Monthly Archives: April 2018

  • Royal birth – a comment from the past

    Yesterday a woman whose duty it is to produce occupants of the British throne gave birth to her third child and the right-leaning part of the British press has gone into overdrive churning out sycophantic drivel to mark the occasion, with several producing supplements.

    While all this pap is being fawned over by the more gullible members of the public, there are no doubt civil servants, government ministers, local government officers and others in the establishment busy using a good day to bury bad news.

    Jame Keir Hardie photographed in 1905In June 1894 a previous royal birth occurred, prompting as it did then – and still does – the House of Commons to debate an address of congratulation to the monarch, in this case Queen Victoria. However, on the day the birth occurred there had been a terrible mine explo­sion at Pontypridd and 251 working class men and boys had lost their lives. The Government gave no sign of expressing any sympathy for the stricken town and the mourning relatives, and socialist MP James Keir Hardie sought to repair the omission by adding to the congratulation to the Queen an assurance of sympathy with the sufferers from the disaster.

    His motion was out of order, but he had the right to speak and he declared in a House tumultuous with anger that the tragedy in South Wales demanded far more of the attention of the House than the birth of any baby.

    Perhaps the most famous part of Hardie’s performance in the House of Commons that day is quoted below.

    “From his childhood onwards this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score – [cries of “Oh!,oh!] – and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation [cries of “Oh,oh!]. A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. …and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill. [Cries of Divide!]”

    The royal grandson to whom Keir Hardie was referring grew up to be an unimpressive and irresponsible man with extreme right wing sympathies, notoriously visiting Hitler in 1937. In January 1936 he became Edward VIII. In December 1936 he abdicated before his coronation over his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson and during the Second World War was kept well away from Messrs Hitler and Mussolini by being appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1940.

  • April 27th is the first LibreOffice 6.1 bug hunting session

    The first bug hunting session for the forthcoming LibreOffice 6.1 release will be held on Friday, 27th April, The Document Foundation blog has announced.

    Bug Hunt banner

    LibreOffice 6.1, the next point release of the free and open source office suite which emphasises the use of open standards, such as the Open Document Format (ODF), is due to be made available in August this year.

    To help ready the software for its release date, the LibreOffice Quality Assurance community is organising an initial bug hunting session this Friday to find, report and triage bugs. Details of the event can be found on the dedicated wiki page.

    This first Bug Hunting Session will involve the first Alpha version of LibreOffice 6.1, which will be available on the pre-releases server on the day of the event. Builds will be available for Linux (DEB and RPM package formats), macOS and Windows. Users will be able to run the Alpha release in parallel with their production version – thus enabling testing without affecting users’ existing stable installations.

    Mentors will be available on April 27th 2018 from 8.00 a.m. UTC to 8.00 p.m. UTC for questions or help in the IRC channel: #libreoffice-qa (connect via webchat) and its Telegram bridge. During the day there will be 2 dedicated sessions focussed on two of the tenders implemented in LibreOffice 6.1: the first between 10.00 a.m. UTC and 12.00 a.m. UTC to test improvements in image handling; and the second to test the HSQLDB import filter for firebird between 2.00 p.m. UTC and 4.00 p.m. UTC.

    According to the release plan, the LibreOffice 6.1 office suite will enter beta stages of development at the end May, with a second beta planned for mid-June. After that, there should be about three RCs released between the first week of July and the first week of August with the final release being available in mid-August.

  • Local rag now employing greengrocers*

    Changes are taking place at the increasingly downmarket Local World group of regional newspaper titles owned by Trinity Mirror.

    These changes are also being implemented at the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record, whose online version now masquerades under the misleading title of BristolLive, as any signs of sentience have yet to be medically confirmed.

    As circulation has declined, so have standards to the point where it appears that greengrocers (or should that be greengrocer’s? Ed.) are cheaper to employ than what passes nowadays for journalists – or even journalist’s. This desperate move is amply illustrated by the screenshot below for the latest story lifted from scanning social media.

    headline reads Bristol's s**t cycling infrastructure now has it's own Twitter account

    In the meantime, locals can expect more news from Homophone Corner (that’s a site to be seen. Ed. 😉 ) and hard-hitting stories of the “Hartcliffe man stubs toe on Bristol Bridge” variety and barely concealed advertisements masquerading as restaurant reviews, mostly for places whose obituaries subsequently describe them as “popular” when they inevitably close down less than a year later.

    * Or should that be greengrocer’s? 😉

  • English translation required?

    Although it’s not one of his regular local media reads, your ‘umble scribe might just start visiting the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer website more to keep up to date with dynamic, one could even say groundbreaking, developments in use of the English language, if the headline of the report shown below is in any way typical of modern journalism.

    headline reads NFU president Minette Batters calls on police to not countryside be soft target

    The same piece, by the same author, also appears in yesterday’s Whitchurch Herald, where similar sub-editing skills are in evidence.

  • Over £4K – the cost of dropping 6 cigarette ends in Bristol

    Six litter louts have been ordered by magistrates to pay a total of £671.84 each for dropping cigarette ends in central Bristol, making a grand total of £4,031.04, yesterday’s Bristol Post reports.

    The individual total of £671.84 is broken down as follows: £440 fine, £187.84 in prosecution costs and a £44 victim surcharge.

    All the defendants have been given 28 days to pay.

    Cigarette ends are litter too. Disposing of them properly will avoid the risk of a fine.

    They were all originally caught littering on 9th and 10th November last year by civil enforcement officers working for Bristol City Council (the so-called litter police. Ed.) and were issued with £75 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for their filthiness. Had the penalties been paid within 10 days, the culprits would only have had to pay £50 each.

    As it is, they repeatedly ignored correspondence from Bristol City Council, as well as their summonses to Bristol Magistrates Court, as none of the defendants could be bothered to appear in person.

    On average, more than 1,000 people have been issued with FPNs for environmental crimes such as littering and dog fouling each month since the ‘litter police’ started their work.

    Bristol Clean Streets logoIt’s good to see the City Council taking a tough line on litter. However, far more ‘litter police’ are needed to cover the rest of the city in addition to the centre. They have made the odd foray into a council-owned public park or two and an occasional jolly to Stapleton Road, but far more rigorous action is going to be needed by the local authority if it is to have any hope of meeting the objectives of Mayor Marvin Rees’ Bristol Clean Streets initiative, i.e. that Bristol will be measurably cleaner by 2020 in terms of litter, fly-tipping, fly-posting, graffiti, dog fouling, chewing gum and weeds (especially as the latter were only being eradicated last year if residents made enough of a fuss! Ed.).

    The simple fact is that there would less strain on the public purse and less work for the council in keeping the streets and parks clean if people didn’t drop litter, allow their dogs to foul all over the place, dump fly-tipping and commit other environmental crimes.

    Nevertheless, it is good to see that Bristol City Council and local magistrates are sending out a clear message to litter louts to keep Bristol tidy – or its centre at any rate.

    Finally, in an opinion piece in the Bristol Post, Tristan Cork takes filthy Bristolians to task for the deplorable state residents leave the city’s parks in every time the weather gets warm. Meanwhile the council has warned people who leave rubbish in parks next to overflowing bins that they will be fined £100 if caught and that the “litter police” are now patrolling parks and have been instructed to issue fixed penalty notices for rubbish deposited around bins, as well as anything left on the grass.

  • German Federal government opts for open source cloud

    Nextcloud logoWithin the scope of its own cloud computing environment, the German Federal administration has opted for Nextcloud, heise reports. The software will in future be running by the Federal administration’s central IT service provider, the Federal Information Technology Centre (ITZBund). Unlike services such as Google Drive or Dropbox, Nextcloud is an open source project which users can install in their own computer centres.

    The project is targeted at some 300,000 users in various authorities and ministries. They will be able to share and synchronise files centrally using the service. Stuttgart-based Nextcloud GmbH is supporting the ITZBund based on an enterprise subscription for operation and support. However, individual licences per user or per system shall not be incurred.

    ITZBund tested Nextcloud with some 5,000 users in a pilot project before making its decision in favour of open source.

  • Dortmund plots course for open source

    The City of Dortmund wants to examine the potential of free software and open standards for the city council until the end of 2019, German IT news website heise reports.

    Munich’s decision last year to abandon open source is not the final word in open source matters in German local authorities. Dortmund’s city council has decided to investigate the potential of free and open source software “systematically” in the field of municipal ICT.

    Dortmund panorama
    Dortmund panorama. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    A free software working group has been established and will work together with the council’s personnel board and Do-FOSS citizens’ action group in developing a free software strategy which should be produced by the end of 2019. Dortmund is thus an open source pioneer in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The NRW E-government Law stipulates that open and standardised file formats shall be used by public authorities for sending files to citizens and companies.

    Less dependence, more flexibility

    Amongst other things, efforts will be made to reduce reliance on suppliers and become more flexible in software use. The aspect of transparency and “Green IT” are also pre-requisites for the strategy. The German Federal Environment Office has determined that free software could save resources due to lower hardware requirements and longer life cycles. Moreover, a more flexible choice of suppliers could also improve local authorities’ negotiating position with proprietary software vendors.

    Do-FOSS, which has been calling for years for a switch in public sector procurement towards free software and open standards, is hailing the decision as a “milestone“. In addition, a draft for the introduction of “Open Data Dortmund” is to be submitted to the local authority by next summer. DO-FOSS is now hoping that a comprehensive approach will now be developed within the council for the free and open source IT.

    Back in January Mayor Ullrich Sierau and the personnel board signed the Digital Dortmund 2018-2030 Charter (PDF, German), in which the use of open standards was agreed for the council’s ICT.

  • A bridge renaming too far

    Today I’ve written to my MP, Thangam Debbonaire, about Whitehall’s plans to rename the Second Severn Crossing and lumber it with the uninspiring and sycophantic moniker of the Prince of Wales Bridge.

    Second Severn Crossing
    Second Severn Crossing seen from Severn Beach. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    This move went down really badly in Wales, particularly in view of the total lack of public consultation and many tens of thousands of people have signed a petition objecting to the move, as reported by Wales Online.

    Besides the renaming being described variously as “pathetic“, “insulting” and “patronising” (and there is more than a hint of (neo-)colonialism about it. Ed.), many Welsh residents would like any change of name to be made in honour of someone who has actually done something for Wales, rather than sit around for decades waiting for his mum to die before he can take on her job.

    It now looks to be turning out to be equally unpopular in the West Country as the comments on this Bristol Post report seem to suggest.

    My email to Thangam is transcribed below.

    May I draw your attention to the following piece on the Post’s website:

    It’s not just the Welsh that object to it being renamed after Charles Windsor with no public consultation. I, one of your constituents and a long-term republican, also signed the petition. There are enough structures sycophantically named after the royals in any event.

    Perhaps you would like to join your Welsh colleagues in campaigning against this arbitrary change dreamed up in Whitehall and now being imposed insensitively upon the Westminster Village’s colony over the Severn! 🙂

    Regards, etc.

    Finally, it’s worth mentioning that most locals either side of the Severn estuary will still continue to refer to it as the Second Severn Crossing, no matter what the sycophants in London SW1 ultimately decide what to name it.

  • LibreOffice 6.0.3 release announced

    On Thursday, The Document Foundation (TDF), the organisation behind the free and open source Libreoffice productivity suite, announced the release of LibreOffice 6.0.3, the third minor release of the LibreOffice 6 family.

    Compared to the previous release, LibreOffice 6.0.3 around 70 bug and regression fixes.

    LibreOffice 6.0.3 represents the bleeding edge in terms of features and as such is targeted at early adopters, tech-savvy and power users, while LibreOffice 5.4.6 – provided as an alternative download option – is targeted at more conservative mainstream users and enterprise deployments.

    LibreOffice 6 splash screen

    Download LibreOffice

    LibreOffice 6.0.3 is immediately available for download for all major platforms – Linux, Mac OSX and Windows – at the following link:

    As per usual, technical details about LibreOffice 6.0.3 bug and regression fixes can be found in the change logs for RC1 and RC2.

    Professional support

    TDF advises mainstream users and companies to deploy LibreOffice with the support of certified developers, migrators and trainers.

    Several companies on TDF’s Advisory Board provide either value-added LTS versions of LibreOffice or consultancy services for migration and training.

    Donate to help LibreOffice development

    LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support The Document Foundation with a donation. Donations help TDF to maintain its infrastructure, share knowledge and fund attendance at events like LibreOffice Conference, which this year takes place in Tirana.

  • France – plus ça change…

    …Plus ce n’est plus la même chose ! 🙂

    As I sit in my sister’s apartment on the coast of Brittany this Easter, the thought comes to mind that it’s nearly five decades since my first visit to France as a callow schoolboy in 1971.

    This realisation has prompted me to consider just how much France has changed – albeit gradually but nevertheless steadily – over the intervening years. Below are four (for the sake of brevity. Ed.) obvious changes your ‘umble scribe has noticed have changed, haven’t changed and are completely new.

    Things that have changed or are now apparently rare

    • The distinctive smell of French built-up areas, the odour being composed mostly of bad plumbing and the pungent aroma of Gauloises and Gitanes.
    • Mopeds, particularly the 50cc Mobylette or front wheel drive Solex, plus the classic Citroën 2CV.
    • In one and a half weeks here, I have yet to see someone working for the French state wearing a kepi. This headgear is now only worn by Customs officers and gendarmes on ceremonial occasions and by the military on “appropriate occasions”.
    • The lack of public conveniences; the average small French local authority now has more public loos than even large city authorities in the UK (who’ve been shutting theirs under austerity and costs-savings measures. Ed.).
    Solex and kepi
    The Solex and the kepi – destined for obsolescence?

    Things that haven’t changed

    • Grumpy-looking gendarmes and police officers.
    • The excellent quality of food on markets and in supermarkets and shops, plus affordable prices for alcoholic beverages.
    • French motorists’ psychopathic attitude to other motorists and contrasting extreme courtesy to cyclists.
    • Drinkable coffee and lovely hot chocolate in bars and cafés.


    • Ubiquitous cycle helmets, along with cycle routes and cycle lanes.
    • Roundabouts working on the same principal as in the UK (traffic on the roundabout has priority over that entering) have proliferated in the last 2 decades.
    • Pre-packed British style sandwiches on sale in supermarkets, along with ready meals: definitely a retrograde step. 🙁
    • Major stores opening on Sundays.

    If any readers wish to add to either list, comments are welcome below.

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