Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Can't Coal Power Stations Quick Start with Natural Gas?

Coal fired power stations are used for the base electricity load in Australia, due to the  low cost of coal. For peak demand quicker starting natural gas power plants are used, which emit less carbon dioxide. I noticed that a new coal-fired power plant in West Virginia is using natural gas as part of its commissioning. This makes me wonder why a coal plant can't be started quickly using natural gas, then switch over to coal. That way they could be switched off when not needed, burning less coal.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Co-working in Perth

I booked a Tour of the Spacecubed Co-working space in Perth . But what I didn't realize is there are two Spacecubed offices in St George's Terrace, Perth. The older office is at 45 St George's Terrace, in an old bank building (they have a meeting room in the old vault).

The newer is at 131St George's Terrace, about two blocks further West, in another ornate building. Number 45 was buzzing with activity, with people coming for meetings and others hard at work at their workstations.

There is the usual co-working setup, with a lounge area, for informal socializing (and work), rows of desks for work and some meeting rooms. The ideal such setup has a reception desk near the front door, which also have sight of the entire facility, so one person can keep an eye on things, much like the librarian at the front desk of a library.

There can be transparent screens (Space cubed has some glass partitions and other made of perforated sheet), which provide some partial privacy. As well as small private meeting rooms, the common area can be used for large events, with some people still sitting at their desks working.

A couple of features at Space Cubed I have not seen at other such places in Australia (and Sri Lanka)  are a Yammer site for members to congregate on-line and Community Membership for those who don't need office space, but want to be part of the community.

Number 131 is smaller, newer and less busy (there is a meeting this-evening to co-design the space. While I was there an economist turned up looking for space. This surprised me as I thought it was only web entrepreneurs who inhabited these places. But apparently other professionals are looking for low cost flexible space with a pool of services to hand (including web designers).

 Perhaps these co-working spaces will evolve into something like the old lawyers chambers, where individual professionals form a cooperative for office space and then ancillary services group up around this.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spacecubed Co-working in Perth

Spacecubed in Perth, is a new Co-working, Collaboration and Innovation Space in the Perth CBD. Like Fishburners in Sydney and Entry 29 in Canberra, Spacecubed offers low cost shared office space to those starting up a new business venture, with the chance to meet like minded people.

One useful feature is reciprocal membership, with Spacecubed in Perh, teaming with Cityhive Geraldton and Sync Labs Leederville (also in Western Australia), as well as Fishburners Sydney, York Butter Factory Melbourne, River City Labs Brisbane, , Typewriter Factory, Hobart, and  Fill in the Blank Hong Kong.

One problem which Spacecubed has, along with other co-working spaces (in my view), is the silly name. It would be a lot easier to understand if it was called "Perth Co-working Centre", "Perth Startup Office" or the like.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leichhardt Pop In Space

Greetings from the Leichhardt Pop In Space, in the inner west of Sydney. Leichhardt Municipal Council has arranged temporary community use of a former workshop in Marion Street, Leichhardt, just up from Leichhardt Market-town (a "Meanwhile Space"). This evening's event is on "DIY Off Grid Renewables", with Alain Ashman demonstrating solar panels and pedal powered generators demonstrated. Impressively, the projector and computer for the presentation is being powered by rechargeable lithium iron batteries on a hybrid tricycle.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is War in the 21st Century?

Greetings from  Australian National University in Canberra,where 
Emile Simpson, author of "War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics", is  speaking on "The fusion of military and political activity in 21st Century combat". He started by discussing the nature of war,to achieve political ends through the use of force. This generally assumes two combatants. He argued that the information revolution has resulted in political fragmentation with many smaller parties with an interest. As a result the politics of war has to been considered at the tactical level, rather than strategic. The military commander has to consider the political effect of their actions, not just military. The domestic political effect of specific battles must be considered as well as the political effect on the groups which  make up "the enemy". Simpson's analysis seems reasonable, but nothing new, as these considerations have applied particularly in counter-revolutionary wars the UK has been involved in for hundreds of years.

 Simpson then went beyond theory to discuss his experience in Afghanistan. He explained that traditionally the Army would assume that anyone shooting at them were "the enemy". But only a small number were committed members of "The Taliban" fighting Coalition forces, with many having only local tribal grievances or being militia, with no larger agenda. Locals would then use the coalition to attack their traditional enemies and militia using coalition resources but acting in their own interests.

Simpson then commented that Al Qaeda was now effectively operating as a franchise, which can't be countered with conventional military force. He commented that the French intervention in Mali distinguished
Al Qaeda from local gangs. Then there was a theoretical example, based on Somalia, where the pirates are not so much a political force as a form of organized crime.

Simpson showed a hypothetical political map of groups and the links between them. He suggested forming an assessment of the issues for each group (much like political poling). Issues can then be addressed to bring some of the parties on side. Groups which have an unacceptable agenda can then be identified and targeted militarily. The digram displayed reminded me of the visualizations used by police to identify key members of organized crime gangs and target them.

This politically nuanced view of warfare will make large demands on military commanders and forces on the ground. It is usual for senior military officers to receive some training in political matters, this is not usual for low level front line troops, at least not in western armies. This is something which would be much more familiar to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China and the
Vietnam People's Army. The problem for western armies is to consider a political context while respecting the conventions of liberal democracy. It may be difficult to ask soldiers to interfere in the politics of another country, but not their own. Also western armies have a tradition of keeping civilian political experts and politicians out of the details of planning and executing military operations. If politics are an integral part of operations, then the military has to allow more civilian involvement. 

Simpson's analysis is not so much about a new and unusual approach to war, but the removal of a small anomaly where a few western countries have professional armies which stand aloof from politics, over a period of about 100 years.
About the lecture:
In the Afghan conflict, and in contemporary conflicts more generally, liberal powers and their armed forces have blurred the line between military and political activity. The clear-cut conception that the use of force in war serves to defeat an enemy has been challenged by practices developed to deal with complex multi-player political eco-systems, in which the persuasive value of an action is as important as its military effect against an enemy. The consequent politicisation of tactical action is not new, but is nonetheless catalysed by the information revolution, and hence appears to point to the future of conflict.
This lecture will describe this evolution, using first hand experience from Afghanistan, and suggest that while a fusion of military and political activity is often necessary to be operationally effective in modern warfare, so too does this carry risks in terms on the broader delimitation between war and peace.
About the Speaker:
Emile Simpson served in the British Army from 2006-12 as an infantry officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles. He completed three tours in Southern Afghanistan. He also served in Brunei, Nepal, and the Falkland Islands. He previously read history at Oxford University, and was a Visiting Defence Fellow there in 2011 on the Changing Character of War Programme.
He is the author of War From The Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics which has been described as 'A work of such importance that it should be compulsory reading at every level in the military' by Sir Michael Howard and as 'the most intelligent book on war I have read for a very long time' according to Sir Hew Strachan. ...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Extra Charge for Bicycle on Virgin Australia Flights?

I have never been charged extra for taking my folding bicycle on domestic (to Brisbane) or international flights (Beijing, Hamburg). But I wanted to check before turning up at Sydney Airport for a flight to Perth on Virgin Australia, as the excess baggage fees can be high. The Virgin website says:
"If you are travelling on a Saver fare with only sporting goods you will be required to purchase a checked baggage allowance for each separate piece you are carrying."
That would indicate my checked baggage allowance can't be used for a bicycle and I have to pay extra. So I called Virgin and they said that I could check my bicycle in for no extra charge. When I asked what the sentence meant, they did not know. It makes me feel a lot better to know that Virgin don't understand their own terms and conditions. ;-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shipping Container for Records Storage

One of the mailing lists I am on was asked about using ISO Shipping Containers for storing paper records. This sounded unlikely, but a web search revealed a paper on "Using Shipping Containers for Record Storage" by Ted Ling at National Archives of Australia (November 2002). Also a UK company offers some advice on anti condensation treatments in CONTAINERS FOR ARCHIVE STORAGE.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Alliance Française de Canberra Open Day

Alliance Française de Canberra is holding an Open Day today, at 66 McCaughey Street, Turner. This is just down the road from my home at City Edge and for years I have walked past Alliance Française, wondering what went on inside. It is a glorious cool, crisp, sunny spring day, so went in and had a look. The building looks like a late 70s primary school, with a large open plan area, where there are book displays set up and a small kitchen serving espresso and croissants. At the back there is a library and in another wing are classrooms.

Alliance Française (French Alliance) are devoted to the promotion of French culture and in particular learning the French language. They have classes for children and adults, with examinations and certificates awarded by the French Ministry of Education. There are also francophone movies, concerts, and talks on history, science and regions.

LinkedIn Admitting Minors Risk to Professional Service

LinkedIn, which was previously a business orientated social networking service has announced it will admit minors, down to the age of 13. This change is being characterized as being for "Smart, ambitious students are already thinking about their futures". At the same time LinkedIn launched "University Pages" on LinkedIn, for students and alumni to connect. However, having non-adults on LinkedIn will cause considerable problems for the existing professional adult users. I suggest LinkedIn provide a way to separate the student and professional users.

Digital Camouflage for Wind Turbines

This is to suggest using digital camouflage to make wind turbines less visible from a distance, but at the same time more visible close up. Wind turbines are considered by many to be an ugly blot on the landscape. They are also a collision hazard for birds, light aircraft and helicopters. So I propose applying a pattern of contrasting light and dark patches to wind turbines, which close up would make them stand out, but from a distance would blend into the landscape.

Digital Camouflage is a form of military camouflage using square blocks of different colors. The squares are small enough so they cannot be distinguished at a distance.

Digital camouflage has been used on small  wind turbines. In "power to the people" (27 January 2009), Dominic Hyde describes how his company, Hyde Definition, applied a patter of two shades of gray, plus white to a domestic wind turbine in the UK. The US Bureau of Land Management experimented with digital camouflage on renewable power installations, but did not consider it for large wind turbines due to the need for them to be visible to aircraft and birds ("BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures", Kimberly Hirai, High Country News, 31 October 2011).

Wind turbines are normally painted white, so black squares could be painted on them (or applied as decals) to give a gray color from a distance. Close up the checkerboard of black and white would resemble the high visibility patterns applied to antennas. This would not be true digital camouflage, as there would only be two colors used and there would be a uniform pattern used, but it would still make the structure less visible from a distance.

If it was necessary to make the structure even more visible close up, it could be painted bright safety yellow, with contrasting dark color selected for the overlying squares, so from a distance the result would still appear light gray.

The pixels on the turbine would need to be large enough to be visible close up, but indistinguishable from a distance. The Apple 5s mobile phone has a 326 ppi. display. Held at arms length (1m), the pixels on the display are hard to distinguish. This suggests that pixels on a tower would need to be about 75mm (1,000 times larger than the Apple's pixels), to be indistinguishable from 1 km away (1,000 times an arm's length).

This approach of a pattern which is high viability close up but camouflage at a distance may also have application in the military. There is a high risk of collision between camouflaged military aircraft, vehicles, ships and buildings. Having a form of camouflage which makes them more visible close up would have safety benefits.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Limited Resources Changing Warfare

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr. Albert Palazzo, Australian Army Land Warfare Studies Centre, is speaking on "The Revolution of Limits and the Changing Character of War". Dr. Palazzo started by emphasizing that he was expressing his own opinion, which may not reflect the Army or centre policy. 
Dr. Palazzo  explained that the "Revolution of Limits" referred to limits on natural resources. As more people in developing nations move into the middle class, their expectations increase along with their consumption of resources. This will result in reduced resources for the poorest people, with resulting civil and military conflict. He suggested the Arab spring will be a mere harbinger of the conflict to come. The resulting refugees may be treated as a threat to nation states and treated as such. Climate change will cause further stresses.

Dr. Palazzo suggested that limited resources will challenge economic globalization, with the previous assumed improving living standards ended. Governments will not be able to subside food and other essential resources, due to shortages. Global trade will break into regional groups, as nation states place a priority on feeding their own population.
Dr. Palazzo pointed to the building of dams limiting water supply to downstream countries as a source of conflict. Also he envisaged large scale refugee movements causing security problems on one thousand times the current scale.

As someone who read "The Limits to Growth" decades ago, none of this seems new. Clearly in a pure sense continual expansion of the consumption of resources is not possible. During the decades since the release of the Limits of Growth, technology has provided access to new sources of resources and more efficient use of them in some cases. But there is no guarantee this can continue indefinitely.

Dr. Palazzo pointed out that the cost of energy effects the military directly. Fuel is a significant cost in military operations. The US DoD has looked to alternative energy sources (such as solar panels. The cost of energy will change the cost/benefit of war, with military personnel needed at home to counter civil unrest, or used to capture resources from others. The laws of war may be ignored by desperate groups.

Dr. Palazzo  suggested the military skills in risk assessment could be put to use in identifying points of failure in the civil society. But I am not sure the civilian government or the non-government sector would welcome military involvement. 
Dr. Palazzo asked if the USA would be willing to safeguard Australia in a world of limited resources, turmoil, with more and more violent wars. He argued for flexible defence systems for Australia, but without being more specific.
It is an ideal time for Australia to consider how to structure its military. The new Australian government is looking to make the whole government more efficient. The military are not targeted for large budget cuts, but there is the opportunity to rethink investments. During the election campaign the Coalition government promised a new Defence White Paper within 18 months of the new government, but other areas of government are being reviewed in three months and perhaps the same should apply to defence.

At question time I asked Dr. Palazzo what changes should be made in defence spending and structure, given that other changes are now being made with the next government. He said this would need further study, but I suggest that Australia does not have that luxury, with decisions having to be made.

Dr. Palazzo  commented that cyberwar and dealing with China was taking up the attention of military planners, with resource issues not receiving the attention they deserve.

Dr. Palazzo is author of "The Future of War Debate in Australia", Land Warfare Studies Centre Working Paper No. 140, August 2012.


In this paper I consider the implications of resource peaks and climate change, their possible effect on the character of war and the challenge these developments pose for the future of Australian security. The analytical approach I use is one that will be familiar to most military and security professionals, the idea that periodic Military Revolutions are responsible for discontinuous shifts in the nature of society which have a cascading effect on the parameters of what is possible (and not possible) in the art of war. I explain why conditions are becoming likely for the onset of another Military Revolution; perhaps one that has already begun but whose effect is not yet being felt. The paper will highlight that the guiding force of the coming Military Revolution will be global limits on the availability of resources, particularly food, water and energy. In making the case for the Military Revolution of Limits I will outline possible repercussions on Australian society that will effect the Army and suggest ways forward in order to adjust to coming changes.


Dr. Albert Palazzo is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre in Canberra. His Ph.D. is from The Ohio State University and his thesis was published as Seeking Victory on The Western Front: The British Army & Chemical Warfare in World War I. He has written widely on warfare in the modern age and on the Australian Army in particular. His many publications include: The Australian Army: A History of its Organisation, 1901-2001; Battle of Crete; Australian Military Operations in Vietnam; Moltke to bin Laden: The Relevance of Doctrine in Contemporary Military Environment and The Future of War Debate in Australia. His current research concerns the implications resource shortages to lead to conflict and the waging of war in an age of mutually assured precision.

FttN+P Implementation for Australia

In "The Lexus and the Broadband Network" I likened the choice between the ALP's  FttP National Broadband Network (NBN) and  FttN Coalition Broadband Policy to be like the choice between a new Lexus and a ten year old Toyota Camry car, with the kids wanting a scooter (wireless broadband). The Coalition won the election and so the Fibre to the Node (FttN) option is the one which is to be implemented, but will have elements of the ALP's NBN Fibre to the Premises (FttP, sometimes called Fibre to the Home FttH) in it. The current fiber which has been installed will not be removed. So perhaps the new approach might be termed FttN+P.

An on-line petition proposes "The Liberal Party of Australia: Reconsider your plan for a 'FTTN' NBN in favour of a superior 'FTTH' NBN". To ask a government, which just won an election, to reverse part of its platform is at best a waste of time and may be counter-productive, reducing the chances of getting FttP.

Even if the government thought FttP a good idea, they couldn't be seen to be admitting their previous policy was wrong. Pressure via a petition for FttP would have the effect of requiring the government to defence its policy and thus limit its ability to provide FttP (even where the Government thought it a good idea).

A better strategy would be suggest the FttN policy be "enhanced", without admitting this is a reversal. Some new term, such as FttN+P could be invented, indicating Fibre to the Node, plus Premises (in some locations). The exact meaning of this would be kept vague, so it could cover both roll-out of just fiber in new green-fields sites and the option of fibre in some FttN installations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Disasters Conference in Canberra 18 September

The Australian National University will be hosting an international conference on "The Demography of Disasters: Implications for future policy on development and resilience", in Canberra, 18 - 20 September 2013.
As natural disasters impact inequitably on vulnerable populations around the world, disaster preparedness, recovery and reconstruction is increasingly being approached through the lens of integrated public policies on development, demographics, and disaster risk reduction. How the cross-cultural context influences disaster risk governance, and how new communities and families arise from the destruction will form the core dialogue for the papers from renowned international experts being presented at this conference.
Conference aims


Major speakers will include:
  • Professor Elizabeth Frankenberg, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Professor Susan Cutter, University of South Carolina
  • Professor Mark Pelling, King's College, London
  • Professor Douglas Paton, University of Tasmania
  • Professor Josifina Natividad, University of The Philippines
  • Professor Yang Chenggang, Population Research Institute, Chengdu, China
  • Professor Ken Miichi, Iwate Prefectural University, Japan.

Program, abstracts & biographies

Program (PDF 680KB)
Abstracts of papers (PDF 195KB)
Speaker biographies (PDF 52KB)



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Effect of New Government on ICT in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch meeting, where Scott Cass-Dunbar, Director, IT Advisory, KPMG is talking on "Bigger than big data – the real trends reshaping IT in Canberra". Even before the new coalition government has introduced spending cuts, there has been a downturn in government ICT.  Scott commented that the more rigorous process for approval of projects has meant that fewer projects get approved. New people in AGIMO have taken time to settle into their jobs.

Scott commented that ICT was an easy area for budget cuts to be focused on, which will be a problem into the future. There are government projects which need significant investment, which they are unlikely to receive. In addition, Scott pointed out that the APS has an aging ICT workforce reaching retirement age, who may not be replaced.

Scott then looked at the "The Coalition’s plan for the digital economy & e-Government" (Liberal party of Australia, 2013). He commented that many of the issues addressed by the new government are similar to those from Sir David Varney's 2006 report for the UK Government "Service transformation: A better service for citizens and businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer".

Scott emphasized that the new government's plans for ICT were not aspirations, were very actionable and to be implemented within a few years. He gave Canada's on-line services as an example of what might be provided. Many of these changes are around the use of the Internet in place of physical delivery of services. This is not just for access in remote areas, but also in cities to replace face-to-face government services.

The new Government will aim to reduce ICT cost and complexity with shared or cloud services. The "heavy" ICT user agencies will retain autonomy of their ICT, but required to provide regular reports to DoFD and AGIMO. The "heavy" agencies will provide services to other agencies. Also there will be sharing with state and local government. As a former public servant, I have some doubts about how this will be implemented.

A trial of a secure government cloud for "critical data" by 2014 will be conducted. Also measures to attract and retain IT staff will be introduced (I am not sure what these will be). Also there will be more interchange of staff between levels of government and the private sector.

An "Australian Government ICT Advisory Board" will be created to provide senior private sector ICT advice. It will be interesting to see how the private sector advisers will cope with the special requirements of government.

There is expected to be a two month "commission of audit" followed by about three months while the results are considered. This could result in many moths of delay in new projects. There is expected to be considerable competition for expertise for delivering ICT services.

Scott suggested there was scope for ICT professionals to become drivers in the new processes. New proposals for ICT based services can be put as unsolicited bids (including from universities).

As someone who helps educate ICT professionals, one omission from the strategies of the new government is obtaining staff with the required skills. Simply buying these skills from the private sector can be very expensive. The Australian Government could re-skills some of their staff to provide what is needed.
Scott sees the "ICT Professional 2.0" as needing need EQ, Personal Communication, Policy Understanding, Funded Outcomes, PBS, Technology Business Translator, Personal Brand, Reputation and understanding the reasons for systems. These are not attributes, I suggest,  which staff can get simply from doing a short training course. Although I have proposed teaching communication skills to graduates.

One risk for the new government is a lack of understanding and interest in ICT, apart from Malcolm Turnbull,  with no equivalent to the ALP's Senator Kate Lundy.

Xero Cloud Accounting Software from NZ

Greetings from RSM Bird Cameron's Canberra office where the Xero Cloud Accounting Software from NZ is being demonstrated. When the GST was introduced into Australia, the government provided a voucher for software, which on my account's advice I used to buy a very simple Microsoft Windows based accounting package. This worked reasonably well for several years until I phased out Windows for Linux. My accountant could not recommend any Linux accounting software, so I signed up for the Saasu cloud based accounting software. This works much the same as the previous software, but with the advantage I don't have to install software upgrades. My account has access to download data from the service. Xero seems to be very similar to Saasu.

One feature of Xero is that you can post a text comment to your accountant against a transaction (and they reply).

One improvement I suggested to Xero (and would be useful in Saasu) would be an option two factor authentication. That is if the system detected the user was on a computer they had not used before, a code would be sent by SMS to their phone, which they have to enter, along with their usual ID and password. This would provide more protection against someone hacking the account, without causing too much inconvenience.

Monday, September 09, 2013

21st Century Combat: A Fusion of Military and Political Activity

Emile Simpson, author of "War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics", will speak on "The fusion of military and political activity in 21st Century combat" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 5:30pm 18 September 2013.
About the lecture:
In the Afghan conflict, and in contemporary conflicts more generally, liberal powers and their armed forces have blurred the line between military and political activity. The clear-cut conception that the use of force in war serves to defeat an enemy has been challenged by practices developed to deal with complex multi-player political eco-systems, in which the persuasive value of an action is as important as its military effect against an enemy. The consequent politicisation of tactical action is not new, but is nonetheless catalysed by the information revolution, and hence appears to point to the future of conflict.
This lecture will describe this evolution, using first hand experience from Afghanistan, and suggest that while a fusion of military and political activity is often necessary to be operationally effective in modern warfare, so too does this carry risks in terms on the broader delimitation between war and peace.
About the Speaker:
Emile Simpson served in the British Army from 2006-12 as an infantry officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles. He completed three tours in Southern Afghanistan. He also served in Brunei, Nepal, and the Falkland Islands. He previously read history at Oxford University, and was a Visiting Defence Fellow there in 2011 on the Changing Character of War Programme.
He is the author of War From The Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics which has been described as 'A work of such importance that it should be compulsory reading at every level in the military' by Sir Michael Howard and as 'the most intelligent book on war I have read for a very long time' according to Sir Hew Strachan. ...

Friday, September 06, 2013

What to do in In Perth 23 September to 18 October?

I will be in Perth, staying in Nedlands adjacent to UWA, 23 September to 18 October for family reasons. I will be continuing my consulting work and as an Adjunct Lecturer at ANU via the Internet, while away from Canberra. But was wondering if there was anything I could do to help the Perth IT and academic community while there.

Recent items which may be of interest:
  1. Cloud Computing Consultations with Australian Government
  2. MOOCs with Books: Technology Plus Traditional Teaching for an On-line Education Revolution
  3. What Social Media can do for Universities
  4. How, What and When of Improving Student Satisfaction 
  5. Re-skilling Public Servants as Private Sector Innovators and Educators

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Cloud Computing Consultations with Australian Government

Greetings from the CSIRO Labs at Black Mountain in Canberra, where the Australian Government is consulting members of the computing profession on a cloud computing protocol. Previously this was to be called a "code" but that has a specific meaning under the Telecommunications Act. The idea is to provide a set of requirements which cloud computing providers would adhere to, to make consumers more confident as to what service they were going to get. Obvious issues include the privacy of the consumer's data and the reliability of the service. There is a National Cloud Computing Strategy from government and media release on the Australian Computer Society's involvement. Roland Padilla is researching this topic for his PHD at University of Melbourne and is sharing some preliminary results with us.

The Institute of IT Professionals NZ is ahead of Australia, having issued a "New Zealand Cloud Computing Code of Practice" (June 2012). This is a voluntary code and is mostly about disclosure to the client of the cloud provider's service delivery standards.
Also a draft "Australian Government Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper" was released for comment (deadline 31 January 2011). Glenn Archer, Acting Australian Government Chief Information Officer, has released a "Draft Report on Cloud Service Provider Certification Requirements for the Australian Government" for comment. The report recommends expanding the Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) Multi Use List (MUL) to include cloud services and "cloud like" services. In the longer term the draft Australian Government Commercial Service Provider Assurance Framework would be extended to encompass cloud services.  Also the report recommends looking at the "National Standing Committee on Cloud Computing" (NSCCC) an industry body and the New Zealand Cloud Computing Code of Practice and the CSA Security, Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) Program.

The period for comments on the ACS Cloud Computing Consumer Protocol - Discussion Paper have been extended to Monday 9 September 2013. Comments can be sent by email.

The Australian Computer Society (of which I am a member)  is making a considerable contribution of resources to helping the Australian Government. Hopefully the Australian Government will similarly put in resources to see something of value to the community. Previously the ACS assisted PM&C with consultations, including arranging a meeting in Canberra, 18 October 2011, which I attended. However, the Australian Government later abandoned work on this, without any public explanation, thus wasting the time of the many ACS members, including myself, who contributed and failing to adequately protect national security (I proposed a Australian CyberWarfare Battalion to address this).

Benefits of Hight-Speed Broadband for Australia

The report "Benefits of Hight-Speed Broadband for Australian Households" (dated 30 July 2013) by Deloitte Access Economics estimates the benefits of high-speed broadband to the average Australian household be $3,800 per year by 2020. This would apply to the ALP's  National Broadband Network (NBN) Fiber-optic network or the hybrid fiber/copper Coalition Broadband Policy.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, released the report during the federal election campaign. It is unusual for a government department to release a report on such a politically sensitive topic during the "caretaker" period of government. However, the report does not favor the ALP or Coalition.

The report suffers from a number of deficiencies. It refers to "smart-phones", which the NBN is not designed to support. The report claims that households will benefit from greater choice and competition from e-commerce and online services and greater employment opportunities through teleworking. However, it does not count the cost of greater online access to the Australian market of overseas companies and the off-shoring of Australian jobs made possible. Clearly there will be economic benefits from reduced travel costs and social benefits from better access to education online.

The report does not make clear how high-speed broadband, will provide benefits over lower speed broadband. I teach university classes via the Internet, but because my students could be anywhere in the world, on slow and unreliable Internet connections, I don't assume high-speed broadband. The students find this form of education very worthwhile. My course scored a perfect five out of five for student satisfaction last semester, beating most on-campus courses. Clearly if all my students had high-speed broadband I could use it, but it is not clear to me that this would greatly improve the student's education. As the consultants state in their report it is not a cost-benefit analysis, nor does it compare current broadband with high-speed broadband. The consultants have done a reasonable job within the brief they were given. However, it is questionable if the consultants should have accepted the brief and the report does not provide useful information on which to base decisions.


Figure i: Benefits of broadband for households — a national framework

From: "Benefits of Hight-Speed Broadband for Australian Households", Deloitte Access Economics for DBCDE,  30 July 2013


Broadband Choices for Australia

My "The Lexus and the Broadband Network" analogy was picked up by Australian Science Media Centre and is quoted in "Rural areas to lose in Coalition internet plan, says expert" (Toowoomba Chronicle, 4th September 2013). Expecting more queries from the media on this, I thought I had better summarize the main points of the options offered by the parties. The ALP's  National Broadband Network (NBN), is well known, the Coalition Broadband Policy less well.

Both parties propose a model where different retailers can market essentially the same wholesale product. Cable will be used in the city (fibre for ALP and hybrid for Coalition), fixed wireless in rural areas and satellite in remote areas. The NBN is planned to be completed by 2020 at a cost of  $44B, Coalition by 2019 at $30 billion.

The ALP offers 1 Gbps, Coalition 50 Mbps, on twentieth the speed. But this is only on the cabled networks, the wireless networks will be 25 Mbps (realistically 12 Mbps) and satellite 12 Mbps (realistically 1 Mbps). The NBN fiber system has potential for faster speeds, the hybrid network less so.

Charges for the NBN are around $50 to $100 per month. The NBN wholesale access prices start at $24 a month for 12 Mbps. For the Coalition alternative they are likely to be similar. This has little to do with the cost of the network or technology, but more to do with competition.

Both the party's policies assume one network where the only competition is between retailers offering essentially the same product. But in reality these retailers will be competing with the mobile phone companies selling wireless broadband, currently "4G", at up to 100 Mbps (more realistically 1 Mbps).

ps: I wonder what my former tutors at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba make of this.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Understanding North Korea Today

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where Dr Emma Campbell, Korea Institute Postdoctoral Fellow of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is speaking on "Inside the hermit kingdom - a tour of North Korea", based on a recent visit. She suggested looking at individual stories to see how history changes individuals and how individuals shape history. She gave the examples of Shin Dong-hyuk, who escapes a  North Korean prison camp, as described in "Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West" by Blaine Harden (Penguin Books, 2013). She then described visiting a school day at a North Korean town far from the capital, which she described as reassuringly normal. This contrasted with the much more regimented mass performances in Pyongyang. She argues that the west is mislead by North Korean propaganda, which the citizens themselves don't take a lot of notice of. Dr Campbell estimated that chronic malnutrition had stunted the growth of teenage children she saw at six years. But the message was not all negative, as she pointed out that there are vibrant private markets supplementing government rations.

Dr Campbell pointed out that the western sanctions against North Korea provides a propaganda weapon for the regime, which can blame hardships on the west. She recommended reading of the Pyongyang Project. She argued that North Korea is being driven to a closer relationship with China and so may follow a Chinese model, which may not be in the interests of the west. She ended by playing a clip of the Moranbong Band plays Rocky in North Korea.

The question which this excellent presentation leaves is if North Korea can escape from its history. One way might be through collapse as happened to the Soviet Union, however the risks from this would be very high. Another option would be the introduction of a market economy, while retaining central party control, as in China. Perhaps after a period of prosperity, North Korea might accept their nuclear facilities being supervised by Chinese nationals under a United Nations mandate.

Dr Emma Campbell recently returned from a 6 day visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea where she travelled through the Northeast of the country. Her itinerary included the cities of Rajin-Sonbong, Chongjin, Kyongsong and the Chilbosan region. In this lecture, Dr Campbell will share images and experiences from her recent trip. She will explore issues around travelling to North Korea by answering questions such as: can anything be gained from such restricted and monitored travel? Does travel to a country like North Korea help break down barriers between outsiders and the Korean people or does it give sustenance to the regime? And can anything witnessed in North Korea be considered ‘real’ or believable? Based on her long engagement with the Korean peninsula that began with a trip to the DPRK in 1997 during the country’s devastating famine, Dr Campbell argues that much can be gained by informed travellers who visit the DPRK. Despite the barriers presented by the controlled nature of tours, she contends that substantial insights that can be gained into normal life in the North. In this lecture, Dr Campbell will share some of these insights with the audience and suggest how such knowledge should shape the policy of Australia and the wider international community in their efforts to bring about peace on the Korean peninsula.

Manual on Cyber Warfare Law

The "Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare", edited by Professor Michael N. Schmitt (Cambridge University Press, 2013), is available free on-line from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence

Fred Ward: Australian pioneer designer 1900-1990

Fred Ward: Australian pioneer designer 1900-1990 by Derek F. Wrigley

The new book "Fred Ward: Australian pioneer designer 1900-1990" by Derek F. Wrigley celebrates the work of someone who has shaped the built environment for much of my working life without my knowing it. This book is more than a biography, going into detail of the elements and philosophy of furniture design. Included is a detailed case study of the iterative design process used for the CA10 chair for the John Curtin School of Medical Research (c1956).

In February 2012 I was asked to provide some advice on publishing for Derek Wrigley's biography of Fred Ward. I had never heard of Fred Ward, but agreed to I met Derek a few weeks later to discuss the topic over lunch at University House at the Australian National University. As Derek talked about Fred, it slowly dawned on me that the chair I was sitting on, and all the furniture around me, was designed by Fred Ward. I provided some advice on how to produce the manuscript and was delighted to see, a year and a half later the finished book (with an acknowledgement of me in the back).

It was only on reading Derek's book that I realized for much of my adult life I had been surrounded by Fred Ward's work. Along with the furniture and fittings in the ANU University House, Fred Ward designed the furniture at the National Library of Australia, the Shine Dome (which I attended the 2013 Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture), even the desks and chairs in the Reserve Bank of Australia, where as a junior clerk I used to make deposits.

The fine details of the curvature of the seats in a university office may not be of interest to many academics. But Derek also describes the wider work of the ANU Design Unit, which carried out research on the design of teaching spaces. In particular the discussion of the use of chairs, rather than fixed seating in teaching spaces is a topic of great importance to universities today. For the last few years I have been looking at how to provide more flexible teaching spaces which can be used for combinations of lecturing, tutorials and group work with changed teaching practices. The rigid division between lecture theaters, with large numbers of seats at a fixed pitch, facing the front and small tutorial rooms with movable seats, is not suitable. It was a surprise to find that ANU had a design unit looking into such issues decades ago.

The design of the book itself, by Gillian Cosgrove, is in itself, a lesson in elegant design. The paperback edition is available  from the Co-op Bookshop and the Portrait Gallery Store. Hopefully an e-book edition will be available soon for student use.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Scale Up Stealth Trimaran for New US Destroyer

In "Clad in controversy" (IEEE Spectrum, August 2013), Drvis Schneider discusses the  new technology in the US Navy's first Zumwalt Class Destroyer, currently under construction. At 14,798 t, this is considerably larger than the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (9,800 t) it was intended to replace. Controversial features of the Zumwalt-class include a  tumblehome hull for stealth, two long range Advanced Gun Systems, an 80 cell Peripheral Vertical Launch System and a deck-house made of a carbon fiber/balsa-wood sandwich. Perhaps most controversial is the purpose of the ship, which is for bombardment of the shore, in effect being a replacement for battleships.

The tumblehome hull slopes inwards to reflect radar signals up and away, making the ship more stealthy. But this may also makes it more unstable. The two advanced gun systems are designed for shore bombardment over 100 km, but this required design and development of a new gun and ammunition, unique to the Zumwalt Class. Such gun systems have in the past taken decades to work reliably (if ever). The launch cells for missiles will be placed around the periphery of the ship rather than as a cluster in the center as is usual. This is to ensure than a hit on one missile will not destroy the ship, but such a design is harder to engineer and maintain. The carbon fiber and balsa-wood sandwich deck-house is expensive to make and maintain may be a problem (later ships may revet to steel).

A better alternative might be a vessel about the same size, or smaller than current destroyers, with just one main gun and about 48 launch cells. An example of this is the Hobart class destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy. At 6,250 t this is half the size of the Zumwalt-class, but with With guided munitions the smaller ship's gun would have the same range as the Zumwalt. The Hobart class has a conventional hull and a radar reduction deck-house of conventional welded metal. About three Hobart class destroyers could be built and operated for the cost of one
Zumwalt-class ship.

For a more stealthy vessel the Australian designed Independence-class littoral combat ship could be scaled up from 2,307 t, to destroyer size. These ships have a partly tumble-home hull-form, but gain stability by being a trimaran. The hull and deck-house is made of conventionally welded metal, with no carbon fiber or other exotic material, so is cheaper and easier to build. The trimaran design results in a very large flight deck, with a reconfigurable area underneath. The interchangeable mission modules (fitted in standard shipping containers), already developed for the LCS, could be reused in a larger destroyer version.