Monthly Archives: July 2013

  • FSFE objects to claims of free software’s ‘predatory pricing’

    FSFE logoIn a recent anti-trust submission to the European Commission, a coalition led by Microsoft falsely claimed that the distribution of free software free of charge hurts competition. FSFE has written a letter to the European Commission’s competition authorities to refute this claim and point out that free software is critical for an open, competitive IT market.

    In its letter, FSFE urges the Commission to consider the facts properly before accepting these allegations at face value. “Free software is a boon for humankind. The only thing that it is dangerous to is Microsoft’s hopelessly outdated, restrictive business model,” says FSFE president Karsten Gerloff.

    In essence,the so-called “FairSearch” coalition is asking the European Commission to favour a restrictive business model over a liberal one – exactly the opposite of what competition regulators should do to achieve a fair and open market.

    “Free software is not about price, it’s about liberty, a guarantee of competition and vendor independence. Asking to cripple free software in order to allow proprietary vendors to sell their locked-down systems is just absurd” says Carlo Piana, FSFE’s General Counsel. “The most substantial threat to competition in the mobile space today are software patents, and we have repeatedly urged anti-trust authorities to address this problem,” he adds.

    FSFE is asking the European Commission to dismiss the “FairSearch” coalition’s unfounded claims on predatory pricing and not make them part of whatever steps it decides to take in response to the group’s filing.

  • Sea greens

    Yesterday I left the confines of Bristol and travelled down to the Bristol Channel coast.

    While there I was there I made time to visit an area of salt marsh to forage for marsh samphire (also known as glasswort), which is currently in the midst of its short season, which consists of the months of July and August only.

    image of marsh samphire
    Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea)

    Samphire can be eaten raw or cooked. In the latter instance, no salt needs to be added to the cooking water as the plant has an inherent high salt content. It has a fresh, salty taste, crisp texture and makes a great accompaniment to fish and shellfish dishes, eggs or such specialities as salt marsh lamb. As samphire gets older and larger, the core of the plant becomes more stringy and the succulent flesh has to be stripped off the stringy core.

    Until the start of the 19th century, marsh samphire also had industrial uses: before the introduction of the LeBlanc process for the industrial production of soda ash, marsh samphire ashes were long used as a source of soda ash (mainly sodium carbonate) for making glass and soap.

    As regards the origin of the noun samphire, it is believed to be a corruption of the French name herbe de Saint-Pierre, i.e. “St Peter’s herb”.

  • North Somerset libraries to offer free wifi

    glassy wifi symbolNorth Somerset Council – Bristol’s immediate neighbour to the south – has announced that free wi-fi will be available in almost every library across North Somerset from 1st August.

    This will allow library users (not ‘customers’, as stated in your press release, North Somerset! Ed.) to bring their own laptops and other devices into their local library to use the internet.

    Wi-fi will be available to everyone by simply visiting any library during opening hours. There will be no need to book and visitors will not need to be a library member to set up an account, although first time users will need to approach a member of the library staff to set up an account.

    However, there’s library where this facility won’t be available – the mobile library.

    Potential users can find out more details of the scheme and opening times at

    First posted on Bristol Wireless.

  • Pirate Party UK writes to PM

    Earlier this week the Prime Minister was making a lot of noise in the press and elsewhere about filtering the internet (under the dubious cover of protecting children. Ed.).

    His pronouncements have been met with almost universal condemnation from anyone with a bit of technical knowledge, as well as those concerned with online freedom, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who have dubbed it the ‘Great Firewall of Cameron‘.

    A couple of days ago, the Pirate Party UK sent the open letter below to the PM, which speaks for itself.

    The Rt Hon David Cameron, MP, Prime Minister
    10 Downing Street
    SW1A 2AA

    Tuesday the 23rd July 2013

    Dear Mr Cameron,

    As a movement that includes many technically literate individuals, parents and young people, we are writing to you to express our concerns about your recent announcements about internet filtering. It is the wrong way to tackle the impact that you believe the internet is having on, as you put it, “the innocence of our children”.

    It is striking that your approach makes dealing with a social problem into a primarily technical exercise to be solved by Internet Service Providers. Many experts have already made clear that the issues you have raised are not just complex, but impossible to deal with effectively with technology alone.

    The suggestion that fool-proof filters can be provided to deal with something as difficult to define as obscenity online is foolhardy at best, misleading and damaging at worst. Your proposals will ensure that we don’t properly deal with the problems you claim to want to address.

    It should have been made clear to you from your advisers that filters will be ineffective and that they cause a number of serious issues in accomplishing what you aim to achieve. Filters will either fail to block the content you would prefer they blocked, leaving parents with a false sense of security, or they will block far more than intended, and will be turned off by many parents so that they can continue to access legitimate content in an unhindered manner.

    These points appear to have been accepted in the Government’s response to the consultation on parental internet controls, published in December of 2012. The approaches outlined in that document; that the government would work with industry, charities and experts in relevant fields through UKCCIS to promote parental engagement and ensure that that parents have options, are the right ones. They are based on your own evidence and seem to be supported by industry. It is also noteworthy that most parents who responded rejected a default-on approach to filtering.

    The result of that consultation was one that emphasised informed choice; that the Government would not prescribe detailed solutions to ISPs or parents. Instead it would expect industry to adapt the principles of this approach to their services, systems and devices and would empower parents rather than giving them a false sense of security. We do not understand why you have abandoned this direction.

    We urge you to reconsider and refocus your efforts into areas where they can really have an impact. It is vital that you accept the recommendations from your own consultation to ensure parents are well equipped to deal with the issues that you have outlined, using evidence not insinuation to support your assumptions. We would also argue that rather than the potentially harmful and narrow route you seem to be taking, even if it grabs the headlines, you need to ensure that your approach is a holistic one.

    It may be more complex, but ensuring that sex education and the teaching of technology in schools is fit for purpose is vital, and needs real support. Ensuring that parents are equipped to properly guide and supervise their children online may be less eye-catching in the media than imposing filters, but it will work.
    We would also ask that you provide more support to organisations like the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre to track down offenders and bolster support for local government departments that provide support for victims of abuse.

    The Internet has been a driver of massive societal change over the last two decades; as a result we have a society that has far more access to information and media than ever before. That situation is not going to change. Ensuring that we give our young people the skills to deal with this new reality, and supporting parents to ensure they are able to properly guide their children in an informed manner is vital.

    It is becoming clear to many people that your Coalition, both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of your government, are failing when it comes to the digital age. You have failed to deliver the frameworks required in education to ensure that we are bringing up a new generation of innovators in technical fields. You have failed to properly invest in the few initiatives that do show promise in developing the UK’s digital scene, leaving those that do succeed doing so despite, not because of, your best efforts.

    We would ask that you not compound those failures by suggesting technical solutions to societal problems that they cannot solve, but instead listen to those with whom you have consulted. It is right that you should work ensure that there are options available to parents, but to deal with legitimate problems that arise from our society being more connected than ever before, you must adopt an approach that will actually do some good in the long term.

    Yours sincerely,


    Loz Kaye
    Pirate Party UK

    Originally posted on Bristol Wireless.

  • GNOME raises $20,000 to enhance security and privacy

    Gnome logoThe GNOME project, one of the purveyors of the 2 main desktops and software for Linux, has announced that it reached its goal last weekend of raising $20,000 to help make its software even more secure and privacy aware.

    Individual software projects will now be invited to bid to secure some funding to make their products more secure and private. Areas that the GNOME project is interested in pursuing include the following:

    • application containment;
    • enhanced disk encryption support;
    • Tor integration;
    • user control over diagnostic reporting features;
    • robust VPN routing;
    • application integration with system-wide privacy settings;
    • controls for how GNOME devices are identified on local networks; and
    • anti-phishing features for Web, the GNOME browser.
  • LibreOffice 4.1.0 release candidate 3 ready for download

    The third release candidate (RC) for LibreOffice 4.1.0 is now available for download for all platforms – Linux, Mac OSX and Windows – for evaluation, QA testing, etc.

    Potential users are warned that this build is in a release configuration and will replace any existing LibreOffice install.

    image of LibreOffice Mime type icons
    LibreOffice for all your office suite needs: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, drawing and formulas

    Users are also advised to read the release notes.

    Furthermore, it’s a pre-release build, which the developers do not recommend for ‘mission critical’ purposes.

    There are some major improvements in LibreOffice 4.1.0, including lots of bug fixes, news features and better interoperabilty; a full list of these can be found in the LibreOffice 4.1 release notes.

  • Bristol Post Balls 4 – a classic homophone

    Today’s cock-up by the Bristol Post, from a story entitled ‘Man on lilo rescued after drifting out to sea off Weston-super-Mare’, has gained Bristol’s newspaper of record a seat in homophone corner.

    For the benefit of passing Post journalists a homophone is “a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too.”

    Now let’s see (or sea. Ed.) what landed the Post this particular accolade.

    screenshot of homophone from Bristol Post
    What did he drift out to see, Bristol Post?
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