Friday, August 31, 2007

Marion Mahony Griffin's The Magic of America Online

The full text of "The Magic of America" by Marion Mahony Griffin, is now available free online. Best known as the wife of Walter Burley Griffin, architect of Canberra, Marion was an architect in her own right. The Magic of America is a 1,400 page manuscript, which was never published.
"The Magic of America," a typescript of over 1,400 pages with approximately 650 accompanying illustrations, was written and compiled by Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1961), architect, designer, delineator, and artist. In 1911 she married Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937), architect, landscape designer, and city planner. Their architectural practice spanned almost four decades on three continents, and "The Magic of America" was meant, in part, to be a testament to their life and work together.

From: "The Magic of America: Electronic Edition.", The Art Institute of Chicago, 2007
"The Magic of America: Electronic Edition." was prepared by The Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries (Archives). This is an extensive piece of scholarly work, requiring different sources to be knitted together. As well as searchable digital text, a facsimile original and supplementary material is provided, including a list of related websites. It is panned to add a database of the images in 2008.

Marion Mahony Griffin's text is difficult to read at the best of times, being part biography and part scrapbook. The priority in conversion to electronic format was to preserve the format of the typewritten original, complete with handwritten notes and pagination. The web site allows for the reader to swap between the facsimile and digitized text versions of any page.

However, there are improvements which could be made to the electronic version. The web site initially loads a large graphic "splash page". While attractive, this takes a long time to load, particularly for those with a slow Internet connection, as for example those in India wanting to read about Walter Burley Griffin's work there.

The digitized text is provided as a large web page, the equivalent of 200 printed pages. This decreases response time on a slow connection and the text should be divided into smaller sections. Small thumbnails of images have been used, but these are perhaps too small and lack "alternate text" for blind readers and search engines.

What might be useful would be to apply the advanced technology, such as the Digital Scholar's Workbench, to transform the manuscript to a high quality typeset electronic document, with the appearance of a modern work. The information of interest to scholars could then be hidden from the average reader, to produce something which would be more readable and accessible. The scholar could press a button to select the additional information they required.

Web technologies could be applied top the same source data to transform it into a multimedia interactive work, to tell a story, in a more fluid way. This might allow the underlying poetry of Marion Mahony Griffin's work to escape from the limited linear format she was confined to. This work could be combined with a live performance, in the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and now a web equipped university lecture hall, or the New Theatre, Sydney, which is equipped with seats removed from the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne, 25 years ago.

See also:

Noise cancelling headphones

Noise cancelling headphonesChoice magazine tested Noise Canceling Headphones, in their August 2007 edition. Surprisingly the more expensive Bose units did not top the list of those recommended. Top was the Jabra C820s, followed by a discontinued Logitech model and then the Bose QuietComfort 2 and Bose QuietComfort 3.

Some years ago I bought a
Panasonic set of Noise Canceling Headphones for using on aircraft. These are very effective for reducing noise, but are uncomfortable on a long flight (such as Sydney to London). These units use active noise reduction, with electronics powered by a AAA battery to create anti-noise. The ear-cups are too small to completely cover my ears. Also the headphones fold into a ball, which is compact, but makes a lump which does not fit in my briefcase. The Jabra and Bose QuietComfort 2 units have larger earcups and fold flat.

Other units are made by companies including: Sennheiser , Philips, IRhythms, Sony, Koss. These include smaller units which designed to sit on the ears and ear buds in the ears, but the larger units which cover the ears completely provide passive, as well as active, noise reduction.

There are also much more expensive units designed for use by the military and pilots, with more sophisticated electronics. In addition there are Electronic Hearing Protection units, designed for protecting against noise which could damage the ears. These units are used by builders and work by blocking sound using passive material and then a microphone to carry sounds at a safe level.

Prospects for Green Growth

Micheal Smith will talk on Prospects for a Green Growth in Canberra, 6 September 2007:

The Fenner School Lecture

6th September 2007

Prospects for a Green Growth: Advancing and Resolving the “Growth” Debates

Micheal Smith Departmental Visitor, Fenner School for Environment and Society, Australian National University. Research Director, The Natural Edge Project (Hosted by Griffith University and ANU).

Over the last year there has been a significant shift in the debates about climate change and water issues in Australia. Thanks significantly to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, decision makers and citizens understand the need to achieve the IPCC’s recommended target of at least 60% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 . Al Gore outlined well the moral, humanitarian and security reasons for action on climate change. However he did not discuss the economics of climate change. There is still significant resistance globally in many nations to signing up to a Post Kyoto Framework largely due to fears on how it will effect economic growth. Both major political parties in Australia have failed to commit to short term greenhouse targets for Australia due to fears of harming economic growth. This talk will start by showing that such fears are unfounded. There is now a wealth of literature showing that deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved whilst maintaining strong economic and jobs growth. These studies show that economic growth can be significantly decoupled from greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. ...

The Fenner School Lecture is held in the Seminar Room, Level 6,
Hancock Building West (43), Biology Place, ANU.
(Take lift to Level 5, then take stairs to Level 6)
The seminar will start at 12:00 and finish at 13:00

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Samsung Internet Refrigerator

Samsung Refrigerator with Wireless ICE Pad on doorAn indication that a DOT.COM bubble may be happening is that Samsung have resurrected the Internet fridge. The Samsung model RH269LBSH has a 10.4 inch LCD touch pad computer on the front. The "ICE Tablet Pad" can be detached and operated using wireless networking

Samsung Q1P 7The pad presumably uses similar technology to the Samsung Ultra Mobile PC, although that has a smaller 7 inch screen.

FireLink Project Audit report

The ACT Auditor-General, released a report on problems with "FireLink" system, which was intended to provide emergency communication in Canberra. The report makes interesting reading for anyone interested in how IT projects go wrong.
The audit concluded that there were deficiencies in the scoping, planning, procurement and management of the FireLink Project. As a result the overall management of the FireLink Project was neither efficient nor effective in the delivery of the intended outcomes to meet Authority and Agency operational needs.

Key findings of the audit were:
  • In May 2003, following the January bushfires in the ACT, the Governmentapproved overall funding of $26.7m to upgrade the communication systems of the then Emergency Services Bureau (the New Radio Project). The Authority subsequently allocated $3.255m of the funding to the FireLink Project for the three-year period up to 2005-06, with funding for later years to be subject to Government approval.
  • There was no business case prepared to support the FireLink Project. There was no cost-benefit analysis of FireLink against alternative solutions.
  • In procuring FireLink, the Authority identified an available product and then developed an accelerated procurement process around the identified product, with the knowledge that further customisation was required to satisfy the Statement of User Requirements.
  • The procurement process failed to demonstrate clearly that the project would achieve a value-for-money outcome for the Territory. The consideration to support a local and innovative company and the urgency of the proposal appeared to outweigh other considerations including ‘value-for-money’.
  • The Authority’s consideration of risk for the FireLink Project was inadequate. In particular, the Authority generally underestimated the level of risk associated with delivering a complex ICT project, especially given the developmental nature ofthe proposed system.
  • There was insufficient consultation with end users in the development of the Statement of User Requirements.
  • Performance requirements for the system and the supplier were not adequately specified prior to execution of the contract, and continuous changes to the scope of the Project were not managed well.
  • The FireLink technology required the Authority to adopt new business practices and processes. However, attention given to change management to facilitate implementation of the new system was insufficient to ensure the support of various operational services, particularly the Rural Fire Service.
  • The FireLink system had several significant unresolved problems related to operational performance, reliability of coverage and delays in communication. These problems led users to express a lack of confidence in the system. Further,there was a lack of action to follow-up on these unresolved issues since December 2006, while JACS and the Agency commissioned two consultants’ reports on the Agency’s ICT projects.
  • Following these two consultants’ external reports, Commissioner Manson of the Emergency Services Agency announced on 13 July 2007 the withdrawal of the FireLink system from the Agency operations.
  • At the time of the Commissioner’s announcement to withdraw FireLink from operations, the FireLink Project did not achieve a number of the objectives stated in the procurement plan, additional development work were still needed to fully satisfy the user requirements, and the Project cost the Agency over $4.5m. ...
From: The FireLink Project, Performance Audit Report, Media Release, PA 07/11 28 August 2007

Reducing Australian ICT Carbon Emissions

I will be talking about "Reducing Australian ICT Carbon Emissions" at the Influence 2007 Forum, in the Hunter Valley, 9 September 2007:
A study sponsored by the Australian Computer Society has shown that computers and telecommunications equipment in Australia generated 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, 1.52% of national emissions. The ACS issued a Policy Statement for Green ICT, which includes suggestions on initiatives ICT professionals, government, consumers and ICT manufacturers can take to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the use of ICT equipment. Tom Worthington, chair of the ACS Green IT Group, will talk about practical steps which can be taken.
I attended a similar forum in 2004, talking on Home Technology Convergence. This was shortly before the last election and had an interesting mix of industry experts, vendors, IT journalists and politicians.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Online journalism with founder founder, Stephen Mayne, gave a talk on Online journalism and its impact on traditional media, 29 August 2007 at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. He discussed how online journalism is changing traditional media and politics and if user-generated Web 2.0 content is journalism. An audio recording is available from the NLA web site (30 Mbytes).

Michele Huston, Director Web Publishing at NLA introduced the talk pointing out that early editions of are preserved in the NLA's Pandora archive.

Stephen talked about journalism as a noble profession on one hand and in the power of political office on the other. After being a journalist for a time Stephen said his job as a political spin doctor was to intimidate the journalists and distort the news. In response to this he set up to get out as much information as possible. The Internet provides a deluge of information, raw, good and bad.

Stephen said that previously had Google AdSense advertisements which paid $1,000 a month and now sells its own web ads receiving $100,000 a month. advertises its issues on Google AdWords, spending $2,000 a month (their ads regularly appear on my web pages). Crikey now has 24 regular contributors, about 10 of whom are professionals journalists, with about half the content written by academic commentators and the like.

Stephen said Crikey provides a service in "join the dots" journalism, by pointing the reader to disparate sources to provide context and add value. Even so he argues that mainstream media in Australia is healthy and has a future. Radio is healthy. Free to Air TV is suffering and the quality of TV journalism is suffering. Newspapers are loosing advertising revenue to the web. Fairfax is diversifying to electronic and online media, with journalists filing online and then in print. The typical story is twice as long on the web version as the print edition of The Age. Online newpapers have more readers, but less revenue.

Stephen argues that the advertising model of quality investigative journalism is in decline and that in Australia the ABC's public funded model works well.

Stephen argues that Web 2.0 user generated content is not new. Letters to the editor and talkback radio are old forms of user generated journalism. Unfiltered anonymous online forums quickly generate into a mess. Bloggers don't break many major public stories. Due to compulsory voting, independent bloggers are unlikely to influence elections. The bloggers need a partnership with the conventional media to reach a mass market. Bloggs can also continue a public debate, in the place of declining public forums.

Stephen is skeptical of Google deciding what is good and what is not. He claimed that now pay for a higher ranking on Google. This is something Google are likely to deny, but I do wonder if my own web site's high Google ranking is due to my using so many Google services. He also said that many people do not understand that "sponsored links" are advertisements.

ABC came in for praise for their podcasts. Wikipedia came in for some criticism for the edit it yourself approach. Stephen said he was half contemplating running against the Treasurer at the next election.

I asked Stephen if the Internet had changed the political process, in the way that it is changing the way the administration of government is done (as illustrated by AGIMO's work wil web standards). He replied that the web was being used extensively for fundrasing in the USA and for recruiting people for campaigns. However, this answer missed the point of my question, which was about doing politics differently. What I had in mind was that the web could be used for formulating political positions, rather than just to help raise money to elect someone to go and sit in a room and talk about political positions.

W3C Australia Standards Symposium

W3C Australia held a one day Standards Symposium in Canberra on 28 August 2007. This is a one day event to look at where web standards are going. These are my informal notes from the event, not official minutes. The symposium was organized with NICTA, with OASIS, OGC and AGIMO also presenting.

World Wide Web Consortium Australia

The World Wide Web Consortium's Australian office (
W3C Aus) is run by CSIRO in Canberra (on the other side of my office wall in the ANU Computer Science and Information Technology Building).

W3C issue what they call "recommendations", but which are really standards, for HTML, XML, CSS and other key web technologies. W3C was founded by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, in 1994. As with any standards work, there is a rich mix of political, technological and commercial forces at work.

A recent area of tension touched on in the introduction was the schism in the web community between HTML and XHTML. Those working on the next version of HTML (HTML 5) have clearly stated they want to go a different direction from the work on the next XHTML (version 2).

Other tensions are with intellectual property issues with web recommendations. W3C aims to produce technology which can be freely used, without payment of royalties.

W3C wants to expand the web beyond desktop computers, to devices such as mobile phones. That probably is more a matter of commerce, than technology, but the advent of new consumer smart phones may make a differecne.

Typically the W3C process is to first have a "workshop" in an area of interest, then a working groups is formed (if justified) and publishes drafts for comment, implementations are produced to see the technology works, and after several more drafts a recommendation is released. Perhaps more importantly, W3C releases revisions and new versions of recommendations. Implementation guides and web tools are also provided to help with implementation.

As well as the more technical standards for HTML and CSS, W3C also produces guidelines, such as those for web accessibility. There are dozens of working groups working on interrelated recommendations who need to coordinate their work. W3C membership costs money and working group members contribute their time for free.

W3C Australia head, Ross Ackland, claimed the future of the web was to: semantic web, mobile web, and sensor web. He suggested we were in the middle of a ten year adoption of the mobile web, with the semantic web was further in the future and
sensor web was a newly emerging technology CSIRO would like to foster.

The semantic web tries to make a web which machines can understand. Ross argued that Web 2.0 and mashups were a "grass roots" ad-hoc approach to what the semantic web was attempting. My view is that WSeb 2.0 and mashups were providing useful services, while semantic web is a failure which should be abandoned.

The W3C Mobile Web Initiative in 2005 got the attention of the mobile phone industry. But the industry has had several attempts at turning the mobile phone into a viable mobile web device. The industry's attempt with WAP was a failure costing billions of dollars. W3C's own attempt with XHTML Basic, has had limited success. About the only one to be successful was Japan's iMode, which uses a version of HTML which the W3C rejected.

The Sensor Web will provide some standards for sensor access in the future:
The Sensor Web is a type of sensor network or geographic information system (GIS) that is especially well suited for environmental monitoring and control. The term describes a specific type of sensor network: an amorphous network of spatially distributed sensor platforms (pods) that wirelessly communicate with each other. This amorphous architecture is unique since it is both synchronous and router-free, making it distinct from the more typical TCP/IP-like network schemes. The architecture allows every pod to know what is going on with every other pod throughout the Sensor Web at each measurement cycle.

From: Sensor Web, Wikipedia, 21:20, 26 July 2007
CSIRO have a sensor web in Brisbane which can be accessed via web services:

This server contains test deployments of the Open Geospatial Consortium's (OGC) Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) services. ... getCapabilities ... data from the sensors deployed by the Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Brisbane, Australia. The sensor measure temperature, soil moisture and onboard diagnostics at three locations, qcat, belmont and gatton. There are roughly 125 stations with two or three sensors each. This yields over 250 data sources of which about 150 appear to be active. Each source reports every few minutes with data coming in every few seconds. ...

From: CSIRO ICT Centre SWE Web Services, CSIRO ICT Centre, 20 April 2007

Ross ended by asking what Australia could do for web standards. He pointed out that successful standards also needed market adoption. Standards take about five years to develop. The benefits are global. How does Australia contribute? An example is standards for water data standards to help with conservation in Australia and world wide.


OGC develops "specifications" for digital maps. The aim is to be able to knit together different online mapping services to produce a coherent view for the user. OGC works with W3C groups, ISO (ISO 191xx series including ISO 19115 for Metadata) and OASIS (such as Common Alert Protocol (CAP) for emergency messages), IEEE (Sensor Model Language: SensorML).

OGC sponsors scenarios to test implementation of standards (much like the
Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration [CWID] for military IT). OWS 4 in December 2006 worked on sensor web enablement SWE, geo processing workflow GPN and geo-decision support. OWS 5 for 2007 is being planned.

One thing which got my attention was mention of "Social Change On-line".

At question time there was a philosophical discussion of what a standard was, their benefits, disadvantages and processes. This was entertaining but not very enlightening. Perhaps there is a need for some courses on what standards are and how they are created.

Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards

Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) was foundered in 1993 for SGML related standards (more recently XML standards). It has more than 60 technical committees. Individuals and organisations can join. A well known OASIS standard is ODF, based on the office document format. OASIS produces horizontal standards (general purpose technology) and vertical standards (for a particular business function). Other standards are
Universal Business Language (UBL) , Customer Information Quality (CIQ) for identifying locations, organisations and people and Common Alert Protocol (CAP) for emergency messages.

Semantic Web

W3C's Semantic Web is about being able to process information. Current work is on an English-like version of the
Web Ontology Language (OWL). This reminds me of the attempt with COBOL to create an English-like computer programming language which could be understood by non technical business people. The result was a verbose language which was still unintelligible to business people and cumbersome for trained computer programmers.

SPARQL is the semantic query language. POWDER the Protocol for Web Description Resources. GRDDL the Gleaning Resources Descriptions and Dialects of Languages.

This was the least useful session of the day. The Semantic Web may well turn out to be very useful one day, but so far all that appears to have been produced are a bewildering array of unintelligible standards. About the only prospect of any of this work ever being of use would be to apply the process Tim Berners-Lea used to create the web, where he took a large and complex standard (SGML) and trimmed it down to the essentials to make HTML.


Chris Body presented about standards in Geoscience Australia. GA seem to have suddenly become more visible, with work on geospatial standards and Tsunami warnings.
The Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn, announced an Australian Spatial Consortium (ASC), on 14 August 2007, but it was not clear to me what this is.

ANZLIC (Spatial Information Council) have provided the ANZLIC Metadata Profile (December 2006) ISO TC211 framework. GeoNetwork is a metadata entry tool endorsed by Australian agencies in August 2007.

Geoscience people have a preference for formal international standards. However, GA is aiming to have any Australian contributions to be available free for public use under a Creative Commons licence.

Australian Government Information Management Office

Brian Stonebridge from AGIMO working on a standards governance framework. Brian argued that standards are boring to end users, there has to be some value to the user to get them interested. Brian's presentation was the most impressive of the day, because he was taking about how the standards could be used for the benefit of the community and he actualled used the technology he was talking about to make the presentation, via AGIMO's GovDex:
GovDex is a resource developed by government agencies to facilitate business process collaboration across policy portfolios (eg. Taxation, Human Services etc.) and administrative jurisdictions i.e. federal, state or local government levels. ...

From: Welcome to GovDex, Australian Government Information Management Office, 2007
Brian mentioned that some of the work is being done online, via the system with the French government.

Brian estimated that development of standards for government use will cost about $2M a year to administer. This is not the development of new technical standards from scratch, but selecting and profiling standards for a particular application (such as selecting e-document formats for an electronic application for building a house).

AGIMO have developed a plugin for enterprise architect for government standards.

AGIMO will use underlying international and national standards, and over this methods and tools, governance and references models. The business case for this is that it will reduce the cost over time.

Unfortunately Brian then lost me in an assortment of acronyms, including:
  • GIEM, Government Information Exchange Methodology (UMM v2.0 and CCTS v2.0). This extends the Canadian GSRM and is similar to the upper layers of AGA.
  • AGOSP: Australian Government Online Services Portal.
Also NICTA launched a three-year research initiative in eGovernment in January 2007, but it is not clear what this is intended to achieve.

Overview of the day

Ross Ackland argued that we were now "moving up the stack": the low level standards for digital communications using the Internet are set and largely working. The web provides an digital publishing overlay for this. Now more semantic content is being added to the web with standards in areas such as Geoscience and more general areas such as the Semantic Web. This is a useful way to think about the work, but the reality I see is not such a clear or systematic path.

Ross asked what should W3C and other bodies do to further standards in Australia. W3C has only a few full memebrs in Australia, due to the small size of the It industry.

I suggested that NICTA, CSIRO and other interested parties could create a one hour presentation explaining how standards development works in Australia. This could be placed on the web and offered to ACS and other IT groups to explain where standards come from and how they could get involved. This may help avoid some of the controversy and confusion surrounding issues such as the proposed adoption of Microsoft's OOXML format as an ISO standard.

One way to look at this which Ross pointed out is that the point of view about the systems are built will change: instead of building an application for an organisation and then try to interface it to other organisations, we will build the interfaces first. From the wiser perspective, I suggested that the web standards effort could be seen as building a global computer system for processing information, much as the Internet is a global system for communicating information.

Some Overall Issues on the Day

* WHERE IS ASIA?: Several speakers talked of how the standards committees were heavily influenced by US government agencies (particularly the military and security) and less so by European organisations. There appears to be little involvement by Asian organisations. There appeared to be a lack of interest in why this is so, the problems it will cause and what to do about it. Australia is culturally close to the USA and Europe and so can ride on the coat tails of the current standards process. However, at some point Asian countries and industries may decide their interests are not being served by the current standards process and decide to set up a new process for standards. Perhaps Australia can play a part in bridging the gap. This could address cultural and geopolitical issues using the web technology itself.

* USING THE STANDARDS: Many groups are producing advanced web standards. Some Internet and web tools are being used by committees. But the output of the standards committees are PDF documents or web pages. It might be useful for the web standards groups to apply some of the technology they are proposing to the standards process itself.

* USING STANDARDS: Perhaps one area in which Australia can contribute is to helping test and implement standards. This will provide useful feedback to the standards developers and also provide potential useful products.

* AUSTRALIAN DEVELOPMENT THROUGH STANDARDS: The most productive part of the day was meeting David Peterson from Boab Interactive . This Australian IT company is the latest member of W3C Australia. They are based in Townsville, North Queensland and doing web work, mostly with tropical environment research projects. Some years ago the AUstralian government funded me to see how to get regional ICT happening.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Open Source Case for Open Source Phone?

Opentec ruggedised PDAThe FIC Neo1973 Smartphone uses open source software, which Shane Flint has pointed out, should make it very versatile. However, that will be of little use if no one likes to the physical design of the phone. Perhaps there could be work on an open source design for different case designs, to match the open source software.

Engineering students learn how to drop test a simulated mobile phone. Perhaps they could be set the task of designing a ruggedised case, similar to those produced by the Australian company OpenTec for military and outdoor applications.

This could be useful for builders and other outdoor workers and might be a popular fashion statement, in the way SUVs are.

Saving the Planet One Towel at a Time

On the weekend I bought 3m of 10mm diameter (1m thick) aluminum tube (about $7) and bent it to make a drying rack which fits under the vent on my home air conditioner. This allows me to dry washing while using the air conditioner as a heat pump. Perhaps air conditioner makers could offer this as an accessory.

Ideally washing should be dried in the sun naturally, without the need for a clothes dryer. But many homes are now equipped with a dryer. It may be difficult to convince the average householder to give up their dryer, so it might be better to give them a more efficient cheaper one.

Electric tumble dryers use an electric heating element which warms the air and then discharge hot wet air into the room or outside. This is very inefficient. Some more expensive "condensing" dryers use mains water to condense the humidity out of the discharge air. These waste water as well as electricity.

A cheap and simple alternative might be to equip the laundry with a reverse cycle air conditioner. The clothes would be hung on a small fixed rack above the laundry tub, under the air conditioner. Ideally the air conditioner would have an interlock so it would not operate when the door or window of the room is open.

Assuming the home is already being equipped with air conditioning, an extra outlet for the laundry should be cheaper than an electric clothes dryer. An alternative might be a fan and duct to circualte air from an air conditioner elsewhere to the drying room.

Optionally piloted UAVs

In a talk at the Australian Defence Force Academy last year, I mentioned that one option being looked at for future military aircraft was optionally manned (or piloted) or flow with no one on board as a UAVs.

These are civilian or military aircraft modified to be flow without a pilot. This can be useful where sometimes a crew is needed, to fly the aircraft where UAVs are not permitted or where people are needed to do things a computer can't.

At present these are mostly proposals, not real systems. The German built Diamond DA42 civilian twin engine light aircraft, adapted for surveillance., is offered as an "Optional Piloted Surveillance and Reconnaissance System". Further in the future Lockheed Martin has proposed a pilotless F-35 fighter.

Recently Boeing has proposed an optionally manned Gulfstream G550 business jet for the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) project. On a smaller scale, the current crop of very light jets (VLJ), would seem suitable. These have advanced electronic avionics which are adaptable to remote control, carbon fiber construction which can be modified for sensors and are intended to be produced in large numbers at low cost (starting at $1M). Most have two engines, but units such as the Eclipse ECJ have a single engine.

Geothermal Energy in Australia

Dr. Anthony Budd, Project leader, Geothermal Energy, gave a presentation at the Geoscience Australia Open day in Canberra Sunday 26 August 2007 entitled "Geothermal Energy in Australia". GA are working on how to extract useful energy from underground heat and already use it to heat and cool their building in Canberra.

The Australian Government released an Onshore Energy Security Initiative in August 2006, which included geothermal energy project. GA are working on mapping likely locations for geothermal power stations and modeling how to extract the heat for such "Hot Rock" systems work.

Dr. Budd described the Birdsville geothermal power station, which produces 80kw from 27 L/s of water at 98 degrees C from 1230m down in the Great Artesian Basin. After heat is extracted for power generation, the cooled water is used by the town.

Larger systems are under development using "hot rocks" rather than existing underground water.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre

Daniel Jaksa, Operations Team Leader of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) gave a presentation at the Geoscience Australia Open day in Canberra Sunday 26 August 2007 entitled "Earthquakes to Evacuate".

Boxing Day Tsunami

Geoscience Australia is part of the Australian and international tsunami warning systems. Daniel played a sound recording of the 26 December 2004 earthquake, from a hydrophone at Diego Garcia, 2,600 kilometers from the epicenter. This was a deep rubling which seemed to go on forever.

The tsunami caused by the earthquake hit Indonesia 15 minutes later. Daniel showed video of the tsunami in Phuket, Thailand, 30 minutes after the first wave. He pointed out that the first wave is not necessarily the largest. The Tsunami stuck Kenya eight hours later. In total 230,000 people were killed and 45,000 missing.

In response the Australian government provided $68.9 M for a four year program to establish a warning system. Involved are GA, Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), Emergency Management Australia (EMA), and the State Emergency Services (SES).

A tsunami with a 9m runup hit Steep Point WA at about 7:30pm. This destroyed a campsite, but the family were able to hold onto their car and avoid being swept out to sea.

Establishing an Australian Tsunami Warning Centre

Opening of Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (AusTWCThe Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) is jointly run by GA (earthquake detection), and Bureau of Meteorology, (sea level monitoring). The Operations Hub for GA's part of AusTWC was officially opened on 1 December 2006 in Canberra

GA detects earthquakes, evaluates them for tsunamigenic potential, passes the information on to BoM and evaluates the results. The GA person on duty (called the "watch stander") evaluates an earthquake within five to ten minutes of detection. The watch stander presses a red button to issue an electronic alert to BoM. The BoM only have one tsunami buoy currently (others being installed) , plus tide gauges to detect a tsunami. Tsunami propagation models are used to evaluate the size and timing of a potential tsunami.

Daniel showed news reports from North Queensland of evacuations due to an earthquake in the Solomon Islands 2 April 2007 and later beach closures along the east coast of Australia. He showed a simulation of how an earthquake in New Zealand could cause a tsunami inundating Wollogong. This was a chilling demonstration. But the high risk areas in Australia are the North West shelf and around Hobart.

Dangerous Confusion in Australian Tsunami Warning System

Diagram of the Australian Tsunami Warning SYstemThe AusTWC computer system at GA is mirrored at the BoM, in case of a failure at GA in Canberra. Also other warning centers around the region can assist if the Australian system is not available. However, the major problem with the Australian system is not the technical design, or competence of the scientific staff, but the lack of effort put into communicating warnings to the public.

Like other regional warning centers, the JATWC does not directly issue public alerts, this is left to state governments via EMA. As a result there is a potential delay and lack of standard terminology in the messages issued. With the most recent Solomon Islands tsunami warning there was a lack of preparedness, particularly by the Queensland government. Resulting delays and confusion could result in a large loss of life in a future tsunami.

There is a lack of standard terminology in the Australian approach to tsunami warning. As an example the BoM refer to the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS), Australian Tsunami Alert System (ATAS), and the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC). GA refer to the Australian Tsunami Warning Centre but use a different acronym for it to BoM: AusTWC. Research by one of my students at ANU has shown that in an emergency the credibility of emergency information, is very important in the public accepting and acting on the information. If there are different names for the same organization, this will cause dangerous confusion.

The Australian Government has recently decided to intervene in state matters in several areas. Providing tsunami warnings direct to the public is one areas in which such intervention would be justified. The "last century" approach of GA passing a tsunami warning to EMA who pass it to SESs who then decide to pass it on (depending on the whim of the state premier) is not satisfactory. Instead each party should pool the information, interpretation and advice they have available. All those involved, including the general public, can then make an informed decision as to what to do.

During the 2004 Tsunami, the staff of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre attempted to warn the Indian Ocean region, but there was no system or procedure by which to do so. These staff could be forgiven for this unanticipated failing. However, this does not apply to the staff of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre. The scientists and public servants involved in the centre have an obligation to ensure that they can issue clear warnings to the Australian public. The excuse that it is someone else's job to pass on the warnings is not acceptable.

Problems with Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System

In addition to administrative problems with the system in Australia, there are also problems with the electronic format of messages used for tsunami warnings in the region. The result of this could be that even when a timely message is issued, it may not be received or understood. AusTWC and similar organizations need to work together on better formats for the information.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wikipedia editing by the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Channel 10 TV news interviewed me yesterday about the use of Wikipedia by the Australian government. The head of the Prime Minister's department is reported to have denied that his staff were involved. However, the online records indicate the changes were made using a IP address allocated to PM&C.
THE Commonwealth's top public servant has denied that any of his staff, or those of Prime Minister John Howard, have used their internet service to make changes to Wikipedia entries. ...

But PM&C secretary Dr Peter Shergold denied his staff were involved, after checking with the department's service provider.

"I have been informed by our internet service provider that the changes to Wikipedia entries made after 2004 and being attributed to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet were, in fact, not made by anyone in this department or the prime minister's office," he has said.

"The network address that appears against the charges being reported by the media is that of another customer of our internet service provider - not my department. ...

From: Wiki edit story wrong: department head, AAP in Herald and Weekly Times, August 24, 2007 06:39pm
The Wikipedia records show that a change was made to the entry for
Peter Costello on 28 June 2007 to remove "(AKA "Captain Smirk")" using the IP address . The Australia Pacific Network Information Centre indicates this address is allocated to "Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet":
% [ node-1]
% Whois data copyright terms
inetnum: -
netname: MCT-pmc-04
country: AU
descr: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
descr: Intellicentre Gateway Internet Service
admin-c: MCT2-AP
tech-c: MCT2-AP
changed: 20050107
mnt-by: MAINT-AU-MCT
source: APNIC
role:         Macquarie Corporate Telecommunications
address: L16 477 Pitt Street Sydney Central Building, Sydney 2000 ...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Portable learning centre

The technology of the flexible learning centre looks usable in Australia and could be built into a transportable classroom. But could this be taken a step further and be made portable? That would allow the equipment to be carried into a room in a number of travel cases and set up in a few minutes. As well as being used for education, this could provide a temporary office.

Carry Cases

Carry On Watertight Hard CaseOne useful definition for what is portable is the size of an airline carry on bag:
Cabin baggage should have maximum length of 22 in (56 cm), width of 18 in (45 cm) and depth of 10 in (25 cm). The sum of these three dimensions should not exceed the 45 in (115 cm). These dimensions include wheels, handles, side pockets, etc.

From: Luggage, Wikipedia, 22:05, 26 July 2007.
A typical Carry On Watertight Hard Case is the Pelican 1510, which is
19.75" x 11.00" x 7.60" (50.1 x 27.9 x 19.3 cm) inside.


Display Screen

A flat panel screen such as an LCD or plasma display will not fit in a travel case. Also the large plastic or glass surface of the screen is subject to damage in transit. An alternative is a projector, DLP Projectors currently offering good brightness at a reasonable price.

Student Screens

ASUS Eee PCLaptop computers are more easily packed than LCD screens. In this case high power computers are not required. An alternative is the
ASUS Eee PC which has no hard disk and a 7" or 10" screen.

Wikipedia editing by the Australian government

Tom Worthington on Ten News 24 August 2007Channel 10 TV news interviewed me at 2pm as a representative of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) about the use of Wikipedia by the Australian government (broadcast on Ten News at 24 August 2007 at 23:03:30 EST).
Staff in the Australian prime minister's department have been accused of editing potentially damaging entries in online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Workers made 126 edits on subjects such as immigration policy and Treasurer Peter Costello, a local daily said. ...

Changes were also made to the online profile of Peter Costello, Mr Howard's deputy and treasurer. ...

The new website, Wikipedia Scanner, also identified computers at Australia's Defence Department as being behind more than 5,000 changes to the site, the daily said. ...

From: Howard row over Wikipedia edits, BBC 24 August 2007, 09:39 GMT
Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute. The Wikipedia does not require the use of real names by contributors, but records IP addresses. As the Wikipedia says:
"An unregistered user is identified by his or her machine's IP address, which is used as their public identifier when making contributions (and signing comments on talk pages). Your computer's IP address can sometimes be used to find information about you, so registering increases your privacy by hiding it. ">.
The WikiScanner by Virgil Griffith allows IP addresses to be looked up to easily see who edits what on the Wikipedia. As an example a quick search found 3819 edits of the Wikipedia by the Australian Department Of Defence IP range

Most of these edits seem relatively uncontroversial. Many are to correct spelling errors and details of military units and equipment. Some are to remove some details which should not be widely known for reasons of privacy and security. Others appear to be unrelated to the Defence Department and of general community interest. About the only issue would be if this was a good use of a government agency's computer and staff time.

ps: I drafted the Defence Department's web guidelines in 1995 and Internet policy in 1996, as cited in "Demonstration of the Australian Defence Web Home Page", SEARCC'98, 8 July 1998. It was a tricky business, not just a matter of banning web sites on how to play golf or make bombs, as both these activities are part of official defence jobs. I don't know if the rules were revised since them to specifically cover the Wikipedia.

Hybrid Truck for Mobile Command Center

Hino Hybrid TruckHino, Toyota's truck subsidiary, are now selling a Hybrid medium size truck. These are large enough to carry a containerized shelter for a Mobile Command Center, as used by the police, fire and other emergency services. Use of a hybrid vehicle has been noted saving having to install a separate generator in the truck to power lights, computers and air conditioning.

The Hino Hybrid truck has a 23kW generator and 273 volt 6.5Ah battery. This would be enough for a small containerized shelter the size of a 20 foot ISO shipping container. These can be expandable.

Metropolitan Ambulance Service mobile command and                      communications vehicleAn example of an Australian mobile command center on a truck the size of the Hino Hybrid is the Victorian Metropolitan Ambulance Service mobile command and communications vehicle. The Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia Incident Control Vehicle is based on a smaller bus chassis.

Mobile Command Center of the US Joint Force Headquarters National Capital RegionA large range of commercial vehicles are used for mobile command centers, from ones based on SUVs, up to articulated semitrailers. As an example the Mobile Command Center (MCC), of the US Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) is on a 41 foot semi-trailer.

The same technology is used for mobile classrooms, PR displays and outside broadcast units.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Damaged people in the play Damages

Last night I attended the UK play Damages by Steve Thompson at the New Theatre Sydney. This is set in the editorial office of a UK tabloid newspaper late at night before the deadline. The staff have to deal with issues of ethics, the public interest, the law and their own tangled personal relationships, while under the clock to get the presses rolling.

The cast of Michael Briggs, Alan Faulkner, Pamela Jikiemi and Matt Rossner do an excellent job, as did the set designer. The play does loose a bit in the translation from the UK, with some references to English locations having less resonance in Australia.

The play would make an entertaining and thought provoking night out for those in the media and the law. Even those working on web sites will find something relevant in this. Perhaps the New Theatre should have updated the setting of the play to the offices of a web publisher, like The minute details of what goes on in a newspaper office otherwise may seem a little "last century" to a 21st Century Internet audience.

While on the subject of new media, this is an area which the New Theatre is yet to explore. Perhaps they could start with a dramatization of the Royal Commission into the Australian Wheat Board (formally know as the "Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme"). That would provide a ready made script , which some of the New Theatre actors have already performed for current affairs TV programs in reenactments of the hearings. The courtroom could be reproduced on stage and the large video screens which were part of the courtroom could display TV coverage of the events to provide context.

The projection technique was used to effect for the play "SHADOW OF THE EAGLE" By George Blazevic and Ingle Knight. The play was set in Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin's wartime office. A screen projected 1930s style newsreels to provide a context for the confrontation with General Douglas MacArthur.

Goa first wired state in Inida

A recent news report suggests that now Goa will shortly be the most "wired" state in India. In 2005 I visited India and stayed in a village in Goa for three weeks. One thing which impressed me were the tech savvy locals, with the nuns at the convent being on the Internet, cyber cafes used by locals (which not in use by the tourists) and wireless broadband available. The Goa initiative is very similar to those for connecting Australian rural areas, with fibre optic cable to towns (and local government), then wireless for remote users:
Goa is set to become the first state in India to be fully connected through a high-bandwidth broadband network. By March, the network will be rolled out together by the state government and Bangalore-based tech solutions company United Telecom Ltd in a so-called public-private partnership model.

Optic fibre cables and wireless technologies will be used across the state and will also link some 200 computer kiosks that deliver government services to the state’s residents.

United Telecom is also providing connectivity for 450 common service centres in Jharkhand.

The first phase of the Goa broadband network, connecting every taluka and district with 10gbps (gigabits per second, a measure of speed of the network) bandwidth is already complete, while the second phase, connecting panchayats in 403 villages with 1gbps connectivity, will be complete by December. Every household will get bandwidth of 2-10mbps (megabits per second) by March. ...

From: Broadband for all: Goa to be first fully wired state by March, by Regina Anthony, Mon, Aug 20 2007. 12:40 AM IST,, HT Media

Broadband for Environmental Sustainability

ACS Green ICT with Robin Eckermann, 19 September 2007, Canberra. The Eckermann-TJA Broadband Environmental Sustainability Challenge offers cash prizes on the theme of applying broadband telecommunications to deliver significant benefits to environmental sustainability. Entries close on 14th September 2006.

Australian Computer Society

Green IT Special Interest Group

In Conjunction with the ACS National Telecommunications SIG

First Canberra Meeting

Topic: Broadband for Environmental SustainabilityRobin Eckermann

Speaker: Robin Eckermann, Principal, Eckermann & Associates and Adjunct Professor, School of Information Sciences and Engineering, University of Canberra

Venue: Australian National University, Room N101, Computer Science Building, North Road, Canberra
Date: Wednesday 19 September 2007
Time: 5:30pm drinks/nibbles for presentation 6pm-7pm
Event Prices: Free.
Registration: Not required


Professor Eckermann argues that broadband telecommunications can be used to make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability. Energy inefficient activities can be displaced with earth-friendly alternatives, such as renting a movie via the Internet (avoiding trips to and from the video store), working some days from home (saving travel costs and easing pressures on the road) or using "networked intelligence" to manage energy and water consumption more efficiently.

Robin will discuss the origins and progress with the Eckermann-TJA Broadband Environmental Sustainability Challenge. This is offers cash prizes for the best papers offered to the Telecommunications Journal of Australia on the theme of applying broadband telecommunications to deliver significant benefits to environmental sustainability. Entries close on 14th September 2006.

About the Speaker

Robin Eckermann is Principal of Eckermann & Associates, a consulting company providing technical, strategic and business development consulting services, with particular focus on advanced network infrastructure projects and Adjunct Professor, School of Information Sciences and Engineering, University of Canberra. He was previously Chief Architect for TransACT Communications, leading the establishment of TransACT, rewiring half of Australia's national capital with an advanced FTTK network with VDSL tails delivering triple play services. Robin has a Graduate Diploma in Computing from University of Canberra and a B.A. in Computing, Philosophy from Adelaide University.

About ACS Green IT

The ICT Environmental Sustainability Group ("Green IT") brings together professionals interested in balancing economic and environmental aspects of information technology and telecommunications. It is a special interest group of the Australian Computer Society. The group aims to hold joint meetings with other professional bodies interested in technology, the environment and sustainability. Sign up now to get updates on ICT and the environment.

About the ACS National Telecommunications SIG

The ACS National Telecommunications SIG has formed an Alliance with the Telecommunication Society of Australia (TSA) to focus attention within the Telecommunications Industry on: Broadband - Key National Infrastructure (collaborating with the ACS Economic and Industry Policy Board), Skills Development and Education, Innovation and R&D in ICT with an emphasis on economic impact, Teleworking – particularly as enabled by Broadband availability, Industry Structure and Competition.

Computers and green architecture

Kevin Miller, Architect at the ACS Green IT Special Interest Group, 17 October 2007. Talks about the difficulties of balancing environmental and business requirements for a building.

Australian Computer Society

Green IT Special Interest Group

Second Canberra Meeting

Topic: Computers and green architecture

Speaker: Kevin Miller, Architect and Director, Collard Clarke Jackson Canberra Pty Ltd

Venue: Australian National University, Room N101, Computer Science Building, North Road, Canberra
Date: Wednesday 17 October 2007
Time: 5:30pm drinks/nibbles for presentation 6pm-7pm
Event Prices: Free.
Registration: Not required


Australian Ethical Investment's refurbishment of their Canberra office was designed to achieve environmental benefits and resource efficiency as well as increased staff comfort and productivity. Kevin Miller, architect for the project, will talk about the difficulties of balancing environmental and business requirements for a building. He will look at the compromises which have had to be made with green buildings and progress made since his design of the ANU's IAN Ross engineering building. Kevin will suggest how architects and IT professionals can work together for sustainable buildings.

About the Speaker

Kevin Miller, Architect and Director, Collard Clarke Jackson Canberra Pty Ltd.

About ACS Green IT

The ICT Environmental Sustainability Group ("Green IT") brings together professionals interested in balancing economic and environmental aspects of information technology and telecommunications. It is a special interest group of the Australian Computer Society. The group aims to hold joint meetings with other professional bodies interested in technology, the environment and sustainability. Sign up now to get updates on ICT and the environment.

Reducing The IT Sectors Carbon Footprint

ACS Green ICT with Michael Smith, 21 November 2007, Canberra. The rapid growth of the IT industry means that the IT sectors greenhouse gas emissions are rising. Michael will discuss how the IT sector’s carbon footprint could be dramatically reduced with energy efficiency savings for computers, servers, datacenters, and telecommunication technologies:

Australian Computer Society

Green IT Special Interest Group

November Canberra Meeting

Topic: Reducing The IT Sectors Carbon FootprintMichael Smith

Speaker: Michael Smith, Research Director, The Natural Edge Project

Venue: Australian National University, Room N101, Computer Science Building, North Road, Canberra
Date: Wednesday 21 November 2007
Time: 5:30pm drinks/nibbles for presentation 6pm-7pm
Event Prices: Free.
Registration: Not required


The rapid growth of the IT industry means that the IT sectors greenhouse gas emissions are rising. Michael will discuss how the IT sector’s carbon footprint could be dramatically reduced with energy efficiency savings for computers, servers, datacenters, and telecommunication technologies. In May 2007, IBM committed US$1 Billion dollars per year to make IT infrastructure more energy-efficient. Michael argues that major global IT employers like IBM are going to be looking for graduates with training and skills in this area and that there is potential to improve energy efficiency standards for information technologies. He will also outline research and training programs needed for energy efficiency in the IT sector.

About the Speaker

Michael Smith is Research Director of the The Natural Edge Project and a Visiting Fellow at ANU. He is currently developing an online “Engineering Sustainable Energy Solutions” training program with Griffith University, ANU with partners such as Engineers Australia. The project is funded by CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship and the National Framework for Energy Efficiency.

He has a double major Science degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Melbourne with honours at the University of Sydney. Michael recently submitted his Ph.D at ANU on "Advancing and Resolving the Great Sustainability Debates". Michael has been involved with the development of many environmental sustainability research and education programs through his role with The Natural Edge Project.

About ACS Green IT

The ICT Environmental Sustainability Group ("Green IT") brings together professionals interested in balancing economic and environmental aspects of information technology and telecommunications. It is a special interest group of the Australian Computer Society. The group aims to hold joint meetings with other professional bodies interested in technology, the environment and sustainability. Sign up now to get updates on ICT and the environment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Digital Copyright & the Consumer Revolution: Hands off my iPod

Book Launch:

Digital Copyright & the Consumer Revolution: Hands off my iPod Digital Copyright & the Consumer Revolution: Hands off my iPod

by Matthew Rimmer, Senior Lecturer, ACIPA, The Australian National University College of Law, Australia

The Friends Lounge,
The National Library of Australia,
Canberra, The Australian Capital Territory
3:00 pm, Friday, 21 September 2007

RSVP: matthew.rimmer(a)


‘Rimmer brings the tension between law and technology to life in this important and accessible work. Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution helps makes sense of the global maze of caselaw and copyright reform that extend from San Francisco to Sydney. The book provides a terrific guide to the world’s thorniest digital legal issues as Rimmer demonstrates how the consumer interest is frequently lost in the crossfire.’ – Professor Michael A. Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law, the University of Ottawa, Canada

This book documents and evaluates the growing consumer revolution against digital copyright law, and makes a unique theoretical contribution to the debate surrounding this issue.

With a focus on recent US copyright law, the book charts the consumer rebellion against the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 1998 (US) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 (US). The author explores the significance of key judicial rulings and considers legal controversies over new technologies, such as the iPod, TiVo, Sony Playstation II, Google Book Search, and peer-to-peer networks. The book also highlights cultural developments, such as the emergence of digital sampling and mash-ups, the construction of the BBC Creative Archive, and the evolution of the Creative Commons.

Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution will be of prime interest to academics, law students and lawyers interested in the ramifications of copyright law, as well as policymakers given its focus upon recent legislative developments and reform proposals. The book will also appeal to librarians, information managers, creative artists, consumers, technology developers, and other users of copyright material.

Table of Contents


1. The dead poets society: copyright term and the public domain

2. Remote control: time-shifting and space-shifting

3. The privateers of the information age: copyright law and peer-to-peer networks

4. The grey album: copyright law, digital sampling, and mash-ups

5. Grand turismo in the high court: copyright law and technological protection measures

6. Agent smith and the matrix: copyright law and intermediary liability

7. Google: search or destroy?

8. Remix culture: the creative commons and its discontents

Conclusion. A consumer's manifesto: the declaration of innovation independence ...

From: Selected Works of Matthew Rimmer, The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2007

The book is available from

Text of Microsoft's OOXML Presentation

Microsoft's OOXML Presentation was included in the Standards Australia hosted forum on the proposed Draft International Standard ISO/IEC 29500, "Information technology - Office Open XML file format", 9 August 2007 in Sydney. I provided some excerpts and was asked to include the slide presentation. The presentation "The case for a positive vote for Office Open XML Standard (ECMA-376)", has similar content to the Microsoft OOXML web site. So rather than clog up the web with another slide show, I have just provided the text, without the graphics (available from the web site):

The case for a positive vote for Office Open XML Standard (ECMA-376)


  • Not here to discuss JTC-1 process
    • Not here to debate minute technical details
  • All specs have issues - resolved via process
  • This is not a competing standard-just as ODF and PDF don't compete
  • Question is: Does this spec have significant value for the Australian economy and citizenry?

The vote we are casting…

  • We are deciding, is Ecma-376 a fair representation of the OpenXML file format?
  • Will it bring clear benefits to consumers of software in Australia?
  • Do we want to grant access to the data that Australian citizens and businesses currently hold in binary Office formats?
  • Getting Aust government and business involved in future development of Ecma-376, ISO DIS29500.

Respecting EU / IDABC Recommendations

  • European Union (IDABC)

    "The use of open document formats, such as WordML, improves interoperability"

    "Microsoft should consider the merits of submitting XML formats to an international standards body of their choice"

Why OXML too?

ODF design goal - from the actual spec itself:

  1. This document defines an XML schema for office applications and its semantics. The schema is suitable for office documents, including text documents, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents like drawings or presentations, but is not restricted to these kinds of documents.
  2. The schema provides for high-level information suitable for editing documents. It defines suitable XML structures for office documents and is friendly to transformations using XSLT or similar XML-based tools.

Why OXML too?

OXML design goal-from the ECMA spec

  1. This Part is one piece of a Standard that describes a family of XML schemas, collectively called Office Open XML, which define the XML vocabularies for word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents, as well as the packaging of documents that conform to these schemas.
  2. Here is where OpenXML differs radically in its design goals from other formats:
    The goal is to enable the implementation of the Office Open XML formats by the widest set of tools and platforms, fostering interoperability across office productivity applications and line-of business systems, as well as to support and strengthen document archival and preservation, all in a way that is fully compatible with the large existing investments in Microsoft Office documents.

Multiple standard precedents

  • Multiple standards for general purpose programming languages (C, C++, C#, FORTRAN, LISP, Eiffel, Pascal, etc
  • Multiple standards for XML schema languages (SGML DTDs, RELAX NG, Schematron, Namespaceaware, DTDS, etc.), -have the same use.
  • standards for both the POSIX ABI and Linux ABI; both have the same use

Office Open XML Formats

  • Mature (>20 years) deep, broad set of characteristics used by billions of documents and millions of users - XML design and translation started 9 years ago
  • Designed to represent all information of .doc, .ppt, .xls in XML
    • 100% compatibility with .doc, .ppt, .xls
    • All format characteristics, styles, content, options in binary formats represented in open XML formats
    • Default format for Microsoft Office from now on
  • Billions of existing documents to be converted to XML
    • Free add-ons for past versions
    • Default file format for Office 2007
    • Bulk converters for documents

The Document Type Spectrum


Narrative Transactional


The Role of XML with Documents

Demanding Interoperability

Evolving Document-centric Customer Needs

Document Assembly
Server-based or user-assisted construction of documents from archived content or database content
Create sales reports from financial and forecast data stored in a CRM system
Content Reuse
Much easier to move content between documents, including different document types
Apply content stored in Word documents to Web pages quickly and efficiently
Content Tagging
Add domain-specific metadata to document content to enable custom solutions
Tag presentations using a specific taxonomy to improve knowledge management efficiency
Document Interrogation
Query document repositories based on custom data, content types or document metadata
Search for all documents containing a specific company name or sales contact
Document Sanitization
Remove unwanted content like comments or embedded code from your document when appropriate
Remove all tracked changes and comments from a Word document before it is published

OpenXML-Custom Schema Support

Traditional document capabilities:

Facilitating a publishing process - Authoring, collaborating, sharing, printing etc

The new direction for documents:

Facilitating person-process interoperability

interoperabilityLinking user’s publishing activities and structured business data as part of business process – all in one XML document.

Example: XBRL and Open XML

User works on document with structured data from a back end system - document to update the system - all within a familiar Office environment.

Broad Industry support for OpenXML


  • Altsoft XML2PDF server 2007
  • AltViewer documents preview
  • Altova XML
  • Spy Corel Office
  • Create Word 2007 documents without Word installed
  • doxc to RTF
  • Madcap Flare
  • Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • Mindjet's MindManager
  • Monarch V.9.0 from Datawatch
  • ODF-Converter
  • OOX-UOF Converter
  • Open ERP Software
  • Open XML Translator
  • Open XML translator for OpenOffice (for Linux and Windows Versions of
  • Open XML Writer PythonOffice (Python API to read and write Excel XML documents from within Python programming language)
  • Sourceforge Project to allow .NET(C#) developer to have component that will interact with Open Xml file
  • Special Templates for Master Thesis
  • Word 2007 Map Editor for Mindjet MindManager
  • Xpertdoc Studio 2007 reporting solution

Mac OS X:

  • DOCX convertor for the Mac
  • docx to html Konverter
  • doxc to RTF Konverter
  • MacLinkPlus Deluxe version 16 by DataViz
  • Microsoft Office 2008
  • Neo Office 2.1
  • Sun Open XML import filter for spreadsheets
  • Word Counter 2.2.1
  • Apple iPhone


  • Gnumeric - open source Spreadsheet
  • Open Office ..Novell edition
  • Open XML translator for OpenOffice (for Linux and Windows Versions of

Other Operating systems or Operating System independent:

  • Docx2Doc Web Service
  • DOCX convertor on Palm handheld devices
  • OpenXML4J - Open XML framework for Java
  • (hundred of developers, multiple platforms)
  • PHPExcel - Web Development (PHP)
  • WebService with mailing of Document, docx to HTML
  • Word 2007 file(docx) construction using Java

Change Creates Challenges

  • An immense wealth of information is written in existing Microsoft Office formats
  • Millions of users created Billions of documents over the past 20 years
  • Migration to XML could be damaging if not undertaken with due care for the practical reality
    • Users mandate backward compatibility with existing documents and products
    • Anything less could be massively disruptive to users and risk unacceptable loss of content
  • Migration to XML should not compromise performance or potential functionality
  • We have some precedents...

    Path to ISO:

    Open XML: Microsoft -> Ecma-> ISO (via fast track: FAST TRACK)

    ODF: SUN -> OASIS -> ISO (via fast track: PAS)


    Open XML: : Microsoft -> OSP and CNS

    ODF: SUN -> OpenDocument Patent Statement

    Voting "YES" with comments:

    Open XML: Tech issues raised through ballot -> BRM

    ODF: Tech Issues raised by 8 countries

    Office Open XML Cosponsors

    • Apple
    • Barclays Capital
    • BP British Library Essilor Intel Corporation Microsoft Corporation NextPage Inc. Novell Statoil ASA Toshiba The US Library of Congress

    List of Applications with Office Open XML


    • Altsoft XML2PDF server 2007
    • AltViewer documents preview
    • Altova XML Spy
    • Corel Office
    • Create Word 2007 documents without Word installed
    • doxc to RTF
    • Madcap Flare
    • Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003
    • Microsoft Office 2007
    • Mindjet's MindManager
    • Monarch V.9.0 from Datawatch
    • ODF-Converter
    • OOX-UOF Converter
    • Open ERP Software
    • Open XML Translator
    • Open XML translator for OpenOffice (for Linux and Windows Versions of
    • Open XML Writer
    • PythonOffice (Python API to read and write Excel XML documents from within Python programming language)
    • Sourceforge Project to allow .NET(C#) developer to have component that will interact with Open Xml file
    • Special Templates for Master Thesis
    • Word 2007 Map Editor for Mindjet MindManager
    • Xpertdoc Studio 2007 reporting solution

    Mac OS X:

    • DOCX convertor for the Mac
    • docx to html Konverter
    • doxc to RTF Konverter
    • MacLinkPlus Deluxe version 16 by DataViz
    • Microsoft Office 2008
    • Neo Office 2.1
    • Sun Open XML import filter for spreadsheets
    • Word Counter 2.2.1


    • Gnumeric - open source Spreadsheet
    • Open Office ..Novell edition
    • Open XML translator for OpenOffice (for Linux and Windows Versions of

    Other Operating systems or Operating System independent:

    • Docx2Doc Web Service
    • DOCX convertor on Palm handheld devices
    • OpenXML4J - Open XML framework for Java
    • (hundred of developers, multiple platforms)
    • PHPExcel - Web Development (PHP)
    • WebService with mailing of Document, docx to HTML
    • Word 2007 file(docx) construction using Java

    The Path to Standardisation

    • Documentation prepared by Microsoft and submitted to Ecma, based upon the Office 2007 file format and well documented customer requirements.
      • Need for backward compatibility and fidelity with billions of existing documents
      • Need for the file format to fully represent the features of the Microsoft office platform as a starting point
      • Ability to use the file format as a developer tool, enabling new types of data led applications
    • Entities within Ecma worked on the standard, requesting and adding much more information;
      • Including… Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress
    • Ratified as Ecma-376, a global published standard in December'06.
    • Submitted to ISO for approval as DIS 29500
      • Contradiction period (looking at the role of this standard and the overlap with other existing standards) - approved to progress to a technical ballot
      • Approval by country ISO committees based upon technical merits of the standard
        • Yes (with or without comments)
        • Abstain
        • No (with comments, and suggest resolutions)
      • Ballot resolution meeting is the next stage, where those voting no, or simply wanting to discuss comments are invited to meet in person and resolve any outstanding issues in the spirit of positive collaboration.

    The Evolution of ECMA 376

      2005: ECMA International starts work on Office Open XML
    • Founding members of ECMA TC 45:
      • Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA, Toshiba
    • Goal of ECMA TC 45:
      • create ECMA Office Open XML Format standard
      • contribute ECMA Office Open XML Format standard to ISO/IEC JTC 1 for approval and adoption by ISO and IEC
      • To steward future evolution of Office Open XML
    • Open process
      • Technical Committee open to any ECMA member. Novell, US Library of Congress joined TC45 after creation
    • Initial draft, about 2.000 Pages
    • Work Progress/Transparency:
      • Weekly conference calls
      • Meeting regularly
      • Initial and Interim drafts posted publicly on ECMA web site
      • External feedback - SC34 experts, others
    • 7. December 2006: ECMA General Assembly
      • Overwhelming positive vote
      • Approval to Submit to ISO Final
    • Standard about 6.000 Pages (through changes and supplements in TC45)

    SourceForge ODF Converter

    • Microsoft is funding and providing architectural guidance to build ODF plug-in
    • Set of open source tools on SourceForge under a BSD license
    • Read and "save as" functionality of ODF in Office 2007 and previous versions (via compatibility pack)
    • Tested for EU Document conformance
      • Eg. round-trip interoperability with a translation bureau working with ODF

    Peaceful Coexistence

    Improving current position:

    • Already in market:
      • growing base of users - Windows/non-windows
      • Massachusetts now endorses OpenXML
    • Gaining ISO standard benefits all those users.
    • Co-existence of format already:
      • Translator projects building a technical bridge between Open XML : ODF
      • Operational support for binary->XML (Office Migration Planning Manager)