Monthly Archives: September 2013

  • Happy 30th, GNU!

    Today is the 30th birthday of the GNU Project, which instigated the whole move towards free and open source software and the wealth of GNU/Linux distributions and software currently available.

    GNU’s initial aim, as outlined by Richard Stallman, was to develop a Unix-like operating system, but one which contained no proprietary Unix code.

    GNU 30th anniversary logo

    Stallman’s original announcement is reproduced below.

    Free Unix!

    Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu’s Not Unix), and give it away free(1) to everyone who can use it. Contributions of time, money, programs and equipment are greatly needed.

    To begin with, GNU will be a kernel plus all the utilities needed to write and run C programs: editor, shell, C compiler, linker, assembler, and a few other things. After this we will add a text formatter, a YACC, an Empire game, a spreadsheet, and hundreds of other things. We hope to supply, eventually, everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system, and anything else useful, including on-line and hardcopy documentation.

    GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will not be identical to Unix. We will make all improvements that are convenient, based on our experience with other operating systems. In particular, we plan to have longer filenames, file version numbers, a crashproof file system, filename completion perhaps, terminal-independent display support, and eventually a Lisp-based window system through which several Lisp programs and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen. Both C and Lisp will be available as system programming languages. We will have network software based on MIT’s chaosnet protocol, far superior to UUCP. We may also have something compatible with UUCP.

    Who Am I?

    I am Richard Stallman, inventor of the original much-imitated EMACS editor, now at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. I have worked extensively on compilers, editors, debuggers, command interpreters, the Incompatible Timesharing System and the Lisp Machine operating system. I pioneered terminal-independent display support in ITS. In addition I have implemented one crashproof file system and two window systems for Lisp machines.

    Why I Must Write GNU

    I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. I cannot in good conscience sign a non-disclosure agreement or a software license agreement.

    So that I can continue to use computers without violating my principles, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free.

    How You Can Contribute

    I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines and money. I’m asking individuals for donations of programs and work.

    One computer manufacturer has already offered to provide a machine. But we could use more. One consequence you can expect if you donate machines is that GNU will run on them at an early date. The machine had better be able to operate in a residential area, and not require sophisticated cooling or power.

    Individual programmers can contribute by writing a compatible duplicate of some Unix utility and giving it to me. For most projects, such part-time distributed work would be very hard to coordinate; the independently-written parts would not work together. But for the particular task of replacing Unix, this problem is absent. Most interface specifications are fixed by Unix compatibility. If each contribution works with the rest of Unix, it will probably work with the rest of GNU.

    If I get donations of money, I may be able to hire a few people full or part time. The salary won’t be high, but I’m looking for people for whom knowing they are helping humanity is as important as money. I view this as a way of enabling dedicated people to devote their full energies to working on GNU by sparing them the need to make a living in another way.

    For more information, contact me.

    Arpanet mail:


    US Snail:
    Richard Stallman
    166 Prospect St
    Cambridge, MA 02139

  • GNOME 3.10 released

    Yesterday the GNOME project announced the release of GNOME 3.10, the latest version this popular desktop for GNU/Linux.

    This latest release in the GNOME 3 series includes many new features, applications and bug fixes, as well as enhancements and updates to many existing applications.

    Introducing the release, Allan Day of the GNOME Design Team said, ‟GNOME 3.10 is a significant upgrade for our users and developers will benefit from new features in the application development platform. Our contributors did an incredible job and have created a really exciting release.“

    Highlights for GNOME 3.10 include:

    • Experimental Wayland support;
    • A reworked system status area, which gives a more focused overview of your system;
    • Three new applications (which are technology previews): Maps, Music and Software;
    • Three new additions to the core set of GNOME applications: Notes, Photos and Weather;
    • ‟Software“, which provides an easy way to browse and install applications;
    • New geo-location features, such as automatic time zones and world clocks;
    • The ability to set a custom image on the lock screen;
    • High-resolution display support.

    GNOME 3.10 screenshot

    For developers, there are new GTK widgets, a geo-location framework that will allow location-aware applications and the ability to define composite widgets using XML.

    As stated above, GNOME 3.10 also introduces initial Wayland support. This represents a major technological step forward for GNOME and will enable the project to fully adopt the next generation display and input technology in the future.

    Full details of the changes in the new 3.10 version of GNOME are set out in the release notes.

  • Guardian latest media outlet to confuse translators and interpreters

    The Guardian, immortalised in Private Eye as The Grauniad for its error-prone typographical propensities, now reveals its errors are not restricted to orthography.

    The home page of today’s online edition has a link to an item on machine translation and online translation tools. The perils of machine translation is a topic which has also featured on this blog (posts passim).

    However, the link to the report is illustrated by an image depicting interpreters at work, as the following screenshot shows.

    screenshot from Guardian website

    This means The Guardian is now the latest media outlet in the UK willing to employ illiterates who can’t tell interpreters from translators along with the likes of the BBC (posts passim) and the Bristol Post (posts passim).

    This blog has a handy illustrated guide on the difference between these two sorts of linguists should employees of any of the above organisations need enlightenment.

  • Bristol Wireless to provide tech training in November

    This November Bristol Wireless is offering a week of training days in its lab at Windmill Hill City Farm, Bedminster, Bristol.

    One topic will be covered each day of the week of the 25-29 November and there are four places available for each topic.

    The course topic for each day is:

    • Monday 25th November: Hosting web services
    • Tuesday 26th November: Linux Vserver virtualisation environment
    • Wednesday 27th November: SQL database programming
    • Thursday 28th November: System administration
    • Friday 29th November: Administration using Puppet automation software

    Tuition will start each day at 10 am and end at 5 pm.

    The tutors for the week will be Bristol Wireless’ Ben Green and Julien Weston. Ben has well over 10 years’ experience as a systems administrator, whilst Julien has been an accomplished database engineer for a couple of decades.

    Bristol Wireless uses Debian GNU/Linux as its preferred operating system and the courses will be taught on Debian, although participants are welcome to bring their own laptops and preferred operating systems to the courses.

    Participants must have some experience of Linux systems, including at least some command line skills and should expect a fast pace of learning. Each participant will be given a virtual server to experiment with on the day with the required tools set up for the topic at hand.

    Cost will be £200 per day, which doesn’t include food or accommodation, although the on-site city farm café will be open and there are plenty of other eateries in the area.

    For more information please contact Ben Green at Bristol Wireless at or on 0117 325 0067.

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • Bristol Post Balls – no comment

    Not only has this blog noticed that the English employed by the Bristol Post may occasionally fall below the standards required in primary school (posts passim), but regular readers of the online edition have also noticed that the code running the website is a tad dodgy. How many comments are shown below the report featured in the screenshot?

    screenshot of Bristol Post article

    If 1 = 2 in Bristol Post land, is it any wonder its journalists regularly manage to make 2 + 2 = 5? 😉

  • Bristol Post Balls – spelling it out

    Thursday saw the launch of the latest Apple iPhone models – the 5C and 5S – when scores of people with more money than sense queued overnight to make an elitist US technology company even richer.

    Naturally the Bristol Post covered it in Friday’s edition as there’s an Apple shop in Bristol’s monument to Mammon otherwise known as Cabot Circus.

    Part of the Post’s coverage consisted of a photo gallery, which featured as follows in its news section.

    screenshot of Bristol Post gallery item

    How does one spell queue? Certainly not how the Post has done.

    This crime against orthography is also perpetuated on the gallery page itself.

  • French government guiding public sector towards open data

    logo of French RepublicThe French Prime Minister has just distributed a circular promoting the opening up of public data, according to Le Monde Informatique. This was accompanied by a practical guide to assist public sector organisations in joining in this move.

    The “Vade-mecum sur l’ouverture et le partage des données publiques” (= Handbook on opening up and sharing public data) was published on 17th September 2013 by the Prime Minister’s office. Originating from the CIMAP (inter-ministerial committee for public [sector] activity modernisation) meeting of 2nd April 2013, the handbook has the aim of encouraging the public sector to open up their data fully by encouraging it to do so. At just 11 pages, the document is very short. It is also based on a provision in the ethical charter signed by each minister of the present French government upon entering office and which makes provision for opening up the data of each ministry as fully as possible.
    It also gives a reminder that open data should be referred to on the portal. This portal currently hosts 350,000 files according to the Prime Minister’s office.

    After having given a reminder of the issues and objective of opening up public data, the handbook sets out the legal forms for so doing, along with the methods and good practice. It concludes by setting out possible examples of the re-use of open public data.

  • Is there a backdoor in Linux?

    image of Linus Torvalds
    Linus Torvalds ponders answering another awkward question
    At this year’s LinuxCon held in New Orleans, Linus Torvalds and fellow kernel developers were asked whether they’d been approached by US security services to put a backdoor in Linux, thus compromising the operating system’s security, The Register reports.

    Linus responded to the question by saying no whilst at the same time nodding his head, thus indicating that he had been approached. He then resumed by completely denying any approach had been made. This was followed by another developer saying that such things couldn’t be discussed. Linus’ reaction is reminiscent of the reserve Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, on the NSA‘s Prism programme because any mention of it could be “treason”.

    Rumours of backdoors and other forms of hidden access routes in operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and security protection products have been in circulation for years. These rumours have been given a fresh lease of life following the recent revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    Linus’ and the other developers answers have not exactly cleared the air as to whether Linux is as secure an operating system as its users are likely to believe. As The Register article points out:

    Worried netizens have become far more paranoid about the possibility of backdoors in the technology they use and this paranoia extends to both closed-source and open-source software.

    However, it is pointed out by The Register that security service agents who are rebuffed by developers then tend to leave them alone.

    Finally, there’s one point to consider: in open source anyone with the requisite skill is free to examine the code, modify and adapt it. On that principle, wouldn’t it therefore be more difficult to hide vulnerabilities and backdoors in open source products than closed, proprietary software?

  • Argentina introduces Huayra Linux

    The Argentine state has developed its own Linux distribution based on Debian GNU/Linux, Germany’s Heise reports. Huayra Linux (the word huayra is from Quechua and means wind) is part of the Conectar Igualdad programme, which is aimed at closing the digital divide in Argentina by equipping schools better. Three million netbooks were handed out to pupils and teachers under this programme between 2010 and 2012. Huayra Linux is an important building block for achieving this programme’s goals since it frees users from reliance on proprietary software suppliers, such as Microsoft.

    Huayra Linux logo

  • France’s Elysée Palace makes modest contribution to open data

    Le Monde Informatique reports that the website of the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the French president is taking a step towards open data. In a tweet on 16th September, it announced it was opening up its data in a new open data section of its website.

    picture accompanying tweet announcing Elysée open data site

    At present this open data section consists essentially of the diary of President François Hollande which has been appearing since last December at the top of the site’s home page in the form of a timeline. The data in this timeline are offered in two formats: XML and JSON.

    The Elysée is also releasing the origin of visits made to its website during the previous week in JSON format. Some 41% of its visitors originate from Google, 30% reach the site directly, 8% are referred by Twitter and 4% by the Elysée’s Facebook page. There are also daily statistics for the site’s servers (energy consumption, load) and visits displayed in graphical form: number of visitors, number of pages viewed per hour and the source of visits.

    Since the announcement of the the French government’s open data portal in February 2011, several public sector organisations, publicly-owned companies (e.g. SNCF and RATP) and local and regional authorities have opened up some of their data.

Posts navigation