Friday, September 30, 2005

Last day of SEARCC 2005 in Sydney

On the last day two of SEARCC 2005 in Sydney it was time to get down to some serious IT, with a panel session on "sensor networks". We had robot submarines and swarms of robot aircraft looking and listening to us. Closer to home were sensors to help save water.

Len Sciacca from the Department of Defence Electronic Warfare and Radar Division, talked about how the Australian made aerosonde robot aircraft had been programmed to fly as a swarm. He claimed this was the first time this form of semi-autonomous operation had been permitted in the USA. He also mentioned cigarette sized radars for the UAVs and satellite commutations via the radar at the same time it scanned and jammed.

Peter Corke from CSIRO Autonomous Systems Laboratory showed off a network of underwater sensors with data harvested by a robot submarine.

Stan Skafidas from NICTA's Sensor Networks Research Program talked about how devices could be used to use irrigation water more efficiently.

Dr R. Srinivasan, Past President of the Computer Society of India reminded us there are complex problems to be solved before such networks are practical.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Day two of SEARCC 2005 in Sydney

Media room at SEARCC 2005Greetings from day two of SEARCC 2005 in Sydney. Nortel demonstrated their Multimedia Communication Server (MCS) for combining voice (phone), video and Internet applications. This is a bit like the Access Grid applied to business. You could do much the same yourself using the Asterisk Open Source PABX software and web scripts, but not everyone likes DIY development.

Nortel were using a large plasma screen to demonstrate the user interface. It occurred to me that the big screen might be useful for a team of people working closely together, such as in an emergency center. The group could look at the big screen to see who is logged in and available to be contacted.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

delegates at SEARCC
There are around 500 delegates at the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation conference (SEARCC 2005) in Sydney. The conference seems a bit top heavy with a serious senior people in dark suits. Unlike your average conference where the speakers are kept away from the delegates, at this event I kept running into speakers in the exhibition hall who are very passionate about their subjects.

Not much in the way of fun computer applications at the conference or in the exhibition. This is all about big applications for business and government. Mike Kennedy and Pravesh Babhoota from the NSW Office of State Revenue livened things up a bit talking about how you could use open source and commodity hardware in the bureaucracy and still have a career.

For a more detailed coverage of the event I recommend Computerworld. They have so many journalists here that they have started competing with each other for stories. ;-)

Overall the first day has been good due to the quality of delegates, rather than the formal topics addressed at the conference. Tomorrow will be interesting with a panel of IT ministers and wearable computers.

"Live" from SEARCC 2005 in Sydney

bicycle and Sydney tramThe South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation conference (SEARCC 2005) started today in Sydney and runs until Friday.

Senator Abetz just opened the government stream with a speech featuring chip cards for government use. He said that he hoped government officials would soon be issued with a standardized smart ID card.

At SEARCC 1998 in Darwin I demonstrated the Defence Home Page. This time I don't have a presentation to give, so I thought I might strap my wireless modem on the miniature bicycle and do some "live" reports from the conference.

Getting here was an adventure in itself I rode the bicycle to the Sydney Light rail, folded the bicycle and rode the tram to the conference venue at Darling Harbor. That worked well with the bike fitting in the tram luggage space and the conference cloak room accepting it.

Any suggestions as to what from the program would be worth reporting on? Some items which got my attention were: Ministerial Panel to discuss ICT policy, Wearable Technology for Disaster Relief, and Companies Ready Networked Software Research Initiative.

Reports will be at the blog or subscribe to the feed at

Monday, September 26, 2005

Software Engineering, Locomotives and Cafes in Sydney

Tank engine craneOn Friday I visited Steven Bleistein and the Empirical Software Engineering Research Program team at National ICT Australia (NICTA).

NICTA is a Federal, State Government and university project with a lot of money (in Australian terms) for research, education and commercialization. NICTA is based at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, the site of the historic Eveleigh Railway Workshops. In the past I have written how this is the ideal environment for promoting Australian technology.

It is the 150'th anniversary of railways in NSW this is where many of the locomotives where made. I walked into the ATP past a Crane Tank Locomotive through the foundry, which is now a working museum used for metal sculpture. Further on were IT exhibits and events, where I bumped into the local member of parliament, Kristina Keneally."Empirical Software Engineering" seems a tautology, but a quick search of CiteSeer shows the sort of thing Steven and his colleagues do. They are working out how to build IT systems which will be useful to business.

NICTA Researchers and Tom Worthington at CafeThe ATP is on the edge of the gentrification of inner Sydney, with old warehouses being turned into apartments and cafes. The NICTA people confirmed the Creative Class theory that "build a cafe and the technologists will arrive", by taking me to lunch at Cafe Sopra located above the Fratelli Fresh.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Big Leichhardt Bike Day on Sunday

bike at Tiananmen GateAs my big bike is still under repair I will have to ride the little 16 inch one I got in Beijing at the Big Leichhardt Bike Day (10am Sunday in Catherine St Park, corner of Moore and Catherine St, Leichhardt, Sydney).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Flathead Cafe, Canberra

Tom Worthington at O'Connor This is a travel report with a difference. About 50 paces from my front door in Canberra are the O'Connor shops. At 10:30 am one table outside the Flathead Cafe is in sunshine. On a calm, cool, clear day (like today), it is a wonderful place to have morning tea. Such are the benefits of being your own boss, with a Smart Apartment. :-)

In the background of the photo you can see a new apartment building. It doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the block, but I guess real estate agents like all the angular steel.

ps: I took this photo of myself with a camera phone. Flip phones have their own tripod built in: Place the phone on a flat surface with the handset bent at 90%, aim it, set the self-timer and then sit down to take your own photo.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

ICT and the Productivity Debate

The CSIRO ICT Centre hosted a seminar on Friday about "ICT and the Productivity Debate". James Shaw from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts talked about research on how to work out how much ICT contributes to efficiency in the economy.

This sounds alike a dry and dull topic and not one computer types would be interested in. But we have the paradox that while a lot of computers and telecommunications are being used, economists are saying this don't increase productivity. Business and government leaders listen to the economists and ask why we spend so much on all this stuff, if it doesn't make things more efficient.

To explore this paradox, DCITA funded research to produce better measures of efficiency. These show about a 40 to 80% productivity boost with technology. Of course it is the Information Economy Division of the Department funding this work, so you might suspect the researchers are telling them what they want to hear. ;-)

ps: James will be speaking at SEARCC 2005 in Sydeny at the end of the month.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Travel reports seem to be the most popular

Travel reports seem to be the most popular part of my web site. So I put up a few more photos and some anecdotes from a trip accross Europe by high speed train last year. See: "Cambridge, Brussels, Berlin, and Hamburg by Bicycle and High Speed Train".

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Yesterday I attended an excellent talk at ANU by Peter Sefton from USQ on Microsoft Word's file format and XML alternatives.

He demonstrated "ICE" (Integrated Content Environment), a content management system which for courseware. This allows a teacher to write some material with the Open Office word processor and have it converted into a portable and efficient XHTML format for on-line delivery automatically. The system uses a software development type version control system to allow several people to maintain one set of courseware. The software is open source and free <>.

Peter was at ANU to discuss interfacing ICE to e-archives.

ps: For more on wp conversion see <>.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rejected Turnbull's permanent email addresses

Was woken up this morning by a call from the Nova radio network asking about a proposal from Malcolm Turnbull MP, for citizens to be issued a permanent email address by government. They wanted a quick comment so I did an interview right then and there (while still half asleep). I said it was an idea which had been discussed about ten years ago and rejected due to problems with Spam, but there may be some merit in having an directory for official email.

I couldn't find anything about it on Mr. Turnbull's web site, but there were several news items, such as:
Turnbull seeks lifelong 'pigeonholes' for all, ABC News Online, September 9, 2005. 10:50am (AEST):

Federal Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull has called for the Government to give every Australian their own email address for life.

The emails would be used by Government agencies to keep in touch with people, or they could be used by long-lost friends.

He has suggested the address could be: ...

I recall discussing something like this ten years ago back in the heady days when the Internet was going to be free.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bending Bike Broke: Frame break on a folding bicycle

The steel frame of my Dahon "Boardwalk 6", 6 speed 20" 2003 model folding
bicycle broke in half Tuesday. At the time I was riding it at a bicycle path road crossing in Canberra. Fortunately there was no on-coming traffic and my helmet and clothing protected me from serious injury.

Broken Bicycle Frame

Broken Bicycle Frame

The tubular steel frame broke approximately 40mm ahead of the hinge in the middle of the bicycle. There was some rust visible in the underside of the fracture, which suggests that the frame has started to fail some days or weeks before the break. It would be prudent for anyone with one of these bicycles to check for cracking in the underside of the frame at this point.

Back Half of Bicycle with Break

Back Half of Bicycle with Break

As I have previously praised this bicycle on-line (to the point where some people thought I was marketing them), I thought it appropriate to bring this problem to people's attention. I still have a 16" Dahon which I am confident in using. I have also send the details to the manufacturer and the sales outlet for the bicycle.

Front Half of Bicycle with Break

Front Half of Bicycle with Break

The Bicycle in happier days: