Monthly Archives: February 2016

  • Another missing court interpreter

    Court cases around the country are still being delayed for want of interpreters who are supposed to be supplied by arch outsourcers Capita.

    Today’s Sentinel reports on a case that was adjourned yesterday at North Staffordshire Justice Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

    Maris Dombovskis of Longton is charged with failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis, driving without insurance and without a licence on January 19.

    District Judge Jack McGarva adjourned the case until February 29 to arrange for an interpreter.

    This was the second time last week that a court case at this court complex had to be adjourned for lack of an interpreter.

    On Tuesday 23rd February magistrates adjourned the case of a Polish resident of Smallthorne charged with assault for 3 days to arrange for an interpreter, The Sentinel also reported.

  • Recommended LibreOffice extension – Portrait or Landscape

    One of the great advantages of using the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite is the existence of extensions that extend the suite’s functionality.

    Those extensions that save me either time or effort or both are particularly welcome. The last extension recommended on this blog was the MultiFormatSave extension, which enables saving in up to 3 separate file formats (ODF, MS Office and PDF) with one mouse click.

    Today another extension has come to light which likewise saves your correspondent time and effort – Portrait or Landscape, developed by Antonio Faccioli.

    In my work documents are quite frequently submitted for translation with page orientations that switch back and forth between portrait and landscape or vice versa. In the past, coping with these changes has necessitated consulting LibreOffice’s help files, followed by implementing what I’ve just read, all of which takes a couple of minutes and involves burrowing down through the Format menu, as the procedure isn’t as straightforward as it could be.

    Once installed, Antonio’s new extension inserts a toolbar with 5 new icons, as shown below on the left of the image below. These new icons make changing page orientation a very simple operation involving a single click of the mouse.

    LibreOffice menu with Portrait or Landscape extension installed on the left
    LibreOffice menu with Portrait or Landscape extension installed on the left

    The extension uses the styles “Default”, “Landscape” and “First page” to change the orientation of the current page or to insert a new page. It also displays a message showing the style currently in use.

    The extension has been tested on LibreOffice 5.0 and is licensed under version 3 of LGPL.

    Thank you very much for this extension, Antonio; you’ve one very happy user of your extension here! 🙂

  • The Document Foundation is 4 today

    Today The Document Foundation, the independent self-governing meritocratic body created by former leading members of the Community to continue developing a free and open source office suite – LibreOffice – celebrates the 4th anniversary of its incorporation as a charitable Foundation under German law (gemeinnützige rechtsfähige Stiftung des bürgerlichen Rechts).

    To mark this milestone, the Foundation has released the video below to illustrate the breadth of the LibreOffice community today.

    Happy birthday, The Document Foundation!

  • Vicious toilet

    Beware if you ever visit the gents at the Bull Hotel at Fairford in Gloucestershire; the vitreous china might attack you.

    Last Friday’s Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard reports that a customer who smashed the toilet to bits claims he was acting in self defence.

    Wot you lookin’ at? Wanna fight?

    The unnamed Kempsford man claims he was about to be attacked and smashed the toilet to attract the attention of other patrons.

    However, the local constabulary were unimpressed by his assertions and he’s due to appear before Cheltenham Magistrates on 24th February.

    Hat tip: Dr Bob Irving.

  • Bristol to increase fly-tipping enforcement

    Yesterday Bristol City Council set its budget for the next financial year.

    While the Bristol Post’s report concentrated on the 4% increase in council tax and Bristol’s donation of £500,000 for a Concorde museum in neighbouring South Gloucestershire, its political editor, Ian Onions, somehow managed to omit some important news for those fighting environmental crime in the city.

    This news was that the city council will be employing two more so-called “streetscene” enforcement officers next year, bringing the total number of these officers employed by the city council to 8. These officers are responsible for bringing fly-tippers and litter louts to book.

    photo of Marg HickmanLawrence Hill ward councillor Marg Hickman conveyed this news to Tidy BS5 campaigners yesterday evening, stating that the Labour group’s amendment calling for the 2 additional officers was the only amendment to the Mayor’s budget to receive 100% support in the council chamber.

    Marg was one of 2 councillors to speak to the amendment (another colleague spoke on dog fouling, another of the blights of urban life, in support of the amendment. Ed.). Her speech is transcribed below and conveys many of the sentiments that Tidy BS5 campaigners have been voicing to the council for the past 2 years, with the local authority’s lack of action to date neatly summarised by the phrase “glacial speed of change“, although your correspondent reckons that glaciers actually move faster than Bristol City Council and a more accurate comparison would be with tectonic plates.

    Institutional neglect has been the impact of Green Capital on parts of the city. What is certain is that, when it comes to the cleanliness of most areas of the city, this much-praised initiative has had minimal effect.

    In 2013/14 Bristol had the unenviable status of the dirtiest place in the South West. According to government statistics, Bristol residents reported 10,472 incidents of fly-tipping – can you imagine how many more unreported incidents there must have been? It was with this statistic as a backdrop that the number of street scene enforcement officers was cut in 2013 from 10 officers, plus support staff and 3 dog wardens, to approximately 6 today. In comparison I can reveal that during our Green Capital year we had an army of PR experts – 45 in total – all employed to make the council look good. Well, I know, and I am sure many of you would agree, that our residents would prefer it if we employed more people to keep our communities looking good rather than ourselves.

    There seems to me to be complacency in the council regarding the unacceptable levels of fly-tipping and litter in areas from Lawrence Hill and Eastville to Lawrence Weston, and it is compounded in the south of the city by the Mayor’s refusal to sign off the waste recycling centre in Hartcliffe.

    In BS5, one of the city’s fly-tipping hotspots, which stretches from across the road from Cabot Circus to Eastville, there have been 32 enforcement actions taken against people. This low level of enforcement is because of the cuts and the lack of ongoing training and development of the enforcement staff. We need to augment our street enforcement officers and provide proper support and training, and learn from best practice from around the country to deal with the issue of waste at a time of shrinking budgets.

    We have to support communities across Bristol blighted by this environmental eyesore and come up with solutions that work. We need to consult affected communities, speed up the glacial speed of change, and increase the number of properly trained and supported enforcement officers.

    We have before us an amendment that will get the ball rolling and help kick-start the change we need to clean up our streets. Surely money would be better spent on this rather promoting more and more PR people.

    We would all benefit from this amendment. The communities you serve would benefit and Bristol as a whole would be a cleaner and happier city. Please support this amendment today so that Bristol can be the cleanest city in the South West and not the dirtiest.

  • LibreOffice 5.0.5 released

    Yesterday The Document Foundation announced the release of LibreOffice 5.0.5, the fifth release of the LibreOffice 5.0 family. Following the release last week of LibreOffice 5.1 (posts passim), LibreOffice 5.0.5 becomes the latest in the “still” series of releases; the “still” series is a stable version that has undergone more testing over a lengthy and is recommended for deployment in large organisations.

    LibreOffice 5 splash screen

    Download LibreOffice

    LibreOffice 5.0.5 is available for immediate download at

    Those interested in the release’s technical details can consult the change logs for both the RC1 bug fixes and RC2 bug fixes.

    Professional support

    The Document Foundation suggests large scale deployments of LibreOffice 5.0.5 are undertaken only with the backing of professional level 3 support from certified developers, for which the LibreOffice website has a list.

    Furthermore, when migrating to LibreOffice from proprietary office suites, organisations should seek professional support from certified migration consultants and trainers, which are listed on the same LibreOffice professional support web page.

    Supporting LibreOffice

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

    In addition, supporters can also buy LibreOffice merchandise from the brand new project shop.

  • Love free software on Valentine’s Day

    It’s 14th February, better known to the world as St. Valentine’s Day. It’s therefore also time to say “thank you” to all free software users and developers on what’s also become the “I love FreeSoftware Day“, according to the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

    I Love Free Software banner

    The FSFE is asking all free software users to use the traditional day of love to think of the hard-working people contributing to the free software we all depend on.

    Free software drives a huge number of devices in our everyday life. It ensures our freedom, our security, civil rights, and privacy. It enables everyone to participate in a fair society. However, everyone is different and people have different reasons to love free software.

    Your ‘umble scribe relies on free software to play an active part in society and do his work. He’d therefore like to pay thanks to the following people:

    If you use free software too, why don’t you support this annual campaign, which can be followed on social media with the #ilovefs hashtag.

  • Signal failure

    Where Bristol has the Bristol Post, formerly the Bristol Evening Post, as its newspaper of record (warped. Ed.), the Potteries has The Sentinel, formerly the Evening Sentinel.

    Both newspapers now belong to the Local World stable and share many common features: the content management system running their websites, difficulty in distinguishing editorial content from advertising, a cavalier attitude to the correct use of the English language and so on.

    Yesterday’s Sentinel carried a report of a railway signal failure in the Stafford area.

    The report was helpfully illustrated with a photograph as per the screenshot below.

    Shrewsbury's Severn Bridge junction and semaphore signals incorrectly captioned as Stafford by clueless Sentinel hacks

    The photograph is also helpfully captioned, as follows:

    DELAYS: Rail services have been hit by signalling problems at Stafford.

    It is evident for a number of reasons that the anonymous members of the Sentinel’s “Digital_team” who put together this report are no great users of the railway network.

    Firstly, the photograph shows semaphore signals. These are not used at Stafford, which lies on the West Coast Main Line, where semaphore signals were removed and replaced with colour light signals many decades ago.

    Secondly, the plate on the signal mast identifies the signals as part of the Severn Bridge Junction signal complex.

    Thirdly, what is the Abbey Church of St Peter & St. Paul in Shrewsbury doing in the background, lurking behind the largest sempaphore signal box in the country? 😉

  • Welsh place names to be preserved

    On Tuesday the Welsh Government website reported that legislation to improve the protection and management of Wales’ unique historic environment had been passed by the National Assembly for Wales.

    Once the Bill is law, Wales will also become the first country in the UK to put historic environment records on a statutory footing – a measure that many groups having been calling for across the UK.

    These records will allow advice on decisions by planning authorities and land managers to be based on sound information.

    The records will also provide access to the new list of historic place names in Wales – another first for Wales.

    Llanfair PG station sign
    Station sign at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – Wales’ longest place name. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Reporting on the place names records, the BBC states that the scheme will see the names of fields, river pools, caves and even ruined cottages collected and used to develop a definitive digital map. Furthermore, the names themselves will also make their way onto a National Library of Wales database.

    As a language, Welsh emerged in the 6th century from Common Brittonic, the common ancestor of Welsh, Breton, Cornish and the extinct language known as Cumbric, according to Wikipedia.

  • A new perishable commodity: nuclear missile submarines

    It’s said that “to err is human“; and journalists are no exception to this.

    Some while ago, a hapless hack at the Bristol Post, disclosed to an unbelieving city readership that bridges have a shelf life (posts passim).

    Now it seems that bridges have been joined on the shelf by another perishable commodity – submarines carrying the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

    Reporting today on the pro-Trident stance of Bristol MPs Kerry McCarthy and Karin Smyth, political correspondent Patrick Daly lets the cat out of the bag:

    The four submarines, which carry nuclear warheads, are due to come to the end of their shelf-life by the late-2020s…

    A Vanguard class submarine capable of carrying Trident missiles leaving the Forth of Clyde
    A Vanguard class submarine capable of carrying Trident missiles leaving the Forth of Clyde. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    For those who need some explanation of the definition of shelf life, Wikipedia has a very useful article which starts as follows:

    Shelf life is the length of time that a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use, consumption, or sale. In other words, it might refer to whether a commodity should no longer be on a pantry shelf (unfit for use), or just no longer on a supermarket shelf (unfit for sale, but not yet unfit for use).

    As one of these four submarines is supposed to be at sea at all times, perhaps Mr Daly would care to explain to his readers, why the quartet is cluttering up the quartermaster’s stores instead. 😉

    Alternatively, perhaps Patrick could learn the definition of the term “service life“. 🙂

    Update 12/02/16: The piece has since been amended and the offending “shelf-life” replaced.

Posts navigation