Sunday, January 31, 2010

School of One

School of One is a pilot program by the New York City Department of Education to customise education for each student. The result is similar to the flexible learning techniques being used by vocational and higher learning institutions. Each student has a custom daily schedule of one-to-one tutoring, independent study, e-learning and traditional classroom education. Students proceed at their own pace, with testing to help determine not only what level they are at, but what learning style will suit.

Architectural Record, January 2010 ("School of One" Charles Linn) features possible designs for schools to support the School of One. The designs appear very simpler to Australian design for flexible school buildings, with an emphasis on open plan, using changes in direction to replace walls and doors. The article describes a reception area, similar to a business lobby with display screens,. where students would get their plan for the day.

Interestingly for the first School of One, with four teachers and 80 students, the library of a NY school was used. Modular tables and screens were arranged into different configurations. This suggests a more flexible arrangement similar to the learning centre which many vocational and higher education libraries are evolving into.

The School of One idea suffers from some obvious limitations: it downplays the role of groups in learning by emphasising each student as an individual unit. It treats the student as a passive consumer of education to be given their daily program of education, rather than an active decision maker. It assumes a greater level of resources to be able to provide the student with more individual and custom programs. It ignores the role of the Internet and the wider world in learning.

The same issue of Architectural Record also contains an article on the renovation of an old school building for the "Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School" in Washington, D.C. (Architects Hickok Cole, article by Joann Gonchar). This provides a more realistic model for the school of the future, as it is having to adapt the old school infrastructure to a more flexible style of learning.

Simpler Collins class submarine replacement

The Australian Government is considering a Collins class submarine replacement. Twelve larger, longer range vessels are proposed, which can carry special forces and deliver strategic weapons on land. This is overly ambitious, given that currently only one of the six Collins class submarines is operational. The greater complexity of the proposed replacement the project has minimal of success and it is unlikely that any of the twelve submarines would become operational, if they were built.

An alternative approach would be to prioritise what is required and build simpler, smaller vessels. The primary mission of the submarines is surveillance, secondary is to attack shipping. Accommodation of special forces can be done by providing dual purpose space which can be used for storage or people on a particular mission. Strategic attack of land targets using missiles is not a priority.

Assuming the current Collins class submarines could be made reliable, their capacity to carry special forces and their range could be increased by reducing the weapons systems and loads. Halving the number of torpedo tubes and halving the maximum load of weapons would free up about 50m3 of space, for more supplies or special forces. Using precision guided weapons, less should be needed for any mission.

However, problems would remain with the Collins class. A better alternative would be to build a proven design, with the minimum of modifications. As an example, the German Type 214 submarine is built in several countries. It has a crew of half the Collins class. The 214 design could have half its torpedo tubes and half the weapons storage removed to add more room for stores. The submarine could be lengthened by 6m to add more room. The speed would be reduced, but that is acceptable given the primary mission of the submarine is surveillance.

In addition Australian designed and built Joint High Speed Vessels could resupply the submarines in friendly ports or at sea. The US Defence Department has confirmed it will order two more of these vessels. A fleet of twelve type 214 submarines and six JHSVs to support them would cost less and use a smaller crew than twelve improved Collins class vessels, be faster to bring into service and more likely to actually work.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Electronic warfare and radar imaging aircraft

Boeing EA-18G GrowlerProfessor Chris Baker talked on "Aspects of imaging radar" at The Australian National University, 28 January 2010. He pointed out that high performance computers now allow synthetic radar images to be created on-board aircraft, where previously hours of processing on a ground station would be required. It occurs to me that this could be applied to the Super Hornet EA-18G Growler aircraft the Australian government has ordered. These aircraft could then be used in conditions not suitable for the Boeing Wedgetail.

The EA-18G Growler is designed for electronic warfare. What the Australian Government has ordered is twelve Super Hornet aircraft to be fitted with extra wiring to allow radio transmitters and receivers to be attached to the aircraft. The receivers detect transmissions from enemy communications and radar. The transmitters then send false signals to confuse the enemy. However, Australia has not ordered any electronic warfare equipment for the aircraft, just the wiring. It is likely the USA will not permit Australia to have the most sophisticated equipment for the aircraft, nor allow Australia to modify the software and equipment for local conditions. It is likely that DSTO will develop local equipment for the aircraft.

As the EA-18G aircraft will be equipped with radar frequency transmitters and receivers, these could also be used to provide 360 degree radar coverage around the aircraft. Australia has ordered four Boeing Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft with very large radars and processing capacity. But these are modified airliners and so are slow and vulnerable to attack. The EA-18G is much smaller and faster, but would not normally be considered for a flying radar picket, due to limited space for antennas and processing computers. But as Professor Baker pointed out in his talk, processing power can now be fitted into a much smaller space and can overcome many limitations of the antenna size. High performance computers can be built from video game chips and podcasting can be used to send the resulting images directly to troops on the ground.

Stack iPads for Library e-Book Display

Apple iPad video wall proposed by Clarke Hopkins ClarkeAccording to Gizmodo, architects Clarke Hopkins Clarke have suggested stacking hundreds of Apple iPads on a library wall to display iBooks. A wall of iPads in a library is an intriguing idea, but would cost twenty times as much as some alternatives. There are much more affordable and environmentally efficient ways to build a video wall to display e-Books.

Many libraries now use large flat panel displays. These can be used to show book details. The latest of these displays used LED backlit LCD panels, which use less power than old plasma screens. One computer can drive many displays, making the setup much cheaper. A video projector can also be used to make a wall size display which can show one large image, or well as many small ones. At the Australian National University's famous " CSIT building N101 seminar room" I have used the full wall display for presentations. Three high resolution projectors cover one wall of the room and a computer with three video interfaces knits these into one large desktop. The wall has also been used for video art display. The wall can display cinema style video, or when the room is needed for other purposes, simply switched off.

An Apple iPad has an area of about 0.05m2 and costs about US$500. The Dell G2410 24-inch LED LCD monitor has an area of 0.23m2 and costs about US$300. Allowing for the extra computer hardware to drive a video wall, the LCD screens would cost about US$500 each. These would cost the same as the iPads, but because the iPads are much smaller the wall would cost five times as much.

The wall depicted by Clarke Hopkins Clarke has thirty columns of iPads, ten high, or 300 in total. The wall would cover 15m2 and the iPads would cost US$150,000. The same wall area would require about 66 LCD screens and cost US$33,000. Using video projectors would cost about US$7,000.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Australian Government Teleworking Policy

The Australian Government Information Management Office has issued a "Whole-of-Government Tele-working Policy for ICT Staff" (17 December 2009). It sets out the responsibilities of the agencies and the employees. All agencies are required to prepare an implementation plan, or decide to opt out by 30 June 2010. Plans must be implemented by 1 January 2011 and agencies have to report progress annually with metrics.

The appears well thought out, for example allowing for staff to work at telecentres. One curious aspect of this policy is why it only applies to ICT staff. The ICT staff are employed under the same conditions as other Australian public servants.

The policy is a 9 page document. Unfortunately this has been provided a PDF file, so here is a translation into HTML:

Tele-working Policy for ICT Staff

Approved by the Secretaries ICT Governance Board on 17 December 2009


The Australian Government Tele-working Policy for ICT staff will reform the ICT workforce in the Australian Public Service (APS) and ensure agencies attract and retain skilled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals.


The Australian Government Tele-working policy and its implementation by agencies will assist to:

  • promote the design of job roles capable of being performed remotely;
  • remove the technical impediments to tele-working;
  • provide a whole-of-government approach to securing information and infrastructure to support tele-working;
  • build agency capability to manage and support tele-working and tele-workers;
  • create APS employment opportunities in regional locations;
  • attract higher numbers of skilled ICT workers to the APS;
  • increase the complexity of the skill base within the APS; and
  • enhance the opportunities for ICT workers with disabilities, or who are returning to work, to participate in the APS workforce.


The APS is facing an ICT skills shortage in the immediate future, as ICT job roles increase in complexity. Tele-working, in conjunction with other ICT workforce strategies, will contribute to the APS being an employer of choice by increasing flexibility of employment. In addition, reducing reliance on Canberra-based ICT personnel will improve value for money. Furthermore, by increasing the geographic area from which ICT workers can be recruited, tele-working will increase the supply of ICT skills to the APS.

The project arose in response to the Review of the Australian Government’s Use of ICT by Sir Peter Gershon (“the ICT Review”). The ICT Review recommended that the Australian Government “establish a whole-of-government tele-working policy for ICT staff, building on existing AGIMO guidance” (Recommendation 5.4.6). Existing AGIMO guidance includes the Better Practice Checklist regarding ICT support to tele-work.


The Australian Government will support ICT tele-working for APS ICT employees on a full time, part-time and casual basis. Tele-working will support:

  • Home-based work – for staff who work within commuting distance of their usual place of work;
  • Out-posted work – for staff who work from home but for whom it is not practical to travel to the workplace on a daily basis; and
  • Tele-centre work – for staff who require access to office facilities in a location outside of their agency’s usual location.
The scope of the policy does not include travellers, day extenders, field officers or campus workers.

Operating Principles

The Australian Government is committed to providing a flexible workplace for ICT staff.

All APS agencies must develop a tele-working implementation plan if they do not have an existing plan. The implementation plan must meet the stated objectives outlined in this policy, and must address all items listed under Responsibilities. The implementation plan should be based on any relevant and applicable policy or guidelines already existing in the agency.

Individual agencies will have the flexibility to create an implementation plan to suit their individual agency circumstances. These plans will include consideration of value-for-money and fit-for-purpose criteria.


The implementation of the tele-working policy for ICT staff will be consistent with Commonwealth, State and Territory laws. A list of associated legislation, regulation and procedures is provided in Attachment A.

Eligibility of the role and the employee must be determined against measurable criteria or outcomes. The worker’s job function must fall within agency eligibility requirements. Criteria to determine employee eligibility could include length of tenure, performance and demonstrated skill set proficiency.

A tele-working arrangement does not alter the employment status of the employee; must be mutually agreed; and can be reviewed at the request of the employer or the employee.

Australian Government agencies must maintain a safe and productive working environment for employees who are tele-working.


Agencies must have a tele-working implementation plan, or have opted-out through the Expenditure Review Committee by 30 June 2010. Implementation of this plan must be completed by 1 January 2011. Agencies will report annually to the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board (SIGB), through the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) on its implementation plan. Specifically this report will address progress by agencies; barriers to implementation and possible solutions and numbers of ICT staff employed under tele-working arrangements. Agencies may include specific success metrics in their annual report to the SIGB.

Agencies must establish a formal multi-disciplinary governance body that includes ICT, HR and workplace representatives to oversee the implementation of tele-working and take-up rates.

The Australian Government will develop a whole-of-government solution to secure classified information commensurate with the level of classification for the physical and electronic information that will be handled. A lead agency will develop a security solution in consultation with Finance and the Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC).

A tele-centre allows agencies to support a remote ICT workforce in regional centres. However, the cost of establishing agency specific tele-centres will be prohibitive for many agencies. AGIMO, in consultation with the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers’ Committee, will report to SIGB on the demand for and feasibility of establishing tele-centres in selected regions by February 2010.


Tele-working will provide the following outcomes for the Australian Government:

  • increasing quality and quantity of ICT applicants and retention of the best employees, particularly those who value flexible working hours and newer workers who have high expectations of technology;
  • providing an alternative for employees with long commutes to save travelling time and expenses;
  • reduced expenditure on overhead items such as recruitment, facilities and utilities;
  • reducing traffic congestion, emissions and stress on infrastructure, thereby improving the environment;
  • creation of infrastructure and processes to support disaster recovery and business continuity during an emergency;
  • opportunities for agencies to share cost processes and infrastructure;
  • reducing the Canberra-centricity of existing ICT activities by harnessing emerging new labour pools, particularly from regional areas; and
  • promoting equity in employment by increasing employment options for people with disabilities or caring responsibilities.

Responsibilities (joint)

Workplace participation

Tele-workers and their managers must use processes and tools that maximise communication opportunities. The use of collaboration tools will sustain social and knowledge networks, and cultural affiliation of tele-workers.


Agencies must familiarise themselves with the tax ramifications of implementing tele-working arrangements.

If the arrangements result in benefits being provided to an employee, agencies must consider Pay As You Go withholding obligations (for additional salary and wages) or fringe benefits tax (FBT) obligations (for benefits) that may apply.

Tele-workers should seek taxation advice on claims that may be made with respect to the tele-working arrangement. Tele-workers may make substantiated claims for deduction on additional running expenses of an office or a study at home that is used for income-producing activities.

Education and awareness

Agencies must provide an education and awareness program for tele-workers and their managers on topics specific to a tele-working arrangement. In these programs agencies must address Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS), security, Comcare coverage, remote access, support and manager training on time management of “out-of-sight” workers.

Agencies must ensure tele-workers’ ICT skill sets remain current and relevant to the role they are performing. The long term impact on career opportunities of these workers should be monitored and specific training, together with interaction and collaboration tools considered.

It is both the employee and their manager’s responsibility to ensure development opportunities are identified and scheduled.


All Australian Government employees are covered by provisions of Comcare for working hours, regardless of their working location. It is recommended that each agency include the exact details of this coverage in their education and awareness training for tele-working.

All Australian Government assets are covered under the Comcover Insurance Policy at all working locations, including private residences. Where some or all of the ICT equipment is owned by the employee, responsibility for insuring the asset(s) rests with the employee, unless otherwise agreed by their employer.


Agencies and tele-workers should agree formally on contact arrangements; client interactions and attendance at other physical locations upon request.


The responsibility for the costs of tele-working (set up, maintenance, continuity etc) must form part of the contract for tele-workers to be agreed upon by both parties. Agencies should be aware of, and detail the approach to be taken for part time tele-working where the tele-worker is also engaged by another agency (Commonwealth or State) and/or with private enterprise.

Responsibilities (employers)

Application Process

Agencies must define the eligibility requirements for tele-working. Agencies’ implementation plans must clearly state the process for application and termination of tele-working arrangements. Agencies should assess tele-working applications with regard to the following:

  • the duties of the employee
  • the sensitivity or classification of information to be accessed
  • the expected deliverables or outcomes and how they will be measured
  • the duration of the arrangement
  • the benefits to the organisation
  • the costs to the organisation
  • agency operational requirements.


Agencies’ implementation plans must comply with the Protective Security Manual 2007 (PSM). Part H of the PSM specifies the security arrangements for working from home.

Agencies must undertake security assessments for home-based tele-workers.

Agencies will determine the level of classification of information that can be worked on at home or in a tele-centre and this determination must comply with Part H of the PSM.

Agencies must provide and maintain security containers at a level appropriate to classification level and other security measures for tele-workers to manage classified material.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

Agencies must take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety at work of their employees. An employer’s duty of care under the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (Cth) (OHS Act) applies to an employee conducting authorised work at home.1

An agency will determine what is ‘reasonably practicable’ as there is no specific requirement for a physical inspection under the OHS Act or associated regulations.

ICT Infrastructure

Agencies will ensure tele-working staff will use agency approved ICT infrastructure in their home.

Agencies’ ICT plans must include secure and scalable tele-working infrastructure and support mechanisms to support their tele-working implementation plan.

Short-term arrangements (less than 4 weeks)

From time-to-time, ICT staff may have short-term tele-working arrangements put in place. For example:

  • where an injury impairs travel but would otherwise not impact on performance of their duties;
  • a staff member has temporary caring responsibilities and is able to perform some or all of their duties for part of the day; or
  • a disaster or pandemic which prevents workers from attending their normal place of work.
In these circumstances, an agency will determine the most appropriate method of assessing OHS and security arrangements.

Responsibilities (employees)


Home-based staff must provide access to their home to employers, or agents acting on their behalf, for purposes such as security checks, OHS assessments or ICT support, following an agreed period of notice.

Third Parties

Home-based tele-workers are responsible for the safety of visitors to their home and must maintain public liability insurance to the level specified by the agency.

1 Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (OHS Act), Section 16(1)


Employees must maintain full proficiency in their job specific competencies, as well as agency processes.

Agency Guidelines and Instructions

Employees must conform to all agency guidelines and instructions.


The employee should agree to participate in all studies, inquiries, reports and analyses

relating to this policy.

Dependent Care

Tele-working is not to be treated as a substitute for dependent care. Tele-workers will not usually be available during working hours to provide dependent care.

Attachment A

Associated legislation, regulation and procedures2.

  • Agency Collective Agreements (and other individual agency-based requirements)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)
  • Information Security Manual (ISM) 2009 Section 6
  • Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment Act 1991 (Cth) (OHS Act), Section 16(1)
  • Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
  • Protective Security Manual (PSM) 2007 Part “H”
  • Public Service Act 1999 (Cth)
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth)
  • Superannuation Act 1990 (Cth)
  • Taxation Administration Act1953 (Cth)
  • Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW)
  • Work Safety Act 2008 (ACT)

2 State/Commonwealth legislation (liability and insurance) should also be taken into consideration.

Attachment B


APS ICT employee
APS ICT professionals that perform analytical, conceptual and practical tasks, which support the efficient and secure provision of information and communication technology (ICT) services to government.
The buildings & grounds of a complex (industrial park or military establishment).
Day Extender
Employees that may regularly work a standard day(s) at the office and then may log in from a secure home office to complete work that could not be undertaken during the normal day. Such work patterns for the same employer when done on a repeated basis (i.e. not ad hoc) would qualify as tele-working.
Dependent Care
Care for a child, frail older person or someone with a disability or chronic illness.
Refers to any area outside of Canberra and the ACT.
A location separate to the employee’s home and remote from the agency’s normal business premises that provides access to an office environment. These facilities may be provided on an agency specific or shared basis.
Paid work conducted away from an organisation’s physical offices, but that requires at least periodic connection to the employer’s computer network.
An employee or contractor undertaking tele-work.

From: Whole-of-Government Tele-working Policy for ICT Staff, AGIMO, 17 December 2009 (converted from the PDF version.

Apple iPad in 1996

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm. I had in mind a 3:4 format screen, whereas the iPad has a wider screen.
"Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) are the ... successor to the primitive Personal Digital Assistants, notebook PCs, radio pagers and mobile phones of 1996. ...

Larger PADDs ... dimensions of a B5 sheet of paper, by 1 cm thick ... touch sensitive screen covering the whole upper surface, which is also a high resolution (2000 x 2000 pixel by 16 million colour) screen. All PADDs have video and audio built in and can operate as what a 1996 person would know as a mobile phone, radio, TV and video cam-corder. ...

The QWERTY keyboard, in its virtual form is still in use for data entry. ..."

From: Australia: The Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, 7 February 1996
However, in retrospect I think a smaller device with a screen about twice the size of an iPhone would be better (the size of smaller PADDs in Star Trek). This is the size of the screen on the smaller Amazon Kindle. It would be about 125 × 88 mm and make a passport (ISO B7) size device which would be easier to hold in one hand. Apple might be reluctant to make a device this small, as it would compete with the iPhone. Kept in a large pocket or handbag, it could be used as a phone via a Bluetooth device (resembling a Star Trek communicator).

My prediction for resolution of the screen was a bit high at 2000 x 2000 pixels and the iPad lacks a camera. The prediction it would run Linux was almost right, with the iPad using a version of Unix (but Linus Torvalds has not got the Nobel prize yet).

I got the bit about online storage right: "Data is stored safely on servers, either owned by the employee's company or a contracted service provider. Data is downloaded as required over the network." My prediction for processing power was a bit low: "equivalent to about four 1996 era Intel Pentium processors", but memory was far too low: "(64 megabytes) to hold the data the user needs immediately".

Apple are a bit late with the iPad as I predicted it would be released in 2005. Some other predictions went better, with Senator Helen Coonan, when Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts commenting on the telecommunications predictions. One prediction which is now coming true, and the current government will be less happy with, is that fibre optic cable to households will prove uneconomic and be overtaken by wireless.

The bit about "Politicians have learnt to be careful about heavy handed attempts at net regulation." is about to come true with the predicted "Internet Party" forming as the Australian branch of The Pirate Party.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My School web site design

Hon Julia Gillard MP, Minister for Education launched the "My School" web site today. This is intended to provide information to the public on schools, including the number of students and teachers, socio-economic status and literacy and numeracy test results. Media reports indicated problems with the site responding. I found the site would not respond at about 9am, but by 9pm it was working well. However some simple changes to the web page design could improve the site.

I ran some tests on the page for the Montessori International College (Buderim,QLD,4556) and found:
This school web page contained:
  1. document: 139.1KB (HTML, text and scripts),
  2. stylesheets: 26.4KB,
  3. images: 16.3KB.
The document contains 4.4 kbytes of text, only 3% of the total. This indicates an excessive used of HTML mark-up in the page design. Reducing this would speed up access to the site. Some simple changes would reduce the code size by two thirds.

The code shows an excessive use of nested DIVs. At one point DIVs are nested ten deep, to display just two images. The large amount of white space which this deep nesting causes may also slow the system down, depending on how the pages and generated and transmitted.

Also automatically generated identifier names appear to be excessively long, such as: id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_SchoolProfileUserControl_SchoolDescriptionLabel".

In other respects the page is reasonably well designed . It is readable (perhaps more readable) with the styles turned off. However, it is not clear if the general public will be able to understand the complex tables displayed. It might be better to offer an introductory page for each school with summary data. This would also be a way to reduce the load on the server. Most readers will not read past the first few lines of text and therefore downloading the complex tables is a waste of resources.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book on designing classrooms

Space and learning: lessons in architecture 3 (Herman Hertzberger, 2008) seems a book out of its time. It provides 208 pages of theory and case studies on the design of everything from preschools to university and schools in the community. This work might be better described as the Montessori approach to school design as many of Hertzberger's case studies are of Montessori schools. To me the photos and descriptions seem to be more aligned to the radical 1960s than this century, but perhaps that is the nature of pioneering work.

Many of the concepts of the school designs in the book (and the Montessori method of education), when stripped of their philosophical superstructure, are very similar to current approaches to e-learning, pedagogy and andragogy. These assume that the student is self motivated to study. The educator aims to provide resorces which the student can choose to use when they need them, rather than according to an external timetable.Different learning materials are provided to suit different student's requirements. The education includes social skills working together with other students, with the educator to guide, not tell the students what to do. Exercises are grounded in real world problems, rather than academic theory. Students with different skills and experience can learn from each other.

The book can be previewed at Google books.

Glow in the dark interlocking floor tiles

At the RACV Australia Day Picnic and Federation Vehicle Display in Kings Domain, Melbourne I noticed the use of interlocking plastic tiles to protect the grass. The produce used was Pro-Floor , which appears similar to the tiles I was looking at using for classroom floors. I notice they even offer one type which glows in the dark. The idea isn't that you cover the whole floor with glow tiles, just mark out evacuation routes and the like.Link

Environment Department Wasting Energy on Letters

On 8 January I sent an email message to the Minster for Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts suggesting Internet enhanced meetings for post-Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Today I received reply from the Ministerial and Parliamentary Services. This anonymous message had a facsimile image of a letter attached (signed with an unreadable signature). The letter thanked me for my email and said my letter (I didn't send them a letter) had been referred to the Minister for Climate Change.

The attached letter was in the form of an image. The resulting file was about 100 times larger than it need be and would not be readable by those with limited vision. Government guidelines (and Australian law) require services to be provided in a way does not discriminate against people with a disability, including the blind. Routinely generating correspondence in the form of an image may constitute unlawful discrimination.

If communication was necessary (which it wasn't) all that was needed was a brief email. This would have been more readable and would used much few resources.

The Ministerial and parliamentary services handled about 20,000 items of ministerial correspondence last year. Assuming that a message similar to the one I got (about 40 kbytes of unnecessary data) was sent to each, that represents about 800 Mbytes of data. As this is correspondence the department will need to keep a copy on file for some years, wasting resources (including greenhouse gas causing energy) and increasing costs. So the Department's response to my suggestion for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been to increase theirs.

The Australian Government has some excellent guidelines on how to handle communications (some of which I helped write). The Ministerial and Parliamentary Services of the Australian Department of Environment perhaps should read some of them.

Large print edition of Green Technology Strategies

Green Technology StrategiesThe large print edition of Green Technology Strategies is now available. After looking at the options for large print I took the easy way out and simply enlarged the existing typeset version to A4. This increases the print 130% to 14 points. This is a bit small for a for a large print book but has the advantage that the pagination and layout are the same as the regular edition. When I revise the book I will look at changing the font used and allow for a large print edition in the basic design.

Viewing a mobile web site

Some web sites automatically adjust for mobile devices. It is possible to see what these look like by using an add-on to a desktop web browser. Apart from previewing mobile pages, this can be useful for slow dial-up and wireless links and for netbooks as the mobile versions of web sites tend to be more compact.

In some cases you enter a different web address for the mobile version of a web site (as an example for the Australian Open). In most cases the same web address is used and a mobile device is detected automatically and different layout and content provided. To get the mobile version your web browser has to pretend to be a mobile device by sending a different user agent string This is described in detail in "How To Emulate A Mobile Web Browser In Firefox?"). The user agent switcher add-on for Firefox comes with an iPhone profile and I was easily able to add one for a Google Android phone.

It should be noted that the mobile pages will not necessarily display exactly the same as they will on a mobile. The version of HTML the browser uses may be different, the screen size is different and some plug-ins the phones have may be missing.

Some web sites provide the same content to the browser but offer a separate set of CSS style sheets intended for mobile phones. These use the CSS media type "handheld". Most desktop web browsers (and Apple iPhone) ignore the style sheets labelled as "handheld". The firefox "Web Developer" addon has option for manually activating it (you can also activate the "print" stylesheet if there is one). Opera has an option for this already built in. As an example, my home page has a handheld stylesheet which puts all the text in one column. Some web site have reduced image sizes and fewer images when using the handheld styles.

You need to be able to switch back to a web profile, as some mobile version of web sites leave out some functions. Some sites allow for this within the web site. As an example the mobile version of the Wikipedia leaves out the edit functions: you can view content but not change it (see the mobile Wikipedia entry for the Bauhaus for example). A footer offers the regular desktop version and also an option to permanently disable the mobile version.

There are specialist programs for emulating different models of mobile phone. But if you just want to see if there is a mobile version of a web site and what is in it, the switcher works okay.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Great Wave off Kanagawa in Melbourne

The hollow of the deep-sea wave off Kanagawa by Katushika HOKUSAIThe National Gallery of Victoria currently has on display "The hollow of the deep-sea wave off Kanagawa" (神奈川沖浪裏 also known as "The Great Wave off Kanagawa") and other works by Katushika HOKUSAI. These include some of his Manga books, which he is said to have invented. These are books of sketches from everyday life, rather than the current meaning of Japanese comic books for adults.

ElectroSpin 2010 in Melbourne

CSIRO are hosting ElectroSpin 2010 in Melbourne this week. I only noticed this because it was taking place in the hotel I was staying in. Electrospinning can be used to make nano fibres using an electrical charge. The fibres can't be produced in large quantities at present and so a re limed to apllications not needing much, such as ultra-fine filters and medicine, rather than bullet proof vests.

Australian Open Web Page Scores Mixed

Staff from the IBM Atlanta Innovation Centre were telling me yesterday how they designed the web site for the Australian Open in Melbourne with accessibility in mind and with a mobile version. Today I ran the home page through the usual tests I get my web design students to use on web pages. The results were not bad, but also not as good as I was expecting. None of the problems found appear to be serious and not enough to make the web site inaccessible. Some of these are likely to be deliberate design decisions, where the automated tests do not reflect the real world, some don't matter. But the others are things IBM should be able to fix, with a little effort:

Desktop version of the Australian Open web site:
  • Automated accessibility test (TAW): 5 Priority One, 131 Priority Two and 21 Priority Three problems detected on the home page.
  • HTML Validation: 100 validation errors detected.
  • W3C mobileOK Checker reports "This page is not mobile-friendly!". Note that this the ordinary desktop version of the page. Even so, it would be useful if it had some mobile attributes, such as small size, to make it easier to use on slow wireless small netbooks.
Mobile version:
  • Automated accessibility test (TAW): 0 Priority One, 10 Priority Two and 1 Priority Three problems detected on the home page.
  • HTML Validation: 10 validation errors detected.
  • W3C mobileOK Checker scores the page 79 out of 100. This would be a good score for a standard web page attempting some mobile compatibility, but is not good for a web page specifically designed for mobile devices.

CSIRO Air Cargo Bomb Scanner

The "CSIRO Air Cargo Scanner" is a new device for detecting illicit and dangerous cargo. This combines gamma ray and neutron scanning to detect combinations of metallic and organic compounds, including bombs. There will be a seminar on the CSIRO Air Cargo Scanner Development and Commercialization at ANU, 2pm, 1 February 2010:


CSIRO Air Cargo Scanner Development and Commercialization

Yi Liu (CSIRO Process Science and Engineering)

DATE: 2010-02-01
TIME: 14:00:00 - 15:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

CSIRO has developed world first technology combining neutrons and X-rays to present and detect the composition as well as the shape and density information of objects in air cargo. This technology will help Customs to detect contraband and threats hidden in consolidated air cargo more easily.

The presentation will briefly introduce the principles of the technology and the scanner system development. The scanner has been successfully commercialised with a Chinese security equipment specialist - Nuctech Company Ltd.

Dr Yi Liu obtained a B.Sc. degree in Applied Mathematics from Zhongshan (Sun Yatsen) University, Guangzhou, China in 1982. He then worked at the Control Theory Research Laboratory, Institute of System Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (in Beijing) for 3 years before moving to Australia for further education. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering from the Australian National University, Canberra in 1989. After a short stay in the Mathematics Department, University of Western Australia as a research officer, he joined CSIRO in 1990 working in the areas of On-line Analysis and Control.

Dr Liu's main research interests have been in the areas of signal processing, artificial intelligence, process modelling, control and optimisation and their applications for mineral and energy industries. And more recently, he has been working in the areas of image processing and pattern recognition and their applications to air cargo security scanning. The CSIRO Air Cargo Scanner has been successfully commercialised with a major overseas security company.

Dr Liu was a co-recipient of the IEE (London) Kelvin Premium best paper award in 1989, the CSIRO Medal for research achievement in 2006, and the Eureka Prize for outstanding science in support of defence or national security in 2009.

BarCamp Canberra 2010 on e-Gov 2.0

A BarCamp Canberra 2010 around the topic of e-Government and Web 2.0, will be Saturday, 6 February 2010 from 9:00 am in the famous Room N101 of the School of Computer Science, Australian National University. This a free event where anyone can turn up and offer to speak. I attended Bar Camp Canberra 2 last year and this year have volunteered to speak on:
e-Books for e-Learning

Tom Worthington shows how he used simple web pages and free open source software to create a university level e-learning course and accompanying e-book for the Amazon Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone, i-Slate and Netbooks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

IT at the Australian Open Tennis

Greetings from the Australian Open in Melbourne. IBM have flown me down as part of their "Insight 10" (Twitter tag: #insight10 ) to show off the systems used for supporting the tennis.

This all started late last year when I had a phone call from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide asking if I would like to be one of a small group of opinion makers. This sounded like a scam, or at best "cash for comment". It was explained that there would be no cash, which made it sound worse: why would I comment for free? However, I thought I would see what it was all about.

Some months later I got an invitation to the tennis. I don't actually like tennis, but was promised a look behind the scenes at the computer system used for the scoring and statistics, which sounded more interesting.

So here I am in the IBM corporate tent (an air-conditioned, carpeted tent). There is quite a buzz outside with people draped in Australian flags for Australia day.

We were all handed a HTC Android phone, running a the "IBM Seer" app. This is an augmented reality application which takes the image from the camera, the location from the GPS and the direction from the digital compass and overlays the scene with information about the venue. AT the tennis this shows things link which arena is which and where the toilets are. The application is a lot more usable than I expected, but has a few limitations. The HTC screen is not readable in the bright Melbourne sunshine. The text on the screen is too small for me to read.

At court side there are sensors and people with PDAs recording statistics on the tennis matches. I had assumed this would be just the score, but there is a radar system for recording the speed of the serves and people to enter the style of play. This data is transmitted to servers around the world, logged in a database and provided to the TV and web systems.

We then went down under the main courts where the public are not permitted. There in a room in the basement of the building, in a concrete lined room with a ziggurat ceiling (the underside of the stepped seating) was a room full of equipment with some very relaxed looking IBM technicians. I noticed the servers are mounted in SKB transportable shock mounted racks in stackable containers (as used for military IT systems). The people running the system travel around the world to different sporting events, taking the equipment with them.

Back at the VIP tent we were shown the tennis home page, which is only available in English (there is also an iPhone app available in multiple languages). One internal applications shown was the one used for scheduling the matches. This was refreshingly simple, with no graphics: just a grid of text, emulating a whiteboard. One problem with this is that to indicate a player is about to go on their name changes from blue to green. This needed to be changed to give some other indication for those who are colour-blind.

There was also a screen showing how much energy the system was using. I would have liked to see more of this, but my fellow Insight10s got very excited by another display analysing the online response to the event. This display scans blogs, tweets and other material online which mention the Australian Open and assess what is said. This .looks at what sponsors are mentioned and if the sentiment is positive or negative. This seems t be why I am here, with the aim of having me blog something which ends up in the positive category.

After lunch there was an entertaining tennis quiz, using "clickers" (hand held feedback devices, as used for quizzes in schools). There there were questions and answers by John Fitzgerald (ex-professional tennis player).

Last official part of the day before watching tennis was question and answer with the people from the IBM Atlanta Innovation Centre who look after the sporting application. They said I could ask anything so I asked if the Australian Open home page complied with Australian accessibility law. The last time I was involved with an IBM supplied sport system was the Sydney Olympics, where I testified in the Human Rights Commission that the web site was not accessible to the blind. The IBM people took this rather heavy question quite well. They said that the site was designed against IBM's own internal guidelines as well as other accessibility guidelines. The major difficulty for a sport such as tennis is complex multidimensional tables which update in real time. The answer to this is to provide micro updates. This reduces the bandwidth required for all users. Fir those with a disability it is possible to provide a text based running commentary and which s much like the scoring you hear on the TV broadband of the tennis. There is also a mobile version of the site, which we tried on an iPhone and which looked good.

ps: While IBM don't provide it there is also a system with eight cameras tracking the ball for enhanced display on TV.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Australia and Cyber-warfare Book on Attacks from China

Cover of Australia and Cyber-warfareThe book "Australia and Cyber-warfare" is very useful for putting the new Australian Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) into perspective. The section on "China’s cyber-attack capability" is relevant to Google's recent allegations of attacks from China.

There are very well formatted free web and mobile versions of the book available online, as well as a print on demand edition.

Australia and Cyber-warfare

Gary Waters, Desmond Ball and Ian Dudgeon

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 168

ISBN 9781921313790 (Print version) $19.95 (GST inclusive)
ISBN 9781921313806 (Online)
Published July 2008

This book explores Australia’s prospective cyber-warfare requirements and challenges. It describes the current state of planning and thinking within the Australian Defence Force with respect to Network Centric Warfare, and discusses the vulnerabilities that accompany the use by Defence of the National Information Infrastructure (NII), as well as Defence’s responsibility for the protection of the NII. It notes the multitude of agencies concerned in various ways with information security, and argues that mechanisms are required to enhance coordination between them. It also argues that Australia has been laggard with respect to the development of offensive cyber-warfare plans and capabilities. Finally, it proposes the establishment of an Australian Cyber-warfare Centre responsible for the planning and conduct of both the defensive and offensive dimensions of cyber-warfare, for developing doctrine and operational concepts, and for identifying new capability requirements. It argues that the matter is urgent in order to ensure that Australia will have the necessary capabilities for conducting technically and strategically sophisticated cyber-warfare activities by the 2020s.

The Foreword has been contributed by Professor Kim C. Beazley, former Minister for Defence (1984–90), who describes it as ‘a timely book which transcends old debates on priorities for the defence of Australia or forward commitments, [and] debates about globalism and regionalism’, and as ‘an invaluable compendium’ to the current process of refining the strategic guidance for Australia’s future defence policies and capabilities. ...

Table of Contents

Acronyms and Abbreviations
Foreword by Professor Kim C. Beazley
Chapter 1. Introduction: Australia and Cyber-warfare
Chapter 2. The Australian Defence Force and Network Centric Warfare
The ADF’S NCW Concept
Shared situational awareness
Balancing risks and opportunities
The NCW Roadmap
The human dimension
Accelerating change and innovation
Defence’s Information Superiority and Support Concept
Networking issues
The ADF’s capability planning for NCW
Joint force
Chapter 3. Information Warfare—Attack and Defence
The value of information
Open source information
Information Warfare
How would an adversary attack us?
China’s cyber-attack capability
What should we do?
Chapter 4. Targeting Information Infrastructures
The information society
Information Infrastructures: the NII, GII and DII
The National Information Infrastructure
The Global Information Infrastructure
The Defence Information Infrastructure
Information Infrastructures: Some key characteristics
Functional interdependence
Ownership and control
The Importance of Information Assurance
Targeting Information Infrastructures: who and why?
Nation-state targeting
Targeting by non-state organisations
Targeting: objectives
Targeting: capabilities required
Psychological operations
Database management
Computer Network Operations (CNO)
Other weapons and methodologies
HUMINT assets
Additional capabilities
Targeting: vulnerability and accessibility
Chapter 5. Protecting Information Infrastructures
Balancing information superiority and operational vulnerability
Balancing security and privacy in information sharing
Managing security risk
Managing privacy risk
Dangers in getting privacy wrong
Critical Infrastructure Protection in Australia
Securing the Defence enterprise
Trusted information infrastructure
Addressing the national requirement
Chapter 6. An Australian Cyber-warfare Centre
The relevant organisations and their coordination
Research, planning and preparation
Offensive activities
Information Warfare and the intelligence process
Command issues
A premium on ante-bellum activities
Rules of engagement, doctrine and operational concepts
Capability planning
Location of a Cyber-warfare Centre
Regional developments

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Green Technology Strategies on Amazon Kindle

Green Technology Strategies Book on Amazon KindleAmazon have my e-book "Green Technology Strategies" available on their Kindle electronic Book reader. The PDF, paperback and hardcover editions remain available from LuLu (and the free web version on my web site). Amazon said it would take 48 to 72 hours to approve the book for the Kindle, but took less than a 24.

I specified a list price for the book the same as the LuLu PDF version. Amazon requires that the publisher specify a price no higher than other version, but then they added $2 to the price for delivery to the international version of the Kindle, outside the USA.

One issue with the e-book is the ISBN. I used the same the ISBN I had issued for the LuLu PDF version fo the book for the Kindle e-book version. This was because I could not find any way to enter the different ISBN for the PDF version into the LuLu system: it seems to use the same ISBN as for the printed book. As the ISBN was not used by LuLu, I tought I may as well use it for the Kindle. In retrospect, this was a bad idea, as that ISBN is already registered in library and book cataloging systems around the world. So I have now requested a new ISBN for the Kindle version. That takes up to five days.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazon Kindle e-Book for Australian Publishers

Amazon now allows Australian publishers to publish e-Books on their Kindle electronic Book reader. I was able to register my Australian company address into Amazon's Digital Text Platform. One limitation is that only cheque payments are catered for to Australia, not electronic funds transfer. Due to the high cost of cheque processing, there would have to be significant book sales to make this worthwhile (Google now pay by EFT in Australian dollars, making the process a lot cheaper and easier).

A few weeks ago I attempted to publish an electronic edition of my "Green Technology Strategies" book for's Kindle e-Book device. Using Amazon's DTP web site, I was easily able to convert the book from the web format used by e-learning courses to Kindle's format. But I could not publish the e-book, as Amazon did not cater for Australian publishers with an Australian address and bank account.

Amazon some useful information on how to format your book. I have several version of the book to choose from. The PDF version did not convert well. I could have used the word processing version, but mine is a master document and I was not sure how well that would convert to Microsoft Word, as accepted by Amazon. I tried exporting the OOO version to HTML, but the results were not that good. OOO generated a table of contents with hypertext links, but the links are on the print page numbers, which do not make much sense for an e-Book (as the Kindle has smaller pages than a paper book). I could have used the web version of the book, but would have had to assemble all the chapters, which are separate web pages, into one document.

What worked best was the HTML generated by the Moodle Book module. This produces a good table of contents and creates reasonably clean HTML. I just had to remember to download the CSS file to go with it and zip them for uploading.

One change I made was to move the front matter of the book to after the table of contents. While with a paper book you can quickly flip over the boring stuff at the front, with a e-book this is tedious. It is better to put the table of contents first. Readers will see the front matter if the then scroll through the book, but will quickly learn the can skip this by clicking on the first chapter in the content.

One issue to be resolved are the external hypertext links in the book. In the USA, Amazon provide limited web browsing, but not internationally. The reader can't see the difference between local links in the book and external ones. The reader could get frustrated when the click on links which do not work. I might need to hide the external links for the Kindle version, or at least distinguish them. This is possible with some more CSS.

One catch with Kindle are the high charges by I get only 35% of the recommended retail price of the book. This is more than LuLu charge. Amazon also require that I make the cover price no more than the book is available from other outlets, so I cannot set a higher price for the Kindle version of the book.

In any case I thought it was time to stop theorising and start trying it, so I pressed "publish" and got this message:
Green Technology Strategies Tom Worthington (Author) 01/22/2010 ...

Publishing Green Technology Strategies. Your book is currently under review by the Kindle Operations team as we are trying to improve the Kindle customer experience. Please check back in 48-72 hours to see if your book was published to the store. This will not affect any titles you are currently selling in the store, but uploading updates to existing titles will take longer to process...
It will be interesting to see how long this actually takes for the book to appear on the Kindle catalogue.

Wall TV Like a Painting

Slim LED backlight LCD TVs are becoming avialable at reasonable prices. This raises the prospect of mounting them on the wall, like a painting. Kogan are offering a 41 mm thick 26 Inch TV for around AU$600. These have provision for the usual VESA wall mount. The screen is thin around the edges and so would appear to float away from the wall. It might be interesting to mount it amongst some paintings, put an artwork on the screen and see how many people notice it is a TV.

Kogan Netbook Failure

The AC Adaptor of my Kogan Agora Netbook Pro failed yesterday. I tested it with a multimeter and the power supply reads zero volts. The computer is still working fine.

The adaptor is rated at 20 Volts, 2 amps DC (model: 20K70LF-C201). It happens I have a compatible unit from another computer to tide me over. That unit is a few years old and is twice as large and three times as heavy as the Kogan unit. I suspect it has a large old fashioned, inefficient transformer in it (it gets warm), unlike the electronic modern power sup-plies. But the old transformer still works.

The Kogan was purchased six months ago and so is still under warranty. The adaptors are not repairable so there does not seem much point sending the old one back. So I have written to Kogan asking them to simply send me a new adaptor.

Joint High Speed Vessel for US Marines

AAV launched from the well deck of a US shipAccording to a news report, General James Conway, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, is looking at using the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) as a Marine troop carrier. He is concerned that new US Navy transport ships lack a well deck to launch their equipment at sea. But it occurs to me that the Marines simply drive their Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) off the ramp of the well deck, they don't flood the deck unless unloading a landing craft. The JHSV is designed with a rear ramp to unload Abrams main battle tanks. The ramp could be lowered into the water and the Marines drive their AAVs off the end. This would also have the advantage that the AAVs could be launched when the ship is underway. It may be possible to recover the AAV's replacement the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) at speed on water.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Design of the Cyber Security Operations Centre

The public opening of the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) at the Defence Signals Directorate provides a rare insight into the design of an Australian military operations centre. The Minister for Defence announced the centre would have a staff of 51 to 130.

Operator and console at the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoThe Defence Department provided photographs of the minister in the centre and more general views of the centre. One photo shows a close-up of an operator at a console. There are three wide format Dell monitors, each of about 24 Inches. The monitors are simply placed on the desktop using their supplied stands (no multi-monitor mounting is used). A standard keyboard and mouse are used. A Cisco Unified IP Phone (7970G or similar) digital telephone handset is located alongside the screens. In the background is a large video wall screen with two smaller flat screen displays and LED world clocks. There is a railing showing a balcony and second level with a glass wall and door (presumably offices).

DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoA wider view shows what appears to be a projection wall screen with images from two projectors side by side, showing computer displays. Underneath are the two flat panel wide screens showing BBC World News. The flat panels have four LED world clocks to there left.

The design of the room appears symmetrical, with a central walkway about 1.2 m wide. Individual rectangular adjustable height office desks 1600 x 800 mm are used. Three rows of desks are visible, with three desks in each row, about 1200 mm between the rows. There is one operator, with two screens (some three screens) and a phone per desk. Free standing drawer units are under some desks. The back of the room shows a built in semicircular desk with two monitors.

Assuming the room is symmetrical, it would have 19 operator workstations. The room is about 13 m wide and 10 m deep, with a double height ceiling of about 6 m. This provides a generous 7 square metres per operator.

Clearly 51 staff could not fit in this area. Assuming that the visible area is surrounded by standard offices on two levels of three sides, that would provide an additional 440 square metres of space. This would provide a reasonable 11 square metres of space per staff member, for 51 staff.

The design of the room does not appear optimal for space utilisation or group work. The desks, at 800 mm, are deeper than needed (smaller desks could double the room capacity). The use of two screens per workstation creates a situation where the operator has to look either to the left or right, not straight ahead. There are only limited gaps between the screens cutting the operators off from those in front and behind. Also the desk rows are straight, reducing the ability of the operators to see others. Narrower semicircular rows of desks would provide a better result. These could be fabricated simply (height adjustment is not used in such centres, as is evident from the photographs). Also it might be better to provide each operator with just one large monitor (up to 30 inch).

Australian High Speed Ship to Transport Haiti Aid

High speed catamaran Alakai sister ship to Huakai in HawaiiThe US government is deploying the Australian designed 113 metre high speed catamaran “Huakai” to assist with Haiti relief. Completed last year as a vehicle ferry for Hawaii, the ship can carry up to 800 tonnes at 40 knots. It has a shallow draft of 3.7 m, water jets and 20 metre ramp, allowing it to dock and unload without assictance. It is likely the ship will shuttle between Haiti, Guantanamo Bay and Miami.

A similar operation was carried out by the high speed catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay, operating between Darwin and East Timor from 1999 to 2001. Like Huakai, this was a surplus commercial ferry taken up for government use. The US military were impressed with this and leased a number of Australian designed catermarans.

The US Department of Defence has contracted Austal (who built the Huakai), to build up to ten similar "Joint High Speed Vessels" (JHSV) for military transport. The first named “Fortitude” (JHSV 1) is being constructed in the USA. Tjhis will be followed by Vigilant (JHSV 2) and Spearhead (JHSV 3).

Is electronic storage cheaper than paper

Yesterday I mentioned a petition against the closure of National Archives of Australia offices. One reply suggested that instead of closing offices to save money, the Archives should stick to paper storage and not digitise records. I am not sure that would be cheaper, nor give a good service.

Most new government records are "born digital", that is they are first created in a computer, not on paper. So to store them on paper would require an additional step of printing them out. Apart from the cost of the paper and printing, there is the storage of the records and handling.

A one terabyte disk holds the equivalent of about 10,000 reams of paper. The paper would take up about 100,000 times as much space as the disk (40 cubic metres as compared to a pocket size device). Also digital records can be shorted and sifted electronically and moved about automatically.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Opposition to closure of Archive state offices

A petition has been prepared protesting the planned closure of the National Archives of Australia offices in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart. More details is available from the facebook site and History Council of Western Australia.
Dear aus-archivists,

Our petition is going very well. To date I have approximately 2000 signatures from across the country.We want to close it off this Friday so please collect them all now and post them to me. It doesn't matter if there is only one signature on a sheet, it still counts, so please hunt around and
make sure you get them all.

The address:

Anne Picot
C/- Archives & Records Management Services,
A 14
University of Sydney
NSW 2006

Baiba Berzins and I will copy and bundle them up to send to the HR Petitions Committee in time we hope to get on the agenda for their first meeting in February.

And look out for the news coverage (we hope) of the Adelaide demonstration at the Community cabinet meeting today. Of course I hope everyone who can,
will get there to join it. I gather that three people are meeting Senator Joe Judwig this afternoon thanks to the good organising going on in SA.

Please make sure someone takes photos to send to the list and to put on the facebook site.

Have to say that the South Australians are making the running on this campaign right now - Good for you!

Producing a large print book

With the e-book, paperback and hardcover editions of my book "Green Technology Strategies" available, I thought I might try a Large Print edition. These books use fonts of 16 to 20 points to make them easier to read for those with limited vision.

Guidelines usually suggest a sans serif font and wider spacing for large print books. For a novel, the larger font is usually accommodated by using smaller margins, a slightly larger page and increasing the number of pages in the book. But for a textbook, the page numbering can be significant.

The largest paper size offered by LuLu's print on demand service is A4 (8.26 x 11.69 inches). My PDF typeset original is designed for U.S. Trade (6 x 9 inch) with a 11 point Times Roman font. Simply by printing on larger A4 paper will enlarge the pages 130%, increasing the font to 14 points. This is a bit small for a for a large print book. I could reduce the margins to .5 inches (the minimum for LuLu), which would allow the text to be enlarged to about 138%, or about 15 points .

Other changes would require redoing the typesetting of the book. Currently I have just one typeset version for hardback, paperback and the e-book. Some of changes could be made to this with a large print version in mind, so the one original would work for all. As an example, a slightly larger font could be used for the standard editions, such as 11.5 point (up from 11 point) and slightly larger margins (1 inch up from .79). This would allow a larger large print version wile maintaining compatibility. Others require a different typesetting for the large print edition.

Times Roman is a serif font, which is not recommended for readability for those with limited vision. LuLu provide a limited range of fonts, which those in supplied PDF documents are converted to before printing (so it is best to start with one of these). Of the LuLu supported fonts, these are sans: Arial, Tahoma and Verdana. Of these Verdana looks the most suitable as it designed for readability at small sizes. Changing the font to Ariel adds about 10 pages to the book. Verdana is more generously spaced and ads about 20 pages. Increasing the font to 16 point would increase the book to 156 pages.

It might be worth changing the font for the e-book version as well as the large print edition. In fact it might be worth reversing the usual priority, where the print edition is seen as normal, and large print and e-book versions are derived from these. A standard size print edition with 11.5 point Verdana would look a little unusual, but be very readable.

Also adding 20 pages to the book might make it more marketable, with the customer feeling they are getting more (even if what they are getting is more white space). Originally I laid the book out to minimise white space, ignoring some printing conventions (such as starting a new chapter on an odd numbered page), so it looks a little crowded. Adding more white space, a larger font and larger margins would increase the book from 114 to 172 pages (a 50% increase).