Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ecohouse Challenge Update

SBS TV have released more details of their "Ecohouse Challenge". It starts Wednesdays, 7.30pm from April 11. Two families try to along with limited water, energy, rubbish removal and no private cars. There is also a viewer competition.

The idea of the show might sound trivial to committed environmentalists, but is a good way to get people interested. The prizes look suitably green: Electrolux appliances, Air-Cell insulation, Solectair Heat Transfer System, Solahart hot water systems, SunPower photoelectric solar panels and a Toyota Prius hybrid car.

Solectair Solar Ducted Heating System WITH ducted evaporative airconditioning systemThe Solectair Heat Transfer System is an interesting new Australian invention. Instead of a heater, ducts in a house are connected to fans which draw hot air from the roof cavity to warm the house in winter. This is similar in concept to the system in the new green office building in Canberra, but on a domestic scale.

See also my:

Friday, March 30, 2007

Google Came to Canberra

On Thursday, Will Blott and Alan Noble from Google's Sydney office and Neetu Sabharwal from their ANU in Canberra:
"Google Australia is looking to forge relationships with key universities as they now have a dedicated 'on campus' focus in Australia. Google is keen to explore opportunities to partner that will add value to students' experience and help develop computer science engineers for Australia. ".
The overall message from the visit is that Google is looking for staff who can write useful computer programs. They are happy to provide support to researchers, to offer students the opportunity to work with Google people, but in the end they want people who can write useful computer programs, not just research papers. This was a refreshingly down to earth view.

One aspect I found interesting was Google's global nature. The company has a US West Coast base. This results in some slightly annoying cultural aspects of their promotional material making them a bit like a cross between the McDonalds hamburger chain and The Wiggles. But Google is developing labs around the world which are growing rapidly. While the staff are physically located in one lab, they work with those in others.

National research offices for global corporations can have their problems. When I visited Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge (UK), there seemed to be a fear that they would be out researched by low cost PHDs at Microsoft Beijing. Google use their company culture to attempt to overcome this.

One interesting aspect of having a Google center in Australia is that students from the Asian region at Australian universities might have a better access to Google scholarships and jobs than they would at home. There is a much smaller pool of students in Australia to compete for attention, than at an Indian or Chinese university. Once in the Google door, they then have access to the Google center in the home country.

Google Work With the ANU

Before Will and Alan gave a seminar, there was a discussion of possible areas for cooperation. Three areas I thought worth looking at were:

* Digital Mapping for the Public Good: Mobile phones for bushfire mapping, and applications for a GPS open source smart phone.

Sentinel Interactive Fire Tracking Map DemonstrationBushfire mapping

One student evaluated what was needed for an emergency management web site.

One application is adaption of the Sentinel Fire Mapping System for mobile devices. An experimental alternative web interface is available.

* Broadband Applications for Non-Broadband Users: New web applications are tending to require more and continuous network access. This makes it more difficult for those still on slow dial up connections and for wireless users with slow intermittent connections. These could be people in developing nations, such as India and China, but also in regional parts of places like Australia. These might not sound like high value customers for a company to target, but many of the same techniques used to provide Internet applications to rich people with smart phones can also be used for slow dialup users.

Sahana home page on a mobile phoneAn example is to modify the Sahana open source disaster management system for a phone.

* Cultural Links: As I found when teaching web design to museum workers in Samoa, there is great interest and value in providing web access to cultural material. But this tends to result in relatively dull, academic web sites, separate from the lively commercial stuff. Creating lively web sites is hard work. It should be possible to enhance the culturally worthy stuff, using some automated techniques like those applied commercially.
Ten Canoes Study Guides
Two students undertook projects to provide a better web interface to Australian museum materials, including those which inspired the movie Ten Canoes.

One student now working out how to use this to provide more relevant links from the ACS Digital Library to services such as Google.

Google Apps

There was a little of a sales pitch in the visit, with Google saying how good their Google Apps Education Edition. I am not sure how many universities, or companies, would be convinced of this. While organizations may be willing to use free third party systems to allow people to interact remotely, they are reluctant to have these systems as part of their "mission critical" applications. They are even more reluctant to have their data stored on someone else's system at an indeterminate location in some other country under that country's laws.

A lot of this reluctance to use external providers is irrational. Shared and remote systems used to be an everyday part of computing. Google's system is likely to be more reliable than the average corporate system and there are benefits in having your data stored away from head office. In a recent case a hail storm closed several buildings in Canberra for days. The ANU campus was closed, but the computer systems kept working and people were able to work remotely. With something like Google Apps an organization would be able to keep working remotely (perhaps even via smart phones).

However, I have to admit that while I use Google's Blogger service to prepare my blog, I still get it to put the files on my own web server located in Australia. I like the comfort of my data on a system I am paying for in a location under the same laws. Google will be hampered in promoting Google Apps in Australia, as their data centers are located in other countries, and so mostly not subject to Australian law.

Google would have difficulty locating a data center in Australia, as there are limited international telecommunications links to Asia and the USA. Perhaps the ALP could dip into the Future Fund some more to pay for extra fibre optic links to the USA and Asia. Given the amount of traffic coming from Google, this may have a significant impact on Australian telecommunications.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Review of The Crucible at the New Theatre Sydney

Plays at The New Theatre (Sydney) can be hard work for the audience as well as the actors. The Crucible was no exception. Arthur Miller is said to have used the Salem witch trials to discuss issues in 1950s USA in this play. However, in the 1990s era of the war on terrorism, the issues of public fear of an unseen threat have a new resonance.

The actors struggled at times to keep up with Miller's dense dialog. The audience also had to keep up and we could have done with a second interval to rest and recuperate. The stark austere sets evoked a suitable brooding atmosphere. The costumes were suitably period without being overdone.

The most chilling point of the evening is when the senior judge of the witch trials is trying to maintain public confidence in the system, as more and more upright honest citizens are caught up in the panic and are lead away to their deaths. After one of his most trusted aids questions the justice of the system, the judge says: "your are either with use or against us". The parallels to President Bush's: "you are with us or you are with the terrorists" is very close. As Millier details in a time when you are facing an invisible enemy in your midst, be they witches, communists, or terrorists, is no time to expect rational thought.

It may have been interesting to change the setting of the final scene from a prison in Salem to one in present day
Guantanamo Bay.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

International symbol for humanitarian aid

The red cross, red crescent and red crystal emblemsFrom time to time I have helped with the Sahana open source disaster management system. Recently someone asked what sort of symbol should be used to indicate where general humanitarian assistance is being provided, rather than just first aid. I suggested the "red crystal".

A red cross on a white background, which many people think indicates first aid, is actually an international sign for general humanitarian assistance. Use of the red cross and red crescent are reserved under the Geneva Conventions for humanitarian aid in war time and in natural disasters. Because a cross and crescent can have religious connotations the "red crystal" was added.

Symbol for first aid: a white cross on a green backgroundThe usual symbol for first aid, is a white cross on a green background. This should be used to indicate first aid, rather than a red cross.

Computer people should be especially careful using these symbols. Sometimes a black and white cross is used as an icon
. Just make sure you don't use a red cross, unless it is for the appropriate purpose (misuse is a crime under Australian and International law).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ecohouse Challenge

Oxygenics Water-Saving ShowerheadSBS TV are advertising an "Ecohouse Challenge", to begin in April. The idea is to see how two average families got along with limited water, energy, rubbish removal and no private cars. According to The Age, as well as Eco house Challenge there will be a series from ABC TV called "Carbon Cops".

On Friday Senator Bob Brown opened a green office building in Canberra. Perhaps there will be a spin-off of the TV shows, with business executives having to shrink their ecological footprint in the office.

Canberra also had a "Eco-living Exhibition" of environmentally sensitive display homes. These make living green a lot easier, with solar panels and water recycling built in. Even CSIRO have got in on the act with a bubble shower to save water.

In 2004, there was a UK based "International student ecohouse challenge. Architectural Press and Elsevier Publishers, with Teachers in Architecture and Circle 33 Housing Group:
Architecture students with green design ideas should get ready for the 2004 Design Competition For An Ecohouse, sponsored by Architectural Press and Elsevier Publishers, with Teachers in Architecture and Circle 33 Housing Group.

The challenge is to design an environmentally friendly house, that's comfortable in both summer and winter, and able to function without relying heavily on fossil fuels. ...

From: "International student ecohouse challenge" in Upfront with Building!, 2004.
The results of the 2003 Ecohouse Design Competition are also available, as is the companion book "Ecohouse 2" by Sue Roaf (her "Ecohouse 3" is due out 30 July).

The SBS series is directed by Russell Vines and the ABC series is produced Tarni James. But as useful as the TV shows will be in educating people in an entertaining way, try living in a house in rural India, to see how the lack of clean water and reliable power can effect your life.

See also my:

W3C Service Modeling Language Standard

A consortium of IT companies has proposed web standards for describing: "services and systems, including their structure, constraints, policies, and best practices". The proposed standards were released by the World Wide Web Consortium on 21 March 2007: Service Modeling Language (SML) and SML Interchange Format (SML-IF).

After controversy with the ownership of previous standards, the companies, including CA, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, have offered the technology royalty free.

The standards are very abstract and might be used to describe any form of service, such as getting your car washed. But clearly the authors intended them for IT services. It will be interesting to see if the complexities of such services can be reduced to an XML format which is processable by machines and understandable by people.

The Service Modeling Language uses XML based standards, including Schema:
The Service Modeling Language (SML) provides a rich set of constructs for creating models of complex IT services and systems. These models typically include information about configuration, deployment, monitoring, policy, health, capacity planning, target operating range, service level agreements, and so on. Models provide value in several important ways. ...

A model in SML is realized as a set of interrelated XML documents. The XML documents contain information about the parts of an IT service, as well as the constraints that each part must satisfy for the IT service to function properly.
The SML Interchange Format defines how to transmit the models, using simple web hypertext links, Web Services, or similar:
The purpose of SML-IF is to package the set of documents representing an SML model to be interchanged into a single XML document in a standard way. The set of documents to be interchanged is called the SML-IF document ...
Perhaps the Service Modeling Language in IBM's new Australian
Service-Oriented Architecture center:
IBM has selected Australia for the establishment of an Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Centre. ...

Centres will also be established in France, China, India, Japan, Brazil, Beijing, Central Europe and Dubai.

The Australian centre is expected to open in June 2007, however, an IBM spokesperson said exact details such as cost and location were yet to be finalized. ...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Standards agreement between China and Australia

Standards AustraliaStandards Australia have signed an agreement with their Chinese equivalent, the Standardization Administration of China:
Standards Australia and China's peak standards development organisation have signed a major international covenant ensuring future standards development in each country will not stand in the way of free trade...

Under the agreement, Australia and China
's peak standards development bodies will:
  • Notify each other of the Standards that may cause significant influences on the trade between both countries;
  • Exchange national Standards catalogues, information and experiences on standardisation;
  • Provide advice on technical regulations;
  • Engage in expert visits and academic exchange;
  • Carry out joint Standards research projects; and
  • Collaborate in dealing with international Standards organisations....
From: New agreement to help Australian business trade with China, Standards Australia MEDIA RELEASE March 22, 2007
SA is a non-for-profit Australian company, while SAC is an agency of the Chinese Government. They represent their respective countries at bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC):
Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) is authorized by the State Council and under the control of AQSIQ to exercise the administrative functions and carry out centralized administration for standardization in China. While relevant competent administrative departments of the State Council shall be assigned the responsibility of managing the work of standardization within their respective professional sectors. The competent administrative bureaus of standardization in the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, cities and counties shall execute unified administration of the work of standardization in their respective administrative regions. The provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, cites and counties are also setting standardization departments in their governments. The SAC execute business administration of those province-level bureaus of technical supervision and execute directive administration in the system of under province-level bureau of technical supervision.

From: Standardization Administration of China, Chinese National Committee of the ISO/IEC
ps: I represent the Australian Computer Society on the SA Council.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Access Card registration process discussion paper

Sample Access CardProfessor Fels' Consumer and Privacy Taskforce has released a Discussion Paper on the Registration Process for the Australian Government Access Card. Submissions can be made until 16 April 2007:
Table of Contents

Registration ... Background ... From Draft to Final ... Introduction to the Registration Scheme ... Public Support ... An Access Card Consumer Charter ... Privacy Impact Statement ... Outline of Discussion Paper ... Informed Consent ... Mandated Data ... Proof of Identity Documentation and Standards of Identification ... Verification procedures for POI Documents ... Additional information to be recorded in the Access Card system ... Exceptions and Exemptions ... Persons under the age of 18 years ... Disability Features ... The Registration Process ... Access Card Issue Overseas ... Conclusion ... Consultations ... Appendix I - Interview Process ... Appendix II
- Business as usual for the Teens' access to Smartcard ... Criteria for people under 18 years of age for their own Access Card ...


Registration is one of the key elements of the Australian Government’s proposed health and social services Access Card scheme. It is the process by which Australians become part of the scheme by having their personal data entered on the Register (formerly known as the Secure Customer Registration Service), receive their Access Card and thereafter access the benefits which are provided by the government’s participating agencies (Medicare, Centrelink, the Departments of Human Services and Veteran’s Affairs).

The Register is established by Division 3 of the Bill. It is part of the background to discussing registration.

It should be noted that the Government has not yet made a formal decision on what the Access Card might be called. The Minister is empowered in the proposed legislation (see below) to determine the name of the card and any symbol used in relation to the card (section 27), and that name/symbol will become the protected property of the Commonwealth (section 28). The Commonwealth will also have the power to compulsorily acquire such related rights if they are currently held privately, on the payment of just compensation (section 73). For the purposes of this Paper we will simply use the term Access Card where appropriate.

From: Registration, Discussion Paper Number 3, Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, 21 March 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Green office building opens in Canberra

Back of Australian Ethical Investments green building with bike racks, water tanks, light wells, chimney and evacuated tube solar hot water systemThis morning Senator Bob Brown opened Australian Ethical Investment's (AEI) new environmentally friendly office in Canberra.

AEI refurbished Block E of Trevor Pearcey House in the Bruce Technology Park. It has:
* hydronic heating and cooling
* designated parking spaces for small cars and motorbikes
* bicycle racks for staff and visitors
* double glazing on windows and increased shading
* skylights
* added insulation and
* water tanks and water saving toilets and urinals.

From: Treavour Pearcy House, AEI
AEI are aiming for a 75% reduction in energy use (and consequent reduction in CO2 greenhouse gas). What is most impressive is that they have done this within the restrictions imposed by an existing building which has to still fit in with the other building of the technology park.

The building has been clad in insulation to reduce heating and cooling needs. But you can't notice the difference with the building next to it. If you look closely the AEI building looks smooth, whereas the one next door shows a rough painted brick surface. The AEI building actually looks slightly higher quality as a result.

It is a shame AEI couldn't make the building's green technology more visible from the outside. The back of the building is far more interesting than the front. The front looks like a bland technology park building. The back has the bicycle racks and water tanks. On the roof you can see the light wells and solar chimneys, as well as the evacuated tube solar hot water system. The Micros
oft Technology Center in Cambridge UK made the bicycle racks a feature of the building (and easier to find when I wanted to park my bike). The energy and water efficient homes at the "Eco-living Exhibition" in Canberra made a feature of the solar chimneys and panels.

Australian Ethical Investments green office with suspended low energy lights, exposed cableways and heat sink concrete ceilingInside the suspended ceiling of the building has been removed on the ground floor to allow the concrete underside of the first floor to act as a thermal mass: providing cooling in summer and heating in winter. The concrete has been mostly painted white, with low energy light fittings suspended. Power and computer cables are in suspended cable ways. I have seen a similar arrangement at IBM's Centre at Ballarat University.

Offices in the center of the AEI building have conventional suspended ceilings. The architect has decided to leave the edges of the ceiling exposed, to allow natural ventilation. This is perhaps taking the industrial esthetic a little too far. It makes the building look half finished, with a rat's nest of cables and insulation exposed. Some sort of grille could have been used to cover the gap, allowing ventilation but providing visual continuity.

Conduits for power and computers are simply stuck to the concrete of the ceiling in most places. Having spent many hours with my head in ceilings and floors running computer cables through tiny holes, this is a great improvement. However, the architect might have done better to leave the concrete ceiling grey and used the hanging lights and cable ways to create a virtual ceiling. Looking up, you would see the bright white of the light fitting s and cable ways and not tend to notice the grey concrete above.

The building aims to maintain a temperature of 19 to 26 degrees C, which should be comfortable. The requirement for government buildings is 22 degrees plus or minus 1 degree and this tight range greatly increases energy consumption and cost, without providing much extra comfort. In fact the cold office on a hot day might not be as comfortable for the occupants.

The building uses a computer controlled system to open the windows at night in summer to cool it. I might see if some ANU students would like to do a project to interface the system and report the building status on the web (or even a mobile phone). The AEI building is by the same architects as the ANU's Ian Ross engineering building.

At the launch I bumped into Keith Price, who works on computer systems for the Centre for Australian Ethical Research. CAER are one of the occupants of the building and undertake research for AEI. The environment and ICT were an emerging theme at the ACS Conference last week. I suggested to Keith that perhaps we needed to form a Special Interest Group to address this in Canberra.

I am an AEI shareholder and have money in their ethical super fund. But while AEI's green credentials may be good, it can be frustrating difficult to put money into their fund. With other super funds I can simply use BPAY to electronically transfer money. AEI want me to set up a bank transfer and fill in a paper form. This is error prone and unnecessary and I suspect they are missing out on a lot of funds as a result. If you think e-payments are a trivial system see my discussion of the eighteen character problem.

ps: Apart from ICT for the environment, there is another computer connection to the AEI building. The building is named in honor of Dr Trevor Pearcey, Australian computing pioneer and one of the founders of the Australian Computer Society. In 1993 I took part in a future study for Canberra and wrote "Canberra 2020: World Information Capital" (published in Informatics Magazine, September 1993). This featured Trevor Pearcy House.

Australian Broadband Proposal by ALP

The Federal ALP has proposed a broadband network:
"We're proposing to invest up to $4.7 billion in this proposal in a partnership with the private sector for it to be constructed over a five year period which will deliver for 98 per cent of Australians, a broadband service which is up to 40 times faster than they currently enjoy. ..."

From: Building a National Broadband Network, Kevin Rudd, Press Conference, ALP, 21 March 2007
"With the rollout of a new 'Fibre to the Node' (FTTN) network, it will connect 98% of Australians to high speed broadband services - at a minimum speed of 12 megabits per second, a speed almost 40 times faster than most current speeds.

The remaining 2% of Australians in regional and remote areas not covered by this network will have improved broadband services. ..."

From: Federal Labor's Commitment To National Broadband, Simon Crean, Media Statement, ALP, 21 March 2007
The choice of 12 megabits per second seems to be based on what is possible with current ADSL technology and feasible with wireless in the near future. This would be enough to stream HDTV, regulatory issues permitting.

The ALP proposal seems similar to the G9's "SpeedReach" proposal from a consortium of just about everyone in Australian telecommunications, except Telstra. For Telstra to be included there would have had to be regulatory changes, which the ALP is proposing.

There might also be a place for Paul Budde's UtiliTel proposal for a consortium of power utilities to provide telecommunications.

The issues remain: how to get the data the last few hundred metres from a fibre optic cable into each home and how to service people in rural areas. For for very dense urban areas, such as the apartment building I live in, Ethernet on copper cables can be used. For suburban homes ADSL and copper cables seem most suitable. For rural areas, one solution used in India is their wireless local loop.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Google Comes to Canberra

Next Thursday Will Blott and Alan Noble from Google's Sydney office are visiting the ANU in Canberra.

The first part of the visit sounds like a sales pitch: "Google Australia is looking to forge relationships with key universities as they now have a dedicated 'on campus' focus in Australia. Google is keen to explore opportunities to partner that will add value to students' experience and help develop computer science engineers for Australia. ".

The second part is a technical presentation on the development being done for Google in Sydney, including Google Maps.

While I have been aware of some involvement of search engine developers locally, it will be interesting to put faces to names. The Standford University lab where Google originated uses my web site to test new search technology. AT one stage I had to tell them to slow down the crawling of my site. Some people from ANU have gone to work at Google and Microsoft on search technology.

Relevant projects at ANU include ones on semantic web for cultural publishing, mobile phones for bushfire mapping, and applications for a GPS open source smart phone.

Ten Canoes Study GuidesSemantic Web for Cultural Publishing

Two students undertook projects to provide a better web interface to Australian museum materials, including those which inspired the movie Ten Canoes.

One student now working out how to use this to provide more relevant links from the ACS Digital Library to services such as Google.

Sentinel Interactive Fire Tracking Map DemonstrationBushfire mapping

One student evaluated what was needed for an emergency management web site.

One application is adaption of the Sentinel Fire Mapping System for mobile devices. An experimental alternative web interface is available.

Sahana home page on a mobile phoneAnother application is to modify the Sahana open source disaster management system for a phone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Electric Boat in Canberra

Cygnet Electric Boat in CanberraFor a relaxed trip on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra you can take the "E.L. Cygnet". EL standards for "Electric Launch". This is a battery powered tour boat.

The small boat is an early 20th century design and originally had a one cylinder steam engine. But that took a lot of maintenance and was changed to batteries and an electric motor. I photographed the boat at
Commonwealth Place in the parliamentary triangle. The boat also makes eco tours where it can silently glide near the waterbirds.

The electric motor might seem very modern, but before internal combustion engines became reliable, electric powered cars and boats were a viable option for short trips. The new motor and battery technology being developed for electric and hybrid cars, is also making electric boats a realistic option, particularly for tourist boats.

The equipment for the Cygnet is from The Australian Electric Boat Co, on Sydney Harbour. They offer complete electric canoes and boats for one to sixteen people and an electric outboard motor for quick conversion of boats.

Australian Experimental Hybrid Car

CSIRO Australian Experimental Hybrid CarThe CSIRO produced an Australian Experimental Hybrid Car branded the "aXcessaustralia" (pronounced "Access Australia"). The car uses large capacitors , as well as batteries to store power:
The car features a patented drive train that makes best use of mixed storage. Super-capacitors are used to provide good acceleration and batteries are used to give the car range under electric-only operation (about 20 minutes in urban traffic). The car uses a series hybrid arrangement to give optimum packaging in a small space and an ideal weight split between front and rear.

From: "aXcessaustralia: the car of the not-so-distant future", CSIRO, 29 March 2006
But unlike the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, or even the Indian Reva electric car, the CSIRO vehicle is only experimental. It is intended to have technology from it used in vehicles of the future: you can't buy one.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hitech Spanish Warship in Sydney for Bridge Anniversary

Spanish warship Alvaro de Bazan F101 in SydneyThe Spanish warship Alvaro de Bazan (F101) is on a sales visit to Australia. It is at the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Fleet Base East, HMAS Kuttabul, Garden Island (accompanied by the F111). This is in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo. In many countries the main naval base would be cloaked in secrecy and security. In contrast the ships of the RAN base can be photographed from luxury apartments of the Finger wharf hotel and the Pool Side Cafe, at the Andrew "boy" Charlton Public Swimming Pool. next to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens.

Defence Video of Alvaro de BazanDespite considerable military air traffic overhead things are quiet on the ship. It happened to be the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Part of the festivities were fly pasts by a Catalina flying boat and paratroops descending from a RAAF C-130 Hercules, plus the Holden "blimp". My last visit to Garden Island was when I organized a meeting of the Australian Computer Society on board the Flagship of the US 7th Fleet.

The F101, is one of two designs in competition for the RAN "Air Warfare Destroyer". One confusing point is that the ship is described as "F100 class", but is the "F101", which is the lead ship of the new class.

The F101 is equipped with the Aegis combat system. It is smaller than US ships with this equipment. The Australian ships will use the locally developed radar antenna designed by CEA Technologies in Canberra.

The small size of the ship makes it less expensive, but not because less material is needed to build it but because it has a smaller crew. An Australian version will likely be larger due to the need to cover larger distances without replenishment. The worry for the Finance Department is that the RAN may be tempted to fill the extra space with expensive equipment and crew, rather than extra supplies.

The F101 is from the same Spanish shipbuilder who is one of the two designers shortlisted to build two "Landing Helicopter Dock" (LHD) ships.

If you would like to visit the Andrew "boy" Charlton Public Swimming Pool, take the 441 bus from the City.

By the way, thanks to the State Library of NSW for wireless internet access to post this item.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Report on the ACS Canberra Branch Conference 2007

The ACS Canberra Branch Conference 2007 was on Thursday 15 March. This was an exceptional conference. We had the announcement of a Ministerial policy, an insight to secure Customs systems, police on e-crime and details of how a high tech executive runs a family online. Some highlights:


Phil Argy said that simple word was needed to describe what ICT people do. His suggestion was "technologist" with a selectable adjectives in front of it, such as "software".

He then went on to talk about regulation of the ICT profession. He used the example of programing a robot for safety and argued this is an application where professionalism is clearly needed. He suggested that Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" influenced the movie "2001 a Space Odyssey" with the fictional HAL 9000 computer. They are explicitly quoted in the later film "I Robot", which is loosely based on Asimov's stories. Roger Clarke wrote a two part paper on the application of the laws to computing.

Phil when on to use an analogy with the push for environmental sensitivity in business, arguing employing a professional will show your business is supporting ethical business. Environmental issues in ICT turned out to be a theme which several speakers raised during the conference. Perhaps the ACS should be supporting environmental concerns in the ICT business. Computers and telecommunications (and the air conditioning for them) use a significant amount of energy in business. Routers, broadband modems, and computer in the home are also consuming more electricity. We might even earn some carbon credits from energy reduction moves. ;-)

Phil's quick definition of ethics is: "Doing the right thing even when no one looking". He used the example of including a secret code in software to stop it if the customer does not pay.

His third argument for professionalism was that ICT professionals are needed to support Australian exports. He argued that in three to five years time India and China will need to import ICT expertise and Australians were welcome. He gave the example of China getting10M new mobile phones a month (I saw this first hand on a visit to Beijing. This of course assumes that the Chinese economy does not collapse later this year, as predicted by George Friedman. ;-)


The Minister mentioned his former career as a professional surveyor and made parallels with the ICT profession He said how that profession had regulation for 100 years, with reciprocal licensing across all Australian states and NZ.

The Minister has responsibility for AGIMO. He said he has had a battle with other minsters to get their departments to use the central government web site run by AGIMO for their advertising campaigns. AGIMO mentioned this initiative at a Web Standards Group meeting some months ago. Instead of each agency using a different web address in advertising campaigns, the one standard address is used, with the campaign acronym on the end.

The Minister said the Australian Government Entry Point has 400,000 people a month visiting (which sounds low to me).

The Minister gave the FunnelBack search engine a plug (spinoff from CSIRO). He mentioned a geo-spatial test on the web site. I gave the service a quick try and it seems to work okay. It gives you a map of government services:
"We would appreciate your comments regarding the usefulness or accuracy of the map content; map features you would like to see; how easy it is to use the maps; or any other aspect of the Service Locator Trial. You can complete the Service Locator Trial Survey to provide your feedback."
The Minister said that geo-spatial data sets need to be coordinated to help with environment issues, particularly water conservation. This issue came up in Dr Markus Buchhorn's talk later in the day at the ANU. He should chat with the Minister on how to use the technology for water conservation in the Eden-Monaro. ;-)

The Minister mentioned the "single signon" for online government services. This was demonstrated at a WSG meeting some time ago. It would be useful and raises some significant technical and security issues, but far fewer than the Access Card.

The Minister mentioned the shortage of ICT people in the public service and the 75 apprentices in nine agencies. This is a good scheme, provided the apprentices do actually go on to get education and are not lured into just full time work due to the skills shortage.

At the end of his talk the Minister surprised the audience by announcing eight principles for ICT-enabled citizen engagement. There was no media release or document with the announcement, but I gleaned some details from the AGIMO web site.

There was then a question time:

Pat Barrett, Senior Fellow at the ANU and former Australian auditor-general, asked about retention of the apprentices in the public sector, and what would stop them getting jobs in companies after they were trained. The Minister replied this was being considering it, but skilled staff would benefit Australia, even if they were lost to the public sector.

I then asked: "Minister, there is a limited trial of electronic voting planned for the next election. So I set the ethics of this as an assignment for my computer students at the ANU. In the process I noticed that the Australian Electoral Commission does not appear to have made much progress setting up for the trial. Are you confident they are giving the project sufficient priority?"

The Minister replied there were to be two trials: one for Defence personnel, working via a Defence secure network and one for disabled people at 30 booths around Australia. He emphasized these are no Internet voting trails. He said it better be ready as he is the responsible minister. The AEC is aiming to be ready by 4 August, which is the earliest plausible election date.

Someone then asked about the public's confidence in the security of single signon. He replied that education was needed, as the security of the online systems was in many cases much higher than current paper based systems and much better than commercial ones.

The minister did a very credible job, showing a grasp of the topics and willingness to answer some tricky questions and answer them well.


Murray Harrison started his talk by demonstrating the security of his password protected Windows Visa Laptop and flash drive. He showed how the new customs system will allow secure access for officers around Australia.

I was a little skeptical of the demonstration and would not put that level of faith in this technology. He gave as a example using the system in a QANTAS airport lounge. I laughed at this point and he asked why, so I asked him if staff were going to be trained in keeping their information secure, given a senior military officer suffered embarrassment after leaving sensitive information in an airport lounge. He said this was being done in conjunction with system introduction. Perhaps Customs need to make a bulk purchase of lanyards to secure their electronic security tags. ;-)

Murray talked about what Customs were planning to do with ICT in the future, but did not go into detail. This contrasts with his presentation to the 2004 conference, when he discussed the "Implementing the Customs Cargo Management Reengineering System" in detail. That project now seems to be largey over the criticism it suffered.


Sheryle talked about AIIA initiatives with industry and government, including those to address the skills shortage. She mentioned the CSIRO water saving shower which "hollows out the water". She also she mentioned energy use by computers as an environmental issue and NICTA's work on water management technology.

On the topic of the skills shortage, Sheryle pointed out that there are few statistics on how many students have a second degree in IT.

On the topic of globalism,
Sheryle said that AIIA are having a Borderless World Conference:
Built on collaborative innovation, integrated production and outsourcing to specialists, the new model corporation bases its services where the expertise and skills lie, disregarding geographic borders.
  • How do these borderless enterprises reshape geopolitics, trade, leadership, workforces and education?
  • What is Australia’s place in a borderless world?
  • How does this new model affect the Australian SME?
  • How do SMEs and MNCs collaborate in this new world?
  • What is Australia’s innovation value proposition?
On a less serious note, Sheryle mentioned the high rate of use of communications in modern families, with spouses e-mailing, phoning and SMSing to remind their forgetful partners of tasks. I have arranged for Sheryle to talk at ANU next week. A team of students is programming a GPS smart phone, so perhaps they target it at family applications:
"... the built in phone would refuse to take any calls while your car was in motion. The automated voice response system would say on your behalf "Yes dear, I am on his way to pick up the kids, ETA is 2 minutes. I have parking slot 3 reserved in the school queuing system. Press 1 if you want me to get some milk on the way home, press 2 for bread ...". ;-)

From: <>

Nigel gave the most entertaining talk of the morning, with diagrams generated by the intelligence analysis software used by crime investigators to track online attacks. He talked about the risks of criminality online, including to children in services such as Second Life. He mentioned the use of money transfer services by terrorists. One comment was the problem with jurisdictions where Spam laws are "opt out" unlike Australia's "Opt In" laws.

About then the batter started to go in my laptop and I decided to sit back and enjoy the event.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Web to Set Tob Box video download the end of TV?

Amazon Unbox on TiVoAmazon is now offering digital videos by download onto TiVo Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Amazon keeps a record of what was bought and allows the user to download it again (if they erase their hard disk).

The interface for PCs is much the same as for books on Amazon. I am not sure what it looks like on a TiVo. Also I am not sure how well this will sell. Amazon has had digital video download sales and rentals for PCs for some time. I haven't exactly noticed a lot of rentals or sales in my Amazon Associate store.

It will be interesting to see what effect video downloads has on Australia's limited broadband.

Government Principles for ICT-enabled Citizen Engagement

Greetings from the ACS Canberra Branch Conference 2007. In his presentation, Gary Nairn, Special Minister of State announced eight "Principles for ICT Enabled Citizen Engagement".

The idea is the principles will be used to guide agencies services. This doesn't appear to have made it to the Miniser's web site, so I hunted down a draft on the AGIMO web site:

"... The Australian Government's 2006 e-Government Strategy, Responsive Government: A New Service Agenda, commits the government to "establish Principles for online engagement to support a consistent experience for everyone engaging with the government electronically."

The Principles have been developed in collaboration with the cross-jurisdictional public sector community of practice group (the e-Democracy Community of Practice). They are intended to guide agencies considering engaging with citizens using information and communication technology (ICT). ...


What are the Principles?

The Principles are a best practice guide for agencies wishing to engage with citizens using Information Communication Technology (ICT) as part of their policy making processes. 'Citizens', in this context, refers to individuals, business, community and other organisations and sectors. These principles are the result of research of existing national and international principles and with input from agency representatives from all levels of Australian government. The principles may need to be updated from time to time with the advent of emerging technologies, citizen demand and from lessons learnt.

What do we mean by engagement?

The OECD1 has developed a three stage maturity model for government engagement with citizens using ICT:

Stage 1: Information stage
A simple one-way relationship in which government delivers information to citizens

Government » Citizen

Stage 2: Consultation stage
A two-way relationship in which citizens provide feedback on issues defined by government.

Government »« Citizen

Stage 3: Active participation stage
A collaboration in which citizens actively shape policy options, but where government retains the responsibility for final decisions.

Government « » Citizen

It is anticipated that agencies' engagement approaches will vary depending on specific project requirements, their individual progress on the maturity model, resource availability, priorities and constituency expectations.

Why do we need the Principles?

ICT has the potential to increase levels of citizen participation in public discussions on the development of government policy. Citizen engagement using ICT also has the potential to further promote a culture of democratic decision-making in Australia.

One example of citizen engagement using ICT is online engagement. Online engagement can include online forums, Web Logs (BLOGS) on nominated discussion topics or e-mail discussion groups. For an existing example of online engagement, visit Queensland's Get Involved website (
Who are the Principles for?

The Principles have been developed for agencies across the different spheres of government who are considering engagement using ICT as a means of interacting with citizens.

How will agencies use the Principles?

The Principles are to operate as a guide to matters agencies should consider before undertaking engagement with citizens using ICT.

It is recognised that some agencies have limited resources to engage online. The Principles are aimed at supporting the development of engagement initiatives, rather than mandating specific outcomes.
Other resources

Agencies planning to undertake a process of online engagement will find additional, practical guidance by consulting the Australian Government's Better Practice Checklist for Online Policy Consultation.


1. Commitment

Agencies committing to engagement using ICT need to ensure citizens have appropriate mechanisms to communicate and participate effectively. Commitment to engagement using ICT is strengthened through the development of partnerships between governments and citizens.

2. Community Focus

When adopting ICT for engaging with citizens, agencies should facilitate information access, knowledge-sharing and discussion amongst participants and, through this, strengthen community consultation, participation and input into government policy-making.

3. Community Capability and Inclusiveness

Agencies need to seek broad and diverse involvement across all sections of the community, and not exclude citizens without access to ICT or those who face other barriers. Employing methods that are accessible and/or complement traditional means of engagement will assist individuals to participate and will build their capability for contributing to policy development.

4. Mutual Respect, Confidence and Trust

To demonstrate respect and build confidence and trust in online engagements, agencies and citizens should agree on consistent standards for communication when engaging with citizens. Agencies need to facilitate clarity of understanding and transparency of engagement processes by disseminating information, guiding participants' input and explaining how the input will be used in government decision-making. Confidence and trust between the citizens and government will be built by ensuring that engagement using ICT is a two-way and responsive process.

5. Interactivity and Flexibility

Agencies need to promote active engagement and discussion while employing flexible and innovative ICT-enabled mechanisms to take account of participants' diversity of capability, location, and socio-economic circumstances. The 24/7 capabilities of ICT can be used to help participants inform themselves and enable them to provide considered views in their own time and space.

6. Responsibility and Accountability

Agencies need to inform participants at the outset about how their input will be received and used in policy-making. Once a decision has been taken, agencies should indicate how citizen input through online engagement has been used. Agencies also need to be clear about who is responsible and accountable for the online engagement process and any decisions resulting from such engagement.

7. Security and Privacy

Agencies need to implement privacy protection, information security and, where appropriate, identity authentication measures. Agencies should comply with relevant security and privacy legislation.

8. Evaluation and Efficiency

Agencies can maximise the efficiency of online engagement through planning and effective collection, facilitation and processing of participants' input. Agencies need to evaluate the benefits of online engagement by identifying and measuring the impact of online engagement to policy-making.

1 Promise and Problems of E-Democracy: Challenges of Online Citizen Engagement, 2003, OECD. ... "

From: AGIMO web site, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Water prices not rising enough to reward conservation

In "Australian cities have no drinking water shortage" I suggested the price of water should be doubled over five years to reward those who conserve it. Unfortunately this has proved politically unpalatable in Queensland:
THE Queensland Government has been forced to limit its wholesale water price rises to placate angry residents while also pressuring councils to allow a takeover of water infrastructure in southeast Queensland.

After the Queensland Water Commission last week called for $9billion in new water infrastructure to be fully funded out ofhigher charges, Deputy Premier Anna Bligh acknowledged yesterday that it was "too much, too soon".

... "Instead of price rises doubling within five years, going from $350 to more than $700, we will see them rise by about $175 over that five-year period," Ms Bligh said of the 50 per cent wholesale price rise. ...

From Limits on rises in water prices, Sean Parnell, The Australian, March 14, 2007

Computer Science is not dead

Directed graph of a web siteIn "Is computer science dead?" (The Sydney Morning Herald, March 13, 2007), Lia Timson wrote:
IT professionals are too good at their jobs and now no one needs them. ... some say computer science as a vocation is dying. In a recent article on the British Computer Society's website, computer science lecturer Neil McBride from De Montfort University in Leicester says there's a crisis in university computer science departments (see related story).

Dr McBride says the arrival of high-level tools means vastly complex applications for business, science and leisure can be created without the coding, logic or discrete mathematics skills taught at universities. ...
Someone has to invent and apply the coding, logic, discrete mathematics and the like, to create new easy to use software tools. Modern software is easy to use, because it uses very hard to understand concepts invented by computer scientists.

As an example, Google software is not made easy to use by magic, but because they recruit the best and brightest computer scientists, who write very technical papers, to work on the software.

As the number of software engineers, information systems analysts, web site designers, knowledge engineers and the like increase, we have proportionally fewer real "computer scientists". But we still need them to do some of the hard bits.

As an example, to prevent web sites becoming a rat's nest of web pages, I suggest web tool designers think of a web site as a "Trimmed directed graph". The average web designer hasn't a clue what I am talking about, but I am not teaching people to design web pages by hand, but to write software to create web pages. The users of the software need never know what a directed graph is, just marvel at what neat web sites the software creates.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ACS Canberra Branch Conference 2007

The annual ACS Canberra Branch conference is on this Thursday. Past conferences have helped set the agenda for use of the Internet and e-commerce in Government.

ACS Canberra Branch Conference 2007

Venue: Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
Date: Thursday 15 March 2007
Program Highlights
  • Technologists in the Public Interest, Mr Philip Argy FACS ACS President
  • Hon Gary Nairn MP, Federal Member for Eden-Monaro and  Special Minister of State The Future of online Citizen-Government engagement in Australia, The Hon Gary Nairn MP, Federal Member for Eden-Monaro and Special Minister of State
  • A new era for Customs IT, Mr Murray Harrison, Chief Information Officer, Australian Customs Service
  • Sheryle Moon, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Information Industry Association The 5th Utility, Ms Sheryle Moon MACS, Chief Executive Officer, AIIA
  • The Future Trends and Challenges of High Tech Crime Investigations, Federal Agent Nigel Phair, Team Leader Australian HiTech Crime Centre
  • Improvements in Government ICT Investment, Mr Mark Spong MACS, (Snr) Director ICT Investment, Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO)
  • The Government's biggest IT and business transformation programme - Systems for People, Bob Correll, Deputy Secretary and Chief Information Officer, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)
  • Projects, Portfolios & Governance in a Virtual World: The Dilemma for Government IT Management, Rob Thomsett, Thomsett International
Speakers notes from some past conferences are available:

Canberra Wine Festival

Lerida Estate Winery Building by Glenn Murcutt.Wineries in and around Canberra hold two festivals a year, in March and November. The one last November was a lot of fun with Jazz and wine at the historic home of Professor Manning Clarke. and rabbit pie in a shed (designed by prize winning architect Glenn Murcutt).

The Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival is 31 March to 1 April 2007, with dozens of wineries and events (including the rabbit pie in the shed). The Canberra District Wine Industry Association has prepared a detailed brochure of the events, with a map. But unfortunately they did it as a very large 2Mbyte PDF file. This makes it difficult to download, so I extracted the list of events (minus the map). If you contact a winery, suggest they have their association do a better e-brochure:
  • Free wine tasting Garema Place 5-8 pm 23 March
  • Affleck Vineyard Indulge in our new releases and full range of wines. Bring a picnic and relax while taking in the view and the harvest action. Tel: 02 6236 9276. 154 Millynn Road, Bungendore Open: 9am-5pm
  • Athenabacchus Vineyard Enjoy the music, hear stories of wineries around the world with great musician and storyteller Brian Hungerford and his bagpipes, and learn about the harvest. Bring your own lunch and use our facilities, or taste ours. Enjoy a stroll in the vineyard and the rose garden. Experience the peacefulness and beauty of the hills around the vine yard. Tel: 02 4848 0288. 699 Lucky Pass Road, Collector Open: 10am-6pm
  • Brindabella Hills Winery Come and celebrate with us the sealed road to the vineyards! Join us on Sunday for a barbecued spiced chicken lunch and live jazz. Taste our fabulous first release Chardonnay Viognier - a wonderful wine. Tel: 02 6230 2583. 156 Woodgrove Close via Wallaroo Road, opposite Hall Open: 10am-5pm
  • Cafe Schonegg Enjoy an autumn menu featuring a Harvest Salad of smoked trout, almonds and grapes. We will be selling a diverse range of quality local produce including honey, handmade chocolates, lavender oils and works by local artists, craftspeople and jewellers. Sat/Sun 11-4pm. Tel: 02 6227 0344. 381 Hillview Drive, Murrumbateman Open: 11am-4pm
  • Clonakilla Taste the new release 2006 Viognier, 2006 Hilltops Shiraz and the 2005 Ballinderry Cabernet Merlot. A last chance to try the legen dary 2005 Shiraz Viognier. Taste our Murrumbateman extra virgin olive oil and some fine international cheeses from the Silo cheese room. Tel: 02 6227 5877. Crisp Lane, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Dionysus Winery An action packed weekend with free wine appreciation sessions (White Wine 10am & 3pm, Red Wine 11am & 4pm daily), home made gourmet pies, a regional produce tasting, new release Shiraz and a special festival 16 to the dozen deal! Bookings preferred for wine appreciation sessions and pies. Tel: 02 6227 0208. 1 Patemans Lane, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Doonkuna Winery Spend a relaxing day at Doonkuna. Enjoy tasting "Federweisser", natural fermenting sweet wine juice, traditionally served only during Harvest time, with our complimentary "Zwebelkuchen", a German Onion Cake. Children are welcome and a playground, barbeque and picnic facilities are available. Live jazz on Sunday from 12-2pm. Email: wine(a) Tel: 02 6227 5811. Barton Highway, Murrumbateman Open: 11am-4pm
  • Gallagher Wines Demonstrations of Champagne disgorging process: learn to riddle & disgorge! Light meals available including a Mediterr anean Platter and Fresh Berry Compote on Crepes. Tel: 02 6227 0555. 2770 Dog Trap Road, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Grazing Restaurant A 'must visit' for the dedicated gourmand. A special harvest festival epicurean menu served in the historic stone stables. The region's largest offering of exquisite Canberra District Wines perfectly matched to innovative award winning cuisine and a variety of boutique cheeses. Bookings essential. Tel: 02 6236 8777. The Royal Hotel cnr Cork and Harp Streets, Gundaroo Open: Lunch & Dinner
  • Greystones Estate Experience the spectacular views of the Brindabella Mountains and surrounding countryside. Light meals available each day, 10-5pm. Big screen music video entertainment each day. On Saturday join us for live Irish music 6-9pm. $20 from every case sale to be donated to CanTeen. Tel: 02 6226 8700. 153 Magennis Drive, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Helm Wines Witness the making of, and taste, some of Australia's finest Rieslings and Cabernets. The Helm Wine Options game will allow participants to test their wine knowledge and their palate and learn about wine styles (prizes awarded). Ken Helm will be on hand to welcome you. Tel: 02 6227 5953. Butts Road, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Jeir Creek Wines Witness the winemaking process first hand! Taste the fruit, fermenting wines and the newly released 2004 Sparkling Shiraz. Educational tours on Saturday at 12pm & 2pm. Enjoy harvest platters and Botrytis wine matched with scrumptious fruit tartlets. Live music from Cassidy's Ceili, Sun 12-3pm. Tel: 02 6227 5999 Gooda Creek Road, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Kamberra Wine Company Free wine tastings/winery tours (booking essential for tour). Wine Master Class for Young and Old Canberra Wines by local wine makers. Cheese Master Class by Bruce from 'Jones the Grocer'. Degustation Lunch on Sunday with our fabulous Kamberra and Meeting Place wines (some surprises). Email: events(a) Tel: 02 6262 2333. Cnr Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road, Lyneham Open: 10am-5pm
  • Koonaburra Vineyard Taste an "Ice Wine" styled wine - a delicious dessert wine made from Riesling grapes. Try also our Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Rose wines. Tel: 02 6236 9019. Summer Hill Road, Bywong Open: 10am-5pm
  • Lambert Vineyards and Cafe View harvest activities and learn how we monitor fermentation. Celebrate with our chef's delicious harvest menu accompanied by live music on Sat/Sun 12:30-3:30pm. Bookings essential. New release tastings. Tel: 02 6238 3866. 810 Norton Road, Wamboin Open: 10am-5pm
  • Lark Hill Winery Enjoy a marvellous wine and food experience at Lark Hill's new Vineyard Restaurant. Share wine flights & museum wines, and the synergy of good food and fine wines during lunch and dinner. Live music in the restaurant. Biodynamic winemaking in the winery, Sat/Sun, Cellar door 10-5pm, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 6-10pm. Bookings essential. Tel: 02 6238 1393, 521 Bungendore Road, Bungen dore Open: 10am-5pm
  • Lerida Estate Winery 'Good Wine, Good Health?' lecture & wine tasting, Fri 30th 6pm, University House. Balloon ride over Lake George & breakfast Sat/Sun 6:30am. Bookings essential. Learn how to make red/white wines & taste fermenting wine, Sat/Sun 11am. Lunch and jazz: 'As Famous As The Moon' Sat, 'Mike Bukovsky Quartet' Sun, both 12-3pm. Espresso coffee/cakes all day. Tel: 02 6295 6640. Federal Hwy, Lake George Open:10am-5pm
  • McKellar Ridge Wines Taste our exciting range of award winning wines. Watch winemaking demonstrations. Learn how to decide when the grapes are ready to pick. Taste the grapes and see if you can identify the flavours eg spicy flavours in Shiraz. View the display of Janet's watercolour paintings. Tel: 02 6258 1556. 2 Euroka Ave, Murrumbateman Open: 11am-5pm
  • Milimani Estate Vineyard Taste the new vintage and take the opportunity to buy older vintages before they sell out. Bring the family, a picnic, and check out the spectacular views. Tel: 02 6238 1421. 92 The Forest Road, Bungendore Open: 11am-5pm
  • Mount Majura Vineyard Smokey Jack's gourmet wood fired pizzas available from 11:30am-3:30 to enjoy with a glass of wine. Relax with the Aron Lyon Trio playing vintage tunes from 12-4pm. Take your time and savour the moment with a gumboot tour around the vineyard to see how vintage is progressing 11am Sat/Sun. Bookings essential for tour. Tel: 02 6262 3070. RMB 314 Majura Road, Majura Open: 10am-5pm
  • Mundoonen Winery Enjoy the winemaker's delectable cakes, tea & coffee free of charge, take a tour of a working winery at harvest time and talk to the winemaker. Bring a picnic to have by Yass River. View the historic barrel shed and antique wine artefacts & corkscrews. Tel: 02 6227 1353. 1457 Yass River Road, Yass Open: 11am-5:30pm
  • Pankhurst Wines Celebrate harvest and the vineyard's 21st Birthday with our bubbly red & white wines amongst the hills and vines. Matched by lunch from Ginseng & bluegrass/folk sounds from "Round John Virgin and the Strange Bedfellows". Sat/Sun 12-3pm. Learn how to assess when to harvest and test grapes for ripeness with Allan Pankhurst 12pm and 3pm Sat/Sun. Tel 02 6230 2592 "Old Woodgrove" Woodgrove Rd, Hall Open 10am-5pm
  • Pialligo Estate Winery and Cafe Join in the vintage activities: in the morning test grape sugars, handpick grapes and foot stomp or basket press in the traditional way. Enter the boules tournament. Recover over a long harvest-themed 2 or 3 course lunch, accompanied by wine and relaxing live music. Bookings essential. Tel: 02 6262 6692. 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo Open: 10am-5pm
  • Poachers/Wily Trout Vineyard Come and spoil your taste buds with a tasting of our renowned smoked meats matched to the Wily Trout wines. Enjoy listening to Jazz whilst eating lunch in the award winning Smokehouse Cafe. A sensational experience that combines a wonderful mix of the region's food, wine and countryside. Tel: 02 6230 2487. 'Marakai' Namina Road, Hall Open: 10am-5pm.
  • Redbrow Garden B&B An oasis of natural beauty and tranquillity only 20 min from Canberra. Superior 4.5 star lakeview ensuite garden rooms. Tel: 02 6226 8166. 1143 Nanima Road, Murrumbateman Open: 7 days
  • Shaw Vineyard Estate Sunday ONLY: Sit back, relax and listen to the smooth tunes of Dos Locos, 12-3pm. Sample the delicious a la carte menu including traditional Italian style wood-fired pizzas and taste our award winning wines at cellar door. Breakfast 8:30am-11am, Lunch noon-3pm. Bookings essential. Tel: 02 6227 5827. 34 Isabel Drive, Murrumbateman Open: 8:30am-5pm
  • Surveyors Hill Vineyards Taste trophy winning 2006 Riesling and over 10 other wines including Halliday-rated and medal winning Shiraz, Touriga, Cabernet Franc Rose and Sauvignon Blanc. Try the Shiraz-Touriga 2005 Blend. Estate grown olive oil, other olive products, chilli jam and other farm-produced conserves available for tasting/purchase. Tel: 02 6230 2046. 215 Brooklands Road Wallaroo, Hall Open: 10am-5pm
  • Tallagandra Hill and Cafe Discover the delights of Gundaroo - Fine Art, Fine Food and Fine Wine. View the works of local artisans in steel, clay and paper. Sample locally prepared gourmet food matched to Talla gandra Hill's latest wine releases including Viognier, Shiraz Viognier, Riesling and Rose. Tel: 02 6236 8694. 1692 Murrumbateman Road. Gundaroo Open: 10am-5pm
  • Wallaroo Wines Come sit in the garden and taste our new Sparkling Riesling while listening to live music. Gourmet platters of local produce will be available. Tel: 02 6230 2831. 196 Brooklands Road, Hall. Open: 11am-5pm
  • Yarrh Wines Jazz it up at Yarrh Wines this Harvest Festival! David Brown and friends play cool jazz Sat/Sun 1-3pm. Enjoying our now-famous gourmet food and wine matching platters - $15. Take part in vintage activities. Tel: 02 6227 1474. Greenwood Road, Murrumbateman Open: 11am-5pm
  • Yass Valley Wines Explore the cool climate vineyard and enjoy food & wine matching; Yass Valley Wines matched with local produce. Tel: 02 6227 5592 Crisps Lane, Murrumbateman Open: 10am-5pm
  • Urban Wine Trail Dinner Mount Majura Vineyard, Pialligo Estate and Kamberra Winery offer six fabulous courses matched with twelve of their best wines, Milk and Honey Restaurant, Civic, Fri 30th. $110 pp. Bookings essential. Bookings close March 26. Tel: 02 6262 2333
ps: A technical person with some time to spare might like to do a mashup map showing where the wineries are. Google Maps already seem to have most of the wineries listed.