Monthly Archives: October 2013

  • Calibre 1.7 released

    Version 1.7 of Calibre, the cross-platform e-book reader and management software, was released on 18th October, Softpedia reports.

    Calibre’s features include:

    • Library management;
    • E-book conversion;
    • Syncing to e-book reader devices;
    • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form;
    • Comprehensive e-book viewer;
    • Content server for online access to your book collection.
    image of calibre interface
    Calibre running on the KDE desktop under Linux

    A complete list of changes since the last version release can be found in Calibre’s release announcement.

    The new version is available for download for Linux, Mac OSX and Windows.

  • France also targeted by NSA

    Leading French daily newspaper Le Monde reports today on how the American National Security Agency (NSA) spies on France.

    The documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden also contain information about communications intercepted by the NSA in France. One image in the documents leaked by Snowden, some of which have been accessed by Le Monde reveals that the NSA recorded the data from “70.3 million French telephone calls” from 10th December 2012 to 8th January. The content of SMS (text) messages is also recorded by scanning their contents for keywords.

    Big Brother is watching you, etc.

    Explanations in the documents consulted by Le Monde suggest that the NSA was targeting “both people suspected of links with terrorist activities and individuals targeted simply for belonging to the worlds of business, politics or the French government” under a programme codenamed US-985D. When contacted on this point, the American authorities simply referred to the statement issued on 8th June 2012 by James R. Clapper, National Intelligence Director which states that the United States Government can only collect data if it suspects activities linked to terrorism, to cyber-attacks and nuclear proliferation, according to Le Monde Informatique.

    When questioned about these revelations, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he was going to ask the American authorities for explanations describing the revelations as “shocking”, whilst French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned the American ambassador to a meeting ((translation: to give Uncle Sam’s representative in Paris a dressing down. Ed.).

  • Capita T&I attempts sub-contracting to fulfil MoJ contract

    Sub-contracting is quite common in the language business. Every week or two I’ll do a job for an agency that’s been placed with them by another (usually larger) agency.

    This seems to go all the way to the top and is not confined to translation: interpreting jobs also get sub-contracted.

    As regards interpreting, RPSI Linguist Lounge last week published a post written by Oskar offering evidence that Capita Translation & Interpreting are also playing the same game to attempt to meet their contractual obligations to the Ministry of Justice under the framework agreement for interpreting services for courts and tribunals. Oskar’s words are reproduced in full below.

    I did some private work for solicitors last week at Uxbridge Magistrates Court. I spoke to a Romanian interpreter from thebigword. It seems that C-ta are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations, so courts are trying to call other agencies. On several occasions I was told by interpreters working outside of London that in several counties – Cambs, Notts, Northants, courts revert to calling other agencies or small/local agencies were approached by C-ta and asked to subcontract their interpreters in several languages. With regard to their so-called tier system, I have been advised that for NHS bookings they send people classified as Tier 4, what’s next then: a proverbial cleaning lady, mind you, these ladies are better paid and promptly as well. Who is behind upholding this unprofitable, undermanned and badly managed contract? Why aren’t SOCA or other LEA investigating it already?

  • Bristol Post Balls – an embarrassing vowel movement in public

    Crosby Stills & NashThere’s hardly a day goes by without the Bristol Post screwing up somewhere.

    Today it features a glowing review of veteran US three part vocal harmony and guitar group Crosby, Stills & Nash.

    However, at one point the language is not so much glowing as glaringly wrong when Mr Harnell trips over a near homophone:

    Despite hoovering up the Gross National Product of Columbia in his darkest days, David Crosby’s voice remains a thing of wonder.

    Columbia? The female personification of the United States of America?

    I think the reviewer had got his vowels muddled and actually meant Colombia, a South American country famous for the supply of a variety of white nasal decongestant allegedly enjoyed at one time by Mr Crosby.

  • PI4J survey

    PI4J logoProfessional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), the umbrella group for interpreter organisations, has been campaigning since 2011 against the Ministry of Justice’s Framework Agreement and outsourcing of criminal justice interpreting to Capita Translation & Interpreting (formerly Applied Language Solutions/ALS).

    PI4J, in conjunction with Involvis, has just launched an online survey for interpreters (its fourth. Ed.) and, as well as hearing from interpreters about their current situation and thoughts about the future, also wants to hear interpreters’ views about PI4J and how they see its role. Should PI4J continue and if so, what is its primary role?

    The Capita T&I contract ends in October 2016 but re-tendering will begin much sooner and PI4J’s focus needs to be on what happens next.

    The survey will be open for responses until 10pm on Sunday 20th October 2013.

    Take the survey.

  • Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region to save €2 mn. with OpenOffice

    Flag of Emilia-RomagnaThe administration of the Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region will switch to the open source OpenOffice productivity suite, Joinup reports. It thus hopes to save some €2 mn. euro on the licences that it would have spent for updating the ubiquitous MS Office suite. To prepare the migration, a three-month pilot involving 300 workstations has started at the region’s Directorate-General for Agriculture; all other regional departments will switch over to OpenOffice by the end of 2014. The region employs some 3,545 office staff.

    screenshot of OpenOffice splash screen

    The region is currently using a ten year-old version of MS Office. Instead of spending €2 mn. to upgrade 3,200 proprietary licences that are due to expire next year, the province decided to switch to OpenOffice which “offers basically the same functionality”.

    The region has set aside a budget of €220,000 for the switch to OpenOffice; this budget includes a staff training element.

  • Freeze date and Freeze Policy for Debian Jessie announced

    Debian logoThe next version (8.0) of Debian GNU/Linux, codenamed Jessie, will be released in the first half of 2015. Debian’s developers have now announced the freeze date and freeze policy for Debian Jessie. An extract of the announcement (entitled “Bits from the Release Team (Jessie freeze info)”) is reproduced below.

    We are happy to announce that we will freeze Jessie at 23:59 UTC on the 5th of November 2014. To avoid any confusion around exactly how we will freeze, we have prepared a draft of the Jessie Freeze Policy in advance


    Notable changes to the policy include:

    • Well-defined stages in the freeze policy at certain dates.
      • After 3 months of freeze, we will no longer allow remove packages to re-enter testing
      • We only accept fixes for important bugs in the first month.
      • etc.
    • Proactive automated removals 3 months into the freeze.
      • Note that bug-free packages will be removed if they (build-)depend on a RC-buggy, non-key package.
      • Also note the interval of 7 days between each removal run.
    • Inclusion of “do” and “don’t” guidelines for uploads and unblock bugs.
    • Currently, we are undecided whether to maintain “carte blanche” freeze exceptions at the start of the freeze. For now, exceptions are *not* included in the freeze policy (i.e. do *not* rely on them). This means that changes have to migrate to testing *before* the freeze date if they are to be included in the release.
      • *If* such exceptions are added, they will *not* apply for packages where migration would change the “upstream” version.
      • Native packages are at a disadvantage here, since all uploads of native packages are considered a new “upstream” version.
      • It should go without saying, but “urgency” abuse is not an acceptable way of getting your latest changes into the release.
      • It should also go without saying that embedding a new upstream release in a patch just to get a such “carte blanche” exception is also considered abuse.

      As noted we are dealing with a draft, so there may be changes to the actual freeze policy. Should we change the policy in a substantial way, this will be included in subsequent “bits”.

  • Remembering the Real WW1

    On Tuesday 15th October, Bristol Radical History Group and Bristol Stop the War Coalition are jointly organising a public meeting entitled Remembering the Real WW1 at the Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol, BS2 0EZ (map). The event starts at 7.00 pm and entry is free, although there’ll probably be a whip-round for donations. More details here.

    The talk is being organised in advance of next year’s centenary of the start of World War 1, for which The British government plans to spend £55 million marking the occasion (and the centenary of other stages of the war). Comments from Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a ‘truly national commemoration’ stressing our ‘national spirit’ already suggest what he has in mind. He has even compared the government’s plans with last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

    What Cameron is forgetting is a phrase that I recall from 40 years ago this month, when I had just started doing political science as part of my Modern Languages degree, i.e. ‘war is the destruction of the fittest’. Indeed, the First World War is credited with being the first war in history where slaughter was conducted on an industrial scale due to advances in technology. In the Battle of the Somme alone (1st July-18th November 1916) claimed more 1,000,000 casualties, making it one of the bloodiest battles in the history of mankind.

    German dead at Guillemont
    German dead at Guillemont, September 1916. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    For the majority of people in Europe, whether or not they were directly involved, WW1 was one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters (and one whose repercussions are still being felt in international relations. Ed.). Already historians like Max Hastings have begun to argue that this was a war that had to be fought against German militarism and the costs in human life and destruction were worth paying. In contrast, radical historians have begun to uncover a multitude of both individual and mass forms of resistance to the war on all sides of the national divides. This resistance took the form of desertion, fraternisation, strikes and mutinies.

    Like most families, members of my own were involved in the conflict. Ted, my paternal grandfather was involved in the Gallipoli campaign, which by itself claimed 34,072 British dead and 78,520 wounded. On my mother’s side, my grandfather Alfred was rejected for military service on medical grounds, although my Auntie Doris informed me in a letter that one of Alfred’s brothers – whose name I cannot remember – deserted in France and was never heard from again by the family.

    Those British service personnel who survived the conflict were promised a ‘country fit for heroes to live in’ by ‘Welsh Wizard’ David Lloyd George‘s postwar government. They were sadly let down.

  • An apposite typo?

    I’m not a regular reader of the minutes of meetings of Bristol City Council’s Audit Committee. However, there’s an absolute corker of a typographical error on page 3 of the draft minutes of its 24th September 2013 meeting (PDF).

    image of BCC audit committee minutes

    Will anyone down at the Counts Louse (as real Bristolians call or) or City Hall (as the Mayor has renamed it) be eagle-eyed enough to notice?

    Under no circumstances Lord Fraud should not be confused with Lord Freud, a Conservative peer who only pretends to be a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions with responsibility for welfare reform. 😉

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