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Posts by Steve Woods
The announcement below has been posted under the News section of the GNU website.
GNU Hurd is the GNU project’s replacement for the Unix kernel and comprises a collection of servers that run on the Mach microkernel to implement file systems, network protocols, file access control and other features that are implemented by the Unix or similar kernels (e.g. Linux).
It is with huge pleasure that the Debian GNU/Hurd team announces the release of Debian GNU/Hurd 2013. This is a snapshot of Debian “sid” at the time of the Debian “wheezy” release (May 2013), so it is mostly based on the same sources. It is not an official Debian release, but it is an official Debian GNU/Hurd port release.
The installation ISO images can be downloaded from Debian Ports in the usual three Debian flavors: NETINST, CD, DVD. Besides the friendly Debian installer, a pre-installed disk image is also available, making it even easier to try Debian GNU/Hurd.
Debian GNU/Hurd is currently available for the i386 architecture with more than 10.000 software packages available (more than 75% of the Debian archive, and more to come!).
Due to the very small number of developers, our progress of the project has not been as fast as other successful operating systems, but we believe to have reached a very decent state, even with our limited resources.
We would like to thank all the people who have worked on GNU/Hurd over the past decades. There were not many people at any given time (and still not many people today, please join!), but in the end a lot of people have contributed one way or another. Thanks everybody!
For people my age, “know your place” is synonymous with the British class system and was usually found in company with the idiom “your elders and betters“.
However, for Bristolians, Know Your Place is also a local success story, particularly as it’s somewhere one can learn about and share information about historic Bristol. It’s part of the local council website where visitors can:
- Explore historic maps of Bristol including 18th century tithe maps, late 19th & early 20th century Ordnance Survey maps, plus Ashmeads plans of central Bristol from 1828, 1855 and 1874;
- Access information from the Bristol Historic Environment Record (HER);
- View early 19th century images from the Braikenridge Collection;
- Upload your own historical information and images; and
- Comment on your area’s heritage.
Know Your Place was funded jointly by the City Council and English Heritage and was money well spent, only costing £25,000.
Since the site went live, more than 500 people have contributed their own historical information and images, but there’s still more that could be added given that the city’s history goes back to at least Saxon times.
There are now plans to expand the mapping to Bristol’s surrounding authorities, which go under the acronym CUBA – Councils that Used to Be in Avon.
You can access Know Your Place at http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace/?maptype=js
Finally, more good news: all layers except the base maps in Know Your Place can be re-used and the HER data is available as open data.
Today’s Express carries a story in which judge Sir Anthony Hooper – a former Court of Appeal judge – remarks on the Ministry of Justice’s proposals to auction off criminal defence work to the lowest bidder are recorded (posts passim). These proposals could ultimately see the criminal legal aid system run by corporations like London 2012 Olympics security fiasco specialists G4S and trucking giant Eddie Stobart.
As a precedent for the kind of chaos m’lud foresees under the criminal legal aid proposals, Sir Anthony cites the disaster that is the courts and tribunals interpreting service farmed out to Capita Translation & Interpreting (posts passim):
We have already seen what has happened when the Government appointed a single company to provide all the interpreters for courts around the country. It has not worked.
Regarding the criminal legal aid proposals themselves, Sir Anthony doesn’t pull any punches and foresees miscarriages of justice ahead:
The purpose of our criminal justice system is to acquit the innocent and convict the guilty. This requires a competent prosecutor, competent defence advocate and competent judge. If you take any of these elements away, the results will be costly and potentially disastrous, with innocent people being convicted and potentially dangerous individuals wrongly acquitted.
Under the Ministry of Justice’s proposals (currently out for consultation. Ed.), misleading entitled ‘Transforming Legal Aid’, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to cut £220 mn. from the annual £2 bn. legal aid budget by tendering contracts to 400 firms and mega law shops in England and Wales. People unable to afford their own solicitor will be allotted one by the state, thus removing the all-important element of choice (isn’t the government trying to increase choice in other parts of the public sector such as the NHS? Ed.). Legal advisers appointed under that system will receive a single fixed fee to represent a client, irrespective of whether the client pleads guilty, raising fears that there will be little incentive to conduct a defence properly.
This was also criticised by Sir Anthony, who declared: “I’m afraid we are abandoning quality and replacing it with the lowest bid.”
Despite its long and fascinating history, Bristol has had a reputation over time of being the graveyard of dreams. Some dreams assume concrete form and it is the lack of concrete – or any other building materials – that are the subject of local author Eugene Byrne’s new book ‘Unbuilt Bristol’, which is published today by Redcliffe Press at a very reasonable £15.00.
Unbuilt Bristol is described as ‘The city that might have been 1750-2050′. As regards the book’s content, Eugene writes:
While all your old favourites are there (all the other proposals for a bridge over the Avon Gorge, the insane 1960s/70s plan to fill in the Floating Harbour and cover it in roads etc.) there are plenty more which you won’t have heard of. Like the Victorian scheme to put Bristol’s main railway station in Queen Square, or a visionary 19th century plan to run the city’s street lighting using power generated by the rise and fall of the river Avon.
And it’s the latter idea – that visionary 19th century plan to run the city’s streetlights on tidal power from the Avon that forms the subject of this post.
The project to generate electricity from the Avon to run Bristol’s streetlights is described in Charles Wells’ A short history of the Port of Bristol’, which was published in 1909 and is available free from the Internet Archive. Regarding the amount of tidal power available and the fate of the project itself, Wells wrote:
…when proposals were first brought before the city for the introduction of electric light (November, 1881), Mr. Smith secured the appointment of a committee to consider an interesting scheme for utilising the great power of the tide in the river Avon for generating the electricity. Mr. Smith said he believed by this method a saving of about £6,000 per annum could be effected compared with the cost of generation in the ordinary way. Prof. Silvanus P. Thompson, who was on the staff of Bristol University College, had made calculations (upon data supplied by Mr. T. Howard, Dock Engineer) showing that the available tidal power at Totterdown was over 6 billions of foot pounds per annum, equal to 279,389 h.p. per tide. At Rownham the power was three times greater, and at Avonmouth over 2,000,000 h.p. per tide. To light by electricity the 4,274 street lamps then in the city would require from 4 billions to 2 billions of foot pounds per annum according to the system adopted. There was, however, no practical result from the appointment of the committee, and in March 1891 the Corporation voted £66,000 for the beginning of the present installation with an ordinary power station on Temple Backs.
Where it meets the Severn estuary at Avonmouth, the Bristol Avon has a tidal range of 15 m (49 ft), the second largest in the world, only being beaten by the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada.
Given the present concerns about burning fossil fuels and carbon emissions, perhaps it is time to revisit generating electricity from the Bristol Avon, although one factor that could prove a disadvantage is the heavy load of silt sloshing up and down the river with every tide.
Amarok is a great media player for the Linux platform and one I’ve used for years; and now it’s also available for Unix and Windows too.
The Amarok team announced the release of version 2.7.1, codenamed “Harbinger” on Wednesday this week. According to the following from the release announcement, it’s a release to fix one bug in particular:
The Amarok Team has discovered a very unpleasant bug in QtWebkit ↔ GStreamer interaction that made continuous playing almost impossible, due to frequent crashing. We decided to work around it in our code and take it as an opportunity to release a bugfix version. It contains a couple of other fixes we deemed important.
This version only contains some very essential fixes and changes compared to 2.7.0:
- A modification in handling MusicBrainz ID tags was needed to avoid problems with falsely duplicate tracks.
- We fixed a weird behaviour when the “Use Music Location?” question is answered “Yes” on the first run.
- We now have worked around the QtWebkit ↔ GStreamer bug that caused frequent crashes on track start; this happened if the Wikipedia applet tried to load a page containing an audio tag.
- The database is now also created if the home directory contains non-ASCII characters.
- The Nepomuk Collection now also shows track numbers.
These changes have also been incorporated into the next release – 2.8.0 – which is still in development and promises yet more fixes and enhancements.
Josipović appreciates the open source community’s creative and innovative spirit and is reported as saying: “What you are doing is something good, creative and innovative”, while opening the Croatian Linux Users’ Convention 2013 in Zagreb on Wednesday 15th May. As regards democracy, the President remarked: “Most importantly, open source helps to strengthen democracy.”
President Josipović also expressed his “complete support” for the government plans to implement open source and open standards (what about open data? A stool needs three legs, not two! Ed.) in the Croatian public sector’s IT, according to the organisers of the Croatian Linux Users’ Convention.
This is not the first time that Mr Josipović has shown his support for open source and open standards (posts passim)
There’s been more reaction to the Nottingham Crown Court murder case interpreter no-show last week (posts passim).
As previously mentioned, Northampton North MP Michael Ellis stated he was going raise the matter of Capita’s woeful service under its courts and tribunals interpreting contract with the Secretary of State for Justice, Christopher Grayling, as in Mr Ellis’ opinion the service was ‘out of control‘.
Mr Ellis has now contacted Chris Grayling, as has been reported by the Northampton Herald & Post:
Mr Ellis said Mr Grayling agreed to look into the matter.
He said: “Mr Grayling was concerned and said he would be looking into it and would take appropriate action in due course.”
In my experience, “looking into it” and “take appropriate action in due course” can be paraphrased as a “polite brush off“. If Mr Ellis doesn’t understand what a polite brush off is, in plainer language Grayling was actually saying: “I couldn’t give a toss“.
The Western Gazette really knows how to write an attention-grabbing headline.
The only thing I would have added to that headline is an additional word at the start. Exclusive!
Hat tip: Laura Williams
Anyone who uses Skype, has agreed that Skype may also read their text messages too. Heise Security has found out that Microsoft, which bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion, actually avails itself of this right. At the very least https URLs sent via the chat interface receive an unannounced visit from Redmond some time later.
Heise was alerted to this by a reader who pointed out that unusual network traffic was reported after a Skype chat with colleagues. The server logs pointed to a possible replay attack. As things turned out, a Redmond IP address had accessed the https URLs that had previously been sent. The Heise Security re-enacted the situation, sending each other URLs: one of the test https URLs contained login information; the other pointed to a private file sharing cloud service. A few hours after posting the team spotted the following in the the server log files:
188.8.131.52 - - [30/Apr/2013:19:28:32 +0200] "HEAD /.../login.html?user=tbtest&password=geheim HTTP/1.1"
Heise Security too had received a visit from an IP address registered to Microsoft. Some readers reported in the comments that Microsoft also monitors http URLs.
When challenged about this behaviour, the company asserted that messages are scanned to filter out links to spam and phishing pages. However, the facts do not support this assertion: spam and phishing sites don’t normally lurk behind https URLs and Skype didn’t touch those. Furthermore, Skype is sending out head requests, which only the server’s retrieve administration data. Skype would have to examine the content of pages to investigate web pages for spam or phishing.
Heise’s conclusion is that anyone who uses Skype must only agree that Microsoft can use all the data transferred almost as it feels inclined to do. It must be assumed that this actually occurs and that the company will not reveal exactly what it is doing with this data.
As far back as 2008, The H Online, Heise’s English language news site, had previously drawn attention to potential eavesdropping in Skype.
Anyone concerned about their privacy and the security of their own data is therefore advised to switch their communications to a client using the open source XMMP (formerly known as Jabber) protocol and free chat programs that support it.
Interpreter organisations, which have united as Professional Interpreters for Justice, have rejected the amended terms introduced by Capita from 1st May in a bid to attract more of their members to work in courts and tribunals. The Justice Minister, they say, is hiding behind this ‘new deal’ in a bid to distract attention from continuing poor performance and is not being honest regarding Government statistics which do not tell the whole story.
Incidences of interpreter ‘no shows’ and poor quality interpreting at courts and police stations across the UK continue to flood in every day. They include the postponement of a hearing in a quadruple murder case at Nottingham Crown Court on 10th May when a Mandarin interpreter booked for defendant Anxiang Du didn’t arrive, prompting High Court Judge Mr Justice Julian Flaux to label the outsourcing company ‘an absolute disgrace‘ and Northampton North MP Michael Ellis to say it showed the service was ‘out of control‘.
According to Professional Interpreters for Justice, the Justice Ministry’s own statistical report about the contract doesn’t give the whole picture as it does not report on the large number of interpreting assignments being arranged directly by court clerks who are bypassing Capita due to frustration with the system.
Professional Interpreters for Justice also claim that Justice Minister Helen Grant MP is wrong in stating that the recently announced changes to payments are “what interpreters want” in her report of 25th April to MPs, as interpreters have repeatedly stated the opposite in meetings held with the Ministry in recent weeks.
Interpreters were invited to meetings where proposals for pay adjustments were presented. They stated they were not interested in incentives, but instead wanted the Capita contract dropped as it disregards the importance of having professionally qualified interpreters to ensure a fair trial where defendants and witnesses do not speak English.
On behalf of Professional Interpreters for Justice, Keith Moffitt, the Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, says: “Interpreters do not want to be persuaded to work under the Capita contract and those invited to the meetings told the Ministry of Justice exactly that. Unfortunately, these weak proposals will do nothing to improve the poor performance which is clear will continue under the contract with Capita.”
Professional Interpreters for Justice, which represents ten groups, is angry that Helen Grant MP has brushed off the highly critical Justice Select Committee report without putting in place measures needed to address the failings, which have been described as ‘nothing short of shambolic’.
Paul Wilson, Chief Executive of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), says: “We are ready to work on meaningful reforms once the Ministry of Justice cancels the contract with Capita. The adjustments in pay and other measures suggested by the Minister in her report are an attempt to deny the failure of the Framework Agreement and do not address many of the key recommendations set out by the Justice Select Committee.”
The Ministry of Justice has been repeatedly criticised for signing a four year Framework Agreement for language services with Applied Language Solutions (ALS), which was acquired by Capita in December 2011 and now operates as Capita Translation and Interpreting.
Professional Interpreters for Justice will be writing to the Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee to set out their concerns regarding the Minister’s apparent disregard for its recommendations and are calling for a parliamentary debate in relation to the Capita / MoJ Framework Agreement.