Category Archives: News

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Open Source GCSE-equivalent qualification attracts DfE 16-19 performance points

On Friday 8th January, the Department for Education (DfE) approved an Open Systems IT Management (OSIM) Level 2 course to be eligible for 16-19 Performance Points counting towards the school’s league table attainment. It is an area of skills shortage identified by the DfE who are responding to an increase in demand for Open Source, Linux and Cloud expertise through UK industry.

This is the first time that a course at GCSE level that focuses on the use of Open systems and Open Source Software has achieved this formal recognition. Attracting performance points at 6th form and college levels, this course is of equal importance to other subjects. Following the DfE guidance in 2013 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study) demanding better teaching of computing, and the various coding clubs active at Primary schools, there has been a need to allow pupils developing these skills to engage with qualifications to validate their learning.

To strengthen the case, there are changes in the league tables following the introduction of the Progress 8 measure (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/progress-8-school-performance-measure) in 2016. This encourages schools to provide a broader curriculum and requires schools to meet targets across a range of categories. The OSIM course will count towards the non GCSE category providing schools the option of following on Key Stage 4 IT qualifications at Key Stage 5. Without this course, further work within the IT curriculum would difficult and not provide students with additional challenges and force them to re-learn the same IT work, leading to disengagement and disaffection.

With the further endorsement of the Open standard principles in Autumn 2015 by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, and the Government Digital Services manual being geared around Open Source technology, the demand for expertise is gaining momentum and this course will go a long way to enabling individuals to develop the necessary skills. Released a year ago by the Prime Minister’s Office, the UK digital economy vision (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-vision-for-the-european-unions-digital-economy/uk-vision-for-the-eus-digital-economy) describes some of the challenges identified, but young people have not had the opportunity to formally learn the relevant skills required to deliver this vision.

The units studied as part of the course are designed around practical needs in modern practical computing. They cover:

  • Understanding global software communities and their products

  • Using an Operating System efficiently

  • Computer hardware systems and networks

  • LOGOCarrying out an IT systems management project

Behind this course is The Learning Machine (TLM), a company based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. TLM took a professionally recognised qualification based on the Linux Essentials programme from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and turned in to a level 2 qualification structured in a language that schools and colleges can use.

TLM are the awarding organisation for this course, provide training to the assessors on the certification and moderation systems and schools fund the student for each qualification. TLM offer a range of models to support the varying ways schools fund these qualifications.LPI-Essentials-Logo-300X300-150x150

Paul Taylor, Director of Resource Development at TLM says “in the modern internet age, everything works on Open Source, but there has been no formal recognition of progress or ability within the UK education system. Now that the OSIM course is formally recognised and contributes to school league tables, it is in reach of every student in the UK.”

Working with DfE, Open Source Consortium (OSC), LPI and other organisations, the course has been developed to focus on the skills in demand by the growing technology industry. Stuart Mackintosh, chairman of the Open Source Consortium says “It has been a significant achievement to have this course formally recognised on the performance tables and designed to fit in with teaching and curriculum requirements of schools and colleges across the country. As the Open Source industry association, the OSC supported the development of the qualification and is pleased with this result achieved by TLM

The OSC, with whom TLM are a long-standing member, provide a link to industry expertise across the UK where schools, colleges and any other organisation, can find expert support, and students can access resources, work placements and employment opportunities.

With this model proven, TLM are developing the Level 3 qualification to support further learning. Following this, level 1 and entry level courses will be developed to make the Open Systems more accessible to those younger and less able. TLM aspire to offer a full suite of approved courses through level 4 & 5 for further education and workplace study. Whilst these are being developed, students can use the existing LPI programmes, although these are not currently funded by the DfE.

To access the course, a student can either self-study or ask their school to register. The flexible engagement methods make it feasible for very small numbers of students to take the course whilst economies of scale lower the cost for schools who actively promote the course. Funding is now available from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) of £941 per student to run the course owing to the DfE approval for performance points.

Full details of the course can be found here: https://theingots.org/community/Open_Systems_Management

About The Learning Machine (TLM)

http://thelearningmachine.co.uk/about-us/

The Learning Machine Ltd (TLM). TLM is an Awarding Organisation Accredited by Ofqual and DAQW, the regulators for qualifications in England and Wales. TLM is responsible for developing and managing a new and innovative family of qualifications. The most popular of these qualifications is the Qualification for IT Users, the ITQ, based on industry standard needs for IT. This is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for broader industry acceptance. We produce a range of qualifications in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based subjects such as ICT, Computing, Design Engineer and Construct or Smart Product Design and Manufacture that provide headline points in the KS4 performance figures which are supported by free on-line guidance and resources.

Address: 4D-4E Gagarin, Lichfield Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire B79 7GN

Email: helpdesk@theingots.org

Creating and Growing Open Source Businesses

Open_Source_BoutiqueTo those familiar with traditional business models, my company, Embecosm, is something of a mystery.  A team of very highly paid engineers using expensive equipment to write immensely complex software, which we then give away for free.  Yet despite this, we are a growing and profitable business.

The answer of course is that we are not paid for the software product we produce.  We are a service business and we are paid to write and modify compiler tool chains, which our customers then give away to enable the use of and help to advertise their wider products.  This business model works for Embecosm, because first of all we have customers with a very strong commercial pressure to provide compilers; and secondly writing compilers is really, really hard.

Our customers are generally processor manufacturing companies, and a good implementation of either GCC or LLVM is a must-have for any successful processor design.  As I have written before, there are probably only between 20 and 50 true experts worldwide in implementing each of the major free and open source compiler tool chains (GCC and LLVM).

This is perhaps the oldest and simplest of open source business models.  But there are many other business models that work, and which may be much more suitable for different commercial sectors.  How do you choose the right one for your business?  Indeed, how do you get started with an open source business at all?  Getting access to open source specific business expertise is a problem for the wider open source community.   To help address this, the Open Source Consortium, in partnership with the BCS Open Source Specialist Group, have put together a one day conference as part of the Wuthering Bytes Festival, bringing together leading authorities in open source business to share their expertise.

Open for Business: Monday 28th SeptemberBCSosc-web

08:30–17:30. Hebden Bridge Town Hall, Saint George’s Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7BY

This one day conference aims to help anyone with or working at an open source business, along with those who may be thinking of starting an open source business.

The presentations will provide insights into first-hand experiences at companies ranging from micro to global in scale, together with talks that look at the economics and legal considerations, exploring open source business models and contracts. We will also hear about the role of open source in taking ideas out of University and into commercial deployment. There will be presentations that explore public sector adoption of open source and the opportunities that it presents. Finally, there there will be a talk that looks at the government support available for innovation. Generous breaks for coffee, lunch and tea ensure there will be plenty of opportunity for networking.

To find out more and book your place, look at the agenda and details of the talks and speakers.

Open for Business is hosted by the Open Source Consortium and the BCS Open Source Specialist Group , and is being run as part of the Wuthering Bytes technology festival.

Wuthering Byteswuthering-bytes-logo-dark_720w

One of the reasons for hosting Open for Business as part of the Wuthering Bytes festival, is that it provides the perfect stage within which to explore potential business opportunities. Immediately before Open for Business is the annual conference of the Open Source Hardware User Group, over the weekend of 26th & 27th September. This features 13 talks and 7 hands-on workshops, covering topics including the Internet of Things, open hardware licensing, research into the maker movement, open source processors and wearable computing.

Then immediately following Open for Business, Calderdale Council are hosting three days on the theme of Our Tech Future, exploring topics such as the role of open data in the provision of public services, citizen innovation and much more.

Finally, the festival will draw to a close on Friday 2nd October with a day of talks that are a celebration of technology in everyday life, with inspiring stories and thought provoking insights, covering a diverse range of topics.

I look forward to seeing you all there.

 

Jeremy Bennett

Open Source Consortium Treasurer and CEO of Embecosm

My thanks to Gary Cheski for permission to use his cartoon. An earlier version of this article appeared on the Embecosm blog.

Rising profile of Open Source in retail tech

I visited the RBTE expo at Olympia on 10th March to gain a perspective of the progress of Open Source in retail technology, we were not disappointed with what we found.

RBTE 2015 LogoIt was clear to see the profile of Open Source is emerging within the retail industry. We found most exhibitors embed Open Source at some level within their offerings, this may be through cloud infrastructure, Android or Open Source developments.

Odoo stand at RBTE 2015Odoo, who topped the bill on the e-Commerce bootcamp, demonstrated how their software can enable the rapid implementation of an e-Commerce module within their business management suite of applications. Their stand featured the full end to end business management solution including point of sale, warehouse management and accounting with particular focus on the drag and drop website and e-commerce builder. Currently, the Odoo suite is provided under an Open Source AGPL license and is written in a modular Python framework. A partner channel provides implementation services, Odoo offer direct hosted sales and an enterprise contract guarantee.

Shopware stand at RBTE 2015Shopware made their UK début at the show, prominently and proudly displaying the words “Open Source”. This attracted much attention and conversation as passers by who may have heard of Open Source, and wanted more information, stopped to talk to the exhibitor. Shopware provide an Open Source e-commerce platform ,written in PHP ,which is popular across mainland Europe. The application is often used as a front-end on top of legacy ERP and database systems. They support an extensive set of plugins and an enterprise support option, the software is released under an Open Source license.

Akeneo stand at RBTE 2015Akeneo also made their UK début with their Open Source Product Information Management tools. Also created in PHP, the Akeneo tools enable data to be consolidated from multiple sources and made available to online applications, mobile apps and even printable outputs. The solution includes a powerful import and export function which enables it to connect with many ERP systems, databases and even CSV files. Akeneo provide their application through a BSD-style license and offer enterprise services.

Magento stand at RBTE 2015Last but not least is the Open Source powerhouse of e-commerce, Magento. Also a PHP application, Magento has a large community of integrators and developers to support and develop the Open Core and associated commercial modules. Recently acquired by Ebay Enterprises, Magento had a large presence, sponsoring the lanyards and taking a large stand space, shared with a selection of integrators.

Flapit imageAlthough not Open Source, one stand that also caught our eye was the Flapit cloud-connected departure board which displays real-time statistics taken from social media and other sources in the virtual world bringing them into a tangible form in the physical world. The Flapit display is just over half a meter wide and resembles a 1960s electronic calendar clock.

It was pleasing to see that the Open Source stands drew more than their fair share of visitors, leaving some of the more established names kicking their heels. This was in part due to to the contemporary and clean presentation style of the Open Source companies, and the intuitive and easy to use applications on offer.

chip hack day

An Introduction to FPGA Programming

London, 20-21 April 2013

Organised by OSC member embecosm

A two day introductory workshop on field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) aimed at complete beginners with no prior experience of hardware description languages (HDL) and FPGA workflows.

All original materials used in the workshop will be made available under open licences and published to GitHub.

Free FPGA development systems will be given to the first five teachers that both register and complete the workshop.

Continue reading chip hack day

oshug mtg April 2013

Open Source Hardware User Group Meeting

London, 18 April 2013, 6pm

This event is organised by our friends the Open Source Hardware Group

The second meeting of 2013 marking their third anniversary will feature a talk on writing embedded firmware and a panel discussion that will explore the future of open source hardware. Topics:

  • Writing firmware for the AVR: A Morse Code Beacon
  • Panel discussion: The Future of Open Source Hardware

Continue reading oshug mtg April 2013

Information economy consultation

Govt consultation on an information economy strategy

On 7 February 2013 The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) opened a call for evidence on an Information Economy strategy. The working description is:

the part of the economy where digital technologies and information combine to drive productivity and create new growth opportunities across the whole economy

Our full response is available below, however in summary: we consider that in the same way that Cabinet Office failed in its open standards consultation to consider the consequences for the rest of the economy arising from its plans to make public services digital by default:

Overall we find the consultation to be poorly framed and fails to identify […] the interacting nature of its policy choices and account for their effects.

Here there is a similar failure to consider the interaction of the information economy strategy with online public services, specifically, the risk that poorly implemented Information Economy strategy will interact badly with the implementation of online public services, creating further blocks rather than enablers.

Continue reading Information economy consultation

Open Standards 2013

Open Source, Open Standards 2013

Thursday 18 April, London

We are pleased to be supporting Open Source, Open Standards 2013, the leading summit exploring how to take full advantage of open technology solutions across the public sector, from delivering innovative and open IT services to driving savings.

Programme:

  • Open Source across government and the End User Device strategy
  • Guidance on Open Source security
  • The importance of Open Standards and interoperability
  • Open Source and the future of Digital Government
  • Implementing Open Source in Healthcare
  • Meeting the 7 Open Standards principles for procurement
  • Implementation of a council wide Open Source strategy

Continue reading Open Standards 2013