Monthly Archives: February 2014

  • Cambridgeshire Police spends nothing on linguists

    When work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants were relaxed at the start of the year, the usual xenophobic elements of the British media stoked fears that every criminal in eastern Europe would make a beeline for the UK and crime would soar.

    Emotive language was (ab)used, with the nation being told Bulgarians and Romanians would ‘flood’ into the country and dear old Blighty would be ‘swamped’ and similar such tosh.

    If crime had increased due to Bulgarian and Romanian migrants, this would have resulted in a massive rise in the criminal justice system’s use of linguists, as suspects and defendants are entitled to understand and follow the proceedings in their mother tongue.

    However, this surge in the use of East European linguists hasn’t actually happened.

    Indeed in response to Freedom of Information (FoI) Act queries, Cambridgeshire Police has revealed its spending on services for Bulgarian and Romanian linguists has actually declined, as revealed by the Cambridge News:

    Data has revealed the force spent just £9.10 on Bulgarian and £1,357.84 on Romanian translators in January last year when the restrictions were in place.

    But after they were lifted at the start of the year, the force spent zero pence on translators for the two languages.

    Read the full article.

    Hat tip: Katya Ford

  • Mozilla boss defends Firefox advertising plans

    Firefox logoIt was announced a few days ago that future versions of the open source Firefox browser could show advertising in freshly opened browser tabs (posts passim). To date these have shown up to nine thumbnails of frequently visited websites. However, on a newly installed browser these so-called ’tiles’ are blank and only fill up over time and with use. Heise writes that Mozilla Foundation boss Mitchell Baker has now justified the plans in a blog post.

    photo of Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker
    Mozilla Foundation CEO Mitchell Baker
    In the past, Mozilla developers have always declined to display content with no previous user activity. Baker writes: ” This made sense at first when the web was so young. But over the years many people have come to expect and want their software to do things on their behalf, to take note of what one has done before and do something useful with it.”

    She continues: “So we look at the Tiles and wonder if we can do more for people. We think we can. I’ve heard some people say they still don’t want any content offered. They want their experience to be new, to be the same as it was the day they installed the browser, the same as anyone else might experience. I understand this view, and think it’s not the default most people are choosing. We think we can offer people useful content in the Tiles.”

    Baker promises that the advertisements shown in the tiles will definitely have no tracking functions. It’s ultimately a matter of gaining revenue for the Mozilla Foundation. The Foundation has so far survived mostly on funding from search engine companies like Google and other web companies. In 2012 these revenues amounted to more than $300 mn.

  • 2014 LibreOffice conference will be in Bern

    The Document Foundation’s blog has announced that the LibreOffice Conference 2014 will be held at the University of Bern in Switzerland from 3rd September to 5th September.

    It is being organised jointly by CH Open, the Swiss Open Systems User Group, and the Research Centre for Digital Sustainability of the Institute of Information Systems at the University of Bern.

    “Holding the LibreOffice Conference in the city of Bern will definitely improve the awareness of Open Source software in Switzerland, and hopefully trigger the migration process in public administrations which has already started in France, Germany and Italy”, say organising committee members Nicholas Christener and Matthias Stürmer.

    image of LibreOffice Mime type icons
    LibreOffice for all your office suite needs: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, drawing and formulas

    Bern is the federal city of Switzerland (i.e. its de facto capital. Ed.) and the seat of the parliament, government and administration of the Swiss Confederation, the Canton of Bern and the City of Bern. Its old city district has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982.

  • My Valentine

    It’s February 14th, St Valentine’s Day, a busy day for florists, restaurateurs and people selling greetings cards.

    I love Free Software heartI’m declaring my love here online: I love free software.

    If you are unaware what free software is – and it has far more to do than merely being gratis (think free as in speech, rather than free as in beer. Ed.) – look at the Free Software Foundation’s free software definition.

    From the Debian GNU/Linux operating system to the Gimp graphics package and the LibreOffice productivity suite, I couldn’t do without it.

    If you love free software too, show your passion too in one of the following ways:

    • Writing an e-mail or letter to contributors expressing how much you like what they are doing.
    • Sharing your feelings about free software on social networks and microblogs using the hashtag #ilovefs. Or you can write a blog post about your favourite piece of free software.
    • Buying your favourite contributor a drink. Or buy someone else a drink and while enjoying it, tell her/him about your favourite free software program.
    • Giving a contributor a hug (ask for permission first). You might be amazed how many free software developers live in your area!
    • Helping the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) collecting quotes for its testimonials of people who love free software. Ask developers, artists, politicians, or other users to send their quotes to FSFE.
    • Taking a picture of yourself showing your feelings for free software and posting it online.
    • Donating to free software initiatives or the FSFE to express your gratitude. They depend on your contribution to continue their work.
    • Finally you can help spread the love by sharing the campaign banners by e-mail, (micro)blog or by social media (please use the hashtag #ilovefs for this).
  • Malta launches new open data site running open source

    Malta’s new open data website is running on open source software, according to Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site.

    Screenshot of Malta's new open data site
    Screenshot of Malta’s new open data site

    The site, which is run by the Maltese Local Councils Association, uses Centos Linux as the operating system, the MySQL database management system, the Nginx web server and the WordPress content management system.

    At present it offers a wide number of tourism datasets open for using and reusing as well as useful and interesting information concerning open data.

    The open data portal has been created as a result of the EU’s HOMER project, harmonising open data in the Mediterranean through better access and reuse of public sector information.

    Open Data Malta aims to make available and exploitable Public Sector Information (PSI) related to the tourism sector in order to ensure transparency. By simply opening PSI, citizens can be better informed and participate in the decision making process.

  • Hello Firefox; it’s goodbye from me

    Today’s Le Monde Informatique reports that the Mozilla Foundation, the organisation behind Firefox, is going to include advertising in the browser with sponsored links as a means of increasing the income of the Foundation, which is currently heavily dependent on funding from Google.

    According to the Le Monde Informatique, the inclusion of advertising in the Firefox browser represents a small revolution for the Mozilla Foundation. In concrete terms, Firefox will display sponsored links in some of the 9 tiles the user sees when a new browser tab is opened, Darren Herman, Mozilla’s Service Content Vice-President, explains in a blog post. The other tiles will continue to show thumbnails frequently or recently visited sites.

    screenshot of Firefox new tab

    When the browser is first used, these tiles are blank and Mozilla’s Directory Tiles project is planning to include pre-packaged content with them. Herman makes reassuring noises about this change, stating: “Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.”

    Limiting dependency on Google

    Including advertising in Firefox allegedly meets Mozilla need to diversify its sources of revenue, according to a Foundation spokesman. “The majority of Mozilla’s income comes for a single search partner and we would like to increase our resources to cope with changes on the web,” he explained. The Service Content Division has therefore worked on finding additional income sources.

    He added that Mozilla’s relationship on search with Google was still beneficial for both parties. Google provides the majority of Mozilla’s revenues and Google is the default search engine in Firefox.

    As a loyal Firefox user who doesn’t like advertising, I view these changes with concern and will be switching to either the Opera or Chromium browser after Mozilla implements this change.

  • 3 things to do on The Day We Fight Back

    This Tuesday is a day to fight back against mass surveillance of communications.

    the day we fight back campaign banner

    Mass surveillance is a huge problem, as shown by the Snowden revelations on the communications interception activities of the US’ NSA and the UK’s GCHQ. Governments are spying on us all, endangering the very fabric of democracy. Corporations are asking us to give away our privacy for a little convenience with much the same effect.

    Furthermore, mass surveillance is a hard problem to solve since we are essentially up against a very human fear of dangers hidden somewhere in the dark and we’re being told that surveillance will protect us from those dangers.

    However, surveillance not only fails at protecting us, it also makes everyone worse off in the long run.

    Here are 3 simple ways to do to counter the pervasiveness of surveillance.

    • Make your web browsing more secure by installing the HTTPS Everywhere extension in your browser. This will make it much harder for potential snoopers to intercept your connection with the web sites you look at, and will help to protect any data you send there.
    • Generate a GPG key, and start using it to encrypt your data, especially your email. (There’s help on the web.)
    • Write to one or more of your political representatives. Explain that you are deeply concerned about mass surveillance, and ask them to help end the practice. Be polite, brief and clear.

    By so doing, you have not only made yourself a little more secure, but have also helped others to improve their privacy and have contributed to driving political change.

  • New ReactOS version available

    ReactOS logoReactOS is an open source operating system based on Windows NT architecture with a Win32 subsystem, which is striving to achieve full compatibility with Windows XP (NT 5.1) and Windows Server 2003 (NT 5.2) up to hardware driver level. The developers describe the new 0.3.16 version as “the prelude to many new features which will considerably improve user-friendliness in future”. By way of an example, these new features also include support for themes.

    ReactOS screenshot
    ReactOS screenshot. Click on the image for the full-sized version.

    The most significant new technical feature is the completion of a new version of the Client/Server Runtime Subsystem (CSRSS), an important part of the Win32 subsystem. Thanks to a new driver for the RTL8139 network chip, there is no longer any need to emulate a NE2000 network chip when running under current Qemu versions.

    The developers are currently seeking to bring forward a commercial spin-off with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (posts passim). However, to date only some $25,000 of the $120,000 being sought has been pledged.

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