Monthly Archives: June 2021

  • OpenStreetMap might move to EU member state

    OpenStreetMap is a great open source alternative to the commercial data slurping map services provided by technology giants such Microsoft (Bing) and Google.

    OpenStreetMap view of part of East Bristol
    OpenStreetMap view of part of East Bristol

    At this point you might be wondering why your ‘umble scribe chooses to mention Brexit, the English Empire’s most stupid and damaging foreign policy decision since the 1956 Suez Crisis.

    Today’s Guardian announces that OpenStreetMap, which has been headquartered in the UK since its inception nearly 20 years ago, might be upping sticks and moving to a European member state very soon due to part-time alleged prime minister Boris Johnson’s pretend government taking back control and once again ostensibly becoming – in its mendacious words – an independent sovereign state. It’s such a pity the Blonde Bumbler’s kakistocracy doesn’t understand and never has understood the concept of pooled sovereignty.

    The OpenStreetMap Foundation, which was formally registered in 2006 – 2 years after the project began – is a limited company incorporated under the laws of England and Wales.

    Quoting an email from earlier this month, The Guardian quotes Guillaume Rischard, the Foundation’s treasurer, as saying the following

    There is not one reason for moving, but a multitude of paper cuts, most of which have been triggered or amplified by Brexit.

    One of these <empaper cuts is the failure of the Johnson régime and EU to agree on mutual recognition of database rights. While both have an agreement to recognise copyright protections, maps are data and fall outside the ambit of creative works. Until Brexit mapping were covered by an EU-wide agreement that protected databases, but since Brexit, there is no longer any mutual recognition and/or protection of any database made in the UK or EU on or after 1 January 2021.

    The Foundation’s other motives for moving from the UK include banking and payment concerns, plus the increased importance of the EU technology regulation matters.

    A statement issued by the Foundation includes the following:

    We are actively researching options to protect the OSM community’s interests, and one option under investigation is relocation to an EU member state. We have made no decisions so far.
  • GBeebies rinsed by Welsh soap

    The new right-wing TV channel GB News (affectionately known as GBeebies by some. Ed.) seems to be getting off to an even worse start than had been predicted.

    Today Nation Cymru reports that the channel is achieving worse viewing figures than some content on S4C, the Welsh language free-to-air television channel.

    The latest figures revealed that a maximum of only 32,000 tuned in on Thursday last week. whilst a mere 31,000 could be bothered to turn in for Chairman Andrew Neil’s own flagship show.

    No wonder he announced he was taking a break and flounced off back home to the south of, er, France.

    In particular, Nation Cymru notes that GBeebies’ viewing figures were lower than those of S4C shows such as the long-running Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm, which attracts an audience of 44,000 viewers, according to S4C’s latest statistics.

    Pobol y cwm logo

    Moreover, there are other Welsh language shows produced by S4C that attract even higher figures, such as Patrol Pawennau (the Welsh language version of Paw Patrol. Ed.), which draws audiences of 161,000 people.

    With the channel being boycotted by advertisers, the amateurish broadcasting and technical expertise on display and Brillo scarpering back home to Grasse for an indefinite period, one might expect GBeebies’ days as a broadcaster to be numbered.

    Lovers of live disaster viewing had better get the popcorn in…

  • ODF 1.3 becomes OASIS standard

    ODF file iconVersion 1.3 of OpenDocument Format for Office Applications (ODF) has been approved as an OASIS Committee Standard, Italo Vignoli writes on The Document Foundation (TDF) blog.

    ODF is a free, open XML-based document file format for office applications for use for documents containing text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical elements. In addition,ODF is the native file format used by TDF’s free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, as well as other free and open source suites such as Apache OpenOffice, whilst the format can also be handled by major proprietary office suites. Furthermore, ODF has been adopted by the UK government’s Open Standards Board for document exchange with citizens and other victims.

    ODF 1.3 is an update to the international standard Version 1.2, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as ISO/IEC 26300 (2015). The update was approved with 14 affirmative consents and no objections.

    The most important new features of ODF 1.3 include digital signatures for documents and the OpenPGP-based encryption of XML documents, with improvements in areas such as change tracking and document security, additional details in the description of elements in first pages, text, numbers and charts.

    The full ODF 1.3 Specification can be downloaded from OASIS website.

    The new version of ODF has been funded by TDF.

    Finally, it is hoped that the new ODF 1.3 will complete the process to update its existing ISO/IEC standard 26300 in early 2022.

  • How the forget-me-not got its name

    Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) are a genus of flowering plants. The name Myosotis derives from the ancient Greek μυοσωτίς meaning mouse’s ear, which the leaves are said to resemble.

    According to its English Wikipedia page, the colloquial English name of forget-me-not has been in use since the late 14th century and is a direct translation from the German Vergißmeinnicht.

    Photo of forget-me-nots
    Myosotis. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    However, it is to the French Wikipedia article on the foget-me-not that one needs to turn for the presumed origins of this commemorative colloquial plant name.

    According to one legend, a knight was walking by a river with his lady. He bent over to pick her a flower, but toppled over due to his armour and fell into the water. While he was drowning, he tossed the flower towards her crying out “Forget me not!”

    It goes without saying that the legend fails to explain why the hapless knight felt the need to don his armour for what was ostensibly a safe situation. No health and safety risk assessments or technical standards for PPE in those days!

    Talking of risky situations, the forget-me-not has become a flower of remembrance in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador where it is used to commemorate those who were killed in the First World War.

    Similarly in Germany the forget-me-not became a flower of remembrance for those who fell in conflict from WW1 onwards.

    In other countries, the forget-me-not has assumed a different commemorative function, one dealing with those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as happens in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

  • Writer of children’s books

    Yesterday, the right-leaning part of the population who seem to believe that culture as they know it is in danger of being cancelled (whatever that may mean. Ed.), was fulminating against yet another of those left-leaning organisations – English Heritage. Its crime: amending its online information about the children’s author Enid Blyton to reflect more accurately her writing and views.

    While English Heritage’s blue plaque commemorating Blyton remains unchanged, the charity’s online information about her now details the problematic aspects of her writing and views.

    In particular, the information on Blyton has been amended to describe her writing as including racism and xenophobia whilst lacking literary merit.

    To illustrate Blyton’s racism, English Heritage’s online content notes that in 1960 Macmillan refused to publish Blyton’s children’s novel The Mystery That Never Was, noting her “faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia”. As a child, I can’t say I remember noticing the racism and xenophobia so much on the very rare occasions I picked up Blyton as a child (the golliwogs should have started the alarm bells ringing. Ed.), but the lack of literary merit was clearly apparent to my developing brain. Her work came across as simplistic and formulaic, but my brother loved her stories, a matter in which he persisted despite the mocking and urging from my sister and me that he read something less lightweight.

    Although she did not specifically mention Blyton by name, it was clear that actor and comedian Joyce Grenfell clearly had Enid in her sights in her monologue Writer Of Children’s Books, as embedded below.

  • Electrifying

    One of the staples of local news reporting is the activities of the emergency services – police, ambulance, coastguard, fire service – and in this regard Bristol Live – formerly the Bristol (Evening) Post is no exception.

    Yesterday’s online edition reported on the fire service’s attendance at a possible incident on Colston Street (soon to revert to its original name of Steep Street after the city’s Victorian great and good renamed it after a slave trader. Ed.).

    However, once again the reporter’s poor English is disappointing to read.

    In the second paragraph readers are informed that

    The alarm was sounded after what was believed to be an electric fire in Colston Street at around 8.22pm.

    Where was the said domestic appliance left? In the roadway? On the footway/pavement?

    Clarification was helpfully supplied by the fire service, whose spokesperson commented as follows:

    Upon investigation, the issue was determined to be under the pavement and originating from an area of recently excavated electrical works.

    So the fire, if it ever existed in the first place, was electrical, not electric.

    As an aid to passing hacks wishing to improve their vocabulary, there follows below a handy pictorial guide to the difference between the two. 😀

    An electrical fire
    An electrical fire. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
    Electric fire
    An electric fire (aka electric heater). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
  • Improved security in GRUB 2.06 bootloader

    The newest version – 2.06 – of the GRUB bootloader used by most Linux distributions contains two new features, German IT news site heise reports. The software now supports boot partitions encrypted with LUKS2 and the update also contains several bug fixes and security improvements. This is the first new version of GRUB in nearly 2 years. It was originally to have been released in summer 2020, but developers were thwarted by a nasty security hole.

    Attackers could gain access to the boot process and execute malicious code via a vulnerability named BootHole. To begin with Linux distributors patched their own GRUB packages. Unfortunately, BootHole patches for Red Hat, CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu blocked GRUB2. GRUB has now officially patched BootHole with the new version

    GRUB developers have taken over the additional patches used in the meantime by Red Hat, Debian and a few other distributors to secure their own GRUB packages. The distributors had tried to bridge the gap in the lone release times between GRUB versions. In addition, several errors have been eliminated and GRUB’s code tidied up. GRUB can now be compiled with the GCC 10 and Clang 10 C compilers.

    GRUB bootloader menu on Ubuntu Linux machine
    GRUB bootloader menu on Ubuntu Linux machine
    New security module

    As a new feature, GRUB 2.06 supports the Xen hypervisor’s XSM/FLASK security module and Secure Boot Advanced Targeting (SBAT). The developers of the Shim bootloader came up with the latter technology to further complicate attacks on the boot process. In simple terms, the procedure automatically considers outdated versions of a program involved in the boot process to be unsafe. In addition to this, GRUB 2.06 offers a lockdown mechanism that is similar to the equivalent of the Linux kernel of the same name.

  • The art of the studied insult

    G7 2021 logoThe outcome of the now-concluded G7 summit in Cornwall was to have been so different. Flying in the Red Arrows to impress the forrins with high-speed aerobatics, wheeling in Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor and her family in to schmooze and press the flesh; even the notoriously fickle English weather behaved itself.

    Yes, the impression part-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his organising committee wanted to do was show a reinvigorated English Empire, confident and occupying a major place on the world stage now Brexit had been done and the country had broken free of the shackles ostensibly imposed upon it by the Brussels Eurocrats.

    However, what has emerged is the English Empire’s diminished role and importance in the world as a consequence of Brexit. The G7 media headlines have been dominated by the problems caused by Brexit and in particular the UK’s failure to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, a binding international treaty signed as part of the divorce agreement between the EU and the English Empire, a matter which earned the part-time alleged prime minister a rebuke from US president Joe Biden.

    However, Biden’s was not the only reprimand earned in recent days by Johnson’s government of none of the talents. On social media David Frost, the English Empire’s chief Brexit negotiator, who is also known as Frosty the No Man on account of his negotiating style, earned the displeasure of those on Twitter who can see further than the White Cliffs of Dover for turning up to a crunch meeting with the EU wearing tacky Union Jack socks.

    In addition, Frost and other members of the alleged government have been widely quoted in the right-wing British media as calling on the evil EU to be less purist in its interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol. Consulting an online dictionary, one of the definitions of purism is a strict adherence to particular concepts, rules.

    That’s right. The EU is and always has been a rules-based, whereas Britannia has long preferred to waive the rules.

    The above-mentioned meeting between the EU and the English Empire did not end well, with EU officials clearly exasperated by the attitude of the English Empire government.

    In particular, the words attributed to on EU official quoted have been interpreted as patronising by the Daily Brexit, which some still call the Express.

    According to the Daily Brexit:

    An aide to the EU chief told Channel 4 News that the tweet “was in English so that the British can understand it”.

    This anonymous quote clearly falls into the definition of a studied insult.

    In this context studied denotes an insult that is either the result of deliberation and careful thought or is based on learning and knowledge.

    The quote is clearly aimed at the monoglot Brits’ ages-old reluctance to learn foreign languages (apart from Latin and classical Greek.? Ed.), even though a properly global Britain will need all the linguists it can get, but shows no signs of producing, with both the number of British universities still teaching degree modern language courses in decline and the number of undergraduate linguists also in decline.

  • Maesteg remembers Tryweryn despite council

    In 1965 the village of Capel Celyn in the valley of the Afon Tryweryn valley in Gwynedd was flooded to create Llyn Celyn reservoir to supply water to the towns of Wirral peninsula and the city of Liverpool in England.

    Needless to say, this act of colonial vandalism met with almost universal condemnation in Wales, represented a pivotal moment and event in Welsh nationalism and gave a huge boost to the Welsh devolution cause.

    In addition, the drowning of the Tryweryn valley had a wide cultural impact.

    In response to the impending flooding of the Tryweryn Valley, author Meic Stephens decided to paint “Cofiwch Tryweryn” (sic), Welsh for “Remember Tryweryn“, on a rock. Eventually he settled on the wall of a ruined cottage named Troed-y-Rhiw for his artwork. Because the original Cofiwch Tryweryn is grammatically incorrect, subsequent restorations of the wall have repainted the message correctly as Cofiwch Dryweryn, adding the consonant mutation.

    Cofiwch Dryweryn mural after 2019 restoration
    The original mural in Llanrhystud after 2019 restoration. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The mural has since gone on to be reproduced on T-shirts, pitchside banners at Welsh international football fixtures and replicated at other sites in Wales.

    Which brings us to Maesteg and Bridgend County Borough Council.

    Today’s Wales Online reports that Maesteg resident Sian Thomas-Ford’s Cofiwch Dryweryn, painted in 2019, had incurred with displeasure of Bridgend County Borough Council, which, in that accommodating manner peculiar to all local authorities, had ordered the mural’s removal.

    original Bridgend Cofiwch Dryweryn mural
    Picture courtesy of Yes Maesteg

    Since 2019 the Bridgend mural has undergone some changes. Firstly, the two dragons – one red and one white – of Welsh legend have disappeared, whilst the Welsh independence slogan “Yes Cymru” has been added.

    Bridgend Council took the attitude that the mural was an advertisement and notified Ms Thomas-Ford last summer that she could be prosecuted if she did not paint over the mural. Furthermore, the council told Ms Thomas-Ford that their highways department found the mural is a “distraction to drivers”. The council’s planning fees for advertisements range from £120 to £460. Ms Thomas-Ford’s response to the council was defiance, stating she did not intend applying for planning permission because the mural is not an advertisement, but rather a celebration of Welsh history and a reminder of an event that should not be forgotten.

    Ms Thomas-Ford told Wales Online that the mural had sparked lots of conversations locally about Welsh history and culture.

    Some 3,000 people signed a petition in support of keeping the mural.

    The council has now dropped its bureaucratically absurd position of regarding the mural as an advertisement. In a bit of municipal face-saving, a council spokesperson is quoted as saying:

    From the council’s perspective, advertising consent is required to protect the householder, but we do not currently intend to take any further action. It remains open to the owner if they wish to regularise the matter.
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