Monthly Archives: March 2013

  • 2nd release candidate for LibreOffice 4.0.2 available

    the LibreOffice logoOn 28th March, just one day after Document Freedom Day (posts passim) the LibreOffice team made the 2nd and final release candidate for LibreOffice 4.0.2 available for evaluation, quality assurance testing, etc.

    As per usual, potential users are warned that this is a development version and it should not be installed on production machines: in other words, the developers recommend not using LibreOffice pre-release builds for “mission-critical” purposes. These are intended for testing purposes only.

    For further information, potential users should consult the release notes.

  • A nice word for dealing with something nasty

    Yesterday’s Bristol Post carried a report on the start of building works at Wapping Wharf down by the city docks.

    On the whole the report is fairly bland and it looks like a standard bit of blurb produced from a property developer’s press release.

    Nevertheless, one sentence in particular drew my attention. It reads:

    In recent days large machinery has moved to the site to prepare for the start of remediation and ground works.

    After reading that, I began wondering how many of the Post’s readers know what remediation works actually are or what they involve.

    Turning to the dictionary, remediation is defined as “the act or process of correcting a fault or deficiency.”

    Correcting a fault or deficiency sounds fairly harmless and definitely a good thing to do, doesn’t it?

    However, one has to add the word ‘site’ or ‘environmental’ to remediation to get at its actual meaning as used in the Post’s report, which is cleaning up pollution or contaminated land.

    There are various means of effecting remediation, depending on the contamination or pollutant involved, but one very common means (and one which has been used extensively in the past by developers in Bristol. Ed.) is the use of heavy plant to dig up the contaminated soil, load it into lorries and cart it off to a toxic waste dump.

    image of Wapping Wharf site entrance
    The entrance to the Wapping Wharf site in Wapping Road. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries the Wapping Wharf site accommodated some as yet unspecified industrial buildings, but a contaminated land survey of the site mentioned in a Bristol City Council document from 2006 revealed contamination by heavy metals, hydrocarbons and solvents, hence the need for the clean-up.

    Finally, a small piece of advice: if you know of any remediation works taking place, for the sake of you health do try not to be downwind of them, especially in dry and/or windy weather.

  • Cyprus banks crisis – latest

    Today the banks in Cyprus re-opened after being shut for nearly 2 weeks and the mainstream media are reporting that severe restrictions are being placed on bank customers.

    These restrictions are already being felt by ordinary Cypriots, as the picture below shows.

    image of Cyprus bank ATM
    You want HOW much?

    No further comment is required.

  • Online dictionary Linguee adds new languages

    Canada’s La Presse reports that Linguee has just launched new language pairs – German-English, Spanish-French and Portuguese-French – for its online dictionary.

    Since its creation Linguee has recorded more than a million search requests from around the world. For the Linguee team the application can be very useful within a professional, academic or private context to understand the contents of an email or a text in a foreign language, as well as current expressions, technical terms or the usual wording of greetings or salutations.

    According to Linguee’s founder and CEO Gereon Frahling, its “servers have roamed the internet and have analysed and evaluated billions of multi-lingual texts”.

    Hat tip: Richard McCarthy

  • Today is Document Freedom Day

    The last day of March each year is Document Freedom Day, a worldwide celebration of open standards for document and information exchange.

    In 30 countries around the world, activists from more than 50 groups are hosting events from Brussels to Nicaragua to Taiwan.

    DFD2013 banner
    DFD – an annual celebration of open standards

    Open standards are crucial to ensure that different computer systems can work together and users can access documents irrespective of the computing platform or device they use.

    Sam Tuke, Campaign Manager at the Free Software Foundation Europe said: “Markets for digital products such as audio books and cloud documents have grown dramatically. Open standards let users break free from vendor lock-in and corporate control.”

    This year’s campaign focuses on web-streaming technologies, such as Adobe’s closed, proprietary and insecure Flash. “This time, we are encouraging people to switch to HTML5 technologies,” said FSFE Community Manager Erik Albers.

    Do you use open document formats? Examples include HTML (what the web is built upon), Open Document Format (the native file format used by office suites such as LibreOffice and OpenOffice), PDF and plain text (.txt).

  • Weak crypto keys in NetBSD

    NetBSD logoA serious error has occurred in the random number generator in free Unix derivative NetBSD, which can result in the system’s cryptographic keys being too weak and allowing them to be cracked, German IT news website Heise reports. The cause is misplaced brackets in the program code of the NetBSD kernel. The developers have made a kernel update available to preclude the problem in future. In addition, they are recommending that users of keys produced with either NetBSD 6.0 or the current version of NetBSD change these as a matter of urgency.

    The programming error can result in the system producing random numbers which are not particularly random. This danger is especially great if the system is just booting as the system has very little entropy available at this time. The problem has particularly serious effects on 32 bit platforms where cryptographic keys containing only some 32 bits entropy are produced under these circumstances. The resulting 4 billion possibilities can be tried in turn. NetBSD 6.1 will remedy the error.

    In particular, keys for SSH servers (which are normally produced at system start-up) are definitely affected. All SSH server keys which have been produced on NetBSD 6 systems should be changed as a matter of urgency. Since the ECDSA algorithm was first introduced with version 6, the relevant keys are very likely to be weak.

    Full details of the problem can be found in this NetBSD security advisory notice.

  • Ubuntu Kylin is to become reference system in China

    Ubuntu logoAccording to German IT news website Heise, the Chinese Ministry for Industry & Information Technology has selected Ubuntu as the basis for its reference architecture for operating systems. The China Software and Integrated Chip Promotions Centre (CSIP), part of the Industry & IT Ministry, Ubuntu manufacturer Canonical and the Chinese National University of Defence Technology (NUDT) are working to adapt the Chinese Kylin variant of Ubuntu to the requirements of the Chinese markets under the aegis of the CCN Open Source Innovation Joint Lab.

    Ubuntu Kylin is to appear in April this year together with Ubuntu 13.04 with support for the input of Chinese symbols and the Chinese calendar and will integrate Chinese web services. The integration of Baidu Maps, the Chinese Amazon competitor Taobao, payment processes for Chinese banks and Chinese timetables and flight schedules is planned for subsequent versions. In addition, the WPS office suite, which is popular in China, is to be adapted for Kylin.

    Ubuntu Kylin is to be widely used as the reference for a flexible, open operating system. The announcement of is part of a Chinese five year plan which should promote the use of open source software and speed up the development of an open source ecosystem.

  • Ministry of Justice and Capita breach Magna Carta

    The administration of justice in England has a long history. Nearly 800 years ago, on 15th June 1215, King John and 25 barons of the realm signed the Magna Carta Libertatum or The Great Charter of the Liberties of England (otherwise simply known as Magna Carta) in a field on an island in the Thames at Runnymede with 12 bishops and 20 abbots as witnesses.

    If you’ve ever read it, you’ll know that Magna Carta is a curious hybrid of a document whose content ranges from the seemingly mundane, such as the removal of fish weirs on the rivers Thames and Medway, to such major legal concepts as trial by a jury of one’s peers and various rules for the administration of justice, which have been implemented by many other jurisdictions around the world, particularly those based on common law.

    Parts of Magna Carta are still in force today: you can see which (with relevant amendments) by reading the text in the UK Statute Database.

    image of 1 of 4 surviving original copies of Magna Carta, now in the British Library
    One of 4 surviving original copies of Magna Carta, now in the British Library

    What has Magna Carta to do with the Ministry of Justice and Capita? The answer is the disastrous contract for interpreting in courts and tribunals which the Ministry of Justice – in its limited wisdom – handed over to Capita Translating & Interpreting/ALS (posts passim).

    An English translation (the original text was drafted in Latin. Ed.) of Clause 40 of the original 1215 text reads:

    To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

    If court proceedings cannot take place due to unqualified interpreters being sent to court by Capita T&I, or interpreters not showing up for court assignments, that sounds very much like justice being delayed and could even be bordering on refusal. By their cavalier attitude to the administration of justice, the Ministry of Justice (perhaps it should be renamed the Ministry of Injustice. Ed.) and Capita T&I are showing their contempt for eight centuries of English law.

  • Capita sends unqualified interpreter to Old Bailey

    This blog never ceases to be amazed at the mismanagement of the courts and tribunals interpreting service by Capita Translating & Interpreting/ALS (posts passim).

    Under the title ‘Judge corrects a Capita Interpreter’, Linguist Lounge recently published the post by ‘Stranger’ quoted below, which is reposted here with the kind permission of the site administrators.

    At court I fall into conversation with a Capita interpreter. She is North African and does Arabic. Prepared to do French too but only in simple cases. She tells Capita this but still gets sent to do a job at Bailey. The judge was French speaker and, she said, corrected her translation several times. She was greatly embarrassed and told Capita they shouldn’t have sent her. They told her that she should withdraw her name for French in that case. But they knew she wasn’t qualified for French, yet sent her to the court that deals with the most serious criminal matters.

    If you are sending someone to the Bailey you know it is not to interpret for a defendant who has been caught speeding. She says that the admin staff at Capita didn’t have a clue what they were doing. She seemed very unhappy with her “employers”.

    As pointed out by the original author, the Old Bailey doesn’t handle speeding offences. It is better known under its official title of the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales and deals with major criminal cases from Greater London and, in exceptional cases, from other parts of England and Wales. Were I the judge in that case, I would have had Capita Translating & Interpreting charged with contempt of court for not respecting the court’s authority.

  • UK Parliament: no open standards here

    Did you know House of Commons Select Committees only accept submissions in Microsoft’s proprietary formats?

    Today in my Twitter feed I read a tweet announcing the deadline for submissions to the Transport Select Committee for a new inquiry on local authority parking enforcement.

    Reading through the notes on the submission of written evidence, I was struck by the following:

    2. Evidence should be submitted by e-mail to in Word or Rich Text format, with as little use of colour and images as possible. If you wish to submit written evidence to the Committee in another format you must contact a member of staff to discuss this.

    image of Parliament's crowned portcullis
    Parliament: we’re a Microsoft-only shop.
    Both Word and Rich Text format are Microsoft proprietary file formats. How long they remain readable is totally in the hands of a private American corporation whose first concern is making a return for its shareholders, not preserving the proceedings of Parliament and its committees for the benefit of future generations.

    For those future generations, I’d recommend that parliamentary select committees start accepting submissions in other, non-proprietary formats, such as plain text or open standards such as Open Document Format. The latter is an internationally accepted standard (ISO/IEC 26300:2006/Amd 1:2012) and is being widely adopted by other governments and official bodies (such as NATO, where ODF use is mandatory. Ed.) around the world for official document exchanges.

    Finally, the notes give no details any member of staff for the public to contact for submissions in other formats.

    Update: Since alerting the Transport Select Committee to this post via Twitter, I’ve received the following reply from them:

    Interesting post. We’re happy to accept other formats- and do – as long as we can process them using the software we have. We will certainly pass your points up the Committee Office chain to see if more can be done to accommodate this.

    Thanks, very much folks. I’ll await developments with interest.

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