 at the Information Technologists’ Company Hall, in London. To book a free place at the event, visit For further information about the awards, please contact John Davies (John (at)


The New York Times reported yesterday that the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have rebuffed the efforts of Microsoft to have its Open Office XML (OOXML) document format accepted as an international standard.

Of the 87 countries that participated in the vote, 26% opposed Microsoft’s bid. Under the rules for approval, no more than 25% of the countries could oppose the bid. Microsoft also failed to win the vote of 66% of 41 countries on another panel of ISO and IEC members.

The defeat of Microsoft’s attempt to have OOXML is important since more governments are demanding interchangeable open document formats instead of proprietary formats for their copious records. The one standardised format currently available is Open Document Format (ODF) – developed by a consortium led by IBM and used by office suites such as OpenOffice – which the ISO approved in May 2006.

The full report is available on the New York Times website.

A question of communication

A wee problemOnce camping in a field meant being well out of touch, but today your ‘umble scribe at the Ragged Hedge Fair has sent a birthday greeting to his sister by text message and phoned the family on a VoIP telephone (routed via satellite, back to earth in Germany, Bath, Switzerland, back to the UK and then breaking out into the telephone network for the final leg ) – all quite wonderful if it is remembered how isolated one could be in the same situation just a couple of decades ago. Unfortunately, sometimes the most basic communications can fail, but the best has to be made of a bad job, as the image shows.

Day dawned bright and sunny at Cirencester and there’s a bit more breeze for Magrec Ltd. to keep us running. Magrec, our neighbours here, have some very interesting bits and pieces, including small solar rechargers just suitable for mobile telephones, although our Rich is hesitating over whether to buy one(at 12 quid they cost more than his phone. Ed. 🙂).

Steady traffic has flowed through the cybertent all day, although working here has been a very relaxed affair. Our only casualty to date has been one of our new Evo T20 thin clients, which has decided to turn into a brick, although Bails has the expertise to revive it. The wireless access has been working perfectly, except when someone closes the van door… (name(s) omitted to spare the blushes of the guilty! Ed.). On the plus side, there’s been plenty of interest in Linux and open source and our setup has impressed visitors and users – a good weekend for advocacy.

We’re taking down and heading back to Bristol tomorrow with some good memories and souvenirs; will it be good to sleep on a mattress again?

Near the hedge, but not ragged

Saturday at the Ragged Hedge Fair started bright and sunny, but to misquote the late Larry Grayson: “What a grey day”. As we’re running off solar, that’s not working at its full capacity due to cloud cover, although Clive, our power supplier, still has the wind.

The free first hour of internet access for kids is proving very popular, with a queue forming whilst we were setting up, which we recruited so as to let them get on quicker. Wireless access is also running nicely. Since we opened we’ve had a steady stream of users, with plenty of interest expressed in Linux and free/open source software in general.

Cotswold mushroomsThe festival is now in full swing, with a large crowd enjoying live music, performance and the programme of educational and cultural activities (Lloyd one of our satellite techs, started out the day with yoga). Workshops have also been going on, with one run by Clive, our power supplier, paying a visit with his group to neighbours Bristol Wireless for an explanation of our low-energy systems in action. As we’re powered by renewables, we are very conscious of energy consumption and have taken every opportunity to turn kit off and unplug it save power. At the same time, some neat kit has also been discovered, such as low-power LED lights.

We’ve got a few more hours to run, after which we can relax and enjoy the bands and perhaps enjoy the local apple juice if we can arrange delivery or an off-site jolly.

Another weekend, another field… with a hedge

It’s Friday lunchtime and the Bristol Wireless/Psand cybertent at the Ragged Hedge Fair at Abbey Farm near Cirencester has running for about 2 hours now; the suite and the site wireless access (which I’m using) are all running off wind and solar power kindly provided by Magrec Ltd., next to whom we’re pitched.

The advance crew – Mike, Lloyd, Bails, Rich, John the Cook and your correspondent – all arrived on site yesterday evening: the tent was up in an hour, followed by Lloyd and Mike setting up the satellite dish (after chocking the van) in the gathering gloom. Mike tells me we’re pointed at the Hellas Sat 2 satellite and we’ve confused dear old Google again, which still thinks we’re in Germany; our wrongfooting as regards location does have some advantages – it confuses the hell out of targeted advertising. 😀

The remaining work of getting the tent set up – laying out laptops, chairs, signs, literature and our advocacy boards – passed pleasantly and well-fuelled by a steady supply of caffeine, so we ended up meeting our projected 12-noon opening time.

We’re still in the process of finding out how much current we’re pulling. The editorial laptop draws about 70 W when charging and 30 W when charged. All the LTSP laptops are all running on a 12-volt supply. Clive Magrec is currently investigating a conundrum with the inverter; this is an interesting position after the luxury of unlimited generator power at Cullompton last weekend (news passim).

We’re still awaiting the final crew arrivals before the full cybertent complement is on site, but we have enough crew to cope for the moment, although tomorrow will be busier.

More news tomorrow.

Crystal Balls – the ref’s match report

This was supposed to be the last post from Bristol Wireless’ latest away fixture – a game of more than two halves – but is being written a couple of days later back in Bristol.

The entire tournament was characterised by fair play all round. Marks (out of 10): 10

The whole team acted as goalies at times, fielding the whole site’s IT questions. However, special mention must go to Lloyd, who managed to recover a whole SD card’s worth of deleted pictures for ICE Neckarstrasse.

Regarding LLoyd’s efforts, Ute Schiess of ICE Neckarstrasse writes:

Hi guys,

Back at home, I’m looking for a program to open the pictures Lloyd saved for me. Irfan view – it should work.

Thanx a lot for your support, the cider, the Radio Vague shirt and the great time we had together!!!!

See you, hear or read from you – and if anyone of your crew comes over to Stuttgart / southern Germany, please send an e-mail that we can meet!

Thanx – thanx – thanx for your brilliant job and the nice time we had in Cullompton.

Ute + ICE Neckarstrasse / Stuttgart

A special mention ought to go to Sean for doing most of the work on keeping the live stats up to date (He did have expert knowledge of how to do them, being a lifelong Tottenham supporter – Ed.).

Mike and Lloyd (again!) took several hours getting things right for our transmission of Match of the Day on Saturday Night.

Marks (out of 10): 10

Man/woman of match: everyone!

Unusual donations: 40 Marlboro (anyone out there smoke ’em? Ed.).

Thanks to Easton Cowboys for putting the tournament together and also to Cullompton Rangers for their hospitality.

Tomorrow sees us starting to set up in a Gloucestershire field for this coming weekend’s Ragged Hedge Fair, a propos of which Mike Harris writes…

After the diesel fuelled joy of the Alternative World Cup last weekend we’re back to the peace and tranquillity of solar and wind and teaming up with Clive Magrec and crew again for power, who we did the BGG with.

Anyways, hope to see you there. The festi is 30 quid (yes, just 30 quid) for three days.

The beautiful game goes on

The third day has now started at the Cowboys‘ Crystal Balls tournament in Cullompton with classical music playing in the cybertent. Breakfast has been consumed and the suite has just opened for business, whilst football and cricket swing into action on a fine, sunny morning.

Tonight's star attractionLast night Mike and Lloyd rigged up a second satellite dish, consulted the BBC website and then hooked up to a satellite in plenty of time to show Auntie’s Match of the Day. Believe it or not, we had a full tent intently watching despite the rival attractions of ‘Shame Academy’ (loosely based on a similar-sounding TV programme – Ed.) in the main marquee, with surreal German tableaux, various Easton Cowboys mutating into the Wurzels and a monkey-wielding ventriloquist from Knowle West; all wonderful fun. Shame Academy’s outright winners were Highland Republica Internationale of Leeds with their Spanish Inquisition for referees, with Easton Cowboys as runner-up.

Sean has been doing a sterling job, keeping the live stats on the web up to date. The fixtures will all be completed today and he can then relax and let his hair down.

At the moment the tent is full of kids playing online games. Later on, we’re expecting heavy traffic as the players and teams from all over Europe email home or blog their experiences.

Anyway, keep following the tournament from far away via the Crystal Balls page.

Another look in the crystal ball

DSCN0132Day 2 has now dawned on the Easton Cowboys’ tournament down in Cullompton, Devon (news passim).

Today’s football has started, with the mens’ and womens’ tournaments running, from which Sean has just returned with a result sheet to update the live stats.

The Bristol Wireless cybertent is again well occupied, whilst the BW crew’s breakfast is rolling off the barbecue.

It already seems that the championship bloggers will be the boys of Lithuania’s FC Vova, who’ve already filed 2 posts from the field; many thanks to them for giving Linux a mention.

Lloyd’s now trying to get some sound going here in the tent, so we can have some audio wallpaper, aka tunes from the editorial laptop.

Anyway keep following the tournament. Your scribe has put some images up on Flickr and will try and add some more when time permits.

What’s happening? Read your crystal balls!

Our correspondent in a field in Cullompton writes:

Bristol Wireless’ old friends, the Easton Cowboys, have all deserted their usual Bristol haunts (including the Plough and other watering holes, green flat places suited to the beautiful game and the like) and toddled to Cullompton, where they’re camping and playing football on the edge of the town. This bank holiday event is being held as the 15th anniversary of the Easton Cowboys Tournament (it’s been going so long they now have an Easton Cowboys Old Guard team in the tournament).

Bristol Wireless’ advance guard of Mike of Psand, plus Lloyd, Bails, Matt and Rich were down here on Wednesday doing the initial setup ready for the camp’s opening on Thursday, with Rich and Bails staying overnight. The BW crew was swollen on Thursday by a few more volunteers and a couple more are due in later today, including the return of Mike and Lloyd, now refreshed and recovered after their dash and camping out at Heathrow doing the Climate Camp Indymedia tent last week and before.

I’m currently sitting drafting this at one of the four evo thin clients running off the LTSP laptop, which is also powering 12 x 12 years old Toshiba laptops in a nice airy tent. From the keyboard the keystrokes composing your email or sending your IRC witticisms from site are travelling 36,000 through the satellite dish to a bird out in space before landing back on earth somewhere near Dortmund, according to DNS Stuff.

It’s nearly noon and the cybertent is doing steady business, with people using gaim for instant messenging, checking their emails and so on…

The first match results have now arrived and Sean has swung into action and updated the tournament spreadsheet on Google documents, whilst your correspondent plugged the match reports into the Crystal Balls chat channel (see below). The draw for the mens’ footie was taken last night by tequila-assisted apple dunking (a bit different from the FA Cup draw. Ed.)

Even if you cannot make it to Devon, you can keep up to date via Crystal Balls’ own dedicated web page and chat channel. More experienced chat users may just like to fire up their preferred client, setting the server to and the channel to #crystalballs

LTSP = Linux Terminal Schools Project?

In June Bristol Wireless were approached by Eddie Smith, Chair of Governors at St Werburghs Primary School to demonstrate our Linux thin client technology. On Monday 2nd July 2007 Bristol Wireless took the 12 volt LTSP suite plus three desktop thin clients to the classroom for two weeks since the school wanted to investigate the potential of using Linux for learning.

Tunnel of LTSPWe went into the school and set up 12 x 12 volt PI vintage laptops long past their sell-by date and 3 standalone Compaq desktops with two CRT monitors and a flat screen monitor. The latter served as examples of what faster client could do when connected to the new Dell dual core processor laptop with 2 GB of RAM that acted as the LTSP server. Understandably, they preferred the Compaq machines to the PIs; the screens had a better resolution and users felt that they responded faster. On day two, when the server had been locked away overnight, it failed to pick up an internet connection when the server was restarted. The problem? We’d forgotten to enter the IP in the resolv.conf file (doh!). That fixed, the rest of the two weeks went without a hitch. We were expecting a few support phone calls over the 2 weeks, but there were none! In the absence of the school ringing us, we rang them to find out how it was going and they told us fine. 🙂 Indeed, it went so well that when we collected the kit from the school the kids expressed a wish to keep it.

Bristol Wireless will be talking to St Werburghs Primary again in September for some more formal feedback but it all sounds positive so far. One issue that did come up was that the small children didn’t have much to do on the suite, even though we had loaded gcompris. Ideally, we should have given all the staff a run through of and let them become familiar with the huge range of educational software available for Linux (e.g. KDE Education Pack, TuxPaint).

Eddie Smith, the Chair of the school’s governors, declared: “I’m impressed by the extraordinary possibilities offered by LTSP for increasing use and availability of IT and saving money at the same time. However, I am disappointed that e-learning credits cannot be used for non-commercial software solutions”. In addition, Eddie saw a further drawback in the conservatism of the teaching profession: teachers might not want to venture outside their software comfort zone.

One of the most surprising outcomes of the whole venture was the response of Scott, the school’s IT technician, whose attitude changed from “I know about Linux and it’s not for me or the school” to “this is great, let me show it to everyone I know”. He is now rumoured to be running Ubuntu at home…

What we did at the Big Green Gathering

Our annual jaunt to the BGG geared up in July. We had plenty of volunteers and despite several weeks of unremitting rain, we were confident that the weather would be fine and that we would be having a wonderful bus persons holiday.

Mike from Psand was on site several days (weeks?) before the rest of us as he had been contracted by the BGG administrative team to provide connectivity and other IT services (incredibly cheaply I might add!). The advance guard of the rest of the crew arrived over the preceding weekend only to find Mike had the tent up, satellite communications ready and the cider on tap (um, why were we here again?).

And so on Wednesday morning before the gates even opened we were up and running and ready to serve peoples’ internet needs for the next 5 days. After an initial slow start (people had to put up their tents I suppose!), we were pretty packed out the whole time. Despite producing lots of information boards and leaflets our volunteers were still inundated with IT queries and problems, and when not showing Hare Krishna monks where to find the Iceweasel browser or strong arming wifi freeloaders into Norm’s cafe next door, were busy buttonholing the curious and the accidental visitors, advocating away on behalf of open source and Linux. Meanwhile in the back of the crew area, Mike experimented with cocktails, while Matt did mysterious things with extra long VGA cables and satellite TV.

The one disappointment of the week was the failure to launch of our workshop program; we now realise that the idea of “turning up and see what happens” probably isn’t the right approach. After an hour struggling with an old laptop, projector and lack of ideas we abandoned it. It was more than made up for by Ben, Hamish and Mike presenting a riveting talk and discussion on copyleft in the Green forums tent, which will be online shortly, and our screening of corporate copyright breaking Sicko (dir. Michael Moore) in our impromptu cinema. Starting a 3 hour movie at midnight after an evening of drinking cider might make us rethink our scheduling next year. Despite that, all the seats were taken, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the end.

Most of the crew had to leave on Sunday at the end for mundane “jobs” back in Bristol on Monday morning, but the takedown crew was even able to offer a limited service for donations throughout Monday for stragglers and site crew to arrange transport home, while a small group of us staged an impromptu ceremony for our fallen comrade Woody.

We raised over £700 after covering our costs and the sun shone all week (except for one morning when the tent nearly fell down due to the weight of the water, resulting in an emergency tent surgery class) and we’re all looking forward to going back next year and doing it again, bigger, better and with properly planned workshops.

Thanks to Di, Hilary, Llanos, Andy, Ben, Toffee, Bails, Jim, Rich, Mike, Matt, Ryan, Rachel, Neave, Josh, Reuben & and anybody else who helped out and bought the cider. 🙂

Festival time

Festival time is upon us again: we’ve already had the quagmire of Glastonbury and last weekend saw the delights of Womud.

Coming up this week is the Big Green Gathering, where Bristol Wireless are once again providing internet access, using renewable energy.

A full report will follow after the event, even if yours truly has to bribe or beat one out of BW’s attendees. In the meantime you can follow our behind the scenes progress on the BGG blog.

Bristol’s wifi beach

Bristol’s latest summer attraction, the urban beach down on the Redcliffe stretch of the city docks (otherwise known as ‘Harbourside’ by the city’s bright young things), now has wifi thanks to Bristol Wireless.

Rich Higgs writes:

“Bails and I set up wireless for the urban beach project in Redcliffe last week. The opening was on Saturday and it all went well.

We put a WRT45G on to an existing omni, ran power to the device and configured a splash page to advertise the beach for demos”.

Bristol Wireless’ chair Pete Ferne has some pictures of the urban beach and evidence of some cider-fuelled wifi activity on his Flickr pages.

Come camping at UWE and pack your Tux

For those wanting to get in touch with their inner geek, UWE‘s Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Mathematical Sciences is holding a Linux Boot Camp from 25th to 27th July 2007.

Tux - the mascot of the Linux kernelThe Linux Boot Camp is aimed at those normally having done or doing A-levels or equivalent and who want to do practical technical computing (although the organisers tell me even silver-haired geeks whose A-levels are over 3 decades distant are also welcome – Ed.). It involves two and a half days of hands-on technical workshops exploring many aspects of modern technology and the use of free and open source software. It’s worth coming if:

  • You ever want to get more out of your computer and gadgets;
  • You want to know more about Linux and the open source software that make the internet fun; or
  • You want to know more about what is in all those boxes that we use every day.

During the workshops boot camp inmates will learn things like:

  • How to revitalise a PC and even how to resuscitate a dead one by installing Linux on it;
  • Useful skills, such as how to set up a home network and web server;
  • How to make your own router and hack into various set top boxes.

At the end of the Boot Camp, campers will be able to tap into the world of open source computing and maybe even set yourself up on a profitable and worthwhile career!

If you already know how to do some of this stuff, don’t despair! The structure of Linux Boot Camp will allow you to explore advanced topics in system configuration.

Places are limited to around 60 so don’t delay, book your place now! There is no charge for attending. If you’re thinking of coming from outside Bristol, you’ll now have to find your own digs as the limited accommodation has all been booked.

To book your place online click here.

For more information please call Pat Cottrell or Craig Duffy on 0870 901 0767 or email or contact Craig directly at

Open source music at Trinity this weekend

Bristol Wireless’ Ben Green is organising a Linux Open Source Music Skill Share Day (phew – what a title! Ed.) from 10 am to 4 pm this Sunday, 8th July at Trinity Community Arts Centre, Trinity Road, Bristol BS2 0NW.

Ben describes the event as: “A time to demonstrate the power of open source music, or to have the power of open source music demonstrated to you. All [are] welcome to demo or watch, or get stuck in.”

People attending are kindly asked to bring laptops and pluggable Linux compatible sound kit. Small sets of speakers and headphones would also be good. Attendees will have access to 3 AMD64 machines with 64Studio installed.

Ben points out that if anyone has a question, he can be contacted through email or via Bristol Wireless.

Entrance to the Trinity on the day will be at the back door, not the large doors at the front and Ben kindly asks people to be patient once they’ve rung the bell as it’s a long way from Trinity’s radio studio to the back door.