Thursday, December 21, 2006

e-Stores in French, German and Japanese

ICE High Sppee Model TrainAmazon has a facility for setting up your own "store" to sell their products on commission. After setting up one for (the US based site in English), I set one up with the German, French and Japanese sites. This was challenging, as I don't speak any of these languages. The Japanese site offers an English interface for shoppers, but not for the resellers. The German and French sites offer no English at all.

I used a web translation service to translate the Amazon interface to English. That wasn't so hard for German and French, but more difficult for Japanese. It was not just a matter of word translation, as an example, I found that postal addresses are entered the opposite way around than in English (with state, city, street instead of street, city and state). But I managed to get through all that.

To see what it looked like, I then translated the sites back to English from French, German, and Japanese.

Fuzzy Logic Rice CookerAfter carefully translating headings and sub headings into each of the languages I discovered when translated back they were all nonsense. So I put the captions in English. The hope is that English speakers will be attracted to the site for products which they can't get at the US Amazon site (the Japanese seem to be obsessed with AI fuzzy logic rice cookers). This even applies to the UK Amazon, which is in English, but has different products to the US Amazon.

Eurostar Model TrainAs an example the US amazon has a poor selection of high speed models of toy trains. This is because the USA doesn't have many real high speed trains. In contrast the UK Amazon offers models of the Eurostar and German Amazon the ICE and Thalis very fast trains.

Apart from that I created speciality stores on subjects from Accessible Web Design to Walter Burley Griffin. Full list:
  • Accessible Web Design: Web site testing and General Accessibility for web pages.
  • Australian Bush HatAustralian Bush Hats: Hats, Oilskin Coats, Saddles, Boots and Books of Australian Outback.
  • Canberra: History, Travel and Architecture of the city of Canberra.
  • Build Your Own Car PCCar PCs: Build a PC for your car. Books and parts with a step by step guide to building a personal computer into a car for entertainment, GPS navigation and car diagnostics. With: Car PCs, LCD Screens and On Board Diagnostics (OBD)Equipment.
  • Film, TV and Video Games Industry: Books on Film Making, TV Production, Games Industry, Electronics, Cameras and Photography.
  • GPS Car Navigation Systems: Units, Books and DVDs on the Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Home Office Products: Computer and telecommunications equipment for your small or home office. With ADSL Modems, Routers, VOIP, Skype Phones, Wi-Fi, Printers, Scanners, PCs, Add-ons, Software, UPS and Fire Safes.
  • Computer Education Products: Books and other training materials for the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL/ECDL) computer literacy standard.
  • Military Technology: Books on UAVs, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, Network Centric Warfare, airborne early warning and control aircraft.
  • International Sporting Events: Clothes, Books, DVDs and Related Products
    from the Olympic Games and other events.
  • Lego Robot KitRobots: Robot kits, books and videos. Build and program your own robot or see how others have done it. With: Lego Mindstorms and the iRobot Roomba Robotic Vacuum.
  • RSS Feeds: Books about RSS and Atom Feeds, Podcasting and Blogging
  • Smart Apartment: Home Automation, Fuzzy Logic Products, Home Theatre and Wide Screen TV.
  • Trains: Train Books, Model Railways, Rail Travel Books and DVDs
  • Universal Service
  • USB: Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices and information.
  • Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin: Architects of Canberra, town planners and landscape architecture.

eJournal Review Process

I signed up as a reviewer with the electronic Journal of Health Informatics and after a few weeks received my first request to do a review. The eJHI uses the OJS e-journal system and the review workflow process is largely automated.

The editor selected me as a reviewer and the system then sent me an automated message inviting me to review. I clicked on a link in the message and was taken to the journal web site, where I clicked to agree to do the review. I then downloaded a copy of the article for review, and looked at the offered guidelines on what to do.

After I wrote my review I uploaded it to the web site. Shortly after I got a message from the editor complementing me on the quick response. This all worked very smoothly and quickly. Perhaps I should not be surprised when an automated system works, but it was a relief.

There is, of course, a danger that the speed of the automation will encourage quick reviews and lightweight papers for on-line journals. But that is something which can be countered in other ways. As an example the OJS system has provision for the editor to rate the each review. Also some form of public assessment of the papers by the readers, perhaps after a traditional review process, is possible. OJS doesn't have a way for readers to rate papers, but they can post comments.

One way to counter the virtual nature of on-line journals would be to associate them with events. In the paper publishing world conference proceedings are separate to journals. Attempting to incorporate the papers from conferences in a journal is difficult as journals have regular fixed deadlines and page limits. Conferences need their papers ready to suit the conference and to be as big as necessary. Using e-publishing remove many of the constraints.

OJS have a companion OCS for conference publishing. But it is designed for one-off events. What is needed is a blending of the two. I have been doing a little of this by changing the wording of the OJS to suit conferences. Some of this can be done using the internationalization features of the system, without changing code.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Open Archives Initiative XML Interface

The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) allows a digital repository to export metadata and data using XML. As an example the ACS Digital Library has as its OAI address: <>. I registered this with the RoAR Eprints archive. By just supplying the OAI address for the digital library, the the archive system was able to extract information needed to register it.

If you just type the OAI address into a web browser you get an error message in return. An application such as the Open Archives Initiative - Repository Explorer is needed to send queries in the correct format and interpret the XML sent back. A simple example is the query for the repository to identity itself <>. The reply is:
Repository NameACS Digital Library
Base URL
Protocol Version2.0
Earliest Datestamp2006-12-05T00:40:05Z
Deleted Record Handlingno
Other Information
scheme: oai
delimiter: :
The request <> returns what formats the data is available in:



List sets <> lists the publciations in the repository:

Australasian Journal of Information Systems

set description: dc: description:

set description: dc: description:
AJIS Featured Theme

set description: dc: description:
Articles ...

Australian University Research Repositories

On the 18 December 2006 the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced a $25.5 million for universities to be able to provide digital research results. This Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories programme is part of the Research Quality Framework:
The Research Quality Framework (RQF) will require that the research assessed in the first cycle be stored in a digital storage system (repository) wherever possible. The Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER) programme will assist universities to meet this requirement during the first RQF cycle.

The Australian Government is providing $25.5 million through the ASHER programme over three years to assist with the establishment of digital repositories in Australian universities. This will allow institutions to place their research outputs, including journal articles and less traditional outputs such as digitised artworks or x-ray crystallography images in an accessible digital store for the RQF assessment.
The universities only have to show each paper stored in the system to a handful of assessors. But hopefully they will take the opportunity to build a publicly accessible repository so that any academic, business person or member of the general public can see what good work they have been doing. It would be a shame to spend tens of millions of dollars to build an electronic publishing system for a handful of people to use.

The RQF system is being tested in 2007 and for implementation in 2008.

The ACS Digital Library system will be available to universities and is designed to simplify the process for the RQF. Universities can scan the library for their authors and load the details into their institutional repository.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Build a Car PC

Build Your Own Car PCAt the library I noticed the book "Build Your Own Car PC" by Gavin D. J. Hooper. As the title suggests, this gives a step by step guide to building a personal computer into a car for entertainment, navigation and car diagnostics. The book takes a purist approach using a VIA SP Mini Itx motherboard which fits in a case the size of a car radio (DIN slot).

Such a tiny PC requires special low height components, for the memory cards and heat sink, a more rugged disk drive. The book discusses peripherals such as tray less DVD drives, radio and TV tuners, small LCD screens.

Car PCBut what is not made entirely clear is why you want to do all this. A car PC would make an excellent entertainment system, able to play movies and music. A GPS antenna will turn it into a navigation system. An On Board Diagnostics (ODB) connector will allow the PC to read diagnostic information from the car's engine management system. But the details of how you would use these is not covered in great detail in the book, just how to put them together.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Cyber Warfare Integration

Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, (MUAV), Project AIR 7000 Phase 1B, Australian Defence Department 2006:
Phase 1B is intended to acquire High Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Systems for maritime patrol and other surveillance. Phase 2B is intended to provide the manned component of the ADF maritime patrol capability that may involve upgrade or replacement of the AP-3C Orion aircraft. ...
The life-of-type for the AP-3C is being driven by the increasing cost of addressing airframe fatigue and corrosion, aircraft system supportability and mission system obsolescence. ... AIR 7000 will consider the future of the AP-3C in the context of future ADF requirements for maritime patrol and response. This will include the exploration of a broad range of options including aircraft refurbishment/re-manufacture or replacement, and the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as an adjunct to manned platforms....

Estimated Phase Expenditure $1000m to $1500m Scheduled Year of Decision FY 2007/08 Scheduled In Service Date 2009 to 2011
MQ-9_Reaper UAVNorth West Shelf UAS Trial Further Information, DSTO, 2006:
Mariner Demonstrator UAV The purpose of the North West Shelf Trial is to:

assess the maritime surveillance potential of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to operate with Armidale Class Patrol Boats in providing an enhanced layer of security in Australia; and

enable Defence to make a practical assessment of the utility of UAVs as one component of an integrated national surveillance network. The trial will also assess the procedures and practices for sharing surveillance information among government agencies to develop a whole-of-government response to Australia's national security needs.
Unmanned Aircraft Trial Successfully Completed, DSTO, 3 November, 2006:
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Senator Sandy Macdonald, today announced the successful completion of the recent Defence trial which assessed the capability of unmanned aerial systems performing maritime surveillance over Australia's North West Shelf. ...

The first phase of the trial involved American aerospace company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) and its Mariner Demonstrator unmanned aerial vehicle, which flew a series of real-world missions from RAAF Learmonth in northern Western Australia during September.

This phase of the trial aimed to assess the ability of the Mariner Demonstrator to operate with the Royal Australian Navy's Armidale Class Patrol Boats as well as the Border Protection Command and other force elements such as the Pilbara Regiment, to conduct surveillance and response missions.

Between 28 August and 25 September the aircraft flew a total of 75.5 hours, with each sortie ranging from two hours to more than 20 hours. ...

The second phase of the trial was conducted by Northrop Grumman in San Diego.

"Northrop Grumman used its Cyber Warfare Integration Network to simulate and model the Global Hawk UAS, flying similar mission profiles as the Mariner Demonstrator had done over the North West Shelf," Dr Sare said.

"The CWIN exercise allowed us to fill in gaps in areas where it was not practical to use the UAS during the real-world trial phase. The San Diego end of the trial has also helped to demonstrate the ability of unmanned systems to provide enhanced surveillance of the northern maritime approaches to Australia," he said.

Dr Sare said Defence was currently preparing a full report on the trial to be presented to the Government by the end of the year.

Data from the North West Shelf UAS trial will help Defence in developing requirements for Project Air 7000 Phase 1, under which it plans to acquire a long endurance, multi-mission unmanned aerial vehicle. ...
Cyber Warfare Integration Network, Northrop Grumman, 2006:

Cyber Warfare Integration Network at Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman has transformed its modeling, simulation and analysis capabilities into a distributed system-of-systems environment called the Cyber Warfare Integration Network (CWIN). A synthetic engineering environment, CWIN supports full spectrum battlefield operations and system-of-systems design and development. CWIN is geographically distributed among multiple sites, and allows collaboration among platforms, sensors, weapons and battle management/command and control (BM/C2) planning and decision tools. ...

CWIN also provides capability to explore and evaluate Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) management and exploitation, space operations, information operations, manned/unmanned concepts of operations and "Effects Based Operations." CWIN is capable of sophisticated experimentation with emerging machine-to-machine collaboration concepts, such as unmanned air vehicles, intelligent agents, and data warehousing and mining. ...

Mix of F/A-18F Super Hornets UAVs and Carrier F-35s for Australia?

F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets (from Wikipedia)The Australian government is considering buying 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter/attack aircraft. The Super Hornet is a two seat derivative of the F/A-18 Hornet currently in service with the RAAF.

The Super Hornet would be used as a stop gap due to a delay in the availability of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. These are to replace the F111s due for retirement in 2010.

The F/A-18F is relatively new design, has the advantage of being proven in service but is not a stealth aircraft like the F-35. While the Australian plan seems to be to only order enough Super Hornets as a temporary stopgap, it may make sense to retain them to replace the older F/A-18s. Australian could then consider if F-35s are needed, or if their job could be better done with UAVs exploiting advanced computers and telecommunications technology.

Lockheed Martin F-35Lockheed Martin have proposed an UAV derivative of the F-35, with a typical mission consisting of four unmanned JSFs controlled from two piloted F-35 or F-22s. Sensor information would be shared between the aircraft via datalinks. However, the F-35 and F-22 are both single seat aircraft, leaving the pilot little time to fly another two aircraft remotely. In contrast the F/A-18F has two seats, making it more feasible for one of the crew to control the UAVs.

Landing Helicopter Dock (from Australian Defence)Australia could also consider a mix of land based F/A-18Fs and F-35B Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft based on the new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, which are essentially small aircraft carriers. The F-35B stealth capabilities would complement the longer range of the F/A-18F.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Australian government open access policy for research publishing

It appears the Australian government is to adopt an open access policy for research:
AUSTRALIA has taken a great leap towards research results being freely available to all, supporters of the open access movement say.
The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council - with total annual grants worth more than $1billion - are about to announce their first open access policies. ...
From: "ARC sold on open access to research", Bernard Lane, The Australian, December 13, 2006.
This followed a submission to the ARC by Professor Arthur Sale FACS, which I signed on behalf of the ACS (along with other organisations).

The ACS Digital Library uses the repository format which Professor Sale proposed to the ARC for distributing research results. This will therefore will be one of the first Australian systems outside a university to implement the policy. Larger universities are building their own digital repositories to hold research results, but the smaller ones may not have a suitable system.

Also the Productivity Commission has just released a draft report on the value to the Australian economy of such research:
"There may be a case for providing universities with some additional funding to demonstrate promising technologies so they can be more easily transferred to businesses. However, there are several options for supporting such transfer that do not involve a new dedicated funding stream."
From: Public Support for Science and Innovation, ARC, 2006.
To help make research accessible to business, I got the editor of JRPIT to put the more practical articles in the front of the journal and the scientific ones (with equations) at the back. The new AJIS is businesses orientated.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Publishing Conferences and Journals Together

The editor of the ACS's conference proceedings series pointed out that the terms "Journal" and "Issue" used in the OJS system are inappropriate for publishing conference proceedings. So I generalised the words in the ACS Digital Library to be suitable for conferences as well as journals.

The OJS software uses a localization file "locale/en_US/locale.xml" as detailed in the technical manual. So I modified the localization file to replace the words everywhere in the system:

* "View Journal" with "View"
* "Current Issue" with "Current"
* "By Issue" with "By Volume Issued"
* "Journal Help" with "Help"
* "Other Journals" with "Other Publications"
* "My Journals" with "My Publications"
* "Journals" with "Publications"
* "Open Journal Systems" with "ACS Digital Library" for first one (on top of home page) then "OJS" for the others.

For more detailed customization OJS uses PHP and Smarty templates. But I hope to avoid changing them.

In theory we could use the companion to the OJS called the "Open Conference Systems" as that is designed for conferences. But it is intended for one off conferences, not series with more than 60 volumes like CRPIT. So it will be easier to further customize OJS.

Friday, December 15, 2006

System Approach to Management of Government Information

Having grumbled for several years about the poor way organizations create and manage electronic documents, I have decided it is time to do something about it. In the first half of 2007 the ANU will be offering a program of short courses on a "System Approach to Management of Government Information":
Record keeping and data management are essential requirements needed to support efficient and accountable performance of business and government. The Australian National University, in step with leading international trend, is establishing a new program that addresses aspects of records management and preservation of archives in a systems approach.
The program was designed in consultation with the National Archives of Australia.

This includes my own modules on:

* Information Architecture for E-Documents, and
* Electronic Document Management

These are intended for middle to upper level executives in public service agencies and companies. They are a less technical version of my lectures for IT students on e-document management and web design.

The presentation format is based on the one I used for the International Council of Museums/UNESCO workshop on IT in 2005.

ps: Of course some may argue the electronic brochure for the program exhibits the faults I am claiming the course will fix. Perhaps that will be an exercise for the class. ;-)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Working Star Trek PADD for $50?

Star Trek PADDsIn "The $50 PC Project" I suggested an inexpensive single board portable computer could be made for education in developing nations. I just realized the $50 PC looks a bit like a Personal Access Display Device (PADD) from the Star Trek TV show. I predicted in 1996 that we would all be using them now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ten Canoes: From Samoa to Arafura Swamp

Ten Canoes Study Guides
The Australian movie "Ten Canoes" is set in the Arafura Swamp of the Australian Northern Territory. The film is inspired by a photograph of 10 canoeists of the the Yolngu people in the swamp, taken by the anthropologist Donald Thompson in the 30s.
The film has won three AFI awards and is Australia's entry for best foreign film at the 2007 Academy Awards.

What has this to do with Samoa? In 2005 I made a nine day visit to Apia, Samoa, at the request of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). It was to conduct a five day workshop for staff from museums around the South Pacific region on the use of computer and telecommunications technologies.

My report pointed out that many of the museums of the region were too small to support their own IT systems. It made sense for them to use a common system which could also share data. On my return to Australia I had ANU students do projects on how to accomplish this. I reported this work at the Pacific Museums in Sustainable Heritage Development, Asia Pacific Week in January 2006.

I was then contacted by a project attempting to combine data from two Australian museums. One of the students who worked on the pacific island project with me went to work on the Australian project. Another student build a demonstration system using test data from the museums. Their presentation, report and open source software are available.

It turned out that one of the museum collections for the project is the Donald Thomson Collection at University of Melbourne, with the photographs which inspired "Ten Canoes".

Einstein's fridge an example for NICTA?

Einstein's RefrigeratorI wrote about an IT Innovation Seminar, in Canberra: The Challenges of Research in ICT:
What can we learn from the Past - with a focus on the case of INRIA, France ... Professor Alain Bensoussan ... University of Texas ... 6 December, 2006 ...
Professor Bensoussan talked about the role of government funded IT research organisations, such as INRIA (the French research body he headed), in supporting national goals for industry development. He argued that INRIA had been successful in producing good fundamental research.

Professor Bensoussan is in Australia talking to NICTA and his comments were very relevant to NICTA. Like France, Australia had a blend of government and private organisations involved in research. It has provincial and national governments with diverging interests in economic development. It has to come to terms with the globalisation of industry and of research and development.

Professor Bensoussan argued Australia was well placed as a western country in Asia to take advantage of opportunities in Asia, China and India. Having visited China and India, I have seen those opportunities, but how do we make them happen?

What was less convincing in Professor Bensoussan's talk was his argument as to the value of organisations such as INIRA and NICTA to their national sponsors. He argued the US "Stanford Model" of spinoffs from research into companies did not fit with the European approach to R&D. However, he was unable to point to a successful alternative in Europe, with IT research funded by government leading to industrial development.

This points to a major weakness in the Government strategy behind the development of NICTA. Essentially NICTA follows the European model: fund good research and hope it is of economic benefit somehow, some time. The result is likely to be the same as in the French case: the rest of the world will thank Australia for contributing to the overall increase in knowledge and then commercially exploit our research to sell products back to us.

We should not be surprised if NICTA fails to produce any economic benefit for Australia, if we fail to plan how to obtain such benefit. One alternative model is the "Cambridge Phenomenon", which I saw on a visit to the University of Cambridge (England). This model has the university actively involved in investment in startup ventures based on the university research. But it also has informal connections between the researchers and industry. A contributing factor is the limited tenure of the researchers, so they are forced to go out and set up a company after a time.

Whatever the model, we need one. All those conducting research at NICTA using government money need to be asked the question I ask every PHD candidate giving a seminar at the ANU: "How are we going to make money out of this?".

ps: Perhaps we can draw inspiration from Albert Einstein. While doing fundamental research he patented a refrigerator, which was licensed to European appliance makers, who paid royalties.

Personal Name Matching, Data Linkage and Geocoding


A Comparison of Personal Name Matching: Techniques and Practical Issues. -and also- Privacy-Preserving Data Linkage and Geocoding: Current Approaches and Research Directions

Peter Christen (DCS, ANU)

DATE: 2006-12-13
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Building, N101, ANU, Canberra

In this seminar I will present two talks I will give at the IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) in Hong Kong, 18-22 December.

1) Finding and matching personal names is at the core of an increasing number of applications: from text and Web mining, search engines, to information extraction, deduplication and data linkage systems. Variations and errors in names make exact string matching problematic, and approximate matching techniques have to be applied. When compared to general text, however, personal names have different characteristics that need to be considered. In this talk I will discuss the characteristics of personal names and present potential sources of variations and errors. I then overview a comprehensive number of commonly used, as well as some recently developed name matching techniques. Experimental comparisons using four large name data sets indicate that there is no clear best matching technique.

2) Data linkage is the task of matching and aggregating records that relate to the same entity from one or more data sets. A related technique is geocoding, the matching of addresses to their geographic locations. As data linkage is often based on personal information (like names and addresses), privacy and confidentiality are of paramount importance. In this talk I will present an overview of current approaches to privacy-preserving data linkage, and discuss their limitations. Using real-world scenarios I will illustrate the significance of developing improved techniques for automated, large scale and distributed privacy-preserving linking and geocoding. I then discuss four core research areas that need to be addressed in order to make linking and geocoding of large confidential data collections feasible.

Dr Peter Christen is a lecturer at the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University. He received his Diploma in computer science engineering from the ETH Zurich (Switzerland) in 1995 and his PhD in computer science from the University of Basel (Switzerland) in 1999. His research interests are data mining (especially data linkage and data pre-processing), high-performance computing, and most recently security and privacy preservation (in the context of data linkage and health informatics).

In the last four years his research has concentrated on the project "Investigation and Development of Parallel Large Scale Record Linkage Techniques", an ARC Linkage project conducted in collaboration with and partially funded by the NSW Department of Health.


Office Open XML Ecma Standard

On 7 December 2006, Office Open XML (OpenXML) was adopted as Ecma standard 376. Ecma has also submitted it for fast track adoption by ISO (IEC JTC 1). OpenXML is based on Microsoft's Office Open XML and is an adaption of Micrsoft Office's word-processing , presentation, and spreadsheet formats to XML. It is similar to Sun Microsoft's OpenOffice format, which has already been adopted as an ISO standard. The Wikipedia also has a useful overview of Office Open XML and comparison with OpenOffice.

Unfortunately while ECMA's announcement says their documents can be downloaded from their web site, I was unable to find the approved standard 376 in the list. But presuimbly the standards is close to the final draft of 9 October 2006. In addition there is a overview by the ECMA committee.

The standard is divided into five parts:
  1. Fundamentals
  2. Open Packaging Conventions
  3. Primer
  4. Markup Language Reference
  5. Markup Compatibility and Extensibility
The standard is provided in PDF Tagged PDF and "WordprocessingML" formats (WordprocessingML is the OpenXML word processing format). The document is not provided in HTML format as ordinary web pages, which will severely limit access to it.

Like OpenOffice, OpenXML uses the zip format to bundle up the text of a document in XML format with any images and other binary files into a compressed file. As an example the "Fundamentals" section of the standard in OpenXML format is one 240 kbyte ziped file. When unzipped it contains 29 files, of a total of 2.4 mbytes: three PNG images and the rest XML. The main text of the document is in one 1.6 mbytes file ("document.xml"), with various formatting and references in other small files.

Assuming the IT community accept Microsoft's assurances that they will continue to make use of the format freely available, it should prove popular. However, neither OpenXML nor OpenOffice are compatible with a web browser and face their biggest challenge from web standards. After an author prepares a document using OpenXML or OpenOffice they most likely then have to render it other formats for distribution, such as PDF and HTML.

Newer XHTML standards are providing more of the formatting expected for word processing documents, while providing backward compatibility with web browsers. A word processor which use an XHTML format as its native format would provide the capability of simply saving the document to the web for distribution. There would be no need to convert to PDF or HTML. There would also be scope for better integration with web tools, such as blogs, wikis and feeds.

The creation, promotion and distribution of a new word processing package was previously a major undertaking. However, AJAX (Web 2) based office packages could quickly render irrelevant the debate as to if OpenXML or OpenOffice is better, by superseding them both.

Ecma's overview of OpenXML illustrates both the strengths and weakness of both its approach and that of OpenOffice:
"OpenXML was designed from the start to be capable of faithfully representing the pre-existing corpus of word-processing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that are encoded in binary formats defined by Microsoft Corporation. The standardization process consisted of mirroring in XML the capabilities required to represent the existing corpus, extending them, providing detailed documentation, and enabling interoperability. At the time of writing, more than 400 million users generate documents in the binary formats, with estimates exceeding 40 billion documents and billions more being created each year."
This is a wrong headed approach to the creation of an electronic document standard. The priority for word processing documents has been to reliably produce printed documents which look identical. However, the production of printed documents is now a very small part of what a word processor is used for and should not be the priority. Most documents are used for on-screen electronic viewing. Exact reproduction of a printed format is exactly what is NOT needed. As a result word processing documents have to be converted into other formats for use. As an example, the OpenXML standard is provided in three formats: PDF for printing, Tagged PDF for on-screen viewing and WordprocessingML. None of these formats is particularly suitable for on-screen viewing.

A new approach is needed where the document format is designed for on-screen viewing with a web browser, and then the additional features needed for printing are added. This can be done with XHTML.

Academic publishing viable in Australia?

From "The end of the paper trail", Rosemary Neill, The Australian, December 09, 2006:
"CAROLYN Leach-Paholski was tickled pink when her first novel was accepted by academic publishing house Pandanus Books. ... Just days after The Grasshopper Shoe's launch last year, Leach-Paholski learned Pandanus was to be closed down. ...

The publisher, set up in 2001 under the auspices of the Australian National University, was in debt to the tune of $170,000 and the university was no longer prepared to subsidise it. Instead, Pandanus would be absorbed into the university's electronic press, ANU E Press ...

Australia's most prominent university presses, the University of Queensland Press and Melbourne University Press, have undergone radical restructures in recent times, including drastic staff cuts. In 2003, MUP shed most of its staff as part of a commercial overhaul; UQP has survived an exodus of senior staff and a $3.5 million debt burden. The ANU's vice-chancellor Ian Chubb said earlier this year the university could no longer afford to subsidise the loss-making Pandanus as it fell outside the core activities of teaching and research. (Chubb did not respond to Review's requests for an interview.)..."
Also Vic Elliott, Director, Scholarly Information Services and University Librarian at The Australian National University talked on Electronic publishing at Australian universities at the NLA November 27, 2006.

I agree with the VC, but even low cost e-publishing university operations will need some work on their business models to be commercially viable. Universities need to be clear about why they are doing e-publishing: is it as a commercial operation, or a subsidized one to aid scholarly communication. There is a danger that by trying to do both, they will achieve neither.

With the ACS Digital Library we are seeing if advertising will cover the costs. It will take about a year to find the answer. But the reason the ACS is publishing journals and conference proceedings is to provide information about research and practice in IT, not to make money. If we cover the costs, that would be good.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The $50 PC Project

$50 PCPreviously I looked at the Intel's "Classmate PC" and the OLPC's $100 educational computers for students in developing nations. These lower the cost of computers by cutting the specifications and using mass distribution. This could be taken a step further by producing a $50 PC computer for developing nations using mobile phone smartphone, technology. According to the Wikipdeia, an Australian $50 note is called a "pineapple", so this is might be called the Pineapple $50 PC Project. ;-)

Intel and OLPC lower the cost and increase reliability of their computers by eliminating the hard disk and a using smaller screen. But they still build the units essentially the same way as conventional laptop computers: with components mounted in a clam shell case and connected by wires. The many parts and wires increase the cost and lower the reliability.

$50 PCInstead, imagine opening a laptop with screen folded right back to be flat on the desk and then removing the hinge. This would result in a design in one fixed case, with the screen above the keyboard. This design was used by the Cambridge Z88, a number of other 1980s portable computers, most mobile phones and pocket calculators.

The mobile phone industry has the wholesale cost of phones to below US$30. and calculators are available for under $5. This can be done because the phones and calculators are made of a few components all mounted on one printed circuit board. This eliminates most of the wires, plugs, sockets and screws, reducing the cost and increasing reliability.

A workable design for the $50 PC might be the size of an A4 portrait page: 297 mm high by 210 mm wide. From the side it would be a wedge: 10mm high at the front, rising to 64 mm at the back. The wedge shape would provide about the same angle as a PC keyboard for comfortable typing and allow enough room under the back for the batteries. This would look a little like the Kyotronic KC-85/NEC PC-8201a/Tandy 100 of the 1980s.

The single printed circuit board would hold all electronic components, as well as the screen and keyboard. The individual electrical contacts for the keyboard keys would be printed directly on the circuit board, as would be the antenna for wireless communication. The rubber keyboard would be molded to cover the whole front of the unit, including around the touch pad, up and round the screen, down the sides and around plugs and sockets. This would form a dust and water resistant gasket as well as hold the case together without the need for any screws.

The back of the unit would be made of one molded piece of plastic. The unit would have no conventional laptop chassis, with the printed circuit board simply sandwiched between the front and back of the case. The batteries would be mounted directly in a molded indentation in the case, with no separate battery compartment and no screws.

Such a unit could prototyped, with the case made using Solid freeform fabrication, an off-the-shelf single board computer (SBC), LCD screen, and keyboard. Test units could be made in low volumes by hand. The production unit would suit mass production, or small scale manufacture.

The unit's relatively large case would allow the use of lower cost components than the Classmate PC and $100 laptop. The case could be designed to take different sized LCD screens, depending on availability. There would be room for low cost "sub-C" size rechargeable batteries as commonly used in portable drills. The back of the case could be molded around the battery pack to provide a carrying handle.

But such products are unlikely to succeed through good design alone. They also need a publicity grabbing gimmicks. The original design for the $100 laptop had a hand powered crank. This is obviously impractical and has not been included on later units, but was a useful promotional feature. Some ideas for the $50 laptop could be:
  • LIGHT UP KEYBOARD: If the keyboard is made from translucent material, there should be enough stray light from the back light of the LCD screen to illuminate the keys. This would look very impressive in promotional demonstrations, photos and videos, with whole case of the unit glowing.
  • VEHICLE MOUNTING: If the unit was made smaller (180 x 200 mm), it could be mounted in the standard "DIN" slot of a car dashboard. This would be the width of a standard car radio and four times the height (quad-DIN). As an example the Indian designed Reva NXG show car has a Linux tablet computer mounted in the dashboard. It could be used for entertainment, navigation, business (taxis and buses). Such a mounting could also be used for low cost Internet kiosks and public access computers in libraries, with the PC securely mounted into a wall or desktop.
Educational laptops resemble the email, web and Internet appliances which the computer and mobile phone industries have struggled to make popular. A recent attempt is the Pepper Pad and there other such devices for sale. These units have not proved popular as a mainstream product. Perhaps if the industry was to collaborate on designing a low cost, open source unit for developing nations, this would spark interest from first world consumers in such products.

Intel Classmate PC for Education

Intel Classmate PCIntel's "Classmate PC" (previously the "Eduwise") is a project for an educational computer for developing nations. It has similar specifications to the OLPC $100 Laptop. Intel's design has a Celeron M processor, 7" 800×480 LCD display and no hard disk, with data and software in flash memory. Unlike the OLPC which uses Linux, the Classmate PC will use an embedded version of Windows XP, with Linux as an option.
Classmate PC is a small, mobile learning-assistant educational solution that Intel specially developed for students in emerging markets. The rugged learning device, designed to provide affordable, collaborative learning environments for students in grades 5-10 and their teachers, will feature built-in wireless and digital pen attachments and run either Microsoft Windows* or the Linux* operating system.

System Configuration of Classmate PC
Chassis Customized Mini Chassis 245 x 196 x 44
Processor Intel® Mobile Processor ULV 900 MHz, Zero L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB
Chipset Intel 915GMS + ICH6-M
Memory DDR-II 256M SO-DIMM
LCD 7" 800 x 480, LVDS Interface, LED B/L
Storage Device 1GB NAND Flash
Audio Stereo 2 Channel Audio, Built-in Speakers and Microphone, Jack for External Output and Microphone Input
LAN/WLAN 10/100M Ethernet + WLAN 802.11 b/g w/ Antenna
Keyboard Integrated Keyboard with Hot Keys
Touch Pad Cycle Touch Pad with Left and Right Buttons
Note Taker (optional) Customized Note Taker with Wireless Pen
Power Solution Battery with Adapter – 6 Cells, approximately 4 hours Usage
OS Win XPE / Linux

From: Classmate PC features and benefits, Intel, 2006

V.Smile Touch TabletInterestingly, Intel have commercial looking sales brochures for the Classmate PC, with contacts listed in Brazil, Mexico, and India (Bangalore). From the photos, the Classmate PC seems to be a bigger unit than the OLPC, more like a notebook PC with an undersized screen. The OLPC looks better proportioned, but the customers may prefer the larger unit (8% larger area on the front) as it will look like they are getting more. However, the average customer may have difficulty telling the difference between a photo of these units and the low power children's computers made to look like laptops.

Classmate PCOLPC
Width (mm)245229
Depth (mm)196193
Height (mm)4464

As the Classmate PC is more like a regular laptop, it raises the question: why build a special unit at all? Why not just take an existing laptop design and leave out the expensive components? The objective seems to be more about the needs of computer designers to produce innovative products, than the needs of education in developing nations.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steele Yourself for the Future, 13 December, Canberra

13 December 2006 (Wednesday)

Time 6.00 PM - Venue: Visions Theatre, National Museum of Australia, Acton Peninsula

Colin Steele on "The future isn't what it used to be"

Colin will overview prophecies and predictions from the last two hundred years and examine the accuracy of those forecasts in areas such as technology, politics, economics, and societal change. History is littered with false prophecies and ill-fated predictions but this has not prevented the rise of futurologists and think-tanks on the one hand and fortune tellers, seers, and psychics on the other.

A concluding segment will cover predictions for the 21st century from some of today's science fiction writers, a group that has been more successful than most in the past in predicting the future ...

From: Events, Canberra Skeptics, 2006
ps: Colin Steele is from the future, having the character "Captain Colin Steele USN", named after him in John Birmingham's Axis of Time Trilogy of novels. I was promised an aircraft carrier but missed out ;-(

Friday, December 08, 2006

E-voting for Australian Elections

In August the Federal Government announced trials of electronic voting for the vision impaired and military personnel. The the legislation for this, the "Electoral and Referendum Legislation Amendment Bill 2006", has been passed by the Senate:
The Bill contains provisions that will:
  • provide for a trial of electronically assisted voting for sight-impaired people;
  • provide for a trial of remote electronic voting for Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and defence civilians serving outside Australia; ...
The Australian Government will provide additional funding to the AEC with a fiscal balance impact of $5.0 million over five years from 2006-07 (including $2.7 million in capital). The majority of the funding is being provided in 2006-07 ($3.8 million).

The funding will be used for the purchase of computer hardware and software related to the trial of electronically assisted voting for sight-impaired people and for the trial of remote electronic voting by ADF personnel serving overseas. Funding will also be used for the delivery of postal voting material to postal vote applicants by means other than post. ...

From: Explanatory Memorandum, Parliament of Australia, 2006
I have suggested the same electronic voting system could be used for disabled users, military personnel and the general public.

USB and the Australian Bush Hat

Australian HatUSB Christmas TreeI have been having fun creating "stores". Two new ones are "Everything USB" , and Austrain Bush Hats. These are just collections of products from the Amazon catalog, arranged on a web site. Hopefully someone will buy something, but it is a bit like stamp collection: there is fun in the arrangement.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

AsianLII: Asian legal information web service

Australian readers may be familiar with the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLii) which provides an excellent free consolidated database of Australian legal data. They are expanding to provide a service for the Asian region via the Asian Legal Information Institute (AsianLii):
The Asian Legal Information Institute (AsianLII - is a non-profit and free access website for legal information from all 27 countries and territories in Asia located from Japan in the east to Pakistan in the west, and from Mongolia in the north to Timor Leste in the south. Access to AsianLII is free. AsianLII will be launched for free public access in December 2006.

Facilities AsianLII will provide for searching and browsing databases of legislation, case-law, law reform reports, law journals and other legal information, where available, from each country in the region. The prototype now provides access to 75 databases drawn from over half the 27 countries, with over 100,000 documents. ...

For every country, AsianLII will also contain an extensive Catalog of law-related websites for that country (parts of the largest law catalog on the Internet), and a 'Law on Google' facility assisting users to search Google only for legal materials from that country.
The service will be officially launched on Friday. I recommend a visit to UNSW, just to see the new law building.

PS: I have suggested AsianLii have web pages which can be automatically translated into Asian languages and be accessible via mobile phones.

ACS Digital Library Indexed

I wrote 22 November 2006:
... The first electronic edition of AJIS is now on-line ...
This morning I registered the AJIS with three indexing services. These all communicate via XML formatted data interfaces:

  • OAI: The Public Knowledge Project's Open Archives Harvester. This is an Open Archives Initiative (OAI)-compliant archive of publications metadata. When indexed it should be possible to search for articles in AJIS from OAI systems around the world. I am not sure how long it will take for the metadata to be indexed.
  • Google Scholar Gateway Plugin: This is an extra feature for the OJS system which provides an interface to allow Google to collect information about the journal papers. Google Scholar is a speclai part of Google's search system for academic publising.
  • DOIs: CrossRef is a service which provides a lookup (resolver) for the Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) of each paper. DOIs are short, easy to reference identifiers for each paper.
For example the DOI for Roger Clarke's paper is:
That is:

10.3127 ACS (Publisher)
ajis AJIS (Journal)
.v14i1 Volume 14 Number 1
.12 Paper number 12
When entered in the CrossRef resolver this DOI produces the URL of the paper: <>.

For the DOIs OJS generates an XML file listing all the papers. Unlike the OAI and Google Scholar interfaces which are "live" and once set up just work; for each issue of each journal a batch file of DOI metadata has to be manually loaded to the CrossRef system. While this is not difficult, hopefully OJS will provide an automated interface in the future.

Here is what the entry for Roger Clarke's paper looks like:
<journal_article publication_type="full_text">
<title>Key Aspects of the History of the Information Systems Discipline in Australia</title>
<person_name contributor_role="author" sequence="first">
<publication_date media_type="online">
<resource><a href="" eudora="autourl"></a></resource>

If that all sounds complicated, it is. But apart from uploading one DOI file each time there is a new edition of the journal, everything should be automatic.

ps: For the philosophy behind all this, see my ANU talk.

ACS Digital Library: First Journal On-line

I wrote 22 November 2006:
The ACS Digital Library is now on-line ... <> ...
The first electronic edition of AJIS is now on-line at <>.

This features a survey of the Information Systems Discipline in Australian Universities, with a papers by: Guy Gable, Roger Clarke, Shirley Gregor, Edward Lewis, Craig McDonald, Jim Underwood, Paula Swatman, Mike Metcalfe, Graham Pervan, and John Campbell.

I have modified the web format of the digital library at the suggestion of the AJIS Editor:
  • MENU ON RIGHT: I removed the left menu and put its contents in the sidebar on the right. The main contents now have an extra 15% of the screen. To avoid changing templates I did this just using CSS. So it may need further adjustment. Please advise if it looks odd on your screen.
  • TEXT ONLY ADS: Despite my telling to just put up ads for computer books and products, it was offering saucepans, novels and toilet seat locks. This was not in keeping with the dignity of a scholarly publication, so I have replaced it with a simple list of product topics of my devising. If I can work out why it was not displaying just computer books, I will try again.
  • READING TOOLS: I switched on all the reader tools options when I set up the system. Some seem to just waste space. So I have now turned off "print version" as this gives a result little different to the screen version. I turned off the "related items" as these were not working and seemed a bit of a gimmick anyway (they just do a Google type search of the web looking for words you select from an article).
ps: Philosophy behind the ACS Digital Library:

I am still not sure how to include metadata about the authors of articles, so that we can fulfill Evan Arthur's wishlist for DEST and have all the papers searchable by institution:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Setting up your home computer network

A friend is moving house and asked how to set up their home computer network. My suggestion was to install their ADSL modem in the home office next to the office PC. The modem is connected to a router with four Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi. The office PC can be connected with an Ethernet cable, as can a second laptop in the room. Wi-Fi could be used, but you might as well use a cable if convenient, for a more reliable and secure connection.

Other computers in the house could be connected by Wi-Fi, with the security turned on. But I still prefer Ethernet cable, if possible.

VoIP PhoneAnother thing to consider is a Skype or other Voice over IP (VOIP) Internet phone service. This could be simply a low cost handset plugged into the office PC , a more expensive router with VOIP built in, a cordless VoIP phone or wi-fi Skype phone. But a home with several people in it might need multiple phone lines and it might be worth considering a full PABX. using This can have a phone number for each person in the house.

WiFi PhoneIf the Wi-Fi is working fine, another option is a Wi-Fi phone. This looks like a mobile phone but works via a Wi-Fi hot spot and Skype. You can use it around the house via your wi-fi base station and when out if near a Wi-Fi hotspot. Each member of the family can have one of these, each with its own phone number and each making a call at the same time.

UPSKeep in mind that a VoIP phone will not work with the power off. Some devices have a fallback facility where the ordinary phone line can be used if the VoIP fails. It would be best to have an ordinary old fashioned phone plugged in as well, just in case. If you get occasional power glitches, you can use a small Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) . This has a battery which can keep the equipment running for the few minutes the average power interruption lasts.

Fire SafeWhile fitting out the office, consider installing a fire and burglar resistant cabinet to hold a copy of your data. If your computer is destroyed in a fire or stolen, it may be replaced by the insurance company, but your data will not. The larger cabinets will hold a notebook computer.

Monday, December 04, 2006

IT Innovation Seminar, 6 December, Canberra

Innovation Seminar Series

The Challenges of Research in ICT: What can we learn from the Past – with a focus on the case of INRIA, France
Speaker: Professor Alain Bensoussan
Distinguished Research Professor of Operations Management, Director of the International Center for Decision and Risk Analysis (ICDRiA), University of Texas
Time/Date: 10:30 – 12:00 pm, Wednesday, 6 December, 2006
Location: The Australian National University, Theatre 1, Ground Floor, HW Arndt Bldg #25 (off Kingsley St), Canberra
Cost: No charge
RSVP: Dora Gava 02 6125 3664 Dora.gava(a)
Professor Alain Bensoussan (Fellow, IEEE) Distinguished Research Professor in Operations Management, School of Management, and Director of the International Center for Risk and Decision Analysis from 1969 to 2004, President of INRIA (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control) from 1984 to 1996, President of CNES (the French Space Agency) from 1996 to 2003, and Chairman of Council of the European Space Agency from 1999 to 2002. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Technology, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the Academia Europae. He has been awarded the NASA Public Service Medal, the Von Humboldt Prize, Legion d’Honneur of France, and Bundesverdienstkreuz of Germany.

Further information at: INRIA

This seminar is sponsored by:
National Centre for Information Systems Research
College of Business & Economics, ANU, Canberra
ps: Who said IT is not as hard as "rocket science? ;-)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Flaming Cows and Australian Cheese

Flaming Cows by Lawrence FinnOn Saturday I visited the studio of artist printer Lawrence Finn:
"... primarily concerned with the psyche, politics and angst. My personal belief is that artists are somewhat the conscience of the geography, and as such we exist between the church and the prison. As a class Artists have no place in this "New World Order" but the human psyche has a terrible need to express itself. In spite of globalisation and economic rationalisation, artists will I suspect be here for a little longer."
His latest series of Linocuts "Shadows under the Blood Red Rock" is a dark and irreverent look at Australian history. One which caught my eye was "Flaming Cows"; this is a visualization of the common Australian expression of expression of frustration with the problems of rural life. It is a also a reference to the 1962 trading card series by Topps , which formed the basis for the 1996 Tim Burton movie "Mars Attacks!".

Lawrence uses traditional printing methods, similar to those I saw in Hanuman Kambli's workshop at the School of Art in Panjim, India. I forgot to ask Lawrence what printmakers thought of Giclee prints (an arty term for high quality ink jet prints). While not as traditional, these allow artists to sell their work on-line much more easily. Amazon has about 130,000 Giclee prints for sale.

At the gallery Regional Australian Produce laid on some of their Tasmanian shortbread, Western Australia cheese and Queensland biscuits. It is interesting how small Australian companies can use the the web to sell produce and how I thought Australian cheddar tastes better than the original from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Access Card Briefing, Sydney, 13 December 2006

The Australian Government's Office of the Access Card (also known as the Government Smart card or Health Card) will hold a Consumer and Privacy Briefing on 13 December 2006:
"... three main aims.
  • Inform the IT industry about the project prior to tenders being released.
  • Provide privacy and consumer advocates with further details about the project.
  • Release an exposure draft of the access card legislation for public consultation."
Also available is the Government's response to the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce Report on "Issues and Recommendations in Relation to Architecture Questions of the Access Card".

The Government's response is a model of brevity being only 59kbytes of PDF, compared to the report's 1.83mb. The original KPMG Access Card Business Case is still available on the Office of the Access Card publications page.

There is also a web address for public information about the Access Card, in accordance with the Government web branding policy. This also has an RSS Feed.

ps: The Government has responded to criticism of the project by increasing safeguards and decreasing its scope. But assurances as to the proper running of the system are less credible after the Office of the Access Card sent out the wrong attachment with their invitation to the briefing. If they have trouble working e-mail, how will they go with a highly complex access card system? ;-)

Broadband Development and Public Policy, Canberra, 11 December

Adam Johns from the ANU Australia - Japan Research Centre asked me to pass on this invitation to a free workshop on Broadband Policy. I attended the one last year, which was worthwhile. Numbers are limited and you need to RSVP by the 5th December for catering purposes to: adam.johns(a)
Australia - Japan Research Centre in conjunction with National Institute for Informatics, Tokyo

Broadband Development and Public Policy

Monday 11 December
Seminar Room 4, Floor 1 Crawford Building ANU, Canberra.

9:00am – 9:10 Welcome – Professor Jenny Corbett (Executive Director, AJRC)

9:10am – 10:30 Session 1: Broadband Development and Role of Government

Chair: Professor Franco Papandrea (University of Canberra)

Jong Kwan Lee (Crawford School, ANU)
What is the locomotive of broadband development – Government or Market? A case study of Korea

Adam Johns (Crawford School, ANU)
The limits of policy intervention in broadband take-up: a cross-national comparison

10:30 – 11:00 Morning Tea

11:00 – 12:30 pm Session 2: Broadband Policy

Chair: Noboru Sonehara (National Institute for Informatics)
Discussant: Richard Thwaites (Rich Communications)

Deborah Anton (Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts)
Broadband development policy in Australia

Katsuya Watanabe (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)
Broadband policy in Japan

12:30pm–1:15 Lunch

1:15 pm – 3:15 Session 3: Broadband and Public Private Partnerships

Chair: Professor Christopher Findlay (University of Adelaide)

Masashi Ueda (National Institute for Informatics)
Broadband Infrastructure Building in Japan: Market and Public Policy

Jeff Fountain (Crawford School, ANU)
Broadband Public Private Partnerships: Narrowing the Access Divide

3:15pm Closing Remarks – Professor Jenny Corbett (Executive Director, AJRC)
Also on in early December are three comms conferences:
  • Australian IPv6 Summit 2006, Canberra, 4-6 December 2006
  • Australian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference 2006, Melbourne, 4-6 December 2006
  • Australia-Korea-New Zealand Broadband Summit, Adelaide, 7-8 December 2006