Monthly Archives: June 2015

  • Russia opts for ReactOS as Windows alternative

    After the Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov suggested a common approach by the BRICS states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – to solving the dependency on imported software earlier this year, Russia recently announced a list of possible options, German IT news site heise reports. There is to be a concerted promotion of open source projects as a part of the national programme to ensure economic development. In addition to two Linux distributions developed by Russian companies, the ReactOS project has also been chosen as a Windows alternative worthy of promotion. However, what that actually means remains unclear for the time being. The Russian programme is only envisaging software alternatives being made available within 10 years.

    Although the ReactOS project has no announced any major technical progress since the integration of rudimentary support for NTFS, the developers have nevertheless not been inactive: “Over 750 bug reports filed by the community have been processed, resulting in appreciably better software compatibility,” ReactOS developer Colin Finck remarked in a discussion with heise. In particular, the emulation implemented in the last year for executing 16-bit applications (NTVDM) and Java support have been improved.

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

    Thus not only can the installation routine of Oracle’s Java Runtime Environment be executed with the current build of ReactOS, but also ancient software such as the FreeGEM desktop or previously barred applications such as Skype. Support for the UDF file system for reading optical data carriers is also new.

    Grant showing results

    Initial results are also being produced by the student scholarship system which had been selected by Verein ReactOS Deutschland e.V. after a successful funding campaign over the last year on fundraising site Indiegogo. “With the completion of the new Explorers and Shell32 with theme support, which has been rebuilt from the ground up, the system interface works more nimbly and is also more comfortable to use as regards Explorer,” Finck explains. He has now started work on a printer stack which should be ready by December 2015 and could become a component of ReactOS 0.4.0.

    No deadline for new release

    Although there is no definite deadline for a new release of ReactOS with all new features, the project is nevertheless making automatic daily build versions available for download. The ReactOS developers themselves classify both the daily builds and previous releases as alpha versions which are only recommended for testing.

    The ReactOS community is hoping for a further surge in development from the first ReactOS Hackfest, which is taking place in Aachen, Germany from 7th to 12th August 2015. According to the organisers, more than half of the current ReactOS developers have already registered for the event. According to current plans, improving ReactOS’ hardware support and working on the forthcoming version 0.4.0 shall form the focus of the event.

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • Communal bins consultation in BS5

    Regular readers of the posts tagged with Tidy BS5 on this blog cannot have failed to notice the extent to which communal bins (also known by some as skip bins. Ed.) have been implicated in fly-tipping around the Easton area.

    The communal bin outside 18 Stapleton Road, a regular site for the fly-tipping of trade and other waste
    The communal bin outside 18 Stapleton Road, a regular site for the fly-tipping of trade and other waste

    The communal bins were introduced by Bristol City Council along Stapleton Road and in the adjoining some years ago, allegedly in response to a problem with fly-tipping in the area. The council ostensibly carried out a consultation before the bins were installed, but as is usual with Bristol City Council, the consultation was less than perfect, with some streets not being consulted at all; indeed the first my neighbours and I knew of the scheme was when our wheelie bins were all taken away by council contractors in the back of a lorry!

    Lots of residents have clearly expressed their feelings about the bins being a magnet for fly-tipping of all kinds – bulky, trade and household waste – hence the present consultation.

    The door-knocking itself is being conducted by officers from Bristol City Council, staff from Up Our Street and volunteers from the local community. Your ‘umble scribe has helped to canvass residents on 4 streets about their views. Residents are being asked whether fly-tipping has or hasn’t increased since the introduction of the communal bins, how often they are seen overflowing, what are the reasons for fly-tipping and overflowing, whether they’d like a return to individual wheelie bins and if they have any other suggestions for the council to tackle litter, fly-tipping and general grot in the area.

    From my experience of knocking doors and filling in the consultation forms, some of those ideas from residents for dealing with the litter, fly-tipping and the like are very varied and interesting. They vary from actions that the council could take, such as better enforcement of litter and fly-tipping, more education on fly-tipping and litter, as well as better planning controls to deal with the Stapleton Road area’s of proliferation of fast food shops and takeaways, whose customers seem to like leaving the inedible bits of their meals as offerings to the genus loci on their way home. Others these ideas from the doorstep would require action by central government, such as re-introducing a deposit on drinks containers. Other ideas suggested were fining people who refuse to recycle, the removal of the charges for bulky waste collection. Perhaps the most unusual was paying the homeless to collect recyclable off the streets.

    The consultation will be concluded by the end of the month and the results will help shape future waste management policy in the BS5 area. So if you live on or around Stapleton Road and someone with a clipboard arrives on your doorstep, s/he or they could be there courtesy of the campaigning of Tidy BS5.

  • Coming soon: the Greenwash Capital Awards

    Awards recognising local people and businesses which support the environment have been launched by the Bristol Post, the rag of that name reports on its website today.

    The article continues that the Bristol Post Green Capital Awards will celebrate those people who are making our city a greener, healthier, happier place to live and work.

    The article does quote the chairman of Bristol 2015 – a company established by the city council to run this year-long green-tinged public relations exercise – admitting that Green Capital has not reached all parts of Bristol.

    That being so, I’d like to see an alternative set of awards that won’t go to the usual suspects amongst Bristol’s great and good and their pet vanity projects. Let’s call them the Greenwash Capital Awards.

    Some of these can be awarded already.

    For starters, there’s the Green Transport Award, for which there can only be one set of winners, namely the selfish individuals who all drive their vehicles containing just one person into the city from the surrounding areas of South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset, causing congestion, pollution and getting in the way of local bus services.

    Selfish commuters clogging Bristol's M32 inbound
    Selfish commuters clogging Bristol’s M32 inbound

    Then there’s the Green Waste Management Award. This prize should I believe be split between the citizens of Bristol who managed to generate 18% more waste for landfill last year, Bristol City Council, which seems to be labouring under the delusion that exporting what would go to landfill to Sweden for incineration in power stations is a good idea and finally the people – both traders and others – who think that the BS5 postcode area is the natural home for the city’s fly-tipping.

    fly-tipping on Stapleton Road
    One of the regular but ephemeral arts installations on Stapleton Road; is it critiquing the throwaway society?

    How about the Habitat and Biodiversity Destruction Award? There’s a clear winner for this one: the four councils making up the West of England Partnership and their ludicrous transport white elephant, the Metrobus scheme.

    Finally, for the time being there’s the Green Waste of Money Award. That goes to all the money wasted to date on so-called ‘arts’ projects as part of Green Capital.

    If you can think of any further worthy recipients of a Greenwash Capital Award, please add them in the comments below.

  • BarnCamp burns the nerd gag

    Last weekend saw the staging of BarnCamp 2015 (in which Bristol Wireless’ volunteers have been involved since its inception. Ed.). Running from Friday 19th June to Sunday 21st, BarnCamp was as usual a low-cost rural DIY skillsharing event open to everyone, including UK activists, campaigners, people involved in social and community groups and anybody else with an interest in technology and how to subvert it to put it to good use.

    According to the sales pitch: “All skill levels are invited and we promise that workshops are not too geeky due to our infamous nerd gag” (of which more later. Ed.).

    Once again we were the guests of Highbury Farm, a housing co-operative set in some 30 acres of unimproved but rather steep grassland at Redbrook in the beautiful Wye Valley south of Monmouth.

    Looking north towards Monmouth from Highbury Farm
    Looking north towards Monmouth from Highbury Farm

    Your correspondent formed part of the forward crew who went to site on Wednesday to set up the event. This year a few more of us were on hand to ensure that all the essential infrastructure – large tents for workshops, signage, kitchen, other refreshment facilities, camp fire, showers and the like – was all in place for the first arrivals. Indeed it was more or less complete by lunchtime on Thursday. Well done all!

    Once into the event proper, each day started with breakfast, followed by a plenary session, then workshops, lunch, more workshops and concluding with supper and socialising.

    The workshops this year had the usual variety: an introduction to satellite communications, basic electronics, using WordPress and OpenStreetMap, to mention but a few. There were even sessions on basic self defence, whilst Ben’s ever-popular wild food walk took place on no fewer than 3 occasions.

    Your correspondent was in charge of building the nightly campfire, a duty that occasionally involved some sheltering of the previous night’s embers from the rain, whilst even the woodpile showed its geeky side.

    sign on woodpile reading session locked; enter password
    The pyromaniac’s equivalent of the locked screen

    The woodpile geeking out wasn’t the only bit of strangeness occurring on site during BarnCamp. There was also the the intriguing sounding shamanic laptop massage that happened somewhere in the surrounding woodland, for which scant photographic evidence exists.

    Shamanic laptop massage montage
    Shamanic laptop massage

    What’s happened to the nerd gag? And what is it in the first place? This was a standard implemented some years ago to stop the less technical becoming too intimidated to the use of too much jargon by the more technically adept. Workshop presenters are encouraged to explain things properly if anyone so asks; this year there was even a space on the information wall where BarnCampers could share the jargon they had just acquired.

    BarnCamp jargon buster
    The jargon buster

    Nevertheless, there was one workshop – Sunday morning’s session on server optimisation – that not only ripped off the nerd gag, but set light to it and threw it away! (And that was just with the first slide of the presentation! That one slide contained more technical acronyms than the rest of the programme put together. Ed.) However, this was perhaps the most jargon-laden session of the weekend and the most geeky, but it did come with lots of laughs… as long as you could get the jokes.

    I hope all my fellow BarnCampers had as good a weekend as I did and once again my thanks go out to the good folk at Highbury Farm for their friendliness and hospitality. See you at the next one! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Microsoft sits in homophone corner

    This blog has discussed homophones before (posts passim). Homophone corner is a space to which people who cannot distinguish their homophones are banished to consider the errors of their ways – rather like the corner of the classroom to which misbehaving children were exiled during my primary school days.

    It now appears as though the curse of the homophone is spreading to the giants of the technology world, as shown by the following tweet from Nix Tran Stories.

    image text reads Dear Microsoft spellchecker, For the umpteenth time: No! I don't want to change Your Ref. to You're Ref.

    I’ve used Microsoft Word/Office since the days of Windows 3.1 and its spelling and grammar checking tools have in my opinion never been particularly good: I’ve always run rings around them; and now it appears that the spellchecker has been coded by an illiterate.

    I suppose the least I could do is pat the leader of the MS Office team on the shoulder and mouth the platitude “their, there, they’re!“. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • LibreOffice 2015 Conference – call for papers

    The call for papers for this year’s LibreOffice Conference has today been announced on Twitter by Collabara’s LibreOffice team.

    LibreOffice Conference 2015 logo

    Proposals should be submitted by 15th July 2015 in order to guarantee that they will be considered for inclusion in the conference programme.

    The conference programme will be based on the following topics:

    • Development, APIs, Extensions, Future Technology;
    • Quality Assurance;
    • Localisation, Documentation and Native Language Projects;
    • Appealing Libreoffice: Ease of Use, Design and Accessibility;
    • Enterprise and Public Sector Deployments and Migrations, Certifications and Best Practices;
    • Open Document Format, Document Liberation and Interoperability; and
    • Building a successful business around LibreOffice.

    Aarhus montageThis year’s event will be held in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, from 23rd to 25th September inclusive.


    The venue will be a completely new venue on the harbour in Aarhus called “Dokk1 – Urban Media Space Aarhus“.

    Urban Media Space is described as “a flexible and dynamic sanctuary for everyone in search of knowledge, inspiration and personal development – an open and accessible learning environment supporting democracy and community and is also going to be an example of the library of the future.”

    Conference communication channels

    The official communication channel during the conference will be the conference mailing list, All participants will automatically be subscribed to that list, whilst the archives can be browsed at

    Primary Danish conference contacts

    The primary conference contacts in Denmark have likewise been announced; they are:

    • Carsten Agger (Open Space Aarhus);
    • Line Dybdahl (Municipality of Aarhus);
    • Leif Lodahl (LibreOffice Denmark); and
    • Renรฉ Lagoni Neukirch (LibreOffice Denmark).
  • Microsoft finally enters 20th century

    Nearly one decade and a half into the 21st century, Microsoft has announced that it is finally going to enter the 20th century by offering SSH support for its PowerShell offering.

    Windows PowerShell session screenshot
    Windows PowerShell session screenshot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    This move means that users will in future also be able to access and administer other systems remotely using the SSH protocol.

    In its implementation Microsoft will be backing the OpenSSH project, which is popular in the open source world; MS wants to join the project and contribute its own code. It is still not certain when the initial results of this work can be expected as things are currently in an early planning phase.

    Microsoft becoming more open to open source

    MS’ blog post also reports that the developer team has been attempting to extend PowerShell with SSH functionality for quite some time. This proposal was made as early as the first two versions of PowerShell, but was rejected. “Changes in the management and culture” of the company have now encouraged the development team to attempt it again. Pressure from the community and several requests via social media have resulted in the idea now having full senior management support.

    The company has become more amenable to open source ever since Satya Nadella took over running the software giant and as a consequence the complete .NET framework has been released as open source.