Monthly Archives: December 2013

  • Capita can’t find interpreters for common languages

    At the time of the 2011 Census, there were some 521,000 Polish-born people resident in the UK, making them the third largest foreign born community after Irish and Indian born people in Britain.

    This being so, it’s surprising that Capita T&I cannot find sufficient Polish interpreters to attend court for work.

    Yesterday’s Echo, which covers the Southend on Sea and Basildon areas, reported that the case of a man charged with with a robbery that left a woman seriously hurt in her own home and its adjournment.

    Marcine Stecki, 21, of no fixed abode, is charged with one count of robbery and possessing an offensive weapon after a robbery on 24th July in Leigh, Essex. Stecki appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Monday for a plea and case management hearing.

    The reason why this case was adjourned until 13th January was that old favourite: no interpreter available.

    As interpreter Katya Ford remarked on Twitter today:

    if Capita regularly fail to provide a Polish interpreter, imagine what it must be like for rarer languages!


    Hat tip: RPSI Linguist Lounge

  • Greens/EFA using Debian and encrypted email

    Debian logoJoinup reports that the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA Group has started trial use of laptops running a tailored version of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and “is reaching out to the Free Software community”, in order to achieve trustworthy email encryption in moves to counter mass surveillance by companies and governments.

    In a press release, Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms stated:

    “Thanks to Snowden we are beginning to understand the full scope of what it means to live in a digital environment polluted by pervasive surveillance. Commercial and governmental surveillance is undermining trust in our democratic institutions and corrupts the very fabric of democracy. This is now a global problem of such scale that each individual effort will fail, yet without taking small concrete steps from accepting where we are, no progress is possible. Therefore, the Greens/EFA is now reaching out to the Free Software community to join in a small project to use trustworthy email encryption in cooperation and dialogue with the European Parliament IT services.

    “As the Green Group in the European Parliament we want to make an effort to ensure that nobody but the intended recipient of an email can read it. Such emails need to be encrypted, travel over the internet, and then be decrypted on the receiving computer — and nowhere else. In this project, me and colleagues in the Greens/EFA will use a selection of Free Software from Debian and run it on computers dedicated for this purpose. We will start small scale with 10 regular consumer laptops. This is not special hardware running special software, but general computers running software available for everybody.”

    For secure email, a combination of the cryptographic software tools provided by GnuPG and the Icedove email client (a Debian-specific version of Mozilla Thunderbird) will be used as the European Parliament’s proprietary email solution cannot offer trustworthy encryption.

  • Enlightenment 0.18 released

    Just before Christmas the release of version 0.18 of the Enlightenment desktop environment for Linux was announced, according to Heise. Modules for controlling Bluetooth and music software are amongst the new features for the Enlightenment 0.18.0 (E18). It has been released as planned just one year after version 0.17.0 (E17), whose development took 12 years.

    In the new version the compositor which combines the application windows and desktop components into an overall picture is no longer optional, but firmly integrated into the desktop’s main components. Support for running Wayland, the potential successor X11 is also new, as is better interaction with systemd, the system management daemon designed exclusively for the Linux kernel API. The developers have also fixed several crashes and made considerable improvements to the file manager, according to the release notes.

    e18 desktop screenshot

    The developers are currently working on Enlightenment 0.19.0 (E19), which will be able to work as a Wayland Compositor. Details of these plans may be found on the E19 Release Manager blog, as well as in the video below.

  • Bristol Post Balls – publish and be damned

    ‘Publish and be damned’ was the the reaction in 1824 of one Arthur Wellesley (1st May 1769 – 14th September 1852) when courtesan Harriette Wilson (whose clients included the then Prince of Wales, the Lord Chancellor and four future Prime Ministers. Ed.) threatened to publish her memoirs and his letters with the possibility of his reputation being damaged. Her decision to publish was based partly on the broken promises of her lovers to provide her with an income in her later years.

    However, for the Bristol Post publish and be damned would appear to be its normal modus operandi – at least as far as the online edition is concerned. The hacks down at the Temple Way Ministry of Truth are far too eager to hit the ‘publish’ button when their work is far from ready for publication, as evidenced by this morning’s screenshot of this post, which may have been rectified by the time you visit the site.

    screenshot from Bristol Post

    Harriette Wilson’s memoirs are still in print. How long can the Post last?

    Update, 9.00 am: the piece has been pulled and now returns a 404 error page. However, this does not mean it won’t rise again vampire-like from the crypt.

    Update, 10.20 am: It’s back!

  • Piper and penguin

    I’ve been aware of Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton et al. and their expeditions to Antarctica since my childhood and on Christmas Eve this year was made aware through social media of the exploits of the 1902-1904 Scottish National Antarctic Expedition.

    Although its work was overshadowed by more prestigious expeditions, the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition nevertheless completed a full programme of exploration and scientific work, including the establishment of the first manned meteorological station in Antarctic territory, as well as the discovery of new land to the east of the Weddell Sea.

    Below is a photograph taken on that expedition; a suitably light-hearted one of piper Gilbert Kerr serenading a penguin.

    Gilbert Kerr, piper, with penguin. Photographed by William Speirs Bruce during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-04
    Gilbert Kerr, piper, with penguin. Photographed by William Speirs Bruce during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-04. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    However, penguins did more for the expedition than provide an audience for pipers. They were a regular item on the menu too!

    A typical day’s diet there might have been: breakfast of porridge and penguin eggs, with bacon on Wednesdays and Thursdays and coffee or cocoa week about. Lunch of eggs with bully beef or bread and cheese and tea. Dinner of penguin “hare soup”, then stewed penguin, with some farinaceous pudding or preserved fruit to follow.

    The above comes from the text accompanying a splendid photo of Bill Smith, the expedition’s cook from Glasgow Digital Library, which has a fine collection of photographs from the expedition. I also love the final sentence on the page too for its description of Smith:

    Smith’s substantial physique is a good advertisement for the value of his own work.

    Season’s greetings all.

  • Annoy IDS

    According to the mainstream media, Iain Duncan Smith, the uncaring and incompetent Work and Pensions Secretary, is ‘furious’ with the picture below – produced by Church Action on Poverty – and has accused the Trussell Trust, a charity that runs 400 food banks, of ‘scaremongering’.

    Britain isn't Eating image
    Spread the word. Copy the picture.

    As Labour MP Luciana Berger wrote in The Independent last week, food banks

    must not become a part of our national life – they are a mark of shame in our communities, and should go the same way as the Poor Law Guardians and the workhouse.

    As a caring member of the human race, do your duty: copy and circulate the image; and annoy IDS.

  • The art of parking

    The picture below showing the parking skills of Avon & Somerset Constabulary’s finest was taken at 9.30 am on 24th December in Bannerman Road in the Easton area of Bristol.

    Rule 244 of the Highway Code states:

    You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.

    image of police car blocking footway

    No further comment is necessary apart from to say that Mr Plod needs either refresher classes in the Highway Code or cannot be bothered to abide by it, especially since there was plenty of room to park with consideration not 20 metres away.

  • Crowdfunding for Tails

    Tails logoTails is a live Linux operating system (based on Debian. Ed.), that can be booted on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick or SD card. Tails aims at preserving its users’ privacy and anonymity, as well as helping them to:

    • use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship; all connections to the internet are forced to go through the Tor network;
    • leave no trace on the computer being used without your requesting it;
    • use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

    A crowdfunding campaign to support encryption tools for journalists has been launched by The Freedom of the Press Foundation; this campaign will last for two months and is collecting funds for Tails, Tor, the encrypted mobile communication tools RedPhone and TextSecure, plus the LEAP encrypted email platform.

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