Monthly Archives: February 2014

  • Canaries save money with open source

    Canary Islands coat of armsCanary Islands news site La Provincia reports that the autonomous government of the Canaries is saving €400,000 per year by backing the use of free and open source operating systems and software and avoiding paying licences to multinational companies for the use of programs and their updates. Apparently the autonomous government annual IT costs have reduced from €1,006,500 to €750,000. Roberto Moreno, the general director for telecommunications and new technologies explains that the migration from proprietary to free and open source software means the government is ridding itself of dependency on one vendor because, in this case “the owner is the one who buys it and can make the changes and modifications needed with his own resources and personnel, which is always much cheaper” than being beholden to an outside company.

    Moreno, who is a professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), states that the objective is shown by the current legislature’s wishes to introduce these changes to reduce expenditure, given the current economic crisis and the lack of funds in the region’s coffers.

    The next step planned by the Canaries government is to replace the ubiquitous MS Office suite currently used with a free and open source alternative, which is most likely to be Apache OpenOffice. That change will involve some 30,000 desktops and will save the public purse a fair few euros more.

  • Cabinet Office’s open standards consultation extended

    Cabinet Office logoThe Cabinet Office’s consultation on open standards for document exchange with government departments (posts passim), which was due to end yesterday, 26th February 2014, has now been extended until 5.00 pm on Friday, 28th February 2014.

    According to a Cabinet Office spokesman, the reason for the extension is as follows:

    This is because the Standards Hub server went down last night at about 10pm, as a result of which some people were unable to submit their comments to the proposals.

    The file formats being proposed as standards by the Cabinet Office are:

    • HTML (4.01 or higher, e.g. HTML5);
    • ODF 1.1 (or higher, e.g. ODF 1.2);
    • Plain text (TXT); and
    • Comma-separated values (CSV).

    So far it would appear that most respondents to the consultation are supporting this welcome move to openness by the UK government and Microsoft’s shills are thin on the ground.

    Comment on the consultation.

  • Romania’s Ministry of Education endorses open source

    Romania coat of armsJust a few days after it was reported that scores of donated Linux laptops were languishing unused in Romania’s schools (posts passim), the country’s Ministry of Education is urging the schools to consider switching to free and open source operating systems and software, according to Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news website. The Ministry confirmed this will help the schools to avoid legal problems from using unlicensed proprietary software.

    The new policy follows the expiry of an agreement between the Ministry and Microsoft. The Ministry is now urging schools to switch to open source alternatives, revert to earlier versions or buy new licences.

    The Ministry itself is no stranger to free and open source, using Linux and the Nginx web server. Furthermore, it has also published a recommended list (PDF, Romanian) of free and open source software for use in schools, which includes Edubuntu, the educational remix of Ubuntu Linux, desktop applications based on the Gnome window manager and other free and open source favourites, such as the LibreOffice productivity suite, Gimp graphics package and Scribus desktop publishing software.

  • My comments to HMG on open formats

    ODF file iconIt may have escaped the notice of most of the country, but the Cabinet Office is currently consulting on the use of open formats, e.g. ODF, HTML, TXT and CSV, for documents when sharing them or collaborating with government on them.

    As an ardent supporter of open standards and open formats, I decided it was my civic duty to support the Cabinet Office’s welcome move to openness, all the more so as Microsoft was asking its pals in an open letter (in closed .docx format. Ed.) to try and water down the move to ODF by having its OOXML format adopted as well.

    My comments on the government’s proposals were as follows:

    I too welcome and wholeheartedly support the move to open standards and file formats and away from vendor lock-in and proprietary file formats, access to which is solely at the whim of software vendors. No single company should have a monopoly on the formats used for official documents and documents of record.

    In particular, I welcome the move to Open Document Format. I have been using ODF for many years in my role as company secretary of an IT co-operative and we have the satisfaction that our successors and future historians will be able to read our online and offline records without accessibility to our records being at the whim of a software supplier with a quasi-monopoly on office productivity products.

    Furthermore, I would advise against any use of OOXML (also known as Office Open XML), which is not a truly open standard and hasn’t even been implemented properly by the company that created it.

    I trust that you will implement open documents standards with all speed, after which you then need to tell other bodies, such as schools, local authorities, the community and voluntary sectors, that there are viable alternatives to proprietary file formats.

    Another thought: in the UK there are various timescales – 30, 50 & 100 years – for the release of documents to the public. This implies that whatever the format, we will still need to be able to read them 100 years from now. There is no reason to suppose that Microsoft will be around then, so using a proprietary format as a standard must surely be an unacceptable risk for the readability of public documents.

    If you wish to support the move to open standards and formats by HM Government, you have one day left as the consultation closes tomorrow.

  • Bristol Post Balls – the invisible Widdecombe

    The Bristol Post has for years given favourable coverage to a North Somerset ‘zoo’ which has an interesting sideline in promoting creationism.

    Today’s edition continues this trend.

    Noah’s Ark ‘Zoo’ Farm has just taken delivery of a new African elephant and former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe was allegedly there to welcome its arrival, according to the photo caption in the report.

    Bristol Post screenshot

    I’d like to congratulate Ann on her choice of camouflage outfit!

    If you can see Ann in the picture, please let me know via the comments below.

  • Breathe new life into your old XP box with Linux Live

    image of Tux, the Linux kernel mascotMicrosoft announced some time ago that it will be ending support for Windows XP, now 12 years old, on 8th April 2014.

    The Bristol & Bath Linux Users’ Group (BBLUG) has seen this as an opportunity to introduce people still using XP to a reliable free and open source Linux operating system and has planned an event called “Linux Live 2014” to be held from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm on Saturday, 15th March 2014 – a couple of weeks before the official end of XP support – at the Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed, 1 Canons Rd, Bristol, BS1 5TX (map).

    Linux Live 2014 is part of a worldwide initiative to turn tired old computers running XP into efficient, well running ones running Linux. An old, tired computer can be given a whole new lease of life by installing a modern Linux operating system (Linux has lower system requirements than MS operating systems. Ed). BBLUG has decided to plan an event for people in Bristol and the surrounding area to inform them of the various uses and benefits of Linux.

    BBLUG’s Peter Hemmings says: “As Windows XP is not being supported from April 2014 we have decided to hold ‘Linux Live 2014’. It is a free workshop held by Linux user groups like ours where members get together to introduce new users to various distributions and give them a Live USB Stick to try on their hardware without interfering with other operating systems. Time permitting, it can be installed on hardware during the event or the Live USB Stick can be taken home to install. In holding an event such as this, we help extend the life of the hardware, saving people money in time of austerity. Simply bring your personal computer/laptop to the event and we will help you get Linux up and running on it, for free!”

    The BBLUG Linux Live 2014 event has its own website and is being sponsored LinuxIT of Emerson’s Green.

  • Can’t figure out Linux? Become a Romanian schoolteacher!

    Last year, Romanian supermarket chain Profi donated laptops running Edubuntu Linux to schools in that country. Quoting Romanian TV station Pro TV, Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news website, now reports today that some of those schools are letting their donated laptops gather dust because the teachers don’t know how to use Linux. In at least one school the laptops are still in their boxes, whilst other schools have replaced Edubuntu and its bundled software with Windows and proprietary alternatives.

    About half of the 1,800 laptops donated to schools are still not being unused, according to Pro TV.

    Edubuntu log-in screen
    Edubuntu log-in screen

    Writing on its website, Pro TV states that only a few teachers know how to use Linux. When asked about the laptops gathering dust, one headteacher is reported to have said: “It is impossible for teachers to teach using two different programs.” Pro TV also quotes one IT specialist who stated that it would take just a few weeks to learn how to use the laptops. “It is easy and the great advantage is that it is free.”

    Romanian free and open source advocates are concerned upset about teachers’ poor IT skills. “I’ve been contacting the Linux groups across the country to get them to help the schools get started”, says Răzvan Sandu. “But it is possible that schools will hesitate to accept help from outsiders.”

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