Tuesday, April 29, 2008

End-user Computing at the Australian Taxation Office

The Australian Taxation Office has issued a request for expressions of interest for End-user Computing Services (that is desktop PCs, laptops and mobile devices. A 27 page overview of the Current Environment at the ATO is provided. This gives a good overview of the typical computing setup in a large government agency.
End-user Computing Services for the Australian Taxation Office
ATM ID EOI 08.063
Agency Australian Taxation Office
Category 43210000 - Computer Equipment and Accessories
Close Date & Time 26-May-2008 2:00 pm (ACT Local time)
Show close time for other time zones
Publish Date 28-Apr-2008
Location ACT
ATM Type Expression of Interest
See ATM Documents

The ATO aims to virtualise:
      1. Data Centre Virtualisation

      2. This project aims to virtualise the majority of the Tax Office application server infrastructure (development, test and production environments). Although the current project scope does not cover the existing EUC infrastructure, this may change with the Remote Access project, which is likely to have a dependency on some form of virtualised infrastructure in the EUC architecture.

      3. Additionally the testing environment for EUC end-users is being virtualised. This consists of a combination of racked workstations and virtualised workstations. This solution is currently evolving but is expected to have an impact on the EUC architecture.

      4. National office development workstations have been virtualised within the desktop box.

      5. There are plans to improve on the developer design and extend to all developer workstations across Australia.

But there doesn't seem to be any intention to replace the desktop computers with thin clients, or to made use of handheld mobile devices.

Australian military research overview, Canberra, 1 May 2008

Patrick Hew will give an overview of planned Australian military research at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, 1 May 2008. In 1999 I suggested this research be contracted out to universities, but DSTO did not like the idea. Perhaps they have changed their minds. ;-)


Exploring the Future Force - Research at DSTO

Dr. Patrick Hew (DSTO)

DATE: 2008-05-01
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation is part of the Department of Defence, and is the Australian Government's lead agency for applying science and technology to protect and defend Australia and its national interests. Over the over the next decade, Defence will spend around $100b on buying and maintaining military equipment. This invites research on where and how Australia should invest in people, equipment and systems, given strategic drivers, operational contexts, tactical concepts and the potential of future technology. This seminar will discuss samples of work underway in DSTO, to give a flavour for the questions being tackled, their motivation, and the approaches being taken. The focus will be on how these projects draw upon advanced S&T from engineering, computer science and related disciplines, and hence explore the potential for collaborative research between DSTO and ANU CECS.

Patrick Hew joined DSTO in 2000, having gained a PhD in Mathematics and Intelligent Information Processing Systems from The University of Western Australia.

What is the news from 1911?

Google now has a news archive which can show a timeline, with news items sort by dates mentioned in the articles. I was looking for my name and was surprised to find a mention for 1911. This turned out to be a blog posting from me about Marion Mahony Griffin's sketches of for the 1911 Canberra design competition. This was quoted in the Technorati blog, which apparently rates as a news source for Google.

The distinction between a media release, a blog and a newspaper seems to be blurring. This will take some getting used to. I am more comfortable with the old fashioned system, where the journalist took a copy of my media release and rewrote it to pretend it was their own work. ;-)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Professional Network for Educators in Australia

Someone posted a comment on my web site and asked for a response but did not say who they were. In the process of trying to reply to them, I came across My Edna and signed up for it.

This is billed as a "Professional Network for Educators" and provides a place to set up a professional profile, similar to LinkedIn with blogging and social networking type facilities. The service is relatively new, but already has some interesting features. I entered the address of my Blog's RSS feed and this now appears under my profile to show people what I have been working on. You can choose which parts of your profile you want public, or only known to people registered with MyEdna, or only with people you have specifically nominated.

EdNa is run by the Australia state and federal education ministers. It is an excellent source of information about education, but can be difficult to come to grips with. There is a useful catalog of resources (some of which I contributed). I suspect that EdNA already does many of the things which the new federal government envisages in its education revolution, but most educators don't know about it. Hopefully, My Edna will make it more accessible.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Google Webmaster Tools

Google are now providing free Webmaster Tools. Like other free Google tools, clearly Google are getting something in return for providing you the service: the information you provide will help Google index the pages better, which is good for them (as well as you). To sign up for the servcie you need a Google account (usually a Gmail account). To use some you have to verify the web site you want to check is yours by uploading a code to the home page.

The servcie provides:
  1. Diagnostics
  2. Statistics
  3. Links
  4. Sitemaps
  5. Tools


  1. Web crawl: problems Google had accessing pages. My site had no errors: HTTP errors , Not found, URLs not followed, URLs restricted by robots.txt, URLs timed out, Unreachable URLs.
  2. Content analysis: problems with site metadata (title and description information). Google found one of my web pages was missing a title. It also looks for duplicates, very long or titles and "non-informative" ones. The missing title turned out to be in a web page in the Moodle system.
  3. Mobile crawl: problems with pages designed for mobile phones. Google looks for CHTML and WML/XHTML . CHTML is a variant of HTML mostly used for Japanese mobile phones. Some of my pages have XHTML and CSS specifically designed for mobiles.


Search queries

This shows which queries to Google returned pages from the site and which were most often selected by the person searching. This was an interesting list for mw web site as it differs from the results the statistics package my web server provides. The difference is essentially, that this is how others perceive the web site from the outside, not how I see it from the inside. As an example The 2020 summit does not figure highly in my web site stats:

Top search queries
# % Query Position
1 45% 2020 summit 23
2 25% 20 20 summit 11
3 4% 2020 summitt 9
4 4% australia 2020 summit 16
5 3% 2020 summit submissions 5
6 2% 2020 39
7 2% 2020 summit summary 9
8 2% australia 2020 28
9 2% "2020 summit" 17
10 1% 2020 summit video 6
11 1% 2020 summit australia 30
12 1% 2020 summit submission 4
13 1% alan smart 10
14 1% australian 2020 summit 11
15 1% what is the 2020 summit 15
16 1% smart 33
17 1% cookies enabled on your browser 4
18 1% forum 2020 4
19 1% 2020 summit governance 7
20 1% 20 20 summitt 10

Top clicked queries

# % Query Position
1 27% konkan railway 5
2 18% 2020 summit official opening speakers 2
3 18% 2020 summit submissions 5
4 18% australia 2020 summit submissions 5
5 18% indian ferry 7

Crawl stats

The crawl stats are a little hard on the ego, as it shows what proportion of the pages have a high, medium or low PageRank. Most of mine rated low. My highest rating was one on the accessibility of Olympic web sites.

Subscriber stats

This shows hom many have subscribed to RSS feeds using Google services, such as such as Google Reader. There were none for my site, although I have an RSS feed on it.

What Googlebot sees

This shows words and phrases in the anchor text of links to the site. This is not information from the site itself, but what other people used to describe it, when linking to it. So this is what the system which collects links to the site (the "Googlebot "), sees.

This information is quite confronting as it does not necessarily match the idealized picture of how you see your carefully crafted web site being viewed. Also in some cases you say "who was silly enough to say that?" and find the phrase is from something you wrote. Here are the top few phrases and words from my site (Google provide a longer list):

Phrases in external links:

1. open 2020 summit moodle
2. all the notes
3. help cookies must be enabled in your browser
4. moodle for local summit details and links
5. create new account
6. http tomw net au moodle course view php
7. new account
8. summit on open source
9. writing for the web
10. aide votre navigateur doit supporter les cookies

Keywords In your site's content

1. australian
2. australia
3. government
4. tom
5. computer
6. worthington
7. system
8. technology
9. post
10. canberra

Keywords in external links to your site

1. tomw
2. stores
3. net
4. other
5. line
6. online
7. html
8. ltd
9. pty
10. communications

Pages with external links

This shows which pages external sites are pointing to. This list did not make a lot of sense at first. As an example, there was an entry for http://tomw.net.au/.../course/view.php?id=9 with 74 links. On closer inspection, this turned out to be the page for the Open 2020 Summit and numerous people had put in links to it. But I think I still don't quite understand what this report is trying to tell me.


Sitelinks are a small table of contents which Google generates itself and places in its search results. My site doesn't have one of these, which might suggest the site is not clearly enough organized for Google's algorithm to work it out. Sightlinks have been controversial as they might supplant the web site's own navigation.

Pages with internal links

This provides pages pointed to from other pages on the site. This was not a lot more use than the tools usually provided with web development tools.


This reposts any sitemaps associated with the web site. These are XML files which provide Google bot (and other web crawlers) with a list of the pages on the web site and make it easier for new pages to be indexed. This can reduce the traffic on the web site from web crawlers and allow them to index the site more frequently. Google provide a list of tools which can be sued to generate the sitemap. Ideally this should be built into the web server, so each time a page is added, or changed, the site map is updated. But there are some external web based tools, such as Xml-sitemaps.com to try.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lenticular printing for low energy moving images

Simulated lenticular moving picture from Outer AspectLenticular printing provides a low energy, low cost alternative to digital displays for some applications. These are the moving magic pictures used on some post cards and luggage tags. They can now be printed at low cost using digital techniques using software on a home PC. There are print bureaus which specialize in making these images for everything from small stickers up to movie posters.

These are sometimes called "Lenticular holograms", "moving pictures", "3d pictures" or "3d holograms" but they are not genuine holograms or 3d pictures. Several images are combined together and printed on a sheet. A sheet of plastic over the image has ridges on it to obscure all but one image. As you move your head a different image is displayed, making the image appear to move.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Business Model Needed for Australian Standards

Standards Australia, a non-government body which develops standards in Australia, has released "Introducing a New Business Model for Standards Australia" (April 08). Unfortunately I found the jargon in this document almost incomprehensible. It does not appear to address two issues which limit SA's role in ICT standards: open participation and open access. SA needs to adopt online standards development processes and provide copies of standards free online, if it wishes to remain in the ICT standards development business beyond the end of 2008.

I can participate in development of ICT standards online with a number of organisations around the world and obtain the standards produced free online. In contrast I can't participate in SA standards processes unless I attend meetings and I can't get copies of developed standards unless I pay money. As a result I no longer participate in SA standards development, nor do I recommend to my university students or colleagues that they use SA standards.

Some of these problems were brought to public attention with the controversy over standardization of OOXML. SA's processes were shown to be unable to deal with the issue.

The Australian ICT community needs to decide what is a suitable business model for standards development. Standards Australia was developed based on a business model which saw funding come from the sale of paper copies of standards, as well as from member subscriptions and some government support. However, after floating its publishing arm as SAI Global in 2003, only a small proportion of Standards Australia's income now comes from the sale of standards (about 16%).

It would be feasible for SA to pilot a low cost online standards process, which provided the standards for free online. SA could also facilitate the involvement of Australian experts in standards processes of international bodies.

The lower cost of online standards development, along with opportunity for online sponsorship, should more than make up for any loss in revenue from sales of standards. SAI Global could take the opportunity to provide services to complement the free standards, so that it does not suffer financially from the loss of standards sales.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perth City Transport

While in Perth (Western Australia) I hopped on the excellent free CAT (Central Area Transit), bus servcie. I Perth is on the other side of the content to where I live, my sense of direction was reversed and I caught the bus on the wrong side of the road. Instead of going to Perth CBD I ended up at the City Farm Perth. This is a green oasis in some rehabilitated industrial land. A few years ago I visited the similar Camley Street Natural Park, on the banks of a canal in central London.

The CAT services are free and frequent, but not without problems. The stops have countdown timers which are supposed to show when the next bus is due, but these seemed to have nothing to do with the time of the actual arrival of the bus (displaying ten minutes when the next bus arrived at the stop). There is supposed to be a Perth CAT real time update, showing the bus locations, but it takes a long time to load and the does not seem to actually show any bus locations (correct or not).

Also while in Perth I tried the Mandurah Railway Line , which goes under the city center and then across the Swan River, to Mandurah. The service is very fast, overtaking cars on the 100 kph freeway, which it runs part of the way down the middle of. Also there are good views of the Swan River and city. But despite the line only opening last December, the new underground city station already looks dirty and the audio information kiosk was broken.

Bunbury Library and Data Center

While in Bunbury (Western Australia) to give a talk on Carbon Neutral Computing, I was interested to see a new Public Library and Commercial Data Center under construction. The upper floor will have a 1600sqm public library on the upper level , with a commercial data centre underneath.

Apparently the computer centre will be used by a local film production company for digital post production. This is an innovative bit of ICT industry development by the The City of Bunbury and State Government of Western Australia.
After weeks of careful preparation, cement for the raised Library floor was poured on 12 March 2008. Starting at 3am, the continuous pour was successfully completed by midday the same day. A significant undertaking, the floor is over 1,600sqm in size, weighs 1,320 tonnes, and required 550 cubic metres of concrete.

Once the concrete cures, work will resume to install tilt panel walls and structural steelwork to create the Library’s interior spaces.

Project construction information
Contractor Cimeco Pty Ltd
Architect Peter Hunt Architect
Structural and civil BPA Engineering
Mechanical Consultant Geoff Hesford Engineering
Electrical Consultant Best Consultants
Hydraulic Consultant Hutchinson Associates
Quantity Surveyor Davis Langdon Australia

From: Our new City/Regional Library Diary, Entry No. 6, City of Bunbury, March 2008

Scheduling in heterogeneous virtualised clusters

With all the talk of "virtualisation" of servers to rationalize computer use and reduce energy consumption, it is worth keeping in mind that getting applications to run well on such systems can be difficult. There is a seminar, called at short notice, in Canberra, about this today:

Seminar Announcement

Department of Computer Science, FEIT
The Australian National University

Date: Thursday, 24 April 2008
Time: 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Venue: Room N101, CSIT Building [108]

Speaker: Muhammad Atif

Title: Scheduling in heterogeneous virtualised clusters
(Thesis Proposal Review seminar)


Clusters of commodity processors are highly heterogeneous in nature. The volume of computation performed by one compute node in the cluster can be drastically different from other nodes due to architectural or communication interconnect differences. The conventional scheduling
solutions do not take detailed heterogeneity aspects into consideration,
and thus are not very effective.

Virtualisation can be utilized to normalize the heterogeneity of a
cluster to some extent. With growing maturity and hardware support, the
performance gap between native and virtualised operating systems is
decreasing making it a good candidate for high performance computing

The concept of live migration of operating systems can be utilized to
maximize the throughput of the compute farm and the turnaround times of
the submitted jobs. This can be done by developing a run-time job
estimation and remapping service capable of determining more optimized
hardware environment for a job at runtime, resulting in high throughput
and improved turnaround times in the compute cluster.

This seminar will discuss the prospects of using virtualisation in HPC
and some proposed solutions. we will also present some early results of
our experiments with virtualised compute clusters and discuss the short-
comings of current Virtualisation solutions with HPC viewpoint.


Muhammad Atif has done Masters in Software Engineering from the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan. In 2003, he was was awarded the prestigious president's gold medal for his excellent academic record at his university.

He is currently pursuing PhD in the field of Scheduling in High
performance computing from from the Department of Computer Science,
ANU. His research interest includes virtualization of operating systems
and performance estimation in cluster computing. His past research
interests include natural language processing and anomaly detection in
agent based computing.

URL: http://cs.anu.edu.au/lib/seminars/seminars08/dept20080424

ICT industry to benefit from new Curtin alliance

Last week I visited Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia. The Curtin Business School is offering credit for postgraduate courses for people who have done ACS's Computer Professional Education Program:

A new alliance between Curtin University of Technology and the Australian Computer Society (ACS) will provide students with a clear pathway to leverage their postgraduate studies at Curtin’s School of Information Systems.

The Articulation Agreement enables ACS students who have completed its Computer Professional Education (CPE) Program to transfer to Curtin and attain an internationally recognised Masters or Postgraduate Degree by gaining credit for the subjects they have completed through ACS.

Curtin is the first Western Australian university to offer this pathway, joining an exclusive group of only four universities in Australia to sign this agreement with the ACS.

Head of the School of Information Systems, Dr Vanessa Chang said that she welcomes the alliance with ACS and says it will go a long way to further develop the ICT industry in Western Australia.

“The ACS and the School of Information Systems both work towards the same goals; the education and professional development of ICT professionals, and more broadly the development of the ICT industry in Australia,” Dr Chang said.

“ACS membership requires high qualification and experience standards. This Articulation Agreement therefore ensures students of exceptional ability which is crucial as it allows the School of Information Systems to continue delivering degree programs at a very high level.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor of Curtin Business School, Professor Duncan Bentley said that this agreement is important for both Curtin and the ACS.

“The agreement is a mechanism for promoting and encouraging life-long learning which will help meet the increasing demand for highly skilled professionals in the ICT industry over the long term,” Professor Bentley said.

The Professional Development Director of the ACS, Mr Tom Worthington, travelled to Perth to formally announce and sign the Articulation Agreement at an event held recently at Curtin’s Bentley campus and to consult Curtin staff on new ICT initiatives in green ICT.

“This agreement will provide a direct link between the ACS CPE Program and Curtin degree programs. The ACS is committed to providing our local and overseas students with the best possible educational experience and this new partnership will offer postgraduate students more flexibility and choice,” Mr Worthington said.

“The ACS courses are particularly appealing to students in India and China, and this new alliance will provide them with the option to leverage their studies at Curtin.”

The ACS is the recognised association for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals and is the public voice of the ICT profession and the guardian of professional ethics and standards in the ICT industry.

For more information on the Articulation Agreement please visit http://www.cbs.curtin.edu.au/business/acs-articulation or call Karen Clarke on 08 9266 4489 or email her at K.Clarke@curtin.edu.au

Note to Editor: Photographs are available on request

Contacts: Monique Billstein; Public Relations; Curtin; 08 9266 3353; 0401 103 018; M.Billstein@curtin.edu.au

ICT industry to benefit from new Curtin alliance, Media Release, C116/08, Curtin University of Technology, 21 April 2008

US Study tries to find that ICT Reduces Energy Use

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report, Information and Communication Technologies: The Power of Productivity, ICT has a ten to one energy saving. That is for each kilowatt-hour of electricity used to run computers and telecommunications, the report's authors claim ten are saved.

Unfortunately, while the media release and executive summary are made freely available, the full report requires registration. After registering and downloading the report it becomes clear that the claims made in the publicly available material are not substantiated in the report. The PDF security on the report does not permit copying sections from the document, making detailed analysis of the material more difficult.

"Our own macro-level analysis, completed specifically for this study, confirms the important contributions of ICT towards the economy-wide increases in energy productivity. To generate a reasonable working estimate of ICT-related energy productivity gains, we collected data on energy use and ICT investments for the U./S. over the years 1949 through 2006. We then used a series of regression analyses to provide a first order impact that ICT investments might have on the annual change in total energy consumed in the United States.

After controlling for the effects of population and economic growth,. the mix of ICT technologies was found to have a significant dampening effect on the nation's energy consumption. In effect, while population and economic growth generally increased overall energy usage, the ICT investments increased the overall efficiency of energy use so that the total was somewhat dampened. The upshot is that by using 2006 data on investments in information technologies, the series of regression models lead us to estimate that for each kilowatt-hour of (mostly) electricity needed to power the use of ICT equipment - whether computers, servers, or telecommunication equipment - approximately 6 to 14 equivalent kilowatt-hours of energy were saved. For example one kilowatt-hour of electricity used by a variety of ICT devices might enable the saving of a gallon of gasoline as a result of reduced travel demand."

From: Information and Communication Technologies: The Power of Productivity, John A 'Skip' Laitner, Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, Report E081, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, February 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

iPhone as a desktop PC replacement?

The Apple iPhone and iPod Touch both have DVI output and USB from the connector socket. In theory at least it should be possible to have a connector costing less than $100 to plug the Apple iPhone into a standard USB keyboard, mouse and VGA screen. This would allow the iPhone to be used as a web terminal. From the blogs I have read, the iPhone software doesn;t currently support standard keyboards and mice, .

Innovation ANU Elevator Pitches

Greetings from the Innovation ANU Elevator Pitches in Canberra. This is the culmination of a series of evening courses to educate university people in how to turn an idea into a product. Earlier each person with an idea presented and then formed teams. About a dozen of those teams now get two minutes each to present their idea. Two judges, from the venture capital industry, select the best for an award and then for development.

The presentations are entertaining. It is remarkably difficult present an idea in two minutes. One part I found surprising was that few of the teams used props for presentations. Most presentations were someone standing at a lectern talking. This makes me appreciate the quality of the presentations which the ANU software engineering present.

Topics of the presentations were aids for home finance, puzzles, teaching English, B2C, photo printing, fast food catering. At that point the next presenter, Felix Schill woke me up by pulling a miniature robot submarine out of their backpack and said these would cost $15,000 each. This is the Serafina, developed by ANU (sort of an underwater Aerosonde).

The next presentation was the EtherDVB", video over Ethernet product. That was followed by the BushLAN system for long distance broadband (might be useful for the last few percent of the population with the government's broadband system). This was followed by a proposal for electronic medical records. Then gold prospecting.

At that point the presentations changed outlook to one with a "non-profit" proposal. The first was about reconciliation and learning about indigenous culture.

When then flipped back to a proposal for keeping track of receipts. There was then a second food proposal. One of the few medical proposals was for a drug to reduce deaths due to heart disease. We then had a proposal for bio-gas for developing nations using cow manure for cooking. There was then a second proposal for e-health records. A less usual proposal was for a low cost harp to be sold online (bit like the OLPC, but for music). The last presentation was for asthma treatment: a counter for dispensers and a test kit to check the medicine is present. It was claimed that these are already protected by patents.

The one hour of elevation pitches went very quickly. The judges are now considering their decision.
... first round of judging and awards and will require teams to submit a two page executive summary and a 2 minute (maximum) elevator pitch. Details about both of these submissions are outlined below. Executive Summary submission will be by midday, Tuesday 22nd April (the day before the judging evening), to give the judges plenty of time to read the executive summaries. The elevator pitch will be conducted on the evening and the order of the teams will be selected randomly on the evening. Both the page and time limits are fixed and teams will be asked to strictly abide by these.

The elevator pitch is a two minute pitch to sell your vision/idea of a product, service or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. The elevator pitch should be delivered without visual aids (pictures, powerpoint presentations, etc.) and within the required time limit, after which the team will be asked to stop immediately.

Investors will often judge the quality of an idea and team on the basis of the quality of a short pitch such as this as any weaknesses are often easily exposed in this process. An effective elevator pitch is designed to give the audience just enough information that they will have a sense of what you are talking about and want to know more. Second, and just as importantly, it is designed to not give the audience so much information so that they feel overwhelmed (and tune you out). There is an overview of the requirements for the elevator pitch on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website (www.anu.edu.au/InnovationANU). There is also a good overview of an elevator pitch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq0tan49rmc.

An executive summary is similar to a written version of the elevator pitch and outlines many of the relevant elements of your concept and idea and why it will be a success. This should be a two page document without images or other visual elements. There is an overview of the requirements for the executive summary on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website (www.anu.edu.au/InnovationANU). The executive summary should be submitted in word (.doc) or pdf formats by midday, Tuesday 22nd April. Late submission will rule participants ineligible for this award.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Innovation ANU Elevator Pitch Awards Evening

The Australian National Unviersity is having an evening of "elevator pitches" by budding entrepreneurs on Wednesday in Canberra. This is part of a program to educate university people in how to turn an idea into a product.
The first awards evening is upon us this week and we are in for a very exciting evening. The evening will commence at 6pm in the foyer and later in The Finkel Lecture Theatre of The John Curtin School of Medical Research this Wednesday 23rd April.

The first elevator pitch will commence at 6.30pm and the order of teams will be randomly chosen on the evening. Refreshments will be served all evening. Each elevator pitch will be followed by a short question and answer time. At the conclusion of all the pitches the judges will award the winners of both the elevator pitch and executive summaries with their awards.

Failure to submit an executive summary or elevator pitch may make participants ineligible for the major awards at the conclusion of the program. The following details were sent out last week and are included as a reminder of what is required this week.

* Please note the deadline of the executive summary submission is midday, Tuesday 22nd April, which is the day before the awards evening this week.

* If any more information is required please contact us, otherwise we look forward to seeing you all there.

The Innovation ANU Organisers

Next week will be the first round of judging and awards and will require teams to submit a two page executive summary and a 2 minute (maximum) elevator pitch. Details about both of these submissions are outlined below. Executive Summary submission will be by midday, Tuesday 22nd April (the day before the judging evening), to give the judges plenty of time to read the executive summaries. The elevator pitch will be conducted on the evening and the order of the teams will be selected randomly on the evening. Both the page and time limits are fixed and teams will be asked to strictly abide by these.

The elevator pitch is a two minute pitch to sell your vision/idea of a product, service or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. The elevator pitch should be delivered without visual aids (pictures, powerpoint presentations, etc.) and within the required time limit, after which the team will be asked to stop immediately.

Investors will often judge the quality of an idea and team on the basis of the quality of a short pitch such as this as any weaknesses are often easily exposed in this process. An effective elevator pitch is designed to give the audience just enough information that they will have a sense of what you are talking about and want to know more. Second, and just as importantly, it is designed to not give the audience so much information so that they feel overwhelmed (and tune you out). There is an overview of the requirements for the elevator pitch on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website (www.anu.edu.au/InnovationANU). There is also a good overview of an elevator pitch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq0tan49rmc.

An executive summary is similar to a written version of the elevator pitch and outlines many of the relevant elements of your concept and idea and why it will be a success. This should be a two page document without images or other visual elements. There is an overview of the requirements for the executive summary on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website (www.anu.edu.au/InnovationANU). The executive summary should be submitted in word (.doc) or pdf formats by midday, Tuesday 22nd April. Late submission will rule participants ineligible for this award.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Computers off Australia

"Computers off Australia" is an initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of computers by helping people to implement power management on their computers at home and work. There has been some recent media coverage of the project.

A few weeks ago Mark Winter from inTechnology Distribution asked me to help with the campaign. At first I thought it might be a token effort, much like the Earth Hour. But in talking to people about Green ICT, I discovered than many people were under the mistaken impression that computer screen savers saved electricity (when in fact they waste power) and had no idea how to set the energy saving features on their computer. So I agreed to help out.

The idea is to establish"Computers off Australia" as a not-for profit organisation. As well as myself, Professor Robin Eckermann (noted broadband expert and green telecommunications expert) is assisting. The campaign aims to find an extra 6 to 8 people and an advisory board of IT and non-IT professionals to assist with developing new ideas.

Dr Idris Sulaiman, who previously worked on energy saving initiatives with the federal government is heading the organization. He is keep to hear from organizations willing to contribute resources to the campaign (in return for acknowledgment).
Recently established environmental organisation, Computers Off, has appointed its first CEO/economist as it looks to build links between its IT-based initiatives and government. ...

From: IT environment group strengthens government links
Computers Off appoints former government lobbyist to assist industry and government with more efficient IT management
, Nadia Cameron 17 April, 2008 11:54:16, ARN, IDG

ps: The value of the Computers Off web site was brought home to me recently when I was attempting to set the power saving on a friend's Apple Mac computer. I realized I had no idea what to do, so I went to the Apple Mac instructions on the campaign web site and followed what it said. This process for both Mac and Windows is harder than it need be, as the "screen saver" and "power management" settings are in different places and can conflict with each other.

Ideas 2020 Summit Streaming

Australia 2020 Summit StreamingThe video of the Official Opening and plenary sessions in the Great Hall of Parliament House are available from the Australia 2020 Summit web site. Some other sessions are also available.

Unfortunately the video is only available in Windows Media and Adobe Flash formats for streaming. Also the webcasts are to be deleted on 24th May 2008. It seems undemocratic and a waste of public money to video the event and then block access to the video after a few weeks. The Australian Government should apply a Creative Commons license to the video and make it freely available for downloading and editing. The video and audio of the Open 2020 Summit has been made available for downloading.

LIVE StreamingAvailable On-Demand
Summit Opening & Plenary08:45 - 10:15 Saturday 19 April 200813:10 Saturday 19 April 2008
Plenary–Highlights of the Day17:15 - 18:00 Saturday 19 April 200821:00 Saturday 19 April 2008
Plenary Panel Session08:30 - 10:00 Sunday 20 April 200813:00 Sunday 20 April 2008
Plenary-Summation &
Close of Summit
13:30 - 15:00 Sunday 20 April 200818:00 Sunday 20 April 2008
The Productivity Agenda

Session 1 Ambitions

Available at approximately 14:00 Saturday 19thApril 2008

Webcast will remain available until 24thMay 2008

Session 2 Priority Themes

Available at approximately 19:00 Saturday 19thApril 2008

Webcast will remain available
until 24thMay 2008

Session 3 Thinking Big

Available at approximately 13:00 Sunday 20thApril 2008

Webcast will remain available until 24thMay 2008

Australian Economy
Population Sustainability
and Climate Change
Rural Australia
A National Health Strategy

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Government Green ICT Procurement

Since I was on my way to Queensland to talk to people about Green ICT, I thought I would look at what the government there was doing about sustainability in procurement. The Queensland Government uses the Government Information Technology Contracting Framework (GITC V5) for procurement of computers and services. The GITC, which is much the same as used by other Australian governments, does not have much to say on sustainability. But there is now also a chapter on Operational Concept – Sustainable procurement in the State Procurement Policy.

The sustainable procurement policy just sets out general principles, there are no specific targets, for example on recycling of computers or energy efficiency. The Standard GITC Clauses– Reference Sheet, includes a requirement for US EPA Energy Star energy efficiency:

5. Clause to be included in invitation document on energy

In keeping with the Queensland government’s commitment to the National Greenhouse Strategy/Government Energy Management Policy, where possible, office equipment supplied under this arrangement or against a Government purchase order must comply with the US EPA Energy Star or power management features and must be supplied in its enabled state where technically feasible. ...

From: Standard GITC Clauses– Reference Sheet, Queensland Government, 12/09/2005

This is similar to what is in the "Measures to Support Environmentally Friendly ICT"
report from AGIMO. Australian Government departments and agencies are already required to purchase only office equipment that complies with the US Environment Protection Agency Energy Star standard (subject to it being fit for purpose). This includes ICT products. However, what is lacking is a specific version of the Energy Star system being specified, promotion of the policy and a way to monitor to what extent the policy is being implemented.

It is likely that many CIOs in federal and state governments would be unaware of the policy and would be unlikely to be getting regular reports on compliance and energy use. Where computer systems are networked, it should be possible to monitor compliance in near real time, via the network, rather than having procurement officers filling in paperwork. The federal and state governments could interrogate their systems to see how much power is being used and what the power saving status of the system is at any time.

As I detailed in my talk on Carbon Neutral Computing, for the ACS recently, purchase of energy efficient computer systems can also save money. Perhaps this is something the new review of the Australian Government's management of information and communication technology (ICT) by of of Sir Peter Gershon might look at. New hardware designs can lower the capital cost of equipment and also better system design can lower the need for equipment, as well as making systems easier to use.

The Queensland sustainability policy contains some useful definitions, but does not have much to say on ICT. There are some difficult issues for ICT procurement. As an example, it would be tempting to reuse old computers to save on materials use and save money. But old computers are likely to be energy inefficient and cost more to maintain. In most cases it will likely be better to scrap old computers and buy new ones (like scrapping an old fridge, not using it out the back as a bar fridge):

Sustainable procurement means that when buying goods and services organisations practicing sustainable procurement
will consider:

  • strategies to avoid unnecessary consumption and manage demand
  • minimising environmental impacts of the goods and services over the
    whole-of-life of the goods and services
  • suppliers’ socially responsible practices including compliance with legislative obligations to employees
  • value for money over the whole-of-life of the goods and services, rather
    than just initial cost.

Queensland Government agency procurement decisions
should encompass the consideration of goods and services which have a lower
impact on the environment and human health than competing goods and services
from suppliers, and which are ethically and socially responsible in value for
money considerations.

Elements of sustainable procurement
The procurement of environmentally preferable goods and services is a key activity in implementing sustainable procurement. Environmentally preferable or ‘green’ goods and services are those that have a lower impact on the environment over the life cycle of the good or service, when compared with competing goods or services
serving the same purpose.

This comparison may consider the source of raw materials, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, potential for reuse and recycling, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • energy and water efficient products and services
  • products using less packaging or with provision for packaging take-back
  • reduced waste products made from recycled or re-manufactured materials
  • the use of renewable resources
  • reduced hazardous waste
  • reduced toxic and hazardous substances.


From: Operational Concept – Sustainable procurement, State Procurement Policy, Queensland Government

Green ICT Sustainable Future for Australia 2020

The ACS will be having a wrap-up of the ICT issues from the Australia 2020 Summit, particularly ones relating to the environment, 23 April 2008 at 12 noon, in Canberra. The event is free, but you need to register online to attend:
Green ICT Sustainable Future for Australia 2020

Green ICT Special Interest Group (SIG) Meeting

The Australian Government is holding the Australia 2020 Summit at Parliament House on 17 April 2008. One thousand Australians have been invited to help with a long term strategy for the Australia's future.

How can ICT be used to help with an economically and environmentally sustainable future, in the face of falling stock markets and rising sea levels?

Discussion lead by Tom Worthington, chair of the ACS's Green Technology Group and co-chair of the Open 2020 Local Summit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

HP 2133 Mini-Note

HP 2133 Mini-Note ComputerHP have announced the HP 2133 Mini-Note, a low cost, low power sub-notebook computer similar to the ASUS Eee PC. The unit has a 8.9 inch screen and starts at $US499.

I found the Eee PC to have a keyboard too small to type on comfortably. The HP 2133 appears to have a significantly wider keyboard, only about 10mm narrower than the 12 inch screen notebook computer I usually use. This should make the HP usable (but with an external screen and keyboard still desirable for extended desktop use).

HP 2133 has got good reviews. Dell are rumored to have a similar unit coming out, produced by Compal Electronics for $399. My prediction that by the end of 2008, a "normal" computer will be one for under $500 seems to be coming true.

System features
See detailed specs
US QuickSpecs » html ...
Operating system
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10
Processors available
VIA C7-M ULV processor (1.0 GHz, 128 KB L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB)
512 MB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Memory slots
Hard drive
4 GB Flash Module
Graphics and Input/Output devices
Display size
8.9-inch diagonal WXGA
VIA Chrome 9
Integrated camera
VGA camera
Audio, Slots, and Ports
ADI1984HD High Definition CODEC; 24-bit DAC; Integrated stereo speakers; Stereo headphone/line out; Stereo microphone in
2 USB 2.0
1 microphone in
1 headphone/line-out
1 external VGA monitor
1 RJ-45
1 AC power

1 Express Card/54
1 secure digital
Communication features
Network interface
10/100/1000 NIC
Broadcom 802.11b/g
Product specifications
2.8 lb (1.27 kg)
Dimensions (w x d x h)
10.04 x 6.5 x 1.05 in (255 x 165 x 27 mm)
What's in the box
3-cell (28 WHr) high capacity Lithium-Ion

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Postgraduate education for IS and IT professionals

Greetings from the learning center of the library at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia. Curtin Business School is one of those offering credit towards a postgraduate course for people who have done ACS's Computer Professional Education Program. So while in Perth I dropped in to visit the business school and meet Professor Duncan Bentley, Pro Vice Chancellor.

We had a photo taken with the PVC passing me what I thought was a copy of the articulation agreement with ACS. The document had a shiny cover which would cause glare in the flash photo so I ripped the cover off. Only then was I told this was the actual agreement, not a copy. ;-)

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, Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society, 2008

By the way Curtin is taking a similar approach to computer equipped flexible learning centers as other Australian universities. The library has clustered workstations, with provision for several students to share one workstation. But with an emphasis on group work the noise level is higher than desirable and the architect needs to be brought back to plan some more noise control. There are also stand up casual stations and some glass walled rooms for group instruction.

The business school is about to start construction of some new dedicated rooms, similar to designs at University of Queensland.

There is also interest in green issues, with the Green Library Blog.

Web Pages for Mobile Phones

The W3C is continuing to progress with how to get web pages into a suitable format for mobile phones and other handheld devices. They have released "Content Transformation Guidelines 1.0" (W3C Working Draft 14 April 2008). These were prepared by Jo Rabin, mTLD Top Level Domain (dotMobi) and describe how web pages can be automatically transformed to make them more suitable for mobile devices.This can be done by a proxy server in between the web server and the web browser, or it can be done by the web server itself or even by the hand held device.

Of course content which was prepared without any thought that it might be read on other than a desktop computer is not going to necessarily transofrm well. The
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 - Basic Guidelines suggest what a mobile device will need and would help in doing the web pages well in the first place.

But a looming problem is that the mobile people are working on XHTML standards and meanwhile a different group is working on HTML 5. This problem becomes apparent in devices such as the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch, which the designers believe can render desktop web pages themselves and so do not activate mobile CSS style sheets.

Geoscience Australia has issued a Request for Tender for Windows and Linux Servers. They are going to use virtualization to rationalize their server hardware. However, the ability to monitor power use and have power reduction features does not seem to be mentioned:
8.4 Technical Specifications
8.4.1 Geoscience Australia is seeking to establish a contract for the supply of a range of business capable servers. The following details the specifications required of the servers:

8.4.2 Capable of operating the following operating systems as a minimum

a) Windows 2000 server
b) Windows 2003 server both 32 and 64 bit
c) Windows 2008 server both 32 and 64 bit
d) Red Hat Linux enterprise
e) Capable of multiple core/multi processor operation
f) Have a three year warranty on all parts and labour
g) Minimum 4 hour (24*7) warranty and extendable for a fourth and fifth
h) Fit into a standard 900mm computer rack
i) Have redundant power supplies
j) Dual native 10/100/1000 Mb/sec NIC capability supporting PXE
k) Capable of Raid 0,1 and 5 as a minimum
l) Have an external scaleable disk solution
m) Capable of supporting a multiple range of HDD including SAS, SATA etc with choice of AMD or Intel CPU acceptable
n) A capability for the addition of external disk storage
o) Capable of SCSi attached tape storage
p) Have a DVD-ROM
q) Have the capability of either PS/2, USB or IP based KVM
r) Have an internal PCI (minimum) expansion capability, including the
ability to handle 3D graphics cards
s) Have redundant fans capable of cooling at the extreme operations of the
t) Be supported by a software management system than provides remote
hardware status and alerting, diagnostics and logging and firmware/BIOS
u) Must be capable of email fault alerting
v) Supports VMW are V3x virtualisation
w) Have a RAM expansion capability between 2Gb and 64Gb
x) Have a FSB of at least 1066Mhz
y) Be capable of Cache expansion greater than 6Mb
z) Be capable of supporting Fibre connectivity to 10Gb
aa) Be capable of provisioning monitoring, alerting and independent
actioning of environmental information
8.5 First Year Requirements

From: Request for Tender for the Provision of Computing Equipment to Support Geoscience Australia's Windows/Linux Server Environment, ATM ID RFT2008/1106, Geoscience Australia, 14-Apr-2008

Problems of Uncertainty in Power Networks with Renewables

Professor Ian Hiskens from University of Wisconsin-Madison will talk on the problems renewable energy systems and plug-in electric cars will cause for the electricity grid at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, 14 April 2008:


Problems of Uncertainty in Power Networks with Renewables

Prof. Ian Hiskens (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

DATE: 2008-04-21
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

Renewable generation and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are set to play an important role in future power networks. This will present a significant change from current systems that are dominated by centralized generation. Accordingly, existing analysis tools are not well suited to assessing the dynamic performance of power networks that incorporate highly distributed generation and storage technologies. Aggregated models of the distributed resources will be necessary, though such models will be highly uncertain. The seminar will present computationally feasible approaches to assessing the influence of uncertainty on the dynamic behaviour of nonlinear systems, with a focus on power networks. A process of ranking parametric influences will be considered. It will be shown that trajectory sensitivities can be used to obtain accurate first-order approximations of trajectories that arise from perturbed parameter sets. These approximate trajectories provide an efficient means of generating an uncertainty envelope around the nominal trajectory.

Ian A Hiskens received the BEng (Elec) and BAppSc (Math) degrees from the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, Rockhampton, Australia in 1980 and 1983 respectively. He received the PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newcastle, Australia in 1991. He is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. From 1980 to 1992, he was with the Queensland Electricity Supply Industry, where he held the positions of EMS Security Applications Engineer and Planning Engineer Transmission Systems. From 1992 to 1999, he was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and from 1999 to 2002 a Visiting Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His major research interests lie in the analysis of nonlinear (hybrid) systems, in particular system dynamics and control, and numerical techniques. Power systems form his primary applications focus. He is involved in numerous IEEE task forces and committees, is past Chair of the Technical Committee on Control of Energy Processing and Power Systems within the IEEE Control Systems Society, and past Chair of the Power Systems and Power Electronic Circuits Technical Committee of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. He was an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems-I: Regular Papers from 2002 to 2005, and is currently an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology. He is the Treasurer of the IEEE Systems Council. Professor Hiskens is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, and a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vision 2020 Summit Broadcast

ABC TV is to broadcast the Australia 2020 Summit (recemly described in the medai as the Vision 2020 Summit).

Saturday April 19:

ABC1- 8.40am EST – Opening Ceremony- 1.35 hours

ABC2 – 8.40am to 6pm live continuously

Sunday April 20

ABC1 – 1.25pm EST to 3.05pm – Australia 2020 Summit closing session

ABC2 – 8.55am EST to end of the closing session at 3.05pm

The video from the Open 2020 Summit (one of the local summits) is available online.

Humanitarian Early Warning Service

Major Flooding Currently UnderwayThe World Food Program set up the IASC Humanitarian Early Warning Service (HEWSweb). This provides a web site reporting storms and natural hazards around the world. They provide world maps of Storms, Floods and Earthquakes. Unfortunately many of their news services say "not available at this time". In any case this is a service for slowly developing events effecting food crops and the like, not for rapidly developing events, such as Tsunami.

The IASC Humanitarian Early Warning Service (HEWSweb) is an inter-agency partnership project aimed at establishing a common platform for humanitarian early warnings and forecasts for natural hazards. The main objective of HEWSweb is to bring together and make accessible in a simple manner the most credible early warning information available at the global level from multiple specialized institutions.

The HEWSweb concept has been initially proposed by a subsidiary body of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (the IASC Sub-Working Group on Preparedness and Contingency Planning) and endorsed by the IASC-WG in September 2004. The service has been developed by the World Food Programme and its technical staff on behalf of the IASC, building on inputs from all IASC partners. The IASC Sub-Working Group on Preparedness and Contingency Planning is co-chaired by WFP and UNICEF.

From: About Us - IASC Humanitarian Early Warning Service, IASC SWG on Preparedness and Contingency Planning, World Food Programme, 2007

Environmental Benefits of Telecommuting

According to the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, information technologies, such as broadband, provide environment benefits, by facilitating telecommuting. They claim this could cut greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 588 million tons, over the next decade. But this was not a detailed research report, as suggested in some news items, but just a media release:

Commuting to Work
The use of personal vehicles accounts for about half of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the typical personal vehicle produces 5.0 tons of carbon dioxide annually, as well as methane, nitrous oxide and various man-made gases. The roads needed to move vehicles are also a threat to the environment, as they replace forests and affect animal habitats. These roads are usually constructed with petroleum components, their maintenance expends energy and resources, and they produce hazardous runoff into nearby streams.

Broadband services help provide seamless data, video and voice communications, permitting workers to use their homes in the same manner as business offices – referred to as telecommuting and telework. Telecommuting is the use of telecommunications technology to allow employees to work from their homes and avoid the use of transportation to commute to and from work. Telework is the use of telecommunications to work anywhere other than the home office, such as telework sites satellite offices, and remote locations. Another group not covered by either term is home-based workers, who consist of self-employed workers who work at home instead of renting office space. Based on data through early 2006, only 2% of workers telecommute full time and 8% operate businesses from home, suggesting that 10% regularly work at home. However, a recent study by the American Consumer Institute found the potential for telecommuting could be twice as high as today’s level.

Economic Benefits
For workers, the total time lost commuting to and from work is the equivalent of 17.2 million jobs lost. If we monetize the value of this lost time and include the cost of the vehicle (gas, depreciation, insurance and maintenance), the cost of commuting would be nearly $1 trillion -- or about 7.2% of the total gross domestic product of the U.S. In other words, for every $14 produced in the economy; $1 is wasted just getting employees to work using their personal vehicle. Numerous studies find that telecommuting, facilitated by broadband services, can lead to many economic benefits that accrue to workers, consumers, businesses and society ...

Environmental Effects
The effect on the environment from telecommuting is equally stunning. Assuming fuel efficiency of 21 miles per gallon, commuting to work using personal vehicles consumes 44 billion gallons of gasoline per year. In terms of greenhouse gasses, private vehicles used during commuting release 424 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. In addition, other emissions include 23 million tons of carbon monoxide, 1.8 million tons of volatile organic carbons and 1.5 million tons of oxides of nitrogen each year. The direct and indirect effect of telecommuting on the environment is significant and includes:
• Reduced Gasoline Consumption;
• Reduced Energy Used in Building Roads;
• Reduced Energy Used in Constructing Office Buildings and Warehouses;
• Reduced Energy to Operate, Heat and Cool Office Buildings and Warehouses (Net of the Home Office);
• Reduced Run-off and Disturbance in Natural Habitats;
• Reduced Pollutants and Greenhouse Emissions; and
• Reduced Traffic Congestion, Which Saves Energy, Reduces GHG Emissions.

The American Consumer Institute study measured many of these direct and indirect effects of telecommuting on the environment and estimated that over the next ten years, the incremental cumulative benefit would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 588.2 million tons. To put this into context, there is approximately 7.9 billion U.S. tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually emitted into the atmosphere in the U.S. These greenhouse savings are made possible because of high-speed broadband services that permit workers to be productive and communicate seamlessly with workers, suppliers and customers. The study also reviewed some of the potential benefits of e-commerce, e-materialization, telemedicine, teleconferencing and distance learning and estimated that more than 1 billion tons of emissions that could be eliminated thanks to broadband services. Similarly, the study provides evidence that increased investment and use of information technologies, including broadband services, is inextricably linked to increased consumer welfare, productivity, economic output and jobs, as well as, lower inflation. ...

Suggested Readings
• Joseph Fuhr and Stephen Pociask, “Economic and Environmental Benefits, the American Consumer Institute, Reston, Va, October 31, 2007.
• Joseph Romm, “The Internet and the New Energy Economy,” Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, Global Environment and Technology Foundation, 2002. ...

From: Information Technologies and Telecommuting: Good for the Economy, Good for the Environment, Consumer Gram, American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research,11 April 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Photochromic glasses dangerously reduce night vision

A worrying finding from investigation into a UK shipping accident is that photochromic glasses block so much light that they should not be used by ship's lookouts. The report on the loss of the yacht Ouzo and its crew of three, found that the lookout on the ship Pride of Bilbao, which collided with it, was wearing "reactolite" (photochromic or photoctomatic) prescription spectacles. These darken in reaction to ultra violet (UV) in daylight. At night these appear clear, but actually block 20% of the light (ordinary coated lenses only block 0.6% of the light). Perhaps there should be clearer warnings against the use of these lenses for other night activities, such as driving a car, or flying an aircraft.
The seaman lookout on board Pride of Bilbao at the time of the incident was 60 years of age. He had worked on board the vessel for 10 months and had sailed previously on board similar vessels for many years. He was, therefore, an experienced lookout.

He had a valid ENG 1 certificate of health, which includes a requirement for regular eyesight tests.

His eyes had been tested privately in 2005, after which he was prescribed glasses to adjust his slight short-sighted vision. As a consequence, he purchased a pair of reactolite, or photochromic lensed glasses, that he could wear both during the day and at night because they darkened only in reaction to daylight or ultra violet (UV) light.

Following the accident, the MAIB had the lookout’s eyes examined once again and his prescription was found to be still correct. His eyes were also tested for other defects or anomalies that might have affected his vision or night time adaptation, but none were found.

2.5.3 The seaman lookout’s glasses

... The lookout’s photochromic glasses were sent to University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology to assess whether they might have had an adverse effect upon his night vision.

The glasses were examined and a report was prepared (Annex 1), which concluded that the optical transmission of the lenses was no more than 80% efficient and, taking into account all of the other known factors, was probably less at the time of the accident. This compares to 94.7% and 99.4% optical transmittance of ordinary uncoated and coated lenses, respectively. This was a startling result as the consequences of such a reduction in night vision had not been fully appreciated by opticians and ophthalmologists before the investigation of this accident.

The report also stated that it would be correct to assume that a uniform reduction in brightness due to the optical density of the lenses would decrease the likelihood that a subject would detect the lights of shipping vessels.

It appears, therefore, that the lookout’s glasses would have been a contributory factor when considering why Ouzo’s lights were not seen earlier. However, there are no rules or guidelines concerning the wearing of such glasses on the bridge of a vessel at night.

This incident has raised a serious concern that glasses fitted with photochromic lenses are inappropriate for use by lookouts on the bridge of merchant vessels. It also raises the question of applicability of use by operators in other modes of transport.

The MAIB also requested the Institute of Ophthalmology to test lenses from the major tinted photochromic lens manufacturers to determine whether the concerns raised in the initial report regarding the lookout’s glasses were widespread, and not just applicable to that particular pair or manufacturer (see Annex 2). The report concluded that all of the photochromic lenses tested showed significant reductions in the amount of transmitted light.

However the lenses of the glasses supplied for test by the MAIB were significantly inferior to the other currently commercially available lenses indicating that either manufacturers have improved the performance of their photochromic materials, or that the performance of photochromic glasses is reduced with time. As at least one manufacturer only guarantees the performance of lenses for 2 years, the latter reason may be the most likely.

This is obviously an additional concern regarding photochromic lens glasses, however it is outside the scope of this investigation. ...

From: Report on the investigation of the loss of the sailing yacht Ouzo and her three crew South of the Isle of Wight during the night of 20/21 August 2006, Report No 7/2007, Marine Accident Investigation Branch, United Kingdom, April 2007

National Broadband Network for Australia

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia. The Australian Government wants a fibre network to provide a minimum of 12 megabits per second to 98 per cent of homes and businesses. The government is willing to pay up to $4.7B for the roll-out and change regulations to make the system possible. There is a 114 page document detailing the requirements for the network.

One problem with the RFP is that it prescribes the use of a fibre optic network, either fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). This precludes the use of wireless technologies which would otherwise meet the requirements. However, use of wireless from a node to the premises, covering the last few hundred metres, seems to be permitted, as there is mention of "wireless base stations" in the RFP.

Another problem with the RFP is that it does not completely match the ALP election commitment. The ALP promised "A Fibre To The Node broadband network with a minimum 12 megabits per second to 98 per cent of population", but there is no mention of "population" in the RFP, which only refers to "98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses". Companies could use this discrepancy to avoid servicing low income homes.

One positive point is that the RFP asks about provision of battery backup of the equipment and energy efficiency: "... power efficiency, including the provision of low power or “sleep mode” operation for both network and customer terminal equipment; and intelligent active measures to increase energy efficiency in the network."

Overall this is a reasonable attempt to solve a very difficult problem. Suppliers are going to have to work very hard to meet the objectives of the project:
... Commonwealth’s objectives for the NBN...
  1. covers 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses;
  2. is able to offer broadband services with a minimum 12 Mbps dedicated downlink transmission speed over each connection provided to a premises;
  3. supports symmetric applications such as high-definition video-conferencing;
  4. is able to support high quality voice, data and video services;
  5. uses fibre-to-the-node or fibre-to-the-premises network architecture;
  6. enables uniform retail prices on a national basis;
  7. is rolled out and made operational progressively over five years from the date of execution of a contract between the Commonwealth and successful Proponent;
  8. continues to promote the long-term interests of end-users;
  9. has sufficient capacity to meet current and foreseeable demand and has a specified upgrade path within clear timeframes, consistent with international trends;
  10. facilitates competition through open access arrangements that ensure equivalence of price and non-price terms and conditions, and provide scope for access seekers to differentiate their product offerings;
  11. enables low access prices that reflect underlying costs while allowing Proponents to earn a rate of return on their investment commensurate with the risk of the project;
  12. provides benefits to consumers by providing choice to run applications, use services and connect devices at affordable prices;
  13. provides the Commonwealth with a return on its investment of up to $4.7 billion;
  14. is compatible with the Government’s related Fibre Connections to Schools initiative;
  15. meets Government requirements for the protection of Australia’s critical infrastructure;
  16. is consistent with national security, e-security and e-safety policy objectives including compliance with laws relating to law enforcement assistance and emergency call services;
  17. is consistent with Australia’s international obligations; and
  18. facilitates opportunities for Australian and New Zealand small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to provide goods and services to the project.
From: Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia, ATM ID DCON/08/18, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 11-Apr-2008