Monthly Archives: December 2015

  • Home Office defers plans to cut interpreters’ pay

    Today’s Guardian reports that the Home Office has postponed its plans to cut the pay of more than 2,000 interpreters from 1st January 2016. This comes in the wake of a threatened boycott from Home Office interpreters (posts passim), which could cause chaos in the running of the UK’s immigration system.

    According to The Guardian, the Home Office has confirmed that any plans to cut pay will be deferred at least until February while negotiations with the interpreters take place. Considering that Home Office interpreters have not had a pay rise since 2002 (they get a basic £16/hr. on weekdays and slightly more at weekends. Ed.) and the Home Office’s desire to cut what is already fairly meagre pay do not bode well for those negotiations.

    A meeting lasting more than two hours took place between interpreters and the Home Office on 21st December. At the meeting, Home Office civil servants warned the interpreters against speaking to the media in a blatant disregard of the interpreters’ rights under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998. A further meeting between the Home Office and interpreters is planned for the middle of January.

    The Home Office stated as follows after the 21st December meeting: “Following our meeting with the interpreters on 21st December, we intend to defer implementation of this change at least until 1st February 2016 to allow us time to give proper considerations to the views and opinions expressed.”

    Given the government’s arrogant refusal to listen to anyone besides its donors and beneficiaries, it looks like the next linguistic sacrifices on Whitehall’s altar of austerity will be Home Office interpreters, following on from the Ministry of Justice’s interpreters, the overwhelming majority of whom refused to work for the abysmal rates offered by Capita Translation & Interpreting (posts passim) and have been boycotting court and tribunal work for the last couple of years.

  • An Easter egg at Christmas

    Now that Christmas is just about out of the way for another year, the great speculation amongst Britain’s shoppers will be how soon into the New Year will Easter eggs appear on supermarket shelves. The customary 3 months as with all that Christmas tat? We’ll just have to wait and see.

    As a user of free and open source software, I’ve had an early – or late – Easter egg already courtesy of the VLC media player, as shown below.

    screenshot of VLC media player wearing its Christmas hat
    VLC media player wearing its Christmas hat

    Unless you’re familiar with the language of tech aficionados, the previous statement and accompanying screenshot are probably incomprehensible.

    In software an Easter egg is defined as “an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in an interactive work such as a computer program, video game or DVD menu screen. The name has been said to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt“.

    One of the first occurrences of what are now known as Easter eggs appeared in the Atari video game Adventure, having been planted there by computer game developer Warren Robinett. It wasn’t too fancy or interesting, just a hidden object planted in the game that led to a screen that said “Created by Warren Robinett.” The developer had buried this object within the game code as Atari didn’t credit its games developers at the time.

    Anyway, returning to the screenshot above, the Santa hat on the VLC program logo (the traffic cone in the middle of the window. Ed.) appears each year for the Christmas holiday period only; for the rest of the year, the logo is hatless.

    Besides VLC, some well-known and widely used applications have also contained Easter eggs. For instance, Easter eggs in the 1997 version of Microsoft Office include a hidden flight simulator in Microsoft Excel and a pinball game in Microsoft Word, whilst on all Microsoft Windows operating systems before XP, entering the text “volcano” in the 3D Text screen saver will display the names of all the volcanoes in the United States. Microsoft removed this Easter egg in XP but added others. Microsoft Excel 95 contained a hidden Doom-like action game called The Hall of Tortured Souls.

    Turning away from Microsoft, Apple is also not immune from Easter eggs. In 2012 an update to the Mac App Store for OS X Mountain Lion introduced an Easter egg in which apps, during the download process, were timestamped “January 24, 1984,” the date the original Macintosh went on sale. However, Easter eggs were not popular with Apple’s founder, the late Steve Jobs, who went through bouts of banning them.

    In addition to being sophisticated and/or laden with deep significance, some Easter eggs can be very simple and bereft of any meaning, merely reflecting the playful personality of their creators. Here’s a prime example from the GNU/Linux apt-get command line tool used for managing software packages. Typing the command apt-get moo results in something similar to the following screenshot.

    screenshot of apt-get moo command giving output of cow saying have you mooed today?
    The output of typing the command apt-get moo in the Linux terminal

    Anyway, I’m enjoying my festive Easter egg and I hope it’s not too late to wish all readers and visitors to this site the compliments of the season.

  • HTTP status code proposed to report legal obstacles

    IETF logoThe Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has as its mission “to make the internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet“.

    As part of this work, the IETF develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards, in particular the standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP).

    These standards include HTTP status codes, which are derived from both IETF internet standards, IETF RFCs other specifications and some additional commonly used codes.

    The IETF’s HTTP Working Group has recently published a draft RFC proposing a new HTTP status code – status code 451 – for use when resource access is denied as a consequence of legal demands.

    The draft’s introduction gives the rationale for the proposal:

    This document specifies a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) status code for use when a server operator has received a legal demand to deny access to a resource or to a set of resources which includes the requested resource.

    This status code can be used to provide transparency in circumstances where issues of law or public policy affect server operations. This transparency may be beneficial both to these operators and to end users.

    Getting into detail, the draft states that responses using this status code should include an explanation in the response body of the details of the legal demand, i.e. the party making it, the applicable legislation or regulation and the classes of person and resource to which it applies.

    The use of the 451 status code implies neither the existence nor non-existence of the resource named in the request. That is to say, it is possible that if the legal demands were removed, a request for the resource still might not succeed.

    The draft also gives an example of status code 451 in action.

    HTTP/1.1 451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons
    Link: <>; rel=”blocked-by”
    Content-Type: text/html

    <head><title>Unavailable For Legal Reasons</title></head>
    <h1>Unavailable For Legal Reasons</h1>
    <p>This request may not be serviced in the Roman Province
    of Judea due to the Lex Julia Majestatis, which disallows
    access to resources hosted on servers deemed to be
    operated by the People’s Front of Judea.</p>

    For those unfamiliar with the People’s Front of Judea, here’s some background information. 🙂

    One of the reasons behind the proposal is that existing status code 403 (Forbidden) was not really suitable for situations where legal demands mean access to resources is denied.

    Comments on the draft will be received until 13th May 2016.

    The numbering of the status code pays homage to science fiction author Ray Bradbury‘s 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451.

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • PI4J writes to Home Office on reduced interpreter pay rates

    PI4J logoProfessional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), the umbrella group representing over 2,200 NRPSI registered and qualified interpreters working in 135 languages, has written to the Home Office’s Central Interpreters Unit in Liverpool regarding the proposed pay cut for Home Office interpreters which is due to come into effect on 1st January 2016 (posts passim).

    The text of PI4J’s letter is reproduced below.

    Central Interpreters Unit
    Interpreter Operations Unit
    UK Visas & Immigration
    The Capital
    New Hall Place
    L3 9PP

    By Email:

    21 December 2015

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Re: Introduction of reduced rates of Home Office interpreters’ pay from 1st January 2016

    Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) is an umbrella group representing over 2,240 interpreters
    from both the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI). Our aim is to work with government to ensure the quality of interpreting available to the Justice System and in the Public Sector.

    Reliable communication provided by qualified professional interpreters and translators is an essential resource which ensures that justice and human rights are upheld for non-English speakers and deaf people. This is put at risk if standards are dropped and quality is sacrificed.

    On 20th November 2015 interpreters received a notice regarding a reduction in rates to due to take place on all bookings undertaken on behalf of the Home Office (HO), including UK Visas & Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office and any other bookings made through Interpreter Operations Unit, from 1st January 2016 onwards.

    PI4J is extremely concerned about this decision to slash interpreters’ rates of pay, without any
    consultation with or input from interpreters and their representative bodies.

    This decision will most certainly have serious implications for the supply of competent, qualified professional interpreters to the Home Office. These interpreters have provided ongoing linguistic support and expertise to the Home Office over the years, including in many rare and hard-to-find languages.

    Interpreters have demonstrated in the last four years that they can and will refuse to work for low rates set by so-called ‘market forces’, thereby significantly reducing the pool of qualified interpreters and translators available to work in the public services.

    This is evidenced by the detrimental decline within the Ministry of Justice’s Court Interpreting Service since they outsourced to a private agency in 2012. We assume that you are aware of the extensive coverage in the media regarding the subsequent disruption and chaos visited upon the courts and the delays and collapse of court cases, resulting in an enormous waste of time and money and two Parliamentary hearings (see below links).

    PI4J has been at the forefront of the professional interpreters’ campaign against the unacceptable lowering of standards and quality in public service.

    The standard of interpretation is fundamental to allow access to a fair hearing and justice for vulnerable minorities in the asylum and immigration system and to assist enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of serious crime. They must be afforded equal access to the highest levels of linguistic support.

    Standards must include minimum professional qualifications for Public Service Interpreters (PSI) and BSL/English Interpreters, Deaf interpreters and Sign Language translators, to include mandatory NRPSI/NRCPD/SASLI registration and independent regulation.

    Without these safeguards, access to justice will be denied and human rights and race relations will be jeopardised.

    In addition, we reiterate that in order to attract and retain qualified and experienced professional interpreters and language professionals, equitable and sustainable terms and conditions need to be put in place.

    Professional interpreters invest substantial time, effort and money to gain and maintain their skills. The proposed cut means that Home Office interpreting work will become part of the low-paying industries.

    It is important to point out that there has not been an increase in the Home Office interpreting rates for many years now. They were further eroded by inflation and the growing cost of living in the UK, especially in areas such as London. In addition, failure to provide reimbursement for travel time under 3 hours each way and travel expenses up to 100 miles, particularly in view of the remote locations of many of the Home Office and detainee centres, make the rates even more unattractive.

    Remuneration must reflect the fact that these are gross hourly rates for self-employed interpreters, liable to pay Income Tax and National Insurance, who have no pension, holiday or sick pay, and no job security.

    The impact of the cuts places interpreters’ livelihoods at risk and will mean that public service interpreting will no longer be a viable career. As skilled professionals they will seek to earn a better living in other sectors.

    This in turn will result in reduced quality of language services and a back-log to a system which is already struggling.

    Full support of professional interpreters and appropriate terms & conditions is the only way forward to ensure the quality and success of any future arrangements for the provision of language services in the public service sectors and to avoid a market exit.

    In the interest of all involved and the system itself, we urge you to reconsider this troubling and counterproductive decision.

    Yours faithfully,

    Klasiena Slaney
    For and on behalf of the Professional Interpreters for Justice

    Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) Member Organisations:
    Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) –
    Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru; (CCC) –
    Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) –
    National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) –
    National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators, part of Unite the Union (NUPIT)
    National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters part of Unite the Union (NUBSLI)
    Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd (SOMI) –
    The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) –

    Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), includes links to Parliamentary hearings and dossiers of failings
    RPSI Linguist Lounge and Professional Interpreters’ Alliance, collected news reports about the outsourcing of public service interpreting in the UK
    National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI)
    National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)
    Scottish body for training and qualifying British Sign Language interpreters (SASLI)
    National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI)

  • Statement by leaders of Fair Payment Campaign for HO interpreters

    The leaders of the Fair Payment Campaign for Home Office Interpreters have issued the statement below in response to the Home Office’s plan to cut their pay with effect from 1st January 2016 (posts passim). The statement originally appeared on Linguist Lounge.

    The Fair Payment Campaign for Home Office Interpreters resulted from a notice they received in November 2015 in relation to a reduction in rates due to take place on all bookings undertaken on behalf of the Home Office, including UK Visas & Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office and any other bookings made through Interpreter Operations Unit, from 1st January 2016 onwards.

    Professional qualified Home Office interpreters are standing up against the proposed cuts to our already meagre fees which have been unchanged in at least 13 years. While cuts are being proposed, we contend that we have in fact been subsidising the Home Office over the years by the lack of increase in our fees.

    Many interpreters and their supporters have already written to the Home Office Central Interpreters’ Unit expressing their dismay and opposition to these cuts in rates which were already much eroded through inflation, and mean that it will no longer be feasible for them to continue working in this field.

    This will result in a diminishing pool of qualified, experienced and vetted interpreters for the Home Office, detrimental both to them but especially so to the great number of vulnerable people who depend on reliable interpreting services to put their cases across since they are unable to do so themselves. Their lives may be at stake. The right to a fair hearing is enshrined in international human rights law.

    As a result of our letters and petition, campaign leaders have been invited to meet with CIU senior managers on Monday 21st December 2015. We shall keep colleagues updated as to the outcome of that meeting.

    We shall be listening to what they say, re-iterating the contents of our petition letter and also making a point to stand firm on those points.

    We have it on good authority that the strength and unity of our campaign stands us in good stead: our unity is our strength.

    We shall capitalise on this fact and we must not forget the fiasco with the Ministry of Justice outsourcing of Court Interpreting Services to a private agency in 2012, which resulted in many qualified interpreters declining to continue working in that sector and consequently the lowering of standards and quality of services, causing the delay and collapse of many court cases, as can be verified by the extensive media coverage about this matter which can be found on this Linguist Lounge.

    We have collected hundreds of signatures and many interpreters are still contacting us to join the Campaign.

    We have the support of non-Home Office interpreters, translators and non-linguists. Some of these supporters have also written to CIU about their dismay, disappointment and disgust at what is being proposed.

    The Fair Payment Campaign for Home Office Interpreters also has a social media presence on both Twitter and Facebook.

  • Sign petition to help save RiL

    Routes into Languages logoIn the never-ending austerity drive, the government is now threatening to cut funding to Routes into Languages, a vital resource for language learning in the UK.

    Language learning in the UK has lagged behind other countries – particularly other EU member states – for as long as I can remember and looks likely to get worse if this latest funding cut goes through.

    A petition has been organised on the UK Government and Parliament petition website. The petition’s text reads as follows:

    Routes into Languages (RiL) works with schools and colleges to promote language learning. It works with teachers to develop and roll out innovative projects such as Mother Tongue Other Tongue and the Foreign Language Spelling Bee which benefit students and motivate them to learn languages.

    Routes into Languages has worked tirelessly across the country to develop a range of regional and national networks to support schools and teachers to be innovative, raise students’ aspirations and make the case for language learning.

    To lose this resource would be devastating, the RiL Spelling Bee alone involved 77,000 Year 7 students last year and this is only one example of the work that Routes does to offer free opportunities to all schools.

    Please sign the petition to change this decision.

    At the time I signed, some 6,000 signatures had been added to the petition.

  • Boycott threatened as Home Office ready to cut interpreters’ pay

    image of Theresa May
    What is it about the office of Home Secretary that turns people into control freaks?
    Yesterday’s Guardian reports that the Home Office wants to cut the pay of the estimated 2,000 interpreters it uses in processing immigration claims.

    Interpreters received an email from the Home Office’s central interpreters unit in Liverpool on 20th November notifying them that their pay would be cut from 1st January.

    Interpreters currently receive £16 per hour for working weekdays and slightly more at weekends. In addition, a Home Office interpreter’s first hour of work is paid at an enhanced rate to reflect the time and cost of travelling to appointments; this is being reduced from £48 to £32 on weekdays and from £72 to £46 at weekends.

    Home Office interpreters have not had a pay increase since 2002, i.e. they’ve already had 13 years of de facto pay cuts – and the actual pay cut announced for the New Year will be implemented in various areas of the Home Office’s work, including UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and HM Passport Office. For this work they have to be highly trained and undergo counter-terrorism security clearance.

    As a result of this insulting treatment by Theresa May’s department, interpreters are threatening a mass boycott. The boycott is planned to start on 1st January, followed by a series of walk-outs thereafter.

    One unnamed organiser told The Guardian: “There is no strike planned because, as freelancers, we cannot legally do so. We may, however, choose not to accept assignments and that is what the boycott will consist of.”

    “At the moment, the Home Office needs interpreters more than we need them. They do not have any other system currently in place to substitute our services other than for telephone interpreting, which they can outsource to thebigword. They know that if we boycott even for a day, that will cause major disruptions to their business.”

    In addition, the interpreters have written to the Home Office to express their disgust at this disgraceful treatment and the lack of consultation, the latter being a breach by the Home Office of the interpreters’ contractual terms.

    As per usual with this dreadful government, the Home Office spokesperson contacted by The Guardian insisted that the department had done nothing wrong and everything was hunky dory.

    From where I’m sitting, it looks like there’s every chance of a repeat of the drop in professional standards and other farcical states of affairs that occurred when the Ministry of Justice placed interpreting for courts and tribunals in the incompetent hands of Capita Translation & Interpreting (posts passim).

  • LibreOffice 5.0.4 released for download

    The Document Foundation has announced the release of LibreOffice 5.0.4.

    This is the fourth point release of the LibreOffice 5.0 family and contains a large number of fixes compared with the previous releases.

    Based on feedback from journalists and end users, the LibreOffice 5.0 family is the most popular version of LibreOffice to date.

    LibreOffice 5

    Furthermore, LibreOffice 5.0.4 is suitable for commercial or large-scale deployments when backed by professional level 3 support from certified developers. When migrating to LibreOffice from proprietary office suites, organisations are advised to seek professional support from certified migration consultants.

    Finally, there are companies providing LibreOffice LTS versions which are intended for commercial deployments.

    Download LibreOffice

    LibreOffice 5.0.4 is available for immediate download.

    LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support The Document Foundation with a donation.

    New project shop

    There’s another way LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support the project. That’s by buying LibreOffice merchandise from the brand new project shop.

  • Collabora & ownCloud announce partnership & release CODE for LibreOffice Online developers

    Collabora, the architects of LibreOffice Online, have announced a the formation of a partnership and the release of CODE (Collabora Online Development Edition), a distribution of LibreOffice Online and ownCloud Server. The purpose of CODE is to give interested developers from any field an easy way to get early access to the very latest untested feature additions and updates to LibreOffice Online, in order to enable them to develop, test and contribute. ownCloud is the company behind ownCloud Server, the world’s most popular open source enterprise file synchronisation and share (EFSS) software. The partnership will deliver a combined commercial solution during 2016, based on an integration of Collabora CloudSuite – a trio of Online, Mobile and Desktop office productivity – with ownCloud Server.

    code screenshot

    “We’re delighted to partner with ownCloud to strengthen our go-to-market posture as we look forward to fulfilling the considerable market demand for an Open Source cloud document suite,” said Michael Meeks, Collabora Productivity’s General Manager. “This initial release of CODE is our first step in this exciting journey. By design, Collabora Online does not include essential cloud functionality such as identity management or storage. CODE gives a showcase of how filling this gap with a complementary integration with ownCloud gives a taste of the final deployment experience.”

    code screenshot

    “Collabora is a great open source contributor and a great partner for ownCloud to deliver a full LibreOffice Online experience integrated with ownCloud to the ownCloud Community. Developers and Users will be able to easily view and edit documents while storing them in ownCloud,” said Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud founder and project leader. “This integration proves the power of integration between leading Projects and allows full support for all major document, spreadsheet and presentation file formats.”

    CODE (Collabora Online Development Edition) allows prototype editing of richly formatted documents from a web browser. It has good support for key file formats , including text documents (docx, doc, odt, pdf, etc.), spreadsheets (xlsx, xls, ods, etc.) and presentations (pptx, ppt, odp, etc.). All files are processed in the cloud and rendered locally. This initial version allows basic editing. Collaborative and rich editing are planned. Interested developers can download CODE as an easily deployable virtual machine base image, bundled with ownCloud Server, and start contributing to both projects right away.

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