Friday, May 31, 2013

GovHack 2013 Started

Greetings from GovHack Canberra 2013 at the Inspire Centre, University of Canberra, which just started (five minutes late due to some technical difficulties). It runs until 2 June, with people in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Teams of volunteers, ranging from school students to university professors, building computer applications using free open source government data. There is involvement from the three tiers of government (perhaps the UN next year?).

The four themes for GovHack 2013 are:
  • Open Government
  • Digital Humanities
  • Science
  • Data Journalism
There are National Prizes  as well as ones for the different locations. This year there are developer and entrepreneur prizes, where the winner are provided with resources to improve their application (other prizes are simple cash awards). There is also an award for the government agency which has made the best contribution to the event. Most of the prizes are from government agencies for use of their data. Best of Data Journalism prize is also new this year. Best digital storytelling is by Microsoft. Prizes will be handed out Thursday night at the companion GovCamp event.

On a similar theme, the Australian National University is hosting "Start-Up Camp Canberra 2013" from 6pm Friday 14 June to 5pm Sunday 16 June 2013.

Start-Up Camp Canberra 2013

The Australian National University is hosting "Start-Up Camp Canberra 2013" from 6pm Friday 14 June to 5pm Sunday 16 June 2013. Students and staff of ANU and University of Canberra can attend free. Participants will be helped to form teams and work on web applications. Registration is required.
Looking for an opportunity to re-live the heady days of the late 1990s when geeks with a cool idea for the next 'killer application' became instant millionaires?
Over the course of a single weekend, teams will be formed, brainstorms will result in idea tsunamis, business strategies developed, code written and (hopefully) a web application launched to the world.
  • Workshops on lean start-up, marketing and deployment strategy
  • Interactive innovation thinking sessions
  • Talks and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs
  • Food and caffeine to sustain your momentum
  • Sunday pitch presentation to a panel of high-profile web technology investors, experts and successful entrepreneurs
Start-Up Camp Canberra 2013 will run from 6pm Friday 14 June to 5pm Sunday 16 June 2013
The ANU College of Business and Economics (Kingsley St, ANU) ...
REQUIRED: enthusiasm.
NOT REQUIRED: prior skills or knowledge.
Thanks to the support of ANU and UC, free for participants affiliated with these institutions. Other participants will be asked to make a $50 contribution for catering.
Go to Eventbrite:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning to Teach Using e-Learning for Early Career Academics

I will be speaking on "Learning to Teach Using e-Learning for Early Career Academics", at the ANU Annual NECTAR Retreat, 5 June 2013, in Canberra. I would welcome comments, suggestions and corrections on the notes and slides (使用e-学习的早期职业学者学习教).
Early Career Academics (ECA) are under increasing pressure to teach, as well as research. While PHD graduates have extensive experience of the university system, most have no formal education or training in how to teach. Some formal training in how to design and deliver courses would greatly reduce the frustration new academics, and their students, feel. ECAs would benefit from the discipline which comes from designing courses for pure on-line delivery, even if a face-to-face component is used later. This is illustrated in my experience of designing an award winning course in ICT Sustainability, which is now offered by universities in Australia and North America. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have recently come to prominence. Some of the techniques of these can be combined with conventional teaching for easy adoption by ECAs, using synchronized asynchronous e-learning with a linear syllabus, or for short: "MOOCs with Books".

Automatically Identifying Cyber-criminals

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where Dr Robert Layton, Research Associate, Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL), University of Ballarat, is discussing how to automatically identify cyber-criminals. He uses artificial intelligence software to compare document created on-line for Phishing. The software can identify which documents are from the same criminal gangs, so that those gangs can be targeted. Also the software can be used to monitor on-line chat rooms where illicit good are bought and sold, to identify those involved. Also the source code of malware can be subject to analysis to see if it has a common author.

Robert pointed out that response to such activities by authorities has to be prompt. It is possible to contact the host provider where an illegal activity is identified and ask for it to be "taken down". But the criminal can ear a significant amount of money in the hours or days this takes.

While  Robert was discussing identifying criminal activities, the same techniques would be applicable in defending from attack in cyber-warfare.  One of the major problems in cyber-warfare is knowing who is attacking you. An attacker can disguise a coordinated attack as a series of apparently unconnected non-state sponsored criminal acts. In this way the attacker can avoid retaliation, on-line or by kinetic means (that is by using conventional military force). If the attacker can be identified then they can be targeted using a cyber-attack, electronic warfare or using a bomb, missile or special forces raid.

Indirect Attribution of Cybercrime

Dr Robert Layton, Research Associate (ICSL, University of Ballarat )


DATE: 2013-05-30
TIME: 15:00:00 - 16:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

In this talk, Robert will be discussing some of the issues relating to indirect attribution of cybercrime, and how authorship analysis provides techniques to overcome issues of traceability on the internet. Further, he will discuss the state-of-the-art in authorship analysis, as applied to written documents. Finally, he will discuss some of the clues that are appearing within these techniques for attribution studies in non-written documents and how this relates to some other techniques in machine learning.
Dr. Robert Layton is a researcher at the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL) at the University of Ballarat. His research investigates authorship analysis methods, particularly in unsupervised applications to cybercrime. He completed his PhD in 2011, investigating an application of these techniques to phishing webpages, in order to determine the size and scope of the operations behind them. He is now continuing his research at the ICSL, working with industry partners Westpac, Australian Federal Police and IBM. Current projects include the application of the techniques to alias-matching in IRC rooms and online reviews.

Role for Teaching Resarch Skills to University Students

Greetings from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Dr John Willison, University of Adelaide, is conducting a workshop on "Using the Research Skill Development Framework to drive initiatives in research-led education". He is discussing his Research Skill Development (RSD) Framework. This is a topic of particular interest to ANU, given it emphasis on international standard research. John argues that we can teach research skills, even to undergraduate students. While I agree this could be a useful technique (I have been studying research lead education for the last year), it may need different terminology for different disciplines. Most students who are studying at university will not go on to be academics, but instead be employed in industry and government. While they will use research and may undertake some as part of their day job, this will not be their focus. I teach computer science students, a small number of whom will  go into research, but most will be employed building computer systems. Telling these students they will be learning to do "research" will be a negative for them. However, if we teach students "professional skills" in how to conduct analysis of a problem and structure a task, that will seem relevant, just don't call it "research".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CeBIT Computer Exhibition in Sydney

The CeBIT Computer Exhibition is on a Darling Harbor in Sydney, until 30 May. I went along Tuesday afternoon to see what was new in computer hardware, software, education and management. The exhibition takes up three of the large halls at Darling Harbor and one smaller hall. The layout is themed and as I entered I went through "Security World" with anti-hacking products, then broadband infrastructure (with an NBN Pantechnicon, parked prominently).

At the back of Hall 3 is Skills and eLeanring, with both traditional universities and some new e-learning commercial startups showing their offerings. An unusual entry is the Federal Attorney-General's Department, with their Protective Security Training College (PSTC). The PSTC is a registered training organization offering vocational qualifications for government employees and staff from the private sector who need to know how to protect government information and investigate breeches.

Several Australian federal agencies and state Governments had large booths. The most interesting was NSW, with mini-booths for commercial start-ups, including Open Learning (which offers an on-line platform for free and fee based courses) and Fishburners  Co-working Space (low cost office space for startups).

The one trend from the show was the rise of Asia in IT. There were very large displays from Chinese regions and India.  One surprise was a very strong showing by Sri Lanka, with several companies offering IT outsourcing services.

CeBIT Sydney is worth a visit, provided you have a free ticket. I am not sure it is worth the full $99 entry price.

ABC Four Corners on Cyber-attacks in Australia

ABC Four Corners report "Hacked!" (27th May at 8.30pm on ABC1), alleged that Chinese military hackers were targeting Australian Government departments and corporations to steal secrets and business information. The program contained little hard evidence or new information. One allegation, that the plans to the new ASIO headquarters had been stolen to assist penetration of the building was new, but not particularly significant. However, the program will be useful if it prompts the Australian Government to restart its dormant work on public cyber security policy.

One curious segment of the program had a private security consultant asked if the Australia was preparing for offensive cyber-warfare, that is preparing to attack,. not just defence. The consultant hedged around the question, hinting but not answering clearly.

This reluctance to answer the question is at odds with a media release from Northrop Grumman in 2012 which announced it was building a cyber test range at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra, to train defence force personnel. A cyber range is analogous to a test range for conventional weapons: the cyber range is used to test cyber warfare techniques, which can be both defensive and offensive. I attended a presentation to the Australian Computer Society, 13 March 2013, where one of the staff from Northrop Grumman gave a presentation on the cyber range.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

South China Sea and International Law

Dr Christopher Ward of Wentworth Selborne Chambers, will speak on "South China Sea: The disputes and prospects for international law "at The Australian National University in Canberra, 5:30pm, 20 June 2013.

South China Sea: The disputes and prospects for international law


Thursday, 20 June 2013 - 5:30pm - 6:30pm

Speaker: Dr Christopher Ward, Wentworth Selborne Chambers (Sydney)
An introduction to the numerous and overlapping disputes in the South China Sea, and the international legal framework within which they sit.
Dr Ward is a barrister based in Sydney with an extensive specialist practise in public international law. He has appeared in many contentious cases in fields including maritime boundaries and human rights. He is a visiting Fellow at the Centre for International and Public Law at the ANU and is the President of the International Law Association (Australian Branch).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Designing Elearning MOOC

The "Designing Elearning MOOC" (deMOOC) by CoachCarole looks interesting, as it uses conventional e-learning tools, such as Moodle and Mahara. It also uses a conventional e-learning approach of a text rich e-book with embedded video. This contrasts with many of MOOCs I have tried which emphases video, with no or poor text alternatives and a beta release learning management system.

However, I can't work out who, or what "CoachCarole" is (a company? Where are they based?). The MOOC lacks (or I can't find), this context about who has prepared the course, or why.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Government Online Engagement

Greetings from the Department of Finance in Canberra, where I am taking part in an "Online engagement course for the APS". The idea is to give public servants the skills and guidance to engage on-line, with a strategic approach by agencies. Having run several such workshops for government and as a formal university course, I was invited along. At the moment I am looking at how to teach professional skills online and some of these may be of use for the public service.

In my ICT Sustainability course I have students discuss the topic on-line each week. It takes several weeks for the students to establish a balance between the informality of an on-line forum and the need for academic rigor. Public servants will similarly need to balance the norms of the social media forums they are using and the legal and other requirements of government.

Ford Continuing Engagement with Australian University Research

Greetings from the Australian national University in Canberra, where staff from Ford are discussing research collaboration. This is the day after Ford announced it would cease will cease local manufacturing in October 2016. However, research and development will continue in Australia for products manufactured internationally.

Ford has research centers in the USA, Germany, and China. Also there are Ford alliances with MIT, Michigan, Stanford, RWTH Archen. There are also framework alliances with six Chinese universities. ANU has had several research projects with Ford. The issue was how this could be expanded.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

ACMA Beta Website Problems

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has a Beta ACMA Website. I had difficulty using the home page, as it has some large monochrome photos with overlapping text. Routine tests indicated: 21 HTML Errors, mobile compatibility rating of zero and 25 accessibility problems.Other pages had rapidly changing images with lots of multicolored backgrounds on text. I had difficulty making any sense of the website.

Lessons from Renewable Energy in Spain

Greetings from the Australian National University, in Canberra, whereProfessor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMAT Professor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMAT, is speaking on "Renewable Energy in Spain: Technology and Politics". He started by saying how Spain's 75% dependency on fossil fuels, while better than the world average (85%) is not sustainable. He said this needs to change in one or two generations. The problem is to reduce the carbon content of energy sources. The demand for energy is increasing and any reduction in supply will harm the poorest people in developing nations the most. So what is needed is sources of cleaner energy. This will require nuclear power will need to be at least retained, if not increased, despite the potential for accidents. Clean coal is one possibility, but sequestration of CO2is problematic. As a result Professor  López concentrates on forms of renewable energy, which are increasing. The proportion of hydro electricity in Spain is reducing, whereas wind energy and solar energy are increasing. Spain was aiming for 20% renewable energy by 2020, which is achievable, whereas Germany is aiming for 18%, but is only at about 10%. Spain is third in the world in terms of the proportion of electricity generated by wind power (16%). Denmark has the highest proportion at 27%, but as Professor López pointed out, Denmark can send any excess to the German grid. Spain has a health wind power equipment industry. The third largest company ACCIONA has a wind farm in Gunning NSW. Most other major wind power companies are Chinese. Professor López described a "PV Bubble" in Spain due to government incentives, which caused a sudden increase in installations, which has now ended (due to end of government subsidy). Most of the Spanish PV installations are ground mounted, not on buildings as in Australia. 

The recent savings measure by the Spanish government have removed subsidies and incentives for renewable energy.  However, the rising price of electricity and lower cost of solar and wind equipment is resulting in new investment based on market prices. This allowed Professor Lópezto finish on a positive note.

The presentation appeared to be an update of "CSP in Spain" presented by Professor  Lópezin 2011.

Need for Australian Cyber Security White-paper

The Australian Government released a Defence White Paper 2013 (May 2013). This highlights the risk of cyber attacks on defence, government and  commercial information networks. The paper claims that the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) has "allowed the development of a comprehensive understanding of the cyber threat environment and coordinated responses to malicious cyber events that target government networks". However, this addresses only government networks, not essential services provided by the private sector and on which government and defence depend. The paper envisages participation of key industry and private sector partners, but no further details are provided.

In September 2011 the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) issued a discussion paper “Connecting with Confidence, Optimising Australia’s Digital Future” , with the aim of releasing a cyber security policy white paper in mid 2012. The Australian Computer Society assisted PM&C with consultations, including arranging a meeting in Canberra, 18 October 2011. The ACS released a Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper. But in a speech October 2011, the Prime Minister said that she thought the Cyber White Paper should be broadened to a "digital White Paper" ("Closing Remarks to the Digital Economy Forum", Speech, Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, 5 October 2012). No Cyber White Paper has been released. As a result Australia's national infrastructure remains vulnerable to cyber attack. The Australian government needs to revive the cyber security white paper process.


2.82 The 2009 Defence White Paper acknowledged that national security could be compromised by cyber attacks on defence, government or commercial information networks. Cyber security continues to be a serious and pressing national security challenge. The seriousness of the cyber threat was affirmed in 2011 when Australia and the US confirmed the applicability of the ANZUS Treaty to cyber attacks. This further emphasised the need for capabilities that allow us to gain an advantage in cyberspace, guard the integrity of our information, and ensure the successful conduct of operations.

2.83 Australia, advantaged by the cyber dimension of our international strategic partnerships, should find that the rise of cyber power has at least as many pluses as minuses. But the net effect on Australia’s position will depend on how well we exploit cyber power, including working with partners and integrating cyber power into national strategy and a whole-of-nation effort.

2.84 The potential impact of malicious cyber activity has grown with Defence’s increasing reliance on networked operations. Reducing Defence’s vulnerability to cyber attacks or intrusions in a crisis or conflict will remain a high priority. This includes protection of deployed networks and information systems. In a future conflict or escalation to conflict, an adversary could use a cyber attack against Australia to deter, delay or prevent Australia’s response or the ADF’s deployment of forces. This would probably include the targeting of information systems, networks and broader support infrastructure perceived to be integral to the ADF’s decision-making and war-fighting capabilities. Once deployed, our forces will need to operate as a networked force in a contested environment.

2.85 It is equally important to protect information in peacetime. Australia’s national security, economic prosperity and social wellbeing now depend on the internet and the security of information. Compromise of Australian Government information could allow an adversary to gain economic, diplomatic or political advantage over us. Compromise of commercial, government or private citizens’ information would undermine public and international confidence in Australia as a secure digital environment.

2.86 Defence capability would be seriously undermined by compromised sensitive information on command and control, operational planning, platform design or weapon system performance. Additionally, without effective mitigation and protection measures in place, the costs to Defence of addressing cyber intrusions could far outweigh the effort expended by an adversary.

2.87 Understanding of the cyber threat has increased markedly since the 2009 Defence White Paper.

The establishment of the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) within the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) – to be renamed the Australian Signals Directorate – has allowed the development of a comprehensive understanding of the cyber threat environment and coordinated responses to malicious cyber events that target government networks. Through the CSOC, Australia has increased its intrusion detection, analytic and threat assessment capabilities, and improved its capacity to respond to cyber security incidents.

2.88 Within Defence, there is also a significant body of work to be done to ensure the security and resilience of defence systems in this environment. Network and system management, along with personnel and physical security need to be strengthened as part of our response.

2.89 Australia works within the framework of its traditional defence and intelligence and broader national security relationships to counter cyber threats. More broadly, Australia believes that the existing framework of international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law, applies to cyberspace. Australia is participating in international efforts to achieve a common understanding of these laws.

2.90 In January 2013, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a new Australian Cyber Security Centre to improve partnerships between government Agencies and with industry. The Centre will bring together cyber security capabilities from across the national security community, fully located in one facility. DSD’s CSOC, other elements of DSD’s Cyber Security Branch, the Attorney-General’s Computer Emergency Response Team Australia, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s Cyber Espionage Branch, elements of the Australian Federal Police’s High-Tech Crime Operations capability and all-source-assessment analysts from the Australian Crime Commission will be co-located. This will facilitate faster and more effective responses to serious cyber incidents, and provide a comprehensive understanding of the threat to Australian Government networks and systems of national interest. The Centre will be overseen by a Board, led by the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, with a mandate to report regularly to the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

2.91 Additional capability will be enhanced through participation of key industry and other private sector partners. Defence will play the principal role in the operation of the Centre and will continue to dedicate significant expertise to this important national capability.

From Defence White Paper 2013, Pages 20 and 21, Australian Government, May 2013

Making the best of poor user queries

Award winning web search engine developer, David Hawking, will speak on "Making the best of poor user queries" at CSIRO's ANU seminar room in Canberra, 4pm 27 May 2013.

IR and friends

David Hawking (Funnelback)

Making the best of poor user queries

A common cause of user disappointment with search arises from difficulty in posing an effective query. Choosing a good query is particularly critical behind the firewall where SEO is virtually non-existent and where many useful ranking features are typically missing.
Over the decades, many techniques have been developed which can assist, either in guiding users to choose better queries or in improving the queries which are submitted: Query suggestion, query completion, query correction, query substitution, query expansion, query shortening, query segmentation, query translation and query blending.
In this talk I will review the state of the art in automatic query guidance and query improvement methods which are most useful in the context of enterprise search and demonstrate their operation.
CSIRO seminar room, 4-5

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Opening of the Entry 29 Co-working Space at ANU in Canberra

Greetings from the opening of the Entry 29 Co-working Space at the Australian National University in Canberra. One of our local MPs is joking about how when you see an innovation meeting with half of the people in suit and the other not, the ones with the suits are the lawyer and the ones without are the innovators. The co-working space is in an old demountable site office (such start-up spaces are traditionally in converted warehouses). The idea is to provide low cost office space for people starting a company and to put them close together with others they can collaborate with. An issue for me is how this can be integrated with the formal programs of the university. ANU runs "Innovation ACT" to encourage students to take their ideas further, but this is not part of their formal students (not for credit). 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ICT Enabled Change Transformation

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society ICT Management SIG, where Randall Brugeaud, Chief Information Officer, ComSuper (soon to be CTO Customs) talked on "ICT Enabled Change Transformation – Critical Success Factors".

Phil Young  from Compuware then talked on improving business processes. He mentioned the use of P3O by the Defence Department (as mentioned in the "Defence Capability Development Handbook2012"). Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O) has a Qualification Scheme. It would be interesting to see how many public servants and contracts working with the public service are P3O qualified, to undertake this work.

One of the audience also mentioned
DesignGov, an experimental initiative of the Australian Public Service, is seeking your ideas about how the public service could better interact with business.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Renewable Energy in Spain: Technology and Politics,Canberra 23 May

Professor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMATProfessor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMAT, will speak on "Renewable Energy in Spain: Technology and Politics" at the Australian National University, in Canberra, 23 May 2013.

“Renewable Energy in Spain: Technology and Politics”

Public Lecture by Professor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMAT

Thursday, 23 May 2013, 5.00pm drinks reception, lecture from 5.30 - 6.30pm
Renewable Energy deployment in Spain has progressed rapidly in the past decade due to a convergence of several factors: a political will to meet the 2020 renewable energy and climate change objectives defined by the European Union, the existence of Research Centres that have spearheaded innovation and commercialisation of renewable energy technologies as well as large amount of private sector investment.
As a result, one third ofSpain’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. Spanish companies have also emerged as world leaders in a number of renewable energy technologies, notably wind power and concentrated solar. All this have been brought about by generous public funding schemes in R & D and early stage commercialisation as well as fiscal and regulatory policies supportive of a rapid expansion of the renewable energy market.
The European crisis have prompted significant policy changes that could jeopardise the continuity of existing support schemes and negatively affect the state of renewable energy in Spain. Professor Cayetano López, Director General of CIEMAT, describes the present situation and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of policy changes going forward.
CIEMAT is the leading public research institution that operates under key Spanish ministries, including the Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness and the Ministry of Research, Development and Innovation. Established in 1986, it promotes and carries out research and technological development projects of environmentally friendly energy technologies. It also aims at improving the competitiveness of existing renewable energy technologies in the global energy market. CIEMAT has six key facilities in Spain, including world renowned Plataforma Solar de Almería, the world leader in concentrated solar power research since 1977.
This event is jointly hosted by The ANU Energy Change Institute (ECI) and The Embassy of Spain. ECI combines leading research and teaching in energy technologies, efficiency, policy, law, sociology and economics. ECI Director Professor Ken Baldwin will chair the public lecture. Registration is essential.

Combating Coronavirus with Free Software

In "Coronavirus – the next pandemic?" (Online Opinion, 15 May 2013) Peter Curson points out that national boundaries offer no defense from new diseases:.

One answer is better tracking of the disease near the source. A few weeks ago I was in Colombo and was asked by local ICT professionals to talk about how computers could be used to combat a pandemic.

Doctors researching infection came along and we work-shopped what could be done. One idea was to use mobile phones to allow doctors to quickly report cases, which could then be mapped in near real time. Currently, in most countries, cases of reportable diseases are communicated on paper, which could days, or weeks, to get from an outlying clinic to the national department of health, by which time the disease could have spread widely.

Members of the Sahana Software Foundation, who work on free open source humanitarian software, are now looking at how to produce such a tool.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cocktail Bar in a Shipping Container at Canberra Lakeside

Canberra Lab Walt & Mazz pop-up BarThe Canberra Lab, a collective of Canberra architects, has built a transoportable Cocktail Bar in a shipping container. The unit is cheekly named the "Walt & Mazz pop-up": Walt and Mazz being short for Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony (Canberra's first architects) and "pop-up" being slang for temporary retail store. The bar will be located at Aurora Apartm,ents, Knigston and open from 5pm Fridays and 2pm Sundays, until 9 June 2013.

Report on the Nature and Impact of MOOCs

The report "MOOCs: Cutting Through the Hype" by Kate Worlock and Laura Ricci of Outsell Inc, provides a good overview of where MOOCs came from, who is providing them, who is taking them and what the future holds. The report lists the business models for the MOOC providers, from simply acting as a way to market conventional courses, to offering add on services, such as certificates and tutoring for a fee. The authors point out that like other distance education students, MOOC students are older and are from different background to the typical university student and may not be looking for a small amount of training, not a full degree. This is a very good report for university administrators and academics wondering what all the fuss is about.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

GovCamp 2013

GovCamp 2013 Organizers MeetingGreetings from the GovCamp and GovHack organizers meeting. We are in one of the community meeting rooms at the Gungahlin Library, just behind the Canberra NBN Hub.

MOOCs with Books, 8 July, CSIRO Seminar Room, ANU, Canberra

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington will speak on MOOCs with Books: Syncronisation of large scale asynchronous e-learning, 4pm to 5pm, Monday, 8 July 2013, in the CSIRO Seminar Room, CSIT building, on the ANU Campus, North Road, Canberra.

A quiet revolution is taking place in Australia's schools, TAFEs and universities, with education moving on-line. Award winning education designer Tom Worthington will provide an overview of the trends and its implications for education:
  1. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)
  2. Social media for education
  3. Open Source e-Portfolio software
  4. Cloud based Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  5. e-Book textbooks
  6. Portable course-ware formats
Tom Worthington is an independent ICT consultant and an adjunct lecturer in computer science at the Australian National University.
Tom designed the on-line sustainability courses for both the ACS certification program and the ANU Master of IT. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy.   Tom is a Past President of the Australian Computer Society, Fellow, Honorary Life Member and Certified Computer Professional, as well as a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
See also:
  1. Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques
  2. A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online
  3. On-line Professional Education For Australian Research-Intensive Universities in the Asian Century
About the Host
IR and Friends is a discussion group for people working in information retrieval, data mining and document computing fields. Everyone is welcome. We meet every second Monday, from 4-5pm, in the CSIRO seminar room in the ANU CS&IT building. CSIRO are kind enough to provide wine (and soft drinks) and cheese.
"IR and friends" aims to encourage discussion between people working in similar fields; to provide a venue for feedback on work in progress; and to get people from different groups talking to each other.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Open2Study Needs More Work

Open Universities Australia (OUA), are offering nine free on-line courses on their Open2Study page. Over the last few weeks I have been trying one of these:  Writing for the Web", but was unable to complete the course. Open2Study shows some promise, but the web interface needs to be greatly improved. Also an option for downloading content needs to be added

These courses looked appealing as they were only four weeks long each, much shorter than the full semester courses from other MOOC providers. The suggested study time is 2 to 4 hours per week, much less than a typical university course (about 12 hours a week) and much more manageable. .Also the courses were authored by an Australian organization, not a US one (and an organization with extensive experience in on-line education).

Unfortunately the start of the course coincided with my traveling in Asia. As a result I had intermittent Internet access and only limited time to study, with the Internet access not coinciding with the study time. This showed a fundamental flaw in the design of the course: I could not find a way to download the course materials for later study (I provide my students with an eBook). The course design assumed I would have a live Internet connection while I was studying.

Each topic in the course has a series of short videos. These videos have closed captions and an "interactive" transcript. What would have been more useful than the interactive transcript, would have been a workbook of notes, or even just a simple file with the text in it.

Each topic started with a quiz question. If I got the question wrong, I was told "Incorrect" and was offered a hint, but the hints seemed to consist of a video with no transcript, which was not a lot of use. If I got the question right I did not get anything to say it was right, the system just presented me another video, again with no transcript. As a result I did not know what was going on (I did not have enough bandwidth normally to play the videos).

So what happened was each week I would get a reminder by email from the system to say I had work to do. But that was about all I got. There did not seem to be an fostering of discussion between students and no prompts by email about the actual cruse content. As a result I was not motivated to actually look at the content in the rare moments when I had time to do so and also had a working Internet connection.

One peculiarity of the system is that I collected some "badges" along the way, even though I had not undertaken any of the course activities. I understand that these badges are supposed to be a lightweight way to motivate students. But if they accumulate badges not having done anything, that is going to confuse, rather than motivate.

The web interface for the course had some problems (which is a little ironic, as the course is about the web). I found I could display a list of modules for the course from "My Study Center". But I could not access any of the modules from this list. There was a button marked "Got to Classroom" which would take me to a video in the course. I never worked out which video it was taking me to. The interface does not highlight all the hypertext links and so I spent a considerable amount of time clicking on assorted text on the screen hoping that I could find the actual course content, but seemed to get stuck on this screen. In the end I concluded that either the course was locked away somewhere I could not find, or this was all there was. It was a very frustrating experience. Normally there would be some sort of forum where students would discuss the topic, but I never found this.

Back from my trip, with high speed Internet access I tried the last module of the course, with video. It worked reasonably well and I was able to get 100% in the last test. But it was now too late to go back and do the other modules.

As this course is assessed I worried that my lack of progress would count against me (I tutor in a OUA course and would not want this recorded against me as a "fail"). So I attempted to withdraw. This proved very difficult. After posting a question and waiting a week or so, I noticed at the bottom of the course page a message waiting for me from a staff member explaining that I needed to go to "my study center", select "actions" and click on "withdraw". Even this proved difficult, as clicking on "actions" moved the cursor to the top of the page. After a few attempts I found that if I first clicked on "actions" and then scrolled down the page, there was a pull down menu with "withdraw" on it.

I would have liked to post this as a suggestion to the OUA, but could not find anywhere on the Open2Study website for suggestions and no-post course feedback form.

Assessing Student Progress in an On-line Course

How does a teacher keep students working each week and review their progress? For the course "ICT Sustainability" (offered by ANU as COMP7310) and Open Universities Australia as ACS25) I use small weekly assessment tasks. This is using a Constructivist e-Learning approach, derived from UK Open University.

In practice what I do is look at each student's work a couple of times a week. I have Moodle forums set up with the marking option on. I read every new contribution from every student and quickly give it a mark of 0, 1, or 2. Then I have a quick look at the Moodle grade book to see how everyone is doing.

Moodle automatically adds up the marks for individual items of work and puts the average in the grade book. At the end of the week I go into the grade book and sort the list of students in ascending order by mark for that week.

First I look at those students with not submitted any work. I change their mark from a blank to zero and send them a reminder. Then I work my way up through those with zero and one, sending them an individual note praising something they did and making suggestions for improvements. For those who got top marks I will usually just send a "well done". As the course progresses I will tend to send less to students as they get into the rhythm of the work. But some students need extra attention.

As well as the individual feedback, I post a message to a forum each week, with the average mark for the class and the number of students with 0, 1, and 2, plus some general comments of praise and suggestions for improvement for the overall class.

Normally I don't comment on individual student's work in the forum to the class. Instead I leave t to the students to comment to each other. Occasionally I will need to comment to correct something the other students have not picked up on, but that might be only a couple of times during the course. More often I will comment privately to one student, who will then post it to the group. This can be frustrating as the students do not realize how much I am doing in the background to make the discussion flow.

Rather than email, I use Moodle's own message system to communicate with individual students. This is more cumbersome, but it keeps a log of the interchange with each student and keeps the student messages separate and safe. When sending comments for a week, I can see what I said last week and any reply from the student. This way I avoid admonishing the student for late work this week, when they told me about their sick relative last week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

IT matters of interest in the 2013/2014 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 budget web site worked fine at 08:20pm and kept working (in 2010 the system failed at 7:53pm, reporting: "HTTP Error 404 - File or directory not found").


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, 2010/2011. The 2011/2013 designed is essentially the same but the quality of implementation appears to have declined slightly. The site is in the same HTML 4.01 Transitional, as the last three  years and has not been changed to XHTML, or HTML 5, as used for newer web sites. The code is clean and efficient.

As happened last year, the home page failed a W3C HTML Markup Validation test, but with an increase from four to fourteen errors. These are minor ones and the same number as last three years.

The home page scored a poor 33% (down from 45% last year) on the W3C mobileOK Checker. This is unfortunate, given the increase in the use of smart phones and tablet computers in the last year. Last year I commented that the size o image files used should be reduced to improve the efficiency of the site, but instead the images files have increased, reducing the usability of the site.

The budget home page failed a aChecker automated accessibility test (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) but with only with five problems which could be easily corrected.  But it is disappointing that with a document as important as the budget these errors exist.

A major improvement this year is that important tables are rendered as HTML, not as blurry image files as in previous years. This make it possible to increase the size of the text for easier reading. Also a table can be simply copied into a word processing document with the layout intact, or into a spreadsheet for extra analysis.
The headings are marked up in HTML has headings, which should make it much easier for assistive technology to interpret. 
The PDF version of the budget overview has doubled in size from last year to 5 Mbytes, but still much smaller than the 16.6Mbytes, the web page quotes. The Budget is released under a Creative Commons BY Attribution 3.0 Australia license, in line with open access government policy (commenced last year).


The budget search service responded promptly. References to "Information Technology" were down from 6 last year to 5 (well below the 15 in 2011/12):
  1. Budget Strategy and Outlook 2013-14 - Budget Paper 1 - Statement 8: Statement of Risks
  2. Budget Strategy and Outlook - Budget Paper No. 1 - Statement 1: Budget Overview - A Plan for Australian Jobs
  3. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Attorney-General's
  4. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Treasury
  5. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

The "National Broadband Network" continues to dominate government thinking on IT, with 11 mentions (but down from 24 last year) in the budget papers.

The Government is "recommitting" to "Remote Indigenous Internet Access", but I could not find an amount of money committed to.

The Government will save $31.2 M over two years by incorporating the functions of the National Health Information Network (NHIN) into the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system. Unfortunately this does not represent much of a saving, or benefit to the community. The PCEHR has not delivered a usable e-heath record system and there is no prospect of a workable system being produced, after an expenditure of many hundreds of millions of dollars. The Government could have achieved a larger saving, by canceling the PCEHR.

Comments on past budgets:



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Colombo

I booked into the Galadari Hotel in Colombo because that is where my conference was. It is much easier to pop upstairs if I forgot something for a  presentation. The downside is that such hotels are to a uniform international luxury style: you might as well not have left your home town. But because of its location in the midst of Colombo's government, the Galadari has something different: at breakfast the first day I noticed a lot of senior military in uniform and not just Sri Lankan. There were also some Americans in suits and short haircuts, who might as well have been in uniform. I sat down next to one who, examining my own short haircut and dark suit, explained that they were in town for "consultations". Later I found it was a Multinational Communication Interoperability Programme workshop (MCIP) with US Pacific Command (USPACOM). Personnel from 25 countries were meeting in the hotel to discuss disaster relief operations in Asia. I talked on emergency management using Sahana a few days later in Colombo. Sahana also has been used as part of the US Naval Postgraduate School Field Experimentation Program. So perhaps there is scope for the Sahana software to inter-operate with the MCIP.

The hotel is near government offices and military headquarters. This is hard to forget, as the rooms each have a sticker warning you not to use binoculars, or cameras at the window, lest you draw the attention of the armed sentries on the other side of the street. This is a shame as the rooms on the south side look out on the coastline and the Galle Face Green. At twilight, the citizens of the city promenade on the foreshore, buy food and drink from the vendors and fly kites. From the hotel window this is an unforgettable spectacle. Even better is to go down and join in. While non-locals get a few curious stares from the children, everyone is welcome.

When not at a conference I try to avoid luxury hotels. This is partly due to the annoying level of service. At the Galadari this reached new heights: after falling asleep from a long journey I was awakened by a knock at the door and the staff delivered the complementary orchard arrangement. In preference to flowers, I would have liked uninterrupted sleep.

Hanging the "do not disturb" sign on the door does not necessarily prevent disturbances. At a luxury hotel in Adelaide (for a conference) I had a call from the manager to check I was okay when the sign was out for more than a day (the staff though I might be dead).

One difference between an Australian and Sri Lankain hotel is smoking. It had not occurred to me to ask for a non-smoking room. As a result the corridor and room reeked of cigarette smoke (and the carpet appeared to be stained). Later in a non-smoking room the air was much better (the corridor still smelt of smoke and the carpet still looked stained).

My advice is that if you are in Colombo for a conference at the Galadari, then stay one night (perhaps the night of the dinner) and otherwise stay elsewhere.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is something like the Vatican combined with the Tower of London. It is not only a center of religions worship, but control of the relic it houses is traditionally central to political power in the country. The temple has been attacked by truck bombs in the past and there are now several layers of security. But unlike in the capital Colombo, the guards appeared to be unarmed and while observing security protocols were friendly.

As with most temples in Sri Lanka, visitors are required to remove the shoes. This can be very uncomfortable for those not used to walking barefoot on hot stone (I am still recovering from burnt feet).

The Relic of the tooth of the Buddha is not seen by the visitors, just the golden casket it is held in and only for a few seconds by each visitor. What I found of more interest was the library with its palm leaf books. The leaves are long rectangles, held together with a string through two holes and with wooden covers. A stylus is used to inscribe the leaves.

Also of interest near the back entrance to the complex was the gardener's depot. Alongside a pile of clippings and a modern tractor, there was an
elephant. A thousand years ago I expect the only difference would have been an extra elephant in place of the tractor.

The complex is adjacent to Kandy Lake, an artificial reservoir, with the Biso ulpen ge (Queens bath) bathing pavillion. Unlike the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, this was deserted and was open to wander around. One section appeared to be occupied by a miniature navy, with a gray military looking power boat.; But this turned out to be the gardeners who zipped across to a small island, did some pruning and zipped back.

Anuradhapura to Colombo train

Having been on one long distance Sri Lankan train (Colombo to Kandy), the next journey was a little easier. Anuradhapura's railway station looks larger than the capital city's but there are just covered platforms behind. This makes it much easier to navigate as it is bright and airy. The Anuradhapura to Colombo serivcde has no observation car, but the normal first class carriage was comfortable enough, and had the advantage of seats facing forward.

The first class was just next to the buffet car and the staff came through offering food and drink, as well as the independent vendors at some stations. For those wanting even more catering, there are stores at the major stations. The seasoned travelers would saunter over, order food and drink and then casually savior their food, as the guard's wistle indicated the train was about to leave. They would sip the last of their beverage from the saucer (to cool it) and then casually walk over and board the now moving train.

What you mostly see from this train are rice paddy fields, worked by mechanical two-wheel tractors (with the operator walking behind). There is the occasional water buffalo team still in use. The hand hoes used today look very much like those in the Sigiriya Museum from a thousand years ago (I don't know if there are any in the Anuradhapura Museum as it is closed for renovation). Everywhere there are irrigation channels, carefully laid out to direct the water to the paddies, and as importantly, to carry it away.

Colombo to Kandy by Train

Ferdinando Prasanna at the Rail Tours office, Colombo Fort Station.
The journey from Colombo to Kandy, starts at Colombo Fort Station, the main station of the country and a large steel structure from the early 20th century. You enter from the bustle of the road outside with taxis, buses and the market opposite. The hardest part of a railway journey in Colombo is buying a ticket. The simplest for the tourist is to buy a package from Ferdinando Prasanna at the tour office in the front of Colombo Fort Station.  The next hardest part (as many places) is finding your platform and carriage.

View out the back of a fist class observation car on the rears of the Colombo to Kandy train.
The bustling crowd seems to know where they are going, leaving the visitor lost. In this case it was not too hard to identify the observation car, as it is at the end of the long distance train and has rounded panoramic windows. What made this confusing was there was a locomotive attached to the car, but this turned out to be a shunter and was detached.

Under the platform canopy with no lights (until the locomotive was attached) the carriage was very dark. It helps to have a small flashlight to see you seat number.

Cow alongside Sri Lankan railway: Colombo to Kandy.While the observation car is first class and the best seats on the train, there is no air conditioning. A switch on the wall activites a gimbal fan on the celinging, but this might produce more noise than air. The windows can be lowered, which is better than air conditioning, when the train is underway, but watch you don't catch your fingers when lowering the heavy panel.

View from Colombo Kandy train in Sri Lanka.Settled in your seat you can watch the city roll by. Traveling by train you see a side of a city no visible by road. While the front of the building may be rendered and painted, often the back will be raw brick, with a lean-too of galvanized steel and, in rural areas, wattle and daub.

After a time the train leaves the city and there are fields and small towns. There is the occasional cow munching alongside the track.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sigiriya Craft Village

Sigiriya Craft Village Hall
The Sigiriya Craft Village, on Sigiriya Road, Sri Lanka has a good collection of reasonably priced handicrafts. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Ministry Website incorrectly gives its addresses as at Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock, සීගිරිය). However the craft village is about 3km east of the rock. There are small workshops for weaving, metal and woodwork.You can see something being made, talk to the artisans and then buy it. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the low costs, tour guides seem to be reluctant to take tourists to the village.

The community hall is one of the most impressive building I saw in Sri Lanka, it is not highly decorated, not large, but has a non-nonsense presence. The building is octagonal and of brick with a terracotta roof. The wooden beams holding up the roof can be seen from inside and daylight between the tiles. There is also a clerestory for extra light and air. The windows are unglazed with unpainted wooden bars. The floor is polished concrete.

US Homeland Security on Resilient Communities

Robert Jensen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, United States’ Department of Homeland Security, will speak on "Improving public preparedness through national public awareness campaigns",  at in the Frank Fenner Building, Australian National University, Canberra, 1pm, 13 May 2013.


Improving public preparedness through national public awareness campaigns

Preparing for and responding to floods, fires and other hazards is not just a matter for government but is a responsibility shared across all levels of the community. Developing resilient communities where people understand their risks, have taken steps to anticipate disasters and to protect themselves and work with their neighbours, local leaders and with the emergency services to prepare for and deal with disasters is the ultimate goal of current government policy.

Communicating with communities to help them understand those risks, what they can expect from government and what they can do to help themselves is a critical step in achieving those objectives. This lecture will be of interest to anyone who needs to bring the community together to achieve common goals.

About the speaker

Robert Jensen is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs with the United States’ Department of Homeland Security. He has over 32 years’ experience as a professional communicator including service in three US Government Departments and the White House. His experience includes leading multiple national awareness campaigns as well as coordinating government information campaigns following the Haiti earthquake and the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Critical Success Factors for Large ICT Projects

Randall Brugeaud, Chief Information Officer, ComSuper, will speak on "ICT Enabled Change Transformation – Critical Success Factors" at the Australian Compuyter Society, in Canberra, 21 May 2013.

ACS ICT Management SIG

 ICT Enabled Change Transformation – Critical Success Factors

Large, ICT enabled change programs are challenging undertakings. There have been many well-documented examples of organisations getting things wrong, but these experiences have generally created opportunities to learn and draw out insights on how to increase the chances of future success.

The past decade has seen a massive improvement in the functionality, configurability and process maturity of business process software. Improved User interoperability and the elimination of low value work through process automation means that managers can now have real time access to high quality data on the health and performance of their operations, leading to improved delivery times, better use of resources, greater client satisfaction and, for the Private Sector, improved margins and profitability.

Yet, for all the value, organisation’s are still struggling with the same old problems that have always plagued transformation projects. What are these problems and why do they continue impact on the success of implementation? Before embarking on a transformation project what do you need to have in place? And, having commenced, how do you ensure a successful outcome is achieved?

In this session, Randall and Phil Young will share some of their experiences in working on large change programs along with some of the factors they consider critical to the success of such complex endeavours.


Randall Brugeaud Chief Information Officer, ComSuper Presenter 1: Randall Brugeaud joined ComSuper as Chief Information Officer in July 2011. Randall has 23 years experience in technical and leadership roles and has worked in both the private and public sectors. Prior to joining ComSuper, Randall worked with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Boston Consulting Group and was the founder and Director of an IT consulting company. He has been involved in a number of major ICT enabled change transformations, with the most significant being the Systems for People Program at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Randall holds a Master of Business Administration degree, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Computing and a Bachelor of Education degree.

Buying a Replacement Laptop Power Adapter in Sri Lanka

After chairing the Education Reform and Innovation session and speaking on "Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning" at ICCSE 2013 in Colombo, I left my HP DM1 laptop power supply in the conference venue. By the time I realized this everything from the conference had been packed away by the very efficient people from SLIIT. In the local paper there was a double page advertisement from a national chain of computer stores, including mention of replacement Hp Power Adaptors. As I was in Kandy the next day on a sightseeing tour, I asked the driver to take me to the computer store. He commented that computer gadgets were cheaper in Colombo. We found the store after a few phone calls.

Arriving at the store turned into something like a royal visit, with the driver phoning ahead to reserve parking (always a premium in any Asian city). The store security guard directed the car to a spot and then the store staff arrived with an umbrella. Explaining my need, by pointing to the power socket on the computer, I was directed from the glossy computer showroom, up to the less palatial service department on the top floor, where a computer support person, who had that world weary attitude of support staff worldwide, explained they did not have a HP power supply in stock.

I had noticed a smaller computer store packed with goods, next door. So I went in there. Again pointing to the socket on the computer, their technician offered me either a genuine HP power supply or a "universal" third party unit.

The universal unit was about half the price of the HP model, but has the worry of having the interchangeable plug fall off. So I bought the HP adapter. There was then the problem of a power cable. The store only stocked UK mains power cables, as used in newer Sri Lankan premises, so I had to also buy an adapter (about $US2) for the other Sri Lankan power sockets common in older buildings.

Now back in Australia I need to buy a clover-leaf  IEC 60320 C6 cable with an Australian mains plug, to replace the UK one.

Telecommunications for Traveling in Singaport and Sri Lanka

On a recent visit to Singapore and Sri Lanka I had the problem of how to get Internet and phone access. Gone are the days of having to pay a large deposit to have a local SIM card couriered for mobile access, or taking the hotel phone apart to connect a modem. It is possible to buy special travel SIMs. But as I make and receive few phone calls it was simpler to use the international roaming on Vodafone. Receiving or making a call while roaming can be expensive, but use of SMS is reasonable. There is the problem that each time you move more than a few km you can be on a different network which will send a "welcome to ..." message.

In Sri Lanka, I noticed Dialog was very common. As well as a mobile service (affiliated with Vodafone), Dialog also provide a CDMA service used for wireless home phones (common in guest houses) and solar powered public phones. For someone used to a wired infrastructure, it can be disconcerting picking up the phone in a hotel room and finding it is not plugged into anything.

On arriving in Sri Lanka, Dialog sent me a user id and password for their public WiFi hotspots with free credit. This service is common in guest houses and cafes. After using up all my credit I discovered that I just had to ask the guest house for their user id and password for free unlimited Internet access.

In contrast to the free Wifi in Sri Lankan guest houses,The Hotel Galadari in the Capital Colombo, charged $US7 a day for Internet access. This was available via Ethernet in rooms and WiFi in the public areas. But both the cable and wireless versions very slow (typically 40kbps).

While guest houses have free WiFi, getting it to work can be a problem. The service was not working in one location and when I asked about it the staff handed me the USB modem and router, suggesting I take it to my room and see if I could get it to work (I couldn't and suspect they had not paid the bill).

Singapore has very good free WiFi  in the airport. Previously this required registration, but is now available without. Similarly many cafes have free wifi.

Power for Traveling in Singaport and Sri Lanka

On a recent visit to Singapore and Sri Lanka I had the problem of how to recharge my laptop and phone. Both Singapore and Sri Lanka, being former British colonies, use UK power plugs, with large square pins. But Sri Lanka also uses a round pin plug. So I purchased Australian to UK and Australian to European power adapters.

The UK (BS 1363 Type G) adapter worked fine until I left it behind in a hotel. The problem was that the adapter, like most, was the same off-white color as a power point, thus easy to forget. I suggest buying a black one, so it looks like part of your computer power cable.

The next problem was the two different power plugs in Sri Lanka. The capital city, Colombo, seemed to use the UK plug, whereas the rest of the country had a three pin round unit. This looks a little like the European power plug but is not quite compatible. The three pin round sockets are not European ones, but a derivative of an old UK standard (BS 546 or Indian IS 1293).

I found I had to buy a local power adapter for Sri Lanka. There are adapters readily available for about $US2, but these are of questionable safety. The adapters are designed to take UK, European, US and Australian plugs. They have so many and so large holes in them that the plugs are not held firmly and large sparks can be seen when contact is lost.

In Singapore I purchased a Lifetrons 10.5W Travel Adaptor FG-2102PD. This is almost a cube with a US/UK,European and Australian socket on one side  and plugs for the same folding or retracting into the other sides. It is bulky and cumbersome looking but works okay. The unit is black and when plugged into my laptop cable it looks neat. It also has one high power USB socket and so can be used to charge a phone at the same time.

High Speed Train for Canberra Regional Development

Stephen Byron, from Capital Airport Group, will speak on “Planes, Trains and Regional Development”, at University of Canberra, 5.30pm-7.00pm, 27 May 2013. Capital Airport Group has upgraded Canberra airport for international flights and proposed it be a station for a Sydney to Melbourne fast train.

Centenary Seminar Series 2013

“Planes, Trains and Regional Development”

Stephen Byron, Capital Airport Group
5.30pm-7.00pm, Monday, 27 May 2013
Ann Harding Conference Centre, Building 24, University Drive South, University of Canberra
Capital Airport Group’s Stephen Byron will discuss how better infrastructure will have an impact on Canberra and the region.
The Canberra Airport has positioned itself in
2013/14 for international services following the completion of the new $480m terminal. Canberra and the communities in the region are set to benefit from this major upgrade.
Stephen studied Commerce and Law at the
Australian National University and was development manager for Capital Property Trust and Capital Property Corporation.
For more information, and to register for this event, contact:
Hamish Sinclair
Canberra Urban and Regional Futures
Campus map:

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Mobiles and e-learning for Pandemic Flu Response

Tom Worthington will be speaking on "Mobiles and e-learning for Pandemic Flu Response" to members of the Sahana Software Foundation, 5:30pm to 6:30pm, Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at the Virtusa Auditorium  (Orion City), 752 Dr Danister De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 09, Sri Lanka. See also: