Recent blog entries for slef

Request for West Norfolk to Complete the PCC Consultation

Please excuse the intrusion to your usual software and co-op news items but vine seems broken and as part of my community and democratic interests, I’d like to share this short clip quoting Norfolk’s Deputy Police Commissioner Jenny McKibben about why Commissioner Stephen Bett believes it’s important to get views from the west of the county about next year’s police budget:

Personally, with a King’s Lynn + West Norfolk Bike Users Group hat on, I’d like it if people supported a 2% (£4/year average) tax increase to reduce the police’s funding cut (the grant from gov.uk is being cut by 4%) so that we’re less likely to have future cuts to traffic policing. The consultation details and response form are on the PCC website.

Syndicated 2014-01-09 13:19:39 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

About Co-ops & Governance

There have been some dark days for UK coops recently – the crystal Methodist and all that – and I have not been able to talk about it much because of the amount of work that I want to do before the end of the year.

Happily good colleagues have been writing about it and here’s another good article from Kate Whittle that links to Ed Mayo and Ian Snaith who are the other two that I’d suggest.  http://www.cooperantics.coop/2013/12/09/co-ops-governance/

I should be back in a few days to summarise the event I attended last week.

Syndicated 2013-12-09 13:53:13 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

The 2012 Update to the Worker Co-op Code

We like guidelines. In our work, things like the Debian Free Software Guidelines, pep8 and Koha Coding Guidelines are quite useful. I follow guidelines for how I work, too. In addition to the financial reports required by government, our co-op produces an annual social report which we share with our members and other key stakeholders. Since 2007, the backbone of it is The Worker Co‑operative Code of Governance published by our national federation.

In 2012, the Worker Co-op Council updated the code. I don’t remember why an update was felt necessary, but as a side-effect of producing of our 2013 social report, I’ve made a list of the changes:

  1. Principle 1 is reordered, with information becoming the first point and membership offered to all becoming the last item.
  2. Principle 2 sees democratic processes drop down the order, plus it loses the item on long-term planning.
  3. Principle 3 has the point about reserves clarified and gains a last item about distributing surplus fairly.
  4. Principle 4 loses its first item about regular reviews, the skills assessment point moves to principle 5 and it gains a “build capability” point.
  5. Principle 5 gains items on replacing key members and skills assessment (from the previous section), while most points seem rephrased.
  6. Principle 6 is reordered, active co-operation is split into distinct points about referring and collaborating and the point about actively sharing good practice is deleted.
  7. Principle 7 is unchanged.

Are these good changes? Much of it seems like tinkering and maybe shifting emphasis – the reorderings add little and make it harder to spot the changes – while the lost points on long-term planning and sharing good practice are surprising. I would have preferred to see the items that seem mainly to promote the code itself and its publisher Co-operatives UK deleted instead. The additions and clarifications about surplus are good, though, and there’s nothing new that I think should stop us adopting it.

What do you think? Should all business behave this way?

Syndicated 2013-10-03 04:35:15 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Send updates to live cycling news reports to the speech synth

The BBC coverage of the UCI Women Road Race World Championship wasn’t starting until 3pm, BBC Radio 5 Live had football and Sports Extra was playing an advert loop (really BBC?), Eurosport wasn’t covering the race at all, RAI Sport 2 had coverage which was fine while I was watching the TV, but my Italian isn’t good enough to follow the commentary and I wanted to get some other stuff done.

So the obvious thing is to have the computer watch for changes to the great http://live.cyclingnews.com/ ticker and read them out, right? Well, it was to me. Here’s the script I used:

#!/usr/bin/rc
# Send updates to live cycling news reports to the speech synth

# initialise
url=http://live.cyclingnews.com/
if (~ $1 *:*) {
  url=$1
}
last=""

while (true) {
    # download the update and strip html - if you don't have html2text try
    # sed -e '1,/<ol/d;s/<br[^>]*>/n/g;s/<[^>]*>//g;s/ / /g;s/[[:space:]]*$//'
    next=``(){curl -s $url | html2text -width 9999 | sed -e 's/^ *[0-9]*. //' }
    # look for some added lines in the update section - timezone will need changing for non-European races
    say=``(){diff -u <{echo $last} <{echo $next} 
      | sed -ne '/^+/!d;s///;s/**//g;/ CES*T/,/^ *$/p' | head -9 }
    # feed them to the speech synth in reverse order
    echo $say '
      Race Update' | tac | spd-say -e
    # update variables, pause and loop
    last=$next
    # set this to a prime number over 60, like 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89
    sleep 67
}

Any questions, comments or improvements? I could have done more, like not saying “Race Update” even when there was no update, but I wanted to start listening as soon as possible!

Syndicated 2013-09-29 04:28:51 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Upgrading to Debian 7 wheezy

So I have upgraded my main workstation at last, but there are a few things I wanted to figure out. Some of these I found an answer to, but others I haven’t and some answers open more questions:

Where did debian-menu.menu go and why doesn’t lxlauncher have the Debian menu by default anyway? Answer: It seems this is a combination of debian bug 333848 and bug 722563 which I reported yesterday in that lxlauncher doesn’t use the debian menus. Workaround for now: install menu-xdg and hack the lxlauncher menu file.

Why don’t my xterm shells load .profile any more? Did I bodge that before without making a note?

How do I stop kernel or initrd or whatever it is configuring the network with the dhcp settings at boot time instead of the better wicd ones that are available once the system is up?

Continuing with networking, how did network-manager (which doesn’t cope with my network configuration) get installed again? Answer: debian bug 645656 explains that debian is simply following a silly decision taken upstream and refers to attempts to make network-manager optional as “the Crusade”. Workaround: remove gnome and install its dependencies like gnome-core directly instead. Drawback: any new dependencies of gnome will have to be installed manually.

Why is the audio capture volume at 10% by default and what’s the best way to change that? I suspect this might be 682731 but that bug is untouched in over a year. I’m tempted to remove pulseaudio, but “gnome-core Depends pulseaudio” so this is yet more hardware-breaking caused by gnome dependency changes and the only way out of this one would be to remove gnome-core and install its dependencies. Or maybe I should just give up and finally remove gnome because its packages have jumped the shark. I installed gnome to make the system easier to use and it’s broken it in at least two ways now.

One question that makes me hesitate is: why is gdm3 faster to start than lightdm?

Syndicated 2013-09-13 04:10:12 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Misusing a Royal Baby and Child Porn to Censor The Internet

There’s been some media coverage at the start of this week about blocking child porn. Except it’s not about child porn – that’s a trojan horse. People who want to access pornography that is already illegal (Protection of Children Act 1978) are probably already using security tools to hide their downloading and will be unaffected by this unless they’re pretty stupid.

And the announcement, about the same time as the predicted birth of a royal baby, third in line to the throne, seems like a cynical attempt to bury bad news taken straight from the Blair Government. That would almost be enough reason to oppose it: they don’t want the media to look at this too closely for some reason.

So what’s this actually about? It looks like a way to force through widespread acceptance of the ability to censor most UK internet users by shouting “won’t somebody think of the children?” If you doubt it, take a look at the list of filtered topics:

  • Dating
  • Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco
  • File Sharing Sites
  • Gambling
  • Games
  • Pornography
  • Social Networking
  • Suicide and Self-Harm
  • Weapons and Violence

So if they get away with this censorship, you won’t be able to use Twitter or contact the Samaritans until you deactivate it. Except I suspect you will because they’re pretty big and the Cameron Government won’t want to pick a fight with them: it’ll be the next Twitter and the next Samaritans, currently much smaller and unable to defend themselves, who get shut out of UK homes.

So what can we do, besides explaining this and writing to our MPs? Are we better off joining parties who oppose this censorship, like the Pirate Party, or joining existing parties and trying to overturn their stupid support for it?

Syndicated 2013-07-23 04:20:07 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Cooperatives Fortnight 2013

[Co-operatives Fortnight image]

Cooperatives Fortnight 2013 starts tomorrow. Our co-op is taking part in a few activities this year. Come along and meet us, or find other events on the national website.

This Sunday, I’ll be riding 50 miles in support of Leonard Cheshire. Some of it is familiar roads, some of it new. I’ll also be riding 12 miles just to get to the start line. If you’re a UK resident and would like to guess my time and make a small donation, please give it a try on guess2give.

Next Thursday 27 June, I’ll be at Somerset Cooperative Services AGM in Taunton. See their site for further news.

There might be something on Monday 1 July. To be announced later maybe.

On Thursday 4July, mjkaye will be at Building Our Co-ops in Liverpool. See the national event listing for details.

So… what will you be doing for co-ops fortnight?

Syndicated 2013-06-21 09:34:08 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

What’s the current state of Windows Anti-Virus?

One of our co-op’s clients asked me what I use for anti-virus at the moment and tips for what they should use on their Windows system.

Well, flame me now, but I don’t actually use any anti-virus at the moment: I rely on system security, firewalling and intrusion detection. The diversity of GNU/Linux software – and I use some pretty odd stuff – probably helps too. Even if I did want to run antivirus software, most of what’s available for GNU is actually aimed at detecting and preventing transmission of Windows viruses. There are few real-world GNU viruses and fewer attack opportunities left open.

Also, I prefer firewalling and fairly paranoid security settings because, like an antibiotic, an antivirus is only effective once the virus is already on your system somehow – hopefully held in quarantine by the browser or email client and not actively malignant in the processor.

There’s quite a list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_antivirus_software#Microsoft_Windows but I expect most of the purchase-free proprietary ones (labelled as “Free” or “Freemium” but you usually pay by watching adverts) will try to sell you upgrades, as that’s how their production is funded. If you don’t mind doing such things, you can disable the ads in at least one of them

The only very free ones I found were Immunet (also funded by upgrades – not sure if it’s actually Free and Open Source Software) and ClamWin (donation-funded) which both use the same scanning engine. If I had to use Microsoft Windows, I think I’d probably use and donate to ClamWin, install the (altruism-funded I think) Clam Sentinel alongside it and be rather cautious about what I downloaded or used online. I’m a bit worried that it doesn’t do great in reviews, though. What do/would you do?

I don’t really know about paying for security. The only paid product I’ve really seen has been Norton and that seemed no better than the ad-funded ones, still getting in the way and always trying to sell upgrades. It also irks me that there’s this huge market just to fix fundamental defects in Microsoft’s product. There’s a Microsoft Security Essentials add-on listed on Wikipedia, but it does fairly badly in this PC Magazine review – and do any of them do intrusion detection?

And finally, if you do decide to download something new, I strongly suggest getting it from a trusted source and/or triple-checking the link with wikipedia, a magazine review like CNET and a search engine. Don’t just trust a search engine, because fake antivirus software is a big way of getting viruses and worse onto computers: there’s even one calling itself “Microsoft Security Essentials 2011″!

Syndicated 2013-06-20 04:01:33 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Wireless Networking on this Clevo

This Clevo laptop is a new machine and like a lot of new machines, not all of its hardware has drivers in the current stable release of debian.

Happily, there is a driver for its rtl8723ae wireless networking device in the later 3.8 Linux kernel versions. So it’s just a case of installing the package called “kernel-package” and following the instructions in it, to make a new linux-image package with the latest drivers in it.

One small thing which tripped me up is that you usually need to write “make-kpkg –rootcmd fakeroot –initrd kernel-image” now. I forgot the “–initrd” option at first.

Syndicated 2013-03-22 04:20:00 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

Debian Project Leader 2013 election campaign links: part 1

This is basically a link-post to the Debian Project Leader email discussions on GMANE’s blog-style interface to debian-vote. After only 3 days of the 21, there’s already a pageful, so if I don’t start collecting links now, I’ll probably miss some. Right or wrong, I’ve grouped these into three topics:

The Job

  1. Why do you think you are a good candidate for DPL (10 Mar 2013)
  2. How do you plan to represent Debian externally? (10 Mar 2013)
  3. about a DPL board (12 Mar 2013)
  4. DPL term duration (12 Mar 2013)
  5. Work balance and traveling (12 Mar 2013)
  6. trying to do awesome and risking to fail (11 Mar 2013)
  7. To Lucas: how do you plan to push your ideas (12 Mar 2013)
  8. All candidates – quotes for the press if you win (13 Mar 2013)

Money

  1. using debian funds for Debian’s hardware infrastru (12 Mar 2013)
  2. Usage of Debian’s Money (12 Mar 2013)
  3. Debian’s relationship with money and the economy (12 Mar 2013)

Project Management

  1. getting new people to Debian (10 Mar 2013)
  2. Free Software challenges and Debian role (11 Mar 2013)
  3. Development and technical issues and challenges (10 Mar 2013)
  4. Are there problematic infrastructure or processes in Debian? (12 Mar 2013)
  5. to Moray: encourage teams to take interns (11 Mar 2013)

So, what do you think are the key points or differences? Leave me a comment, or get involved in the discussions. Campaigning ends and voting begins 30/31 March.

Syndicated 2013-03-15 04:23:15 from Software Cooperative News » mjr

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