Monday, May 31, 2010

Hybrid truck at the Footprints Ecofestival

Footprints EcofestivalThe Footprints Ecofestival will will be held in Annandale, Sydney, Sunday 6 June 2010 11am to 3pm. With local environmental initiatives, community groups and sustainable businesses. I have suggested the Leichhardt Council (who are organising the event) bring along their Hino (Toyota) Hybrid Truck.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mains voltage LED Downlights to Save Energy

At the supermarket I noticed 3 Watt LED replacements for GU10 halogen down lights at $AU6.99 each. These were branded "Essential", Woolworths own brand (at the Town Hall Sydney store). Previously I tried the 3 Watt MR16 12 Volt Led. The two units appear similar, apart from the different pins in the base. They have a very well made, solid looking cast aluminium body, with one LED. The light from the 12 Volt unit is a soft yellowish colour, unlike the harsh blue tinge light of the Mirabella brand 1 Watt 12 Volt LED Diachronic lightr sold by Coles.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

first impressions of the AppleIPad

This is being posted from an Apple iPad. The iPad was released yesterday in Australia. There were a croud of people out the door of the Sydney store. My first impression is thtat the ipad is an enlarged iPhone. The touch interface works much the same as the iPhone. The virtual keyboard works well, but not as well as a real keyboard.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Carbon and Computers in Australia

The Australian Computer Society has released "Carbon and Computers in Australia: The Energy Consumption and Carbon Footprint of ICT Usage in Australia in 2010" by Graeme Philipson, of Connection Research. This is a follow up to the first national ICT audit, conducted in Australia by Shadi Haddad (Ethan Group) and released by the ACS in August 2007. The new report comes to a similar conclusion to the previous work (and subsequent work in other countries), with about 2.7% of national carbon emissions due to ICT.

The report makes five recommendations, starting with data centre energy efficiency, the report pointing out that this is more than a third of Australia’s ICT footprint and cooling consumes more power than the actual computer equipment. The second recommendation echoes that which accompanied the previous report: reducing printers, scanners, fax machines and multi-function devices. The report advocates turning off computers, rather than relying on standby power. The last recommendation is perhaps the most important: to use ICT to reduce emissions through better business processes, transport, electricity distribution and building systems

In response to the first report the ACS commissioned me to write a course for ICT professionals on carbon emmissions. (now also available as the book "Green Technology Strategies"). The course commenced in February 2009 and the latest class started last week. The students learn how to measure ICT energy use and assess how to reduce energy used by and with ICT in their own organisations. Students in the past have prepared real reports for their government agencies and international corporations as part of the course. This new report from the ACS will make a valuable contribution to the discipline.

ICT is responsible for nearly 2.7 percent of Australia’s total carbon emissions. More significantly, it is directly responsible for more than 7 per cent of all electricity generated in Australia. These are significant figures, particularly given that Australia is one of the largest carbon emitters per capita in the world.

In 2009 Australia’s ICT users consumed 13.248 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, which caused 14.365 Megatonnes (Mt) of Scope 2 CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions. This compares to Australia’s total emissions of 539 Mt, and total electricity generated of 203 Mt. By any estimation, ICT’s energy consumption and carbon emissions are significant proportion of Australia’s total. ...

The biggest components of ICT carbon emissions are data centre environment (18.8 per cent), PCs (15.8 per cent), printers and imaging equipment (15.7%) and servers (14.7%). But if video monitors are added to PCs, their total energy consumption exceeds a quarter of the total. Add games consoles, and the figure is nearly one third of the total. Games consoles consume five times more energy than mainframe computers. ...

On average, employees in Australian enterprises are each responsible for 0.75 tonnes A year of carbon emissions. The figure varies significantly by industry. The highest figure (1.26 tonnes) is in the education and training sector, because of the large number of computers being used by non- employees (students). The lowest is construction (0.46 tonnes). ...

ICT’s carbon footprint by state is approximately proportionate to state populations, with a few notable exceptions. Victoria’s share of the total (28.0 per cent) is almost as large as NSW’s (28.9 per cent) despite its lower population.

That is because most electricity in Victoria is generated by brown coal, which leaves a much larger carbon footprint than electricity generated in other states. And the ACT (2.0 per cent) has a much higher ICT carbon footprint than its population would indicate, because of the large amount of ICT in government. ...

From: Executive Summary and Recommendations, "Carbon and Computers in Australia: The Energy Consumption and Carbon Footprint of ICT Usage in Australia in 2010" by Graeme Philipson, of Connection Research, Version 2.0, April 2010 (Released May 2010)

Tweed Hat at CeBit

Dropped into the CeBit exhibition in Sydney today and left my Harris Tweed fly fisherman's hat. If anyone sees it I would be happy to have it back ( it is similar to the Brown Grouse coloured ones offered by the Spectator). The hat was purchased in Stow-on-the-Wold (near Oxford) on my way to Germany in 1994.

Climate Change and Finance in India

The Climate Group have released the timely report "Climate Change and Finance in India: Banking on the low carbon Indian economy" (May 2010, 764kb pdf).This is intended to raise awareness in the Indian banking sector.

... conclusions ...

  • A small number of banks are initiating change
    There is a small group of banks in India that are leading the sector in tackling climate change and that recognize the commercial advantage this will provide. Energy efficiency is one key focus, with an estimated market worth more than US$15 billion by 2015.
  • Taking advantage of policy
    The action being taken by banks is no longer limited to reducing operational emissions – it is focused on taking advantage of domestic and international climate change policy and frameworks, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and India’s National Action Plan on climate change, to open new markets.
  • Success means tackling climate change
    Four banks rated climate change as ‘very important’ and in the ‘Top Ten Priorities Critical to Success’. However, public sector banks are less involved in voluntary initiatives and appear to be postponing action until regulation is in place.
  • Leadership role
    Seven of the eight banks believe that commercial lending banks in India can play a leadership role in the business community in addressing the challenges of climate change. Banks indicate that integrating sustainable development into the organization’s policies and management approach improves morale of employees and provides a strong and confident long-term relationship with stakeholders.
  • Financial incentives
    Banks are increasingly aware of the opportunities that are available to stimulate investment – such as through low carbon funds. However, the correct financial incentives are essential to make this a reality and the banks need to proactively engage with the Government in India to ensure that the right incentives are in place.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mobile gaming enterprise

Greetings from the CeBit Sydney Enterprise conference, where I was part of a session of four diverse speakers this afternoon. Stephen Beachman from DB Schenker first talked about the uses for wireless technology for tracking and managing goods distribution. One example he gave was using GPS tracking and temperature sensors on sensitive loads of resin used for building parts for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in Australia. If the resin is not kept at the correct temperature in transit, it will not have the needed strength to hold the aircraft together.

Then I talked about mobile web optimisation.

Tom Crago from game developer Tantalus Media talked about the game development industry in Australia and the effect of the global financial crisis. He then discussed the difficulties of adapting to direct online sales of low coast games, as popularised by the Apple iPhone store. He is on the Department of Industry's IT Innovation body. It occurred to me that educational software was a potential area for growth. Education is a major export industry for Australian but the design of educational software is in its infancy. As online a software based education increases most of the Australian education export industry will be lost. But there is the opportunity for development of some of the software and content in Australia which will be replacing the current face-to-face manual education.

Last was Judith Lammers, from BITKOM lawyers, talking about the copyright laws around the world and various schemes for collecting copyright levies. The laws and processes vary from country to country. One interesting point was that collecting societies were considering levying "The Cloud". The reasoning behind this is that in many countries there is a levy on blank removable media, such as write-able CD-ROMs. As this storage is replaced with online storage the agencies would like to levy the online storage. A question I wanted to ask Judith about use of the Creative Commons licence, to avoid difficulties with copyright in the material. Interestingly, CeBit encouraged speakers at the conference to use CC and there was a CC logo on the bottom of each of her slides: is this something which lawyers and courts are comfortable with?

Oceans 10

Greetings from CeBit Sydney I took time out to visit the conference next door, which is the IEEE Oceans'10 exhibition. This is on technology for ocean surveillance. Prominently on display are AUVs, the underwater equivalent of the robot aircraft which have come to prominence in the war in Afghanistan. The underwater equivalent is at an earlier stage of development, due to the difficulties of the marine environment and the conservatism of naval decision makers.

The first stand I visited was the US Navy's NAVSEA Undersea Warfare Centre Division. Dr. Thresea A. Baus is Head of Technology Partnership Enterprise Office. The US Navy helped Australia out with problems with the Collins Class submarine. If the Australian Government decides to build an even larger and more ambitious replacement for the Collins class, then it is likely that US Navy assistance will be critical to the venture having a chance of success.

CSIRO were displaying a Long Line Camera System used for recording data on Blue Fin Tuna. This is critical to international negations on the management of fish stocks. The camera is a commercial model housed in a very rugged waterproof housing. This is attached to the fishing line and is triggered by a bated acoustic tag. The tuna takes the bait, activating the camera. The pinger remains active in the fish for up to a year, allowing its migration habits to be tracked. This system has obvious
military applications, as well as its original civilian use.

DSTO were displaying several types of glider UAVs. These have proved popular in the last few years for research, allowing a long range sensor to be deployed which does not require frequent re-charging or refueling. The gliders change the buoyancy to "glide" up and down in the ocean. These units also have military application due to the silent running and long range.

DSTO has developed the Murula glider to be launched from the standard 21" torpedo tube of the Collins class submarine. However, it is likely the Collins replacement will have a tube specifically designed for launching and recovering UAVs as well as crewed midget submarines.

CeBit at the Art Gallery of NSW

Last night the NSW Government hosted drinks at the Art Gallery of NSW for CeBit delegates. This was a high glitz event with champagne flowing, viewings of the 2010 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes, and live entertainment. Given that NSW Government recently had a minister resign after visitng an all male club, the night's entertainment of two men dancing a tango was somewhat unfortunate. The highlight of the evening was walking up to the north east corner of the gallery with floor to ceiling glass walls providing a panoramic view of Sydney, while wine and cheese was served.

CeBit Best of the Show

A the CeBit Sydney show some exhibits stood out. The first I noticed was ThinLinx, a small Queensland start-up making Linux thin client computers for the education and retail sector. I visited John Nichols, CEO of ThinLinx, in 2007. Their latest products have hardware to accelerate the display of graphics intensive remote Linux and Microsoft Windows applications.

In addition to their Mobile Office, the Australian Government had a very large, very bare and very perplexing display. This consisted of a large empty space surrounded by little booths. Each boot had a public servant trying to explain something. Most of the public servants were having difficulty explaining what it is they ere showing or how this might be of interest to the IT industry. Most interesting was the Atherton Tablelands GIS, which is using open source software and mapping data for bushfire hazard mapping and services planning.

The Human Services Portfolio were looking to recruit staff for ICT jobs. Unfortunately this was difficult to work out from the brochures and sales pitch, which was about the benefits of "ICT in the Human Services Portfolio". I suggest they need to clearly and explicitly say something like: "We have ICT Jobs".

AGIMO were doing a little better at their booth, promoting the APS ICT Cadetship Program. This seeks to recruit ICT students before they have finished their courses. However, I was not really aware of this program and given I teach ICT students at the Federal Government's own university, using examples from the federal government, the promotion seems to be lacking.

The least successful of the Australian Government booths was the Australian Tax Office, demonstrating their "Analysts Workbench". This is a faculty to help ATO investigators looking for tax evaders. This appears to be excellent software, but demonstrating it to people at a computer show seems pointless. I asked if I could use the software and was told it was only available to staff at the tax office. So I asked why they were showing it to me, the response was that this was what they had been told to demonstrate and so that is what they were demonstrating. It seems to me that it would be better to demonstrate some of the open source software ATO uses, as that is publicly availble. At this point someone from AGIMO came over and explained that the purpose of the demonstration as to recruit IT staff to tax. Unfortunately the people from tax appeared unaware of this.

Also on display were brochures and CD-ROMs for VANguard. This appears to be another in a long series of attempts by the AUstrlaian Government to provide e-authentication services for business. This one is provided by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. There was no one to ask about it and it is not clear what this has to do with similar authentication systems from the Tax office and other federal agencies. In the last decade or so I have been issued with digital credentials from several agencies, none of which worked.

In contrast to the Australian Government display, the NSW Government had a very lively stand, with many small booths showcasing products from small NSW companies. One of these was Nortech Australia, with EDI products (I gave them some quick advice on their web site design).

One trend at the exhibition was the number of companies from China. There was a long row of companies from Shenzhen, selling mostly hardware. Some other regional booths I never managed to find, such as those for the City of Adelaide, Canberra, and the UK West Midlands.

Not all the problems with displays at the show were from government. Richard Fugeisang had an excellent booth promoting his forthcomming new magazne "Government Technology Review". This sounded interestng as the first edition would feature Green ICT. But when I tried the web address for this, I got the "Red Hat Enterprise Linux Test Page", indicating that no web pags had been installed. It seems a shame to go to the trouble to have a trade display at an international conference, but not bother to at least put one page of information on the web about the product.

The last trend I noted at the show were modular data centres. ICS Industries had modular equipment shelters made from sandwich panels. These are two sheets of metal with insulating board between. The result is a lightweight, strong, well insulated, modular computer room.

MBS were displaying their modular buildings for computer rooms and computer classrooms. MBS built one of these at the ANU
. Unfortunately this was not styled or positioned to fit well with existing ANU buildings, but it is not the fault of MBS.

Australian Government Mobile Office

Greetings from day two of CeBit Sydney. The exhibition was better than I was expecting with several halls of the Darling Harbour centre filled with IT products. My award for the best display of the show goes to the Federal Human Services Portfolio for their "Australian Government Mobile Office ". This is a semi-trailer parked in the corner of the exhibition building. It contains a mobile government office, with some medical facilities. This is a very understated display with poor signage and no clear explanation of what it is or why it is there. But what makes this impressive is that this is not a mock-up for the exhibition, it is a real facility which is deployed to help the community. It is equipped with generators, terrestrial and satellitecommunications, so it can provide the community with access to multiple federal agencies in the one place. There is also a soundproof room at the back which can be used for hearing tests (this would also be ideal for conducting media interviews and for confidential video conferencing). The vehicle makes scheduled visits to regional areas, but obviously also have vlaue in dealing with disasters where increases support is needed and normal government offices may have been destroyed. Unfortunately I was unable to find any details of the vehicle or photos. The Human Services Portfolio has done a very poor job of promoting this.

The new Australian Government Mobile Office that travels the nation helping in disasters and offering remote access to a wide range of government payments and services will be on display in Sydney at the CeBIT conference on 24, 25 and 26 May.

Using ‘thin client’ point-of-presence technology, Centrelink employees travelling with the Mobile Office can access the full range of Centrelink services and central servers via 3G, ADSL or satellite connection.

“These mobile offices travel to small communities across Australia, particularly those that don’t have easy access to a Centrelink or Medicare office,” said John Wadeson, former Centrelink CIO and now Deputy Secretary, ICT Infrastructure, Human Services Portfolio, which includes Centrelink, Medicare Australia and the Child Support Agency.

“Staff on board the Mobile Office live and work in rural communities and can provide information, assistance and support to seniors, students, families, farmers and
farm-dependent small businesses – and this technology enables them to do that.

“It also allows for future improvements to our service delivery reach and strength.

“The point-of-presence technology on this Mobile Office allows up to 10 staff to access the Centrelink system in real time.

“Whether operating over 3G, ADSL or satellite, it will be the same system they can see in the office. We can now get satellite connections anywhere in the country.

“Usually, our two Mobile Offices offer access to rural and remote Australia. We can instantly divert them to help in times of crisis, such as floods or bushfires, to make sure people get Australian Government assistance. This is a flexible, mobile presence for Centrelink and other Commonwealth Human Services agencies to be where Australians need them to be,” Mr Wadeson said.

Background on the Mobile Office

The Australian Government Mobile Office initiative, launched in October 2009, is designed to improve access to government services for people living in rural communities by bringing together many services and payments offered through Centrelink and Medicare Australia.

Centrelink Rural Services Officers, Rural Social Workers and Psychologists, and Medicare Australia staff on board can assist with a wide range of services, including:

  • new claims for a wide range of Centrelink payments
  • updating Centrelink and Medicare Australia customer information
  • confirming customer documents and supporting information
  • information on how financial matters may impact on Centrelink payments
  • payment and service options to suit individual circumstances
  • drought assistance claims for farmers and small businesses that depend on agriculture for their livelihood
  • non-cash Medicare Australia transactions such as arranging cheque or EFTPOS claim payments
  • Medicare Australia enrolments
  • Social work support and referrals.

The Mobile Office builds upon the successful Drought Bus program, which provided information and support to drought-affected farmers.

“We are still here for farmers, but the new Mobile Office has been custom-built to provide more flexibility and space to assist a broader range of customers at different stages of their lives,” said Mr Wadeson.

“The vehicle has a small waiting area, two separate interview rooms, three service desks, wireless technology that allows the laptops on board to access the Centrelink customer mainframe, and self-service facilities.

“The floor inside the Mobile Office is completely flat, even when the side is extended, and a special ramp at the rear of the vehicle means it’s wheelchair accessible.

“All communities all have different needs, and the Australian Government Mobile Office initiative recognises that a style of service delivery that works well in one area may not necessarily work well in another.

“The versatility of the Mobile Office means we can adapt the services we offer to suit the specific needs of communities across Australia.”

Itineraries for the Mobile Office are available on the Centrelink website under ‘M’ in the A to Z index, or by calling 13 2316. ...

From: Mobile Office comes to Sydney technology conference, Media Release, 21 May 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

CeBit Sydney Opens with Innovative Thinking

Greetings from the opening of CeBit Sydney. I arrived a little late, towards the end of the opening plenary session. David Gonski, from Investec was answering a question on education for innovation. He was arguing against closed book examinations: it is not about the memorisation of facts, but what you can do with the information. He was also arguing against short term-ism. This stuck a cord with me, as I am have told my colleagues at ANU I will no longer set closed book paper based examinations. and am talking on this nxt month at the Moodle conference in Melbourne: "Using Moodle for Postgraduate Professional Education with eBooks and Smartphones".

Dr. Werner Vogels
, from Amazon Web Services was the next speaker and was a disappointment. In his own words Dr. Vogels was doing a self serving sales pitch for Amazon's cloud computing services (he was intending to be ironic, but it was an accurate description of the presentation). He claimed cloud computing is a new and disruptive technology. These claims are, of course, nonsense.

Cloud computing is a reworking of the idea of computer bureaus, which are decades old. This concept is so old than many now in IT and business are not aware of it, as computer bureaus died out long before they were borne. Cloud computing is different in that it provides higher levels of standardisation and has a standard network technology (The Internet). But otherwise cloud computing is just 21st. century computer bureaus. The same business and technical issues apply as were investigated extensively decades ago.

Before accepting any of the claims Dr. Vogels made in his extended sales pitch today it would be useful to look back at the literature and see what experience showed about the benefits and problems of this, one of the oldest concepts in computing. Professor Roger Clarke will be doing that 28 May 2010 at the ANU in Canberra with a seminar on "User Requirements for Cloud Computing Architecture".

CeBit Sydney are running seven parallel conferences over several days as well as a trade exhibition. The plenary session I am in seems to be about half full. I am speaking tomorrow in the enterprise conference on mobile web (at last I think that is what I am speaking in, as it was changed and I find the parallel conference streams bewildering).

My presentation is about how to optimise web sites for mobile devices and search optimisation. As usual, I prepared my presentation as a web page of notes which, via some extra CSS and Javascript turns into a slide show. Ironically for a conference about use of the web, this is something the CeBit organiser have been unable to cope with and keep asking for Powerpoint slides.

In contrast to CeBit, the Moodle Moot in Melbourne in July is a good example of this new approach. The Moot is doing the obvious and using Moodle to help with the organising. Each speaker gets a Moodle "Course" on the conference web site to provide materials about their presentation (mine is: "Using Moodle for Postgraduate Professional Education with eBooks and Smartphones". The course is pre-filled with the abstract for the presentation, but the speaker can add other materials and use Moodle's interactive features to contact the delegates, before, during and after the event.

The CeBit event has partners including the Department of Defence (DSTO), NICTA and CSIRO. It is not clear why these organisations are spending funds on such an event. These organisations are not in the business of selling products and there does not seem to be a good reason to spend public money on such promotion.

However, these are minor quibbles over what is the least important part of a conference. Unless I am speaking, I usually avoid attending the formal presentations of a conference. What is important for me are the informal contacts outside the sessions and the trade exhibition. By these criteria CeBit has already been a success. As I was queuing to get my badge I saw two people I needed to talk to. I have not been to the exhibition floor, but expect it to be as good as usual.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Coal from Newcastle

Greetings from Caves Beach, north of Sydney. As I look out over the ocean there are about 20 ships at anchor, waiting to load coal at the port of Newcastle. This is a reminder as to why we need to learn how to use energy more efficiently (I am currently teaching an online class of ACS students from Australia and the South Pacific about Green ICT).Link
The ships at anchor represent a failure in several ways. The ships wait, sometimes for weeks. This is a waste of shipping resources. There is more demand for coal than the port can handle.

Despite the Australian Government's claims to be working on reduce greenhouse gas emissions (coal being one of the most polluting ways to generate electricity) the Australian Government is helping fund expansion of the coal export facilities, rather than funding ways to replace the coal with less polluting, sustainable energy sources. The likely result will be that Australia will continue to be able to export coal for the next ten to twenty years. By then there will be alternative renewable energy sources developed. Australia's coal will then worthless and considered too dangerous to use, much as Australia's large deposits of previously valuable asbestos is now. Having not invested in alternative sources of energy, Australia will then have to import energy technology.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review of Austrlaian e-Discovery Laws

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, announced a Review of Discovery Laws to Improve Access to Justice (10 May 2010).This will particularly look at the use of technology (e-discovery) to speed it up the discovery process in civil litigation.

The Federal Court of Australia carried out a review of its procedures on e-discovery in 2008 and issued revised guidelines in 2009. Australian work in this area appears to be in advance of the U.S. Court’s Federal E-Discovery Rules. There is also an OASIS LegalXML Electronic Court Filing Technical Committee. , which produced a latest draft of a standard for Electronic Court Filing (ECF) v4.01 in January 2010.
Terms of Reference

The 2009 report by the Access to Justice Taskforce, A Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System examined access to civil justice in the federal system from a system-wide, strategic perspective. In considering barriers to justice in relation to court based dispute resolution, the Taskforce noted the high and often disproportionate cost of discovery and recommended further enquiry on the issue.

I refer to the Australian Law Reform Commission for inquiry and report pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 the issues of:
  • the law, practice and management of the discovery of documents in litigation before federal courts;
  • ensuring that cost and time required for discovery of documents is proportionate to the matters in dispute, including but not limited to:
    • the effectiveness of different types of discovery orders
    • the effectiveness and enforceability of requiring parties to identify and disclose critical documents as early as possible
    • the effectiveness of different costs orders
  • to limit the overuse of discovery, reduce the expense of discovery and ensure key documents relevant to the real issues in dispute are identified as early as possible;
  • the impact of technology on the discovery of documents.
In conducting its inquiry, the Commission’s objective is to identify law reform options to improve the practical operation and effectiveness of discovery of documents. In particular, the Commission shall have regard to:
  • alternatives to discovery;
  • the role of courts in managing discovery, including the courts’ case management powers and mechanisms to enable courts to better exercise those powers in the context of discovery;
  • implications of the cost of discovery on the conduct of litigation, including means to limit the extent to which discovery gives rise to satellite litigation and the use of discovery for strategic purposes;
  • costs issues, for example cost capping, security for discovery costs, and upfront payment; and
  • the sufficiency, clarity and enforceability of obligations on practitioners and parties to identify relevant material as early as possible.
Collaboration and Consultation

In undertaking this reference, the Commission should:

  • have regard to the experiences of other jurisdictions, including jurisdictions outside Australia, provided there is sufficient commonality of approach that any recommendations can be applied in relation to the federal courts; and
  • consult with key stakeholders including relevant courts and the legal profession.

The Commission will report no later than 31 March 2011.

From: Review of Discovery Laws to Improve Access to Justice, Media Release, Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, Australian Government, 10 May 2010

Cloud Computing as a Client-Server Architecture

Roger Clarke will talk on "User Requirements for Cloud Computing Architecture" in the famous Room N101, at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11am, 28 May 2010.
The Australian National University
College of Engineering and Computer Science


User Requirements for Cloud Computing Architecture
Roger Clarke, Adjunct Professor (SoCS, ANU)

DATE: 2010-05-28
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

The literature on software architecture for cloud computing is focussed largely on the service-provider. It fails to reflect the fact that cloud computing is a form of client-server relationship. Architectures must also encompass both the software and devices that users utilise in order to invoke functions in the cloud, and intermediary functions. A further problem with analyses to date is inadequate reflection of the risks that users are subject to when they use cloud services. This paper proposes a comprehensive model that reflects user needs, and identifies implications of the model for computer scientists working in the area.

From 1984-95, Roger Clarke was Reader in Information Systems in ANU's then Department of Commerce. Since then he has been back in full-time consultancy through his company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. He focuses on strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure and dataveillance and privacy.

He has retained his connections with academe as a Visiting Fellow in the ANU Department of Computer Science (1995-2005) and as an Adjunct Professor from April 2005. He is also a Visiting Professor in eCommerce at the University of Hong Kong (2002-), and a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at UNSW (2003-). He has also undertaken Gastprofessur at the Universities of Bern (Switzerland) and Linz (Austria), and been a Gastdozent at the European Business School and the University of Koblenz (both in Germany).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Second stage of Shipping Container Apartments in Canberra

3D rendering of a modular apartment at Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesModularised shipping container apartments will be delivered to the Australian National University in Canberra, 24 and 31 May 2010.These are for Stage 2 of the Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall . The apartments are delivered by truck as 40 foot standard size shipping containers and then stacked up to six high to quickly form accommodation for students. The containers are already fitted out with kitchens, bathrooms and balconies.

Removing Validation Errors from Google Blogger With HTML 5

Since I teach accessible standards compliant web design it was embarrassing to have pointed out that my own Blog had dozens of validation errors and accessibility problems. It is difficult to generate valid HTML code using Google's Blogger, but after considerable work,I think I have managed it now. The Blog posting in question now passes W3C HTML Validation with no errors (i hope).

I changed to a new version of Blogger recently, which may have been a
mistake. I assumed by now that Google would be generating HTML code
without errors in it. But when I replaced my hacked template with one of
Google's new ones, instead of dozens of errors, I got hundreds.

After looking at some articles on the topic, the way to avoid validation
errors seems to be to avoid Google generated code. So I cut away most of
the Google template.

At the same time I thought I would try out HTML 5. This seems to reduce
the amount of custom code Blogger generates for fixing idiosyncrasies in
particular browsers and so reduces the amount of code with validation
errors in it.

does not seem to be finding as many errors as the I am not sure if less code is being generated because HTML 5 is a better standard, more standardised browsers have been created, or so few are using it the problems have not yet been found. Also the HTML5 validationXHTML one, perhaps because HTML 5 is less rigid in its syntax, because the checker is better (not finding spurious errors) or is worse (not finding real errors).

Apart from HTML validation, there are still problems with my blog for CSS validation and Mobile compatibility (the blog only scores 64% for Mobile Web compatibility). Some of these I can't fix, such as Blooger inserting a style sheet with an error in it and settings in the HTTP header. Perhaps it is time to change to a more standards compliant blog system.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Canberra Bus Smart Card Ticket System

Contact-less card readers have stared to be installed on Canberra buses, for the "MyWay" smart card system, to be commenced this year. The system was announced by the ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, last year ("Smart start to new ACTION ticketing system"). The Canberra "ACTION" bus fleet is small and a flat fare structure is being retained, making this a relatively simple installation. So it is likely the problems which have plagued the Sydney and Melbourne smart ticket systems can be avoided.

One potential problem is that passengers will be required to "tag-off" the buses: that is swipe the card at the end of the journey as well as at the begining. As the fare is not distance or time based, there is no need for the passenger to swipe when they get off to calculate the fare. Presumably this is for the convenience of the bus operator to measure patronage. It will be interesting to see how may people actually do this and what problems it causes. The Victorian Government has had to abandon "tag-off" for short tram journeys due to the congestion problems it caused.

Chief Minister and Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Jon Stanhope, today announced Downer EDI Engineering Power Pty Ltd would install ACTION's new $8 million smartcard ticketing system.

Mr Stanhope said the contract was awarded after an exhaustive tender and evaluation process which confirmed Downer EDI represented the best value system for Canberra' s bus service.

The new ticketing system, due to commence in the second half of 2010, is modelled on Perth's successful SmartRider system, which was also implemented by Downer EDI.

"Canberrans can look forward to a new ticketing system that is fast, easy and flexible," Mr Stanhope said. "It will offer bus users a reusable and rechargeable card for travel on all ACTION buses.

"Bus users will be able to recharge their smartcard over the internet, phone or at other card facilities across the ACT. A one-use ticket will also be available for casual users and tourists.

"Bus users will be required to tag-on and tag-off buses, which will significantly improve ACTION's capacity to monitor passenger trends and make adjustments to meet changes in demand.

"The new smart card system is an important part of the ACT Government's investment in developing a more efficient and user-friendly bus network.

"I look forward to working with Downer Engineering as we roll-out the smartcard ticketing system across the ACTION network," Mr Stanhope said.

The smartcard uses a microchip that is picked up by a reader without taking it out of a wallet or purse.

The new ticketing system will retain the current flat fares structure. ...

From: Smart start to new ACTION ticketing system, ACT Gvernment, 08/07/2009

Buying a car should not be so hard

Suzuki AltoMy Daihatsu Sirion is now 12 years old, so I thought it time for a new car. Daihatsu no longer sell cars in Australia, but there is the similar Suzuki Alto. This is an Indian made five door car with a three cylinder 1 litre engine, like the Sirion. It is sold in other countries as the as the Maruti Suzuki A-Star, Suzuki Celerio or Nissan Pixo. The Alto costs $AU12,000 drive away, for the cheapest model in Australia.

Being conscious of greenhouse gas emissions and limited fossil fuel supplies, I considered other options. The first option was not to buy a car at all and share one via the GoGet Share Car scheme. With car share I would pay a monthly fee and be given an electronic key which unlocks cars in reserved parking spaces around cities. GoGet happens to have the Alto in its fleet, as well as larger cars. But there is no share car near City Edge in Canberra.

The next option was to buy an electric car. I have had a test drive of the Mitsubishi i MiEV small electric car. This looked very practical, but is not yet available in Australia. Also if charged from ordinary coal sourced electricity it will be just as polluting as a petrol car and would cost about three times as much to buy.

The next option was a hybrid car. However, I only need a small car and there are no small hybrid cars on sale in Australia. Larger hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, are not much more fuel efficient than a small conventional car and cost about three times as much. As I do not drive that much (bicycling to the office during the week), it is unlikely I would ever recover the additional financial or environmental cost of a hybrid car. Toyota did offer a start-stop system and regenerative braking on some of its small cars in Japan. This provides almost as much fuel efficiency as a hybrid car, without the cost of an electric motor or extra batteries, but these options are not avialable in Australia.

LinkThere is a new crop of Korean, Chinese and Indian small cars coming to Australia in the next year or so. These may include the Hyundai i10 and other City Cars. There is even the luxury Aston Martin Cygnet, based on a Toyota iQ. But none of these have arrived yet.

So I looked on the web for details of the Suzuki Also on sale in Australia, from places such as Rick Damelian and National Capital Motors. It looked relatively easy to buy an Alto, as there there are no engine options, one body style and just two gearboxes offered: manual and automatic, in two trim levels: GL GF and GLX. So apart from colour, there are only four options to choose from. All models come with 6 air-bags and anti-skid brakes. The most significant addition with the more expensive GLX model is electronic stability control.

However, going in to buy a car was still a very frustrating process. This started off well: I went in and had a test drive and was told of the features and options. The lack of options seemed to cause the sales-person some frustration, they kept asking what my requirements were, what might I use the car for? I replied I needed a small car to replace a Sirion. As there were only four Alto options to choose from, there did not seem much to discuss.

Australia has laws about truth in advertising and so car dealers are now required to advertise a "drive away" price. This seems to cause them considerable frustration. I was shown a price many thousands of dollars more than the drive-away price. To my surprise this was first set out on a sheet of ruled A4 paper, with all the various components adding to the cost itemised, leading to an absurdly high price, then various "discounts" subtracted. I was not sure if this was due to legal requirements to explain the details to me, or a sales trick to cause buyer confusion. With those options explained the same details were then presented to me on a computer printout (I hope they were the same details, as there were so many it was hard to tell). I then had to talk to three different people at the dealership, one of whom wasted a considerable amount of time trying to sell me useless add-on treatments for the car. Other staff did paperwork which did not seem to be something I needed to be there for.

The process of buying a car takes hours. In the case of an up-market model with many options this may make sense. But this in part seems a trick to keep the customer in the store so long that they have made such an investment in time, they feel obliged to buy. For a low cost car with few options, it cannot be economic to sell cars this way. It seemed to me that same sales process was being used, because that is how upmarket cars are sold. The sales person perhaps thought they were giving me good service, but it seemed more they were just going though the motions. I did not find this a pleasent experience.

For low cost cars what is needed is a streamlined process, where it is assumed the customer has looked at the few options available online in advance and just needs a test drive and some questions answered. That should reduce the price of a car by thousands of dollars and reduce the process to less than ten minutes.

Engine Diagnostics on your GPS or iPhone

Garmin ecoRoute HD Vehicle Diagnostics Communicator and nüvi GPSThe Garmin ecoRoute HD Vehicle Diagnostics Communicator is a cable which plugs between some of the Garmin nüvi GPS units and a car's On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) interface, turning the GPS screen into a car diagnostic system.

The goLINK OBD-II is a similar cable to interface for an Apple iPhone or iTouch and the OBDLink Bluetooth interfaces via Bluetooth. You can also build the blueOBD Kit and interface it to an Android phone.

If you want a dedicated device there is the Auterra DashDyno which has its own screen and can be fitted into the car dash board. Linear Logic make a cheaper dash mounted unit, but without GPS.

OBD-II Code ReaderIf all you want to do is actually work out what is wrong with your car, rather than show off with a flashy display, there are simple low cost calculator like OBD-II Code Readers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shred Disk Drives

In his talk "Overlooking the Obvious - Security Blunders - Costs, Cutbacks & Catastrophes" to the Australian Computer Society in Canberra this evening, David Cook, Manager, SECAU Security Research Centre, recommended organisations shred disk drives before disposal. David cited research by Edith Cowan University and University of Glamorgan, indicating that one in six of the disk drives disposed of still contain easily recovered data. He argued that using a disk wiping program was not sufficient for sensitive corporate and government data: the hard disk drive should be reduced to dust to ensure the data is destroyed.

Yesterday, the Australian Government announced funding for the initial stages to implement a whole‑of‑government data centre strategy for the procurement of data centre facilities. Given the high risk of the loss of sensitive government data and the low cost of disk drives, perhaps the government should institute a policy that no disk drives will leave the data centres. Shredders could be installed at the data centres and security staff trained to destroy all surplus disk drives and other data devices.

David also mentioned very recent work (not yet ready for publication) which indicated that one in three mobile phones had easily read data on it. He pointed to Blackberry smart phones, which have a reputation for security, but where many users fail to turn on the security lock. Blackberries are in common use by government. Perhaps these should be configured so the security lock cannot be switched off.

David also expressed concern about some universities outsourcing their email to a "cloud" service, with it not clear where the data was held. He argued that new laws were needed to cover this and other privacy issues. However, existing laws would cover many privacy issues. As an example, universities are required to comply with codes, such as "The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students". Those universities which do not protect their students privacy can be delisted. Similarly, banking, insurance and medical data is protected under Australian law. In the case of state and federal government agencies, criminal penalties apply for the misuse of data.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canberra has highest Internet use

The ABS reports that the ACT continues to have the largest proportion of households with computers (88%) and Internet access (82%). The ABS seems to be courting controversy by reporting that "The majority of ACT households have taken steps to protect their children's personal safety while using the Internet at home...". This contradicts the position of the Minister for Communications that mandatory censorship of the Internet by the government is required to protect children.

Australian Broadband Guarantee Cutback

Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has announced that the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) will be cancelled in in areas with Telstra NextG wireless broadband coverage (using a 3G UMTS mobile network). This will remove the subsidy from about 99% of the population.

The Minister seems to be in two minds on how much broadband is enough. On the one hand the government is talking up the benefits of a 100 Mbps fibre optic cable National Broadband Network and on the other hand saying 1 Mbps (with 256 kbps upload) is good enough under the ABG.Link

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

IT matters of interest in the 2010/2011 Federal Budget

Just about every year since the Australian Federal Budget was first put on the web, I have done a quick search though the documents to find matters of interest in information technology.

This year I was able to access the 2010/2011 budget web site at 7:34pm. Unfortunately by 7:53pm the system had failed, reporting: "HTTP Error 404 - File or directory not found". From the error message it appears that the government is using Microsoft Internet Information Services" (IIS) for providing the budget service. By 8:20pm the system was responding again.


Each year from 1996 to 2006 the budget web site got better. But by 2007-08 seemed to reached a stable design, also used for 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. The site is in the same HTML 4.01 Transitional, as last year and has not been changed to XHTML, as used for newer web sites. The code is clean and efficient.

The home page failed a W3C HTML Markup Validation test, with 4 errors. These are minor ones and the same number as last year. It is disappointing that with the importance of the budget, the Australian Government cannot correct minor web syntax errors. . I was not able to conduct an automated accessibility test, but it seemed likely to pass at Level 1, as last year. The home page scored a very poor 35% on the W3C mobileOK Checker, far worse than the 66% last year.

As with the last two years, important tables in the overview are provided as blurry image files, while the detailed documents have better formatted HTML tables.


The budget search service responded in less than a second, in contrast to a very slow service last year. References to "Information Technology" are the same 15 as last year (which was up from 9 the year before).


There were no big ticket IT items in the budget to match last year's National Broadband Network. However, several projects contain significant IT components, such $467 million to introduce individual electronic health records. Also a significant proportion of the $661 million for the Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy, $5.6 billion for a an infrastructure fund and $1 billion to renew rail networks are likely to involve computers and telecommunications.

Personally controlled Individual Electronic Health Records

The Government will provide $466.7 million over two years from 2010‑11 to establish the key national components of a personally controlled Individual Electronic Health Record (IEHR) system. This will be a secure, online system that enables health care providers to access and use an individual's health care record when and where it is needed, as long as they have given their consent.

This modernisation of our health system will boost patient safety, make it easier to navigate the health system and slash waste and duplication. ...

From: A National Health and Hospitals Network, Statement 1: Budget Overview, Budget, Australian Government, 11 May 2010

Comments on previous budgets:



Policy lessons to reduce disaster risks

Greetings from the new Crawford Building, at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Peter McCawley is speaking on "Preparing for megadisasters: Lessons from the Asian tsunami". Peter is a Visiting Fellow in the Arndt-Corden Division of Economics at the ANU working on policy for reducing disaster risks faced by the poor in developing countries. He is finishing a book on disaster preparedness.

Teach disaster reduction techniques

Below I have made some quick notes on Peters talk. The most significant point for me was "How do we make agencies learn?". That is, there are many detailed analysis's of what happened in previous disasters and lists of recommendations for change. But the national and international agencies involved do not appear to learn these lessons. The answer to this seems obvious to me: to make the organisation learn you teach the individual staff.

Last Saturday, the Australian Prime Minister announced that ANU would be providing training for the Australian Public Service. The ANU could therefore formally and officially teach disaster prevention to the Australian Public Service. Most of this training will be done online and therefore this training could also be made available to staff of national and international agencies. This training could incorporate open source software which would then be available for coordination of international operations.

I asked Peter about this and he commented that the problem was sustaining the effort: many of the post tsunami web sites are now moribund. I commented that the Sahana Foundation was set up to provide long term support for disaster software and proved itself in several situations (winning humanitarian awards). Perhaps this could be expanded to cover education as well. This could use the integrated education techniques I discussed with Last week Cameron Shorter a few weeks ago.

One of the audience recommended UNOGunog Humanitarian Reform and another (from AusAid) recommended the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System: Virtual OSOCC.

Notes from the talk

Peter cited "A ripple in development? Long term perspectives on the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami 2004" from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), 29 May 2009. He used this to help argue that the international aid response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami was large aid project, but not significant in the long term.

Peter criticised the Australian Government for not placing an emphasis on human security in the region. Instead the emphasis as on military security for nation states, not people.

He showed a reproduction of the "Great Wave off Kanagawa" and pointed out it is not a Tsunami.

Peter commented that the Asian tsunami had high levels of aid provided, compared to the Burma cyclone, due to political limitations.

Peter showed a graph of the economic stages of a disaster. There is sudden economic loss due to the disaster. Initial relief is local, followed by international relief. Rehabilitation follows, then high levels of economic activity during reconstruction, the a drop off in activity afterwards.

Livelihood programs are needed, but Peter comments that donor agencies have difficulty with these on a small scale and quickly. Rebuilding infrastructure is important, but can take years to organise, as it involves rebuilding roads, bridges, airports. Donors like to build large infrastructure projects but these do not provide rapid aid to the local economy.

Social capital may be lost if new housing is not design to suit local social structures. As an example emergency housing designed for a small nuclear family will not work for an extended family.

Peter commented that coordination is a major challenge following a disaster. Indonesia did well setting up a strong agency with a cabinet level minister in charge. The flow of finance can also be complex.

It occurs to me that these could be a role for the Sahana foundation, to produce software to help with coordination. This would only be in part about producing software, what would be more important would be to produce some de-facto standardisation of the paperwork required by different agencies.

One problem is looking after assets provided by aid. The local administrators now have the problem to manage these Peter commented that Indonesia has now a large stock of physical assets. There is no inventory of what has been provided, and funds for maintenance have not been given.

Peter argued that disaster risk reduction and preparedness needed to be carried out in advance of a disaster, rather than responding afterwards. He listed 8 lessons:
  1. Objectives: Delivery of aid is only one objective of those involved.
  2. Local responses: The fastest relief for the tsunami was provided by the local community, with little recognition/
  3. Coordination: International coordination is needed.
  4. Stages: Different: agencies respond at different phases
  5. Supply oriented donors: Donors tend to supply, not ask what is actually needed
  6. Finance: Problematic (I did not understand this point)
  7. Cost increases: Aid response may cause local cost increases
  8. Methods of spending: Cash or kind.

Wind powered web server

My student, Samuel Fernandes, will be speaking on "Can a web server be powered by a wind turbine? " at the Australian National University, 18 May 2010.


ENGN 8602-Masters Project

Project Cervantes: Can a web server be powered by a wind turbine?

Samuel Fernandes (ANU)

DATE: 2010-06-18
TIME: 10:00:00 - 11:00:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room, Australian National University, Canberra

This project aims to assess the potential benefits of adjusting a web transaction processing load allow a web server to reduce power consumption in response to the availability of renewable energy. Could the load be adjusted in response to second by second changes in energy available from a wind farm or solar array? The results of research and tests will be presented. The significance of Google's recent acquisition of a wind farm will also be discussed.

Samuel Fernandes is an engineering masters student with an interest in green and sustainable technology. Sam completed COMP7310 Green ICT Strategies and is now planning to establish his own consulting company.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Green IT Seminar in Jakarta and Canberra

Greetings from the Australian National University "Fishbowl" video conference room in the Supercomputer Facility. Dr. Idris Sulaiman and myself are in a video conference with Binus University (Indonesia) making arrangements for a Green IT Seminar, 19 May 2010 (9am to 12:30pm Jakarta time and 12 noon to 4:30pm Canberra time) at the Joseph Wibowo Centre for Advanced Learning, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Idris and others in Canberra, will be taking part via the video link, so we needed to check everything was working. The ANU video room has space for four extra people, if anyone would like to sit in.

ANU is using the LifeSize video conference system. Currently I make use of the ANU's Moodle Learning Management System for teaching my Green Information Technology Strategies Course. Last Saturday, the Australian Prime Minister announced that ANU would be providing training for the Australian Public Service and this may involve use of video conferences.

In an era of corporate responsibility and Global warming sensitivity, being green becomes a prerogative for any institution. Based on a research made in 2009 on 1052 companies over 1000 employees worldwide, 52% are creating Green IT strategy plan and 29% have already got such a plan. That survey did not include Indonesia, which is highly vulnerable to climate change and was classified in a 2007 World Bank's report as the world's No. 3 greenhouse gas emitter due to its high deforestation. Being the largest economy in Southeast Asia and a member of the G-20 major economies, Indonesia will soon have to prioritize Green IT. What is the current situation in Indonesia? Are the CIOs of the largest Indonesian companies aware of the importance of Green IT? Do they know what Green IT is? Do they understand the economic and social issues?

  • 08.00 - 09.00 - Registration
  • 09.00 - 09.10 - Opening & Keynote Speech by Firdaus Alamsjah, Ph.D Executive Dean Binus Business School
  • 09.10 - 09.30 - Does Green IT Matter? by Karen Peyronnin , MIB, Binus International
  • 09.30 - 10.00 - Make Business Sense out of Green IT by IBM
  • 10.00 - 11.00 - Green Computing and IT for Energy Efficiency - Technology Updates by IBM
  • 11.00 - 11.15 - Coffee break
  • 11.15 - 11.45 - A Model for the Adoption of Green IT by Dr Idris F.Sulaiman M.ACS M.AIE (The Australian National University)
  • 11.45 - 12.30 - Green Panel by All Speakers
  • 12.30 - 13.30 - Lunch
Contact Us at :

The Joseph Wibowo Center for Advanced Learning
Jalan Hang Lekir I No.6, Senayan, Jakarta 10270

(021) 534 5830
(021) 535 0660 ext. 2150

(021) 530 1668


From: Green IT Seminar, Binus University (Indonesia)

Continuing Education for the Australian Public Service

On Saturday the Prime Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd, announced that every public servant will be expected to undertake learning and development every year. This is contained in Reeommendation 7.3 of the APS Review: "Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration". The recommendation does not specify an amount of training, just "... should undertake learning and development every year aligned with their career goals ...". However, continuous education programs run by professional bodies typically require 30 hours per year (Australian Computer Society, Australian Psychological Society, Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia).

Recommendation 7.3: Expand and Strengthen learning and development

  • Identify core service-wide development needs.
  • Endorse a principle of annual professional development for all APS employees.
  • Deliver core learning and development programs that are centrally procured.
  • Evaluate a range of courses and negotiate the best rates for the APS.

Lead Agency: Australian Public Service Commission (APSC)

Actions to make this happen

  • The Secretaries Board would affirm that every APS employee should undertake learning and development every year aligned with their career goals and capability gaps identified in performance agreements (Recommendation 7.4). Recognising that employees share a responsibility for personal development with their employer, professional development would be broadly defined to include:
    • Training and education;
    • On-the-job development (e.g. secondments, projects); and
    • Coaching and mentoring.
  • The APSC would develop an annual learning and development strategy, in consultation with an advisory board comprising Agency Heads and Secretaries, based on the Human Capital Priority Plan (Recommendation 7.1) across four broad elements of learning and development:
    • Core activities that shape the APS (for example, APS culture/values, SES induction and, performance management);
    • Leadership/Management Training;
    • Skills training (for example, policy, program implementation, delivery and technical knowledge); and
    • Education (for example, PhD and Masters scholarships).
  • The strategy would be delivered by both the APSC and individual agencies.
  • The APSC would:
    • Centrally procure programs relating to core activities that shape the APS with multiyear funding commitments by all agencies for this purpose. These core programs would also include the areas of strategic policy, implementation and regulation. Programs would cover topics such as writing skills, project design and management, development of business cases, data collection, quantitative analysis, regulatory design and contract management;
    • Conduct quality assessments of all available professional development programs and courses (in particular leadership/management programs) centrally negotiate prices with providers and disseminate this information to agencies; and
    • Develop a stronger relationship with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), the National Security College and other providers to support the competitive delivery of public service executive training training and to ensure the capacity exists to meet increased demand for high quality professional development.
  • A sub-committee of the Secretaries Board would oversee APSC delivery.
  • Individual agencies would:
    • Draw upon APSC endorsed programs and courses where available; and
    • Retain responsibility for procuring professional development programs and training responsive to their agency’s needs, particularly in relation to skills training and education (e.g PhD scholarships)....
From: Reeommendation 7.3 , "Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration", Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Government, 2010.

Canberra Buses to Get Real-time Information

The ACT Budget includes $12.5M for a real-time passenger information system, using GPS to provide bus arrival information. This is long overdue and will greatly improve the service by allowing the public to plan to arrive at the bus stop when the bus is actually due.

Currently Canberra's ACTION bus service does not know where its buses are most of the time. I was shocked to discover this a few months ago. The bus I was waiting for did not arrive, so I called the enquiry number on the bus stop. I was told that the bus had not reported a problem by radio so ACTION did not know where it was. I was also told that ACTION did not contact delayed buses by radio for safety reasons. I had assumed the busses would be tracked in real time, or at least drivers would routinely call in if they were delayed.

What was most worrying was that the person at ACTION I was talking to did not seem at all perturbed that one of the buses was missing. If an aircraft holding dozens of people went missing for more than a few minutes there would be an emergency declared. However, a bus on a route which goes with a few metres of Parliament House and the Prime Minister's residence can be missing for an hour without any alarm raised.

Samsung 3D LED TV

Samsung Series 7000 3D LED TVI tried a five minute demonstration of a Samsung Series 7000 3D LED TV in the Westfield Belconnen shopping centre, Canberra. The results were disappointing, with the images looking like a series of stacked 2D cardboard cut-outs, rather than genuine 3D images.

The Samsung glasses needed for 3D were reasonably comfortable, fitting over my prescription spectacles. The material provided demonstration was the usual scenery, tropical fish and football. Usually I have difficulty with 3D displays, being unable to align the two images and experiencing nausea. I did not have and difficulty with the Samsung system (although it was a short demonstration).

If 3D was a low cost extra for the TV (perhaps $50 for a couple of sets of glasses) then it might be a worthwhile to use with the limited amount of 3D content available.

The Samsung sets have some other interesting features, such as LED back lighting, which increases contrast and reduces energy consumption and some Internet access (Sykpe and something called Internet@TV). These are likely to be of much more lasting value than the 3D gimmick.

Tax office computer system problem

Last week I received a letter to my home address saying the ATO couldn't contact me earlier because they did not have my current postal address and asking for money. At first I assumed this was a scam, as the ATO has had the same address on file for me for decades. But I called the Tax Office to check. There was a26 minute phone queue and then further confusion as the reference number on the letter I got was not recognised by the ATO system. However, after that the ATO confirmed they sent the letter, but could not provide a reason why the address had disappeared from their system. I can only assume that this is because the ATO recently changed their computer software and they have not yet got all the glitches out of the system.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

LED Downlights to Save Energy

3 Watt MR16 LEDAt the supermarket I noticed 3 Watt LED replacements for MR16 halogen down lights at $AU11.99 each. These were branded "Essential", Woolworths own brand (at the supermarket in Westfield Belconnen, Canberra). Previously I tried a Mirabella brand 1 Watt 12 Volt LED Diachronic light for about AU$15, but it gave poor quality light and stopped working after a few months. The Woolworths units look a lot better made, with one LED in a substantial aluminium heat sink.

The units are claimed to be equivalent to a 20 Watt halogen unit (110 Lumen). If they last the claimed 30,000 hours, then they would be worthwhile.

There are very many 50 Watt downlights in Australian homes. If these were replaced with 3 Watt units, it would save a lot of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. This would be a more effective project for Australian Governments to subsidise, than the current solar power rebate.

Fitting these units would also reduce the prevalence of house fires caused by high wattage down lights over heating. The government might want to offer a set of these lights (and larger 240 Volt low energy florescent down lights) to all Australian householders.

Australian National Institute for Public Policy

Yesterday the Prime Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd, announced that the Australian national university would establish an Australian National Institute for Public Policy, a H. C. Coombs Policy Forum and scholarships for public servants to study at ANU. These will complement the already announced Australian National Security College and Australian Centre on China in the World. The $112M funding includes a relatively modest $0.5m to scope accommodation needed for the extra staff and students the institute will attract to Canberra.

I suggest that an additional $1M should be spent on equipping the institute with top quality online learning facilities. The centre could be equipped with an incident centre allowing public servants to learn how to make public policy in real time during a crisis. This could also be sued during a real crisis by the government as an additional resource.

It is likely that at most only one quarter of the activity will take place on campus, with most staff and students conducting their research and education remotely online. As a result what will be needed are high quality facilities in the new buildings, to allow the staff based there to link up to experts and students around the world. This may include the requirement for secure facilities so that sensitive matters can be discussed by public servants and authorised university staff. With my colleagues in the School of Computer Science, I have been investigating how to provide such facilities for teaching green ICT policy to public servants and senior industry people. This work could be expanded to encompass the needs of the new Institute.

Innovation Camp in Canberra 15 May 2010

An Innovation Camp will be held in Canberra, Saturday 15 May 2010, from 9am to 5pm (followed by drinks). This is part of the Innovation ACT program, teaching how to turn an idea into a product or service. Teams of innovators will develop an elevator pitch, write a media release win awards and meet a mentor to help with their business plan. The event is free, including lunch, morning and afternoon tea, and evening drinks.

Business Communications for Innovators

Murray Rankin, Founded of ICT company "The Distillery" will give a free talk on how to communicate a business idea and gain support from investors, customers, users, employees and other stakeholders, 6pm Wednesday 12th May 2010 at the weekly Innovation ACT, at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research) the Australian National University in Canberra.

Global eBook Content Not Hardware the Growth Area

Andrew Savikas from technical book publisher O'reilly reports that revenue from e-book sales are expected to be up 200% over last year ("Yes the iPad is sexy, but global sales are the real ebook growth news", 7 May 2010). He says some of this is at the cost of sales of printed books, but while the ebooks sell at a lower price, they are more profitable, due to lower production costs. Only 46% of the eBooks O'Reilly sells are in the USA, followed by the UK (12%), Germany (5%), and Japan, Australia and Canada (all at 4%). He says that international sales of technical books in English to people where this is their second language is an unappreciated area of book sales. Adding up O'Reilly's figures, 66% are to English speaking countries. What I find most interesting is the 20% "other" category where the purchaser's country is unidentified: how much is from India and China? He argues that eBooks are popular because they are reasonably priced and easy to get and this will expand the availability of information. What is interesting in this is that the device used to read the ebook is not relevant: it could be a Kindle, an iPad. But he argues that the most popular device is a conventional personal computer.

As Richard Charkin, Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing, pointed out in his talk at the National Library of Australia, academic publishing has been very profitable for hundreds of years. There is a natural synergy between the ebook and the unviersity, as shown by ANU teaching its new researchers how to produce ebooks with"New ways of publishing your research" at the ANU on 12 May.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

AusInnovate Conference

Cebit called to tell me about their AusInnovate Conference, in Sydney, 24 May 2010. It took me a while to work out what this was about and I am still not sure I understand it. This seems to be an innovation conference, featuring some keynote speakers I have never heard of. It might have helped if it was called the "Australian Innovation Conference". Digging a bit deeper into CeBit's hard to use web site, I found some speakers I know, including: Alan Noble (Google) and Dr Alex Zelinsky (CSIRO).

I will be speaking at CeBit the next day at the Enterprise Conference on "Optimising Sites for Mobile Devices and Search Engines" at 1:55pm, 25 May 2010.