Thursday, January 31, 2008

How many webmasters does it take to change a light bulb or fix a tap handle?

Sign on library tap. Photo by  Paul HagonThe January meeting of the Web Standards Group in Canberra today featured discussion of light bulbs and the design of the tap handles in the National Library of Australia toilets.
Geoff Dibley talked about the design of search facilities for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). He was previously at Geoscience Australia and brought an insightfully analytical approach to the issue.

Geoff started by relating the problems of finding a specific sort of light bulb on a home shopping web site. It turned out that products for the sight had been categorized according to where they were located in a physical supermarket, which did not help the online shopper.

A little humor was injected by one audience member commenting they were from Customs, where "internal search" had a very different meaning from the web use of the term.

Paul Hagon, talked about the redesign and search analysis of Picture Australia's site. He started with a photo of the instructions above the tap handle in the toilets at the library. This is the same tap handle I photographed, commented to NLA about and used in my web design lectures at ANU, as an example of what not to do. The point of this, as Paul pointed out, the large set of instructions indicate that the interface needs to be made simpler: be it a tap handle or web search facility.

Paul had useful advice, backed up by statistics. Most users only enter one, two or three keywords for a search, they do not use advanced searches. The experts who ask for complex search facilities only make up a tiny fraction of users, make them a specialist search page, if you must. About a third of referrals come from public search engines, so make sure they can easily index your content. Items in the news suddenly become popular and you need to be able to direct readers to these. The topics may come from the international media, not just local.

One surprise was that one quarter of queries on the DAFF web site were about jobs. This is something agencies usually hide away in a sub menu, but perhaps need to make more prominent. It may also suggest that the Australian Government should take a more coordinated approach to providing job information.

ps: I asked Paul if his tap handle photo was indexed on Picture Australia. He said not yet, but may be in a few days as it is on Flicker and that is now included. But there are some tap handles already in the database.

Social business and Work-life balance

Cover of Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism By Muhammad Yunus, Karl Weber Nobe prize winners Muhammad Yunus and Karl Weber in Creating a World Without Poverty ask us to use capitalism for social ends. The idea with social business is that it can be both profitable and socially beneficial. Ideally the social benefit increases with the profit, giving the business an incentive to act for the public good.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize outlines his vision for a new business model that combines the power of free markets with the quest for a more humane world--and tells the inspiring stories of companies that are doing this work today.

In the last two decades, free markets have swept the globe, bringing with them enormous potential for positive change. But traditional capitalism cannot solve problems like inequality and poverty, because it is hampered by a narrow view of human nature in which people are one-dimensional beings concerned only with profit.

In fact, human beings have many other drives and passions, including the spiritual, the social, and the altruistic. Welcome to the world of social business, where the creative vision of the entrepreneur is applied to today's most serious problems: feeding the poor, housing the homeless, healing the sick, and protecting the planet.

Creating a World Without Poverty tells the stories of some of the earliest examples of social businesses, including Yunus's own Grameen Bank. It reveals the next phase in a hopeful economic and social revolution that is already under way--and in the worldwide effort to eliminate poverty by unleashing the productive energy of ever human being.

From: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, Product Description, Amazon, 2007

Ceramics by Distance Education

Chiko Jones Colour Green, neriage technique Ceramic, 2004The ANU offers a Diploma in Ceramics (Distance Mode). That is you study about pottery, including how to make it, over the Internet. To do this the student is sent DVDs, reads online notes and takes part in online discussion, does work in their own studio, sending in photos for comment and attends two On-Campus Schools. WebCT is used to manage the online content and for the student to submit reports and images of the progress of their work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Smartphone as desktop PC replacement?

i-mate Ultimate 6150 smartphoneThe i-mate Ultimate 6150 smartphone has XGA (1024 x 768 pixels) video output and a USB port. So, in theory, you could plug an ordinary LCD desktop screen and keyboard in to provide a desktop computer replacement. The smartphone would not be as powerful as a regular computer, but might be adequate for web browsing and online applications. One thing which was not clear to me from the specifications, was exactly what video connector was provided and what you could plug into the USB socket on the phone. Could you plug a USB hub and plug a keyboard and mouse into that?

The phone has a XScale PXA 270 520MHz Processor. This is similar to that used in some thin client computers. If you did not want a phone, or portability, a thin client computer would be cheaper.

Public Knowledge Project, 15 February 2008, Canberra

Recommended talk at the National Library of Australia, 15 February 2008, 12.30 pm in Canberra. Kevin Stranack is from the Public Knowledge Project at the Simon Fraser University, which produced the free Open Journal System publishing software which I used to set up the Australian Computer Society digital library:
It gives me pleasure to invite you to the next Digital Culture talk:
The Public Knowledge Project: Breaking Down the Barriers to Open Access
Kevin Stranack

Are you concerned about the spiraling costs of academic journals? Do you worry that access to critical research information is under threat? This presentation will describe the work of the Public Knowledge Project, and discuss some of the steps librarians and others in Canada, Australia, and other countries around the world are taking to confront the crisis in scholarly communication, and ensure that readers and authors remain connected.

A collaboration between the University of British Columbia, Stanford University, and Simon Fraser University's Library and Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, the Public Knowledge Project has grown from a small research project into a global, community-based, open access publishing alternative, providing free, open source software for hundreds of researchers, editors, software developers, and librarians.

Kevin will be introduced by Chris Foster, Director Monographs Branch, National Library of Australia

The speakerKevin Stranack is a librarian with the Public Knowledge Project at the Simon Fraser University Library. He works with editors, publishers, software developers, and librarians in their use of open source software for open access publishing, and is the author of "OJS in an Hour", "OCS in an Hour", "Getting Found, Staying Found", and other documents published by the Project. Kevin is a frequent presenter at library and information technology conferences, including the Canadian Library Association, the British Columbia Library Association, the Charleston Conference, Access, BCNet, NetSpeed, and others.

Date: Friday 15 February 2008
Time: 12.30 to 13.30
Venue: Library Theatre
This talk is free and open to everyone. ...

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch, IT Division
National Library of Australia

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hacking the Eee PC

To see how to install a USB hub, GPS, Bluetooth, a card reader, flash drive, high speed WiFi, a modem and other add-ons to your ASUS Eee PC see "Eee PC Internal Upgrades". I have not tried any of these. As well as voiding your warranty these could destroy the computer if not done correctly. But many involve just adding USB devices, so are not that hard.

What would make this easier would be an external docking device which would fit under the computer and have USB sockets to hold USB drives. This would stick on under the computer and plug in with one USB cable. It would then supply four recessed, widely spaced USB sockets designed to hold Flash, Bluetooth, WiMax, 3G, WiFi, Ethernet and similar devices.

The one docking unit could be designed to fit the Eee PC and the Apple MacBook Air (which is lacking in sockets and expansion). The unit could optionally hold an extra batter battery to power the devices, recharged via the USB cable.

Of course given the relative costs of Eee PCs and Apple Airs, you could afford to use an Eee PC as a docking device for an Air. ;-)

ps: I suggested building "flash docks" into a low cost education computer. The idea came from some of the early subnotebook computers which had lots of PCMCIA slots and very little else. To add memory, a disk drive or any interface, you added a PCMCIA Card. Now many such expansion options are available with USB, but some way to physically hold the USB device is needed. The ExpressCard is intended as a PC Card replacement and includes USB as an option. But Express Cards are expensive and rare, compared to USB devices.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Books, Journals and Websites on Climate Change

The State Library of NSW have produced a very useful list of books, journals and websites on global warming and what to do about it called "Cool readings for a hot planet". Unfortunately this is provided as a PDF document with the title "This is where the test goes", so many people may have difficulty finding and reading it. The library provided reference numbers of where to find the books, but I had difficulty in finding those reference numbers in their catalog. So instead I looked them up in Those which are not available on Amazon, I searched around for an outlet:

  1. Adapting buildings and cities for climate change: a 21 century survival guide by Sue Roaf; David Crichton and Fergus Nicol. Oxford : Architectural Press, 2005.
  2. Australian green consumer guide: choosing products for a healthier planet, home and bank balance by Tanya Ha. Sydney : UNSW Press, 2007.
  3. The complete idiot's guide to hybrid & alternative fuel vehicles by Jack R. Nerad. New York : Alpha Books, 2007.
  4. How to live energy smart : tips on saving money in your home and helping the environment . Sydney [N.S.W.] : Sustainable Energy Development Authority, 2002.
  5. Easy organic gardening and moon planting by Lyn Bagnall. Carlton North, Vic. : Scribe Publications, 2006.
  6. Eco-wise & wealthy : how environmentally friendly living can turn your finances around by Joanna Tovia, Milton, Qld. : Wrightbooks, 2005.
  7. Global warming : cool it! : a home guide to reducing energy costs and greenhouse gases. Canberra : Australian Greenhouse Office, c2003.
  8. The green city : sustainable homes, sustainable suburbs by Nicholas Low. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press, 2005.
  9. The green gardener : sustainable gardening in your own backyard by Josh Byrne. Camberwell, Vic. : Penguin, 2006.
  10. Green house plans [Edited by Alan T. Gray]. Trentham, Vic. : Earth Garden Books, c2002.
  11. Greeniology : how to live well, be green and make a difference by Tanya Ha. [3rd] ed., fully updated and rev. Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne University Press, 2007.
  12. It is easy being green : simple steps to help your business help the world by Jean Cannon. Norwood South, S. Aust. : Jean Cannon Consulting, 2007.
  13. A lighter footprint : a practical guide to minimising your impact on the planet by Angela Crocombe. Carlton North , Vic. : Scribe Publications, 2007.
  14. The little green handbook : a guide to critical global trends by Ron Nielsen. Melbourne : Scribe Publications, 2005.
  15. Making your home sustainable : a guide to retrofitting by Derek Wrigley. Melbourne : Scribe, 2005.
  16. On borrowed time : Australia's environmental crisis and what we must do about it by David Lindenmayer. Camberwell, Victoria : Penguin Books in association with CSIRO Publishing, 2007
  17. Organic at home. Millers Point, N.S.W. : Murdoch Books, 2005.
  18. Organic gardening in Australia. Editor-in-chief : Pauline Pears. Camberwell, Vic.: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.
  19. Organic growing with worms : a handbook for a better environment by David Murphy. Camberwell, Vic. : Penguin, 2005.
  20. The rough guide to climate change : the symptoms, the science, the solutions by Robert Henson. London ; New York : Rough Guides : Distributed by Penguin Group, 2006.
  21. Sticks, stones, mud homes : natural living by Nigel Noyes. Prahran, Victoria : Hardie Grant, 2004.
  22. Sustainable living for dummies by Michael Grosvenor. Milton, Qld. : Wiley Publishing Australia, c2007.
  23. Sydney's guide to saving the planet by Giovanni Ebono. Warriewood, N.S.W. : Woodslane Press, 2007.
  24. Towards a sustainable future [DVD]. (76 mins.) Sutherland Shire Council, 2005.
  25. Tread lightly: a guide to travelling green in Australia by Robin Stewart. Melbourne : Black Inc., 2005.
  26. True green : 100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin. Sydney : ABC Books, 2006.
  27. Vortex cities to sustainable cities : Australia's urban challenge by Phil McManus. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press, c2005.
  28. What can I do? by Lisa Harrow. Sydney : Hachette Livre Australia, 2005.
  29. Worldchanging : a user's guide for the 21st century, edited by Alex Steffen and foreword by Al Gore. New York, N.Y. : Abrams, c2006.
  1. Earth garden. Balmain, N.S.W. : Earth Garden.
  2. Ecos: towards a sustainable future. East Melbourne : CSIRO.
  3. G: The green lifestyle magazine. Strawberry Hills : Luna Media.
  1. Australian Conservation Foundation The ACF is committed to inspiring people to achieve a healthy environment. Use the ACF’s Eco-calculator to find out your eco-footprint, receive a free climate change action kit.
  2. Australian Greenhouse Office The key Commonwealth agency on greenhouse matters.
  3. Ecologically sustainable Sydney Covers environmental issues such as water; carbon and cimate change; composting; transport; restoration of indigenous flora and fauna.
  4. Ecomedia All the latest news on a wide range of ecological issues.
  5. New South Wales Environmental Trust Explores ways we can live sustainably at home, work and play.

UAVs for Australian Whale Surveillance

The University of Queensland is using Aerocam Australia's 3 m long Shadow UAV for counting whales in the waters off Queensland. The Australian made Aerosonde UAVs have previously been flow across the Atlantic, in the Arctic and for Australian military surveillance. Aerosonde has been acquired by AAI who also make the shadow. So perhaps their aircraft could be used for dual purposes: to track the Japanese whaling fleet and the whales in Antarctic waters. This would allow a much larger area to be covered and with less risk to human life and at a lower cost.

Australia only has one antarctic equipped Airbus A319 aircraft, which therefor can only track one whaling vessel at a time. The aircraft crew cannot expect to survive a crash in antarctic waters. A fleet of UAVs could track all the vessels continually, recording video suitable for presentation in court. Loss of an aircraft would be a small financial cost and no loss of life. Also UAVs are much cheaper to operate. One crew on the groups would be able to fly all the aircraft at once.

LINEARlight Flex LED Lighting

Roll of OSRAM LINEARlight Flex LED LightingOSRAM are offering flexible LEDs for commercial and home lighting, under the name "LINEARlight Flex". This consists of rolls of adhesive backed tape with LED lights every few cm. They have styles with the lights on the face of the tape or at the side and in colors as well as white. The have "CONNECTsystems" connectors and other accessories to power the lights and technical data available.

At present these systems seem to be design for accent lighting, not for general use. But as the cost of the LEDs goes down, and the price of electricity goes up, these could be sued for applications, such as offices and classrooms.

  1. LINEARlight Flex TopLED LM10A
  2. LINEARlight Flex SideLED LM11A
  3. CONNECTsystem for LINEARlight Flex LM2x-Flex
  4. Brochure: General lighting
  5. Brochure: Professional lighting
  6. OPTOTRONIC: Technical guide
  7. Application notes Corona-Effect

Australian Fast Train Proposal

Colin Butcher has produced a series of articles in Railway Digest on the feasibility of running high speed trains between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. He argues that a mixed service of passenger and freight is financially feasible. The latest is "Fast Trains - Profit or Loss" (Railway Digest, December 2007). This uses figures from the abortive Speedrail proposal, for a Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney TGV style very fast train, but updated with new costs and an additional freight service. This is similar, but using updated figures from his previous proposal for a "Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne Fats Freight and Passenger Train Options" (Railway Technical Society of Australasia, February 2003).

The Australian Parliamentary Library produced a very useful set of background papers on the VFT proposal, including a Australian Very Fast Trains-A Chronology (Background Paper 16 1997-98, Paula Williams,6 April 1998) and High Speed Trains between Canberra and Sydney (Current Issues Brief 17 1996-97, Matthew James, Denis James). The chronology says "proposals are exceptionally costly compared to conventional rail systems, with the cost increasing substantially for the fastest train technologies". However, as Mr. Butcher points out, the technology has become more affordable and more certain since then.

Mr. Butcher argues that fast trains would be economically viable. However, the difficulty is likely to be the politics and business model for such a proposal, rather than the engineering or economics. The politics of the time demanded that the project be privately funded and it was then impossible for the private sector to capture enough of the benefits from the project to make it commercially viable. The project would have benefited the community by getting trucks off the roads and allowing residential development along the route. But the commercial companies involved were not able to profit from this. Any new proposal has to either find a way to compensate the commercial partners or have a direct government contribution.

Also the VFT suffered from being a "big bang" project. The whole project had to be implemented to obtain a benefit. Mr. Butler's proposals are similar in that they require a lot of investment to be made before anything is gained. This makes the proposals commercially and politically difficult. It would be possible to produce more modest proposals for building on the current upgrading of the current railway infrastructure enough to make some passenger services viable. This would not achieve as large benefits, but would be much easier decisions. These proposals could also exploit new technology which removes the need to electrify the entire track.

FIDO Police Dog Camera

Fido Police dog cameraIndustrial Television Limited of the UK have produced the FIDO Police Dog Camera. Like something out of the TV show Kommissar Rex (Inspector Rex), this is a wireless camera strapped to the head of a police dog for searching buildings.

While the unit on the dog is small, the operator's console is a cumbersome device worn on the chest, which includes a video tape recorder. A much smaller device would be possible if wireless broadband access was available.

There is also an optional kit available to attach the camera to a pole, for inspecting hard to read spaces in a building, which even Inspector Rex could not reach. Perhaps there should be a domestic version for inspecting the guttering at home. ;-)
The FIDO equipment is designed to meet the requirements of dog intervention and search operations, normally associated with firearms units engaged in building search activity.

Existing systems are heavy and cumbersome, and FIDO addresses both shortcomings with a simpler more user-friendly design, which reduces the weight carried by the dog by over 75%. This enables the dog to negotiate steep downward slopes without danger of overbalancing and also considerably reduces fatigue.

The system comprises a miniature television camera and radio transmitter mounted on a lightweight head harness. There is a quick-release facility, allowing the harness to be worn at all times the dog is operational if required whilst the camera is attached only when needed. Rechargeable batteries are contained in a collar, the attachment of the camera to the harness automatically making the required electrical connection.

To allow operation in darkness, infra-red lights are incorporated in the camera housing, and provide pictures in total darkness to a range of 3-5 metres from the dog.

An audio facility can be provided if required, allowing the handler to listen to any activity in the area of the dog.

Pictures are viewed on a combined video recorder/monitor/receiver unit carried by the handler. This unit is provided with a neck strap and waist belt to allow easy mobility whilst leaving the hands free.

The equipment is supplied with spare batteries for the camera and recorder units, each having a charger to allow rapid recharging. The depleted batteries that are removed from the equipment can be recharged more rapidly than they will run down in use, allowing continuous availability. ...

Police Dog Camera (FIDO) - Provisional specification:

Camera: High-resolution monochrome unit (colour is an option, but is not suitable for use in dark conditions); 75 degree angle of view (others optional).
Battery life with standard battery pack: Approximately 2.5 hours.
Weight: Total weight to be carried by dog is approximately 400g
Recorder/receiver: 8mm tape, digital recording, colour monitor with audio facility.
Battery life: Up to 8 hours
Range indoors will depend on local conditions and building structure; it is most unlikely that any domestic premises will be large enough to lose signal. The system has been tested in industrial premises and has provided excellent pictures through three floors and 100 metres of building. Outdoors range will be in excess of 500 metres.

An alternative version is available for users who already possess recording facilities, for example an existing camcorder or similar unit. This has a base station comprising a receiver/monitor unit only with a video output for the external recording device.

From: Police Dog Camera (FIDO) - General description, Industrial Television Limited, 2007

Friday, January 25, 2008

Waterproof cases for portable electronic equipment

Otterbox 8000I was looking for a waterproof case for holding small electronic devices, such as a mobile phone, PDA or MP3 player. There a wide range of units available, ranging from what is essentially a thick plastic bag, though to small hard equipment case. Some of these are designed for a specific model of phone or player (with many for iPods). Some cases are designed to fit a rage on models. Some have a hard shell, combined with soft plastic transparent windows to allow the display to be seen, buttons to be pressed and sound to be heard through the case.

The most rugged general purpose case I have found details of is the Otterbox 8000. This is about 1.8 x 2.8 x 5 inches on the inside. It has a belt clip and loop for a strap. They are about $US21 from However, I would like to see one before buying it but can't find a supplier in Canberra. Anyone know of one?

Tacticaltailor 50 Series Universal HardcaseThere is also the 50 Series Universal Hardcase from Tactical Tailor. This has two belt clips and a dust/water resistant seal. These are slightly smaller (2.5 x 1.25 x 4 inches inside) and cheaper ($US19.50). TT also have a larger Series 75 Universal Hardcase. These appear hard to get in Australia. Also given that TT's products are mostly for the military, ordering one of these might bring you to the attention of the authorities. ;-)

Like the Otterbox, the TT hardcase is a hard shell designed to protect the elelctronic device. You have to remove the device from the case to use it. But this makes the box general purpose.

Workplace E-learning reports from New Zealand

TANZ, a consortium of New Zealand education institutions, has produced a series of Research Reports on Applied Workplace Based Online Learning. These look at ability, location and needs of the student, corporate requirements, the modes of delivery and administration issues. So far they have:
  1. Report on Guidelines for the Development of Standards for Digital Learning Objects Repository (pdf 421 KB)
  2. Why do Learners Withdraw from the Online National Certificate in First Line Management Course? (pdf 223 KB)
  3. Evaluation Research on the TANZ-PSTO Online NCFLM Course - Milestone 1 - Part 1 (pdf 534 KB)
  4. Evaluation Research on the TANZ-PSTO Online NCFLM Course - Milestone 1 - Part 2 (pdf 81 KB)
  5. Evaluation Research on the TANZ-PSTO Online NCFLM Course - Milestone 1 - Part 3 (pdf 261 KB)
  6. Evaluation Research on the TANZ-PSTO Online NCFLM Course - Milestone 2 (pdf 538 KB)
  7. Final Evaluation Research Report eCDF Project 124 "Delivering Applied eLearning in the Workplace: Polytechnics and ITOs working together" (pdf 803 KB)
  8. Learning Management Systems for the Workplace: A Research Report, August 2006 (pdf 457 KB)
  9. Effects of Organisational Culture on e-Learning in Public Sector Organisations (pdf 525 KB)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Articulation for online courses

One of my more pleasant duties is to oversee the Australian Computer Society's Computer Professional Education Program. This is an online course for people who already have a degree in ICT but need to know about business, project management and the like. One issue is that because the course is entirely done via the Internet, will anyone take it seriously? One way to get an indication of that is via Articulation: universities who give credit for the CPEP course. So far three Australian universities do this with their Graduate Diploma and Masters courses in IS/IT:

Australian Catholic University

The Master of Information Systems suite of courses seeks to provide a relevant, innovative program to address the need for Information Systems professionals to upgrade their qualifications. The pace of technological change demands the provision of short, flexible periods of education through which professionals can update and maintain their skills and receive thorough industry preparation. To this end, course content is designed to meet industry demands by combining standard and specialist units of advanced study. The course emphasises the development of software, systems and management skills in the context of contemporary organisational environments.

Students must meet normal course entry and English language requirements for acceptance into these courses.

Post Graduate Diploma of Information Systems40 credit points (of 80 in total)
Master of Information Systems40 credit points (of 120 in total)
Master of Information Systems (Advanced)40 credit points (of 160 in total)

Awards through Central Queensland University

Modern businesses require people who have a knowledge of people, technology and organisations. Learn about all three and position yourself for a rewarding and stimulating career.

The term “information systems” is used instead of computing to indicate that we are interested in the use of computer technology in business – not just the technology itself. Studies have shown that employers seek people with interpersonal and communications skills as well as computing skills.

Career opportunities for graduates in these programs can find employment as system analyst managers, software engineers, database administrators, EDP auditors, network administrators, end-user support professionals, consultants, company managers, public sector managers and education roles.

The graduate suite of programs are designed for individuals seeking to upgrade their knowledge and qualifications in information technology and information systems processes and management. With n this highly relevant framework, graduates are well prepared to contribute to future information and economic growth while enhancing their individual advancement opportunities.

Graduate Diploma of Information Systems Management6 subjects (ACS 3)
Master of Information Systems12 subjects (ACS 3)
Master of Information Technology 12 subjects (ACS 3)

Home page:

Articulation details:

Curtin University of Technology

The Master of Commerce (Information Systems) and Postgraduate Diploma in

Commerce (Information Systems) degrees are designed for IS and IT professionals who want to increase their knowledge and skills in the management and strategic application of information systems and ICTs in competitive, intelligent and global business environments.

The programs are flexible and allow students to choose from a broad range of subject areas, including strategic information systems, business IT management, knowledge management, programming, web services and architecture, database mining, problem solving, computer forensics, Internet security and cyberwarfare. The Master of Commerce also includes a significant supervised research project, which can be tailored to suit each individual student’s interests.

Postgraduate Diploma in Commerce (Information Systems)200 credits (100 ACS)
Master of Commerce (Information Systems) 400 credits (100 ACS)

From: Articulation, ACS, 2008

Computer Energy Standard Workshop, 8 February, Sydney

The Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) is holding a free Labeling Workshop for Computers and Monitors, 8 February 2008 in Sydney. The Australian state and federal governments, along with New Zealand, are considering making the US energy star standards mandatory for computer and monitors sold from October 2009. There is a Fact Sheet and Technical Report available on the proposal.

The new Minimum Energy Performance Standard is intended to apply to corporate, private and government computer purchases, with non-complying products being prohibited. Energy rating labels similar to those on consumer appliances would be attached to computers. Australian federal government agencies are already supposed to purchase “Energy Star” standard computers (as are US Government Agencies) under a 1997 policy on Measures for Improving Energy Efficiency in Commonwealth Operations. However, the policy was not actively promoted in Australia.

The workshop will cover the reasons for energy efficiency standards and labeling, why this should apply to ICT equipment, if the scheme should be voluntary or compulsory, how it could be implemented. A similar workshop was held in 20 December 2007 on energy labelling for televisions.

I will be providing the lunch time talk at the workshop and proposing that a new category of "thin client" desk top computers of 25 Watts or less be added to the standard. Units such as the Zonbu, consume less than 20 Watts, which is far less than the smallest 50 W category in the ENERGY STAR computer specifications V4.0. Use of such devices should be encouraged, as a way to reduce energy use.

The workshop is free and anyone involved in ICT is welcome. RSVP: Dana Domazet, Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) Team, DEWHA, Email:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Specifciations for a flexible computer classroom

Here is another attempt to design a multipurpose computer equipped classroom for a flexible learning center. The idea is to get away from the idea that a school or university needs separate "computer rooms", lecture rooms, tutorial rooms and the like. The teaching can be part online, tutorial and group work in the one room. However, if the room is to be equipped with computers, the furniture cannot be moved and a design with fixed furniture accommodating different activities is required.

Software for Teaching

Course Management Software

Moodle and Sakai appear to be the leading contenders for open source (free) course management software. I have used Moodle for teaching a course to local government staff in their training room and at the ANU to public servants. It uses minimal server resources and requires only a web browser on the classroom computers (no special software). The ACS uses Moodle for teaching postgraduate IT students online and I used the same installation to set up a Green Special Interest Group.

Sakai is newer than Moodle and may have better features. The ANU uses Sakai for its "collaborative workspace". But I have not used it to prepare a course and there may be less support available as it is newer.

There are non-open source CMS, such as Web CT/Blackboard, which are usable. ANU uses Web CT extensively, but I don't think it as good as Moodle.

The Integrated Content Environment (ICE) is free open source software designed to allow you to create course notes. It takes word processing documents and turns them into well formatted printed notes, PDF documents and web pages. I found it a bit too complicated for my purposes, but for those producing a lot of course notes, it is worth looking at. There are some similar non-open source products.

Custom Collaborative Software

The ANU uses custom developed collaborative software for the software engineering students. This was written by the students. It provides an online document store, so the students can work on group projects, tracks who is working on what and allows them to report the time they put in. This uses free open source software such as Subversion, which is also used by ICE and allows complex documents to be prepared by teams of students. Microsoft's sharepoint provides some similar capabilities.


Following the announcement of the
Federal Government's intervention, I speculated on the design of prefabricated modular classrooms in aboriginal communities. The idea was that shipping container sized modules could be built in a factory, with all the power, cabling and computer technology already installed. This could then be shipped to the community and a building of local materials constructed around it, using local labor, with whatever materials and design suit the local environment. That way the community would get a high tech facility, but not one which looked like a de-mountable toilet.

Modular classrooms could be fitted out for low energy use, as well as with rugged computer technology. Doing all the cabling and plumbing for this in a factory would greatly simplify construction and building the technology into the building, would protect it from the environment, theft and vandalism.

The UTAS Architecture school designs buildings from wood, and might be able to design classrooms.


More intimidatly, I was looking at the design of computer equipped classrooms for running the sort of courses I have been teaching. These courses combine short lectures, tutorials and workshops. Some of the time the teacher (or a student) is presenting from the front of the room, using a large screen, sometimes the students are doing exercises individually on a computer and sometimes working in groups. I have also had the class do online, in-class examinations.

In the conventional university, TAFE or school, these different styles of learning are done in separate purpose built rooms. However, using the studio-based teaching which Dr Kathy Lynch at the University of the Sunshine Coast has worked on, they are all done in the one place, Bauhaus studio style. I have some understanding of this approach, having participated in this style teaching with the students of the new Bauhaus.

After I started looking at this style of room design, I found the ANU Computer Science department was looking to refurbish one of its computer labs. So I looked to see if this sort of flexible design could be used. Here are some draft requirements, prepared based on my looking at flexible learning centers:


ANU want to remodel one existing computer lab of approximately 80 square metres, or two smaller rooms, into a flexible learning room accommodating 40 students, a teacher and teacher's assistant. Each student and teacher requires a computer workstation and approximately .5 square metres of desk space. Ideally all students should be able to see their own computer screen, the teacher and wall mounted electronic screens at the same time. As well as working individually, there should be provision for three students to work around one computer workstation. It is also desirable, but not essential, if they can work in larger groups (up to nine), sharing a larger desktop and screen. Ideally the different student work arrangements should be possible without moving desks (to allow the furniture to be robust) and by swiveling or sliding electronic screens (so they are easy to adjust but hard to break or steal).

After considering various designs, talking to researchers and designers, it is suggested to have the students sit at long benches running down the room in rows, much as the existing computer lab design. However, the benches would be curved to provide a nook for each student to sit in. For small group work, the students would sit around the projections between the nooks. For large group work the students would move the the middle of the room, sitting along one of the benches, using it like a board room table. The front end of the benches would provide the teacher workstations, near the electronic screen. The benches would be joined to the wall at the back to carry the cabling (or have one pole from the ceiling to carry cabling and allow walk space around the back). There might be smaller electronic screens along the sides and back of the room, for those students who have difficulty seeing the front and to be used for group work.


After some calculations and a look around, it can be assumed each student needs a space with a depth of 750 mm and width of about 600 mm to accommodate a computer keyboard, mouse, flat panel screen and processor. In addition they need about 600 mm width total to the sides for paperwork. There should also be a way three students can sit around a desk, sharing one computer. If there was also a way to accommodate larger groups that would be good.

There is no need for drawers, lockers or other student storage. Ideally the desk tops should be flat and unencumbered, apart from the computer. Similarly under the desks should be open.


All students should be able to see one spot where a presenter can stand and a large wall mounted screen at the same time. The instructor needs a computer workstation and deskspace. Rooms at UQ Library neatly provide this by putting a rounded end on one of the student benches, slightly elevated, with an equipment cupboard underneath. Perhaps there could be one of these on the end of each bench, with one being the primary presentation point and the other a backup, or for an assistant.

There should be enough room at the front of the room for the presenter to walk and operate a manual, or electronic interactive, white board. There should also be enough room for a half dozen students to stand for a group presentation. There should be provision for an old fashioned optical overhead projector. Some, or all, walls might have floor to ceiling cupboards built in which house the cabling, screens and other equipment, as well as providing storage space and allowing easy access to the cabling and equipment.


The jelly bean or spiral designs seem to offer the right size desk in an efficient way. These curved desks also look suitably "hi-tech" for a computer facility; they even feature on a space station in a low budget children's sci-fi Disney movie. ;-)

Individual desks are not required, as they are likely to be fixed in place by cabling and so not easily moved. However, the design process could put a number of these curved desks together to make sure there was enough space for each student and then trace around the outside and have a bench made that shape. The desks have an 1200 x 900 mm envelope and might be made by recycling the existing desks.

From calculations, and trial and error, with the jellybean desk shapes, a curve between 600 mm to sit in and 900 mm to sit around, seems suitable. The curves need only be about 300 mm deep. A comprise might be a uniform 750 mm diameter curve, 300 mm deep.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Waterproof LED lights

IP67 LED ModuleRecently I came across LED lighting modules which are claimed to be water proof (rated to IP67). They come in strings of ten lights, each with three LEDs, sealed in resin. Each light is connected to the next with a short cable and these can be cut so they can be used separately, with each one working out at $2. The lights are bright enough for illuminating a stairway.

Endless possibilities - backlighting signs, strip lighting in stairwells & passageways, boats, garages etc. Supplied with 3 LEDs per module, 10 modules, with 500mm flying leads for termination. Each module is spaced at approximately 110mm between centres. Simply connect up a 12VDC 600mA supply and away you go.

Two types:
ZD-0490 10 x 3 LED Module White
ZD-0492 10 x 3 LED Module Blue

• IP67 rated
• Waterproof and submersible
• Resin sealed
• Adhesive backed for quick installation
• Brightness per LED:
• White: 1200 - 1500mcd
• Blue: 600 - 800mcd
• Dimensions:
• Each module: 47(L) x 17(W) x 6(H)mm
• Total length: Approx. 1m
• LED spacing: 15.6mm

From: IP67 LED Modules, Jaycar Electronics, 2007

Biosecurity Challenges for South East Asia

The National Centre for Biosecurity will hold "Biosecurity Challenges for Australia and its Region" at the Australian National University, 11-12 February 2008. Of most interest to me "Communicating with the Public in the Event of a Disease Outbreak", as this is something I have looked at using the web for. Some interesting recent developments in detection are that the Sahana project is considering adding a Bio Surveillance module to its open source disaster management software. This would interface to RODS. Also InSTEDD, a Google funded project to develop disease tracking and disaster response technology, may be of interest.
DAY ONE Monday 11 February 2008

8.30am Registrations open
9am Welcome and introduction
9.30am Session 1.1 Biosecurity: Upgrading the Web of Prevention: A View from the UK. Keynote address by Professor Malcolm Dando
Chair: Bob Wells, Executive Director, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, ANU
10.30am Morning Tea
11am Session 1.2 Laboratories
Chair: Edward Bertram, Head of Scientific Programs, Australian Phenomics Faculty
Establishing an Emerging Infections and Biohazard Response Unit
Names: Greg James, Lyn Gilbert
Organisations: Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Sydney West Area Health Service and University of Sydney
The Application of a Mobile Forensic Laboratory for Real Time Response to CBRNE Incidents in Australia.
Names; Paul Roffey*, Keith Norman and David Royds
Organisation: Australian Federal Police
Third Generation Surveillance Systems: Genomics Assisted Identification and Monitoring Of Biothreats
Names: Vitali Sintchenko,1,2 Jonathan Iredell,1 Lyn Gilbert1
Organisations: 1Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Sydney West Area Health Service and Western Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, 2Centre for Health Informatics, University of New South Wales
Rapid Molecular Fingerprinting of Influenza Viruses
Name: Graeme Barnett
Organisation: Chief Executive Officer, BioChip Innovations Pty Ltd

12.30pm Lunch
1.15pm Session 1.3 Global surveillance and response to outbreaks of infectious disease: the Role of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network as the response arm of the new International Health Regulations.
Keynote address by Professor John MacKenzie
Chair: Alan Dupont, Director, Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney
2pm Session 1.4 Science and Technology
Chair: Ian Ramshaw, Director, National Centre for Biosecurity, ANU
Converging Technologies in Biosecurity
Names: Stephen Prowse1 and Greg Tegart2
Organisations’: CEO, Australian Biosecurity CRC for Emerging Infectious Disease, University of Queensland1 and Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne2
Nanotechnology and Australia's Biosecurity Policy
Name: Tom Faunce
Organisation: National Centre for Biosecurity, ANU
Enhancing Cross-Disciplinary Problem-Based Biosecurity Research
Name: Gabriele Bammer
Organisations: National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and National Centre for Biosecurity, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Australian National University, and Hauser Centre for Non-profit Organizations, Harvard University
3.15 Afternoon Tea
3.45 Session 1.4 Law and Ethics
Chair: Michael Selgelid, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, ANU
Regulation of Security-Sensitive Biological Agents in Australia
Name: Letitia Toms and Gary Lum
Organisation: Office of Public Health, Department of Health and Ageing
Regulating the Biosecurity Risks Posed by Veterinary Laboratories
Name: Karinne Ludlow
Organisation: Centre for Regulatory Studies, Faculty of Law, Monash University, Victoria
Codes of Conduct in a Web of Prevention: Questions and Choices
Name: Brian Rappert
Organisation: University of Exeter, UK
DAY TWO Tuesday 12 February 2008
9am Registrations open
9.30 Session 2.1 Title TBA
Keynote Address by Dr Suwit Wibulpolprasert Senior Adviser on Disease Control Ministry of Public health
Chair: [DFAT]
10.15 Morning tea
10.45 Session 2.2 International Health
Chair: Paul Kelly, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU
A Model for Networked Laboratory Quality Assurance among Regional Countries: the Animal Health Laboratories
Name: Peter Daniels
Organisation: Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Victoria
Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health Surveillance
Name: Lorna Weir and Dr. Eric Mykhalovskiy
Organisation: York University, UK
Global Public Health Security: the Pathway to National Biosecurity
Names: Mahomed Patel
Organisation: National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU
12.15 Lunch
1pm Session 2.3 Pandemic Influenza
Chair: Mahomed Patel, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU
Assessing HPAI Health Risks to Humans along the Market Chain in the Philippines
Name: Benigno, C.A., Toribio, J-A.L.M.L. and Webb, R.
Organisation: Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney
Governance: Managed Access Provisions for Sharing Influenza Viruses and Related Benefit Sharing and Capacity Building Arrangements
Name: Anna George
Organisation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Murdoch University, Western Australia
The Waiting Time for Importation of Pandemic Strain Influenza
Name: Peter Caley*, Niels G. Becker and David J. Philp
Organisation: *National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health,
Australian National University
Population Health Intelligence: the Role of Syndromic Surveillance
Names: David Muscatello, Wei Zheng, Tim Churches
Organisation: Centre for Epidemiology and Research, NSW Department of Health
2.30 Afternoon tea
3pm Session 2.4 Disease Outbreaks and Society
Chair: Christian Enemark, Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney
Risk Communication for a Possible Pandemic: Lessons from SARS and Other Outbreaks
Name: Claire Hooker Organisation: Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine, University of Sydney
‘Y2K’ or ‘Watch This Space’: Journalists on Pandemic and Avian Influenza
Names: Julie Leask and Catherine King
Organisation: National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, University of Sydney
4.15pm Close
In Support of the Zoophyte: Strategic Directions for Cross-Sector Biosecurity Research
Name: John Lovett Organisation: CRC for National Plant Biosecurity
Intelligence-Led Responses to the Challenges of Biosecurity
Name: Richard Jones
Organisation: The Distillery Pty Ltd
Surveillance of the Genomic Pool: Moving beyond the Species
Name: Jonathan Iredell, Sally Partridge, Vitali Sintchenko
Organisations: Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Sydney West Area Health Service and Western Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney; Centre for Health Informatics, University of NSW
The white-powder letter - An unidentified risk
Name: Margaret Head
Organisation: TBA
Vaccines, Communicable Disease and Bioterrorism - Is Australia Prepared?
Name: Nathan Rogers
Organisation: Department of Biotechnology, University of Queensland
The Big Picture in Biosecurity – What Happens When the Pixels Drop Out?
Name: Raymond Chan
Organisation: Dept of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney
Communicating with the Public in the Event of a Disease Outbreak.
Name: Patricia Gray
Organisation: National Centre for Biosecurity, ANU
Hosting a Safe and Secure APEC 2007 Forum – Implications for Public Health
Name: Jan Fizzell
Organisation: Centre for Health Protection, NSW Department of Health
Using Bayesian Nets in Biosecurity Decision-Making
Names: Kerrie Mengersen and Peter Whittle
Organisation: Queensland University of Technology, School of Mathematical

From: Biosecurity Challenges facing Australia and its Region Preliminary Program, National Centre for Biosecurity, ANU, 16 January 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Low Self Discharge NiMH C Cells

Low Self Discharge NiMH C Cells ( "ready to use" or "pre charged" 4500 mAh) are now being offered on Amazon at US$26 for four. These are branded "Accupower Evolution" and are claimed to have a self discharge rate of 2% per month. This is much lower than the rate for regular NiMH cells of 0.5-1% per day and high capacity cells having the highest self-discharge rates.

I have used smaller AAA and AA low self discharge batteries successfully, but have not yet tried the larger ones. Some tests of the smaller cells by users seem to be inline with the maker's claims.

Accupower are also offering Low self discharge D cells (10,000 mAh) but these do not yet seem to be widely available.

The lower discharge rate batteries might allow the use of smaller batteries in some applications, such as solar home lighting for remote areas using small solar panels. The batteries could be used with efficient LED lights, such as Flexible LED Tape Light emitting diodes (LEDs), to provide light where it is needed. The cost of the batteries and LEDs would be much higher than some alternatives, such as lead acid batteries and fluorescent lights, but because the LEDs can deliver the light where it is needed, the overall cost might be lower.

InSTEDD Google funded disease tracking technology

InSTEDD is partly funded by Google to produce disease tracking and disaster response technology. It aims to release open-source free technology. So far they have the Mekong Collaboration Program and the Golden Shadow Demonstration. They would seem to have a long way to go before they have the maturity of something like the Sahana Free and Open Source Disaster Management system.

Business case for e-learning

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework, are sponsoring free workshops on How to write a business case for e-learning in February and March 2008. The workshops are intended for businesses interested in developing in house e-learning. This is part of a $15 million federal and state Australian government e-learning strategy.
  1. Professional development workshop (1½ hours)
    • learn about the basics of a business case
    • hear from and ask questions of a previous successful Framework funded industry or RTO champion regarding their business case and its implementation
    • explore the resources available on the E-learning for Industry website that will assist you in writing a business case, eg the Practical guide to e-learning for industry
    • write a business case using a workshop template
    • access the free online learning resource “How to write a business case for e-learning”.
  2. Optional information session (funding opportunities through the 2008 Innovation Program of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework)
    • national funding for an Industry Integration of E-learning project
    • state/territory funding for an E-learning Innovations project (advice provided at most state/territory workshops).
From: E-learning for Industry, Commonwealth of Australia, 2008

ps: The title of the workshop reminds me of the comedy "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". In it, there was the company "World Wide Wicket", which is remarkably close to "World Wide Web". ;-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Magic in Castlecrag

Jack Perry Brown, Director of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, at Haven Amphitheatre, Castlecrag, Sydney, 20 January 2007. Photo by Tom Worthington.The Walter Burley Griffin Society created magic in Sydney today, with a talk by Jack Perry Brown, Director of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute released a web version of Marion's book The Magic of America, last August and this talk about the book was held in the Haven Amphitheater, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin.

The Haven Amphitheatre is at the corner The Scarp and The Barricade, Castlecrag is in a bushland gully with native trees. The seating is on rock terraces, with a wooden deck and bush backdrop.

The Magic of America was completed in 1949 by Marion Mahony Griffin after the death of Walter Burley Griffin in India. The unpublished work is half original text by Marion and half transcripts, newspaper clippings and other materials. Jack Brown argues that it is her final work of art, covering the time of her her husband's work in India, Canberra, Castlecrag and Chicago.

Unfortunately I had to leave the excellent talk early. The question I wanted to ask, but did not get the chance, was could Marion's work now be published. The manuscript was not in a form suitable for use other than for scholarly research. Placing the manuscript on the Internet has made it available for research, but it is still not something readable by a wider audience. Could the material be edited into one or more books suitable for online and print publication? By the time the material which was from other sources (and so would be difficult to obtain copyright clearance to include) was removed the work would be a more manageable size. With other editing, could it it be made into something with more of a conventional narrative, or would that destroy its essence?

The fact that the full manuscript is already available should allow the work to be edited without doing it any great harm. An electronic abridged version could have a switch to allow the reader to see what had been removed. By using online collaborative tools, the editing need not be an overwhelming or lengthy task. By using the approach used in developing open source software, where disagreements between editors could not be agreed, different versions could be produced, with the result being a discussion and analysis of the work, a process and not just one supposedly final result.

Another was to look at the manuscript would be as
Marion Mahony Griffin's blog. After all, the Griffin's were early pioneers of multimedia, producing a film promotion for Castlecrag in 1928. ;-)

See also:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How to fix a dishwasher using the Web

dishwasherAfter several years of having to manually advance the dishwasher through the cycle, I thought it was time to fix it. The web turned out to be a useful resource to do this. Apart from the inconvenience, I was using more water having to use more water to rewash partly washed dishes. To find out how to fix just about anything, try typing into a search engine "how to fix a ...".

One danger is that how to instructions can get you to attempt repairs you should not really try. In this case the Dishwasher Troubleshooting Tool proved most useful. The symptom was " Dishwasher cycle does not complete" and the suggested checks were: Unfortunately these are generic instructions not specific to a particular model. But after testing the timer motor and heating element, I tried the thermostat. There turned out to be a small press button on the thermostat. I pressed this and it stayed pressed. The dishwasher then worked. This seems to be an overload cutout, but was not mentioned in any of the instructions.

Fisher Paykel Double DishDrawer dishwasherOf course, a replacement smaller countertop dishwasher, or a drawer unit would use less water and be more convenient for small loads. The Fisher Paykel Dual DishDrawer units look very attractive, with the ability to fill one drawer, while the other is washing. But as my unit is now working there is no point in replacing it.

ps: Another part of the dishwasher which may need replacing is the cutlery basket. There are some replacements ones sold, but these can be flimsy plastic. A better alternative might be a bit of the stainless steel security fly screen mesh used in windows. Offcuts are available from suppliers, such as Alucom in Canberra. Aluminum mesh is not suitable, as the harsh dishwasher detergent tends to dissolve it.

See also:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Beijing 2008 Olympics Online Coverage Blocked for Apple and Linux Users?

A blog entry by Tim Bray, speculates that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will only be available online to Microsoft Windows users and those with newer Apple Macs. This seems unlikely, as if for no other reason it would make the Olympics less accessible to the disabled, exposing NBC and Microsoft to lawsuits for unlawful discrimination. I was one of the expert witnesses in the accessibility case over the 2000 Olympics and invited to Beijing in 2003 to talk at a BOCOG 2008 Olympic web site symposium.
Not all is sweetness and light around the Olympics. The 2008 version in Beijing will be made available online; but only via Silverlight. Which means that if you use a Linux or Solaris box, or one of the few million pre-Intel Macs that are still out there, the Olympic Community doesn’t want peons like you on board. This seems scandalous to me, but nobody else seems to care.

From: Tab Sweep — World, Tim Bray, 2008/01/13
Just to unravel what is being said: Silverlight is a Microsoft developed web browser plugin to provide similar features to Adobe Flash. Tim refers to a blog entry by a Microsoft staff member who makes claims about exclusive coverage of the Olympics:

On 8-8-08 the 2008 Summer Olympic Games will officially kick off in Beijing, China. ...

We have signed an agreement to partner with NBC Universal to build a Silverlight 2.0 based web broadcast of the 2008 Summer Olympic games. This agreement also sets MSN as the official home of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

As a part of this, we will provide users with exclusive access to over 3000 hours of live and on-demand video content via Silverlight streaming. This means that viewers can access every minute of every event. Additionally, the amount of meta-data attached to each of the streams will be extensive and include links to player bios, medal counts, shortcuts to particular events (i.e. athlete x’s third long-jump attempt), maps of the Olympic facilities, pop-up overlays with real-time event alerts, headlines, video search capabilities, etc. ...

From: 2008 Olympics brought to you by Silverlight, January 07, 2008 2:54 AM, Somasegar

This in turn refers to an agreement with NBC, which was reported earlier by news sources:
... NBC Universal, owner of the exclusive U.S. media rights to this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, China (August 8-24, 2008), announced today that it was teaming up with MSN and Microsoft in an unprecedented strategic alliance to create " on MSN", a next-generation online experience for Olympic fans across the United States. With thousands of hours of competition video in both live and on-demand formats, deep analysis and results delivered from NBC's award-winning broadcast and digital media teams, and Microsoft's Silverlight technology to deliver deeply immersive user experiences,'s coverage will be powered by MSN and Microsoft technology to complement NBC's broadcast programming and put millions of fans in control of the Olympic sports,
athletes and countries they want to watch.
.... During the Beijing Games, ( content will be prominently featured on the homepage (, seen by
over 100 million users per month, as well as on MSN Video ( and across the MSN and Windows Live networks, all moving the massive MSN Network audience to's complete coverage of the Games.

As a result of this unprecedented alliance, " on MSN" will
deliver: -- 2,200 hours of live event video coverage, with more than 20
simultaneous live video streams at peak times
-- More than 3,000 hours of on-demand video content including full-event
replays, highlights, features, interviews and encore packages.
-- An "enhanced playback mode" powered by Silverlight that gives users the
choice of a high-quality full screen viewing experience that is as good
or better than anything on the Internet today
-- Unique metadata overlays powered by Silverlight that enable fans to
have access not only to high quality video, but also to the wealth of
related content including results, statistics, comprehensive bios,
rules and expert analysis from NBC's Olympic digital media team in
-- Live video alerts so fans can stay connected to the events and teams
they care most about
-- Social networking features that enable fans to share aspects of their
Olympic experience with friends ...

Adam Freifeld of NBC Sports, +1-201-965-2971,; or
Adam Sohn of Microsoft, +1-503-443-7000,

From: NBC Universal and Microsoft Team Up On Unprecedented Web Offering for 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Reuters, an 6, 2008 9:30pm EST
Some points to note from this:
  1. USA only: The International Olympic committee allocates TV rights to the games on a country basis. NBC only has the U.S. media rights to 2008 Olympics and so whatever is done will only effect those in the USA.
  2. Video Only: The media release was about the way video will be delivered online, it does not necessary mean that other Olympic information, such as text, audio and still images will be delivered this way. In addition, even if NBC and Microsoft only deliver information in this format, similar information should be available from other Olympic suppliers.
  3. Accessibility Law: Under the laws of the USA, Australia, UK and many other countries, organizations providing services via the web are required to supply them to persons with a disability. Failing to do this is unlawful. This principle was established in the 2000 Sydney Olympics case which I was an expert witness for. It seems unlikely that NBC or Microsoft could fail to be aware of their obligation to provide access for the disabled to Olympic coverage. Microsoft's web site includes a case study for the Toronto 2008 Olympic Bid, which mentions accessibility for people with a disability. Microsoft's search engine returned 250,000 hits on "2000 olympics web accessibility" and 16,000 on "2008 Olympics "web accessibility".
See also:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Serpentine trading desks at Connecticut School of Business

Serpentine trading desks at Connecticut School of BusinessKevin Chivers, Business Development Manager, Steelcase Australia advised that their low-profile access floor. is not currently offered in Australia (they will bring it in if someone orders enough). Kevin pointed out where it is used in universities in the USA. One interesting example is the Financial Accelerator at the University of Connecticut School of Business. This is a simulated financial trading floor, complete with trading desks for budding traders and a big electronic screen showing the market. The desks have the serpentine design I had envisaged using for a flexible learning center.

Trading desk at Connecticut School of BusinessThe desks have a zig zag wall separating the two rows of traders. Each desk has three screens, two phone handsets and a digital phone. For a general purpose learning center, the wall, handsets and all but one screen would be omitted.

The room was built in 2004. If built today, it is likely that just one larger screen and one handset per desk would be needed. The digital phone functions and split screens could be done in software.

Connecticut School of Business training roomIt appears that the trading room was the only part of the fit-out using the serpentine desks. There appear to be other training rooms with rows of conventional straight benches and standard computers.

Australian Government Transition to IPv6

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released an eight page "Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies". That may seem a short response to a large technical issue, but AARNET's is even briefer. Here is a simplified format of the AGIMO strategy:

Australian Government

Department of Finance and Deregulation

A Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies

‘Building Capacity for Future Innovation’

Paper prepared for General Distribution
AGIMO, October 2007
BackgroundIn December 2006, the Australian Government's Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC) tasked the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) with the development of a whole-of-government strategy for a transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

To inform the development of the strategy, AGIMO formed an IPv6 Reference Group, consisting of representatives of the Australian Government’s Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC). The IPv6 Reference Group has subsequently met monthly to discuss transition issues and finalise this report.

The strategy was endorsed by the CIOC in December 2007 and the IPv6 Reference Group was replaced by a Community of Expertise (CoE). The CoE acts as a central point for policy advice and information regarding whole-of-government issues in the transition to an IPv6 environment. In particular, it considers issues around the whole-of-government IPv6 address space, security of networks and systems, skills, and training.

The CoE will meet regularly to ensure that transition activities are undertaken in a timely manner.

Why Plan for the transition to IPv6 Now?

While there are no critical business drivers that are forcing the Australian Government to move to IPv6 immediately, the development of ubiquitous IP networks (allowing for the rapid uptake of IP telephony and digital wireless networks), the shift to

IP-based communications and the adoption of e-business strategies across numerous other technologies are all putting pressure on the available IPv4 address space. Organisations use Network Address Translation (NAT) and other interim measures to overcome IPv4 address space limitations, but over time these organisations will be limited in their ability to respond to address space pressures and to take advantage of capabilities offered by IPv6.

IPv6 was developed to increase the amount of available IP address space. By managing the IPv6 transition process early and collectively, Australian Government

agencies will be able to better align and synchronise transition programmes, optimise procurement, manage programme and technical risks and manage vulnerabilities more deliberately. By ensuring that agencies have a target date for transition and have properly planned, organised and resourced their transition programmes, the Australian Government can promote a more disciplined and economical transition across the whole-of-government environment.

IPv6 has several well-known and understood benefits besides the increased address space. These include increased end-to-end security of systems and automated address allocation for internet connected devices.

There are several reasons for starting the planning process now and thereby not leaving it until industry and other external pressures build and introduce additional risks and costs.

In an Australian Government context, some of these reasons are:

  1. The risk that unplanned and uncontrolled implementation of IPv6 equipment into government networks could result in failures and loss of service delivery capability.
  2. The risk that the skills shortage in the ICT arena and in particular, the IPv6 field becomes so great that the government will not be able to compete with the private sector for IPv6 skilled technical and administrative staff.
  3. The opportunities for increased service delivery, particularly in the health, environment and transport industries, that IPv6 will allow with its ability to have multiple sensor/tracking devices in a variety of fields.
  4. The fact that many of our neighbours, including the US, Japan, Korea and many European nations are all moving down this path (at various speeds). The US has mandated the transition, and both Japan and Korea see the implementation of IPv6 as a way of relieving staffing and skills shortages by using robotics and remote sensors to achieve results that previously would have required manual procedures.
  5. The risk that the cost of moving to IPv6 when industry and suppliers are driving the market will be significantly greater than if the planning and transition stages are undertaken in an environment of controlled progress.

IPv6 Transition Timing

The transition from the present IPv4 environment to a dual capability IPv4/IPv6 environment, and ultimately to a wholly IPv6 environment, is expected to take at least five-eight years. The transition to IPv6 will involve three stages:

  • Preparation;
  • Transition; and
  • Implementation.

Ultimately, IPv6 capability will be available in all new equipment and once an agency’s network backbone equipment is wholly IPv6 capable, the agency can decide when it will turn on the IPv6 capability.

Industry intends to supply dual capable IPv4/IPv6 equipment for the foreseeable future, while the IPv6 set of standards will become dominant within the next three-five years. It is anticipated that agencies will need to manage IPv4 network traffic for at least the next 15-20 years.

Preparation Stage

Agencies will need to plan, conduct and manage the following activities when they are transitioning to IPv6. The activities that need to be undertaken are:

  • Stocktake of equipment

AGIMO recommends that agencies aim to complete the process by December 2009.


Agencies’ technical and ICT administrative staff will need to be trained in IPv6. The training will need to be ongoing, systematic, and scalable for each agency’s requirements.

Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA)

Each agency will need to undertake an agency-specific TRA. Agencies need to assess the threat-related updates and other security related guidance that will need to be factored into any TRA and/or security planning.

Procurement Policy

Agencies will need to ensure that individual agency procurement policies are updated to require that all ICT procurements consider whether any hardware or software solution should be IPv6 capable.

Dual Capability Networks (Dual-Stacking)

Due to the requirement for agencies to cater for both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic into the foreseeable future, it is anticipated that agencies will need to manage dual-capable networks for at least the next 15-20 years.


Agencies will need to undertake a stocktake of their software and applications (commercially and internally developed) to ascertain which will need to be upgraded to be IPv6 capable, those that will be replaced with IPv6 capable tools and those that will remain as legacy IPv4 software or applications.

Whole-of-Government Address Space Allocation

AGIMO is investigating the advantages of the Australian Government seeking a whole-of-government allocation of a contiguous IPv6 address space.

Promoting Awareness of the Transition Strategy

The IPv6 CoE will support AGIMO in building IPv6 awareness across government and industry, and promoting the government’s transition strategy and its schedule.

Transition Stage

The Transition stage begins when an agency commences the replacement of older IPv4-only systems with dual capable IPv4/IPv6 hardware and/or software. It will end when agencies have replaced all of the IPv4 only capable equipment (bar the legacy equipment that has been consciously retained) with dual-capable equipment.

Each agency will be responsible for its individual transition plan. The CoE will be available to assist with technical or logistical matters under the auspices of the CIOC.

The transitioning stage to IPv6 will present several challenges to Australian Government agencies. These will include:

Updated Stocktake

The installation of IPv6 capable equipment into their networks (as older IPv4 only equipment is replaced with IPv4/IPv6 capable equipment) will require agencies to update their initial stocktake.

Ongoing training of technical and ICT administrative personnel in the new protocol will be required to enable agencies to maintain dual IPv4 and IPv6 environments for an extended period of time.


Agencies will need to take into account any security-related guidance and/or updates provided. Agency TRAs should be managed to accommodate this advice and any resultant threats from new infrastructure added to the network.


Agencies will need to incorporate IPv6 features into business cases for applications to identify new and better ways of meeting outcomes and porting existing applications to IPv6 capability, or ensuring applications are protocol neutral.

Internet Service Providers

Agencies will need to discuss with their ISP the effect of the transition to IPv6 and ascertain how their ISP is going to cope with the on-going requirement to have both IPv4 and IPv6 capable equipment on the network.


Implementing agreed standards required by the use of IPv6.

Implementation Stage

At the conclusion of this stage, agencies will be completely IPv6 capable (even though their systems may be dual capable).

Timetable and Stage Deliverables

In order to complete a whole-of-government IPv6 implementation and have the transition in line with the expected timeframes of other governments and industry, AGIMO suggests the following target periods for each phase:

IPv6 Transition - Proposed Timetable:



Preparation Jan 2008-Dec 2009 Stocktake of equipment (hardware)

Investigate and recommend whole-of-government approach to IPv6 address space

CoE to undertake Transition awareness programme.

Stocktake of equipment (software & applications)

Training needs analysis

Threat & risk assessment

Dual capable equipment to be considered with solely IPv4 equipment starting to be replaced

Procurement policy updated

Transition Jan 2010-Dec 2012Ongoing stocktake of equipment (hardware)

Ongoing stocktake of equipment (software & applications)

Relevant Training courses implemented

Review of Infosec Registered Assessor Program (I-RAP) assessments. (if required)

Implementation Jan 2013-Dec 2015Ipv6 networks in place (dual capable)

IPv6 capable hardware in place

IPv6 applications in use

ICT technical/admin staff continuing to train on IPv4/IPv6 systems

Achieving the 2015 target is more important than meeting the interim steps, though the interim steps are designed to allow agencies to control the transition with minimum disruption to ongoing business streams. The timeframes are indicative and reflect a risk managed approach. Agencies may move to Transition or Implementation before the identified dates.


AGIMO proposes that to enable an effective transition to IPv6, it will build on the work performed by the whole-of-government working/implementation group (the IPv6 Reference Group) to help ensure interoperability of applications and operating systems, efficient planning for the introduction of IPv6, and to ensure that agencies can tap into a bank of expertise. The IPv6 Reference Group will become the core of a CoE that will be facilitated by AGIMO. It will report to the CIOC on an annual basis, or more frequently should the need arise.

Whole-of-Government Issues

Where issues are common across agencies and/or jurisdictions, AGIMO will act as the central reporting agency so that all agencies and the CIOC is kept up-to-date on agency progress towards all government agencies being IPv6 capable in the recommended timeframes.

The Market place

To inform the availability of its products and services, industry is looking for some lead from government in regard to the likely timing of IPv6 transition. Advice from the major ICT industry companies is that they are ready to support government agencies with the supply of IPv6 capable equipment shortly after agencies identify a need for it.

AGIMO will communicate the Transition strategy through relevant forums to inform industry and other interested parties of the government’s approach.

The implementation issues addressed in this paper have been informed by the IPv6 Transition Guidance issued by the US Federal CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee in February 2006. Other sources used include IPv6 Essentials, second edition, by Sylvia Hagen, and the Juniper Networks ‘The IPv6 World Report Series’ volumes 1, 2 and 3; Guide for Federal Agencies Transitioning to IPv6, issued in January 2006; IPv6 Capable A Guide for Federal Agencies issued in May 2006 and An essential U.S. Government Agency Transition Guide to IPv6 Routing and Addressing issued in June 2007.

From: A Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies, AGIMO