Monthly Archives: August 2015

  • Can’t tell Norwegian from English? It must be Bing Translator

    According to Wikipedia, Bing Translator “is a user facing translation portal provided by Microsoft as part of its Bing services to translate texts or entire web pages into different languages.”

    Or it would be if only it could actually recognise languages accurately.

    Twitter uses Bing Translator as an interface ostensibly to help users with languages they do not know.

    However, Bing Translator still has some way to go before it recognises languages accurately, as shown by the following screenshot.

    Bing Translator mistakes English for Norwegian

    Whilst it is understandable that online machine translation tools can occasionally get confused between closely related members of the same language family (Google Translate has been known to confuse Norwegian and Danish. Ed.), this is the first time I can recall such a back end helper being a real tool and getting muddled over languages as distinct from one another as English and Norwegian.

    Perhaps any passing Microsoft developers would care to explain this anomaly in the comments below.

  • FSFE supports recognition for User Data Rights

    FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has announced today that it supports the publication of the User Data Manifesto 2.0, which aims at defining basic rights for people to control their own data in the internet age. The manifesto is published today and also supported by GNOME, KDE,, ownCloud, Spreed, “Terms of Service – Didn’t Read” and X-Lab.

    Whether for social networking, collaboration or for sharing pictures, among many other activities, users are nowadays increasingly using online services and are thus at more risk than ever of losing control of their own data.

    According to the User Data Manifesto, people should have:

    • Control over user data access;
    • Knowledge of how user data is stored and which laws or jurisdictions are applicable; and
    • Freedom to choose a platform, without experiencing vendor lock-in. The FSFE believes that Free Software is necessary to guarantee this.

    “The recognition of the User Data Rights defined in the manifesto is an important block to build a free society in the digital age”, says Hugo Roy, deputy coordinator of FSFE’s Legal Team and co-author of the User Data Manifesto.

    The manifesto is a good starting point for an important debate about users’ rights online. The FSFE anticipates other organisations joining the effort to promote online services that respects users’ rights and freedoms.

  • Tidy BS5’s dancing bin man – full version

    The completed full version of the Tidy BS5 bin man video (posts passim) has now been released.

    Many thanks to Andy Reid for his masterful brush strokes and majestic moves for the camera for last Sunday’s Make Sunday Special on Stapleton Road, which looked especially spruced up for the day (the splendid chaps who battle its litter daily must have heard Mayor George Ferguson would be turning up! Ed.).

  • LibreOffice 5.0.1 released

    Yesterday The Document Foundation, the German non-profit organisation behind the LibreOffice productivity suite, announced the release of LibreOffice 5.0.1, the first minor release of the LibreOffice 5.0 family.

    This version comprises a number of fixes compared with the major release – version 5.0.0 – announced on 5th August 5. So far, LibreOffice 5.0 is the most popular version of LibreOffice ever, based on the feedback from the marketplace.

    LibreOffice 5.0.1 is aimed at technology enthusiasts, early adopters and power users. For more conservative users and commercial deployments, The Document Foundation recommends LibreOffice 4.4.5. For commercial deployments, The Document Foundation suggests engaging certified professional support.

    Those interested in technical details of the release can consult access the change logs at (fixed in RC1) and (fixed in RC2).

    LibreOffice 5

    LibreOffice 5.0.1 is immediately available for download and users, free software advocates and community members are encouraged to make a donation to The Document Foundation.

  • Tidy BS5 – homage to Rio sweeper: the trailer

    A damp Sunday yesterday saw Make Sunday Special come to Easton’s Stapleton Road.

    The Tidy BS5 crew were there with an information stall inside Easton Leisure Centre with a group of young volunteers giving out advice on how to make the most of the city council’s recycling services, ordering new recycling bins and the like.

    Meanwhile the activists had arranged to do a bit of street theatre. Having persuaded a member of Bristol Samba to get dressed up in a customised Bristol Waste uniform and themselves armed with placards, we set off towards the main stage, filming as we went…

    … ending up storming the main stage!

    Tidy BS5's sweeper on stage at Make Sunday Special
    Tidy BS5’s sweeper on stage at Make Sunday Special

    The final edited video will be posted on YouTube in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled. 🙂

  • Whitehall’s latest open standards consultations

    The British government has announced it is now consulting and seeking comments on its latest open standards proposals.

    The standards on which it is inviting comments are:

    Exchange of location point information
    An open standard for the exchange of location information, allowing coordinates to be translated between systems.

    Exchange of property / place address information
    A proposed standard to define and exchange address information between government departments. This is not about changing your postal address, but it could change the way government records information about your location.

    Publishing vacancies online
    A standard to help citizens searching for government jobs and apprenticeships.

    Once the comment period closes, proposals will be assessed by a panel composed of civil servants and industry specialists, which will decide whether the proposal should go forward for consideration by the Open Standards Board. The Open Standards Board will then make a recommendation about the standard’s adoption across government.

  • Windows 10 desktop: still catching up with early Linux

    July 2015 saw the release of Windows 10.

    One feature that Microsoft has been really making a great fuss about is the implementation (finally) of virtual desktops for the first time in a way that can be accessed easily by users.

    A virtual desktop is a term used with respect to user interfaces to describe ways in which the virtual space of a computer’s desktop environment is expanded beyond the physical limits of the screen’s display area through the use of software. This compensates for a limited desktop area and can also be helpful in reducing clutter.

    Microsoft is calling the Windows 10 implementation of virtual desktops Task View.

    Windows 10 Task View
    Windows 10 with Task View virtual desktops shown near the bottom of the screen.

    Whenever a new release of Windows comes out, users of other operating systems such as Mac OS X and the various distributions of Linux, always wonder what baubles will be ‘copied’ from their OS of choice.

    This time, it’s virtual desktops.

    On Linux systems both major window/display managers – GNOME and KDE – have had virtual desktops for well over a decade.

    Indeed, the first version of KDE, released 17 years ago in July 1998, included them, as shown in the following screenshot.

    KDE version 1
    KDE version 1 showing 4 virtual desktops in use. The virtual desktops can be accessed via the taskbar or pager in the desktop’s top right-hand corner.

    GNOME also included virtual desktops as early the GNOME 2.0 release which appeared in 2002.

    Windows has actually had API support for virtual desktops since Windows NT 4, which was released back in 1996, which just shows how long it takes a lumbering quasi-monopolostic behemoth to get round to implementing things.

    I’d sooner use an operating system that was a pioneer, rather than a laggard that attempted to imitate the best of others. 🙂

  • Tidy BS5 exclusive: Mayor’s office discovers copy & paste

    Hannah Crudgington has kindly forwarded to me the reply she received from the office of Bristol Mayor George Ferguson to her video statement to July’s full council meeting. In addition, Hannah has kindly consented to let her response be reproduced in this blog post, as follows:

    Dear Ms Crudgington,

    Thank you for summiting [sic] your statement to Full Council in regards [sic] to the fly-tipping and litter issues you are currently experiencing in Easton.

    Easton has historically been an area where greater resources have been needed, and this is still the case today: the Council provides more resources for this area to remove waste and litter than in most other parts of the city. The introduction of communal bins seems to have improved the situation in Easton; prior to their introduction there was more widespread fly tipping [sic] throughout the area. In some cases, however, this measure has led to fly-tipping occurring around the bins, as it has been observed in other parts of the city, from Clifton to St Pauls. The communal bin areas are proactively patrolled by our contractor, who responds to fly-tip and street cleansing reports made through Customer Services or submitted on webforms throughout Bristol. Training has been provided to our contractor’s operatives to search waste for evidence of its potential source & evidence is passed to Streetscene Enforcement Team to investigate.

    We require the support of the public to help us identify offenders and would encourage all residents and visitors to Bristol to report incidents of fly-tipping they observe to Bristol City Council as soon as possible. To take enforcement action against offending individuals or businesses requires evidence and the more information we receive, the more likely we can build a case and target them. Recruitment is currently underway to return the Streetscene Enforcement Team to a full complement of 6 officers. This will allow for the officers to concentrate their activities within smaller areas and allow for more proactive work and operations. For instance, all businesses on Stapleton Road are currently in the process of being visited to check that they have relevant commercial waste contracts and make them aware that we are searching for evidence of commercial waste being deposited in the domestic communal bins. The Streetscene Enforcement Team continues to explore new ways of working with partners, both within the Council and local community, to target environmental crime and support improvements to the local environment. For this reason, we appreciate your efforts in working with us to achieve a cleaner Easton, and thank you for your patience while we effect the necessary improvements.

    Yours sincerely,


    George Ferguson CBE
    Mayor of Bristol

    Having carefully examined the text of Hannah’s reply and the one I received, it can be confirmed that the two responses are identical, even down to the same typographical errors.

    Whilst I am pleased to learn that IT skills in the Mayor’s office have now reached a level equivalent to those of novice computer users, it is disconcerting that the staff in the Mayor’s office still think it appropriate to draft the same response to 2 statements on the same subject that raised different points. This illustrates the continuing contempt by council officers for residents of the inner city – a contempt that should never have been allowed to develop in the first place, let alone persist down the decades.

    Bristol City Council should not be allowed to get away with this.

    At the same full council meeting there were 3 statements from campaigners trying to prevent part of the River Frome flood plain being used for luxury housing by Colston’s School. I wonder if they received identical responses too. If any of those campaigners did, kindly mention it in the comments below.

  • Pomicide – word of the year?

    I’ve written before of my love of the live cricket commentary on Radio 4 long wave (posts passim).

    However, I could hardly believe my ears during the latest match in the Ashes series being played at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.

    England won the toss, elected to bowl first and put Australia into bat. Before lunch Australia were all out for 60 runs (including extras), clocking up the worst batting performance by an Australian team in an Ashes match for some 8 decades.

    If I couldn’t believe my ears, one can just imagine how well such a shambolic performance with the bat went down in the Australian media.

    The Sydney Morning Herald‘s sports headline writer perhaps encapsulated feelings best with the back page headline “It’s Pomicide“, as per the photograph below.

    shot of Sydney Morning Herald back page with headline It's Pomicide

    Whilst I take a rather ambiguous attitude to newspaper headline writers and their frequently inappropriate use of puns, the invention of Pomicide strikes me as most apposite. Should I recommend it to the Oxford English Dictionary for its word of the year accolade?

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