Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CeBit Best of the Show

A the CeBit Sydney show some exhibits stood out. The first I noticed was ThinLinx, a small Queensland start-up making Linux thin client computers for the education and retail sector. I visited John Nichols, CEO of ThinLinx, in 2007. Their latest products have hardware to accelerate the display of graphics intensive remote Linux and Microsoft Windows applications.

In addition to their Mobile Office, the Australian Government had a very large, very bare and very perplexing display. This consisted of a large empty space surrounded by little booths. Each boot had a public servant trying to explain something. Most of the public servants were having difficulty explaining what it is they ere showing or how this might be of interest to the IT industry. Most interesting was the Atherton Tablelands GIS, which is using open source software and mapping data for bushfire hazard mapping and services planning.

The Human Services Portfolio were looking to recruit staff for ICT jobs. Unfortunately this was difficult to work out from the brochures and sales pitch, which was about the benefits of "ICT in the Human Services Portfolio". I suggest they need to clearly and explicitly say something like: "We have ICT Jobs".

AGIMO were doing a little better at their booth, promoting the APS ICT Cadetship Program. This seeks to recruit ICT students before they have finished their courses. However, I was not really aware of this program and given I teach ICT students at the Federal Government's own university, using examples from the federal government, the promotion seems to be lacking.

The least successful of the Australian Government booths was the Australian Tax Office, demonstrating their "Analysts Workbench". This is a faculty to help ATO investigators looking for tax evaders. This appears to be excellent software, but demonstrating it to people at a computer show seems pointless. I asked if I could use the software and was told it was only available to staff at the tax office. So I asked why they were showing it to me, the response was that this was what they had been told to demonstrate and so that is what they were demonstrating. It seems to me that it would be better to demonstrate some of the open source software ATO uses, as that is publicly availble. At this point someone from AGIMO came over and explained that the purpose of the demonstration as to recruit IT staff to tax. Unfortunately the people from tax appeared unaware of this.

Also on display were brochures and CD-ROMs for VANguard. This appears to be another in a long series of attempts by the AUstrlaian Government to provide e-authentication services for business. This one is provided by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. There was no one to ask about it and it is not clear what this has to do with similar authentication systems from the Tax office and other federal agencies. In the last decade or so I have been issued with digital credentials from several agencies, none of which worked.

In contrast to the Australian Government display, the NSW Government had a very lively stand, with many small booths showcasing products from small NSW companies. One of these was Nortech Australia, with EDI products (I gave them some quick advice on their web site design).

One trend at the exhibition was the number of companies from China. There was a long row of companies from Shenzhen, selling mostly hardware. Some other regional booths I never managed to find, such as those for the City of Adelaide, Canberra, and the UK West Midlands.

Not all the problems with displays at the show were from government. Richard Fugeisang had an excellent booth promoting his forthcomming new magazne "Government Technology Review". This sounded interestng as the first edition would feature Green ICT. But when I tried the web address for this, I got the "Red Hat Enterprise Linux Test Page", indicating that no web pags had been installed. It seems a shame to go to the trouble to have a trade display at an international conference, but not bother to at least put one page of information on the web about the product.

The last trend I noted at the show were modular data centres. ICS Industries had modular equipment shelters made from sandwich panels. These are two sheets of metal with insulating board between. The result is a lightweight, strong, well insulated, modular computer room.

MBS were displaying their modular buildings for computer rooms and computer classrooms. MBS built one of these at the ANU
. Unfortunately this was not styled or positioned to fit well with existing ANU buildings, but it is not the fault of MBS.

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