Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Defence IT Strategist Enterprise Architecture in Complex Changing Organisations

Greetings from the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra, where Christopher Rodrigues Macias, Defence IT Strategist, is speaking on "Enterprise Architecture in Complex Changing Organisations". The is of great interest as I am teaching the ACS Virtual College course in Business Analysis.

In a refreshing change from IT presentations, Christopher had no slides, quipping that "Power corrupts and Powerpoint corrupts absolutely". He contrasted TOGAF with Zachman Framework and derived approaches (which come out of the COBOL era). He criticised the Zachman has breaking the architecture down into too small constituent parts (reminds me of  J.R.R. Tolkien's 'He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.'). Christopher asserted that the people doing the analysis for systems are usually two organisation levels below that at which the real problem is discussed. The problem then is to be able to have a discussion about high level business problems, without delving down into the technical details of solutions.

Christopher used the analogy of defence procurement, where you need to know why you are buying a system (the intent), rather than just what. This brought back memoires of nine years working in IT at the Defence Department, working out what was needed (including for joint amphibious operations)

As Christopher pointed out standard modules can be used for standard functions in the business, such as finance. But the core business of the organisation needs to be custom designed. Continuing the defence analogy, the ADF is still working out how to use the new LHD ships. One indication of this is the numerous books on amphibious operations at ANU and ANU libraries. ;-)

One of the audience asked where to get good enterprise architects. My suggestion was to train them: the Australian Computer Society offers a postgraduate course in Enterprise Architecture.

Future of Journalism

Last night I attended "Has journalism a future" with presentations by
Caroline Fisher (University of Canberra), Stephen Matchett, (Campus Morning Mail), Matthew Ricketson (University of Canberra) and Lenore Taylor (Guardian Australia). This was at the new
Centre for China in the World, at the Australian National University in Canberra. The entertaining evening was chaired by Colin Steel, ANU Emeritus Fellow.
The new Centre for China in the World is so new, that the WiFi has not yet been installed, which is why I am posting this the next day. It also has a "new car" smell. ;-)

The first speaker said the good news was that the cost of production for news had reduced. However, there is a tendency for the new media to concentrate on that most ancient and popular form of news: gossip. The market for news is shrinking and the print media made the mistake of giving away their content free online while trying to survive on advertising. A few premium paid news services may survive, but most will not.

Many policy journalists now write for free for "The Conversation", with journalism becoming philanthropy, part funded by the state. But without real journalists chasing hard facts there will be less oversight of government.

The second speaker took exception with the fist speaker having a problem with taxpayers funded journalism, pointing to the work of the ABC.

It occurs to me that all the journalists speaking seemed to have the idea that journalism was a noble search for the truth, whereas in a business sense it is the job of the journalist just to fill up the spaces between the paid advertisements (which are the important parts of the publication). Perhaps James Marcus' book "Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut" should be required reading at journalism school. In this one of's early employees relates how they were hired to Amazon to write and edit book reviews. They saw their job as writing Amazon to write and edit independent and interesting book reviews, whereas Amazon saw them as helping sell books. Amazon worked out that a crowd-sourcing system which passed on recommendations from customers to other customers was more popular and more effective at selling books than professional reviews, at which point the journalist was out of a job. The same is likely to happen to almost all journalism jobs.

The result may well be a reduction in serious investigative journalism, if that turns out to be something readers do not value. As an example of this future, yesterday I was contacted by a TV news service asking about hacking of WiFi baby monitors over the Internet. When I checked I found recent stories about this, but also almost identical stories a year ago. I explained to the journalist that I did not think this was a real story, it was recycled from a year ago. The journalist explained their boss wanted a story and so there would be a story: they did not seem to be concerned as to if it was true or not. I declined to take part in a story which was pandering to parent's fears, with little  basis in fact.

Inventing the Joint Strike Fighter

Dr Paul Bevilaqua, Chief Engineer of the Lockheed Martin "Skunk Works" will speak on "Inventing the Joint Strike Fighter" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1 May 2014 from 6:00 PM. He will speak on the F-35 aircraft, which is being ordered for the Royal Australian Air-force. Dr Bevilaqua developed the F-35-B lift fan for the Short Takeoff / Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Australia is planning to order the conventional take-off F-35A, which does not use a lift fan. However, I have suggested eighteen F-35b aircraft be ordered, to equip Australia's two Canberra Class amphibious assault ships, which have a flight deck designed for STOVL aircraft.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WiFi Baby Monitor Hacked: How Hard is it?

Had a call from TV news asking how hard it is to hack a baby monitor. There is a story going around, which may have been recycled from last year:
  1. This year: Stranger Hacks Into Baby Monitor and Screams at Child, Olivia B. Waxman, Time, April 28, 2014:
  2. Last year: Baby monitor hacked, spies on Texas child, Chenda Ngak, CBS News, August 13, 2013, 6:22 PM:
I found some sensible advice about securing your router, changing the default password and the like in "Can my WiFi baby monitor be hacked by predators?",  Liz, Home Security, April 28, 2014. Anything more anyone can suggest?

Australia's Climate Change Targets and Progress

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the ANU Climate Change Institute is holding its "First Climate Change Colloquium to Discuss Australia's Targets and Progress". The first speaker is Anthea Harris, CEO of the Australian Government's Climate Change Authority (CCA).

Since the Climate Change Authority was established, the Australian Government has changed. The Australian Department of Environment issued a "Emissions Reduction Fund White Paper",  which expresses the new government's "direct action" approach, which differs from the previous cap-and-trade system. Under the new approach the government will pay organizations to reduce emissions, with a price set through a limited auction, rather than organizations trading permits on a market.

Ms. Harris pointed out that reductions beyond the Government's -5% target for 2020 would be relatively inexpensive. Some measures which could be carried out are to purchase international carbon permits. However, I doubt this would be welcomed in the current political climate with an emphasis on budget savings. Sending money off shore, boosting other countries economies, is unlikely to be adopted by government.

In my view the academic community in Australia is not serving the public interest well on the issue of climate change. There is a prevailing attitude that if scientists simply present the evidence governments will act. The evidence shows this is not the case. Presenting more climate science  evidence is unlikely to help and may well lower the credibility of the scientific community with government and the general public. This is a matter which needs to be addressed by economists, social and political science, it is not a problem of hard science, but of perception.

The current discussion of climate change reminds me of a conversation between a patient and doctor I overheard while in hospital. The doctor explained to the patient that they were seriously ill with liver failure due to excess alcohol consumption. The patent asked when they would be able to have a drink. The doctor explained that if the patient gave up alcoholic completely immediately they may live long enough to get a liver transplant. The patent again asked when they would be able to have a drink. No matter how many times the doctor explained the seriousness of the situation, the patient could not accept they must give up alcohol. Similarly the world needs to give up its addiction to fossil fuel to reduce the extreme harm resulting. However patiently scientists explain this, the addict will not understand and not act. This situation can be changed, but will take the sort of measures used to treat addiction.
I am a member of the ANU Energy Change Institute and teach ICT Sustainability to masters students. They spend some time estimating energy and emissions from ICT, which is relatively easy, them more time on the harder problem of reducing them and then the really hard task of convincing their boss to actually make the required changes.

At the beginning of the year I had to revise my course notes to take into account the new government's approach. This proved to be much easier than I expected. As my students focus on how to estimate energy and emissions, then how to reduce them, the government policy dictating that this should be done does not much matter. While the pricing mechanism will change, it does not appear how emissions are estimated will not.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Coworking Space for Creatives in Inner Sydney

"The Commune" is a shared office space in inner Sydney suburb of Erskineville, near Newtown. The idea is that those in the creative industry can rent a desk by the day or year and share facilities with like minded individuals.

Like many other co-working spaces (including Fishburners in Ultimo Sydney and Spacecubed Perth), The Commune is in an old industrial building and has a post-industrial design aesthetic. The Commune has an impressive website, which consists of one long page with hyper-links (but it could do with real text, rather than bit-mapped images of text).

My Parcel Box Drops Fees From Home Locker

Had an email from Cillian Stockdale to say that his "My Parcel Box" no longer charges monthly fees. This is a large mailbox with an electronic combination lock, allowing secure delivery of parcels. The unit is similar to the Pakman Parcel Delivery Box (which has a mechanical combination lock). With these units you provide the combination when ordering goods on-line, so the delivery person can put the item in the box (they then scan a code on the unit to record delivery).

My Parcel Box's unit is known as "The Vault" and is 550 x 400 x 600 mm, compared to 525 x 420 x 905 mm for the Pakman Parcel Delivery Box. The Vault is $270, with free delivery, which is considerably cheaper than the Packman, but does not include an ordinary letterbox in the unit (the units are so large you might not want to site them where your letterbox is anyway). The Vault has an electronic combination lock which allows for multiple combinations, whereas the Pakman has a mechanical lock with one code. The Vault appears to only come in one colour (Hammertone grey), whereas the Pakman comes in white, beige and grey. The Pakman has a slot for inserting courier envelopes, without the need to use the combination lock, it is not clear from the description if the The Vault has this feature.

Both the Vault and Pakman are said to be large enough to hold cases of wine. However, they do not appear to be insulated and so placing a case of wine in them on a hot day may not be a good idea.It would be unfortunate if, like the former NSW Premier, you were to have a vintage bottle of wine delivered to your home and then forget about it. ;-)

Back in 2000 I speculated we were likely to see such delivery boxes for goods, on homes and at shopping centres:
... I have seen boxes built into the outside of apartments which were said to be used for milk. The milkman put the milk in and closed the door to keep it fresh. A still current example of this is large mailboxes at farm gates.
The high technology version of this would have an electronic lock on the box and an Internet connection. When ordering goods the client would supply an entry code for delivery. The delivery person would use this code to open the box and put the goods in. The entry code would only work once and the lock would record time of delivery (to deter pilfering). The box could advise the client (and suppler) of delivery via the Internet. Optional solid state temperature control would keep perishable items cool, or warm the box in cold climates to prevent freezing.
For those who have "made it" the box would be built into their house or the foyer of their apartment building. For the upwardly mobile, or just mobile, the boxes could be rented at a local shopping center. Different size boxes could be allocated as required, with a limited number for perishable items.
This might sound a bit far fetched, but I would be surprised if someone isn't already offering it.
Australia Post already uses special purpose premises with dynamically allocated post office boxes for large packages. My post office box used to be at a post office, with staff member on duty to hand over large items. The post office has moved away and there are just the boxes and no regular staff. When there is a large item to collect I find a numbered key in my normal box. That key opens one of a bank of bigger boxes. After collection I drop the key in a slot for reuse. The same system could be used for goods deliveries, using physical keys, or electronic codes. ...

From "re: Can UPS deliver the tickets?", Tom Worthington,  Link Mailing List, Fri, 28 Jan 2000 09:18:42 +1100

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Workaround Opening DOCX Files in LibreOffice Writer

Recently I was marking assignments for a class. I spent hours entering comments into each using the Libre Office "Write" word processor. But when checking my work I found most files contained just one line of text. Searching the web in desperation, I found Bruce Kirkpatrick's "Workaround for bug in LibreOffice Writer when text is lost after saving and reopening docx files" (Mar 03, 2014). Following the instructions I was able to unzip the DOCX file, open the word.xml file with a text editor and delete the hyperlink which caused the problem and re-zip the file. This then opened in Libre Office, whereupon I saved the document in DOC format to avoid further problems. Hopefully Bug 55143  "FILESAVE: LibreOffice corrupting complex documents involving html tags", will be fixed some time soon. But in the interim, I will be saving DOCX files in DOC format to avoid this problem.

MOOCsAre Not Cheaper Than Conventional Courses

The Linux Foundation is offering the course "Introduction to Linux" (LFS101x) starting 3rd Quarter 2014, through edX. The course is free to "Audit", or $US250 with a Certificate of Achievement. While that may sound cheap for a course, consider that the completion rate for MOOCs is about 10%, less than one fifth that of more conventional online courses. Factoring in the student's chance of completion, MOOCs may be no cheaper than conventional on-line courses.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Food and Environmental Security

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor David Lobell from Stanford University is speaking on "Food and environmental security - Australia’s contribution". Professor Lobell showed a graph of wheat yields in Australia, showing increasing variability over time (due to better production at times of wetter conditions). He argued that this water dependent condition which is common in Australia will also become more common around the world due to climate change and depleted ground water. He showed evidence that Vapour Pressure Deficit (VPD) may result in food production being more sensitive to climate change than previously thought.

Unfortunately while Professor Lobell presented clear and important information on adverse effects on food production of climate change this is unlikely to have any effect on public policy. The Australian Government is in a state of denial on climate change, despite the clear and present danger. What is now needed is research on politics and psychology, to determine how to change public policy.

Later there will be a panel with Dr Mark Howden (CSIRO), Professor Murray Badger, Sarah Bridge (Department of Agriculture) and Professor Robert Costanza (ANU).

Proposals for Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs

The new  not-­for-­profit organisation "StartupAUS" has released the report "Crossroads: An Action Plan to Develop a Vibrant tech startup ecosystem in Australia" (15 August 2014). The report makes some useful recommendations, such as Young Entrepreneur Scholarships and a national network of student start-up incubators, national learn to  code promotion program, tertiary  scholarships program to drive participation in CS, and a national network  of entrepreneurship centres.

The report is deficient for not proposing formal education programs for entrepreneurs. Australian universities have a number of schemes to encourage students and researchers to apply their skills to setting up new businesses. However, these tend to be extra-curricular activities, not part of formal courses. I suggest this should be a core part of courses, acknowledged as a respectable subject for academic analysis.

The report focuses too much on on the import of staff from the USA, rather than training Australians and working with growth areas in Asia. The the report does not make clear who funded it (presumably Google Australia), or who wrote it.

Also it would help if the report was provided as a well formatted web document, not badly formatted PDF. Here is an extract from the report's action plan summary, reformatted by hand to HTML:

Action plan summary

Australia does not currently have all of the required conditions for a successful startup ecosystem. Their establishment has been hampered to varying degrees by market failures spanning education, culture, expertise, access to capital and regulatory environments. Below is a summary of the actions proposed to address those market failures. The majority of the actions are not new. They have been implemented in other countries in which similar market failures have been identified, and in many cases have been effective to the point that government intervention can be scaled back or withdrawn. The impacts from some of the actions will be seen in the near term, although most will take several years to have a positive effect and will require a long term bipartisan commitment. StartupAUS does not believe that the government should be required to make an open-­‐ended commitment to supporting the startup sector, but rather it should develop an exit plan for scaling back and ending its support of each aspect of the sector. This will require the development of suitable metrics against which progress can be measured. This paper does not prescribe a division of responsibility between federal, state and local governments, although clearly the best outcomes will be achieved if high-­‐growth startups and entrepreneurship become a national priority, and if there is close alignment between efforts at each level of government, and between states.

Actions with near-­‐term impact (1-­‐2 years)

Create an Entrepreneur Visa

Australia’s startup sector needs diversity and new skills. An entrepreneur visa, like those in place in many other countries, would help to attract entrepreneurs and accelerate the growth of our startup ecosystem.

Relax restrictions on 457 Visa

Australian tech startups are unable to recruit enough skilled visas for startups Australian ICT workers. Relaxing restrictions to the 457 visa would enable Australian startups to employ sufficient skilled overseas ICT workers to meet the current shortfall.

Ensure foreign workers in Australian startups can access the Living Away From Home Allowance

Australia has a relatively high cost of living that is acting as a disincentive for foreign ICT professionals to join Australian startups. Making the LAFHA program available to startups would help to ensure Australian startups are able to attract the highest calibre workers.

Implement a national Visiting Entrepreneurs Program

Australia has a relatively shallow pool of experienced entrepreneurs. Introducing this expertise from startup hot-­‐spots around the world would short-­‐circuit the learning curve and accelerate the maturation of the startup ecosystem.

Change the tax treatment of ESOPs

Currently a bizarre situation exists in Australia in which options are taxed in the hands of startup employees at the time of issue, rather than at the time they received the proceeds, despite the fact that those options are illiquid and may never have any realizable value. Bringing the tax treatment of ESOPs in line with the rest of the world would greatly improve Australia’s ability to attract and retain the best workers.

Extend the Advance Innovation Program

Each year the Advance Innovation Program provides 25 promising Australian tech startups with investor-­‐readiness training and mentoring, and takes them to Silicon Valley for a two week trade mission. Extending the program would enable more entrepreneurs to gain exposure to Silicon Valley and other startup hot-­‐spots, and to bring those learnings back to Australia.

Establish a Silicon Valley Landing Pad for startups

Australian An increasing number of Australian startups are moving to Silicon Valley in search of talent and capital. An Australian landing pad would greatly assist these companies in getting established in the Valley and improve their chances of success. It would also equip more Australian entrepreneurs with an international perspective and enable them to contribute positively to the Australian startup ecosystem when they return home.

Actions with medium-­‐term impact (2-­‐5 years)

Support a Young Entrepreneur Scholarships program

Offering scholarships to 100 final year university students per annum would encourage more young people to launch startups. This could also be an effective way of addressing the current gender imbalance in the startup sector.

Support entrepreneurial behaviour by university researchers

Most Australian universities have limited engagement in the startup sector, and the academic culture does not embrace entrepreneurship and risk-­‐taking. Supporting entrepreneurship in universities would increase the rate of startup formation and improve the economic contribution made by universities.

Support a national network of student startup incubators

Very few university students in Australia are exposed to the notion of doing a startup. A network of student startup incubators would raise the profile of entrepreneurship and boost the number and success rate of technology entrepreneurs among university students and graduates.

Launch a national learn to code promotion program

Australia is facing a significant skills shortage in the ICT sector. A promotional program would increase interest in studying ICT and help to address the gender imbalance in the sector.

Implement a tertiary scholarships program to drive participation in CS

A prestigious scholarship program would attract the brightest high school students to tertiary computer science education, and the best undergraduates to advanced postgraduate studies in education computer science.

Remove disincentives for experienced Australian entrepreneurs to repatriate

A growing cohort of Australians are acquiring valuable experience in building a global technology companies in the US and elsewhere. There are significant tax disincentives for successful Australians to repatriate. Removing these disincentives would encourage Australian entrepreneurs to return and use their international expertise to benefit the Australian startup ecosystem.

Create a national network of entrepreneurship centres

Unlike many countries, Australia has no centrally supported system of startup incubators. Creating a network of entrepreneurship centres would provide an important piece of soft infrastructure around which startup communities can be built.

Continue the Innovation Investment Fund program

Australia has one of the lowest rates of venture capital investment in the world. Continuing the IIF program, with targeted changes, will ensure it is effective in supporting the growth of a healthy VC industry in Australia.

Establish a seed co-­investment fund

Australia has one of the lowest rates of angel investment in the world. Establishing a co-‐investment fund would stimulate greater levels of angel investment and improve the chances of startups raising capital in Australia rather than moving to the US or elsewhere at the outset.

Create a capital gains exemption and/or tax deduction for angel investments

A tax incentive for angel investors would boost the level of investment in startups and bring Australia into line with many other knowledge-­‐intensive economies.

Enhance Commercialisation Australia to improve support for entrepreneurs

Commercialisation Australia is a valuable program that is currently constrained in its ability to effectively support startups. Making targeted changes to the program would allow it to more effectively accelerate the growth of Australian startups.

Establish a young entrepreneurs startup loans scheme

A startup loans scheme would provide financial support to first-time entrepreneurs under the age of thirty. It would help young entrepreneurs to bridge the funding gap for early stage ideas that are not yet ready to raise capital from angel investors or VC funds.

Implement legislative changes to enable crowd- sourced equity funding

By 2020, crowdfunding is projected to reach $500 billion per-annum, generating $3.2 trillion a year in economic impact and creating more than 2 million jobs. If Australian startups are to tap into this source of funding the regulatory environment will need to be changed to enable crowd-­‐sourced equity funding in Australia.

Actions with long-­‐term impact (5-­‐15 years)

Support a national program to raise awareness of startups in Australia

Australians are good at starting “small businesses” but we have a relatively low rate of “tech startup” formation. A national awareness program would increase the number of people engaging in startups and help to establish a vibrant culture of entrepreneurship in Australia.

Implement a national program of entrepreneurship education

Currently the Australian education system is geared toward preparing students for the workforce. Introducing entrepreneurship education across the primary, secondary and tertiary education system would equip young people to start businesses and spur economic growth.

Implement and extend the Digital Technologies Curriculum

Ensuring that computer science is taught in every primary and high school will bring Australia in line with other countries and allow us to compete with the growing talent pool in other countries. ... 
From Crossroads: An Action Plan to Develop a Vibrant tech startup ecosystem in Australia, StartupAUS, 15 August 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

GovHack on 11 to 13 July 2014

Registrations are now open for GovHack 2014, in Canberra, and at venues across Australia. Teams compete for prizes, building computer applications using data provided by government agencies. Even if you don't have a team, an idea for an application, or any knowledge of compute programming, it is worth coming along to watch and perhaps participate.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

History of Sydney's Inner West

Greetings from the Former Annandale Council Chambers (1899) in Sydney's inner west, where Heritage Architect  David Springett, is speaking on "The Ghosts of Annandale past" at the Annandale Heritage Festival. He pointed out that  Major George Johnston was granted land in the area around Annandale and was an instigator of the Rum Rebellion.

At 12.30pm Rev Peter Dunstan (BSc Dip Hort Sc BD) of the Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church (opposite), will demonstrate the correct way to prune the roses at the front of the council chambers (Rev Dunstan originally trained as a Horticultural Scientist).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Preparations for Next Asia-Pacific War

Greetings from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where Mr Dennis Richardson AO, Secretary of Defence launched of Stephan Frühling's book "Defence Planning and Uncertainty: Preparing for the next Asia-Pacific War". The sectary described the books in glowing terms, with its historical context and what is "happening in the region at the moment" and described it as "extremely timely". The secretary described the book as a "realistic conceptual framework to think about the debate" for the new defence white paper.An issue which the Sectary focused on was if Australian defence should focus on contributions to international operations.

Stephan Frühling then spoke, explaining that the book came pout of his PHD thesis.Dr Frühling then discussed "codification" to carefully consider defence strategy.

The golden age of non-government organisations is over

Is the golden age of non-government organisations over?
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Andrew Hewett is speaking on "Is the golden age of non-government organisations over?". Mr. Hewett explained he was talking about international, non-profit organisations working on helping developing nations. He described the traditional NGO as ganger aid donations from rich nations to help poor nations. He argues that the role of aid to help developing nations had been over emphasised. There had been reductions in poverty in many countries, but income had become less equitably distributed. 

Mr. Hewett also expressed concern about the number of NGOs and the questionable motives of some of them, such as those connected with some on fringe religions.He also asked about the NGO's response to climate change.

Mr. Hewett  described new "disintermediated" aid models, where money goes more directly, such as "GiveDirectly". 

To me it seemed that Mr. Hewett's definition of an NGO is far too limited. There are many non-government, not-for profit organisations which aim to help all of the world's population and by doing so still make a significant contribution to developing nations. Also the assumption that developed nations really do make net donations to poor nations needs to be questioned: an analysis of where the aid money goes and what other transfers and hidden costs there are may well show a net flow of money from poor to rich nations.

Mr. Hewett pointed out that the aid agency in Australia had been subsumed into the foreign affairs department, and this was a worldwide trend. To me this seemed to be just a recondition of the reality that the nations provide aid primarily to further their own interests, not that of the nation donated to. It would seem preferable for a nation to provide aid in further their national interests than use military force.

Mr. Hewett  suggested eliminating the patronising language used by NGOs. He suggested tacking gender inequality. Also he proposed NGOs ceased the delivery of services role in middle income countries.

As an example Mr. Hewett highlighted Oxfam's partner "JOSH" in Delhi, which improved access to education for girls, without providing the basic services. Instead the organisation mobilises the community for their human rights, including education. However, I ask if countries would see this as an aid activity, rather than interference in the local political process.

Mr. Hewett suggested investing building practical empathy, such as by linking students in the developed world with those in the developing world on-line.

Mr. Hewett  suggested Australian NGOs need to enter the debate on appropriate carbon emission reductions as this directly effects the developing world.

In my own work I help with NGOs which help with IT and so is applicable to the developed and developing world. An example of this is the "Sahana Foundation" which provides free disaster relief software.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Lou Reed, MTV and Postmodern Multimedia E-learning

Greetings from the Australian National University, where Dr. Tom Hajdu from the company Disruptor is speaking on "Disrupting Innovation in Entertainment and Technology"
. He started by talking of how his company made MTV less linear and being friends with Lou Reed. He talked about the intersection of creativity and technical implementation. All this pop culture stuff made me uncomfortable as a computer nerd, but he then got onto mobile data applications. He is now working on a product called Umbilical which allows the mobile devices of the audience to be used as part of a performance. This might be relevant to education, where the performance is a live classroom event, with synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Dr. Hajdu then talked about how the creative process does not ten to be part of the curriculum at university, outside the arts faculty. It occurred to me that architecture is one discipline which tries to combine both creative and technical elements.

At the end I asked Dr. Hajdu whay he was here, that is, in Australia. He explained that he saw the future in the East and Australia was a country well positioned for that future.

Dr. Hajdu will be giving a "Free Workshop: A System for Creative Problem Solving", 14 April 2014 at the University of Adelaide.

What you see is so ten seconds ago

In "Serial dependence in visual perception" Jason Fischer and  David Whitney report that what you see now is influenced by what you saw up to ten seconds ago (Nature Neuroscience,

Fischer and  Whitney's study.

Remodel Canberra on its Chinese Twin City

The ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher,  is in China to promote trade and development.  I suggest that Canberra might look to the Chinese city of Changchun (长春), which was modelled on Canberra's original plan. Canberra based architects have been involved in the development of Changchun and this might provide ideas for increasing the density of Canberra's town centres to make the city economically viable and make better public transport affordable.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Australian Civilian World War I Expereince

Greetings from the Australian National University, where Professor Joan Beaumont, is speaking on "Warring Australians: the battles overseas and at home, 1914-18". Professor Beaumont pointed out that most Australians did not go to war, but supported those who did and had their own sacrifices and suffering. Most of the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) were unmarried and wrote home to their mothers about conditions. The wounded started to return in 1915. Professor Beaumont commented these were the most seriously wounded, as others were treated and returned to the battlefield.

Britain declared war on behalf of Australia in 1914. Defence depended on the UK, with Australia providing troops and material. However even at this time Australia's left wing opposed the way on ideological grounds. Even so sufficient Australians volunteered for war, up until the time of Gallipoli. After Gallipoli a more systematic recruitment process, first by state governments and then by federal government was put in place. Repatriation schemes, such as medical benefits, were offered to induce volunteers. The ALP was divided over the issue of conscription, a new law being required for compulsory overseas service. To avoid the issue the ALP government conducted a "census" of the male workforce to collection information on who was willing to "volunteer". A later referendum for conscription was narrowly lost. However casualties by 1917 were such that a second referendum was held, but again lost.
Public lecture
Warring Australians: the battles overseas and at home, 1914-18
The War Studies Seminars are open to the public and are to showcase the latest research on the history, character, conduct and effects of war.

World War I was more than fighting and killing. The majority of Australians stayed at home and it was the civilian population who underpinned the national war effort. Some domestic populations of World War I ultimately lost the will to fight and turned to revolution. But Australia did not, despite suffering casualties on a scale unimaginable today. The home fronts and battlefronts should be seen as in dialogue with each other. The referenda about conscription became so embittering and divisive because they were played out against the backdrop of terrible battles of attrition. In turn, the defeat of conscription in 1916 and 1917 conveyed ambiguous messages about home-front support to the men of the Australian Imperial Force. If the war had continued into 1919, would the Australian narrative have ended in the triumphalism of the Anzac legend but rather in retrenchment, decline — and even rebellion?

Professor Joan Beaumont is an internationally recognised historian of Australia in the two world wars, Australian defence and foreign policy, the history of prisoners of war and the memory and heritage of war. Her publications include Broken Nation: Australians and the Great War (Allen & Unwin, 2013); (with Matt Jordan), Australia and the World: A Festshrift for Nevlle Meaney (2013); Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, the Thai-Burma Railway, in Bart Ziino and M. Wegner (eds), The Heritage of War: Cultural Heritage after Conflict, Routledge , 2011, pp. 19-40; Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: The Making of Australian Foreign 1941-69 (ed.); Australia's War, 1939-45 (ed.) Australia's War, 1914-18 (ed.); Gull Force: Survival and Leadership in Captivity, 1941-1945; and Comrades in Arms: British Aid to Russia, 1941-45. She was general editor of vol. 6 of the definitive reference volume in the Australian Centenary History of Defence, Australian Defence: Sources and Statistics. In 2011-13 she led the research team that created the Department of Veterans' Affairs commemorative web site, Hellfire Pass.

Prior to joining the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre she was Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at ANU (2010-11) and Dean of Arts (& Education) at Deakin University Victoria (1998-2008).

She is a graduate of the University of Adelaide (BA Hons) and the University of London (King's College) (PhD), a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and President of the International Committee for the History of the Second World War.

Replace Windows XP with Linux

In "Open Source Alternatives For Windows XP" Robert Edwards and Eric C. McCreath from ANU make the case for Linux to replace XP on old low power PCs. Last year I was helping someone move house. Among the appliances to be disposed of in the move were four desktop PCs, running various old versions of Microsoft Windows (from 98 to XP). The PCs were so old they were unlikely to be able to run newer version of  Microsoft Window, so installed Mint Linux (version 15) "Mate". The Mate version of Mint Linux provides an interface not that different to an old version of Windows. The installation came with the Libre Office suite and enough applications programs to be usable.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Submissions Extended for International Conference on Sustainable Innovation

The deadline for papers to be submitted for the 2014 International Conference on Sustainable Innovation, has been extended to April 15, 2014. The conference is to be at Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 3 to 4 June 2014. I am planning to speak about "Teaching On-line to Reduce Energy Use with Computers ".  I am not jst going for the optional tour of Borobudur Buddhist Temple after the conference. ;-)


The world is facing changes in many aspects. In the last decade global climate change and global economical change are two hot issues. Both do not seem to be interrelated, but in fact they closely affect each other.
The age of natural resources exploration and exploitation is as old as the human age, mainly to support economical aspect of humanity.  And consequently, time witnesses the natural resources depletion. Many efforts have been made to minimize the effect of natural resources depletion, however it gives big impact on economy, not only because of the high cost but also because of less availability of the resources, and at the end we will question the sustainability of mankind.
The process of developing a good nation could also attain development purposes in terms of good economy, good society and good political process. Technology and innovation then become a strategic sector to immediately prevent the bad impact of natural resources depletion, along with management sector. Global population growth, climate change and natural resources depletion are the most significant challenges. The rise of green economy is expected to be able to counter these problems, and at the same time open up new opportunities for businesses.
In 2009, President Yudhoyono pledged to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission by 26% from business as usual levels by 2020, and by 41% with international assistance. Since then, Norway has committed US$1 billion to help Indonesia to meet that target, and in May 2011 the government issued a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions. The Critical Decade, a report by the Australian Climate Commission (now Climate Council) summarized the current state of climate science, the likely impacts and the urgency for action. The report said:
“…the global climate is changing and humanity is almost surely the dominant cause. The risks have never been clearer and the case for action has never been more urgent.”
Its conclusions and key messages are clear; they are the same as those reached recently by the US National Academy of Science, and by all other major scientific academies around the world: this warming is already having adverse impacts around the world, with increases in hot extremes and increases in sea level; and, decisions made this decade will largely determine the extent of warming experienced over the next two generations.
Hence, it is critical that the next elected President will honor the on going pledge and take further action to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission as stipulated from business as usual levels by 2020.
The 1st International Conference on Sustainable Innovation (ICoSI) was held in 2012 with an emphasis on the regional network and knowledge about sustainable innovation. The 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Innovation will emphasize on the natural resources and the built environment management with ethical, financial management, innovative technology and public policy and regulatory solutions to support the sustainability and energy resilience of Indonesia and the rest of the world. The main theme of ICoSI 2014 “Technology and innovation challenges in natural resources and built environment management for humanity and sustainability” reflects the need of immediate action from professionals, scientists, policy makers, students, civil society members and all stakeholders with different fields and different geographical backgrounds to face the above global challenges.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Australia Should Buy Aircraft for its Aircraft Carriers

In "We should learn from US’s F-35 experience" (Australian Financial Review, 5 April 2014) Brian Toohey argues that Australia did not make the right choice with the F-35A stealth aircraft. The advantage of the F-35A over the F/A-18F Super Hornet, is not so clear for Australia, as Toohey suggests.

However, one area in which the F-35 has an advantage is the F-35b model, for which Australia's two Canberra Class amphibious assault ships were designed. These ships have a prominent ski-jump ramp, to launch short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, the only one of which is in development is the F-35b. The support equipment for maintaining the aircraft can be trucked onto the ships in standard ISO container modules. I suggest eighteen F-35b aircraft would be sufficient to equip the two ships and provide a reserve.

Toohey also criticises government plans to build twelve large conventionally powered submarines, arguing that the F/A-18F and G aircraft would be sufficient to deal with maritime threats. However, even with air-to-air refuelling, the F/A-18 has a limited range. More effective for long range patrol will be the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, a modified 737 airliner, with the F-35's radar and 11 weapons stations capable of carrying a similar payload to the F-35, but over a much longer range.

Australia should replace its current six Collins Class submarines, but I suggest this should be with a smaller, lower cost proven design, made in Europe or Asia. The effective range of the submarines can be increased by providing support vessels (which can be Australia made, if required for political reasons).

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Adaping a Generic Power Supply for a HP Laptop

The power supply I bought in Kandy for for my HP DM1 laptop stopped working. At the local computer store I tried a couple of replacement HP power-supplies. These made an odd beeping noise and delivered no power. So instead I cut the DC plug off the failed HP unit and soldered a socket on the cable. I then plugged the generic power supply from my old Kogan Agora Laptop into the socket. Even though the two power supplies have slightly different specifications (HP: 18.5 Volt and 3.5 Amp. Kogan: 19 Volt 3.42 Amp) the setup works fine.