• Schleswig-Holstein moves towards digital sovereignty

    The region of Schleswig-Holstein on the Jutland Peninsula is no stranger where matters of sovereignty are concerned.

    In the nineteenth century there was the Schleswig-Holstein Question, was a complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of two duchies, Schleswig (Sønderjylland/Slesvig) and Holstein (Holsten), to the Danish Crown, to the German Confederation, and to each other.

    Coat of arms of Schleswig-HolsteinIn the twenty-first century digital sovereignty has become a matter of political importance to the north German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

    The blog of The Document Foundation reports today that, following a successful pilot project, the state has decided to move from Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office to Linux and LibreOffice (and other free and open source software) on the 30,000 PCs used by the state government.

    According to a statement by the Premier of Schleswig-Holstein, the components of its digitally sovereign workplaces are being based on a total of six project pillars:

    • Switching from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice;
    • Switching the operating system from Microsoft Windows to Linux;
    • Collaboration within the state government and with third parties: use of the open source products Nextcloud, Open Xchange/Thunderbird in conjunction with the Univention AD connector to replace Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Exchange/Outlook;
    • Design of an open source-based directory service to replace Microsoft Active Directory;
    • Appraising specialist procedures with regard to compatibility and interoperability with LibreOffice and Linux; and
    • Development of an open source-based solution to replace Telekom-Flexport.

    The decision to switch office suites follows on from the finding by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) that the European Commission’s use of Microsoft 365 breaches European data protection law.

    According to Schleswig-Holstein’s Digitalisation Minister Dirk Schrödter, digital sovereignty is an integral part of the state government’s digital strategy and work programme. “This cannot be achieved with the current standard IT workstation products. We take digital sovereignty seriously and are moving forward: the decision to change office software is a milestone, but only the beginning of the change: the change to free software for the operating system, the collaboration platform, the directory service, specialist procedures and telephony will follow.”

  • LibreOffice 24.2 released

    The blog of The Document Foundation (TDF), the German-based organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice suite of productivity software, has today announced the release of LibreOffice 24.2 Community for all major operating systems – Linux. MacOS (Apple and Intel processors) and Windows (Intel, AMD and ARM processors). LibreOffice 24.2 banner

    This is LibreOffice’s first use the new calendar-based numbering scheme (YY.M) for releases, which it hoped will help users in keeping their LibreOffice installations up to date.

    New release highlights – general
    • Save AutoRecovery information is enabled by default, and is always creating backup copies. This reduces the risk of losing content for first-time users who are unfamiliar with LibreOffice settings.
    • Fixed various NotebookBar options, with many menu improvements, better print preview support, proper resetting of customised layout, and enhanced use of radio buttons. This improves the experience for users familiar with the Microsoft Office UI.
    • The Insert Special Character drop-down list now displays a character description for the selected character (and in the tooltip when you hover over it).
    • “Legal” ordered list numbering: make a given list level use Arabic numbering for all its numeric portions.
    • Comments can now use styles, with the Comment paragraph style being the default. This makes it easier to change the formatting of all comments at once, or to visually categorise different types of comments.
    • Improved various aspects of multi-page floating table support: overlap control, borders and footnotes, nesting, wrap on all pages, and related UI improvements.
    • A new search field has been added to the Functions sidebar deck.
    • The scientific number format is now supported and saved in ODF: embedded text (with number format like ###.000E0); lower case for exponent (with number format like ###.000e0); exponent with empty ‘?’ instead of ‘0’ (with number format like 0.00E+?0).
    • Highlight the Row and Column corresponding to the active cell.
    • The handling of small caps has been implemented for Impress.
    • Moved Presenter Console and Remote control settings from Tools > Options > LibreOffice Impress to Slide Show > Slide Show Settings, with improved labelling and dialogue layout.
    • Several improvements and fixes to templates: added and improved placement of various placeholders; fixed order of slides; made fonts and formatting consistent; fixed styles and their hierarchy; improved ODF compliance; made it easier to use templates in languages other than English; fixed use of wrong fonts for CJK and CTL.
    • Several significant improvements to the handling of mouse positions and the presentation of dialogue boxes via the Accessibility APIs, allowing screen readers to present them correctly.
    • Improved management of IAccessible2 roles and text/object attributes, allowing screen readers to present them correctly.
    • Status bars in dialogue boxes are reported with the correct accessible role so that screen readers can find and report them appropriately, while checkboxes in dialogue boxes can be toggled using the space bar.
    • The Save with Password dialogue box now has a password strength meter. This uses zxcvbn-c to determine the password strength.
    • New password-based ODF encryption that performs better, hides metadata better, and is more resistant to tampering and brute force.
    • Clarification of the text in the options dialogue box around the macro security settings, so that it is clear exactly what is allowed and what is not.

    A full description of all the new features can be found in the release notes.

    Contributors to LibreOffice 24.2 Community

    There are 166 contributors to the new features of LibreOffice 24.2 Community: 57% of code commits come from the 50 developers employed by three companies on the TDF Advisory Board – Collabora, allotropia and Red Hat – or other organisations, 20% from 8 developers at The Document Foundation; the remaining 23% originated from 108 individual volunteers.

    An additional 159 volunteers have committed to localisation in 160 languages, representing hundreds of people providing translations. LibreOffice 24.2 Community is available in 120 languages, more than any other desktop software, making it available to over 5.5 billion people worldwide in their native language. In addition, over 2.4 billion people speak one of these 120 languages as a second language.

    Interoperability with Microsoft Office

    LibreOffice 24.2 offers a number of improvements and new features aimed at users who share documents with or migrate from MS Office A few of the most significant improvements are as follows:

    • Writer: improved first page headers/footers OOXML import by using the first page property in the existing page style instead of creating a new page style just for the first page.
    • Writer: templates optimised for Japanese text added to the Localisation category to improve interoperability with Microsoft Word for Japanese users.
    • Writer: import of “drawing canvas” from DOCX documents, with connectors no longer imported as simple shapes but as true connectors, primitive shapes like ellipses imported as OOXML shapes (text inside the shape can now wrap), and multicolour gradients, theme colours and glow effects for shapes.
    • OOXML: support for the SVG OOXML extension, which imports the SVG image (svgBlip element) instead of the fallback PNG, and exports the SVG image in addition to the fallback PNG image used when the svgBlip element is not supported (older MS Office versions).

    Download LibreOffice 24.2.

    Your ‘umble scribe is not using the latest official release, but an as-yet unreleased development version. If you would like to help out with LibreOffice testing and development, visit the pre-release versions server and download a development package for your particular operating system.

  • Mozilla release new version of Firefox, sets up Debian repository

    Firefox logoVersion 122 of the free and open source Firefox web browser was released last week and duly reported by the tech media, including The Register.

    Furthermore, El Reg also notes that Mozilla, the organisation behind the browser, has set up its own deb package repository, the software package format for the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and its derivatives such as the Ubuntu family and Linux Mint.

    The installation instructions page on Mozilla’s website now contains specific instructions on how to access the Firefox deb repository, from downloading the repository’s OpenPGP keyring, to adding the repository to one’s own APT list of trusted sources from which to download software.

    Also included are instructions for how to download the version specific to one’s own language, if that just happens not to be EN-US, as well as such vital stuff as importing one’s profile from an old installation to a new, shiny browser from the Mozilla repository.

  • LibreOffice 24.2 alpha released for testing

    According to the release plan, Libre Office 24.2*, the next version of the leading free and open source office suite, will be released at the start of February 2024, according to the LibreOffice QA blog.

    This new version’s development started in the middle of June earlier this year. Since development of 24.2 began, Since then, 4271 commits have been submitted to the code repository and more than 787 bugs had been fixed, according to the release notes.

    Screenshot of LibreOffice 24.2 alpha

    LibreOffice 24.2 Alpha1 can now be downloaded for Linux, macOS and Windows. In addition, it can be installed alongside the standard version. LibreOffice extensions, which increase the functionality of the suite, can also be installed in the new alpha. Your correspondent can report all his favourite extensions installed properly and are working as they should with the new alpha release.

    LibreOffice 24.2 about panel

    The QA blog post advises users who find any bugs to report them in Bugzilla. The only requirement needed to file a bug report is legitimate email address account in order to create a new account.

    As LibreOffice is a volunteer-driven community project all testing is appreciated. Your ‘umble scribe’s testing to date has been uneventful. 😀

    * = The Document Foundation has changed the manner in which it numbers releases; 24.2 will be the first new release under the new year and month numbering system.

  • Free Software video now in 12 languages

    FSFE logoOver the last few weeks the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has been running a fundraising campaign to translate its “What is Free Software” video into more European languages. The FSFE’s Ana Galán writes: “Tanks to your contributions, it is now available in 12 languages! Albanian*, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish! You can find them all at“.

    In the next few months these videos will help the FSFE’s volunteers to reach out to their local candidates for the European Parliament and advocate the adoption of free software, explaining them why it is important and making politicians aware of the benefits of Software Freedom for society.

    * = To be released shortly

  • Happy birthday GNU!

    Tomorrow, 27th September, marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the GNU Project, without which there would be no free software (which some also call open source. Ed.) and no GNU/Linux operating system, which is quite often abbreviated to just Linux.

    GNU at 40 graphic

    Four decades ago, technology began to shape our lives: it was the early 1980s, computers did not yet fit into our pockets but filled large rooms, as they had done in the mid-1970s, when your ‘umble scribe took a module called Computer Appreciation as part of his polytechnic modern languages degree (no Molière and Goethe for us! Ed.). In 1982, the Time magazine named the computer as its “Person of the Year“. About this time, point, some people had already started pointing out the need to give users control over this technology. So in 1983 the GNU Project was announced by Richard Stallman. The project’s aim was to create an operating system consisting entirely of free software to allow people to use, understand, adapt and share software. Two years later the Free Software Foundation was established as the legal backbone for the GNU project.

    Today the free software movement is a broad global movement encompassing small local companies, worldwide corporations, civil society organisations and thousands of professionals, who are working towards a world where the four freedoms are guaranteed:

    • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0);
    • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this;
    • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2); and
    • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

    These rights go hand in hand with other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and privacy.

    In 1992, the essential components of the GNU operating system were complete, except for one, the kernel. When the Linux kernel was released under the GNU GPL in 1992, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system – GNU/Linux system as we know it today.

    The GPL pioneered the concept of “copyleft” – as opposed to copyright. Stallman envisaged this as a means of preventing GNU from ever becoming proprietary software (like all those expensive Microsoft products. Ed.) This does not exclude free S#software from being sold, as long as the buyers are not restricted from exercising the above-mentioned four rights after purchase. Free Software can also be commercialised in other ways, e.g. by selling support, services or certification.

    Today GNU/Linux forms the backbone of the Internet and powers millions of servers and desktops, as well embedded computing devices, whilst software has become an indispensable resource for the modern world

    How did the name GNU come about? It’s an acronym for GNU’s not Unix, as the original idea was to create a clone of Unix – a proprietary operating system – but containing no proprietary code. That makes GNU a recursive acronym, i.e. an acronym that refers to itself.

    Happy 40th birthday, GNU!

  • LibreOffice 7.6 released

    LibreOffice 7.6, the new major release of the free and open source office suite is now available for download for Linux, macOS (Apple and Intel processors) and Windows (Intel/AMD and ARM processors) operating systems.

    This is the last release of the software based on the historical release numbering scheme (first digit for release cycle, second digit for major release). Starting from 2024, The Document Foundation (TDF), the organisation behind LibreOffice, will adopt calendar based-release numbering, so the next major release will be LibreOffice 2024.02 in February 2024.

    LibreOffice 7.6 banner

    LibreOffice is the only open source office suite which can be compared feature-by-feature with the alleged market leader. However, your ‘umble scribe would rate LibreOffice higher on the usability scale than MS Office. The TDF says that fter twelve years and five release cycles – cleaning and refactoring code, polishing the user interface, extending to new hardware and software platforms and optimising interoperability with OOXML to support users – it is increasingly difficult to develop entirely new features, so most of them are refinements of or improvements to existing ones. A description of all new features is available in the release notes.

    LibreOffice offers the highest level of compatibility in the office suite market segment, with native support for the Open Document Format (ODF), superior support for MS Office files, as well as filters for a large number of legacy document formats to return ownership and control to users.

    Microsoft Office files are still based on the proprietary format deprecated by ISO in 2008, and not on the ISO-approved standard, so they hide a large amount of artificial complexity. This may cause handling problems with LibreOffice, which defaults to a true open standard format – ODF.

    For the 2 proprietary operating systems the minimum requirements for installing LibreOffice 7.6 are Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 and Apple macOS 10.15.

    For more cautious users or those who don’t need the latest features and prefer a version that has undergone more testing and bug fixing, The Document Foundation maintains the LibreOffice 7.5 family, which includes some months of back-ported fixes. The current version is LibreOffice 7.5.5 and is available for download from the same source as version 7.6. In addition, technology enthusiasts and those who would like to help test forthcoming releases can also download development versions of LibreOffice, where links to nightly builds and the source code are also provided. Your correspondent has been using LibreOffice 7.6.0.* without complaint for months before the announcement.

    Finally, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are encouraged to support The Document Foundation with a donation.


  • 50 years on

    In October 1973, a large cohort of (mostly) young people aged 17-19 left their homes with varying levels of street wisdom under their belts and dampness behind the ears (not to mention essential life skills such as being able to manage money and cook. Ed.) to embark on something that was going to change their lives for ever – studying the BA Modern Languages course at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, now the University of Wolverhampton, a matter that was going to occupy us for the next four years until the summer of 1977.

    Just shy of 50 years later, twenty-two alumni plus partners (including some who are also Wolverhampton veterans. Ed.), some travelling from as far away as New Zealand, and seven of our lecturers all assembled for a significant anniversary celebration back in the city that grew up around the site of an abbey dedicated to St Mary founded by Wulfhere of Mercia in 659 and in which they studied from 1973 to 1977.

    BA Modern Languages 1973-77 50th reunion group photo
    Alumni, lecturers and partners stand back from the bar. Photo courtesy of Paul, edited by photography wizard Tim.

    The hair may be greyer or diminished in luxuriance, the limbs less lissome, the waistlines somewhat stouter, but the same personalities still shine through the physical changes and laughter and good times prevailed as they did all those decades ago, even though some of the party had not seen each other for over 45 years instead of the 5 years since the last reunion.

    This time your ‘umble scribe travelled up to Wolverhampton on Friday afternoon; and it proved to be worth the effort, allowing plenty of time to settle in and relax instead of the mad rush of arriving on the day and then scrabbling to get ready in time before sitting down to meat. After a meal and a couple of lemonades at nearby hostelries, it was back to the hotel where we kept the barman busy serving us brown beverages of various shades.

    Saturday dawned far too early, but any lack of sleep was cured by an excellent breakfast, assisted by the excellent company. At lunchtime, a small party gained access to the room where our revels were to take place, to decorate it, sort out the seating plan and ensure that the music and visuals worked properly.

    Two o’clock on a warm Saturday afternoon saw a large group of alumni assembled in front of the oldest part of the university – known as The Marble for a campus tour led by David from the Alumni Office. Since our time, many of the university building that we remember have been demolished and replaced by more modern facilities. Long gone are the wooden huts and the perishing cold St Pater’s Hall (which the the polytechnic shared with a vegetable wholesaler. Ed.) Part of the tour took in secure parts of the campus and for this we were joined by David from security who’s worked for the university for nearly two decades. His tales of student high jinks revealed very little has changed over the decades/generations. Finally, any Wolverhampton Polytechnic/University of Wolverhampton alumni who have not provided their contact details to the Alumni Office or need to update them can do so here, whilst back copies of the alumni magazine can accessed online too.
    Alumni on tour with Dave from security. Photo credit: David from the Alumni Office.

    The traditional Saturday night celebratory meal saw new directions and a new dimension. Firstly, the usual disco was dispensed with and replaced with Sheila’s Spotify playlist as background music. This meant there was no need to SHOUT TO HOLD A CONVERSATION. 😀

    Secondly, much mirth and merriment was occasioned by the presence of an inflatable Selfie Station photo booth complete with props – silly hats, inflatable musical instruments and the like.

    Last but not least, your ‘umble scribe had volunteered to compile a video slideshow. Comprising mostly photos from our student days, this 32 minutes’ long movie was played on loop throughout the meal until coffee was served and we reached the speeches slot. For the nerds, the slideshow was compiled with Imagination, “a lightweight and easy to use slide show maker” for the Linux and FreeBSD operating systems. Similar software is available for other, more common operating systems. Those whose photos were not used will be pleased to hear there is mofre than enough material for another slideshow for the 50th anniversary of our graduating in 2027.

    Feedback on the meal itself was most appreciative and it was possibly the best our gatherings have enjoyed to date.

    With coffee served, it was speech time, with former assistant head of department Alan on his hind legs for a few well-chosen and thought-provoking words. These ranged from the benefits of a period of residence abroad, including not only gains in maturity, but also finding common ground with one’s hosts, primitive hygiene arrangements in 1960s Spain, the difficult relationship of Britain with the rest of Europe and the continuing need to teach and study other languages in a world where English in the de facto lingua franca.

    Once the applause died away, MC Dave leapt up to respond and in amongst the anecdotes of student life during our mandatory year abroad, which featured broken sanitary fittings and a visiting England rugby league team, he found time to propose a heartfelt toast and tribute to absent friends – both staff and students – who had not survived to join our revels that weekend. Many remarked afterwards that Dave is a natural public speaker, so well done mate!

    Celebrations continued well into the small hours on that warm and sunny June evening with the moon and stars shining down before it was finally time for bed.

    All in all it was a brilliant weekend and my gratitude goes out to all my fellow attendees for their kindness, generosity and company. We now have a couple of years off until planning for the next event needs to start.

    Thanks to…

    Of course, events don’t happen of their own accord and a fair bit of time was spent planning in various Zoom sessions. Your correspondent would like to express particular thanks to the following:

    • Sheila, Paul & Gwenda for the bulk of the organising;
    • Sheila (again!) for the Saturday evening playlist;
    • Whoever arranged the flowers for Paul and Gwenda;
    • Dave for relieving Paul of master of ceremonies duties;
    • Alan for his speech;
    • Jill for her exhibition of course paperwork and photographs;
    • Jane for liaising with the alumni office and arranging the university tour; and last but not least
    • Anyone who bought me a drink! 😀
    Final bouquets and brickbats

    First the bouquets. Your ‘umble scribe is indebted to: the staff and management of The Mount Hotel for being so welcoming and accommodating (the food was excellent! Ed.); the Westacres for feeding nineteen of us on Friday evening; the Swan Inn for their splendid draught Banks’s Mild and idiosyncratic urinals; David of the Alumni Office and David of security for the university tour; the weather gods for their lack of wrath; and finally, the good folk of Wolverhampton for filling my ears with the music of the Black Country accent and dialect.

    Brickbats (so no links. Ed.) are awarded to: Cross Country Trains, First Great Western, London Northwestern Railway and Network Rail for making the British Railways Board of yore appear a model of efficiency and punctuality. Other attendees who endured railway hell are invited to add the names of the guilty parties in the comments below.

  • Happy 25th, curl!

    Version 8 of the curl command line too has been released, German It news website reports. This coincides with the software’s 25th birthday.

    The release of a new major version (8.0O of curl (Client for URLs) has been released just in time for the software’s 25th birthday. The data transfer command line tool has barely changed. The new release has far more to do with publicising the birthday of the software and its libcurl program library. This was explained by curl’s initiator and maintainer Daniel Stenberg when announcing the release. In moving to a version 8Stenberg also wanted to avoid ending up with a curl version seven with point releases running to three figures (

    Little has changed within curl itself with this release: 8.0 is just the first release of curl that no longer runs on systems without working 64-bit data types, as can be gathered from the release notes. Otherwise, the new version contains 130 bug fixes, including six vulnerabilities of which Stenberg classifies five as “low” and one as “medium“. Furthermore, there are rewards ranging from $480 to $2,400 for those who successfully squash curl’s bugs.

    To celebrate the release, some of the project’s figures have also been released. There have been 215 releases, whilst 41 contributors (of whom 23 were new) collaborated on version 8.0. A total of 2,841 persons have contributed to curl’s code; mostly only once, as Stenberg comments in his Youtube video.

    Curl itself is a very popular command line tool for sending and receiving data with URL syntax, whilst libcurl is a transfer program library which handles most internet protocols and is used in many third party applications.

  • Farewell Nadhim Zahawi

    Nadhim Zahawi disgraced MP for Stratford-on-AvonNews broke this morning that the alleged prime minister minister, one Rishi Sunak, had finally shown some of the “integrity, professionalism and accountability” promised when he was inexplicably made Conservative Party leader by its ageing right-wing membership.

    Yes, he’s finally sacked Nadhim “Stable Genius” Zahawi as Party Chair for what is described as a “serious breach of the ministerial code“.

    And the nature of that serious breach? While he was in office briefly as Chancellor Chancer of the Exchequer under disgraced former alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Zahawi by failing to declare he was investigation by HMRC into his tax affairs. It subsequently transpired that he has had to pay the taxman £5 mn. in back taxes and a penalty for tax avoidance. Despite his ministerial media appearances involving prominent – possibly patriotic – display of the Union flag (which some call the Bloody Butcher’s Apron. Ed.), environmental campaigner and philanthropist Julia Davies subsequently wrote in a Guardian opinion piece entitled “Dear Nadhim Zahawi: here’s what patriotic British millionaires do – we pay our proper taxes“.

    Your ‘umble scribe cannot remember any time in his six decades of life when the minister allegedly in overall charge of collecting the country’s tax revenues has been investigated and penalised by the people he’s supposedly administering for not paying what he owed.

    Even before the Zahawi incident, Sunak, who so far has only been PM since the end of October, had already lost one cabinet minister within two weeks of assuming office: over-promoted fireplace salesman “Sir” Gavin Williamson resigned as a result of alleged bullying.

    However, looking around what passes for the current alleged government of the English Empire (which some still call the United Untied Kingdom. Ed.), it seems that despite Zahawi’s sacking, other members of Sunak’s administration seem to regard compliance with the ministerial code as an optional extra during their terms of office.

    Dominic Rennie Raab supposedly Justice Minister and Deputy Prime MinisterTake for example one the case Dominic Rennie Raab, supposedly the Secretary of State for Justice and Deputy Prime Minister.

    Dominic is not a boy who took any notice of his mother’s admonitions to “play nicely“. He is currently under investigation for allegations of bullying. The Guardian reported in December that eight separate incidents of bullying by Raab during a previous term of office at the Justice Ministry during Johnson’s premiership.

    Johnson himself faces a Commons privileges committee inquiry into whether he lied to misled parliament over the Partygate scandal.

    Handy tip for anyone who believes there is any integrity in Johnson: never trust a middle-aged man with a toddler haircut who combs his locks with a balloon.

    It doesn’t look as if there’s much of Sunak’s “integrity, professionalism and accountability” on either the front or back benches of what passes for the political party he is supposed to be leading.

    Before the announcement of Zahawi’s sacking, there did not appear to be much local support in Stratford-on-Avon for their tax-avoiding dishonourable member. Given the opinions expressed to The Guardian four days ago, our Stable Genius would be well advised not to seek the Conservative Party candidacy for the next general election.

    Update 31/01/23: In today’s letters in The Guardian, Keith Flett of the Beard Liberation Front remarks that Nadhim Zahawi “has now managed to bring the hirsute into disrepute“.

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