Monthly Archives: February 2021

  • Going, going…

    Here’s a wee update on the bike I reported on Lawrence Hill (posts passim).

    Since reporting, a member of Bristol Waste staff has been out and affixed a removal notice to the bike, giving the owner – if any – a fixed period, in this case 21 days (3 weeks), in which to recover their property before it is removed.

    Abandoned bike on Lawrence Hill with Bristol Waste removal notice attached
    Abandoned bike with removal notice attached to its top tube

    I trust when it is removed, the 2 redundant D-locks also affixed to the stand are likewise removed at the same time. 😀


  • Footways, footpaths and pavements

    How many of us pay that much attention to road signs when out and about on our daily business on foot as pedestrians?

    I mean really pay attention, not just to the instruction being given or the advice being offered by the road sign itself, but the actual words used.

    Take the two examples below, both taken during this past week on the streets of Bristol. Both are on a part of the highway used by pedestrians and generally referred to by the general public as the pavement (on which more anon. Ed.). But which – if any – is the correct term? Are footways and footpaths the same?

    Composite image showing 'Diverted Footway' and 'Footpath Closed' road signs
    Left, Newfoundland Road = correct. Right, Lansdown Road, Easton = incorrect.

    To answer the second question first, no; they are not the same.

    If there’s one thing many decades of being a linguist has taught me, it is that terminology is important – the correct word used in the right context.

    One generally has be a legislator, highway engineer or transport campaigner to know the difference between a footway and a footpath.

    Fortunately, it is clearly defined in legislation, in this case the Highways Act 1980, which provides the following definitions:

    “footpath” means a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot only, not being a footway;
    “footway” means a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only.

    In addition, Cheshire East Council provides the following information on its webpage entitled “What Are Public Rights of Way?

    You should be careful to distinguish between ‘public footpaths’ and ‘footways’. Pavements beside public roads are not public footpaths – it is better to refer to them as footways or simply pavements.
    Footways are not recorded on the Definitive Map as Public Rights of Way. A footway is really a part of the main highway which has been set apart for pedestrians.

    Nevertheless, a caveat needs to be added to the clause where Cheshire East Council advises that “it is better to refer to them as footways or simply pavements“.

    The caveat is that there’s a world of difference between what “pavement” denotes to ordinary mortals and professionals such as civil and highway engineers: for the former it’s the footway; for the latter more specialised use, Britannica gives the following definition:

    Pavement, in civil engineering, durable surfacing of a road, airstrip, or similar area. The primary function of a pavement is to transmit loads to the sub-base and underlying soil.

    Who would have thought two words on two such simple temporary road signs deployed for road works could be such a terminological minefield? 😉

  • More enforcement officers for Bristol

    In the middle of the week, Bristol City Council held its annual budget setting meeting.

    As usual, it was riven with the traditional partisan ill feeling and rancour, as well as a rift over council housing rent increases within the ruling Labour group.

    However, there was one glimmer of hope amongst the gloom. As a result of an amendment put forward by a group of Labour councillors, the council will be funding more enforcement officers to tackle the city’s seemingly insuperable environmental crime problems.

    As Bristol Live reported:

    Later in the meeting, the original budget, with a Labour amendment for seven additional litter and fly-tipping enforcement officers, passed by just one vote 33-32.

    Seven additional officers is a substantial increase in the complement of the enforcement team and one would hope that these additional resources will make a significant contribution to reducing levels of environmental crime within the city, as well as an increase in the woefully low number of prosecutions carried out, together with the issuing of more fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

    Fly-tipping in Morton Street, Barton Hill
    Fly-tipping in Morton Street

    Fly-tipping in particular seems to have burgeoned during the lockdowns of the last year, fuelled in part by lower numbers of people on the street (and hence less casual surveillance/deterrence. Ed.), plus the twin booms of DIY projects and online shopping (the latter has also given rise to an increase in cardboard presented for recycling, according to Bristol Waste. Ed.).

    In the meantime, keep reporting fly-tipping, litter and other environmental crimes to Bristol City Council, Bristolians. It does make a difference.

    PS: I’ve been informed the work I do in the local area was mentioned in the meeting when the amendment was discussed.

    Update 14/07/21: Yesterday evening’s Bristol Clean Streets Forum meeting was informed that all the additional enforcement officers will be in post by the start of August.

  • Google funds security-focussed Linux kernel developers

    Tux - the Linux kernel mascotOn Wednesday the Linux Foundation and Google announced that Google would be funding two full-time maintainers for Linux kernel security development, Gustavo Silva and Nathan Chancellor.

    Silva and Chancellor’s will focus on maintaining and improving kernel security, as well as associated initiatives to ensure the continuing viability of the world’s most pervasive open source software project.

    The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF) and Harvard University’s Laboratory for Innovation Science (LISH) recently published an open source contributor survey report that identified a need for additional work on security in open source software, including the Linux operating system. Linux has more than 20,000 contributors. While there are thousands of Linux kernel developers, all of whom take security into consideration in their work, this contribution from Google to underwrite two full-time Linux security maintainers signals the importance of security for the future of open source software.

    “At Google, security is always top of mind and we understand the critical role it plays to the sustainability of open source software,” said Dan Lorenc, Staff Software Engineer for Google. “We’re honored to support the efforts of both Gustavo Silva and Nathan Chancellor as they work to enhance the security of the Linux kernel.”

    Chancellor’s work will be focused on triaging and fixing all bugs found with Clang/LLVM compilers while working on establishing continuous integration systems to support this work. Once those aims are well-established, he plans to begin adding features to the kernel using these compiler technologies. Chancellor has been a kernel developer for over 4 years.

    Gustavo Silva’s full-time Linux security work is currently dedicated to eliminating several classes of buffer overflows. In addition, he is actively focusing on fixing bugs before they hit the mainline and has been contributing to kernel development since 2010.

    Funding Linux kernel security and development is a collaborative effort, supported by the world’s largest companies that depend on the Linux operating system. To support work like this, discussions are taking place in the Securing Critical Projects Working Group inside the OpenSSF.

  • Firefox 86.0 released

    Firefox logoEarlier this week, version 86.0 of the Firefox web browser was released.

    I have a great affection for Firefox, as I started using it in the early 2000s before version 1.0 was released when the browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s unloved but ubiquitous Internet Explorer.

    Firefox is also bundled as the standard web browser in many Linux distributions including my long-term preferred distro, Debian.

    According to the release notes, there have been several privacy improvements and other enhancements in the latest version.

    As regards privacy, Firefox 86.0 has now introduces Total Cookie Protection to Strict Mode. In Total Cookie Protection, every website gets its own “cookie jar,” preventing cookies from being used to track users from site to site.

    For those able to concentrate on several things at once, Firefox now supports simultaneously watching multiple videos in Picture-in-Picture.

    Print functionality has also been improved, with a cleaner design and better integration with your computer’s printer settings.

    There have also been several bug fixes.

    Get the latest Firefox.

  • Fast food litter petition

    in 10 years of campaigning for less litter and fly-tipping in east Bristol’s Lawrence Hill and Easton wards, one constant factor has been litter generated by takeaways, particularly the major franchises like Burger King, KFC and the like.

    A petition has now been started on to help tackle part of the problem, namely littering by their motorised customers, some of whom seem to have no compunction at just pitching the packaging their meal came in out of the vehicle window once their appetites have been sated.

    Fast food litter
    Fast food litter. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The back streets of Easton and Lawrence Hill are a good mile of so from the nearest McDonalds, Burger King or KFC, but that does not stop litter from those outlets blighting the neighbourhood.

    The relevant petition is entitled “Fast food restaurants to print vehicle reg on takeaway packaging to discourage littering” and reads as follows:

    The recent break in fast food companies business has given us time to be able to start to clean up the streets once littered with empty McDonald’s bags, KFC boxes and other takeaway restaurant litter.
    KFC has been back open merely a couple of days and already pictures of carelessly discarded boxes are circulating on the internet. Let’s not slip back to where we were in terms of litter before the Covid lockdown. Let’s make compulsory that all drive through restaurants, who sell takeaway food, have to print the purchasers vehicle registration onto their bags or boxes. This will make it much easier to trace the litter back to the purchaser and result in a fine or preferably litter picking duties. I am proposing the idea of 3-4 stickers around the size of the bottom of the restaurants cup, printed with date/time and car registration, placed onto the bottom of the bags, cups and boxes to make it difficult for repeat litterers to remove their details without spilling the remaining contents into their cars/vans. The restaurants CCTV will back up this evidence with pictures of the driver and vehicle to provide solid evidence that they were the purchaser of said litter. The fine or community hours need to be big enough to cover costs of enforcement officers investigation times, resulting in nobody “slipping the net”.
    If we can reach 100,000 signatures I can show clear public interest and go straight to the Secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and demand change. As this could result in a fine for the offenders this will make it much more appealing to the government to pass as law and thus resulting in a cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy.
    Please help your local and national environment by merely signing this petition and sharing on social media platforms and as many large groups as you can, making a small but very needed step in the right direction.
    Thank you good citizens.

    Sign the petition.

    If the petition is successful, that just leaves how to resolve the problem of those on foot who litter after eating their takeaways whilst walking home… 🙁

  • Abandoned cycle removal – a Bristol how-to

    Cycling has undergone an upsurge in popularity in recent times due to it being a healthy and convenient mode of transport.

    Nevertheless, this increase in popularity does have some drawbacks, one of which is damaged or abandoned cycles  being left attached to cycle racks or other street furniture, like this typical example on Lawrence Hill by the station steps.

    Damaged, abandoned cycle attached to Sheffield stand

    Even though I’ve been involved for a decade with trying to stem the tide of litter and fly-tipping that blight our streets, I was uncertain of the procedure to follow to report dumped bikes and get them removed.

    I therefore turned to the Community Engagement Team of Bristol Waste, a council-owned company responsible for recycling and waste collections and street cleansing, for advice.

    The relevant part of their response is quoted below.

    The process is – logging a web form under street cleansing ( and then provide the details of where the bike is. The crew will go and cut it off and dispose of it. If it looks like its owned by someone, then we put a notice on for 3 weeks and then go back and remove it if still there.

    That seems very simple indeed.

    Thanks, for your helpful reply, Bristol Waste!

    I now hope others will join me in keeping the streets free of abandoned clutter.

    NB:: as abandoned bikes are not specifically mentioned in the drop-down list of items that can be reported for attention, I chose to class it as ‘Litter‘. 😀

  • A language lesson for an ignorant MP

    The continuing ignorance of the hardline Tory MPs who spearheaded the UK’s departure from the European Union is a gift that just keeps on giving.

    Not only do they not understand how the EU works (clue: it’s a rules-based organisation. Ed.), they also do not know how international trade works (clue: that’s also a rules-based system. Ed.).

    When it comes to ignorance of the workings of international trade – and tariffs in particular – Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski has previous form, ending up looking a lemon in respect of, er, lemons.

    However, there appears to be no start to Daniel’s ignorance and no end to his vanity in wanting to draw attention to the same. On Monday 22nd February he posted the tweet below on his Twitter account.

    Tweet reads: Now we have left EU & creating exceptionally strong global economic partnerships with key non European partners, the time has come for a debate as to which languages are taught to children in schools. I feel the almost total domination of French Spanish & German needs review.

    Daniel no doubt believes that these languages are spoken solely in countries such as France, Spain and Germany in the hated EU.

    Time to think again, Danny Boy! 😀

    Let’s start with your last mentioned language shall we, Daniel (especially as it might be considered the easiest to dismiss.Ed.)?

    German is, of course, spoken in Germany. However, it’s also the official language in Austria as well as being one of Belgium’s four official languages. In Italy’s province of Alto Adige (also known as the Südtirol. Ed.), 62% of the population are German speakers. Outside the EU, German is also one of Switzerland’s four official languages. German is a recognised minority language in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia. Beyond Europe there are still 25,000-30,000 native German speakers in Namibia, despite it ceasing to be a German colony over a century ago: some 12,000 persons whose first language is German currently live in South Africa. Turning to South America, there are an estimated 1 million German speakers, with German-speaking minorities in almost every Latin American country including Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In North America, there are also German-speaking minorities in both the USA and Canada.

    The map below illustrates where German is spoken around the world.

    German speaking areas of world
    The German-speaking world. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    How does Daniel fare with French?

    Equally badly is the answer.

    Besides the EU countries of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, French is also spoken within Europe in Monaco and parts of Italy. Throughout the world there are estimated to be some 274 million French speakers, of whom some 77 million are native speakers. Within the EU alone, French is the third most widely spoken language (after English and German), being spoken by 19.71% of the population and is the second most-widely taught language after English. It’s an official language not only in France, but Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland. It is also widely spoken in Italy’s Aosta valley region.

    However, it is in Africa – and particularly former French colonies and territories – that the majority of the world’s French speakers live. According to a 2018 estimate from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 141 million African people spread across 34 countries and territories can speak French as either a first or a second language. This estimate does not include those inhabitants of non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language.

    Looking at the Americas, French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. It is the sole official language in the Canada’s Quebec province. In the USA, French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, when all forms of French are considered, according to the United States Census Bureau.

    The following map shows membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the international organisation representing countries and regions where French is either a lingua franca or customary language.

    Map of membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie
    Membership of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


    So far that’s two own goals Daniel’s scored on the worldwide importance of 2 of the major foreign languages taught in British schools.

    How does he fare with his third target – Spanish?

    In short, not any better.

    Today Spanish has 500 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas and is the world’s second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese and the world’s fourth-most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi. Overall there are estimated to be 586 million speakers of Spanish in the world. As befits its large number of speakers, Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and it is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organisations, as well as being one of the world’s most widely taught foreign languages.

    Below is a map showing where in the world Spanish is spoken.

    Map of the Hispanophone world
    Map of the Hispanophone world. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    So how’s Daniel done?

    In brief, not very well.

    If Mr Kawczynski had been a footballer instead of a member of Parliament, he would have gone down in the match report as having scored three goals for the opposing side, also know as own goals (Kawczynski 3, og).

    Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Daniel has been appointed the UK’s trade envoy to Mongolia. If his tweet was an attempt to increase the teaching Mongolian as a foreign language in British schools, it was, to say the least, extremely clumsy.

  • Collabora working on Wayland driver for Wine

    Following on from an initial proposal by Collabora for a Wayland driver for the Wine emulator (which enables Windows applications to be run on Linux. Ed.), the company’s developers have now posted a Request for Comment (RFC) on the upstream mailing list, Germany’s Linux Magazin reports.

    The goal of this driver is to allow Windows applications to run directly on Wayland compositors, eventually removing the need for XWayland for many uses.

    The goal of this driver is to allow Windows applications to run directly on Wayland compositors, eventually removing the need for XWayland for many use cases. Consequently, it should not be assumed that XWayland will get support for modern features. In a post on Collabora’s blog, chief developer Alexandros Frantzis mentions HDR imaging as such a function. Furthermore, as an additional layer, XWayland represents an unnecessary complication and possible breeding ground for inefficiency.

    This RFC contains additional details of how the Wayland driver should work with Wine. Copy/paste, Drag-and-drop and changing the display mode are mentioned. Copy/paste support is already working well in both directions, according to Frantzis, i.e. both from native Wayland applications to Wine applications and vice versa. Drag-and-drop works from a native Wayland application to a Wine application in many established formats. Progress on these aspect of the driver can be seen in the video below released by Collabora.

  • Welsh Not still alive and well

    In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, Welsh children who used their native tongue in schools were subject to a particular form of punishment and humiliation – the Welsh Not.

    The Welsh Not (also Welsh Knot, Welsh Note, Welsh Stick, Welsh Lead or Cwstom) was an item used in Welsh schools in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to stigmatise and punish children using the Welsh language, according to Wikipedia.

    Welsh NotTypically “The Not” was a piece of wood, a ruler or a stick, often inscribed with “WN“. On any schoolday, it was given to be worn round the neck to the first pupil to be heard speaking Welsh. When another child was heard using Welsh, “The Not” was passed to the new offender: and on it went. Pupils were encouraged to inform on their classmates. The pupil in possession of “The Not” at the end of the lesson, school day or week – depending on the school – received additional punishment besides the initial shaming and humiliation.

    In recent times the Welsh Not seems to have transformed from being a physical object to a mental one, but one that is nevertheless still used to stigmatise speakers of one of the country’s oldest languages – one that was already old when Old English (which some call Anglo-Saxon. Ed.) first became established as England’s common tongue.

    The persistence of stigmatisation is just one matter covered in a Metro opinion piece by Lowri Llewelyn entitled Why the Welsh language deserves respect not ridicule.

    Looking specifically at stigmatisation, Lowri, who learned Welsh as a child and grew up in a bilingual household, writes:

    I can’t count how many times English folk have jeered about my ‘dead language’.

    At least it wasn’t referred to as “gibberish“, Lowri!

    To reinforce her point, she continues:

    Fuelled by anti-Welsh sentiment from England, the Welsh even came to oppress and disrespect themselves.
    She then goes on to point out how, as a teenager she would only speak English to friends and be dismissive of her native culture, before going on to point out how she has since changed her attitude and welcomes efforts to increase the presence of Welsh.

    Lowri concludes by pointing out some of the encouraging signs of a renewed interest in Welsh.

    For instance, in recent times Welsh has become the fastest growing language in the UK on the Duolingo language learning platform. One explanation might be a renewed interest in the cultures and history of the nations that make up Great Britain, given the severe restrictions on foreign travel imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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