Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Macquarie Bank Sydney Airport Train?

In November I proposed a "Hybrid High Speed Train to Sydney Airport":
... high speed battery-electric/diesel trains could be routed from Canberra to Sydney via the exiting line to Sydney Airport. ...
Perhaps we will see Macquarie Bank investing in a high speed Sydney-Canberra train, similar to the one they run in Sweden. This would be a relatively inexpensive way to free up landing slots at Macquarie's Sydney airport and allow Macquarie's Qantas aircraft to be used for more profitable routes.

Macquarie Bank have made a takeover approach to Qantas Airlines:
"Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia's biggest airline, received a takeover approach from Macquarie Bank Ltd. and Texas Pacific Group ... lifted the airline's market value to A$10 billion ($7.7 billion)."
From: "Qantas Approached by Macquarie Bank, Texas Pacific (Update4)", Bloomberg, 21 Nov 2006
Macquarie Bank has already invested in Sydney Airport:
"Sydney Airport - Australia's busiest and most important aviation hub for both passengers and freight - was opened in 1920 and is one of the oldest continuously operating airports in the world. Sydney Airport covers 907 hectares on the shoreline of Botany Bay, eight kilometres south of Sydney's central business district. The airport is a dynamic economic centre, requiring the services of some 500 businesses and organisations to meet the needs of airport users. Sydney Airport is owned under a 50 year lease, which started 1 July 1998, with an additional 49 year zero cost option.
From: "Sydney Airport - Macquarie Airports", Macquarie Bank Limited, 2006
Macquarie Bank's European Infrastructure Fund owns the Arlanda Express high speed train to Stockholm airport. I travelled on this train in 2001.

Replacing Qantas flights from Sydney to Canberra with a train would free up 40 landing and takeoff slots per day for use by more profitable long distance flights. It would also make better use of the underutilized Sydney airport rail line.

The UK High Speed Trains which the Australian XPTs are based on are being refurbished and fitted with new diesel engines. It would be much cheaper for Macquarie/Qantas to buy or refurbish some trains than buy additional aircraft for Qantas.

The term "high speed" would largely be for marketing purposes with a Sydney-Canberra train, as without extensive trackwork the train could not travel at high speed for more than a fraction of the journey. However, the hybrid technology being tested with UK HSTs might provide high torque for more rapid climbing of the NSW highlands, in a variation of the "ballistic travel" used by TGVs. Improvements being made to the line into Sydney to speed freight might also help reduce delays for a Canberra train, making the trip just over three hours and competitive with an airline flight with ground delays of just over two hours.

A parliamentary report noted time savings could be made from reducing delays:
"During 1995, the NSW State Rail Authority trialed a Swedish X2000 tilting train on the Canberra corridor, claiming notable travel time savings. However, most of the savings came from the deletion of normal station stops and special operational arrangements in the Sydney network to avoid conflicts with suburban trains. The X2000 actually achieved standard trip times of three hours and twenty minutes at best. ..."
From: High Speed Trains between Canberra and Sydney, Current Issues Brief 17 1996-97, Matthew James, Denis James, Parliamentary Library
But my trip on the X2000 from Sydney to Canberra was much slower. ;-)

Google CrossRef Search Pilot

The CrossRef Search Pilot has journals from 45 publishers of scholarly research with a Google search interface. The idea is that the search is restricted to quality publications, not all the dross on the web. About the only two IT specialist publishers in the list seem to be Association for Computing Machinery and IEEE.

As an example, a search for my name would normally produce about 68,000 hits from Google (only about 20,000 of these are actually about me). With Google Scholar this drops to 104 hits. With a CrossRef Search it is down to 7. Given that I have never written a scholarly research paper, that still seems a little high, but it turns out I got mentioned in:

* IEEE Standard for Learning Object Metadata,IEEE Std 1484.12.1-2002: balloting group.
* IEEE standard for software vertication and validation plans: balloting group.
* Programming pearls: updates, Communications of the ACM archive, July 1984: corrected a program error,
* Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems, ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes archive, April 1995: reported power station software glitch.

The other two entries were another Tom Worthington.

Walter Burley Griffin Society Web Site

On 14 November the Walter Burley Griffin Society launched its new web site. This has information on the work of both Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin. The Griffins are best known for the design of the city of Canberra, but also undertook other town planning, architecture, and landscape design work in Australia, the USA and India.

From a web design point of view, the new web site for the society is a workman like effort, but not very exciting. It passed a Level 1 automated Web Accessibility Guideline test . It failed level 2 and 3 tests, but with only a few minor issues.

The web site gives a brief overview of the Griffin's life and work and the activities of the Walter Burley Griffin Society. The major, and most interesting, content is the Gallery, which has an extensive database of the Griffins work in Australia, the USA and India. Unfortunately the gallery has a very clumsy interface, making it difficult to navigate the extensive information.

But the major failing of the site is that it does not emphasize the first priority of any membership based organisation: signing up new members. The membership form is hidden away at the bottom of the web page on the "About Us" page, where almost no one will be able to find it. The society does not accept on-line applications, or even by fax, and requires the form to be printed out and sent by mail (that is PAPER mail). It almost appears that the society does not want any new members.

The WBG Society have created a good database about the Griffins work and an okay web site, but perhaps suffer from a lack of business skill which also plagued the Griffins.

ps: Back in July I tried to auction the chairs from the Griffin designed Capitol Theatre in Melbourne. It is a long story.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oil-for-Food Inquiry Report On-line

In February I attended a hearing of the "Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-for-Food Programme" and made some comments on its use of IT. The final report of the inquiry has been released on-line. This report consists of five PDF files (with a HTML version promised "soon"):
  1. Summary, recommendations and background 346 pages 3231 KB
  2. Negotiations and sales, July 1999 - December 2000 463 pages 1791 KB)
  3. Sales, allegations and inquiries, January 2001 - December 2005 432 pages 2590 KB
  4. Findings 396 pages 1417 KB
  5. Appendices 428 pages 21960 KB
These are very efficiently encoded PDF files (about 10 to 50 kbytes per A4 page) and downloaded very quickly. A table of contents has been included for fast access to sections.

Unfortunately the inquiry chose to turn on the PDF security option which stops content copying or extraction. The effect of this is to make it difficult to copy sections of the report for reporting and analysis. They have allowed content extraction for access by the disabled. Attempting to stop coping sections of the report provides no real security and will just make harder accurate reporting and analysis. I have suggested to the Inquiry that security should be removed, especially if an unsecured HTML version is to be provided "soon".

This is one of the first major inquiries of the Internet age. Many of the revelations occurred due to email messages discovered by the inquiry staff and the word "email" occurs 68 times in Volume 1. The evidence is available on-line in electronic format and should provide a very useful resource for scholars, as well as journalists.

Curiously the word "Internet" only occurs once in the summary of the report and the inquiry seems dismissive of its importance saying "All they has was a database of prior contacts and the capacity to use the internet to make any other inquiries". Even at the time referred to (1999), the Internet was a powerful open source intelligence tool.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is E-publishing in Australian Universities Sustainable?

Greetings from the National Library of Australia in Canberra, where Vic Elliott, Director, Scholarly Information Services and University Librarian at The Australian National University talked on Electronic publishing and some recent developments in Australian universities.

He used as examples Sydney University Press, Monash University ePress , UTS ePress and ANU ePress. These have a range of approaches from pay-per-view to open access, on demand printing, e-books, e-journals, and conference e-proceedings.

What stuck me was how small the publishing output of these presses were. As an example the ANU has about 55,000 downloads from its e-press per month and has produced 2,300 printed books for sale so far this year. That might sound like a lot, until you realise that the downloads were free and would be a tiny fraction of information downloaded from the ANU web site (even my own web site has about 50,000 page views a month).

The ANU is selling books for around $40 each, so will bring in about $120,000 a year. After paying the cost of printing and distributing the books, this would be hardly enough to pay for one employee and not enough to run a viable book publishing operation.

The ePress web sites shown from the different universities looked very similar and I noticed that two were promoting each others products. This raises the question as to if they would be better off forming one virtual publisher to jointly produce and sell their publications.

The universities seem to have been concentrating on humanities publishing and on the hardest type of publications (books). This might be because science and the easy stuff (conference proceedings) are already catered for. But the ACS, for example, has now published about 60 volumes of conference proceedings on-line, with about 1,200 papers. I suspect there would be demand from other areas of science, if the universities were to offer their publishing services.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Lerida Estate Survives Bushfire at Lake George

Interactive Fire Tracking Map DemonstrationIn early November I visited the Lerida Estate Winery for the Canberra Wine Festival. The media reported a bush fire at Lake George. The Winemakers Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine have emailed to say the fire came within a few hundred metres of the winery, but their architect designed shed was undamaged.

You can track the fires with the Sentinel national bushfire monitoring system. My experimental version of the interface is a bit quicker than the official one, but not as reliable.

Sell me a $100 Laptop

B1 Model $100 LaptopLast November I criticized the project to build a low cost educational computer for developing nations. But the first production units are out, and from the photographs and specifications they don't look too bad. I would like to buy one, but can't and that is the major problem with the project.

One Laptop per Child is a non-profit association, with MIT Media Lab providing design and Nicholas Negroponte the PR skills. The idea is to build a low cost robust computer which could be distributed widely for education, to schools under government supervision.

Lot to like about the Plamtop
Zeos Palmtop PCHaving criticized the $100 laptop, there is a lot to like about the new model. The unit is about the size of the Sphere/Zeos Palm Top PC I travelled around Europe with in 1994. This was a little larger than a VHS video tape, ran on two AA batteries and used the MS-DOS operating system, with a copy of Microsoft Works in RAM. It was a clamshell design with a 7 inch screen and a miniature keyboard. This unit suffered from having a very dim monochrome screen, no modem and a volatile memory. The $100 laptop improves on all this in a palmtop computer.

The $100 Laptop has a 7.5” Dual-mode TFT display screen: it is high resolution monochrome for outdoor use and book reading and color indoors for games. The screen is about the size of a paperback book and the 1200 × 900 pixel resolution should be good enough for reading. The team are a bit vague about what the resolution is in color, but my guess would be at least VGA resolution (640 x 480 px), which would be acceptable:
... the color resolution is lower, but exactly how this works out in effective resolution is very complex. Mary Lou Jepsen is planning to write document to explain the effective resolution, which is higher than if we simply reduced the size of the frame buffer and used the red, green and blue channels.

from: Hardware_specification
The unit has only 512 MiB of flash memory and no hard disk. This keeps the cost and power consumption down and makes the unit more robust, but shows it is really an upsized PDA, not a laptop. There is a SD Card slot which could be used for more memory.

There is Linux in another 1024KB flash ROM and the unit is intended to be used with the usual Open Source Linux software. The first units will include a web browser, document viewer, music synthesis tool, musical memory game, eToys, RSS reader and, most importantly, the Abiword, a word processor.

What seems to be lacking is the content for educational purposes for the computer. There is a manifesto on constructionist education, one Wikibook text in progress on Algebra in Simple English and that is about all. The philosophy behind this may be worrying to some, such as the use of Simple English. This may been seen as imposition of a foreign culture, rather than a way to deliver efficient education.

Problems remain

A mockup was displayed to the media by Nicholas Negroponte and the Secretary-General of the UN last November. This looked very attractive in the TV news, but clearly was not a working unit. The hand crank (to charge the battery) fell off when the Secretary General tried to use it.

I had reservations about the $100 Laptop:

1. It isn't really a laptop.
2. It is too expensive and there are better things to do with the money.
3. There are better things to do with the technology
4. The developing world has already designed and built better computers.
B1 Model $100 Laptop compared to normal laptop
It isn't really isn't a laptop

The $100 Laptop is really a PDA with a larger screen and a keyboard. Many such devices have been made and sold for educational and other purposes, but have not been successful. I have owned several and while they work, they are looked at as a curcuriosity most people.

It is too expensive and there are better things to do with the money

At $100 the computer will still be too expensive for many in developing countries and they could find better uses if offered the money. One computer per school or village, might be a more realistic and useful goal.

There are better things to do with the technology

Computers can be used to help with agriculture, business, civil administration, disaster management and defence, as well as education. As an example I have helped get the Sahana Open Source Disaster Management System to run on handheld computers.
The developing world has already designed and built better computers.

Devices such as the Indian developed Simputer PDA have already investigated the idea of a computer for developing countries. The Simputer uses innovative open source hardware, Linux software approach. A non-profit organization designed the computer and then licensed it to manufacturers. Unlike the $100 Laptop, the Simputer is a commercial product and the customer can choose to buy it or spend the money on something else.

An other Indian computer, the Mobilis, is essentially a Simputer PDA with a bigger screen and rubber keyboard and is very similar to the $100 laptop. It has not been successful. One unusual use is in the dashboard of an Indian Electric Car. But Encore Software Limited, who make the Mobilis seem more intent on more profitable uses of the tectechnologyhey have the SATHI (Situation Awareness and Tactical Handheld Information) which is essentially a battlefield version of the Simputer.

Combine First World Marketing Hype with Developing Nations' IT Expertise

My suggestion was to combine the powerful marketing ability of the MIT Media Lab with superior technology skills of developing nations. Some suggestions I made were to:
  • Omit the hand crank charger and have an optional separate hand cranked charger like the Freeplay unit, or the Freeplay foot powered "Weza" portable energy source shared by a school.
  • Use a rugged rubber keyboard.
  • Sell the units, so the user can decide if they want them.
The first unit shows that the project team have adopted some of these ideas:

No hand crank, but the team m are still talking about having individual human powered generators:
Where's the Crank? (you are asking...) Human power is still a major program priority! Inside the laptop isn’t always optimal as human power is not always required. Human power stresses components. The crank is great symbol, but not the most efficient for actual generation. We are performing human motion studies: legs are stronger than arms, but arms may be free while walking to school. AC Adapters are already located on the ground/ and floor. Several types of generators are under development, including one integrated with AC Adapter. More freedom of motion will allow for optimum power generation.

More practial be a shared generating source. This could be human powered or solar or wind powered.Cambridge Z88

* Rubber keyboard: The unit has a rubber keyboard, similar to the Cambridge Z88 computer I had about 15 years ago. Unlike the Z88 which had a black keyboard and case, the $100 computer has a bright green keyboard and white case. The team have obviously never used a computer in the field, or they will have seen how dirty they get. The white and green will quickly show dirt and a more muted color scheme would have been better.

Also the use of a swivel screen is questionable; this is designed to allow the screen to be rotated 180 degrees and have it lie flat over the keyboard, to make a tablet computer, or e-book. Table computers and e-books have failed as a mass market products and the hinge makes the computer much less robust. Also there are two rabbit ear covers over ports on each side of the screen which look like they would break off with kid use.

The business model for the computer remains unchanged: they will be given or sold at a subsidy to governments and then distributed to children. This does not sound alike an efficient way to distribute and may be impractical. The government of a developing nation which cares for its citizens will have much higher priorities than computers for each child. It would be better to accept these priorities than try to regulate the use of the computers by children.

I would like to have one of the computers and would be willing to pay for it, with the profit used for education.

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 4 - Is it part of decision making?

In Part 3 I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management and found some with some relevance. But I wonder if this goes far enough in addressing the overall problem.

When teaching e-Document management and e-Archiving to the ANU students, I have a lot of difficulty keeping them interested. Similarly, the worthy reports on the subject I helped produce as a public servant, were not that exciting to my public service colleagues. The problem is that record keeping is a very dull topic, until something goes horribly wrong. An example what can go wrong is shown by the Oil-For-Food Inquiry.

Perhaps consideration should be given to teaching more on e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The emphasis would be on how you can use electronic systems to run a government or business, with record keeping to support that, not keeping records for the sake of keeping records.

An example of how this approach could help is with electronic mail. NAA have advised agencies that electronic mail messages can contain important evidence and must be preserved. However, this advice is mostly ignored. The staff of the AWB may well got to jail as a consequence of treating email as ephemeral, with copies of embarrassing messages they thought deleted being exhibited in the hearing.

An example of a system for handling a decision making process which incorporates record keeping is the publishing system I have helped install for ACS academic journals. We have switched on the option to record all correspondence between the editors, reviewers and authors. This was so we could keep track of correspondence in the event of an error or deliberate fraud. But it may prove useful in convincing DEST that the publications are rigorously refereed and high quality.

ps: Last week I was elected Director of the Professional Development Board of the ACS. The ACS runs on-line postgraduate and short training courses for IT professionals. There may be scope for ACS to provide some e-document courses for IT professionals who have to incorporate it in systems.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ACS Digital Library

The ACS Digital Library is now on-line, using the Open Journal System, under a Creative Commons licence for Open Access to all papers. I would welcome your comments, corrections and suggestions.

The addresses of each publication are:

* Australasian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS),
* Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT),
* Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT).

So far there is not much there. The intention is to let the Editor, Craig McDonald, shake out the bugs in setting up AJIS. For the moment CRPIT and JRPIT entries just refer readers to the existing web site. Apart from AJIS, the current production process, rather than the one built into the OJS system, will be used.

When we have AJIS working we will cut other journals over to the OJS system and load back issues.

I am still waiting for DOIs to be issued for ACS. When they arrive we will see how the go for AJIS. In theory the system should allocate a DOI to each article (only refereed ones, not editorials or book reviews) and then make it available via OAI. But I suspect more work will be needed to get it to work.

For the philosophy behind the way I have configured the system see my ANU talk. See if you can spot where the advertising business model has been implemented on the new ACS site. My academic colleagues are nervous about advertising, so we are starting small, but I think the advertising revenue will cover all journal costs within a year.

One question I have is 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.

ps: In November 1996 I attended a meeting in the UK with other leaders of the world's IT professional bodies, to sort out our publishing. I thought this might take a few months to do. More than ten years later, I am still working it out. ;-)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Document Security Issues for Government

Security seems an issue after the Australian National Audit Office released report on "Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records" on 12 October 2006. IXC, NICTA and Canon are holding a free forum on 6 December 2006 in Canberra, on:
  • Emerging document security threats
  • Information leakage and its impact on corporate reputation
  • Policy-driven document rights management
  • Paper security – the forgotten frontier
  • Document security innovations
  • Ashley Cross – General Manager, Security Branch, Department of Communications, Information
  • Technology and the Arts (DCITA)
  • Dr Renato Iannella, Program Leader, Smart Applications for Emergencies, NICTA
  • Tim Conway, Strategic Business Group, Canon Australia
  • Kylie McKinley, Head, Community Engagement and Communications Unit, ACT Government
Details and registration at IXC.

Also see my "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving": Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Some books:

Productivity Commission Suggests Open Access to Research Results

The Productivity Commission released the draft research report "Public Support for Science and Innovation", 2 November 2006. The report suggests that those receiving government research funding be required to make their results freely available:
"There is scope for the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to play a more active role than they currently do in promoting access to the results of research they fund. They could require as a condition of funding that research papers, data and other information produced as a result of their funding are made publicly available such as in an 'open access' repository."

From "Overview", Public Support for Science and Innovation, Productivity Commission, 2 November 2006
Unfortunately (and ironically), many will not be able to navigate their way through the complex way the report has been published on-line. The Commission has obviously tried to make the information available, but has tried too hard providing too many documents to have to choose from. There are:

* State and Territory based assessment of Australian research, a technical paper issued with the report.
* Media Release
* Key Points
* Science and Innovation Study
* Report Overview
* Preliminaries
* Chapters
* Appendices

The Preliminaries, Chapters and Appendices are provided in both PDF and Zipped RTF.
The table of contents of the report is then provided.

This is a bewildering set of choices. My first reaction was to click on the table of contents, but there is no web (HTML) version of the report linked to it. You have to decide what in the table of contents you want then work out which of the eight files you need to download to read it.

The Productivity Commission is not alone in this problem. It is an area where Australian researchers receiving funding for open access and repository work could make a useful contribution to the nation. Otherwise we might end up with government and university repositories full of information which in theory is freely accessible but which no one can find their way around.

So far the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) work has not shown any solutions to the problem. The APSR itself is producing large hard to read reports which will clog up the electronic repositories. Unusable repositories will not be sustainable.

Neither the Productivity Commission, nor APSR work, appears to have addressed the business models for Open Access. The emphasis seems to be on providing repositories which are electronic recycling bins for other people's publications. The assumption is that someone in the USA or Europe will publish Australian research reports and we
should be grateful if they let us have a copy for our repository.

The result is that the companies in the USA and Europe will make money from publishing Australian research and will receive the kudos from its publication. It is assumed that no one wants to publish in an Australian based publication, as it would be low status. However, as the ACS has shown with JRPIT and CRPIT, there is a role for Australian publishing in leading our region, promoting our research and providing Australian jobs.

Of course I could be biased as I am the Chair of Scholarly publishing for the ACS. ;-)

Hybrid High Speed Train to Sydney Airport?

Hitachi Hybrid Traction System
Back in March I suggested that high speed battery-electric/diesel trains could be routed from Canberra to Sydney via the exiting line to Sydney Airport. This seemed a little far fetched, but in October 2006 Hitachi announced they are modifying a UK High Speed Train (HST) with their diesel electric system developed in Japan. The XPT trains used in NSW are based on the UK HST, so it should be possible to use the Japanese hybrid technology in Australia.

Hitachi Europe Ltd. today announced the launch of technology that will create Europe's first hybrid high speed train. The technology has been proven under test in Japan to cut fuel bills by up to 20% and harmful emissions by up to 50%. The test train includes a new hybrid traction system (consisting of a battery-assisted diesel electric traction drive) which will be installed into an existing High Speed Train (HST), with the equipment fitted into the front Power Car and a modified Trailer Car. The technology has been developed and tested in Japan since 2003 and is currently in production for a Japanese customer.

Hitachi and its partners Porterbrook Leasing, Network Rail and Brush Traction are aiming to commence trial running of the modified train in April 2007 and on completion of testing the modified train will run in service on the New Measurement Train for a period of six months to prove the benefits of the technology.

Alistair Dormer, General Manager Hitachi Rail Group, commented:

"Long term sustainability is a key requirement for future transportation systems and Hitachi is delighted to be playing a part in developing this new hybrid traction system, which will in time demonstrate significant benefits in reducing the environmental impact of train travel and reducing fuel bills". ...

From: Hitachi Announces Launch Of First Energy-saving Hybrid High Speed Train In Europe, Hitatchi Europe Ltd, 12 October 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Technology supported meetings at the ACS Council

ACS Council Meeting Head Table
While there is a lot of hype about technology for supporting decision making, little is said about the reality. One practical example is the Australian Computer Society, which has extensive computer support for its National Council.

Meetings are held twice a year with about thirty people present. Previously a telephone book size set of papers was sent by courier out to councillors. Now there is a web page on the ACS intranet with all papers on it. Meetings are held in conference centers and the ACS staff bring a wireless base station and video projector with them. Most attendees have their own laptop computer in front of them and use the wireless to obtain last-minute updates to the agenda and researching proposals during debates.

ACS Council Meeting RoomThe delegates sit around a horseshoe shaped table. The chair sit at the top of the table and the projector is placed at the other end. Those making presentations tend to sit at their usual seat, or stand at a podium near the screen. They can run presentations from their own computer, or have support staff do this.

It is not pretty, with cables run across the floor and desks, but this arrangement works well, is easy to set up and all the equipment packs into a few cases.

Some books:

Friday, November 17, 2006

In-dash Car Navigation Systems

Pioneer AVIC-D2 In-dash GPS
A few weeks ago I wrote in "Navigating Car Navigation Systems" about GPS units designed to stick to the windscreen. An alternative is an in-dash GPS navigation system.

The in-dash units come in two sizes: "single DIN" and "double DIN" unit. The standard size hole in the dashboard a car radio fit into is called "DIN". This allows for a wide screen display of about 4 inches. A "double DIN", "double height" or "double sized" unit is the size of two car radios stacked on top of each other. This allows for a wide screen of about 6.5 inches with some controls on either side.

Many modern cars have provision for a double DIN unit. On the base model car there will be a radio in one DIN slot and usually an ashtray or cup holder taking up the unused DIN slot. You can remove the radio and ashtray and replace it with a double DIN unit which will look like it was always meant to be there.

Delphi TNR800As the GPS unit will be usually replacing the car radio, most DIN units come with an AM/FM radio. The larger double DIN units come with a CD and/or DVD player. Some units can also be attached to a reversing camera. These units need to be installed by an expert as they need an external GPS antenna connected as well as all the power and speaker cables.

For someone really wanting to go hitech, there as in-dash computers designed to fit in the DIN slot, along with screens.

Australia Korea New Zealand Broadband Summit

There is a series of three in Australian in early December 2006:

Australian IPv6 Summit 2006, Canberra, 4-6 December 2006:
Internet Protocol Version 6 is already being deployed by Australian trading and defence partners in Asia, America and Europe. Ipv6 has the potential for enhanced mobility, easier management, built-in security and an almost unlimited range of new Internet addresses for next-generation devices... The IPv6 Summit offers two days of International and Australian experts addressing these questions and more, plus a new technology showcase and an optional one-day IPv6 Deployment Workshop, a hands-on guide to easy implementation.
Australian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference 2006, Melbourne, 4-6 December 2006:
... bringing together telecommunication researchers and students with equipment providers, user groups, regulators and infrastructure planners.

Key themes are:

* Broadband delivery and evolution
* Wireless sensor networks research and applications ...
Australia-Korea-New Zealand Broadband Summit, Adelaide, 7-8 December 2006:
... gathers the information technology and communications ministers and leaders within the broadband industry from Korea, New Zealand and Australia to encourage international collaboration in broadband. ... forum for telecommunications carriers, electronics companies, research organisations, telecommunications equipment providers, broadband applications and services developers to discuss and negotiate business and research interests across the three countries.
Unfortunately, unless you already had broadband you may never hear of these events. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts decided to send out the details of them in a 1.9Mbyte mail message with PDF attachments. This is one thousand times larger than it need be and makes the message much harder to read. There are much more efficient and effective ways to communicate on-line.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did the Australian National Audit Office Recommend E-Records Training?

I had an anonymous comment from someone in a government agency on my post "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?":
You say in the first paragraph, 'The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping.' And, it seems that you have been asked to create new courses based on this recommendation. Since none of the recommendations in the Report refer to training specifically, would you be able to post a comment explaining what where the ANAO made this recommendation. The [agency name deleted] has a policy of trying to comply with all recommendations, hence our interest.
The Audit report didn't actually say Archives should provide "training", it said "further practical guidance":
22. To assist entities in meeting their recordkeeping responsibilities, the ANAO considers that Archives should, in consultation with relevant entities, set minimum recordkeeping standards and requirements and develop further practical guidance. Archives should also coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the legislation, policies, standards, and guidance that impact on entities recordkeeping responsibilities. ...

3.7 The ANAO also considers that Archives should coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the range of legislation, policies, standards, advice and guidance that impacts on the recordkeeping responsibilities of individual entities. This task would require ongoing liaison with those entities that periodically issue, in the context of their particular responsibilities, such material. The coordination of existing material may also offer opportunities to identify any duplication or overlap that warrant its rationalisation. ...

3.49 To assist entities to improve their recordkeeping guidance, the ANAO considered that Archives should supplement its existing range of guidance, with more practical guidance. Such guidance could usefully address issues relating to the handling and management of email, documents in shared folders and information in electronic systems, as well as the use of scanning in an electronic recordkeeping environment. The guidance may also assist entities to:
  • determine for a particular business activity the information that should be created and received, and then determine the information that needs to be maintained as a record of the business activity in entities’ recordkeeping systems; and
  • how the record of a business activity is best managed in the context of entities’ recordkeeping responsibilities.
But from having chaired an interdepartmental committee which previously wrote such guidance, I think few are going to read it, unless you rub their faces in it, by sitting them down and telling them about it. Thus the need for training courses.

The report did say government agencies (called entities in the report) should provide training:
5.42 To assist with the implementation of a recordkeeping framework it is important for an entity to provide appropriate training to record users. This should include a combination of formal training and awareness raising activities that alerts and reminds staff of their recordkeeping responsibilities.Recordkeeping training should address the management of both paper and electronic records, IT security awareness, and assessing and assigning appropriate security classifications to sensitive information.
But it would seem difficult and wasteful for each agency to prepare and provide its own training program on what is essentially a standardized government wide function.

The courses need not be face to face, for example senior executives might like a few slides on their Blackberry they could read during the dull bits in meetings.

As an incentive to have them complete the course, the Public Service Commission could suggest each agency publish the number of staff who had completed the course. The Audit Office could then use that information to decide which agencies to audit and in what detail, on the assumption that those agencies with untrained staff were at higher risk. This would also make it easier to prosecute senior executives when there was unlawful destruction or falsification of records in their agency.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mobile Web Tools

W3C have a number of tools to help with designing web pages for mobile phones and other portable devices:
The checker tests you web page and reports problems. But make sure you are using proper XHTML first, using the W3C Validator.

Amazon Stores Work, but Why?

A few years ago I signed up with Amazon as an "associate" to see how it worked. I use it to demonstrate e-commerce, but until last month I hadn't earned enough for Amazon to send me a cheque. A few weeks ago I tried call an "Amazon Store". This is simply a web page hosted on the Amazon system with whatever heading and product categories I choose.

People started buying things from the store. I have no clear idea where the orders are coming from, or why. No one seems to buy any of the things I listed on the front page of the shop; they buy an odd assortment of other things. Amazon's tracking tools are not as good as Google's.

Just see if it works I signed my brother up. He advises parents and teachers on learning problems with their children. So the store has books, voice recognition software and spelling aids. His web site has a low hit rate so it will be interesting to see if anyone buys anything.

Amazon have improved the store system in the last few days, so I set up a few more stores:
So far only a few dozen people have visited them and no one has bought anything.

Speaking of tacky, I noticed that the Amazon link builder puts a web bug in the links creates for my web site. I find these annoying so manually chopped these out. I wonder if the system works without them.

Amazon also have "Omakase Links", which attempts to create a similar look to Google advertisements. It attempts to list items relevant to the web site, but is not as good at this as Google AdSense. Also it includes prices, which looks tacky and I told it not to include images, but it still puts an animated image in occasionally. Amazon need to do a lot more work to catch up with Google in terms of on-line advertising.

Hacking Robot Vacuum Cleaners and Lego Robots

iRobot Roomba robot vacuum cleanerBack in August I attended a lecture by Professor Rodney Brooks, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, on Robotics. He used the example of the iRobot Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. There has been research about the vacuum cleaners (they can run the Linux operating system).

Amazon sell remanufactured models of the Roomba and books on reprogramming them.

Hacking Roomba: ExtremeTech, Tod E. Kurt, 2006:
Hacking Roomba: ExtremeTechA gizmo as cool as Roomba just begs to be hacked. Now, with this book and the official ROI specification furnished by iRobot®, you can become the robotic engineer you've always dreamed of being. Build a Bluetooth interface for your Roomba. Turn it into an artist. Install Linux on it and give it a new brain. Some hacks are functional, others are purely fun. ...
The new LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kit with a 32 bit processor is also available. These are popular at universities as well as for hobbyists.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kit:
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
Set includes: NXT programmable LEGO brick, ultrasonic sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, touch sensor, 3 interactive servo motors, USB cable, 7 6-wire cables, building instructions, user guide, Quickstart guide, easy to use software and test panel. 6 AA batteries not included.
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Hacker's Guide, Dave Prochnow, 2006:LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Hacker's Guide

• Your First Robot • Stupid RCX Tricks • Save Your RIS • As Smart as a Brick • MOVE IT! With Servo Motors • Hmm, I Sense Something • Yes, But I Don't Know How to Program • Testing, Testing; Oh, Trouble Shoot • Katherine's Best Hacking Projects • Katherine's Design Fun House • NXT Programming Language Guide • NXT Elements • NXT Resources

See also: Robot store, with kits, books and videos.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

E-publishing in Australian Universities

Digital Culture Talk: Electronic publishing
Some recent developments in Australian universities

The speaker is Vic Elliott, Director, Scholarly Information Services and University Librarian at The Australian National University. Vic Elliott has also worked as University Librarian at the University of Tasmania and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Time: 12.30 to 13.30
Date: Monday, 27 November 2006
Venue: Library Theatre
Entry: Free
The speaker will be introduced by Paul Hetherington, Director Publications & Events, National Library of Australia

This talk is open to the public. ...

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch
National Library of Australia
Parkes ACT 2600
Some books:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

XHTML Basic 1.1 is less basic but is it better?

The W3C defined "XHTML Basic" as a cut down version of HTML, for low power and hand-held devices , including mobile phones, iTV, PDAs, coke machines and car dashboards. A new Working Draft of XHTML Basic 1.1 was released 5 July 2006. I used XHTML Basic 1.0 for teaching web design for general, mobile and accessible devices.

XHTML Basic 1.0 includes web headings, paragraphs, lists, links, basic forms, tables and images. It leaves out frames and styles defined inside the document (you had to use external style sheets). This makes it much easier to stop web designers learning bad habits. Instead of just saying "don't spread formatting information throughout your document, put it in a style sheet", a syntax driven editor will enforce this rule with XHTML Basic. If the designer uses a non-conforming tool, their web pages will not validate when tested.

This is okay for teaching, but XHTML Basic left out some useful stuff for the real world. I use the "Target" attribute to do web pages for group presentations. When you click on an external link, this opens a second window on the browser. It works very well on in an Access Grid room, with multiple screens: the main presentation stays open on one screen and you can open referenced document on another. But XHTML Basic 1.0 doesn't have the target attribute.

Also having to use external style sheets becomes annoying. You have to define a style sheet just to change one little part of a web page.

Revision, 1.1 of XHTML Basic the W3C have added these features back, along with:
  • XHTML Forms (defined in [XHTMLMOD])
  • Intrinsic Events (defined in [XHTMLMOD])
  • The value attribute for the li element (defined in [XHTMLMOD])
  • The inputmode attribute
Of course, it will be some time before tools support XHTML Basic 1.1 and there are some grumbles about it leaving the path of purity.

There is also a new "Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 - Basic Guidelines", 2 November 2006, to help with doing web pages for phones, TVs and PDAs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Open Source Disaster Project in UN Report

Some time ago I got the Australian Computer Society to sponsor the deployment of the Sahana web based disaster management system for the Indonesian Earthquake. The United Nations Development Program has mentioned the project in a recent item on "Managing Disasters":
"Sahana was deployed to assist with the management of the relief work following the earthquake in Yogjakarta, Indonesia in May 2006. The system was operated by the Indonesian Whitewater Association and the Indonesian Rescue Source, two organizations that undertook relief support work after the eathquake. Technical support was provided by the UrRemote group and the deployment was sponsored by the Communications Technologies Board of the Australian Computer Society."

From: Disasters - Sahana, Christine Apikul, IOSN, UNDP, 2006
Also Paul Currion, an expert from the UK, visited the project in Indonesia and has prepared a draft report with 20 recommendations to improve the system. The report should be out soon.

Overall this was a worthwhile exercise and there is the option of the work being carried out by Australian IT students working online with those of other countries as part of learning about international IT project development.

The project was previously reported in CIO magazine and The Australian.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Electronic Government Book Online

The UNDP has made some of the books it published free on-line via Wikibooks. An example is E-government, by Patricia J. Pascual.

The goal of this primer is to clarify the major issues surrounding e-government, as well as to provide readers with best practices in e-governance in the developing world. Leaders committed to e-government are demonstrating that by combining technology with new ways of operating, government can be made much more effective, efficient, transparent and responsive.

From: Introduction, E-government, Patricia J. Pascual, UNDP-APDIP, 2003

* Preface
* Introduction
* Definition
* The Goals of E-Government
* E-Government and Human Development
* The Challenges of E-Government
* The Importance of a National Strategic Framework for E-Government
* Making E-Government Happen
* Further Reading
* Notes
* Acknowledgements
* About the Author
From: E-government, Patricia J. Pascual, UNDP-APDIP, 2003
As well as being a free resource, the Wikibooks have the advantage of being in the accessible and efficient web format used by the Wikipedia. Many e-books are hard to get and read as they are large PDF files. The Wikibooks are divided into chapters, each a web page. This makes them easy to get and the web format means they display well on screen (and even on a mobile phone). As an example the PDF original version of E-Govenrment is 189Kbytes. The web version is about 32 kbytes for a large chapter.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 3 - What does ANU offer?

Following on from Part 2 - What else is out there?, I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management. Apart from my own lectures I couldn't find any.

Some courses which have relevant content and might be used in a Graduate Certificate (made up of three to four courses) or a Graduate Diploma (made up of six to eight courses) were:
  1. COMP1130 Data Structures and Algorithms I
  2. COMP1710 Tools for New Media & the Web
  3. COMP2410 Networked Information Systems
  4. COMP3410 Information Technology in Electronic Commerce
  5. COMP3420 Advanced Databases and Data Mining
  6. COMP3760 Project Work in Information Systems
  7. COMP6442 Software Construction for eScience
  8. SRES2015 Introduction to Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems
  9. INFS1001 Foundations of Electronic Commerce and Information Systems
  10. INFS2024 Information Systems Analysis
  11. INFS3024 Information Systems Management
  12. INFS7003 Databases and Information Systems
  13. INFS7006 Information Systems And Communication Technologies
  14. INFS7007 Information Systems Analysis and Modelling
  15. INFS8004 Information Systems Management in Organisations
  16. INFS8205 Strategic Information Systems
For the purposes of short in-service training these courses would be each divided into 2 or 3 "modules", which could be undertaken individually.

Added to this would need to be new modules specifically on the problem area.

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 2 - What else is out there?

Following on from Part 1 - Why?, I had a quick look around to see what courses there were on e-arching and records management. Several people also make useful suggestions.

What I found was that Monash University seemed to be most active in this area, along with the TAFEs and some US content. What this tells me is that there is some university material for records management professionals and a lot of vocational material for business people. There is US material orientation to public service records management. But there wasn't anything I could find aimed at Australian government needs nor for senior executives.

Monash: MIS5906 Advanced Topics in Electronic Recordkeeping and Archiving ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the role of electronic recordkeeping and archiving in contemporary organisations and society, and exposure to the latest thinking, best practice and research initiatives. Emphasis will be placed on exploring key issues, challenges, and trends relating to the effective management of records and archives in electronic, networked environments. Students will be equipped with understandings, knowledge, strategies, and skills, which will enable them to develop and implement effective solutions that meet these challenges, and also plan for the future.

Assessment: Publishable paper: 40% Class presentation: 20% Supervised assessment: 40%

Contact Hours: 3 contact hours per week

Prerequisites: Must have completed Part A of Master of Information Systems
IMS5033 Electronic document management and recordkeeping systems ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit reconceptualises document management activities so that modern technologies can be better used to implement electronic recordkeeping solutions. The emphasis is upon designing, building, and using document management systems. Existing physical models for document management and systems are compared and contrasted with logical models and future architectures. Research into workplace applications and leading edge implementation of recordkeeping strategies for document management will be covered and shape the course.

Assessment: Assignments: 50% + Formal Supervised Assessment: 50%

Contact Hours: 3 hours per week
OLI TAFE " BSB30401 Certificate III in Business (Recordkeeping)"
This qualification allows students to work in a wide range of Recordkeeping activities within business sections in an organisation. It includes medium to higher-level key business skills required by organisations who are responding to rapidly changing business environments.
ATPL: "BSB01 Business Services Training Package" V4 (Volume 3):
Volume 3 contains units of competency for: - Record Keeping

Certificate III

BSBRKG301A Control records
BSBRKG302A Undertake disposal
BSBRKG303A Retrieve information from records
BSBRKG304A Maintain business records

Certificate IV

BSBRKG401A Review the status of a record
BSBRKG402A Provide information from and about records
BSBRKG403A Set up a business or records system for a small office
BSBEBUS406A Monitor and maintain records in an online environment


BSBRKG501A Determine business or records system specifications
BSBRKG502A Manage and monitor business or records systems
BSBRKG503A Develop and maintain a classification scheme
BSBRKG504A Develop terminology for activities and records
BSBRKG505A Document or reconstruct a business or records system

Advanced Diploma

BSBRKG601A Define recordkeeping framework
BSBRKG602A Develop recordkeeping policy
BSBRKG603A Prepare a functional analysis for an organisation
BSBRKG604A Determine security and access rules and procedures
BSBRKG605A Determine records requirements to document a function
BSBRKG606A Design a records retention and disposal schedule
BSBRKG607A Document and monitor the record-creating context
BSBRKG608A Plan management of records over time
Utexas: 2003 LIS 389C.14 Introduction to Electronic and Digital Records
The management, preservation, and use of electronic records and other digital objects with enduring value are all as yet problems with only partial solutions. There are two reasons for this: the supporting technologies are changing constantly and change is accelerating; and creators and users of these records (if not the recordsÂ’ potential managers and preservers) are themselves caught up in a culture of immediacy that makes the problems with electronic records invisible until some legal entanglement brings them into sharp focus. Yet as governments and other human institutions have depended upon technologies of memory to assure their longevity in the past, it is a safe bet that they will continue to do so in the future. For that reason these problems must and will be solved by those who are charged with the custody and preservation of such records, at least in a way that will be good enough to achieve the ends of the institutions in question.

School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, INLS 165 ­ Electronic Records Management, [Last Updated: 2006-04-13, 20:30]
COURSE DESCRIPTION The management and preservation of electronic records is essential for maintaining institutional accountability; protecting the rights of citizens, employees and customers; supporting the efficient operation of contemporary organizations; perpetuating valuable forms of social memory; and helping individuals to integrate aspects of the past into their sense of identity.

Current electronic recordkeeping is in a state of relative neglect. At their most basic level, electronic records problems are related to proper configuration and management of computer components (hardware and software). The good news is that actual and potential solutions to the technological issues abound. The bad news is that the behavioral, organizational, institutional and professional underpinnings are generally not yet in place to implement the technological solutions. This places a profound set of challenges and opportunities in the hands of SILS students about to enter the workforce.

In this course, we will begin by consider the messy recordkeeping environment in which we currently live. We will then gradually build up a set of concepts, tools and strategies that information professionals can use to help shape more appropriate, valuable and sustainable recordkeeping systems.

ICT in the Australian Economy

Australian Bureau of Statistics are holding a free seminar on how they measure the role of ICT in the Australian economy (all welcome):
ABS ESG Seminar Series

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Satellite Account: Concepts, Key Results and Uses

Presenters: Siddhartha De, Peter Comisari, Judith Winternitz (DCITA)

10.30 am - 11.30 am
Friday 17 November 2006
Knibbs Auditorium, ABS House, Canberra


Information and communication technologies play and important role in the way in which we live and do business. There is considerable interest in the role of ICT as a significant driver of socioeconomic development, for example, in the way that ICT has allowed business to increase productivity. For the official statisticians, the measurement of these technologies provides significant conceptual and measurement challenges. A key part of the ABS response to these challenges has been the development of an ICT satellite account for Australia for 2002-03.

In this seminar Peter Comisari will describe the ICT satellite account. He will outline the conceptual framework for the account, describe some of the difficult methodological issues that arose in the compilation of the account, and highlight key results. Siddhartha De will summarise how industry groups have used the information. Following this staff from DCITA, led by Dr Judith Winternitz, General Manager, Research, Statistics and Technology Branch, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts [DCITA], will provide a session on the use of the ICT satellite account from a policy perspective.

Details: (a)
See Also:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Revitalizing Australian Research

Belinda Weaver, Coordinator for e_Prints and UQ eSpace at University of Queensland is speaking on "RQF readiness" at ANU in Canberra (details below). More on RQF and Repositories at the APSR.

I popped into the UQ to visit Belinda today. UQ's "eSpace" repository uses "Fez", based on the Fedora repository software. Added to the repository is a workflow system to manage the process by which authors propose selected articles to be reviewed in the RFQ process, plus extra metadata about the people and articles.

The ACS is building an Open Access publishing system which could feed the RQF system with publications. One problem is that the OAI metadata would need to be expanded to indicate which are the refereed papers in the journal (as opposed to the editorial or a book review). Also needed will be fields to indicate what institution the author is from.
A reminder, that on Wednesday of next week (8 November), Belinda Weaver, Coordinator e_Prints and UQ eSpace (University of Queensland), will discuss what institutions need to do to be ready to manage the Research Quality Framework (RQF) a particular challenge for Australian Universities at present. The University of Queensland has already done two RQF trials – the first in 2005 using Web pages to deliver research to assessors, and the second in 2006 delivering research via an institutional repository. Belinda will talk about workflow issues, time and project management, query handling and communication.

Note the time: NOT a lunchtime event, but a late afternoon one!

Belinda is on the sub-group of the DEST RQF IT Working Party. There are many questions about the RQF (what research gets included? who decides what academic work is "best", etc) and Belinda will try to answer a good few of these in her talk.
Topic: RQF readiness
Speaker: Belinda Weaver, Coordinator e_Prints and UQ eSpace (University of
Place: McDonald Room, R G Menzies Building, ANU
Date: Wednesday, 8 November
Time: 4 - 5 pm.

From: ALIA

Some Books:

Driving an electric car

Shawn William and the Electric EchoOn a visit to Brisbane I had a short drive around the block in Shawn William's "Electric Echo". This is a Toyota Echo (Yaris) he converted himself by removing the engine and installing batteries.

This is a practical car within its limitations. It looks and drives like a small car. There is an odd buzz when you first turn it on, which is the power assistance for the brakes getting up to pressure. After that it is silent until you put your foot on the accelerator, when there is an immediate surge of power. There is an low electric motor whine, in place of a loud engine noise. The car accelerates briskly. This is a manual and you have to remember to use the clutch when restarting from rest as there is no engine idle sound to remind you there will be power as soon as you accelerate.

A clever touch is that Shawn has put a retractable electric power cable under the flap where the petrol cap would normally be. To recharge the car you simply pull the cable and plug it into a normal outlet. When charged the cable reels itself back in.

The car only gets around 30 km on a battery charge, but this would be adequate for the average commute or to the shops driving. Also Shawn has to remove the back seat to make the approval process easier.

This car is more practical for Australian use than the Indian Reva electric car. The Echo is bigger and more likely to be able to meet regulations for Australian cars and the expectations of Australian drivers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?

In October 2006 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released a report on recordkeeping in government agencies. This found problems, particularly with electronic records, as had two previous reports. The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping. As I give lectures in electronic document management at the Australian National University (ANU), I have been asked to help create new courses for agencies.

Also of relevance is work by the Australian Public Service Commission and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) obtaining sufficient skilled staff for the Australian Public Service. Cadetships and apprentice schemes to train new public servants could incorporate the electronic document management material. Those for IT professionals could include more technical content.

This the first of a series of notes intended to document the process. Please note that these are not an official record, nor do they represent a commitment by any organization to conduct a course. Comments, corrections and contributions would be welcome.

The Content

As the ANAO report noted, there is no shortage of material to work from, with Australian government agencies issuing legislation, standards, policies and guidance on recordkeeping.

There are guidelines issued by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) for records handling. NAA also helped develop the Australian and International standards in this field. NAA's also distributed open source software for e-archiving called "Xena" and an electronic arching system.

Previously, as a public servant, I chaired the committee which prepared "Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies". This is used in the ANU course "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" COMP3410/COMP634. There is also relevant material on web site design in "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410 / COMP6340). However, these courses are intended for IT specialists who develop software for records management. More suited may be material prepared for a five day workshop for staff from museums of the Pacific Islands Region.

The Technology

The intention is to run the courses as conventional small classroom events. However, it seems reasonable to prepare the courses so they could be easily adapted for on-line distance education, if needed. This could use course preparation systems such as the Integrated Content Environment (ICE), an on-line course management system, such as Moodle and Podcasting. Also an open access license, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, can be used. This will allow the content creators to prepare and distribute their material for comment, while retaining commercial rights to use it in a course.

On-line delivery may be provided in unconventional ways, such as to Blackberry and other smartphones/PDAs issued to senior executives. This could deliver on-demand training in very small units, as required.

The Process

The intention is to create short in-service courses for use by staff of government agencies and others who need knowledge of e-records management. However, the material may latter be used for a full university course. It therefore seemed prudent to first look at the formal guidance and requirements for a course. This proved to be much easier than expected. A web search of "ANU Course Proposal" found "The ANU Official Course and Program Proposals Site". This contains links to detailed procedures for new courses, forms to be used and examples.

The ANU course web site is publicly available. the procedures page has an overview of the process is provided, complete with flowcharts. Whoever prepared it clearly has a sense of humor; including a reproduction of Munch's "The Scream". But at this stage I only need to worry about the first step: "First draft of the proposal: Course proponent proposes and designs draft for a new course in consultation with the relevant academic area according to that academic area'’s internal procedures. This is usually done by a lecturer at a school/departmental level. ...'.

Some books:

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Manning Clark House

stairs to study of Professor Manning Clark
This uninspiring set of stairs leads to the study of Professor Manning Clark, where he wrote books, including "A History of Australia":
Manning Clark House (MCH), designed by Robyn Boyd in 1952, is the house where Manning and Dymphna Clark lived and worked from 1953 until their deaths in 1991 and 2000 respectively.

The house is typical of the post-war Melbourne regional style and Boyd's Peninsula house design, with its low-pitched gable roof, widely projecting eaves and large areas of timber framed glazing.

From: The House, Manning Clark House Inc., 2002
The house, is is the Canberra suburb of Forrest, within sight of Parliament House. It is now a cultural and scholarly centre. On Saturday it was hosting Little Bridge Wine who put on jazz and wine tasting in the grounds, as part of the WiNE, RoSES & aLL ThAT JaZZ FeSTiVal by local Canberra wineries.

At first I felt a little uncomfortable wandering around what looked like someones home, but unlike your average historic house, this is one you can rent a room in.

Miniature Common Data Link for UAVs

How do you fit a standard digital surveillance system into what is essentially a model airplane?
Air Force Research Laboratory, Sensors Directorate (AFRL/PKSE) solicits research proposals to ... implement an airborne Common Data Link (CDL) terminal for use in Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS). Due to the payload restrictions of these systems, using present CDL equipment is prohibitive, and has contributed to the proliferation of platform specific data link systems.

This effort shall examine the size, weight, and power requirements for SUAS platforms, and develop a CDL terminal capable of providing these platforms with CDL capability, with the intent of reducing the need for further unique systems. In addition, the Mini-CDL terminal shall be capable of communicating with existing ground systems which employ CDL terminals. ...

From: Miniature Common Data Link (Mini-CDL), Air Force Research Laboratory, Sensors Directorate8/18/2006

... the Mini-CDL should be capable of being fitted to, and carried by, UAVs in the 4-90kg (9-88lb) maximum take-off weight range ...

The Mini-CDL concept follows on from revised guidance released by the Pentagon last December, which mandated CDL standards be used for all airborne sensor imagery transmissions to enable improved system interoperability. Existing CDL architecture products are unable to be used on small UAV systems because of weight and space restrictions, giving rise to a significant number of platform-unique datalinks. In turn, this has affected frequency availability in battlefield environments.

SOURCE: --Peter La Franchi--
From: USAF AFRL launches mini common datalink project for small UAVs, Submitted by nestorb on Fri, 2006-08-25 13:35.

Common Data Link (CDL) The US DoD designated the Common Data Link (CDL) as its standard for use in imagery and signals intelligence in 1991. This link consists of a secure, jam resistant uplink operating at 200kbps and a down link that can operate at 10.71 Mbps, 137 Mbps or 234 Mbps (currently only the first of these downlink rates is secure).

There are five classes of link in the CDL family to achieve both line-of-sight (LOS) and, using relay, beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS):

From: Tactical Data Links - Common Data Link (CDL) Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) High Integrity Data Link (HIDL), Stasys

Some Books:

Make Australian Standards Open Access?

In my talk for the Canberra Society of Editors I suggested the Australian Government make its publications open access using a Creative Commons license.

The Productivity Commission has reported on the Australian Government’s relationship with Standards Australia Limited (SA).

If the Australian Government is willing to consider making its documents freely available on-line, it seems reasonable that Standards Australia should do likewise. There seems no good reason why the resulting documents should not be freely available on-line to Australians, who funded the standards development and wrote the standards for free.

SA could retain control over the content of the standards and continue to licence them commercially. SA floated it publishing arm on the Australian Stock exchange as SAI Global Limited some time ago.

ps: I represent the Australian Computer Society on the Council of Standards Australia, but the view expressed above is not necessarily that of the ACS.

Some related books: