Monthly Archives: November 2013

  • More wifi on Bristol’s buses

    Some time ago, FirstBus, Bristol’s major bus operator, introduced free wifi on its services nos. 8 and 9 (news passim).

    image of First Group bus
    Never mind the fares, at least the wifi’s free!

    Today the Bristol Post reports that there’s to be a large scale expansion of free wifi for Bristol’s bus passengers, starting next month.

    Written by the Post’s business correspondent, Michael Ribbeck, the article states:

    Free wifi has already been introduced on the 8 and 9 routes in the city on a trial basis but is being rolled out across Bristol throughout December.

    Fellow operator Wessex is also offering free wifi to its customers and is looking to have most of its buses connected to the internet by the end of the year.

    A spokesman for First stated: “We are currently in the process of installing wifi on the majority of our vehicles in the West of England. We fully expect that this work will be completed by Christmas and that all the vehicles that regularly travel in and out of Bristol, in addition to a number of vehicles that are used elsewhere, will offer our customers access to free wifi by the New Year.”

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • Polish school finds Ubuntu PCs “faster and cheaper”

    Ubuntu logoJoinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reports that the Zolnierzy Sybiru high school in the Polish city of Lubawka has converted 11 of its PCs to run Ubuntu Linux.

    The 11 machines are shared by 55 pupils and the conversion took place at the instigation of one of the school’s teachers.

    The switch has made the PCs run faster and there have been savings on Windows and other proprietary software licences too, according to FWiOO, the Polish foundation for Free and Open Source Software.

    The 11 PCs in question were bought in 2005 with funds from the Ministry of Education and previously ran Windows XP. In September the PCs were converted Ubuntu Linux.

    In September a brief report (Polish) summarising the high school’s switch to Ubuntu Linux was published.

    The pupils store their data in a free cloud solution offered by Canonical, the firm behind Ubuntu Linux.

    “By using Ubuntu, these computers run faster and more reliably”, FWiOO notes.

  • Bristol Post Balls – ungulate identification

    Horses and cattle are both ungulates, i.e. both use the tips of their toes to support their whole body weight whilst moving. Both cows and horses have hooves.

    A horse is an odd-toed ungulate with a long hairy mane and tale, whilst a cow is an even-toed ungulate. They’re easy to identify, unless you’re a city-based employee of the Bristol Post.

    Yesterday the Post published a tragic story of more than 100 horses having to be put down after being rescued from appalling conditions in Bridgend in the Vale of Glamorgan.

    However, the picture used to illustrate the report features animals that look more bovine than equine, as revealed by the screenshot below.

    screenshot from Bristol Post
    Frisians or Dobbins?

    Just because both beef and horsemeat taste equally good on the plate doesn’t means they are interchangeable in the field, Bristol Post. Try saddling up a cow and entering a steeplechase! 🙂

  • MoJ report reveals interpreter complaints increasing and costing millions

    image of gilded statue of Justice on top of Old BaileyA Ministry of Justice report (PDF) has published details of 9,800 complaints about its court interpreting contract with Capita Translation & Interpreting, with the report revealing that the numbers and frequency of complaints have increased this year. Capita has provided the service since 30 January 2012 and the Statistics Bulletin reveals that 3,786 (39%) of the complaints relate to interpreters not being available for courts or tribunal cases.

    The court interpreting service is essential for those whose first language isn’t English and who need help in understanding and communicating accurately in court cases and tribunals.

    Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), the umbrella group representing interpreter organisations, says the Statistics Bulletin’s stated figure of an 87% “success rate” of completed requests hides the true picture of the thousands of court and tribunal cases where Capita T&I’s failure to supply an interpreter, or when an interpreter is late or of poor quality, is disrupting the delivery of justice and wasting tax payer’s money.

    In the second quarter of 2013 there were 1,957 complaints, 23% more than in the same period of 2012. The majority of these (64%) were about interpreters not being available. When compared with the same period of 2012, figures showed there was a fourfold increase this year, rising from 218 cases (April-June 2012) to 1,254 between April-June 2013.Read More

    Paul Wilson, Chief Executive of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, which is part of the umbrella group PI4J, said: “The accumulated cost of all the delayed and abandoned cases which resulted in complaints needs to be offset against the stated savings the Ministry of Justice thinks it is making. A conservative estimate would be £10 million of wasted court time so far.”

    It costs approximately £10,000/day for a Crown Court trial and approximately £1,600/day for a magistrates’ trial or tribunal.

    For the first time the bulletin includes figures for the number of “off contract” bookings made by courts and tribunals instead of using Capita. For the three months April – June 2013, 2,929 bookings were logged. The Tribunals Service, which had its own automated system, accounted for 50% of these “off contract” bookings. Court clerks were asked to make a manual log.

    Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters, says: “It’s important to understand what these figures aren’t showing. We know for example that there are high numbers of sub-contract arrangements which Capita has put in place to prop up the contract. We hope the Ministry of Justice will recognise this sooner rather than later, so we can work on something better.”

    The Statistics Bulletin, published on 31 October, listed 9,800 complaints from 30 January 2012 to 30 June 2013. Of these, 39% (3,786) were because Capita could not supply interpreters for courts or tribunals, 16% (1,530) were because the booked interpreter did not attend, 15% (1,515) were because the interpreter was late and 4% (410) related to the quality of interpreting. The remaining 21% (2,042) complaints were explained as “time sheet errors, operational issues and other interpreter issues” (what’s an “interpreter issue”? Ed.).

    Three successive parliamentary inquiries by the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts and Justice Select Committees have been highly critical of Capita’s fulfilment of the contract, in addition tow which the Public Accounts Committee has begun further investigations.

    Keith Moffitt, Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, one of the organisations highly critical of the current approach, said: “The Ministry of Justice has dragged its heels on addressing the issues of this contract despite a series of official reports which have highlighted what it needs to do.”

    The majority of professionally qualified interpreters withdrew their services as a result of the outsourcing arrangement, which lowered the requirements for qualifications and experience whilst cutting interpreters’ fees and travel expenses to such an extent that many left the profession.

  • Linux: suitable for business and personal use

    image of Tux, the Linux kernel mascotThe Netherlands’ Nationaal Cyber Security Centrum (NCSC), part of the Dutch Ministry of Justice, has recently published a fact sheet (PDF) about Microsoft’s impending withdrawal of support for its ancient Windows XP operating system.

    The fact sheet urges users to switch to more modern operating systems as alternatives, but also says some interesting things about Linux, for example:

    Newer versions of Windows, such as Windows 7 are 8, are still well supported. The same is true of Linux-based operating systems like Ubuntu and Red Hat.

    When it comes to operating system updates and suitable uses for operating systems, the NCSC remarks as follows:

    In addition to the newer versions of Windows, there are other operating systems which are also regularly provided with updates. There are various Linux distributions which are suitable for personal and business use. Ubuntu and Red Hat are two popular examples of these. It is also possible to replace the computer itself, or you could also choose a computer with a Mac OS X operating system. These are supplied and supported by Apple. Even older versions of Mac OS X or Linux-based systems reach the “end of life” status from time to time. It is therefore also important for users of these operating systems to use a current version.

    The NCSC’s main target groups for this working paper are the Netherlands’ ministries, national government councils and service organisations, Joinup reports.

  • Spalding Magistrates Court – an interpreting black hole?

    image of Spalding Magistrates Court
    Spalding Magistrates Court
    The Ministry of Justice’s interpreting contract with Capita Translation & Interpreting is lurching along largely unseen by the general public, delaying and denying justice to many in contravention of Clause 40 of Magna Carta (posts passim) – one of the few clauses of that important legal document from 1215 still in effect today.

    Yesterday Lincolnshire’s Spalding Guardian (not to be confused with a similarly titled, typographically challenged offering originally from Manchester. Ed.) carried not one, but two reports of interpreters who missed assignments at Spalding Magistrates Court, which only sits day per week nowadays.

    Firstly, there’s the report of a 53 year-old man accused of stealing bolt croppers.

    The case of a man accused of stealing bolt croppers could not be heard by Spalding magistrates because there was no interpreter present.

    Secondly, the Spalding Guardian covered an adjourned drink-driving case involving a man called Piotr Nowak.

    His case is due to be heard on Thursday. There was no interpreter present at last week’s hearing.

    In spite of the constant stream of evidence to the contrary, the Ministry of Justice continue to assert that Capita T&I’s performance under the contract continues to improve.

    By that logic 2 + 2 = 5 (at least it does in Petty France, SW1. Ed.).

    Spalding may have an above average need for interpreters due to the high numbers of East European migrant workers employed in agriculture and food processing – something that must annoy the hell out of UKIP supporters.

  • Bristol Post Balls – bedding expenses

    I knew having children was expensive, but never realised cots – those small-sized beds for babies – could cost so much until I read this article in today’s Bristol Post about an expensive night out which sadly ended up in that local Palais de Justice also known as Bristol Crown Court.

    Bristol Crown Court
    Bristol Crown Court

    Apparently, the night out resulted in a huge bill for bedding, according to the relevant sentence in the article.

    The court was told Collins had to stump up £8,500 towards legal cots.

  • Bristol Post Balls – beefing about faggots

    Today the Bristol Post has been occupied with faggots. It all started when Facebook, that bastion of free speech, banned the use of the word faggot as offensive. Apparently they’ve never heard of this traditional item of English cuisine over the pond, where faggot is a term of abuse for homosexuals.

    As a result, Mr Brain’s – a producer of culinary products resembling faggots that started life in the Bristol area – has started a campaign to fight against Facebook’s ban, which is duly being reported by the Post.

    In addition, the Post also informed its readers what faggots are. Any similarity between the Post’s article and the introduction to Wikipedia’s faggots article is presumably purely coincidental.

    However, the Post hasn’t finished with faggots yet; it also tells its by now slavering readers how to make faggots. After having stated that faggots are made from pork, the Post drops a real clanger on this report, illustrating it with a photograph of a butcher (so far, so good. Ed.) posing with a joint of beef (D’oh! Ed.), as evidenced by the screenshot below.

    Bristol Post screenshot

  • Bring back British Rail

    British Rail logoThe fifth day of November is remembered in history for more than one thing. Not only was it the day in 1605 one Yorkshireman called Guido Fawkes was arrested in the cellars of Parliament with lots of black powder, it was also the day in 1993 when Parliament passed the Railways Act.

    The Act provided for the restructuring of the British Railways Board (BRB), the public corporation that then owned and operated the national railway system. A few residual responsibilities of the BRB remained with BRB (Residuary) Ltd., which was itself abolished in 2011.

    The legislation enabled the Secretary of State for Transport John MacGregor to transfer separated parts of the railway to the private sector. Passenger rail services were franchised to private companies including Virgin, FirstGroup and the coach companies Stagecoach and National Express. In addition, the national railway track and signalling company Railtrack was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1996. British Rail’s track maintenance and renewal operations were sold to private companies, with contracts to provide infrastructure services to Railtrack. The three rolling stock leasing companies or ROSCOs, owners of the passenger rolling stock, were sold to management buy-out teams.

    Returning to the Act itself, it was a shambolic excuse for an act of parliament. Such was the level of tinkering involved, it became the second most amended piece of legislation in history. The Act has also been amended several times since then, most significantly by the Transport Act 2000, the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 and the Railways Act 2005.

    However, that’s not all: it set Britain’s railway back by more than two generations.

    We’re now in a situation where there’s no joined up thinking on the railway. Train operating companies have regional monopolies and if your journey involves the services of more than one operator, it’s unlikely your connecting service will be held for you to catch should your preceding train be running late.

    The railways were nationalised in 1948 because the ‘Big Four’ national regional railway companies – Great Western Railway, London and North Eastern Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway – plus 55 other railway undertakings were making such a dreadful mess of running the rail system.

    British Railways 1956 logotype
    The way things were: British Railways logotype from 1956

    We’re back in that state once again. We were in that state before the 1997 general election, in the run-up to which the Labour Party frequently promised to renationalise the railways, a promise upon which it then reneged once elected.

    On this 20th anniversary of rail privatisation it’s appropriate to draw attention to the work of Bring Back British Rail. Founded in 2009, Bring Back British Rail strives to popularise the common-sense idea of renationalising the ludicrously over-priced and over-complicated railway system, which the people of Britain have been left with as the result of the Major government’s privatisation. Its aim is to unite disgruntled rail passengers and disheartened rail employees all over the country, to demand a re-unified national rail network run for people instead of profit.

    Give it your support.

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