Saturday, December 31, 2016

Buy Global Refill Local

Recently I purchased a SodaStream CO2 refill at the supermarket. On the way back stopped at the local newsagency and noticed they offer compatible SodaKing refills for $2 less.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Kindle 3 Still Has Free 3G Data

Yesterday at Vinnies Leichhardt in Sydney, I purchased an old Kindle Keyboard for $50. After an hour charging it rebooted and I found this was a  Kindle 3 with 3G + WiFi (European model D00901, with a serial number prefix B00A). It took another reboot and entering my Amazon account password for the 3G function to work.Unlike newer Kindles with 3G, this unit allows access to any website, not just the Amazon store. The web browser is limited, but provides a handy backup for Internet access when traveling.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Australia Leading the Americas and the Pacific with Mobile Broadband Speed

Akamai’s State of the Internet Report for the Third Quarter of 2016 indicates Australia is ahead of the Americas and the Pacific with mobile broadband speed (p. 48):
  • "Americas: Canada, 8.9 Mbps
  • Asia Pacific: Australia, 12.8 Mbps
  • Europe: United Kingdom, 23.7 Mbps
  • Middle East/Africa: United Arab Emirates, 13.3 Mbps"
The media coverage of the report in Australia focused on Australia's low global rank for Internet speed of 50th at 9.6 Mpbs. However, the report also points out that Australia has high Long-Term Evolution (LTE) coverage at 98% of the population, compared to 90% for the world (p. 48). The report also points out that only half the Australian population are using this service. However, it may be that Australian telcos and customers are skipping LTE and moving to true 4G. In any case I suggest there is scope for faster broadband access, simply by making mobile broadband more affordable on the devices customers already have and use. While fiber should be laid in the street and into new homes, it may not be worth the cost of retrofitting to existing homes.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Alternative EPG for TiVo?

On 2 December my eight year old TiVo Personal Video Recorder (PVR) failed to update the Electronic Program Guide (EPG), with the error message "N18 Failed While Configuring". I thought nothing of this until the end of this week, when the unit started to run out of program information. The TiVo Australia website says:

"TiVo Support and Hybrid Television Services have been made aware of an issue and are working to identify the cause of the problem. Due to the complexity of the issue, there is currently no know resolution timeframe. ..."
 It goes on to detail how to manually record, but without any form of EPG this is a very cumbersome task. Without the EPG the TiVo is essentially unusable. The Tivo General Discussion forum on Whirlpool speculates if this is the end of TiVo in Australia and what the alternatives are.

A quick look for TiVo alternatives suggests that the Beyonwiz T2, is the closest, being a Lnux based unit. Or perhaps someone has an easy hack for a TiVo to work with another EPG?

Friday, December 09, 2016

Lights Out in Cyber Attack

Professor Roger Bradbury, from then ANU National Security College, has portrayed the "South Australian power shutdown ‘just a taste of cyberattack'" (ANU Reporter, 2016). He speculates that Australia's electrical, telecommunications, water, sewerage, transport and financial services infrastructure already has been compromised by China, in preparation for a "surgical cyberattack" in a future dispute over the South China Sea. The effects of a possible cyber attack are not exaggerated, but perhaps Professor Bradbury should not have singled out China.

It is likely that all nations are now preparing for cyber-attacks, as a routine adjunct to conventional military operations. This year I ran ANU computing students through a "Cyberwar: Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics". This was based on a possible conflict over the South China Sea. However, I was careful not to identify who might be attacking who. 
Professor Bradbury suggests that our systems can be made less vulnerable by not having them top-down or hierarchical. He suggests "We need 21st-century networks that have no centre: no main power station, no main water dam, no main interconnector, no main transport hub or central train station...". In this he is perhaps suggesting a system like the Internet, which consists of a collection of interconnected networks (literally an Inter-Net). However, even a system with no hierarchy is vulnerable to attack if it uses the same computer control software for all iots nodes and those nodes are all connected to the Internet.
One way to build resilience is to rely on gravity, as is done with much of the water supply. Water is pumped to reservoirs and then flows by gravity. Similarly, sewage systems have overflow valves, which open to allow sewage to flow into waterways (bad for the environment, but better for human health than sewage backing up into people's homes).

The electrical grid can be similarly protected by having generators independently working to maintain the system, rather than acting via central control. Local home solar panels could have a role in this, by boosting the grid when required. However, these systems need to be protected from hacking, or they could be used to attack the grid.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

New Theater Sydney 2017 Season

The New Theater, launched its 2017 season of plays last night, in Newtown, Sydney. Directors were on hand to discuss the works and call for actors to audition. My pick would be, best first: Birdland, The Little Dog Laughed, The Chapel Perilous,  The Clean House and Consensual. After the Dance and Australia Day I am not so sure about. Tickets now available.


“I’m a lesbian, he’s a fag, we’re in show business, we’re a perfect couple”


“Give the facts, show the photos, but don’t get too close unless you want your head blown off”


25 APRIL – 27 MAY
“We can go wrong in our minds, but what our blood feels and believes and says is always true”


“Love isn’t clean. It’s dirty. Like a good joke”


 “The awful thing is that we’re still running away”


 “All I wanted was to sing songs to people. I never wanted any of this”

australia-dayAUSTRALIA DAY

 “You think we’re old fashioned, out of touch, that’s it’s all Captain Cook and flag tattoos”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Batteries for Smart Grids

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Philipp Braun is speaking on how to work out the use of home batteries for solar panels (more formally "Hierarchical distributed optimization and predictive control of a smart grid").

Phillip compared a centralized versus distributed approach. With the centralized approach the electricity authority issues commands to the batteries to charge or discharge, with distributed the controller in each house tries to predict what will be needed. He has worked on an approach combining centralized and distributed approach: the central system sends out a suggested solution, which the local system then modifies.

While interesting, Phillip's approach does not allow for micro-grids. That is coordinating the households in a neighborhood. This is an attractive alternative as it can take into account how the households are physically wired together, as well as local climatic conditions which will effect solar power production and power use. As well as physical constraints making micro-grids practical there are also financial and regulatory reasons to coordinate household power, even if they are near-by.

Phillip is now at ANU, and has published a number of papers.

The Canberra based company Reposit Power, founded by an ANU graduate, produces systems for controlling home batteries. They recently featured in the ABC TV documentary "Battery powered homes".

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cyber Bootcamp for Australian Government Ministers

Alastair MacGibbon, Special Adviser to the Australian Prime Minister on Cyber Security has said senior government executives and Ministers should be set to “Cyber Bootcamp”. This is one of the recommendations in "Review of the Events Surrounding the2016 eCensus". This is a report on the successful denial of service attack on the 2016 Australian Census website, in August 2016.

The government downplayed the significance of the incident by describing it as a "truck across the driveway", just preventing access but doing no other damage. However, continuing the analogy, the truck may be filled with armed terrorists, or a very large bomb. On Wednesday, Dan Tehan MP, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security outlined a scenario where a virus introduced to critical systems shuts down the electricity grid, causing widespread deaths and injury.

Summary of Recommendations
  • Crisis Communications and Coordination ...
  • Education: The Attorney-General’s Department should develop a “Cyber Bootcamp”
  • Security Framework: The Australian Signals Directorate should strengthen the framework...
  •  Embracing Adaptive Government...
  • Cyber Security in a Digital First World
  • The ABS should engage an independent security consultant ...
  • The ABS should ensure future significant changes to personal information handling ...
  • The ABS should adopt a privacy management plan ...
  • The ABS should assess and enhance existing ABS privacy training for staff.
  • The ABS should develop a specific strategy to remove the current state of vendor lock-in.
  • Agencies should review their approach to cyber security incident response planning and coordination ...
  • Agencies should ensure independent security assessments are conducted on critical ICT deliverables.
  • Agencies should test security measures and monitoring systems for online government services ...
  • Agencies should be conscious of updated interpretations of governing legislation ...
  • The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has recommended the government develop an APS-wide Privacy Code in collaboration with the Office. ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Warning of Cyber Storm from Australian Cyber Security Minister

Greetings from the National Press Club in Canberra, where Dan Tehan MP, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security is describing a 'A Cyber Storm'. He is outlining a scenario where a virus introduced to critical systems shuts down the electricity grid, causing widespread deaths and injury. He described this as a "real and present threat". The minister suggested that government, industry and the public can address this threat together. The minister went on to mention that ASD had carried out cyber attacks on ISIS.

Earlier in the year I ran the IT students at the Australian National University through a Hypothetical on Cyberwarfare over the South China Sea. Unfortunately this invented scenario is becoming more likely by the day.

There is a new Australian Cyber Security Innovation Centre being built just outside my office window at ANU. However, as the minister pointed out, this is not just something for IT professionals and federal government. State governments, business and the public have a role.

One of the press questions to the Minister asked if enough defense funding goes to Cyberwarfare. The Minister claimed that "new money" was being put into the military for cyber security and warfare. However, the amounts mentioned were tiny, compared to the amount spent on conventional military systems. One approach I have suggested is a CyberWarfare Battalion, made up of reservist military officers who are IT professionals. 

John McDuling IT Journalist of the Year

John McDuling from AFR Weekend was just announced as winner of the ACS Excellence in IT Journalism Award at the National Press Club in Canberra. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wikipedia Citizenship

Apparently I have become a Wikipedia citizen, without realizing it. I received an invitation to vote in the ArbCom Elections 2016. I was going to delete the e-mail thinking it was some sort of spam. But because I have made more than 150 Wikipedia edits, I can help select who is on the Arbitration Committee. Will there be post-Truth campaigns for candidates, like a real election? ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wireless Power for Classrooms and Warships

Providing power is a problem in classrooms and other locations with movable furniture. I was reminded of this today when I watched two workers fit power sockets to a desk in a library. After twenty minutes they had the desk assembled and then left, but there was a mains power plug hanging down from under the desk with nothing to plug it into.

Pixelated Induction (PI) claim to be able to deliver standard inductive charging charging for mobile devices, on a scale suitable for airport lounges and cafes. However, how do you get the power to a movable desk? It occurred to me that the same technology which gets the power from the desk to the phone could be used to get it from the floor to the desk.

A plate on the floor would have an inductive unit installed. Movable desks would have a curly cord and inductive charging plate hanging underneath. Magnets in the floor and plate would make connection easier. Power would then be available on the desktop through another inductive plate. The floor unit could have four inductive units in a grid, allowing four phones to be charged on the desktop. Removable unit could also be made, so that no modification of the desk was needed. A USB port would be a useful option for charging  laptop and tablets.

For innovation hubs and similar localizations with large numbers of itinerant users,  there might be long flexible strips with a induction charger built in every 450 mm. One of these strips would be laid down the middle of a long row of desks.

A useful initial market to explore with this technology is not schools, libraries or airport lounges, but military command centers. The reality is not as meritorious as the pristine rooms depicted in fiction. There are always cables draped everywhere, connecting equipment brought in and packed up again frequently. It would be very useful to be able to provide desktop power without cabling. I saw this first hand on board the USS Blue Ridge. A complete military solution might also include a tacky surface, similar to that used for holding mobile phones to car dashboards (the US Marines use gaffer tape to secure their equipment to the ship's desks). Australia has recently commissioned the second of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, which have a similar requirement.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Clean Energy Innovation

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Julio Friedmann, Senior Fellow, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is speaking on The Importance of Innovation to Global Clean Energy Development, Past and Future. Dr Friedmann spoke of how there is a glut of hydrocarbon energy available, but also face climate change. He described the Kyoto Protocol as "Mutually Assured Destruction", but praised the Paris Agreement (COP21)in more positively. In the long term global emissions per person need to reduce to that of someone in Zimbabwe, while aiming to improve quality of life.  

Dr Friedmann pointed out the USA has a network of government laboratories working on energy. He also pointed out that Bill Gates, and other entrepreneurs, are contributing capital to long term high risk venture (Breakthrough Energy Coalition), to provide an example to the private sector. To summarize this Dr Friedmann said policy drive finance which then encourages innovation. That is certainly one possible approach, but I suggest this is not the way we got the Internet or the World Wide Web. Both were directly government funded inventions (the Internet by US DoD and the Web European pure science budgets). Only after development with government funding were the Internet and web commercialized.

However, what seems to be missing from Dr Friedman's analysis are political and social aspects. We already have technological and financial solutions to climate change. However, these solutions are politically and socially unpalatable. By offering the prospect of technological fixes in the future, researchers may delay the implementation of proven but difficult solutions. 

Hi tech solutions do not always solve real problems. Dr Friedman gave the example of the testing of aircraft using simulations. However, simulations have limitations. As an example, the launch bar on the F-35C did not lower far enough to hook up to the catapult for launch and the tailhook did not catch on the arrestor wire on the first test. What was needed was not a computer, but a large hammer.

Dr Friedman ended by talking about the need for and possibility of Carbon Dioxide to fuel conversion. This seemed to me an excellent example of what not to do. The problem is to fine an energy source which does involve the burning of carbon as this produces carbon dioxide pollution. Synthetic carbon based fuel can be used to store and transport energy in a convenient fuel, for transport, but will not reduce carbon emissions. Making synthetic fuel will require net energy input. where there are no alternatives, such as for aircraft, synthetic fuel will be an option. But for land transport, there are alternatives such as public transport to replace private cars and freight trains to replace trucks. This requires sophisticated social and political action, rather than new engineering.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rake's Progress at ANU

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a lunchtime talk by actor Richard Roxburgh at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Richard is an ANU economics graduate and now a children’s book author, in Canberra to launch "Artie and the Grime Wave". He is best know for his role in TV comedy "Rake", as Cleaver Greene, a character usually claimed to be based on Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet. Roxburgh asserted that this was untrue and the character was based on someone who drank at the ANU bar.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Australian Cybersecurity for Energy

Greetings from the National Gallery of Australia where Michelle Price, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (currently at the ANU National Security College) is speaking on "Cyber security in relation to Australia’s energy security". This is part of an Energy Security Forum.

Dr. Price suggested talking about "critical services", rather than critical infrastructure. This is to focus on what people need, rather than poles and wires. For the first week of a disaster she suggested the Internet and electricity are all that are needed. I found this surprising, as I had assumed the HF radio systems Australian governments maintain would be sufficient for essential services. In 2015 the Australian Defence Force tested transmitting digital video via an Internet Protocol (IP) data link over Wideband High Frequency (WBHF) radio between Canberra, Townsville, Wagga, and an aircraft on the ground in South Australia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Australian All Terrain Lightweight Electric Military Vehicles

While at UNSW Canberra today to borrow some library books, I noticed a display of electric and autonomous military vehicles. It is not that unusual as this is also the campus of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). One product was the Tomcar Military spec v4, with the electric drive option. This looks like a cross between a dune buggy and a golf cart and is made by the Australian company Tomcar.

The electric version is very quiet, which is useful for military operations. But I suggest it needs a synthetic engine noise which can be switched on to make it safer for everyday use, to warn pedestrians.

These type of military buggies, usuals with conventional diesel engines, are popular with the military, where their usual vehicles have become too big to be transported to the battlefield, to complex to be maintained and too expensive to procure.

Tomcar might consider making an articulated, or double articulated version. This would have the electric vehicle at the front, with a trailer for the crew. It would be narrow enough to be transported in a helicopters or small military transport aircraft. As the trailer would have no front wheels, it would be more resistant to mine blasts.

Monday, October 10, 2016

UAVs Over the Indian Ocean

The India and China at Sea: Competition and Coexistence in the Indo-Pacific Conference is underway at the ANU in Canberra. The topic of the role of aircraft carriers and submarines came up in the first session so I asked the panel if Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) would render large vessels obsolete, changing the balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

Within the next ten years, I suggest, countries in the region, including China, will be able to mass produce small, long range, low cost drones on the production lines set up for smart-phones and consumer appliances. India will be able to harness its skilled IT workforce to program their own drones manufactured in the new high hi-tech industrial corridors being built with Japanese funding.

These low cost robot aircraft and submarines will make make aircraft carriers and submarines as useful as the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, was for defending Singapore. This powerful ship was commissioned in January 1941, but sunk by aircraft in December 1941, two days after leaving Singapore.

One of the conference panel thought Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles more of a threat than drones. The other panelist pointed out that India is the major customer for Israeli UAVs. With the signing of arms limitations agreements, India will be able to acquire armed UAV technology from Israel.

I suggest UAV/AUV technology, unlike ballistic missiles, is not something easily regulated. At the annual Australian UAV Challenge, teams of hobbyists and students test their technology in the field. In last years challenge, teams had to scan for a survivor on the ground and drop supplies to them. In this years challenge, teams had to coordinate two aircraft, with one acting as an airborne communications relay for the other.

Much of the software developed for the UAV Challenge is open source. It is not difficult to imagine the same software being used for a flock of military UAVs to search the ocean for warships,  relaying the coordinates to a flotilla of armed AUVs. This is something a mid-level country, with IT and engineering graduates could implement.

Conference on India and China in the Indo-Pacific

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the India and China at Sea: Competition and Coexistence in the Indo-Pacific Conference just opened. This is a welcome change from the events I have attended recently, which have a mid-Atlantic view, that the world revolves around Europe and the USA.


9.30am Welcome and introduction: Professor Craig Jeffrey, Director and CEO, Australia India Institute.Professor Rory Medcalf, Head, National Security College, Australian National University
9.50am Sino-Indian relations in the Indian Ocean: a contest of status and legitimacy. Dr David Brewster, Senior Research Fellow, National Security College
11.05am Morning tea11.25am China's emerging Indo-Pacific naval strategy:Professor You Ji, University of Macau
12.40pm Lunch
1.40pm New Delhi at Sea:  The China Factor in Indian Ocean Policy under the Modi and Singh governments: Mr Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times
2.55pm Afternoon tea
3.15pm Aspects of India’s evolving naval strategy in the Indian Ocean: Mr Abhijit Singh, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation. Ms Darshana Baruah, Carnegie India
4.30pm Conclusion

Friday, October 07, 2016

Stay the Night at an Australian University

Last year I stayed at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University (UK), while attending a conference. The booking was through "". They just sent a message to say they are also offering rooms at Australian universities. It would not be quite the same as an OxBridge college, but a night at a university provides a change from the typical hotel room.

In Canberra, there are rooms at University of Canberra, in Sydney at Sancta Sophia College and Melbourne Graduate House.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Silicon Valley View of the Digital World

Greetings from the Australian National University, where Monique Morrow, from CISCO is speaking on "Changing landscape of a digitised world: Are you ready?". This is an interesting preview of the good and the bad of the digital future of work, education, government and culture. While thought provoking, one aspect worried me was that this was very much from a North American/European point of view, with just one mention of anywhere else (India). It would be useful to have a perspective, of the world's growing economies in Asia, Africa and South America, even Australia. On example is that Monique talked about the TV show "CSI: Cyber" and knowing the real person it is based on. There are also two hi-tech TV shows set in Canberra, with ANU used for some scenes: Secret City and The Code (some of the characters look familiar from my government work).

Monday, September 26, 2016

ABS Tries to Blame IBM for 2016 Census Problems

In its 123 page submission to the 2016 Census Senate Inquiry, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) seeks to blame IBM for the failure of the system on Census night. Similarly, in the case of "Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (2000)", SOCOG sought to deflect responsibility for defects in its web site to the contractor, IBM. However, this was rejected and SOCOG, not the contractor, was found responsible. In that case SOCOG was a temporary organization set up just to run the Sydney Olympics, with limited experience. In contrast, the ABS has decades of experience in statistical collection using IT systems and cannot credibly transfer responsibility to IBM. I teach IT Ethics to university students and the 2016 Census will become a useful case study on professional responsibility.
  • "On the night of 9 August 2016 (Census night) the online Census, hosted by IBM, was subject to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that was not unusual and was anticipated, which affected the Census application system. This was not due to load from legitimate Census submissions, which at the time of the attack were running in line with ABS projections and well within the design load for the system. Around the same time, an unusual spike in outbound traffic was observed in the monitoring systems. These two events led to the closure of the online Census submission to the Australian public until the afternoon of 11 August 2016. While this caused inconvenience, protecting the information of Australians was the ABS’s highest priority and Census information was never compromised.
The online Census system was hosted by IBM under contract to the ABS and the DDoS attack should not have been able to disrupt the system. Despite extensive planning and preparation by the ABS for the 2016 Census this risk was not adequately addressed by IBM and the ABS will be more comprehensive in its management of risk in the future. However, once the system had been affected, the ABS took the precaution of closing the online Census form to safeguard and to protect data already submitted, protect the system from further incidents, and minimise disruption on the Australian public by ensuring reliable service." (From Page 4).

"The online Census DDoS attack of 9 August 2016 was against an IBM system not an ABS one. See Section 9 for further details." (From Page 7)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bus Rapid Transit System for Canberra

Proposed Bicycle Path in Center of Media Strip of Northborne Avenue Canberra, see:
My Northbourne Avenue Proposal

The ACT Liberal party have proposed a Bus Rapid Transit System for Canberra, as an alternative to the Light Rail system already under construction by the ACT Government. While lower cost than the Light Rail option, the opposition's bus alternative would still be more expensive than the option I proposed and would result in higher carbon emissions.

The opposition plan adds an extra lane for busses to Northbourne Avenue.  Adding a lane would require extensive and expensive work, but not as much as laying tram tracks and adding overhead power. Because the number of lanes for cars would not be reduced, there would not be a reduction in carbon emmissions from cars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Green Services Export Opportunities for Australia

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Alex Teytelboym from the University of Oxford is speaking on "Climate and Innovation". He started by pointing out that the commitments to emissions reductions made at the COP 21 Paris Agreement were not sufficient to limit global warming to 2 degrees. He suggested that most coal will have to be left in the ground and changes to development needed by next year to avert global disaster.

Dr. Teytelboym has carried out a detailed analysis of the development of green products, to see how new industries emerge (a "Green Complexity Ranking"). He found, not surprisingly, that Germany makes complex green products, whereas South Africa makes simpler ones. Surprisingly Australia ranks very poorly in production of both simple and complex green products, near the bottom of the list at 116 out of 117, between Trinidad and Panama. However, Dr. Teytelboym points out that Australia ranks well in the export of services, such as higher education.

Dr. Teytelboym has published papers on climate change. Interestingly, he has also published papers on Social Networks, but none on climate change and social networks. I suggest that just as major changes in emissions from vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines has been made possible by the addition of computer controls, ICT can be used more generally to reduce emissions. An example is a social networking applicaiton which introduces people so they feel confortable to share local co-working office or a ride-share vehicle. I discuss this in my course "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future".

Monday, September 05, 2016

Senate Inquiry into Attack on Census Website

The Senate Standing Committees on Economics are holding "An inquiry into the preparation, administration and management of the 2016 Census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics", including:

"d. the shutting down of the Census website on the evening of 9 August 2016, the factors leading to that shutdown and the reasons given, and the support provided by government agencies, including the Australian Signals Directorate;" From: Terms of Reference.
I suggest the Australian Computer Society (ACS) join with Internet Australia (the Australian Chapter of the Internet Society) on this and try to widen the discussion to cover Internet security more generally. ACS and IA need not agree on every aspect, buy could loosely coordinate, as was done for the Internet regulation inquiries of the 1990s, as  described by Chen (2000, p. 161).


Chen, P. J. (2000). Australia's online censorship regime: the Advocacy Coalition Framework and governance compared. Retrieved from

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Digital Disruption of Retail Food

FoodByUs are offering to connect those who make food at home with those who want to buy it, much as Uber connects drivers with passengers. However, this brings up similar regulatory problems, which make take years to resolve. This is perhaps a move back to an earlier time when it was common for people to work from home.

Governments will need to make the regulations simpler, in line with 21st century needs. Also those who want to run a business at home will need to understand that there are requirements they have to meet for public safety and this will involve cost and limit what they can do.

As an example, the NSW Food Authority points out that home-based food businesses are subject to the same regulations as other manufacturing and wholesaling enterprises. They need to need to notify the NSW Food Authority, meet food safety requirements, labeling requirements, have a way to issue a recall, prepare to be inspected by the Food Authority and local council under the Food Standards Code, (and possibly pay for inspection),meet hygiene requirements for food handlers. Their kitchens and storerooms must meet cleanliness requirements.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Anecdotal History of Annandale

Marghanita da Cruz, author of the book series "Anecdotal History of Annandale", will chat about writing Sydney's history, 3pm Saturday 3 September 2016 at Tetch Gallery, 245 Parramatta Road, Annandale, Sydney, NSW.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Australian ICT 2020

Andrew Johnson, ACS CEO just asked the delegates at the Australian Computer Society 2016 Conference to consider ICT in the world of 2020. In amongst driver-less and flying cars, Andrew asked if we would be able to provide Internet access to all the Australian population and have sufficient students with the required STEM skills. 

It happens that I wrote "Canberra 2020: World Information Capital" for Informatics Magazine (September 1993), helped run the "Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge Local 2020 Summit" for Senator Lundy in 2008 and wrote "Australian Higher Education in 2020" (2013). One thing I have learned from a previous attempt at future history, "Australia: The Networked Nation" (2005 from 1996), was how wrong such predictions can be.

Rather than just predict the future, I suggest ICT professionals are in the business of making the future. At a number of venues before the end of the year I will be speaking on the future of education, as it can be. This is starting with "Learning to Teach On-line with an E80 Blend" at the Australian National University, in Canberra, 7 September 2016. Other times, cities and countries to follow.

Computing is about people

The theme emerging from the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch Conference is "Computing is about people" (suggested  by Jeff Mitchell). This emphasis on people was in Jon Cumming, ACT Chief Digital Officer, plenary keynote, then Maria Milosavljevic, Chief Innovation Officer at AUSTRAC and now Loise Smith from ACS is now presenting on Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA).

ACS Canberra 2016 Conference

Greetings from the ACS Canberra 2016 Conference.

Arrival Tea & Coffee (BALLROOM FOYER)
Conference opening (BALLROOM) - Conference Chair, Dr Tim Turner
Conference Address
Data Fuels Innovation and the Digital Economy; But who owns and controls Data?
Anthony Wong
President, Australian Computer Society
Plenary Keynote (BALLROOM)
Drones, Droids and Robots - Which one are you?
Jon Cumming
Chief Digital Officer, ACT Government
Tea & Coffee Break and Exhibition (GALLERY FOYER)

Security (Derwent Room)
Leadership (Fitzroy Room)
Education (Murray Room)
The Future of Work (Swan Room)
Data Management (Torrens Room)
Session 1
Session 1
Session 1
Session 1
Session 1
5 minutes
Change over
Session 2
Session 2
Session 2
Session 2
Session 2
Chris Hamling
Plenary Keynote (BALLROOM)
5 minutes
Change over

Professionalism (Derwent Room)
Leadership (Fitzroy Room)
Education (Murray Room)
Analysis and Design (Swan Room)
Data Management (Torrens Room)
Session 3
Session 3
Session 3
Session 3
Session 3
Denver Bunzel George Mouratidis
5 minutes
Change over
Session 4
Session 4
Session 4
Session 4
Session 4
Dr Therese Keane
Tea & Coffee Break and Exhibition (GALLERY FOYER)
Session 5
Session 5
Session 5
Session 5
Session 5
5 minutes
Change over
Plenary Locknote (BALLROOM)
Miguel Carrasco
Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group
Conference Address
Robotics and the Future of Work
Andrew Johnson
CEO, Australian Computer Society
Closing Remarks
Dr Tim Turner
Conference Chair
Cocktail reception (GALLERY FOYER) - Social networking drinks
Gala Dinner (BALLROOM)
Conference Dinner Address
ACT Chief Minister
Conference End

Sunday, August 21, 2016

House of Games at New Theater Sydney

The play "House of Games" is set in a Chicago poker club, where it is hard to know who is conning who. Set in the present day, Kate Shearer plays a therapist drawn into this seedy world to help one of her patents.

Kate Shearer makes a very believable Harvard trained therapist, who's frosty exterior begins to melt.  The rest of the cast struggle with their American accents, although they are playing con-artists, so are they acting at sounding fake?

Set Designer John Cervenka's poker club perhaps need some neon "Budweiser" signs and more clutter, whereas the therapist's office is suitably minimal. Costume Designer Deborah Mulhall succeeds with the look of Chicago high and low life. Playwright Richard Bean, provides some humor (especially at the expense of bankers), but they play has an untidy conclusion, with a new character and at the end.

"House of Games" is on at the New Theater, Newtown Sydney, until 10 September 2016 (my ticket was courtesy of the New Theater).

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chat with Anthony Feint

Entry29 hosted a "fireside chat" today at the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) with Anthony Feint, founder of

Anthony described how he dropped out of university because he wanted to "build things" and went on to start several tech companies. He suggests that universities need to allow students to build and produce a portfolio of work.

ps: One advantage Australian university students have is that they can work in the USA for a year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Droids Roll into Canberra Next Week

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) 2016 Annual Conference is Tuesday 23 August. The conference program has sessions on Security, Leadership, Education, Future of Work and Data Management.

Jon Cumming, Chief Digital Officer of the ACT Government will open the conference and Andrew Barr, ACT Chief Minister will speak at the dinner.

ps: The conference theme is Drones, Droids and Robots and Dr. Tim Turner Chairman of ACS Canberra, quipped in B2B magazine that Daleks were his first memory of a robot. But this is technically incorrect as Daleks are not robots, they are cyborgs: part organic and part mechanical. ;-)

Monday, August 15, 2016

RAND Report on Cyber War with China

In the RAND report "War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable" Gompert, Cevallos and  Garafola assume a regional conventional war, using ships, submarines, aircraft, spacecraft and also cyber-war. RAND is a US based think tank, which also has a Canberra Office.

The authors suggest that "Escalating cyberwarfare, while injurious to both sides, could worsen China’s economic problems and impede the government’s ability to control a restive population." (p. xiv). Also that "We also assume that China would not attack the U.S. homeland, except via cyberspace, given China’s minimal capability to do so with conventional weapons." (p. 11) and:
"In the future, cyberwarfare against military, dual-purpose, and civilian systems could figure importantly in a severely intense war. ... Whether with kinetic or nonkinetic (namely, cyber) weapons, the highest targeting priority for China would be U.S. strike platforms, bases, and force concentrations in the region." (p. 19). 
Also the report warns that cyber-attacks could escalate to nuclear war:
"... it is important for the United States to be aware of potentially dangerous ambiguities involved in attacks on targets that the Chinese could regard as strategic: attacks on missile launchers, even if intended only to degrade China’s theater-range missile capabilities; attacks on high-level military C2, even if intended only to degrade China’s conventional-operational capabilities; cyberwarfare attacks on strategic systems;" (p. 30)
The report warns of the cost of cyberwar and the difficulty of preventing it harming civilian systems which support military operations:
"Would both countries not be tempted to crash telecommunications or air-traffic control or energy-distribution systems that support fighting, or interfere with government-service networks?" (p. 49)
What this report fails to address is the effect of deliberate attack and collateral damage on other countries. Cyber-attacks are difficult to confine to one geographic area and will likely effect interconnected international systems and national and local ones well away from the conflict. In addition both sides may well make use of cyber-attacks on third countries, as a way to send a low risk political signal.

Australian Government Needs a Planned Response to Cyber Attack

The security of government information systems is the responsibility of government ministers, not IBM or the ABS. What should be of concern is not just that there was a successful denial of service attack on the Australian Census, but the apparent lack of a planned and practiced response from the relevant government ministers and their staff. Had this been a more serious attack, such as one on critical infrastructure threating lives, the poor performance by ministerial level of government could have been disastrous.

At the senior levels of government there need to be plans in place for who says what and when. These plans need to be tested in exercises, just as is done for natural disaster planning, which Australian state and local governments do well. Internet Australia (IA) members are discussing what form of submission to make to the likely Parliamentary inquiries into this matter. I suggest the Australian Computer Society (ACS) join with IA on this and try to widen the discussion to cover Internet security more generally. ACS and IA need not agree on every aspect, buy could loosely coordinate, as was done for the Internet regulation inquiries of the 1990s, as  described by Chen (2000, p. 161).


Chen, P. J. (2000). Australia's online censorship regime: the Advocacy Coalition Framework and governance compared. Retrieved from

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Australian Population Census Computer System Problems

I had a call from ABC Radio this morning about the ABS announcing they had suffered denial of service attacks from overseas.  Perhaps the ABS staff need to go down to the foyer of their building and break the glass on the display case, with the punch card machine in it. I used a machine like that thirty years ago to write programs for the Census and it worked fine. ;-)

But seriously,  keep in mind this is not a safety critical system: no lives are endangered. People can fill it in tomorrow, or the day after, or get a paper form. But the minister needs to be asked if sufficient resources were given to the ABS and were they allowed to use their preferred method of data collection, which would be surveys, not a census.

At 9:50pm Census night I tried the ABS site at 10pm and still got:
"Thank you for participating in the Census. The system is very busy at the moment. Please wait for 15 minutes before trying again. Your patience and cooperation are appreciated. [code 9]"
The Census error message web page is 117 Kbytes, with 49 Kbytes of Javascript and 52 Kbytes of CSS, which seems a bit much just to display a few hundred characters of error message. But presumably this code is cached and reused throughout (in which case, it is not too large). The CSS uses Pure v0.5.0

ps: My comments on the 2006 eCensus.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Time to Virtualise the NBN?

Sorensen and  Medina in "The End of Australia’s National Broadband Network?" (June 2016) deliver what some describe as a scathing assessment of the NBN. The Coalition Government first set out to build a copper broadband network for cities and terrestrial wireless for regional areas in 2007. Then a new ALP government canceled the contracts for the copper broadband, and also abandoned its own hybrid policy (2007), instead switching to FTTP fibre for cities. A later Coalition government then adopted the ALP's previous FTTN hybrid policy, scaling back the FTTP. This is hardly the first case in which a project is in difficulties due to political indecision.

The parts of the NBN which the politicians did not tinker with have gone well: the wireless for regional areas and satellites for remote. In my view the debate over FTTN v FTTP for homes in the city is of less importance, due to mobile broadband. It may not be worth installing fibre or copper for broadband to homes, as it is not homes where the consumer now wants the broadband, but on the mobile device in their hand.


Coalition: Australia Connected: Fast affordable broadband for all Australians, Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Media Release 80/07, 18 June 2007:

ALP: New Directions for Communications - A Broadband Future for Australia – Building a National Broadband Network, March 2007:

Sorensen,  Lucia Gamboa &   Medina, Andrew. The End of Australia’s National Broadband Network?, Tech Policy Institute, June 2016.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Evaluating Islamic Environmental Initiatives in Indonesia

Greetings from the Department of Political & Social Change
at the Australian National University in Canberra, where PHD student Sofiah Jamil is speaking on "Necessity over Norms: Evaluating Islamic Environmental Initiatives in Indonesia". Sofiah has also produced a booklet "Faith and Nature: An Eco-Guide to Greening Faith Communities" with Farheen Mukri (2013) in the Singapore context. 

Sofiah pointed to work on linking Islam to environmental issues, but noted that much were focusing on human benefits from a better environment. An example of the latter is Dariah, Salleh and Shafiai (2016) looking at an Islamic approach to sustainable development.

It occurs to me that there would be parallels with Islamic Banking. An example is
Masukujjaman, Siwar, Mahmud and Alam's (2016) work on green and Islamic banking in Bangladesh. In 2008 I attended the Malaysian Corporate Governance Conference at the Securities Commission, Kuala Lumpur, the regulator for Islamic capital markets in Malaysia.

Also in 2012 I talked on "Sustainable Development Through Green ICT" at UIN Suska University of Riau, Pekanbaru, Indonesia.


Dariah, A. R., Salleh, M. S., & Shafiai, H. M. (2016). A New Approach for Sustainable Development Goals in Islamic Perspective. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 219, 159-166. Retrieved from

Masukujjaman, M., Siwar, C., Mahmud, M. R., & Alam, S. S. (2016). Bankers’ perception of Green Banking: Learning from the experience of Islamic banks in Bangladesh. Retrieved from'_perception_of_Green_Banking_Learning_from_the_experience_of_Islamic_banks_in_Bangladesh/links/56cffd9408aeb52500c9b61a.pdf

Monday, July 18, 2016

High Speed Rail Needs High Speed Data

Consolidated Land and Rail Australia Pty Ltd (CLARA) have proposed building "new regional, compact, sustainable, smart-cities" on a new very high speed rail line from Sydney to Melbourne. The increase in value of the land, would be used to pay for the rail line. Previously I suggested looking at the use of high speed broadband data in reducing the cost and speeding the development of such a project:

Home owners will be reluctant to move to a new city, until it has a hospital, university, business center, entertainment, shops and transport system. Investors and government will be reluctant to provide these services until there is a population to use them. One way around this impasse is to use broadband to provide services quickly at low cost.

High quality, high speed broadband can be used to link the local facilities. The local doctor can consult capital city specialists, students can attend virtual classes and employees work in shared offices. All these services can be provided when the city is established, instead of having to wait years, or decades.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons

Dr Andrew Futter, University of Leicester,is  speaking on "Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons: New Questions for Command and Control, Security and Strategy" at the Australian National University in Canberra. Dr Futter argues that the Internet amplifies the risks with nuclear weapons. The scenario in the film "War Games" is more possible. He commented that the 2012 Glogal Zero US Nuclear Policy Commission Report raised more questions than it answered.
Dr Futter pointed out that nuclear weapons are inherently vulnerable, as they must be ready for use at any time, while also being under central control. One example was a training tape loaded into a US system which made the operators believe there was a real alert. Dr Futter commented that with a more on-line system it will be harder to detect such errors.

Dr Futter suggested that non-state actors were more likely to mount a cyber-attack to cause an un-commanded launch of a nuclear attack, a state actor was more likely to try to disable an opponents weapons. It seems to me that the risk with a state sponsored attack would be so high that this is unlikely to be attempted, expect by a "rogue" state. A more likely scenario is an attack on conventional command and control systems would disable nuclear weapons as a side-effect.

Dr Futter also included hacking of an Israel Defense Force Twitter account to spread false information about a nuclear accident. He also pointed out that an attack does not need to be on the weapons system: disabling the sewage system on a submarine will disable it as a weapon.

Dr Futter then discussed the different nature of cyber and nuclear weapons and the feasibility of responding to a cyber attack with a nuclear weapon. It occurs to me that cyber weapons are more like biological and chemical weapons: they are unpredictable in their effectiveness, may harm the attacker more than the attacked. On the one hand a cyber attack is deniable, on the other its source may be detected but then have little effect, resulting in a large political damage for no military value.

Dr Futter commented that he hoped Nuclear Weapons Officers did not freely discuss their jobs on-line. This got a laugh from the audience, but a search of Facebook for "Nuclear Weapons Officer" resulted in several hits and more than one hundred listed on LinkedIn.

Dr Futter recommended Ghost fleet : a novel of the next world war by P.W. Singer and August Cole, as a fictional but perhaps prescient view of the future, where the only military equipment working is pre-Internet-of-Things. Also one of the audience members, Adam Henschke, mentioned his book (edited with Fritz Allhoff) "Binary bullets : the ethics of cyberwarfare" (I ran the ANU IT students through a hypothetical on the ethics of cyberwarfare over the South China Sea last semester).

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Cyber Threats to Nuclear Weapons

Dr Andrew Futter, University of Leicester, will speak on "Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons: New Questions for Command and Control, Security and Strategy" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 3pm 11 July 2016. 
"The development and spread of cyber ‘weapons’, information-warfare capabilities and the new dynamics of the ‘cyber age’ are providing a considerable – albeit nuanced – challenge to the management, thinking and strategy that underpins nuclear weapons. Although, in the near future at least, cyber-attacks will not supersede nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of national security, the tools and capabilities associated with cyber present new problems that affect the nuclear weapons enterprise in numerous ways."
See also:

Monday, June 27, 2016

21st Century Maritime Military Cooperation by Australia, USA and Japan

Greetings from the 21st Century Trilateral Maritime Cooperation Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra, where scholars and military personnel from Japan, the USA and Australia are speaking on issues of mutual interest, including "disputes over obscure maritime features" (as one speaker described territorial issues in the East and South China Seas). The conference is sponsored by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, USA, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College. Interestingly, this is an open conference which the general public was invited to attend, no cost. Interestingly one speaker raised the issue of cyber-warfare. A few months ago I was teaching ANU students about Cyberwar Over the South China Sea.

Speakers include: 

ADM ret. (RAN) Chris Barrie, Adjunct Professor SDSC; ADM ret. (USN) Dennis Blair, Chairman and CEO Sasakawa Foundation; VADM (MSDF) Umio Otsuka, President JMSDF Command and Staff College; Dr. Jeffrey Hornung, Fellow Security and Foreign Affairs Program Sasakawa USA; Mr. Stanley Roth, Former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Dr. Stephan Fruehling, Associate Professor SDSC; AMB Shingo Yamagami, Acting Director JIIA; VADM ret. (USN) Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., CEO GeoOptics Inc.; Dr. Anthony Bergin, Deputy Director Australian Strategic Policy Institute; Dr. Toshio Yamagata, Director Application Laboratory of Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology; Mr. Yoshikiyo Ono, Secretary General Japanese Shipowners’ Association; Dr. Carol Anne Clayson, Director Ocean and Climate Change Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute; Mr. Peter Jennings, Executive Director Australian Strategic Policy Institute; CAPT (MSDF) Katsuya Yamamoto, JMSDF Command and Staff College; RADM ret. (RAN) James Goldrick AO, CSC, Adjunct Professor SDSC; Dr. Isami Takeda, Professor of International Relations Dokkyo University; VADM ret. (USN) Robert Parker; Dr. Euan Graham, Director International Security Program at the Lowy Institute; ADM ret. (USN) Walter Doran, President Pacific Vision LLC; Dr. Brendan Taylor, Head of SDSC.