Sunday, March 30, 2014

Australia Post Lockers

Australia Post has installed postal lockers next to the Annandale Post Office, Booth Street, Annandale, NSW. Customers can retrieve parcels 24 hours a day with a PIN. The same style lockers are installed inside the Canberra GPO.

The lockers have a central screen and keypad for the customer to enter the code to retrieve their parcel. The doors to the individual lockers are flush, with no exposed handles or hinges and no numbers.

On the outdoor unit at Annandale, there is an awning over the central screen. However, there is no protection over the locker doors. As a result the customer (and their parcel) could get wet, when they are retrieving it. I suggest these units should be equipped with a shelter over the entire unit, protecting the front, sides and back. As well as rain, the units (and the customers) should be protected from the harsh Australian summer sun.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What is the Griffin Accelerator Program?

The Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory,  Katy Gallagher,  launched the ‘GRIFFIN Accelerator’ IT business start-up program in Canberra, 27 March. There is an impressive list of people and organisations associated with the accelerator. Unfortunately neither the launch announcement, nor the web site explains in plain English what the accelerator is and does. The innovation jargon used would make this unintelligible to most of the population. This may be deliberate, with the accelerator's activities being only of interest to a small group of technology entrepreneurs working to build new computer applications for government. However, I suggest this initiative deserves to be more widely know. I suggest the program needs to work on explaining what it does in terms which the citizens of Canberra will understand, as the future of the city depends on such businesses being developed.

The choice of the name "Griffin" is an interesting one. The logo used by the project used is of the mystical creature being a part bird and part lion, called a Griffin. The griffin symbolises strength, courage and leadership, which might be applicable for innovation programs. However, part of an early plan of Canberra, originally by Walter Burley Griffin, is used on the website. While a genious as an architect, Griffin was hopeless at business and also had a disastrous relationship with government in Canberra (being forced to resign due to undermining by the city's bureaucrats). That might not be the best symbol for a project which hopes to apply innovation to government. ;-)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reuse or Recycle Your Old Computer

I will be speaking at Google Sydney on "Reuse or Recycle Your Old Computer", during the Sydney Linux User Group meeting,  6pm 28 March 2014. This is free to attend, but please RSVP.

Reuse or Recycle Your Old Computer

Computers and mobile devices become obsolete much quicker than other consumer products, such as refrigerators and cars. Electronic equipment can contain toxic and valuable materials which should not be simply put into landfill. Before you buy a new computer, tablet or phone, look at the options of what to do with the old one.
Tom is the author of the free ebook "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future" and teaches an on-line course in ICT sustainability which started at the Australian National University in mid-February.

What is e-waste

Electronic waste "e-waste": material from unwanted electrical or electronic devices.
  1.  Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (1989) limits the movement hazardous waste between nations. 
  2.  Criteria for the export and import of used electronic equipment  assumes that e-waste is hazardous, until shown otherwise.
See: Materials Use in"ICT Sustainability:Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future" Tom Worthington, 2013.

National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme

Reuse or Recycle?

The NTCRS and services such as MobileMuster are strictly for recycling, not reuse. The equipment is broken up into its constituent materials (plastic, metal, glass) and these are melted down for making new items. For Reuse the equipment (or parts) refurbished and used again (often by charities).

Options for E-waste Plastic

The New Zealand Government has issued reports of two studies it commissioned on how to dealing with plastic which contains Brominated flame retardant (BFR) chemicals. These plastics have been commonly used in computers and other electronic devices. The chemicals are banned under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The result is e-waste which is difficult to dispose of.

Backup and Erase Media Before Recycling or Reusing

Before recycling or reusing your computer, backup any useful information and then erase the media.

TAD’s Computer Support Service (CSS)

Technical Aid to the Disabled (TAD) accepts donations of relatively new computers for their TAD Computer Support Service.

Computers are refurbished by volunteers, upgraded to new Windows OS and provided to those on a disability or a Centrelink card at a modest cost.

Upgrade Really Old Computers to Linux 

Reuse or Recycle?

  • Second hand computers are not classified as e-waste (as long as they work).
  • Refurbishing a computer will extend its life.
  • But will the computer use significantly more electricity than a new one?

See also: Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First Impressions of Wearing Google Glass



Greetings from the Entry 29 Co-working Space in Canberra, which is hosting a presentation on wearable technology. by the Wearables Canberra Group. organised by BuildAR. The company Vandrico has an analysis of the types of devices available. There are three Google Glass head mounted display devices available to try, but the discussion is also covering other head, wrist and body devices (One experience of a wearable device I had was the Active Badge System at a research centre in Cambridge). One interesting observation is that education and training is not identified as an application by much of the literature.

At first glance the Google Glass device looks large and crudely designed, very much a prototype (less elegant than the MicroOptical_MyVu from 2002) . No doubt smaller head mounted devices will be produced. Also the device has limited battery time. Some limitations have been deliberately built in, such as no facial recognition.

The social issue of someone wearing what is obviously a screen and camera in front of their eyes was discussed. It would be interesting to see how much less conspicuous a device in a pocket, looking like a pen, would be.

Google Glass was compared with the FitBit exercise strap.The FitBit has a single application and does it well, whereas Google Glass has much potential, but no single "killer app". One limitation is that there is no easy way to enter text (no virtual keyboard). Also the quality of the audio is limited.

One tip is that if the voice activation software stops working in Google Glass, then reboot the device. A new term associated with the device is "Glass Zombie", for someone who is staring strangely as they are concentrating on reading the Glass' screen.

One interesting application for Google Glass and similar devices is for user interface testing, where much larger cumbersome devices are currently used.

There was discussion of the lack of standards for the wearable interface for devices. here has been some work on "Wearable User Interface and Interaction standards".

The discussion got on to the social acceptability of wearable devices.

The TV series Black Mirror was mentioned as illustrating some of the less pleasant aspects of human nature which wearable devices may bring out.

One more practical consideration was the hygiene, suggesting they should be washable.

First Impressions of Wearing Google Glass

While I was not impressed by the look of Google Glass, the experience of wearing the unit was a pleasant surprise. Other head mounted displays I have tried took a lot of adjustment and were never really comfortable. I have multi-focal glasses which makes fitting a unit and seeing a clear image in a display difficult. In contrast, Google Glass went on with no problems and I could immediately see a small clear screen apparently floating in front of my face to the right.

While the unit is low resolution (640×360 pixels) it was a noticeably less pixelated screen than other displays I have tried. Text was clearly readable. It was a little distracting looking at someone close up, with the display obscuring part of the view (and I wondered why white text on a black background was not used, rather than black on white).

The touch pad built into the side of the unit worked, but was distracting to use (you raise your hand to the side of your head and swipe back and forth, up and down).  Also the voice commands made me feel a little silly.

Overall the unit worked much better than I was expecting, but is still a solution looking for a problem and very much a prototype. What might make more sense is a slimmer head mounted display which is a Bluetooth peripheral for a smart phone. The headset could have a  camera, microphone and speaker, but would use the phone's touch screen and processing.

A much simpler, but almost as useful, device could omit the screen and instead use just audio. Omitting the screen would make the headset far less bulky, greatly extend the battery life and remove many of the social and safety issues.

Next Wearables Canberra

The next Wearables Canberra meeting is Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Preparations in Canberra for the Next Asia-Pacific War

Dennis Richardson, Secretary of Defence, will speak at the launch of Stephan Frühling's book "Defence Planning and Uncertainty: Preparing for the next Asia-Pacific War", in Canberra, 10 April 2014 from 5:00 PM.
Book Launch of Defence Planning and Uncertainty: Preparing for the next Asia-Pacific War, by Dr Stephan Frühling
Launched by:  Mr Dennis Richardson, AO Secretary of Defence
Description
How can countries decide what kind of military forces they need, if threats are uncertain and history is full of strategic surprises? This is a question that is more pertinent than ever, as countries across the Asia-Pacific are faced with the military and economic rise of China. Uncertainty is inherent in defence planning, but different types of uncertainty mean that countries need to approach decisions about military force structure in different ways. This book examines four different basic frameworks for defence planning, and demonstrates how states can make decisions coherently about the structure and posture of their defence forces despite strategic uncertainty. It draws on case studies from the United States, Australian and New Zealand, each of which developed key concepts for their particular circumstances and risk perception in Asia. Success as well as failure in developing coherent defence planning frameworks holds lessons for the United States and other countries as they consider how best to structure their military forces for the uncertain challenges of the future. ‘Stephan Frühling has written by far the most insightful book to appear for many years on the ubiquitous and eternal challenges of defence planning …Frühling provides an exceptionally rigorous yet clear guide to the ways in which we can strive to conduct prudent defence planning despite our uncertainty: his is a landmark work that deserves a readership in many countries.’ – Colin Gray, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Reading University, UK.
Stephan Frühling is Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Australia. He is a member of the Government’s external panel of experts to assist with the preparation of the 2015 defence white paper.
Please join us for drinks and canapes after the launch.
Reviews: 
‘Stephan Frühling's book examines the challenges of defense planning through an enlightening and insightful series of case studies. It provides scholars and policy-makers alike a rigorous and rich understanding of an important and under-examined field.’ – Thomas G. Mahnken, US Naval War  College
 ‘Stephan Frühling has written by far the most insightful book to appear for many years on the ubiquitous and eternal challenges of defence planning. Few subjects as critically important as this have attracted so little disciplined and persuasive scholarly effort. Fruhling explains that defence planning is about the attempted management of risk in an unavoidably uncertain future, and that the risk management process is essentially always political. No matter how advanced the methods employed to try and reduce uncertainty, the inconvenient fact remains that because the future has yet to happen, thoroughly reliable knowledge about its dangers is unknowable now. Defence planning always is conducted in the context of an incurable ignorance about a future that has not occurred. Fruhling provides an exceptionally rigorous yet clear guide to the ways in which we can strive to conduct prudent defence planning despite our uncertainty: his is a landmark work that deserves a readership in many countries.’ – Colin Gray, Professor of Politics and International Relations at Reading University, UK
‘Stephan Frühling has provided a thoughtful and thought-provoking work on defense planning at a time when the Pentagon needs it most. With the United States planning a major reorientation of its defense posture toward Asia following over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon planners are once again brushing up on strategy. They would do well to include Stephan Frühling's Defense Planning and Uncertainty among their readings.’ – Andrew Krepinevich, President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), USA

Monday, March 24, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird at New Theatre Sydney

New Theatre Sydney's production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is surprisingly gentle, for a play about rape, murder and racial discrimination. The story of discrimination in small town USA is told from the point of view of the nine year old daughter of local lawyer.  Teagan Croft gives a career making performance as the precocious nine year old "Scout", wise beyond her years, but still a little girl trying to make sense of injustice in an adult world. She is ably supported by two other child actors, Hudson Musty as "Jem" and Kaj Lewis "Dill". The adults also give good performances, although at times it was all looking and sounding a little too much like "Little Orphan Annie".

Christopher Sergel's adoption of the novel by Harper Lee struggles to emerge from the shadow of the 1962 academy award winning film. The courtroom scenes are well handled, but the defending lawyer's closing remarks on fairness overcoming prejudice go on a little too long.

Sasha Sinclair's set showing a poor small town street works well, also doubling as the courtroom. However, the use of a single old fashioned light-bulb, which descends from above and the disappears again, was distracting and a bit silly.

In the end this production is a little too safe, being set in a distance country in the past, so the audience can say: "we would not do that".  Far more effective was "seven kilometres north-east". Perhaps Director Annette Rowlison should have moved Mockingbird to Australia in the present day, with an Australian indigenous person accused.

Second Call for Papers on Computer Science & Education, Canada, August 2014

A Second Call for Papers has been issued for the 9th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE 2014), to be held in Vancouver, Canada, 22 to 24 August 2014. The conference will be held at the University of British Columbia (UBC), topics  include, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Robotics, Green Communication, Internet of Things, Education Reform and Innovation, Curricula and Courseware Design and Life-long education. Full papers are due 17 March 2014, to be published through IEEE. I attended ICCSE 2013 in Colombo and ICCSE 2012 in Melbourne and had a good time. My papers are "A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks" (2012) and "Synchronizing asynchronous learning - Combining synchronous and asynchronous techniques" (2013).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making a Smaller Seven Family Car

Recently I was asked for advice on a family vehicle to carry two parents, two children and, occasionally, two grandparents. I suggested a  2013 Kia Rondo Diesel or a 2012 Prius V. These have seven seats, are about the same size and fuel efficiency. The Kia was upgraded significantly in 2013. The Prius V has not changed much since it was introduced in 2012 and they age well, so there is little point getting a new one.

These are more car-like than the larger people movers and SUVs. The catch is, with all three rows of seats occupied, there is not much room for luggage. But most of the time you are likely to be using only two rows of seats and so have a very large boot. For Griswold holidays, you can add a roof-box ($1,000 with mounting bars).

For something larger there is the 2013 Ssangyong Stavic. These are low priced, mainly due to the ugly front end of the previous model. The 2013 model looks bland, rather than ugly. But it still looks odd at the back, and too large for its tiny wheels. This might be improved with a Range-Rover-like colours scheme, with the lower edge of the vehicle painted black, along with the pillars, up to the roof rails.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where  Professor Paul Dibb is speaking on "Why did Putin invade Ukraine?" (podcast available). The room is packed, with an atmosphere similar to that of the "Preliminary analysis of Japan Earthquake" in March 2011. On that occasion experts were discussing a natural disaster. Professor Dibb started by modesty saying he was no longer an expert on day to day Russian events. He argued that it was necessary to understand the Russian point of view and that of its leaders, without necessarily agreeing with them. He emphasised that Russia is not an island nation and have a history of having been invaded across its land boarders (Sweden 1700s, France 1800s and Germany 1900s).

Professor Dibb believes that President Putin thinks Russia was deceived by the West, with an understanding that NATO would not expand to Russia's boarders. NATO aircraft in Estonia are only about 100km from Russia. Russia suspects the USA wants to encircle Russia with its allies. Crimea provides Russia with one of its few warm water ports. President Putin suspects involvement by Poland in Ukraine.

Professor Dibb commented that Putin is a former KGB officer of the hard type who had to been confronted in Canberra. He pointed out that Russia and the USA still have sufficient nuclear weapons to devastate each others countries (even if the command and control of the Russian systems are questionable).

Professor Dibb  said there was no prospect of a new cold war, as there is no ideological divide. However, he said that Russia is not going to become a democratic country in the Western style, but an autocratic regime (dependent on energy exports). Professor Dibb said Russia would attempt to destabilise and occupy Ukraine, with no prospect of NATO intervention. Russian military doctrine depends on early use of nuclear weapons, due to weakened conventional forces. NATO may conduct some exercises in Poland.

 Professor Dibb said that Australian defence policy needs to look beyond terrorism, climate change and the Internet and focus on "good old fashioned force majeure". He drew parallels between Russia and China as autocratic regimes which are challenging the borders in their region. He said that if China decided to use limited military force to assert claims in the south china sea he doubted that Asian would agree to act. He expressed concern over China's aid to Timor-Leste and prospects for future Chinese military presence there.


Professor Dibb said that USA's development of coal seam gas might counter Russia's energy dominance in Europe.

Professor Diibs were interesting when taken alongside Tuesday's "Causes of World War One Repeated in Asia Today?". In my view nations should look to their own defence, as well as supporting alliances and international bodies. Australia should order more P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, an off the shelf replacement for the Collins Class submarine and F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft to equip  HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.

Why did Putin invade Ukraine?


Public Lecture: School of International, Political & Strategic Studies, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb
Date: Thursday, 20 March, 2014 - 12:30 to 13:30
Abstract: This talk examines why Putin decided to intervene in Ukraine. What were the major deciding factors from his point of view?
Getting inside Putin's mind requires understanding Russia’s perspectives on the geopolitics of Ukraine's potential membership of the EU and NATO; the military importance of the naval base in Crimea; the deep history of Russia's relationship with Ukraine--both ancient and modern; and how Putin is playing the Ukraine/Crimea issue in domestic politics.
None of this is to ignore a very different and legitimate perspective coming out of Kiev. But we need to understand what is driving Putin and how much further is he likely to go militarily.
Professor Dibb also addresses the issue of the use of force by Moscow and the reactions of the West. Have we returned to a previous era where military strength is supreme and spheres of influence prevail? And will the Russian experience be replicated in our part of the world by an increasingly powerful and assertive China?

Biography

Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of strategic studies in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU. He was head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1991 to 2004. Before that he held the positions of deputy secretary for Defence, director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation and head of the National Assessments Staff.
He studied the former Soviet Union for over 20 years both as a senior intelligence officer and academic. He advised ASIO on certain Soviet activities. His book The Soviet Union--the Incomplete Superpower was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London in 1986, reprinted 1987 and second edition 1988.
Light lunch will be provided after the lecture

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From a Window over the Green: Innovation and Education Around the University of Western Australia

Last year, I spent a month living in a town house across the road from the University of Western Australia (UWA), looking at innovation and education. I wrote a series of items "From a Window over the Green" (the town-house with the window is now for sale):

Greetings from Perth Western Australia, on the edge of the campus of the University of Western Australia. I am sitting at a window overlooking a townhouse courtyard on a rainy Saturday. Above the trees and tiled roofs the new wing of St Catherine’s College is reaching up to the sky. This week the university received a $15M donation to further expand accommodation for researchers. The university is expanding upwards and outwards, but in education terms where is UWA and Australia's other elite universities going?

  1. MOOCs in Future of UWA, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
  2. Spacecubed Co-working in Perth, Sunday, September 22, 2013
  3. Co-working in Perth, Tuesday, September 24, 2013
  4. Use of Video Capture at Universities Beyond Lecture Recording, Wednesday, September 25, 2013
  5. University Satellite Campuses Like Co-Working Offices, Thursday, September 26, 2013
  6. Profile of Australian Universities, Thursday, October 3, 2013
  7. Using Moodle for University Learning, Tuesday, October 8, 2013
  8. Seminar About Online Green Computing Course, Monday, October 14, 2013
  9. End of an Era for All Women University College, Wednesday, October 16, 2013
  10. Where is the University Headed?, Saturday, October 19, 2013
  11. Moodle: Massive Open Online Design of Learning and Education, Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Last night in the Fellows Garden at ANU the same issues came up for discussion: what is the role of the university, in education, economic development and society?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Causes of World War One Repeated in Asia Today?

asia today
Greetings from the Great Hall of the Australian National University in Canberra, where a panel of experts is speaking on "Asia today – 1914 redux?" (podcast availableProfessor Joan Beaumont, argued that conditions had changed since 1914, but states and non-state actors can still rally their people to war. Professor Hugh White argued that war is never inevitable. He compared the decline of Britain and rise of German industry in 1914 and the recent economic prosperity of China and relative decline of the USA. By 1914 the great powers of Europe had ceased to respect the concept of "great powers", but expected it to still work. Professor White argued that the assumed uncontested primacy of the USA has already broken down, with China and Japan not assuming it. He argued this was dangerous as it is assumed that the USA is still able and willing to intervene. Professor White contrasted the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996, when the USA sent the 7th fleet to Taiwan to ward off China and the Senkaku Islands today, where the USA does not (it happens I was on the 7th Fleet Flagship in 1997).

Professor Evelyn Goh,  described Asia as a region of unfinished business, with the last communist countries, unfinished wars and decolonisation. She compared China's strategy to that of 19th Century Austria and Germany, looking for partnerships in response to its being surrounded by potential enemies. But Professor Goh said we were not at the point of WWI, arguing that China has been relatively restrained in its use of force. She expressed concern that the USA was unwilling to cede power while also unwilling to use it.

As one of the panellists noted, there is a slow motion arms race in the region. I suggest this need not be destabilising. Japan has invested in very credible Soryu-class submarines, Kongo class guided missile destroyers (equipped for ballistic missile defence), Izumo-class helicopter carriers (named "destroyers" in Japan for political reasons) and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft (the F-35B could operate from the carriers, if politics allowed). Other countries, including Australia, have made similar purchases of ships, submarines and aircraft. These will make it more difficult for even a great power to act aggressively. Middle powers can look to alliances for defence, but also ensure they have their own credible military forces.

Venue

Great Hall, University House (1), Balmain Crescent, ANU

Date

Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 - 17:30 to 19:00
It is almost 100 years since the first shots of the First World War rang out. How the great European powers seemingly stumbled into a disastrous war through a maelstrom of ambition, revenge, fear, misjudgements and alliance obligations has been a matter of keen debate ever since. While the events of July and August 1914 have appeared puzzling, they have echoed through the following century as a cautionary tale of how things can go wrong, and do so with alarming rapidity.
Many scholars and policy makers worry that today East Asia risks a similar tragedy. The region sees growing and possibly waning great powers, the introduction of new technologies of warfare, strident nationalism, tense diplomatic relationships and a complex economic interdependence. So does Europe in 1914 portend a possible future for Asia a hundred years later? Or should we be wary of a so simple, if not simplistic, comparison? This special event brings together some leading scholars of Australia and Asia to explore both what set off the guns in 1914, and how they can be forestalled in 2014.


Participants
The panel will be made up of Professors Joan Beaumont, Evelyn Goh, Michael Wesley and Hugh White. It will be chaired by the Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Associate Professor Brendan Taylor.
Joan Beaumont is a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.  She is a historian of Australia in the two world wars, Australian defence and foreign policy, prisoners of war and the memory and heritage of war. She has recently published the critically acclaimed Broken nation: Australians and the Great War, described as “a highly ambitious and consummate enterprise of a kind that few have attempted, let alone accomplished”. Other publications include Ministers, mandarins and diplomats: the making of Australian foreign policy, 1941-69 (ed.); Australia's war, 1939-45 (ed.); Australia's war, 1914-18 (ed.)and Gull Force: survival and leadership in captivity, 1941–1945 (1988). She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
Evelyn Goh is the Shedden Professor of Strategic Policy Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University. Her research interests are East Asian security, diplomatic history and international relations theory. She has published widely on US-China relations and diplomatic history; strategy, security and institutions in East Asia; great power relations; and environmental security. Her latest book, The struggle for order: hegemony, hierarchy and transition in post-Cold War East Asia, provides a new interpretation of the hierarchical regional order and analyses the central roles of the United States, China and Japan in determining regional security. She is currently completing a collaborative project analysing China’s influence in developing parts of Asia, and conducting research on the great power bargain between China and Japan. She has held previous faculty positions at Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Oxford, and the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore; and visiting positions at the Woodrow Wilson Center and East-West Center in Washington DC. She has been a East Asia Institute Fellow, and a UK Economic and Social Research Council Mid-Career Fellow.
Michael Wesley is Professor of National Security and Director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. His career has spanned academia, with previous appointments at the University of New South Wales, Griffith University, the University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat-sen University and the University of Sydney; government, where he worked as Assistant Director General for Transnational Issues at the Office of National Assessments; and think tanks, in which he was Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Professor Wesley has also served as the Editor-in-chief of the Australian journal of international affairs and as a board member of the Australia Television Network. He is a non-executive member of the Senior Leadership Group of the Australian Federal Police and a director of the Kokoda Foundation. His most recent book, There goes the neighbourhood: Australia and the rise of Asia, won the 2011 John Button Prize for the best writing on Australian public policy.
Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.  He has worked on Australian strategic, defence and foreign policy issues since 1980 in several different roles including intelligence analyst, journalist, ministerial adviser, departmental official, think tanker and academic. He was the principal author of Australia’s 2000Defence White Paper. His recent publications include Power shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing published as a Quarterly Essay in September 2010, and The China choice: why America should share power, published in Australia and subsequently in the US, China and Japan.
Image: Modern Japanese destroyer in the East China Sea

Australian Bridging Boats Ordered by US Army

According to media reports, the US Army has ordered 374 "Bridging Boats" to be made by Birdon in NSW. The stubby little boats are used to push floating bridges into position and to transport equipment (including tanks) on rafts. These were adapted from a German design for the Australian Defence Force. The boats may also find some use on Australia's two Canberra class  Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, to supplement the 12 LCM-1E amphibious mechanized landing craft already ordered. They may also supplement the Mexeflote powered rafts of HMAS Choules (L100).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music for iPad

Ensemble Metatone will give a free performance 6pm this evening at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery. The group features the use of  iPad-based musical instruments and traditional percussion. See the video of a performance. Charles Martin developed the iPad-based instruments and is a compute4r science PhD Student at the Australian National University.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Multimedia Performance on Coming to Terms with Evil

The multimedia stage show "seven kilometres north-east" is an exploration of the creator/performer Kym Vercoe’s coming to terms with discovering her tourism in Bosnia took her to sites of
atrocities. After staying at  Vilina Vlas hotel, Vercoe discovers it was a concentration camp during the during the Bosnian War.

The set design is dominated by two video projections (devised by video artist Sean Bacon) taking up the back of the stage and also projected onto washing hanging from lies above. Vercoe is on the almost bare stage for most of the one hours and twenty minutes. A few stone blocks, representing The Bridge on the Drina, are about all that are seen.

The same story is also told in the 2013 film "For Those Who Can Tell No Tales".


Sladjana Hodžić sings traditional folk songs unaccompanied from the side of the stage. This was made more haunting during Saturday night's production by several members of the audience joining in, with an echoing lament.

What makes this show is that it is based on reality. The show mentions places, people and events. The character says how they checked the Wikipedia, so I did and there it all was.

On at the Seymour Centre until 22 March, seven kilometres north-east is not a fun show (for that there is the upcoming "Anything Goes"), but it is thought provoking. One question from this is how much time must have passed until we forgive, if not forget.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Australia to Acquire Long Range Maritime UAVs

The Australian Government announced the intention to acquire "Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to boost maritime surveillance capabilities" (13 March 2014). A decision on the number and timing of the aircraft will be made in 2016 after a Defence White Paper. The announcement this week appears to be designed to support the South Australian Liberal party’s election campaign,. The announcement was made at the RAAF base in SA where the aircraft will be based.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is a high cost, but relatively low risk, choice. Based on the successful Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV and ordered by the USA to complement the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (which Australia is also acquiring) the Triton has had a relatively trouble free development.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why Putin Invaded Ukraine

Professor Paul Dibb will speak on "Why did Putin invade Ukraine?" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1:30pm, 20 March 2014.

Why did Putin invade Ukraine?


Public Lecture: School of International, Political & Strategic Studies, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb
Date: Thursday, 20 March, 2014 - 12:30 to 13:30
Abstract: This talk examines why Putin decided to intervene in Ukraine. What were the major deciding factors from his point of view?
Getting inside Putin's mind requires understanding Russia’s perspectives on the geopolitics of Ukraine's potential membership of the EU and NATO; the military importance of the naval base in Crimea; the deep history of Russia's relationship with Ukraine--both ancient and modern; and how Putin is playing the Ukraine/Crimea issue in domestic politics.
None of this is to ignore a very different and legitimate perspective coming out of Kiev. But we need to understand what is driving Putin and how much further is he likely to go militarily.
Professor Dibb also addresses the issue of the use of force by Moscow and the reactions of the West. Have we returned to a previous era where military strength is supreme and spheres of influence prevail? And will the Russian experience be replicated in our part of the world by an increasingly powerful and assertive China?

Biography

Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of strategic studies in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU. He was head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1991 to 2004. Before that he held the positions of deputy secretary for Defence, director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation and head of the National Assessments Staff.
He studied the former Soviet Union for over 20 years both as a senior intelligence officer and academic. He advised ASIO on certain Soviet activities. His book The Soviet Union--the Incomplete Superpower was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London in 1986, reprinted 1987 and second edition 1988.
Light lunch will be provided after the lecture

Monday, March 10, 2014

41,000 tonnes of Old TVs and Computers Recycled in Australia Last Year

The Department of the Environment, has released a report on "National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme - Outcomes 2012-13". It is estimated the scheme just about reached its target of recycling 30% of the TVs and computers made surplus during the year (41,327 tonnes). 

 Assuming each computer or TV weights an average of 20 kg, that would represent two million devices being recycled (computers weight less and TVs more). However, the target may not take account of the old equipment which has accumulated in homes and offices in the absence of a recycling scheme. Also the introduction of digital TV and tablet computers may be increasing the rate at which equipment is replaced. I suggest a more realistic target might be four times the one set.

This week I have a class of university students studying e-waste


Friday, March 07, 2014

Maritime Patrol Aircraft with Australian Phased Array Radar

This is to suggest Australia order four additional P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, fitted with CEA Technologies' phased array radar technology. The Australian Government has decided to order eight P-8 aircraft to patrol the surrounding seas. Ordering four more would bring the total to 12.

The P-8 is a heavily modified Boeing 737 airliner, fitted with an APY-10 radar. The radar has some capacity to detect submarine periscopes. However, the radar is fitted to the nose of the aircraft and so has a limited field of view and limited resolution. The P-8 was designed with provision for a very much larger radar under the fuselage. However, it is unclear if the USA is progressing this option.


Canberra company CEA Technologies has developed phased array radars, initially for the Anzac class frigates. The radars are made up of modular tiles, each small enough to be held in one hand. This would allow them to be arranged in a long strip on an aircraft, rather than the square arrays used on a ship.

While the current technology would be suitable for use on a large aircraft, such as the P-8, the technology could be developed further for smaller aircraft in use by the Australian Defence Force, particularly UAVs.

Australian technology developed for fabricating and mounting photovoltaic solar cells could be applied to make the radars smaller, lighter and cheaper. The current tiles have a considerable amount of discrete electronics attached to the back of each unit. This could be integrated into the panel surface.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Future of Cyber Warfare

Greetings from the 2014 Digital Government Conference in Canberra, where Dr Suresh Hungenahally, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Business and Innovation (Vic), is speaking on "The Future of Cyber Warfare". He showed a video from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) depicting a government official who has lost their laptop, so logs in from a cybercafe and has their password stolen as a result.

Dr Hungenahally pointed out that "hackers" are now not just teenager having fun, they are criminals out to steal corporate secrets. He related the Queensland case of a SCADA system being penetrated  the Maroochy Shire Council's sewage control system.
Dr Hungenahally then claimed that the Australian Air Traffic control system depended on US based computer systems, which seems unlikely.

ps: The Australian National University is launching its "Strategy and Statecraft in Cyberspace" research, later today.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Digital Transformation and Leadership

Greetings from CSIRO Black Mountain Laboratories, where Mark Toomey is speaking on "Digital Transformation & Leadership" to a meeting of the Australian Computer Society. He talked about  GippsTAFE's use of tele-presence for training apprentices in the workplace. In contrast he gave Fairfax as an example of a company which failed to embrace the use of new technology and is suffering the consequences. He described digital transformation as a rapid and disruptive process.

Mark went on to discuss the ISO/IEC 38500 IT Governance Standard (this was developed from Australian Standard AS 8015-2005 Corporate governance of information and communication technology). He then discussed how the principles in the IT Government Standard could be applied more broadly to digital transformation. He asserted that the senior management carrying out such transformation do not need IT skills. This is something I do not agree with, while those overseeing the digital transformation may not need to know how to write computer programs they will need technology planning and management skills which are those of senior IT professionals. As an expert witness in court cases involving failed IT projects, I have seen many cases were knowing what is and is not possible with IT would have prevented project failure.

The Australian Computer Society offers distance education programs  for those who want to improve their IT management skills. I am teaching Business Analysis, starting Monday.


Mark will be speaking at other cities later in the year.

A New Dawn in Government Digital Servicing

Greetings from the 2014 Digital Government Conference in Canberra, where Gary Steinberg, CIO, Department of Human Services is speaking on "A New Dawn in Government Digital Servicing". He commented that their student customers are using the new digital channel much more than older customers (which seems reasonable). Use of call, face to face and telephony service channels still account for 40% of the customer access. The department is looking at how to move these customers to the digital service. A new service "Express Connect" will be launched with the customer "in channel". Translating the hype, the customer will use a video conference to communicate with the department, using voice and face recognition to identify the customer. It was claimed this would work with a smart TV set and a smart phone and allow document access. This appears to be designed to replicate a traditional face to face interview to make older customers fee more comfortable. Howevr, the interface also uses what is described as "gaming" technology, with a percentage score indicating how complete the customer's claim is. It will be interesting to see how well this works in practice. It was noted that using the TV as the display would allow the customer to more easily see, than on a small mobile device. This was described as interacting in-channel, in real time.

There would appear to be scope for using this form of wireless soft-docking (I made that term up) for executives who spend all day talking and presenting and never typing. It might also be used for e-learning as well.

The Department intends to use the same interface would be used in people's homes, in offices and in managed care residential facilities. He pointed out that real people don't fit the assumed categories, such as having sixty year old students, with children. Also in ten days time Human Services will be launching a new online service based on "we know who you are", using gaming scores for user friendliness.