Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Australian broadband lagging OECD but causing pollution

Dr Idris F. Sulaiman, CEO of Computers Off Australia, has pointed out that the latest survey of household internet use from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that:
  • the ACT leads the nation in broadband connections with 68 per cent of dwellings plugged online via fat pipes in June
  • Australia's connectivity is behind leaders within the OECD (who are also leaders in the Asia Pacific) but scores better than the average of the larger 27-member EU nations
  • the metropolitan divide in connectivity (urban - 57% vs. non-urban - 43%) is lower than the income digital "connectivity" divide (81% in 'rich' households, earning more than $120k. vs. 38% in 'poor' households earning less than $40k.)
  • the national figure was 52% - a rise of 22% on previous year: there was a comparable growth of household computer access and, hence their carbon footprint may be also increasing around the same rate - around 20% emissions growth per year.
He suggests this is a significant growth of emissions that must be addressed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stopping ACM sending junk mail

For more than 20 years I have been a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This is one of the oldest IT bodies and has been respectable and useful, up until now. In the last year I have noticed an increase in the number of annoying email messages from ACM.

The number of newsletters, announcements, surveys and renewal reminders from ACM has been getting annoying, to the point where I am considering cancelling my membership. The problem is that apart from the printed publications, all I see of an organisation like ACM is the email. If that email starts to look like junk mail from dishonest spammers, then reputation of the organisation starts to suffer.

The use of the web for e-commerce also changes perceptions. ACM was in the habit of including on the renewal form some suggested items. These were things I had not asked for, such as a subscription to the ACM Digital Library and a donation to some initiative. Each year I would have to cross these out and recalculate the correct, much lower total amount. However, when the same thing happened with the online renewal this went from being a charming idosyrancy to something which looked like attempted fraud. ACM should discontinue this practice as it looks, at best unethical, if not technically illegal. It is simply enough with an electronic renewal to add extra items if the member wants them.

In addition, the perceptions of what an organisation does changes with email. Previously the ACM would send me a membership reminder several months in advance. This made sense for overseas members contacted by paper mail. The reminder could take a long time to arrive and filling out the renewal and mailing it back took a long time. But email does not take as long, nor does online renewal. As a result sending a reminder months in advance looks like an attempt to get money the organisation is not entitled to. ACM need to shorten the reminder period to just a few weeks.

An occasional email alert can be helpful, but too many get annoying. ACM send far too many email notices and make it very difficult to stop them. I contacted my supposed "Personal Customer Service Representative" (an annoying fiction: does this mean that when that person is not on duty I get no service?) and asked to just receive official announcements of elections and the like and one renewal reminder. This didn't happen.

When I received the next email announcement I clicked on the link to stop them and that worked. However, it only stopped that particular announcement. Logging into the ACM customer site I found I could remove myself from various announcement lists, but there were a lot of them and no way to just click "official items only".

With all the announcement items un-clicked, hopefully ACM will not send me so much junk mail.

ACM has been a worthwhile organisation, but it needed to balance the need to service members with the need not to annoy them.

ps: In going through the customer site I found some useful services I was not aware of, such as an ACM v-card available to each member and online books.

Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)

The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) provide a useful service where they chart how many new entries there are in open access repositories. The information is presumably automatically extracted from the repository. As an example, for the ACS Digital Library:

ACS Digital Library (410 records)

Thumbnail of http://dl.acs.org.au/
Records Deposited per Day
Running Other softwares (various), based in Australia and is registered as e-Journal/Publication
Registered on 2006-12-05
Cumulative deposits: 410 total [table] [graph]
Daily deposits in last year: 1 days of 1-9, 1 days of 10-99, 0 days of 100+ [table] [graph (PNG format)] [interactive graph (requires SVG format support)]
OAI Interface: Identify List Metadata Formats List Sets [harvest status]
100% freely accessible fulltext (* estimate)
The ACS Digital Library provides international quality magazines, journal articles and conference papers, covering innovative research and practice in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). This service is provided free to the ICT profession by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as part of its commitment to ensure the beneficial use of technology for the community. It includes: Australasian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS), Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT), and Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT).

Hand Plane

Japanese plane in useFor Christmas I got a Hand Plane, or more specifically a Jack plane. This is a metal hand tool for working wood.The plane allows very fine shavings of wood to be removed to curve or flatten a piece of timber. Using the plane is a very satisfying feeling as you can sense the grain as you use the tool.

The immediate use for the plane was to make an arm for a King Furniture sofa. The sofa came with two metal brackets to convert the backrest into a headrest for a sofa bed. When not using the sofa as a bed these brackets are not needed and have to be kept somewhere. I attached a plank of wood to the top of the brackets to make a low arm for the sofa, wide enough to put a coffee cup on. King Furniture sell a similar wooden arm for the sofas, which is higher. By the time the cost of the plane, wood, wood stain and varnish was taken into account it would probably be cheaper to buy one, but making it was very satisfying.

Jack PlaneThe Jack Plane I have is branded "GripWell" and made in India.The body, Frog and Lever cap are made of cast iron, the cutter of steel and the handles of hardwood. Such planes have been made for hundreds of years to the same design. There are similar ones on Amazon.com, so I created a hand woodworking tool store (but the tools are probably cheaper at your local hardware store):

Monday, December 29, 2008

Green Void: an absence of ethical architecture

Green Void by Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA)The Green Void architectural installation at Customs House in Sydney is a success, but only as a commentary on the cynical actions by architects who value self promotion over the interests of the community. The installation by Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA); consists of a green fabric sculpture filling the atrium of Customs House, with accompanying sound and projections.

Reading the brochure which accompanied the installation I started to suspect that this was an elaborate hoax, intended to point out the failings of modern architecture.

The object displayed is obviously not architecture: it is not intended to provide shelter or any other practical function, it is purely an aesthetic work. Accompanying claims about its use of lightweight fabric and the latest digital fabrication and engineering techniques are clearly nonsense.

As the work has no practical use, the fact that it uses minimal material is irrelevant. It would make little sense to praise a sculptor because they use little material, unless this enhanced the aesthetic value of the work.

The brochure for the installation refers to the work of Le Corbusier. Green Void is reminiscent of
Le Corbusier in that it is a work of style over substance. Le Corbusier famously produced impractical buildings with flat roofs which leaked. He claimed a mass produced machine look, but which actually required expensive hand finishing. While claiming to use architecture to create a better society, the real aim was to build moments to the architect's own ego. In the same way Green Void claims to be a digitally design environmentally sensitive piece of architecture, but is not.

Customs House has cleverly enhanced the appreciation of Green Void by simultaneously having a display by Emergency Architects Australia
(Level 2, 8 December 2008 – 8 February 2009) of 'not-for-profit' work by volunteers rebuilding after disasters. This exhibition of real architecture carried out to benefit the community throws Green Void into sharp contrast as trivial ephemera.

If further conformation was needed that Green Void was not a serious work, it is given in the inside of the installation brochure, which says: "Green is the new black". This can be interpreted as a comment that the current emphasis on sustainable development and the environment is for many just a fashion trend to be cynically exploited for publicity.

Green Void is a very useful education in what architecture should not be. Architects are professionals who are required by their code of ethics to act in the interests of their clients and in the public interest. Green Void shows what happens when the ego of the architect is placed before the needs of the community.

Beautiful Mind Applied to Wireless Auctions

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John NashThe recent showing of the film "A Beautiful Mind" prompted me to read the book it is based on "A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash " by Sylvia Nasar. The book at 459 pages, with 44 pages of end notes, and extensive bibliography and index is not a novelisation of the film but a carefully researched biography.

This is also a book about the politics of academia, covering university and researchers reaction to Nash's mental illness. One interesting part for me was the fact that it was difficult to tell Nash was ill in comparison with the odd behaviour of other mathemitical academics.

The book does a little too much hero worship with Einstien and others mentioned in respected tones. The insights into how the Nobel prize is selected and the controvesy over Nash's selection is of interest.

The book ended cusriously with the auctions for wireless spectruim in the USA in the 1990s. The claim is made that Nash's games theory guided the design of these auctions, resulting in them being succesful, both from the point of view of optimal allocation of resources for the public good and by raising billions of dollars for the US Government. The claim is also made that the previous spectrium auctions in Australian and New Zeland were failures because they were not informed by the theory.
1. on Page 375:
"... The most dramatic use of game theory is by governments from Australia to Mexico to sell scarce public resources to buyers best able to develop them. The radio spectrum, T-bills, oil leases, ..."
2. on Page 377:
"... design can minimize that problem. As Congress and the FCC inched closer to the notion of auctioning off spectrum rights, Australia and New Zealand both conducted spectrum auctions. ..."
Another useful point made is that a Nobel prize winning discovery can, at the time of discovery not look significant, even to those discovering it. With hindsight it may look obvious. Nash's game theory addressed the problem with classical economics, which assumed that there were so many players in a market that the actions of any one did not have a significant effect. In the case of the wireless spectrum auctions, there were only a few companies with the billions of dollars needed to make a bid or use the spectrum. The problem then was that each bidder needed to take into account the actions of the other bidders, who in turn would take into account the likely actions of their rivals. The Australia and NZ approach was to have a simple auction which failed to take this into account. The US approach has several rounds of auctions, allowing the bidders to assess their rivals positions. This reflected early experiments in games theory.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

King Furniture Delta Modular Furniture

Back when specifying the the fit-out for my "Smart Apartment" in 2001 I included a sofa bed from King Furniture. I purchased a Delta model from the King range. This is their lowest cost range and most modular. While not cheap, this has worked well as both a sofa and an occasional guest bed

Searching for Sofa Bed
Recently a friend needed a guest bed for a visit by a guest and we did the rounds of the discount furniture stores looking for a cheap fold up bed for a few hundred dollars. Having found nothing, we happened to go past the King Furniture store in Parramatta Road, Annandale in Sydney.

As usual there was a large sign saying "sale" draped across the front of the building. Having nothing better to do we went in, with little hope of a bargan. We realised that the average sofa in the store cost thousands, not hundreds of dollars. The sales people looked a little insulted when told we wanted a sofa bed by the next day. The delivery time on the carefully custom made sofas is weeks or months. They then reluctantly suggested looking in the remainders warehouse across the road.

The Annandale King Furniture warehouse is an anonymous white industrial looking building which I had assumed was part of the adjacent car tire store. The building is kept locked and we had to wait for the sales person to arrive with the key. They opened the door to reveal hundreds of sofas. These were mostly Delta units in imitation suede fabric (of the type I decided to have in my Smart Apartment in place of leather). The problem was then to find enough modules of a suitable colour. This is made difficult because of the very wide range of colours available and there being two models of almost identical sofa design. Eventually we found two modules, with a back, which would make a chaise longue and convert to a single sofa bed, for less than $1,000.

While much more than the few hundred dollars for the typical folding bed, this makes a much more comfortable bed and also an extremely comfortable chair.

Delta Modular System
The Delta sofa system is designed on a 800 mm square unit which has sockets on each side to hold backs, arms, or tables. Modules can be temporally clipped together or perminatly bolted. One unit makes a ottoman, clip on a backrest and you have a chair, add arms and you have an arm chair. Two modules with one back back at the end and one arm on the side makes a chaise longue, two backs at the back make a sofa. Add a module to the sofa to make a corner lounge. There are also small tables which can be plugged into the sockets.

A typical package consists of two double module units forming a corner lounge and one module to make a matching arm chair. The clever part of the system is that you can change it around later, without the need for an tools. Several acquaintances have bought supposedly modular lounges only to find that the corner of the lounge is at the wrong end, or they would prefer to have two small units, but are unable to change it later as it has all be permanently assembled into one shape in the factory. The Delta arrives in bits and you put it together they way you want and can change it.

Unlike a regular sofa bed, which has the mattress recessed under the seat, with the Delta, the seat is the mattress. The bed option consists of two metal bars with a right angle bend in them. These are used in place of the usual backrest connectors and allow the backrest to be laid flat to form a headrest of the bed. Two modules and a back make a king length single bed. Four modules and two backrests make a double bed. While the sofa bed looks a bit ungainly when assembled, it is extremely comfortable.

Two Delta Systems

The original Delta design from King Furniture, which I purchased, had the sockets to clip arms and backs into as bolt on units, on the outside of the sides of the modules. When ordering a chair, you had to specify how many sockets you wanted and where. Each socket was covered in fabric to match the chair. The result was less flexibility.

After buying my chair, I suggested to King that they instead install the sockets inside the top of the modules. In this way the sockets would be invisible (hidden by the cushion on top of the module) and could be installed standard on all chairs. This was done for the series 2 of the the Delta. The same backs and arms can be used between the two systems, with slightly different connecting rods being used.

Another change was that originally the fabric covered arms for the chairs were semi-permanently bolted to the bases. As a result I ordered no arms and used the rectangular wooden tables instead, as these can be moved (and can easily be used to stand a coffee cup). Later chairs have the same socket system used for the arms, allowing them to be moved.

Selling a Standard Unit
Buying a modular chair is a bewildering experience due to the number of options and combinations of options. This is made more complex with the Delta system, due to the ability to rearrange the modules. The sales staff are trained to take the customer though the options and are perhaps a little too proud of this skill.

When I suggested in 2001 that there should be a standard offering to make the process simpler, the sales staff were a little shocked. I eventually ended up buying one two module unit to form a sofa, with two backs and two side tables. With this I purchased two single module units. With one module at the end of the sofa and one it front, this form a long corner sofa. This can be reformed to make a double bed.

I suggested to the staff this arrangement could be offered as a standard configuration in a limited range of colours. They seemed shocked at the idea their very custom product would be reduced to a standard offering. But since them King have offered a standard corner lounge, consisting of two two module units, three backs and sometimes an extra single chair.

On the recent visit to the store I again suggested a standard offering, with the staff again expressing concern. In this case we needed furniture then and there and ideally something we could take away in a compact hatchback car (a Honda Civic). The 800 mm Delta module is small enough to fit into small car and with some effort a two module unit 1600 x 800 mm fitted into the back of the Civic. But it occurred to me that a small system was possible.

If the furniture maker confined itself to the 800 mm module, the units would fit in a small car, or fit on a standard industrial pallet for bulk delivery. To make the modules smaller, they could be vacuum packed, with the foam padding compressed, making the module half as high (the legs screw on and so can be left off for shipping). The frame of the modules is about 150 mm high, with a cushion 150 mm high on top. When compressed the cushion would be about 20mm high. Six modules would fit on a standard size pallet into the back of a small van, such as a Volkswagen Caddy.

The padded backrests could be similarly compressed. in this way a corner sofa should fit in a small hatchback car. To make the purchase simpler, a limited colour range stocked in the store could be offered. Such units could also be sold over the Internet.

To make the shipped modules even smaller, the zips on the bas of the unit could be extended, to allow the hollow base to be used to hold some of the components. As an example, a back, cushion, the legs and one pillow could fit in the base. But this might not be a good idea for take home sales, as it would make the modules much heavier.

See also:
  1. RAVE - King Furniture
  2. King furniture - anyone bought from there?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ecologically Sustainable Annandale 2009 Exhibition

An "Ecologically Sustainable Annandale 2009 Exhibition" is being run at the Leichhardt Library in Sydney, 30 December 2008 - 31 January 2009. This features glass and discarded packaging sculpture, photographs and drawings inspired by local themes.

Events in association with the exhibition:

Eco-Annandale 2009 Exhibition

Leichhardt Library, Italian Forum, Norton St, Leichhardt (Sydney)
31 December 2008-31 January 2009

  • Opening - Meet the Artists

    Leichhardt Library, Italian Forum, Norton St
    6pm-7.30pm Wednesday 7 January 2009
    RSVP Tuesday 6 January 2009
    Telephone 93679338/93679266
    or email: localhistory@lmc.nsw.gov.au

  • Morning Talk

    Rozelle Bay Community Native Nursery
    9am-10am Friday 16th January 2009
    Meet at Nursery, Chapman St (East), Annandale

  • Twilight Talk

    Federal Park Wetlands
    Meet at Federal Park Wetlands (Chapman St - East), Annandale
    Date: TBA

  • Twilight Talk

    Whites Creek Wetlands
    Meet at Whites Creek Wetlands (end of Wisdom St) Annandale
    Date: TBA



Hair cutting and shaving with one gadget

Philips Norelco BG2020 Bodygroom ShaverWhen travelling, having to carry a razor to shave and electric clippers to trim my hair is an annoyance. With their BG2020 Bodygroom Shaver Philips (Norelco) claim to have a razor which can be used for saving and hair cutting.

I have to carry two devices which essentially do the same thing: cut hair (and two battery chargers). Why can't one device be used to do both? But razors and electric clippers perform two different tasks: razors cut very short tough hairs (and collect them). Clippers cut long hair. If you don;t mind having a five-o'clock shadow look, then you can use clippers to shave. But the process is messy: you end up with hair everywhere and not very comfortable, as clippers are not designed to be pressed to the skin.

The Philips BodyGroom looks like an oscillating electric razor with a trimmer on each side of the foil. It is not a rotary razor, like the usual Philips ones. There are clip on combs for cutting hair. Unlike the Wahl All In One Rechargeable Trimmer, where the shaving head is swapped for a hair trimming one, the Philips system just has clip on combs. The same cutting mechanism is retained on the unit, when cutting short or long hair, making for fewer parts to break.

Philips Norelco BG2030 Professional BodyGrooming SystemPhilips also have the BG2030 Professional BodyGrooming System, which looks similar to the BG2020, but has a separate clipper head.

With all of these combination units, keep in mind that they are primiarly design for cutting "body hair" and so will not do as good a job as a specifically design razor for the face, a beard trimmer or hair clippers.

Open Source Intelligence Job

The Office of National Assessments (ONA), the Australian Prime Minister's intelligence agency, is advertising for a Director of their Open Source Branch.
Open source intelligence is based on publicly available information, rather than finding out secrets and has come to prominence with the Internet. The ONA OS Branch uses the Internet to disseminate intelligence reports, as well collect information. There is a
password protected section on the ONA web site, to provide reports to Australian and allied government agencies.

ONA is seeking a highly motivated and skilled individual to coordinate the collection and research activities of the Open Source Branch. The successful candidate will have demonstrated management and coordination experience, well developed interpersonal skills and strong analytical skills. Proficiency in Indonesian language will also be highly regarded. ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Climate change department estimate out by 900%

I hope whoever is doing the greenhouse gas accounting at the Department of Climate Change is better with numbers than their web-master. A National Carbon Offset Standard Discussion Paper has been released. According to the web site, this is 5.48 MB of PDF. I thought this would be useful for my Green ICT students to look at. When I downloaded a copy I found it was 548 Kbytes, one tenth of the quoted figure. It is a little worrying when numbers associated with a standard for accounting are off by a factor of ten. If they get the savings for greenhouse gas that wrong, we could all end up underwater. ;-)

A more serious problem with the paper is that it is in the form of one hard to read, monolithic PDF file. Attachment C to the document is a draft National Carbon Offset Standard. This deserves detailed analysis, but that will be difficult with it tacked onto the end of the PDF document. The climate change department should release the draft as a separate, accessible HTML document. The W3C's HTML standards are a good example of how to format a standard in HTML. There is no need to provide the standard in PDF and most readers will be reading and using the standard on a computer screen, not printed on paper. Therefore formatting for on-line use should be the priority. I couldn't wait for the Department to do this and have created my own HTML markup: Draft National Carbon Offset Standard.

Some minor corrections for the current draft:
  1. In "3. Terms and definitions" The entry for "businessas-usual" should be "business-as-usual".
  2. Number elements: section 4. Elements of the Standard lists the six key elements as bullet points. These should be numbered, one to six.
  3. Several sections of the report, such as "5.3.1 Scope" have only one paragraph which is numbered: "(a) The ...". As there is no "(b)" there seems no point in numbering the section.
  4. Footnotes: The use of footnotes, such as for "The Greenhouse Friendly Guidelines", should be avoided.
More serious issues:
  1. No government arbitrary rights: Section 6.1. Eligible offset units says: "The Government reserves the right to amend eligible offset units as required in
    light the development of new international standards, and other policy developments." This arbitrary right to amendments by government will weaken confidence in the system.
  2. Definition of "permanent": The standard requires that emission reductions must be permanent. Specifically this requires that sequestered carbon will not be released into the atmosphere in the future. No time span is included. There would appear to be no way to ensure this, so ruling out sequestration.
  3. No legislative measures: Complaince with specific laws is outside the scope of a voluntary standard. Thus "The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will assess compliance with the Standard. Incorrect claims risk contravening the Trade Practices Act 1974" should be moved to a separate document.

Public and Private Housing Mix

A National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) commences in 2009, with $6.1B for social housing, private rental assistance, accommodation for homeless and home purchasing assistance. One way would be to combine public and private housing in the same developments as was done at City Edge in Canberra. The Australian Government released a White Paper on Homelessness: T he Road Home on 21 December 2008 (Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek).

An example of where this could be done is in Sydney with the $29.5M public housing redevelopment project in Lilyfield. This is the redevelopment of a an old public housing estate at Lilyfield Road, Balmain Road and Edward Streets. As was done at city edge in Canberra, old flats are being replaced with new style ones. In Lilyfield 40 flast are being replaced with 88 (26 one bedroom, 53 two bedroom and 9 three bedroom). Like the Canberra units, the Lilyfield ones will be environmentally efficient and the ground floor units will be wheelchair accessible. The difference is that in Canberra, most of these were sold to private buyers, with some retained for public housing (administered by a non-profit non-government cooperative), to give a balance of occupants. One problem with the Lilyfield site is it is at the end of the the Sydney Light Rail. , which the NSW Government has refused to extend.

Australian Government's Multiple Human Resources Systems

Airservices Australia have issued a Request for Tender for an "Online Recruitment Management System" (ASA - PRN530, 22-Dec-2008). Unfortunately, this is essentially the same system which three other agencies have already tendered for:

  1. IP Australia, 8 May 2008 (IPAC2008/11476)
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 7-Mar-2008 (ABS076).
  3. Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 30-Apr-2008 (DCON/08/10)
These systems are for the recruitment of staff for the same organisation, the Australian Public Service, so it seems unnecessary to have more than one system to do it. Such rationalisation was supposed to be addressed in Peter Gershon's: Review of Australian Government's Use of Information and Communication Technology. Apart from the waste of resources, the multiple systems will generate more greenhouse gas pollution that a coordinated approach would.

Online Recruitment Management System

ATM ID ASA - PRN530
Agency Airservices Australia
Category 43231505 - Human resources software
Close Date & Time 16-Feb-2009 2:00 pm (ACT Local time)
Show close time for other time zones
Publish Date 22-Dec-2008
Location

ACT, NSW, VIC, SA, WA, QLD, NT, TAS

ATM Type Request for Tender

Go to ATM Documents

Description Airservices Australia is seeking tender responses for an Online Requirement Management System. Airservices Australia intends to use this RFT to identify organisations that are interested in and capable of supplying an Online Requirement Management System.
Conditions for Participation Please refer to the RFT documentation
Timeframe for Delivery 2009 ...


Monday, December 22, 2008

SPF entry in DNS to counter Spammers

Each day I get a few "bounces" of email messages I never sent. To counter this I am asking my ISP to insert an SPF record in the DNS entry for my domain name. The problem is that spammers can forge an e-mail message from me by putting my e-mail address as the sender's address. To counter this a list of the mail servers I use can be inserted in the DNS record for my web site. When a mail system gets a message claiming to be from me, it can check if it came from one of the list of mail servers I nominated. I not sure how well this works in pratice. There is the catch that if I have to cange where I send my mail from, I have to remember to change the DNS record, or my mail will be treated as Spam.

Computer control of in-flight refuelling

Cockpit layout of the A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker TransportThe tanker aircraft being built for the RAAF (Airbus A330 MRTT) have a fly-by-wire, refuelling boom (the CASA Advanced Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). This is controlled by an operator on the tanker aircraft flight deck looking at a synthetic 3-D image on a screen (the Remote Aerial Refuelling Station) and "flying" the boom with a joystick. As the boom is electrically operated with a computer relaying the operator's instructions, there is the potentially to further automate the system to make refuelling faster and lower the workload on the operator.

The Airbus system differs from that previously developed by the US Air Force, where an operator sits in the rear of the tanker aircraft and controls the boom while looking out of a window. However, even with the Airbus computer interface this is a complex process. The receiving aircraft has to be guided in using instructions via radio or lights on the tanker (similar to traffic lights). When in the contact position the receiving aircraft has to hold its position while the boom is locked in place and fuel is pumped. Much of this complex process could be automated to relieve the workload on the boom operator and speed the process:

Airbus operator's station

The AAR operator's station is equipped with a fuel control panel, with fuel pump controls and fuel quantity indicators, and a dual pod control panel. The AAR operator is responsible for control of the aircraft's rendezvous beacons and tanker illumination lights during air-to-air refuelling. The optional external video monitoring system uses infrared floodlighting for day-and-night monitoring of refuelling operations. ...

From: A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport, Europe, SPG Media Limited, 2008
USAF KC-135R boom operator view

Boeing operator's station

While in contact, pilot director indicators (two rows of lights on the bottom of the tanker's fuselage change in relation to the nozzle's up/down and fore/aft movement) aid the receiver pilot in remaining within the air refueling envelope. The air refueling envelope -- a roughly cube-shaped area within which the nozzle and receptacle must remain during contact -- is slightly different for each receiver. Its boundaries are based either on boom movement limitations, or to prevent the receiver from moving into a position where any portion of the boom might touch the receiver outside the receptacle while in contact. The boom's mechanical limits stem from the both the structural limitations of yoke and trunnion system mounting the boom to the tanker, and the maximum deflection of the flexible nozzle. Should receiver movement left, right, up or down exceed the nozzle's deflection limits the nozzle could become mechanically bound in the receptacle (like trying to remove a key from a lock while pulling sideways instead of pulling straight back) preventing nozzle/receptacle disengagement. The boomer follows the receiver aircraft's movement with the ruddevator control stick to maintain alignment between the inner fuel tube and the outer structural portion of the boom. He or she also monitors the receiver's position, via three boom position indicators, and commands the toggles in the receptacle to disengage the nozzle -- a disconnect -- before the receiver aircraft exceeds any published air refueling envelope limit. ...

From: Aerial refueling, Wikipedia, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

3G Wireless Broadband

Huawei D100 3G RouterThe Huawei D100 3G Router is sold in Australia by "3" as the 3 Wi-Fi Router for $129. I have found it works fine with the Virgin wireless broadband service and the Huawei E220 USB wireless modem supplied by Virgin. This could be very useful as a portable WiFi "hot spot". You just need to plug the router into a powerpoint and a small group of people can share its Internet access via WiFi.

The router is pocket size, but not battery powered (it comes with a tiny mains adaptor). The USB modem plugs into a socket on the top of the router which then rotates to hold the modem in a slot on the top of the modem. The modem works fine in this horizontal position.

The router is pre-set to work with the "3" wireless network Two setting need to be changed to work with Virgin. You need to plug in an Ethernet cable and use:
  1. Address: http://192.168.1.1
  2. Default password: admin
Then change:
  1. APN: VirginBroadband
  2. Authentication protocol: PAP
Thanks to Kalan on Whirlpool for these settings.

You don't have to enter any security ids or passwords (these are on the SIM in the wireless modem). Once set up you can use the Wi-Fi to access the Internet. By default WAP-PSK security is enabled, with the key written on the bottom of the modem.

The only problem I have found with the router is has a "soft" power switch. To turn the router on you have to first provide power and then press a button. If the power goes off the router will not power itself up when the power comes back: you have to manually press the button again. This may be a feature for those users worried about downloading large amounts of data at expensive rates. There are some photos of the circuit board and techncial details available. Perhaps someone can suggest how to set the modem to automatically power up.

ps: I would recommend checking the fees before using a 3G wireless broadband service. Virgin limit the speed of the link when a monthly data limit is reached. However, other suppliers typically charge 10 cents per Mbyte when the limit is reached. "3" change $1.65 per Mbyte for "roaming".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Audit of Australian transport, water, energy and communications infrastructure

The Australian Government released an a preliminary audit of national transport, water, energy and communications infrastructure and 94 proposals to upgrade it. The priorities are: broadband, energy grid, ports and land transport to them, rail freight, protecting water supplies from climate change, public transport in cities and services to Indigenous communities. This includes a proposal for a Very Fast Train from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra at a cost of $32b to $59b. There are also public-private partnership guidelines.

Confusingly the report is entitled "A Report to the Council of Australian Governments" (4.4Mbytes of PDF). Also when the "reflow" function is used to make the document more readable the text appears to become scrambled, indicating the document was not correctly formatted.

This follows a previous announcement of $4.7b of projects "Nation Building: Rail, Road, Education & Research and Business", 12 December 2008. That announcement included several rail upgrades.

Available are:
  1. Audit of the Nation's Infrastructure Released, Joint Media Statement, The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and Sir Rod Eddington, Chair of Infrastructure Australia, AA205/2008, 19 December 2008
  2. A Report to the Council of Australian Governments, Infrastructure Australia, December 2008

Executive summary
Infrastructure Australia aims to drive the development of a long term and coordinated national approach to nationally significant infrastructure that contributes to Australia. Infrastructure Australia has adopted a new national approach to infrastructure decision making to improve the quality and efficiency of transport, water, energy and communications infrastructure across the nation. The intention is to boost national productivity, drive a more diverse, competitive and sustainable economy, and generate substantial and lasting economic, social and environmental benefits for Australians. The new national approach to decision making uses a robust framework. Infrastructure Australia has established a 7 step process to outline the stages and rationale to clearly and objectively articulate the 'problem' to identify and assess various options or 'solutions'. Infrastructure Australia has rigorously applied this framework. It has encouraged the public, industry and governments, through the Discussion Paper: Australia's Future Infrastructure Requirements, to provide input regarding problems and potential solutions of national significance. As a result of the information gathered from the 600 received submissions and Infrastructure Australia's own analysis, a number of infrastructure challenges have been identified.
These challenges can be divided into two areas: Nationwide challenges Location specific challenges. Part 2 of this report discusses the nationwide challenges being:

1. Deliver better governance: inefficiencies and inconsistencies in governance adversely impact infrastructure operations and investment in Australia.

2. Create competitive markets: regulatory complexity and competitive anomalies impede the operation of efficient and competitive infrastructure markets , including the development of a nationwide world-class communications network.

3. One nation, one set of rules: inconsistent rules, legislation and regulations governing markets impede productivity and create unnecessary costs.

4. Better use of existing infrastructure: changes in the operation, pricing or utilisation of existing infrastructure to solve problems without the need for investment in additional capacity.

5. Climate change: in addition to requiring a shift to a low carbon economy, climate change is increasing the demand for improved infrastructure, such as efficient public transport systems and low carbon intensive methods of power generation.

Part 3 of this report discusses the location specific challenges being:

6. Supporting our cities: improving the liveability, sustainability and productivity of Australia's major cities.

7. Boosting exports: Increasing the productivity of Australia's international gateways, making sure that they can meet the rapidly growing freight task without adverse impacts on community amenity.

8. Supporting indigenous communities: improving infrastructure in remote and regional indigenous communities, and closing the gap in essential infrastructure and services between these and non.indigenous communities.

9. Supporting rural communities: improving the quality of life and economic prosperity in rural and regional communities.

To meet these challenges, Infrastructure Australia has identified themes that steer a course for solutions to meet the gaps, deficiencies and bottlenecks in our nation's infrastructure. These themes are:

1. A national broadband network: developing a more extensive, globally competitive broadband system;

2. Creation of a true national energy market: more extensive national energy grids to enable greater flexibility and competition in the nation's electricity and gas systems, whilst creating opportunities for the development of renewable energy sources;

3. Competitive international gateways: developing more effective ports and associated land transport systems to more efficiently cope with imports and exports;

4. A national rail freight network: development of our rail networks so that more freight can be moved by rail;

5. Adaptable and secure water supplies: more adaptable and resilient water systems to cope with climate change;

6. Transforming our cities: increasing public transport capacity in our cities and making better use of existing transport infrastructure; and

7. Providing essential indigenous services: improved services for Indigenous communities. Infrastructure Australia will continue to work on developing a program of solutions that addresses the themes mentioned above, and that might ultimately form part of a larger 'pipeline' of nationally significant infrastructure projects to secure Australia's future prosperity. ...

4.2 Infrastructure proposals for prioritisation
Table 5: Projects for further analysis ...

Freight Rail
Adelaide Urban freight – Goldwood and Torres Junctions Adelaide SA $415m
East-West Rail freight corridor VIC/SA/WA ARTC $554m
Gippsland Coal Industries transport Infrastructure Vic VIC $NA
Hunter Valley Corridor Rail Strategy NSW ARTC $1.68b
Mount Isa Rail Corridor Upgrades Mt Isa to Townsville QLD $1b
North-South Rail freight corridor VIC/NSW/QLD ARTC $7.2b
Northern Sydney Rail Freight Corridor NSW NSW $4.075b
Newcastle-Dubbo Rail Freight link NSW DoITARS $24m

Urban Rail / Bus or Urban Rail / Road
Brisbane Inner City Rail Capacity Upgrade Brisbane QLD $14b
CBD Metro Sydney NSW $4.8b
Extension of Passenger Rail Services to Seaford Adelaide SA $456m
Geelong Growth Package Geelong VIC $94.6m
Gold Coast Rapid Transport Gold Coast QLD $850m
Light Rail for the ACT Canberra ACT $2.95b
Melton Duplication and Electrification to Bacchus Marsh Melbourne VIC $NA
Northbridge rail cutting link Perth WA $263m
Regional Rail Express Line Melbourne VIC $3.8b
East-West rail Tunnel Melbourne VIC $3.5b
Southern Cross Platform 15 & 16 Activation Melbourne VIC $155m
West Metro Sydney NSW $8.1b
Gawler Rail line re-sleepering and electrification (formerly Adelaide’s Future

Public Transport Network) Adelaide SA $2.19b
North-South Corridor – Darlington Transport Project Adelaide SA $750m
Eastern Busway (Stage 2) Brisbane QLD $680m
Eastern Busway (Stage 3) Brisbane QLD $140m
Darra to Ipswich Transport Corridor Brisbane/Ipswich QLD $3.8b
Very Fast Train (VFT) VIC/ACT/NSW ACT $32-59b
Abbot Point and State Development Area bypass Bowen QLD $400m

Freight Road
Donnybrook Intermodal Hub Melbourne VIC $290m
Freight Road Expanded Higher Mass Limits Central Queensland QLD $750m
Frankford – Birralee – Batman freight corridor Frankford TAS $160m
Green Triangle Project – Freight Network and Rail/Port Connections South western

Vic and South eastern SA VIC $390m
Green Triangle Project South western Vic and South eastern SA SA $136m
Improved Access for Higher Prod. Freight Vehicles Parts of SA SA $385m
Peak Downs Highway Heavy Vehicles Route Mackay to Bowen QLD $315m
Picton Road Illawarra Region Illawarra Development Council $135m
Port of Brisbane Motorway Brisbane QLD $730m
Port of Mackay Multi-Modal Access Road Mackay QLD $300m
Toowoomba Bypass Toowoomba QLD $1.341b
West Coast Freight Analysis West Tasmania TAS $NA
Parts of transport system in Tasmania Parts of Tasmania TAS $432m

Urban Road
Alternative to West Gate – Road Tunnel, Melbourne VIC $3.5b
Geelong Road to Port of Melbourne Kingsford Smith Drive Brisbane City

Brisbane $570.6m
(Brisbane City to Australia TradeCoast) Council Brisbane City Eastern Brisbane

Suburbs Roads Brisbane $482.1m
Council North East Connector Road Melbourne VIC $2.1b F3 – M2 Link Sydney NSW

$4.75b
Gateway Upgrade North: Nudgee Road Brisbane QLD $1.8b
interchange to the Bruce Highway Gateway Upgrade South: Brisbane QLD $1.1b
Mt Gravatt Capalaba to Pacific Motorway Melbourne Grade Separations Melbourne VIC

$327m
M4 Extension Sydney NSW $5.7b stage 1 $4b
stage 2 M5 Expansion including surface road links Sydney NSW $2b
Majura Parkway (Stage 2) Canberra ACT $250m
Mornington Peninsula Connector Road Melbourne VIC $700m
Northern Link road tunnel Brisbane Brisbane City Council $2b
Northern Connector (North-South Corridor) Adelaide SA $2.2b
Sir Donald Bradman Drive Upgrade – access to Adelaide Airport Adelaide SA $48.8m
Perth Airport Transport Links Perth WA $525m
South West Brisbane Industrial Gateway roads Brisbane Brisbane City Council $327.6m

Road Other transport initiatives
Advanced Train Management System National ARTC $518m
Increased road maintenance for regional freight networks Parts of SA SA $65m
Regional Road Maintenance
Brooker Highway Tasmania TAS $56m
Bruce Highway Upgrade (Brisbane to Cairns) East coast QLD QLD $4.310b
Bruce Highway Upgrade (Cooroy to Curra) Gympie QLD $6.3b F3 to Branxton Link Lower Hunter NSW $1.1727b
Pacific Highway Upgrades north coast NSW NSW $6.67b
Princes Highway Upgrades south coast NSW NSW $1.03b
NT Development Roads Parts of NT NT $1.655m
Mt Barker Bald Hill Road interchange (SA) Mt Barker $25m
Council King Street (Glenelg – Holdfast Bay) Holdfast Bay Adelaide $7.2m
bridge replacement
Council Fully Controlled Motorways Brisbane QLD $570m
Hoskinstown to Fyshwick Looping ACT ACT $92m

Water
Darwin Water capacity and consumption Darwin NT $240m
Regional Water Reform Initiatives Parts of NSW NSW $95m initially
plus $1.3b over 10 years
Adelaide’s long term water security (Desal) Adelaide SA $2.477b

Communications
Fibre optic cable from SA to Darwin SA/NT NT $70m
Extending broadband to NT remote communities Parts of NT NT $200m
VicFibre Link Parts of Vic VIC $57.4m

Ports/Airports
Abbot Point multi-purpose harbour Abbot Point QLD $1.75b
Bell Bay Port Bell Bay TAS $150m
Darwin Airport – terminal and apron expansion Darwin Darwin Airport $30m
Pilbara Power Pilbara Worley Parsons $1.15b
ACT Solar ACT ACT $119m
Southern energy supply ACT ACT $28.2m
Aboriginal Community Water Supply and Parts of NSW NSW $30m

Sewerage capital works program
Pilbara housing and indigenous infrastructure Parts of WA WA $2.101b
Broadbanding SA regions Parts of SA SA $41.8m

Indigenous/ Housing
NT indigenous Essential Services Requirements Parts of NT NT $40.4m
Remote road and indigenous employment program Parts of QLD QLD $46.5m
Port of Hastings Hastings VIC $58.8m
Darwin Port Darwin NT $292-363m
Oakajee Port and common use infrastructure Geraldton WA $3.5b
Cotter Dam upgrade ACT ACT $119m
Ord River expansion WA WA $391m
Murrumbidgee Googong water transfer ACT ACT $70m
Health Capital Projects ACT ACT $1b

From: A Report to the Council of Australian Governments, Infrastructure Australia, December 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Audit of Government Websites

Problems with Virgin Mobile Broadband Billing

iBurst are shutting down their wireless network in Australia by 19 December 2008. So I signed up for Virgin Mobile Broadband. While the service works fine, there are problems with the billing system. I sent in a paper form to have the monthly amount paid automatically (Virgin doesn't accept online requests for direct debit). However, I got a notice saying to look at my bill on the web site. This says that $10.06 is owing, which is not the correct amount (it should be $39 a month). I am asked to pay by credit card (the direct debit seems to have been lost). When I attempt to look at the bill, I get a file downloaded "iesbc.sso_pt" which my windows system can't open. Mobile phone companies do not seem to be able to get their billing systems to work properly, which may be one reason they are keen on pre-pay services.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Review of Australian Higher Education

The Review of Australian Higher Education, conducted by an expert panel, led by Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley, was released 17 December 2008. The Australian Government will respond to the report in "early" 2009. The report makes some useful recommendations, such as flexible and collaborative delivery arrangements in partnership with TAFE. Unfortunately the report is difficult to read due to poor formatting of the electronic document. To make the report more accessible, I have created a plain text version of the recommendations and appended them to this posting.
  1. Final Report in one document (PDF 2.55MB)
  2. Executive summary, Recommendations and Findings only (PDF 182KB)
  3. Part A - Title page to Chapter 2 (PDF 383KB)
  4. Part B - Chapter 3 (PDF 1.2MB)
  5. Part C - Chapter 4 (PDF 784KB)
  6. Part D - Acronyms to Index (PDF 445KB)
Format of the report

The report is provided in PDF, as one document and divided into parts. The full report is offered as the first option on the web site and no easy to read, small HTML version of the report is provided. As a result the report will be much harder to read and bandwidth (and greenhouse gasses) will be wasted downloading megabytes of unnecessary material. At least a web version of the summary of the report should be provided and listed as the first document the reader is offered.

Recommendations Review of Australian Higher Education
  1. That the Australian Government adopt the vision, strategic goals and principles for the higher education system set out in this report. (Chapter 1)
  2. That the Australian Government set a national target of at least 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds having attained a qualification at bachelor level or above by 2020. (Chapter 3.1)
  3. That the Australian Government commission work on the measurement of the socio-economic status of students in higher education with a view to moving from the current postcode methodology to one based on the individual circumstances of each student. (Chapter 3.2)
  4. That the Australian Government set a national target that, by 2020, 20 per cent of higher education enrolments at undergraduate level are people from low socio-economic status backgrounds. (Chapter 3.2)
  5. That the Australian Government introduce the following package of reforms to the student income support system. (Chapter 3.3) ...
  6. That the Australian Government undertake a regular process of triennial review of the income support system to assess the overall effectiveness of the support payments in reducing financial barriers to participation of students in need. (Chapter 3.3)
  7. That the Australian Government require all accredited higher education providers to administer the Graduate Destination Survey, Course Experience Questionnaire and the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement from 2009 and report annually on the findings.
    (Chapter 3.4)
  8. That the Australian Government increase the total funding allocation for the Research Infrastructure Block Grants program by about $300 million per year. This represents an increase from about 20 cents to 50 cents in the dollar for each dollar provided through competitive
    grants. (Chapter 3.5)
  9. That the Australian Government commission research into future demand for, and supply of, people with higher degree by research qualifications and that it increase the number of Research Training Scheme places on the basis of the findings of the research. (Chapter 3.5)
  10. That the Australian Government increase the value of Australian Postgraduate Awards to $25,000 per year and increase the length of support to four years, as recommended by the National Innovation Review, to provide greater incentives for high-achieving graduates to
    consider a research career. (Chapter 3.5)
  11. That the regulatory and other functions of Australian Education International be separated, with the regulatory functions becoming the responsibility of an independent national
    regulatory body. (Chapter 3.6)
  12. That the industry development responsibilities of Australian Education International be revised and be undertaken by an independent agency which is accountable to Commonwealth and
    state and territory governments and education providers. (Chapter 3.6)
  13. That the Australian Government provide up to 1,000 tuition subsidy scholarships per year for international students in higher degree by research programs targeted to areas of skills shortage. The scholarships would give the recipients the benefit of being enrolled on the same basis as domestic students. (Chapter 3.6)
  14. That higher education providers use a proportion of their international student income to match the Australian Government tuition scholarships by providing financial assistance for
    living expenses for international students in higher degrees by research. (Chapter 3.6)
  15. That the Australian Government liaise with states and territories to ensure consistent policies for school-fee waivers for the dependants of international research students in government-subsidised places and examine its visa arrangements to improve the conditions
    for spouse work visas. (Chapter 3.6)
  16. That, after further consideration of current problems with regional provision, the Australian Government provide an additional $80 million per year from 2012 in funding for sustainable
    higher education provision in regional areas to replace the existing regional loading. This should include funding to develop innovative local solutions through a range of flexible and collaborative delivery arrangements in partnership with other providers such as TAFE.
    (Chapter 3.7)
  17. That the Australian Government commission a study to examine the feasibility of a new national university for regional areas and, if the study indicates that a new national regional university is feasible, the Australian Government provide appropriate funding for its
    establishment and operation. (Chapter 3.7)
  18. That the Australian Government initiate a process with key stakeholders to determine the needs of outer metropolitan and regional areas for higher education and the best ways to
    respond to those needs. (Chapter 3.7)
  19. That the Australian Government adopt a framework for higher education accreditation, quality assurance and regulation featuring:
    accreditation of all providers based on their capacity to deliver on core requirements including ... (Chapter 4.1)
  20. That the Australian Government establish by 2010, after consultation with the states and territories, a national regulatory body to be responsible for:
    • accrediting and reaccrediting all providers of higher education and accrediting their courses where the provider is not authorised to do so;
    • conducting regular quality audits of higher education providers;
    • providing advice on quality, effectiveness and efficiency; and
    • registering and auditing providers for the purposes of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000. (Chapter 4.1)
  21. That the Australian Government, after consultation with the states and territories, revise the processes for higher education accreditation and audit to provide for ... (Chapter 4.1)
  22. That the Australian Government, after consultation with the states and territories, develop more rigorous criteria for accrediting universities and other higher education providers based around strengthening the link between teaching and research as a defining characteristic of university accreditation and reaccreditation. In particular, universities should be required to ... (Chapter 4.1)
  23. That the Australian Government commission and appropriately fund work on the development of new quality assurance arrangements for higher education as part of the new framework set out in Recommendation 19. This would involve ... (Chapter 4.1)
  24. That the Australian Government, in consultation with the states and territories, review the Australian Qualifications Framework to improve and clarify its structure and qualifications
    descriptors. Ongoing responsibility for a revised qualifications framework should rest with the national regulatory body. (Chapter 4.1)
  25. That the higher education financing system be designed around the following principles to... (Chapter 4.2)
  26. That the Australian Government increase the base funding for teaching and learning in higher education by 10 per cent from 2010. (Chapter 4.2)
  27. That the Australian Government maintain the future value of increased base funding for higher education by an indexation formula that is based on 90 per cent of the Labour Price Index (Professional) plus the Consumer Price Index with weightings of 75 per cent and
    25 per cent respectively. (Chapter 4.2)
  28. That the Australian Government commission an independent triennial review of the base funding levels for learning and teaching in higher education to ensure that funding levels remain internationally competitive and appropriate for the sector. (Chapter 4.2)
  29. That the Australian Government introduce a demand-driven entitlement system for domestic higher education students, in which recognised providers are free to enrol as many eligible
    students as they wish in eligible higher education courses and receive corresponding government subsidies for those students. The arrangements would...
  30. That the Australian Government regularly review the effectiveness of measures to improve higher education access and outcomes for Indigenous people in consultation with the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council. (Chapter 4.2)
  31. That the Australian Government increase the funding for the access and participation of under-represented groups of students to a level equivalent to 4 per cent of the total grants for teaching. This would be allocated through a new program for outreach activities and a loading
    paid to institutions enrolling students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Funding for the Disability Support Program would be increased to $20 million per year. (Chapter 4.2)
  32. That the Australian Government quarantine 2.5 per cent of the total government funding for teaching and learning for each provider to be allocated on the basis of achievement against a set of institutional performance targets which would be negotiated annually. (Chapter 4.2)
  33. That the Australian Government commission work on options for achieving a more rational and consistent sharing of costs between students and across discipline clusters in the context
    of triennial reviews of base funding for learning and teaching. (Chapter 4.2)
  34. That the Australian Government implement an approach to tuition fees in which maximum student contribution amounts (price caps) apply for any domestic undergraduate or coursework postgraduate students for whom the provider receives a public subsidy for their
    course. (Chapter 4.2)
  35. That the Australian Government implement an approach to tuition fees for domestic undergraduate students in which all providers are able to offer courses on a full-fee basis where public subsidies are not received for any students in that particular course. (Chapter 4.2)
  36. That the Australian Government:
    • increase the maximum student contribution amount for nursing and education units of study for students commencing from 2010 to the band 1 rate; and
    • encourage people to enrol and work in nursing and teaching by reducing HELP debts for graduates who work in those professions by $1,500 per annum for each of five years, at the same time as their HELP repayment requirements are forgiven to an equivalent amount. (Chapter 4.2)
  37. That the Australian Government:
    • increase the loan fee for FEE-HELP for fee-paying undergraduate students to 25 per cent; and
    • remove the loan fee on OS-HELP loans to encourage more Australian students to undertake part of their studies overseas. (Chapter 4.2)
  38. That the Australian Government establish a new Structural Adjustment Fund amounting to about $400 million in funding over a four-year period from 2009-10 to assist the sector to adapt to the reforms recommended in this report. (Chapter 4.2)
  39. That the Australian Government provide funds to match new philanthropic donations received in the sector as a means of stimulating an additional revenue stream from this source with the
    cost capped per institution, and in total at $200 million over three years. (Chapter 4.2)
  40. That Australian Government legislation and guidelines contain clear and objective criteria for determining access to different types of funding and assistance for higher education. ... (Chapter 4.2)
  41. That the Australian Government provide funds of $130 million over four years towards the costs of implementing these reforms. (Chapter 4.2)
  42. That the Australian Government develop and implement an accountability framework for the new higher education funding system that is consistent with the broader funding, governance and regulatory framework. In particular it should ... (Chapter 4.2)
  43. That the Australian Government negotiate with the states and territories to expand the national regulatory and quality assurance agency (Recommendation 20) to cover the entire tertiary sector (including vocational education and training and higher education) and that the Australian Government assume full responsibility for the regulation of tertiary education and training in Australia by 2010. (Chapter 4.3)
  44. That the Australian Government negotiate with the states and territories to introduce a tertiary entitlement funding model across higher education and vocational education and training (VET) commencing with the upper levels of VET (diplomas and advanced diplomas) and progressing to the other levels as soon as practicable. (Chapter 4.3)
  45. That the Australian Government negotiate with the states and territories to extend income contingent loans to students enrolled in VET diplomas and advanced diplomas. (Chapter 4.3)
  46. That the Australian Government and the governments of the states and territories agree to:
    • establish a single ministerial council with responsibility for all tertiary education and training;
    • improve the scope and coordination of labour market intelligence so that it covers the whole tertiary sector and supports a more responsive and dynamic role for both vocational education and training and higher education; and
    • expand the purpose and role of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research so that it covers the whole tertiary sector. (Chapter 4.3)
Excerpt from: Review of Australian Higher Education, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 17 December 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Putting Humanity Back into Software Engineering

Dr. Elisa BaniassadDr. Elisa Baniassad, from Chinese University of Hong Kong, gave a seminar today on "The Human Side of Artefacts" at the Department of Computer Science, Australian National University, in Canberra. She discussed research on how software developers actually use Object Orientated tools in practice, and how this differed from expectations. She then discussed new paradigms from outside the western reductionist approach usually used by software developers.

This discussion reminded me of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values" which was written by a some time software document writer. In this book Robert M. Pirsig discusses the different ways disciplines approach problems and the origins of this in Western philosophy.

Dr. Baniassad's approach of looking at the human aspects of software development and not just treating code as something for a machine to consume is a useful one. Looking at what real programmers actually do, rather than what experts clam is very useful.

However, I suggest that the analysis could usefully be expanded beyond the point of view of the particularly narrow point of view of Object Orientated Programming. Other areas of the ICT discipline have looked at other ways to develop systems and other disciplines have before computer science existed.

Some years ago I enrolled in a foundation unit for graphic designers and architects. I found that my computing and scientific training meant that I was unable to communicate with the staff and students in design. While we used many of the same words, we seemed to use them differently.

Software Engineers need to keep in mind that all the world's problems can't be solved by software engineering (or by engineering more generally). As an example, engineers do not architect buildings, architects do. The design of a building is a collaboration between many different disciplines, using different tools and different points of view. The process is not a smooth one, with frequent conflicts. In the same way those designing software should not assume that one techniques from one discipline can be used for doing everything and that they need to collaborate and learn from others.

ps: Dr. Baniassad co-authored "Aspect-Oriented Analysis and Design: The Theme Approach" with Siobhán Clarke.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 12 Two Week 7s

In Part 11 I looked at courses were being offered around the world as part of preparing a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies", to be offered as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. That showed what I was doing was consistent with the limited other courses available. So I continued on preparing the material for each week of the course (I have a Christmas deadline to have it finished). But at week seven (out of 13) I discovered a problem: I had scheduled two week sevens.

The course is thirteen weeks long. It was suggested I leave the last week for revision, giving twelve weeks. These were then divided into four topics, each with three weekly topics. I started with an introduction in week one and then went on setting down the topics for each week. But I forgot to count week one, thus ending up with an extra topic.

So now I had to work out what to do. This may seem a careless mistake which should have been caught earlier on, which it is. One reason for the mistake taking so long to find is the online preparation of the material. On my small screen, with a big font (to make it readable) only one topic can be displayed at a time. Thus I never saw the two "week 7" titles on the screen at the same time. Had I printed the document out, this would have been easier to spot.

When I went back and reread the advice I had been originally given by David Lindley, Academic Principal of ACS Education, I realised that the problem was not that bad. He suggested 4 major topics each of three weeks, with each week is a new sub-topic, which is what I did. But I got a little confused and wrote the introduction as a separate week. So all I had to do was merge the introduction into week one.

At this point I thought I should do some more checks of the material. I found a number of spelling mistakes. There seems to be a conflict between the Firefox add-on spell checker and the Moodle web based HTML editor, resulting in the spell checker not working some of the time (the same happens with the Blogger editor). Just to make sure, I used the grammar and spell checker extension for OpenOffice.org. This found a few repeated words, blank spaces, uses of "can not" instead of "cannot" and the like.

One problem I found was that one of the semianr topics (week 6) seems to be un-editable. I suspect there was some invalid HTML code which is causing problems for the Moodle editor. Running the code through HTML Tidy, fixed the problem.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Australian Government Carbon Target Too Low

The Australian Government released its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper today (15 December 2008). Buried down in the detail is a CO2 reduction target of only 5 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by the end 2020. This is much less than the 25% needed to address climate change and is not an acceptable target, in my view. A reduction of 15% could be made just through Green ICT initiatives alone, using the techniques I will be teaching, in an ACS course starting 18 January 2009. This is without the need to make major changes to industry or lifestyle.

Use of the Internet is integral to the trading scheme proposed by the government, but I could find no mention of how ICT could be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
Policy position 7.22
The Scheme regulator will publish emissions obligations under the Scheme, the types of estimation methodologies used and any uncertainty estimates reported by liable entities on the internet as soon as is feasible after reports are submitted. ...

Green Paper position
As soon as feasible after reports are submitted, the Government would publish on the internet emissions obligations under the scheme, the types of assessment methodologies used and any uncertainty estimates reported by liable entities. ...

Administrative costs

More frequent auctions involve a higher administrative cost for the regulator, and potentially for bidders. However, the capacity to hold auctions on the internet means that costs are unlikely to be an important factor in determining auction frequency. ...

Internet auction platform

Auctions will be conducted using an internet platform. The internet platform will encourage more entrants and greater competition because it is low cost and readily accessible. ...

From:Volume 1 Full Report, Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper , Australian Government, 15 December 2008 (emphasis added).
Many Australian companies have expressed interest in participating in the CDM, but are unfamiliar with the processes and rules. Designated operational entities are best placed to advise project participants on the likelihood of a project achieving registration and generating CERs. However, the Department of Climate Change will provide background information to potential investors and project developers on the CDM project cycle and requirements. It will also help participants access other useful information via the internet. ...

The Kyoto Protocol also requires the national registry to make certain information publicly available, and to provide a publicly accessible user interface through the internet that allows people to query and view the information. Publicly available information will include:
  • the holder of each account
  • the type of each account (holding, cancellation or retirement)
  • the commitment period with which a cancellation or retirement account is associated
  • the representatives of account holders
  • the full name, mailing address, phone number, fax number and email address of each account holder representative. ...
The Department of Climate Change compiles Australia’s greenhouse gas inventory using the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System (AGEIS). The AGEIS centralises emissions estimation, inventory compilation, reporting and data storage processes into a single system. It has been used to consolidate Australia’s emissions estimation methodologies and fully integrated quality control procedures into the compilation process. The AGEIS provides high transparency levels for the inventory—emissions data from the AGEIS database for the set of national inventory accounts are publicly accessible through a dynamic web interface. ...

From: Volume 2 Full Report, Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper , Australian Government, 15 December 2008 (emphasis added).
The summary is provided as a well formatted HTML page. The detailed content of the report is in PDF and Ms-word. The Ms-Word version seems superfluous and a HTML version of the report would be far more useful (as was done with the Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report). There is some odd wording which says that "The PDF version is the only legal version of the print version.". This may make some sense to a lawyer, but not to anyone else. In contrast to this the actual content of the report is very readable.