Monthly Archives: January 2014

  • Snowdrops

    Whenever I get my first sight of snowdrops (Galanthus) each winter, my spirit lifts as this very unassuming little flower is the first to bloom each year and thus indicates spring cannot be far away.

    It will soon be followed by crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other popular garden bulbs.

    image of snowdrops

    These snowdrops were spotted at Lawford’s Gate, Bristol on the site of the Lawford’s Gate House of Correction, a former prison lying outside the city of Bristol until the late Victorian era. Along with the city’s other gaols, it was a target in the 1831 Bristol Riot, when it was set alight. The prison also had a whipping post for punishing prisoners.

    Once a place of punishment and misery, the site of the prison is now a pleasant green space with mature trees and – in January at least – the first heralds of spring.

  • An open source messenging service for French universities and elite schools

    Blue-Mind, the French open source collaborative messaging solution, has been adopted for French universities and other associated establishments, including scientific and technical public institutions, Le Monde Informatique reports today.

    screenshot of Blue-Mind software

    The Ministry for Higher Education and Research has signed a four-year framework agreement with French software supplier Blue-Mind. Its collaborative open source messenging solution is therefore now available with a specific pricing structure to all French universities, elite schools (the so-called ‘grandes écoles‘), scientific and technical public institutions such as the CNRS, INSERM, INRA, INRIA, etc. and public sector research and computing centres.

    The Blue-Mind offering is positioned as a competitor to Google Apps as regards functionality. Its features include messenging/email, contact management, calendars, etc. for all types of devices, including mobiles.

  • Chinese internet suffers major breakdown

    keyboard showing Chinese flag on enter keyAt the start of the week, China suffered a major internet outage for several hours, Le Monde Informatique reported yesterday. Experts are wondering about the cause; was it hacking (to use the verb ‘to hack’ in its Daily Mail sense. Ed.) or a technical problem with the country’s censorship mechanisms?

    Last Tuesday more than two-thirds of Chinese websites were inaccessible and millions of users were deprived of internet access for some 8 hours, according to Qihoo 360, a Chinese security software supplier best known for supplying anti-virus products. Security experts are wondering about the origin of this outage. Some believe it was hacking whilst others think there was a fault with the country’s so-called ‘Great Firewall’ censorship system.

    After the outage, Chinese authorities conducted a preliminary inquiry which focussed on hacking. The Chinese CERT team is continuing its inquiry. giving priority to the hacking theory, Chinese specialists believe that they hijacked a root DNS server in China to reroute all the traffic. The website, which analyses Chinese online censorship, disputes this diversion, stating that Google’s DNS servers were affected.

    A poorly blocked traffic hijack?

    However, also showed that some of the user traffic had been redirected to an IP address in the United States and more specifically to the Dynamic Internet Technology site which has links to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is heavily repressed in China. believes the origin of the breakdown was due to a technical problem with the ‘Great Firewall’.

    China regularly blocks sites whose content is critical of its government, including Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times. By wanting to block the Dynamic Internet Technology site, the Chinese authorities would have inadvertently rerouted the whole nation’s traffic, according to

  • Free Windows clone ReactOS needs support

    German IT news website Heise writes that the developers of ReactOS, the free and open source Windows clone, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to advance the development of their Windows-compatible operating system. The campaign’s target is to collect $120,000 for the development of a commercial version of ReactOS called “Thorium Core”. The developers state that everything which is developed in Thorium will also be fed back into ReactOS. The Kickstarter campaign will run until 21st February and had realised over $18,000 at the time of writing.

    screenshot of ReactOS
    ReactOS screenshot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The ReactOS project has the aim of building an open source operating system based on Windows NT architecture with a Win32 sub-system. The current development aim is compatibility with Windows NT 5.2, so that 32 bit hardware drivers and applications for Windows XP (NT 5.1) and Windows Server 2003 (NT 5.2) can be used. Finally, ReactOS should provide a leaner and more flexible environment for Windows applications than that provided by current versions of Windows. Nevertheless, the developers warn that the most recent version of ReactOS – 0.3.15 – is still an alpha version and advise against using it for day-to-day work.

  • Clueless Crapita tweets its ignorance

    This blog has drawn attention before to the lamentable lack of knowledge of certain bodies, e.g. the BBC and various newspapers, to the difference between translating and interpreting.

    As the screenshot below shows, these bodies have now been joined by Capita Translation & Interpreting, that arm of the Crapita empire which is busy wasting public money by failing to provide interpreters – or those of good enough quality – for courts and tribunals under a contract with the Ministry of Justice (posts passim).

    screenshot of exchange of tweets on Twitter

    This exchange came into my Twitter timeline on the same day as the Law Gazette reports that Capita T&I has never managed to reach its 98% performance target under its Framework Agreement with the Ministry of Justice in the 2 years it has held the contract and just a few days before Ursula Brennan, Permanent Secretary at the MoJ, is due to appear before the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee as they examine the interpreting contract for a second time (posts passim).

    As the Crapitards in charge of the Capita T&I are clearly confused by the difference between translators and interpreters, I can only recommend they too read my illustrated guide post.

  • Bristol Post Balls – an American in Bristol

    There’s some bloke called Brendan Cole off something called Strictly Come Dancing on the television that’s currently got a show on at Bristol’s Hippodrome called ‘Licence to Thrill’, as shown by the publicity featured below.


    Earlier today the Bristol Post’s review of the show featured a translation of the show’s title into American English, no doubt in a bid to help transatlantic visitors to Bristol (alternatively, it could have been caused by letting an American intern loose in the news room or a keyboard/software configuration cock-up. Ed.), as shown by the following screenshot.

    Bristol Post headline with US spelling license

    The spelling of the headline has since been corrected.

    Y’all have a nice day! 🙂

  • Cambridge City Council confused by apostrophes, so bans them!

    Last year Mid Devon District Council took the daft and ungrammatical decision to ban the use of apostrophes – and other punctuation – in street signs (posts passim).

    Mid Devon’s decision was justified by the pathetic excuse that removing punctuation was to “avoid confusion”.

    This same line is now being trotted out by Cambridge City Council, in whose hallowed halls the city’s reputation for learning and scholarship appears has lost a battle with the dead hand of bureaucracy, as the Cambridge News reported on Friday.

    According to the Cambridge News

    Officers said they were following national guidance which warned apostrophes could lead to mistakes, particularly for emergency services.

    image of Hobson's Conduit Cambridge
    Hobson’s Conduit. Soon to be Hobsons Conduit courtesy of Cambridge City Council?

    Needless to say, with such a high profile city, the move has been criticised by language experts.

    Quoted in the Daily Telegraph, Kathy Salaman, Director of the Cambridge-based Good Grammar Company said:

    I know some people think apostrophes are superfluous but we really need them and I think it’s the first step on a slippery slope.

    If councils are getting rid of them, what kind of message does that give out to students at schools?

    Dropping apostrophes is pandering to the lowest denominator and while eradicating them anywhere is dreadful, it is particularly bad to do it in Cambridge.


    One must wonder what kind of English language teaching the officers of Cambridge City Council underwent at school, particularly since according to the British Council‘s grammar reference for people learning English, the rules for the use of apostrophes are “very simple”.

    The British Council’s advice on using apostrophes is reproduced below for any passing council officers with responsibility for road and street signs.

    We use an apostrophe (‘) to show either possession or that there is a letter missing (e.g. the apostrophe in ‘she’s’ shows that there is a letter missing in ‘she is’)

    We use apostrophes with people or animals to show possession.

    • My sister’s house.
    • The dog’s blanket.

    For things we use ‘of’ (the front of the car, NOT the car’s front.)

    The position of the apostrophe depends on whether the noun is singular or plural. look at these two examples.

    • My friend’s house. This is about one friend.
    • My friends’ house. This is about two or more friends who share a house.

    If a plural noun does not end in ‘s’ (e.g. men, people, children) we use ‘s to show possession.

    • The children’s bedroom.
    • A pair of women’s sunglasses.

    We also use an apostrophe in some time expressions.

    • two weeks’ holiday
    • ten years’ experience

    If people are really getting confused by apostrophes, doesn’t this indicate that English language teaching – particularly that related to punctuation – needs to be improved? After all, banning something you don’t understand is the action of a philistine.

  • MoJ up before the PAC again

    The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee is keeping up the pressure on the Ministry of Justice over its disastrous courts and tribunals interpreting service with Capita Translation & Interpreting.

    On Monday 27 January 2014 the Committee has summoned the MoJ’s Permanent Secretary, Ursula Brennan, to give evidence on ‘Interpreter services’, as shown by the following extract from the Parliamentary business calendar.

    3.15pm Public Accounts

    Subject: Treasury Minutes follow-up (i) Severance payments (ii) Interpreter services (iii) Rural broadband
    Witness(es): Una O’Brien, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health, Sir David Nicholson KCB CBE, Chief Executive, NHS England and Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary, Home Office; Ursula Brennan, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary, Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Jon Zeff, Director and Programme Senior Responsible Office, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

    In the Committee’s previous examination of interpreter services in 2012 neither the MoJ nor Capita exactly came away unscathed. On publication of its subsequent report, Committee Chair Margaret Hodge MP was scathing about the way the MoJ had managed the placing of its contract (posts passim), saying: “This is an object lesson in how not to contract out a public service.”

    As for Ursula, her Civil Service biography on the MoJ’s website linked to above informs us that she spent most of her career in what is now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). While there one of the areas in which she was involved was fraud (in that instance benefit fraud. Ed.). Evidence to date would tend to suggest that she is having difficulty finding it under her nose in her present department.

    Update 26/1/14: Ursula Brennan will not now be appearing for the Ministry of Justice to assist the PAC with its continuing investigation of court interpreting; she has been replaced by Ann Beasley, Director-General of Finance at the Ministry of Justice and Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).

    This is the third time Ursula Brennan has been due to appear before the PAC and has found something to do instead. One might get the impression she is frightened of Margaret Hodge et al., but I couldn’t possibly comment on that! 🙂

    Hat tip: Louise Gough for the update.

  • More trouble with Capita Vietnamese interpreters

    Our friends at Capita seem to be having a bit of bother recently with a dearth of Vietnamese interpreters (posts passim).

    On 10th January, I.V., a solicitor wrote the following post on RPSI Linguist Lounge.

    I was a duty solicitor on Tuesday night we were instructed on a cannabis factory case. Due to the co-accused giving an age the police did not believe we weren’t interviewed until mid afternoon. A decent interpreter turned up on time (credit where credit due).

    To the surprise of my rep our client and the “youngster” were charged and RIC. I am fortunate to have a Vietnamese member of staff so she came in to see him with me. No police booked interpreter attended and at lunchtime despite many requests the court finally looked in to it. They booked Capita at 2 – the use of my interpreter for the case was discounted. No interpreter attended and at 2 pm with no idea of what was happening the pair were remanded to today.

    The youth was taken to a detention centre and my client to Winson Green – an adult prison!! He is 18. Last night the court clerk in our hearing booked a new interpreter. None has arrived and despite conflicting stories we are now told none has been booked. The DJ has decided that should my interpreter be present this afternoon then a pragmatic approach may be taken. So all day yesterday much of today all for me for the mileage!! Of course we did nothing to help!!!

    We went to the crown court as I ascertained that a trial was taking place there with a Vietnamese interpreter. No, can’t use her. The 2 people in custody are highly confused and both allocated to incorrect institutions. Mine has already tried to dispense with my services. Luckily the approached solicitor on realising someone else instructed withdrew and let me know. This is how I make £’0000’s a year!!

    We used my interpreter in the end.

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