Lincoln Blue

There are 6 days to go until the polls open for Theresa May’s snap election that she wasn’t going to call and the war of words is really hotting up.

This blog has previously drawn attention to Theresa May’s description of the Conservatives as the “Nasty Party” (posts passim) and how under her premiership, she and her members have striven to be as nasty as they can.

This has continued with increasing fury during the election campaign and has intensified as the Tories’ lead in the opinion polls has narrowed, as shown by this series of tweets by the party’s faithful in Grantham, birthplace of the grocer’s daughter who went on to become the Conservatives’ revered Leaderene (once known as the “Milk Snatcher”. Ed.).

screenshot of tweets demonising and insulting people on benefits

In that series of postings, Lincolnshire Tories have been faithfully parroting the bile the party has been encouraging their allies in the right-wing mainstream media since their return to government in 2010.

Note too, the spelling error in the final tweet: “rouges” instead of “rogues“. It must be an orthographical error as I can conceive of no predictive text application that would come up with such a substitute.

Any rouge, otherwise known these days as blusher, is a cosmetic product and thus quite appropriate to this load of made-up nonsense. 🙂

Since the posting of those tweets, the account has been suspended by Twitter, most likely for abusive tweets and/or behaviour.

Better news for a Tidy BS5

Tidy BS5 logoFollowing on from the last rather gloomy post on residents’ efforts to get Bristol’s Easton and Lawrence Hill wards (roughly covered by the BS5 postcode. Ed.) tidier, some more positive news has been received from Up Our Street.

Celia, the community engagement officer, has emailed to report on a meeting she organised with some traders on Stapleton Road and commercial waste contractors earlier this week.

She writes:

It was a lively meeting, but some progress I think was made, and SUEZ, Bristol Waste and Biffa are going to visit their clients on the road to encourage people to move away from large bins on the highway to sack collection. Most traders seemed to agree that removal of the bins would help by taking away the focal points which attract so much dumping. Bristol City Council are going to have two additional enforcement officers working in the area soon, with a focus on collecting evidence so hopefully this will increase the speed and number of enforcement actions against illegal waste dumping.

cfly-tipping in Nicholas Road

Additional enforcement is coming to Nicholas Road and the rest of Easton & Lawrence Hill

Getting traders to stop using the 1280-litre Eurobins (also known by some as skip bins. Ed.) would be great news, besides which additional enforcement from the city council will also be welcome. It might just help to break the back of the fly-tipping problem. However, one has to ask what’s being done about education and encouragement, the 2 other words beginning with an “e mentioned in my previous post.

There’s nothing on education measures in Celia’s email but there is some encouraging news on other matters.

Celia continues:

Another area of progress was that we got our first two businesses to sign the Tidy BS5 Pledge! Tovey’s Seafood and First Choice Florists. I think it would be timely to visit all businesses on Stapleton Road inviting them to sign the pledge.

Finally, Up Our Street, local residents and Easton councillor Afzal Shah, amongst others, are also working on a motion to be presented to Bristol City Council for a cumulative impact area*. This would amongst other things stop planning permissions for new hot food takeaways of which both wards already have plenty and which are a major source of litter (not to mention food for the local gull and rat population. Ed.). Celia concludes by noting this proposals was also supported at the meeting with local traders.

* – Bristol currently has 5 cumulative impact areas covering the city centre, Gloucester Road, Whiteladies Road and Southville and Bedminster areas.

LibreOffice uses Google’s OSS-Fuzz for quality improvements

For the last five months, The Document Foundation, the non-profit organisation behind the popular free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, has made use of OSS-Fuzz, Google’s effort to make open source software more secure and stable, to improve the quality and reliability of LibreOffice’s source code still further. Developers have used the continuous and automated fuzzing process, which often highlights problem just hours after they appear in the upstream code repository, to solve bugs – and potential security issues – before the next binary release.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author's Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author’s Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice is the first free office suite in the marketplace to make use of Google’s OSS-Fuzz. The service, which is associated with other source code scanning tools such as Coverity, has been integrated into LibreOffice’s security processes – under the leadership of Red Hat – to improve the source code’s quality significantly.

According to Coverity Scan’s last report, LibreOffice has an industry leading defect density of 0.01 per 1,000 lines of code (based on 6,357,292 lines of code analysed on 15th May 2017). “We have been using OSS-Fuzz, like we use Coverity, to catch bugs – some of which may turn into security issues – before the release. So far, we have been able to solve all of the 33 bugs identified by OSS-Fuzz well in advance over the date of disclosure”, says Red Hat’s Caolán McNamara, a senior developer and LibreOffice’s security team leader.

Further information about Google OSS-Fuzz is available on the project’s GitHub homepage and on the Google Open Source Blog.

Mumblin’ Harry Wales

Who’s he?

Some obscure blues artist?

Not quite.

Read on.

a membling overprivileged aristocratGermany’s federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has decided to cut out part of an English exam including a speech by a a member of Britain’s so-called royal family after thousands of students complained that they could not understand him, The Local reports.

On Tuesday North Rhine Westphalia’s school ministry announced it would be discarding part of a final English exam for 100,000 16 year-olds which involved their listening to a speech by young ‘Arry and then answering questions on it.

More than 45,000 examination candidates signed a petition after the test last week calling for a retake because of Mr Wales’ “mumbly” enunciation and the recording’s poor quality.

Regional teachers’ organisation Lehrer NRW commented that even mother tongue English teachers struggled to understand what he was saying.

There were also complaints about poor vocabulary preparation for other parts of the examination.

In response to the controversy, the NRW education ministry explained that markers would be given more leeway in assessing other areas of the test to account for what was taught in class.

In a press release (German), Lehrer NRW said that what was being proposed was a “fair solution“.

Election special: Corbyn crosses the floor

[Update at end]

There’s a phrase in English politics – crossing the floor. The floor is that of the House of Commons and it means that an elected MP has switched allegiance from one party to another.

One former MP – Sir Hartley Shawcross – was rumoured to be constantly on the point of changing allegiance throughout the early and mid-1950s and was consequently nicknamed Sir Shortly Floorcross. 😀

It is a practice normally indulged in by rank and file MPs, not party leaders, unless Bristol’s newspaper of (warped) record is to be believed as per the following screenshot.

Above headline are the words Conservative Party

A proper Red Tory?

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. According to the Bristol Post, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined the Conservatives just 3 weeks away from a general election.

Your correspondent is now awaiting confirmation of this report from other mainstream media outlets.

Update: 14.00 hrs, 21st May – The header over the link has now been changed to read “Politics”. However, use of a special creative writing technique would have avoided the original gaffe. Its name: proofreading! 😀

The good, the bad & the ugly

The original title of this post was going to be “How seriously are Bristol Clean Streets and a tidy BS5 being taken?” However, the title of Sergio Leone’s 1966 Spaghetti Western seemed more appropriate.

The good

Bristol Clean Streets logoTwo weeks ago on Saturday on 6th May, there was a great community effort in East Bristol to clean up local streets and public open spaces as part of the Tidy BS5 “Beating the Bounds” event (posts passim).

This event attracted some high-level support from, amongst others, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, Kurt James who’s leading the council’s Bristol Clean Streets initiative, Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy, and local councillors, with whom your ‘umble scribe was able to discuss matters.

Beating the Bounds St George Park

Some of the Beating the Bounds litter pickers in St George Park

It should be noted for the record that both Marvin and Kurt completed the whole 5 km route, clearing loads of crud on their way.

The bad & the ugly

Serious doubts are now being expressed, not just by local campaigners but councillors too, about the official commitment to tidier streets in Easton and Lawrence Hill wards, as something is clearly going amiss between the fine words coming out of the Counts Louse (aka City Hall. Ed.) and what is actually happening on the streets.

These doubts are being reinforced by recent press coverage that the council and its agents cannot even keep city centre amenities clean and tidy, in addition to which another report suggests that citizen action to remove litter is being discouraged.

Fly-tipping seems to be on the increase again; and that which is reported is not always collected in a timely manner (within 2 working days of being reported, according to the council’s website. Ed.) or the first time it is reported. On the latter point I speak from personal experience, having had to report one site three times before it was finally removed.

However, third time lucky is not the worst of it. Look at the picture below. You may notice the round pink sticker on the bin. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a sticker that was affixed by Bristol Waste to fly-tipped waste for collection as part the communal bins trial near the end of last year (posts passim). That means that particular instance of fly-tipping has been awaiting collection for over 6 months!

6 month old fly-tipping in Easton

Tagged as fly-tipping in November 2016 by Bristol Waste, still awaiting removal in May 2017

When we started campaigning some years ago, Tidy BS5 supporters were informed that bin lorry crews and street sweepers are supposed to report fly-tipping for collection. Clearly those paying their regular visits to St Mark’s Grove are suffering from either actual or selective blindness and illiteracy.

Although the communal bins for household waste have now all disappeared from the Stapleton Road corridor, the trade bins still remain and – just like the ones that were removed – are still acting as magnets for fly-tipping.

Stapleton Road trade bins with associated fly-tipping

Trade bins on Stapleton Road are still attracting both fly-tipped trade and domestic waste

I’ve asked the council whether there’s any legal means of removing the trade bins from the street as they’re not only attracting fly-tipping, but fly-posting and graffiti too – two more targets for the Bristol Clean Streets initiative. Not only that, but they look ugly and take up a lot of public space. Should the public purse be subsidising local business by providing public storage facilities for private property?

Litter and street cleaning also fall under the Bristol Clean Streets initiative. Just how well are they going?

The answer would appear to be that they’re not really going anywhere. All streets are supposed to be cleaned regularly, but this photograph of conditions on the ground in Croydon Street in March 2017 tells a different story. The leaves came off the trees during autumn storms in November 2016. This clearly illustrates how infrequently and/or badly that street is cleaned.

Croydon Street leaf litter

Croydon Street, March 2017. Leaf litter left uncleared 4 months after autumn storms

When contacted, the council acknowledged the the level of cleanliness was below standard, but that parked vehicles make it difficult to get street cleansing vehicles in to deal with it. However, one doesn’t have to be a genius to consider viable and acceptable alternatives… like sending in a bloke with a brush instead!

It’s not just above ground that litter accumulates. One of my regular routes is the pedestrian subway under from Easton Road under the Easton Way dual carriageway. This 1960s planning mistake is not the most pleasant pedestrian facility to use. However its use is made even less attractive by it seemingly being permanently full of litter (we won’t mention the persistent and all-pervasive smell of urine. Ed.). This state of affairs only seems to be alleviated somewhat a few days after I or other public-spirited residents report it as requiring attention.

Finally, let’s turn to fly-posting, another target for Bristol Clean Streets. This too, like dirty streets and fly-tipping, is supposed to be removed within 2 working days of being reported according to the council website. But what’s actually happening on the ground?

Easton Road fly-posting

Fly-posting on Easton Road. Reported at Easter. Still there in mid-May.

Your ‘umble scribe reported the above instance at Easter. However, one month later in mid-May it was still there. I understand it has now been removed by a local resident taking matters into their own hands. In addition, I’m aware that other local residents bothered by fly-posting do likewise and remove it themselves without involving the council’s enforcement team who on the available evidence are too busy to deal with BS5 or incapable of doing so.

Conclusion

It would appear that Bristol City Council and Bristol Waste have taken their eye off the ball locally following the initial flurry of enforcement activity and education that accompanied the communal bins trial and matters are once again slowly declining.

Whilst regular litter picks and other action by local residents should be continue to be encouraged, there also needs to be consistent action and pressure on the less tidy and civic-minded of our local residents by both Bristol City Council and Bristol Waste.

In addition, to encouragement, this action and pressure can be summarised in a further two words starting with “e“, i.e. education and enforcement; education to treat our local streets better and enforcement when the encouragement and education are insufficient.

Without additional effort the Bristol Clean Streets initiative and aspirations for a Tidy BS5 will just end up on the bonfire of council failures funded by local residents out of their increasingly unaffordable and poor value for money council tax.

Do you agree or disagree with the above analysis? Comment below.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 released

Yesterday The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the release of LibreOffice 5.3.3, the latest release of the “fresh” series, which is aimed at early adopters, power users and technology enthusiasts.

For more conservative users and enterprise deployments, TDF suggests LibreOffice 5.2.7, the latest “still” series release, with the backing of professional support by certified professionals.

Compared with its predecessor, LibreOffice 5.3.3 incorporates more than 70 patches, including an update of the Sifr monochrome icon set and several fixes for interoperability with Microsoft Office file formats.

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author's Debian GNU/Linux laptop

LibreOffice 5.3.3 running on the author’s Debian GNU/Linux laptop

As regards those 70 patches mentioned above, users can see which bugs they’ve help to fix in both release candidates, RC1 and RC2 respectively.

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 5.3.3 is immediately available for download for all major platforms – GNU/Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. If your GNU/Linux system can handle Flatpak format, there’s a special link for that.

Support LibreOffice with a donation

As with every release, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are invited to support TDF’s work with a donation.

Election special: Tory buzzword bingo

Cricket fans have long been acquainted with the delights of Boycott Bingo (posts passim), where the regular verbal mannerisms on Test Match Special of the greatest living Yorkshireman have been turned into a game.

Following the recent announcement of the snap general election next month, followers of politics can now play their own game of buzzword bingo with the stock phrases and soundbites of the nation’s political leaders and election candidates.

Expect these buzzwords to be wheeled out until everyone is absolutely fed up with them, usually after about 48 hours.

The Conservatives’ soundbites are particularly limited in scope and number and, from what I’ve seen and heard, to call their candidates’ and leader’s performance wooden would be an insult to trees.

Below, courtesy of The Guardian, is your very own buzzword bingo card for use with Tory leader Theresa May (whose main method of operation seems to consist of avoiding saying anything of substance. Ed.) and her colleagues.

Good luck!

bingo card featuring words strong, stable and coalition of chaos

Hello Slimbook Excálibur

Courtesy of MuyLinux, I’ve become aware of the Slimbook Excálibur, a 15-inch laptop with an aluminium body and backlit keyboard.

From the video, it’s a smart-looking piece of equipment.

The machine’s specification is as follows:

  • Intel i5-6200U / i7-6500U CPU
  • Dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940M 2GB GPU
  • 4GB / 8GB / 16GB DDR 3 RAM
  • 120GB / 250GB / 500GB SSD
  • Optional 500GB / 1TB / 2TB HDD

Slimbook has a selection of up to 11 Linux distributions, including Antergos, Debian, elementary OS, Fedora, KDE Neon, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE and Xubuntu, which can be pre-installed; or those desperate for their fix of proprietary can also have Windows installed instead if they pay the necessary licence fee.

Excálibur pricing starts at €799.

From our Welsh correspondent

It must have been a particularly slow news day that day in Abergavenny as can be told from this headline from the independently-owned Abergavenny Chronicle! 😀

newspaper aboard stating Aber man wins £5 on scratch card

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