Monthly Archives: December 2014

  • Dinner for One – a German New Year’s Eve institution

    Dinner for One, starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, is an institution on German television on New Year’s Eve, as well as in Austria and Switzerland.

    Dinner for One was originally written as a two-hander comedy sketch for the theatre in the 1920s. Its author was Lauri Wylie.

    In 1963 German television station Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) recorded a performance of the piece in the original English with a short introduction in German.

    The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. However, due to her great age, Miss Sophie has outlived all her friends…

  • Friend deputises when Capita interpreter fails to show

    image of scales of justiceOn 29th December the Grantham Journal reported on the case of a Romanian man appearing before Grantham Magistrates Court charged with the theft of £2,000 worth of chewing gum and other items from two Lincolnshire supermarkets.

    31 year-old Ionut Dumitru Nae of Coventry, had pleaded guilty on 24th November to attempting to take £900 worth of gum and other items from Morrisons in Stamford and then stealing more packs of chewing gum, champagne and other products to the value of pound;1,500 from Asda in Grantham.

    However, the defendant had to rely on the assistance of his English-speaking friend to translate in court when no interpreter turned up.

    Hat tip: Linguist Lounge.

  • Want to bash immigrants? Use interpreters! The Express does!

    The Daily Express, once described by Prince Philip as a “bloody awful newspaper“, is not well known for its love of foreigners.

    One has to wonder whether there are any limits the depths to which it will sink in its xenophobia.

    The latter was apparent in an article earlier this week on police use of interpreters in West Yorkshire (which are provided by our old friends and paragons of competence Capita Translation & Interpreting, according to the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. Ed.).

    Apparently the police had to resort to using interpreters 6,000 times for 75 different languages.

    The Express’ derisive attitude to foreigners is obvious in the report’s second sentence, as is its scant regard to skilled professionals such as interpreters being paid properly.

    The cost, believed to be rising because of a soaring number of immigrants, was not revealed but interpreters can command fees of up to £40 an hour.

    To support its xenophobia, the Express finds a willing accomplice in Bradford Tory councillor Michael Walls, who even goes so far as to suggest that officers with a second language assisting in interviews would be a cheaper option for the police than engaging a skilled professional interpreter. He is quoted by the Express as saying: “Police officers who have a second language would be more economical.”

    Clearly neither the Express nor Councillor Walls have heard of a minor impediment to such a scheme, one that’s called conflict of interest.

    Your correspondent wonders what the considered response of the Law Society would be to such a suggestion.

    The article is open to comments and Express readers are not backward in showing their xenophobia (and accompanying support for UKIP. Ed.) either. Indeed the first comment is quite definite, starting: “They should have to Speak English before we let them in!

    How would that person feel if the tables were turned and he or she couldn’t go on holiday abroad because he couldn’t speak fluent, French, Spanish or Thai beforehand?

  • No immediate ODF support for mobile MS Office

    ODF file iconThe Register reported yesterday on developments for MS Office on mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows phones and tablets).

    Even though MS is reported to be going cross-platform “rather aggressively” in the words of Technical Product Manager Kaberi Chowdhury, there appears to be no corresponding effort to embrace open standards for mobile devices.

    As El Reg states:

    The mobile apps work well with Microsoft’s latest Office formats, such as docx and xlsx, but what about Open Document (ODF), as mandated by the UK government for use wherever possible?

    “We will bring support for ODF files to the iOS apps in a future update. Similarly, with the Android apps, we will deliver support in a future update following general availability. For the touch-optimized Office apps we’re delivering with Windows 10, we will have more to share soon,” said Chowdury.

    It’s hardly surprising Microsoft’s approach reeks of vendor lock-in. Office is after all its biggest cash cow after its insecure operating system.

  • Oatcakes!

    Earlier this month, Staffordshire-based production team THE 7TH TOWN released its first feature length documentary called Oatcakes!

    It’s a film about local pride and the people of the Potteries directed by Robert Burns and produced by Toby DeCann.

    Local delicacy the Staffordshire oatcake (posts passim) features prominently in the film, as do the ales produced by Burslem’s Titanic Brewery (Edward Smith, captain of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, was born in Hanley. Ed.).

    There are fine renditions of the local accent too, as well as lessons in Potteries history, heritage and culture.

    It may be 1 hour and 45 minutes long, but if you have an interest in the food and/or people of the Potteries and North Staffordshire, it’s well worth watching.

  • EU invests in free software

    EU flagGerman IT news site heise reports that the AT4AM free software package is to promote collaboration by NGOs in legislative processes within the EU. In addition, open source use within the EU is to be investigated in more detail.

    In the coming year the European Union wants to invest at least €1 mn. in free software. The 2015 EU budget, which was passed by the European Parliament on 17th December, makes provision for this. Two major projects are planned: firstly the open source AT4AM package, which is used by MEPs for drafing legislation, is to be extended to provide a tool for civil society to collaborate on lawmaking.

    In the “Governance and quality of software code – Auditing of free and open-source software” pilot project exposure to and the development of open source in the EU is to be aligned with the practices of free software projects such as the Debian community. In addition, an inventory will be made of the free software and open standards used in the EU and a code review of an open source software package used in the EU will be carried out as a showcase.

    This news has been welcomed by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Its President, Karsten Gerloff, commented as follows:

    This is a very welcome decision. Like most public bodies, the European institutions rely heavily on Free Software for their daily operations. It is good to see that the Parliament and the Commission will invest at least a little in improving the quality and the programs they use. Taken together, these projects are a first step towards more transparent policy making in Europe. We will continue to work with the Commission and the Parliament to help them along the path of engaging more consistently and effectively with the Free Software community.

  • Dark Ages Christmas cancelled at Poundland

    cards with wording hark the herald anglesLocal papers around the country, including the Bristol Post, have reported that budget retailer Poundland has withdrawn Christmas cards containing a basic spelling error.

    The cards themselves feature the words “Hark the Herald Angles“.

    Furthermore, The Independent also reports that Poundland was also selling Christmas decorations spelling out either “Merry Shristmas” or “Merry Christmay“.

    It is apparent that proof-reading costs far too much and would – if implemented – destroy Poundland’s profit margin on seasonal kitsch.

    Incidentally, the Angles of East Anglia, in the shape of the Wuffingas dynasty, were instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in England. Rædwald (who was buried in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo) was the first East Anglian king to be baptised in 604. His descendant King Anna (or Onna), who reigned from c. 636 – 654 AD, had several of his offspring canonised as saints: his son Jurmin and all his daughters – Seaxburh, Æthelthryth, Æthelburh and possibly a fourth, Wihtburh.

  • What do citizens gain when the public sector switches to free software?

    The use and promotion of free software is becoming increasingly established in our country, writes Spain’s Major companies have joined together to promote this system, but open source software is gradually also gaining ground in the public sector, meaning that the citizen is seeing the real benefits of this migration in his or her daily life.

    In Spain, the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, the Junta of Andalusia and Zaragoza‘s city council are some examples of local and regional governments which have understood the advantages that come with the use of free software and the benefits it provides to society. Public sector organisations must be ready to respond to current challenges and needs, including the technological revolution. In addition to a costs saving, its implementation improves the quality of life of citizens, increases the efficiency and effectiveness of organisations and optimises productive processes.

    Mario Gómez Molina, tutor and adviser for the university master’s course in free software at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and project manager for the VASS consultancy explains that “the technological independence that free software assumes provides freedom of use, enables its tweaking, the incorporation of improvements and their unrestricted redistribution between citizens or employees. Besides providing greater security, it opens up the possibility of offering all citizens software that has been funded by public money and which can be useful, including for the private sector”.

    “One of the main reasons for our country’s public sector migrating to free software is adherence to universal standards,” Mario Gómez Molina points out. Since the European Union is promoting this change, there will be the possibility for different public sector organisations to share software for common problems.

    As Mr. Gómez explains, citizens have real life examples demonstrating the advantages to them from the use of this technology by public authorities. Education is a clear case. In a global economic environment in which the budget which families must allot is increasingly more restrictive, the use of this technology frees them from paying for proprietary software, but it also does so for schools, which are increasingly hit by budget cuts. On the other hand, there are already initiatives being put forward by certain autonomous communities where the free software to be used by schools has been agreed and that use has been supported so that its adoption has been widespread and both education departments and educational institutions has benefited, not just from a costs reduction, not solely from sharing the software itself, but the exchange of commonly-based experience that would otherwise have been very difficult to achieve”.

    Another example of the benefits provided to citizens of this migration is the development of business and entrepreneurial opportunities. When a public sector organisation makes this change, the building, repair, adaptation and improvement of the software can be carried out by local companies; this work is not restricted to the software’s owner. The development of professional in this sector is thus promoted, new jobs are created and company competitiveness is increased. This directly affects growth, in addition to reducing costs due to competition.

    The redistribution and optimum use of budgets is also an aspect that has a positive effect on society. It is estimated that with free software public sector organisations can save up to 70% on installation and licensing for computer applications. This assumes a better use of taxpayer’s money. For example, Zaragoza city council has estimated an annual saving of about €1 mn. per year due to the installation and use of free software.

    “Both the lack of staff trained to handle this technology and lack of awareness by society and the power wielded by the major proprietary software companies make it very difficult for us to see a complete public sector migration, but we shall doubtless see bigger and bigger steps being taken in this direction. In fact, there are many niches dominated by free software, both in the public and private sectors. This is the case with web servers, application servers, server operating systems, software development environments and programming tools,” comments Mario Gómez Molina.

    However, there is a need for public sector organisations themselves to promote the development and use of software to which they alone can contribute so there is an improvement in quality in this direction.

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