Open Source

  • 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.

  • EU Parliament wants to protect Free Software in AI regulation

    FSFE logoToday the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports that the European Parliament’s two competent committees – the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) – today voted by a large majority to protect Free Software in the EU’s AI Regulation. Furthermore, non-profit organisations and small Free Software projects up to the size of micro-enterprises, are largely to be exempted from this regulation.

    In addition, the FSFE comments that this principle must be anchored in the Cyber Resilience Act and Product Liability Directive and the parliament’s forthcoming votes.

    Alexander Sander, FSFE’s Senior Policy Consultant, explains as follows:

    Instead of putting the responsibility on the Free Software developers, it should be put on the companies that profit from it on the market. Smaller organisations and non-profit activities, for example by foundations, must be excluded. With this vote, the Members of the European Parliament are thus recognising the reality of Free Software development and trying to protect it. The principle of transferring responsibility and liability to those who profit on the market instead of focusing on developers must also be anchored in the Cyber Resilience Act and the Product Liability Directive. This is the only way to not only protect Free Software and its contributors but also consumers and customers.

    The final vote on the AI Act is expected in the next few weeks, after which discussions on the final text will take place between the Parliament, Council of Ministers and the Commission. The Parliament is currently discussing the amendments to the Cyber Resilience Act and the Product Liability Directive which have been submitted.

  • Firefox Focus – first impressions

    Your ‘umble scribe is a great fan of the free and open source Firefox web browser and has been using the desktop version since version 0.x many years ago. One of its major attractions has been its emphasis on security and privacy.

    Until recently it was also the default browser on my smartphone, until I discovered Firefox Focus. Firefox Focus is a free and open-source privacy-focused mobile browser based on Firefox which is available for Android and iOS devices. First released in December 2015, it was initially a tracker-blocking application for mobile iOS devices, but was developed into a minimalistic web browser shortly afterwards.

    Firefox Focus iconAccording to Mozilla, Firefox Focus is a dedicated privacy browser with automatic tracking protection. meaning web pages load faster and your data stays private. It’s also easy to delete history, passwords and cookies, so advertisers and other ne’er-do-wells don’t follow you around online. Just tap the erase button on the search field and all that data is gone. Tracking protection is also very strong. The browser blocks a wide range of common trackers by default, including social trackers and those sticky ones that come from things like Facebook ads.

    After using Firefox Focus for one week, I can say I’m impressed with the way it works. Although it required me to learn how to use tabbed browsing (hint: hold down a link in your search results and a menu appears, offering the option to open the link in a new tab. Ed.), once that was cracked, I was away. As for fast page loading, that’s not disappointing either, even on notoriously slow-loading sites, like that of Bristol City Council, which still seems to be powered by a horse turning a shaft in the basement of the Counts Louse (which some call City Hall. Ed.). 😉

    If you value your privacy and security, I’d recommend Firefox Focus on your mobile device.

  • 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.

  • Czech government using open source web analytics

    Czechia coat of armsJoinup, the EU’s open source news site, reports that the Czech Republic is to begin using the Matomo open source web analytics tool on the Czech citizen portal and websites, where it will replace Google Analytics.

    This change will ensure that the data by the sites collected will stay within the EU and, as the Czech administration will be using its own instance of Matomo, it will retain full control of the records.

    The change was triggered by an open letter sent by the Czech the digital freedom watchdog luridicum Remedium after it noticed the Czech state vaccination system website was using Google Analytics during the COVID-19 crisis. The Czech Data Protection Authority and public sector strategic partner NAKIT then pursued the matter and replaced Google Analytics with Matomo on Czechia’s Ministry of Health website. This move later led to further action and the country will continue following this trend on public sector websites.

    Previously named Piwik, Matomo has been in development since 2007 and is presently deployed on 1.4 million websites, including those of NASA, the European Commission, the United Nations and Amnesty International.

    The Czech decision to choose Matomo follows those of other European countries seeking to keep control of their citizens’ data. Last year the French and Austrian data protection authorities determined that Google Analytics was not compliant with EU data privacy standards, in particular because Google’s data transfers to the United States are contrary to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

  • LibreOffice Base Guide – now in Czech

    The blog of The Document Foundation, the organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, reports that the user guide for Base, the suite’s database development and administration tool for relational database management systems has now been translated into Czech.

    Czech LibreOffice community member Zdeněk Crhonek (aka “raal”) writes as follows:

    The Czech team translated the LibreOffice Base Guide 7.3 – and it’s now available on the documentation page. Our team consists of three translators: Petr Kuběj, Radomír Strnad and Zdeněk Crhonek, along with localized screenshot maker Roman Toman, and Miloš Šrámek, who prepared machine translations.

    Cover of Czech Base guide

    Learn more about or join the LibreOffice Documentation project.

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