Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Live Coding Performance of Music
One performance sounded to me like Philip Glass, mixed with the theme from Peanuts and played by Richard Rodney Bennett. The second started like Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 accompanied by a modem, then became the theme for a TV police drama set in the Hotel California. But Then I don't know much about music. ;-)
Seeing the computer code created on screen did not help much. An icon based interface, with no text might be more interesting. Also as with a piano performance I wanted to see the performers hands on the keyboard.
ps: The strangest performance I have been to recently was an officer cadent at ADFA, in camouflage uniform, playing a classical tune on a cello.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Australia’s Defence: Towards a New Era
Cyber Security Training for All New Australian Defence Force Students
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Engaging Islam Online to Combat Terrorism
I suggest that the approach used by ANU could be applied to a course "Engaging Islam" to help bring wider understanding in the community and help combat some of the origins of terrorism. As well as being for the Australian community in English, this could be provided in languages in the Indo-Pacific region and those of the Middle East. The view that "The West" does not understand Islam could be directly challenged in this way. Also those who have adopted a violent ideology thinking this was endorsed by a mainstream religion could be shown that there is a peaceful alternative.
Canberra Innovation Network
Innovation Network". Sarah had much news about the development of new high technology products in Canberra.One example was "DataPod Modular Data Centres" and another was IntelleDox. Sarah mentioned numerous other successful Canberra based high tech products which most of the audience had never heard of. One way to promote Canberra as a centre for such innovation could be simply to let people know what has already happened. One way would be to have better websites with details of these, the problem being that companies are reluctant to mention they are in Canberra and the ACT Government has tended to build websites which are not well indexed by search engines. At the moment I am mentoring a team of ANU students competing the the "Innovation ACT Competition" sponsored by the ACT Government. My suggestion for promoting Canberra was in: "Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success". Recently in Vancouver for ICCSE 2014 I dropped in on Philippe Kruchten at UBC Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is involved with the "New Venture Design" course (APSC 486), where engineering and business students learn to produce a business plan for a product. The students are encouraged to enter a innovation competition or program as part of the course.
Sarah said CBR Innovation Network would have a simple one page website and then look at how to build a system for matching up people. My suggestion would be to use a free open source text web software, so that the information is well indexed (it does not have to look good). How to link up people is not a solved problem and the organisation should not waste too much time on complex software (SpaceCubed in Perth use Yammer, as do CSIRO).
I asked Sarah if "Canberra" was a good brand for selling high tech products in Australia, particularly to the Federal Government which prefers to buy imported products. She replied that CBR Innovation Network was building on the ACT Government's "CBR" brand (which I had never heard of). It may be that the Canberra Innovation Network needs to have two promotional strategies: one for within Australia which does not mention Canberra, and one for international use which does.
The use of the abbreviation "CBR" in marketing Canberra makes no sense for high technology products and would be of very limited use even for tourism. The Wikipedia lists dozens of meaning of CBR, including Chemical Biological and Radiation weapons. One near the bottom of the list is the international airport code for Canberra International Airport. That is not going to be much use to an international tourist, as there are no scheduled international flights to Canberra. In contrast I find that people have heard of "Canberra" as being a government city, even if they think Sydney is the capital of Australia.
From: CBR Innovation Network: promoting innovative businesses, 09/04/2014
- The network will deliver services, programs and support to a wide cross section of growth oriented companies and entrepreneurs;
- The network will have a physical location and will also have a charter of outreach that establishes multiple delivery points or partner delivery arrangements;
- It will be managed by the stakeholders under a governance structure shaped and agreed by the stakeholders. Potential stakeholders include the ANU, CSIRO, NICTA and the University of Canberra and other partners who want to join the network. The ACT Government will also have representation on the management body for the network;
- The network will be structured so that smaller players are able to have a role in the direction of the network;
- The ACT Government will contract the network to provide a range of services to potential high growth businesses, including mentoring, access to capital, skills development, managerial skills and links to international supply chains amongst many;
- The network will provide a 'triage model' for all entities that contact it, but with services that engage quite deliberately and effectively with potential high growth businesses; and
- The services of the network will be made available to all potential high growth companies, not just companies spun out of research institutions or ICT companies.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Security a Growth Area in Canberra Says ACT Treasurer
Governance Standard for Government ICT
Just a Knife and the Internet Needed for Terrorism
This is not just an abstract concept, I am attending a conference later in the week at a dual use civilian military facility, which due to the terrorist threat is now at
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Learning to Hack Democracy
CivicTech CoursesOn-line courses for public servants on how to use tools for making information available online could be useful. Staff who were trained in what to do would be more likely to use these techniques in the daily work, spreading the ideas throughout government. This approach has been applied to teaching "ICT Sustainability".
A quick online search found
- Solving Public Problems with Technology
- TC104: Digital Organizing and Open Government
- Washington State Open Government Training Act
- Online Engagement Courses – Final Report, Australian Department of Finance
The New Google Sydney Offices
It is worth turning up just to see Google's eccentric office design.You exit the lift and find you are in what looks like a monorail car. Corridors are lined with what looks like recycled fruit cases, with niches containing Barbie dolls and hooks for unicycles, skateboards and pogo boots. The meeting room has a TV studio look, with lights hanging from an exposed ceiling.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Waltz Matilda at New Theatre Sydney
Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson features through the first half of the play. The play covered the period before WW1, then WW2, and The Vietnam War. But after Patterson's death during World War Two, the play lost focus for me. Patterson was a correspondent in the Second Boer War and it would have made more sense as an epic, to cover that period and then end at WW2.
All the actors performed well with no sense of trying to remember lines (as can happen on opening night). The epic sweep swept a little too far and I wondered who these people were at the end and why I should care about them (and what Patterson and Drysdale were to each other). This is more a fault with the playwright, than the actors.
Interoperability for Extreme Events
The first presentation for the day is discussing some of the systems used for a recent explosion in the Sydney suburb of Roselle. The second presentation mentioned that there is an Inquiry into the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), which allocates recovery for recovery between federal and states. One problem mentioned which has come up recently was asbestos risk after a fire.
One interesting comment in one presentation was about making communities more resilient. Helping people meet their neighbours, so in a disaster they will know who can help, would be useful.
Statistics on where people got their information in recent bushfire showed that the official website is used mostly, followed by local radio. Social media was used by only a few percent of people. This raises a resourcing issue for emergency organisations: they may be better off spending more money on their website and connections to the media, even though this is not a seen as glamorous as use of social media.
One issue which came up was how to make official online communications look credible. In 2004 I had a student prepare criteria for making an emergency web page look credible. See: "Evaluating Emergency Management Websites".
Late in the day the topic of terminology came up. Someone from the Red Cross commented they got invited to speak at IT events on "Emergency Management", but that has a whole different meaning in the IT field. I looked up the SFIA Skills and found that the closest term in the IT area was "Availability management".
Much of the discussion today assumes that Internet access, mostly via mobile networks, is available in an emergency. A parliamentary Inquiry looked at a “Priority over-ride service", so emergency service workers could use the mobile service in an emergency. As far as I can see no action was taken on this. Rather than have some sort of manually prepared master list of key personnel's phone numbers, it would seem to me simpler to have all mobile phones issued to government employees and those from service companies (energy, telecommunications, medical services and supply companies).
Monday, September 15, 2014
Australian Government Energy Green Paper
One speaker at the conference referred to "grid defection", where householders use solar power for their own supply, rather than use it to supply the grid. Investment in battery research is now going into longer battery life, rather than just capacity. Households can also use the grid to supplement their own solar power, which has implications for how the grid is funded.
One of the interesting scenarios later in the day was that Australia’s new LHD warships will be dependent on imported specialised aviation fuel for its operations. So the warship will not be able to leave port until a commercial tanker from Singapore arrives with fuel. At the same time the Chinese Navy may exercise its right to escort Chinese bulk fuel ships from just outside Australian territorial waters to China. This could be justified if Australia is unable to secure its own trade routes.
12.30 Energy Generation
Speakers: Ken Baldwin (ANU ECI) and Clare Savage (Energy Australia)
13.30 National Energy Markets (electricity and gas)
Speakers: Tony Wood (Grattan Institute) and Iain McGill (UNSW)
14.30 Afternoon Tea
15.00 Energy Productivity
Speakers: Jonathan Jutsen (Energetics) and Michael Smith (ANU ECI)
16.00 Transport Energy
Speakers: John Blackburn (NRMA) and Neil Greet (Engineers Australia)
17.00 Wrap-up discussion
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Research on the Sahana Disaster Management System
Then I narrowed the search to the year 2014, which produced a more manageable 65 papers.
As this is about open source software, I thought I should just look at open access publications (which do not need a fee to be paid to read), which reduces the number to about 20, but still too many to read. Here are the first few:
The Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project used the Sahana Community Resilience Mapping Tool (Eisenman et al., 2014). Drager and Robertson also mentioned Sahana in the context of risk reduction (2014). Liu, Chen and Wang describe the enhancement of Sahana with an ontology (2014). Li, Li, Ginjala and Zaman (2014) mention Sahana and Ushahidi, before discussing SMS, as do Reuter et al. (2014). Waidyanatha (2014) describes the development of Sahana workshops to implement the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to provide standardised emergency warnings via SMS. IOTX Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) Workshops. Horita, Link, Porto de Albuquerque and Hellingrath (2014) propose a way to integrate geographic information into the Sahana and Ushahidi GIS and logistics systems. Poblet, García-Cuesta and Casanovas (2014) look at the use of crowd-sourcing for providing information in a disaster.
Sahana appears to be mentioned frequently alongside Ushahidi as an example of free open source emergency management software. Researchers also find it a useful context for discussing ideas for emergency software development, in terms of ontologies, social media and interfaces. What is less common are papers on use of the software or its development or enhancement.
- Drager, K. H., & Robertson, T. V. (2014). Global Response for Capacity Building of Disaster Preparedness: A TIEMS Initiative.
- Eisenman, D., Chandra, A., Fogleman, S., Magana, A., Hendricks, A., Wells, K., ... & Plough, A. (2014). The Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project—A Community-Level, Public Health Initiative to Build Community Disaster Resilience. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(8), 8475-8490.
- Horita, F., Link, D., Porto de Albuquerque, J., & Hellingrath, B. (2014). A Framework for the Integration of Volunteered Geographic Information into Humanitarian Logistics .
- Li, J., Li, Q., Ginjala, A., & Zaman, N. (2014). eSMS-a Semantics-assisted Emergency Information System Based on Social Media.
- Liu, Y., Chen, S., & Wang, Y. (2014). SOFERS: Scenario Ontology for Emergency Response System. Journal of Networks, 9(9), 2529-2535.
- Poblet, M., García-Cuesta, E., & Casanovas, P. (2014, January). IT Enabled Crowds: Leveraging the Geomobile Revolution for Disaster Management. In Sintelnet WG5 Workshop on Crowd Intelligence: Foundations, Methods and Practices.
- Reuter, C., Friberg, T., Moi, M., Bizjak, G., Nuessler, D., Sangiorgio, F., ... & Gizikis, A. (2014). Guidelines for Social Media integration into existing EMS systems. In EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT IN SOCIAL MEDIA GENERATION.
- Waidyanatha, N. (2014). IOTX Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) Workshops. Planet@ Risk, 2(5).
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Local Government in China
After more than three decades of rapid growth and extraordinary achievement, China is facing big questions about its development model, which has lately been tarnished by an addiction to investment-led growth, environmental degradation, corruption, financial risks, and rising inequality. Local governments have played a starring role in both the achievements and many of the current problems. This presentation will examine the challenge of managing a modernizing China through the lens of central-local relations to argue that the economy has outgrown the administrative structure, and a fundamental reorganization will be required to realign authorities, resources, and incentives.This follows recent events I have attended about Internet censorship and energy planning in China, where the role of local government was significant.
Professor Wong, explained China has a five level of government, with central government, provinces, prefectures, counties and townships. There are many people to be governed, but I suggest perhaps that is still too many levels of government (especially now the Internet can be used for government).
Professor Wong, pointed out that even if the exact level of China's growth can be questions, it has been an impressive period of growth. China may have already overtaken the USA in terms of the size of its economy, or will do so in the next year. Being the world's largest manufacturer, exporter, foreign reserves holder and carbon dioxide emitter, it deserves close study.
Professor Wong pointed out that China has a welfare state with free basic education, health and other services. China also has 68,000 of express-ways and 11,028km of high speed rail. However, I keep waiting for the Professor to say: "But ...".
Professor Wong explained that the county was the most important level of government for service provision. Unlike other countries, were social security is a national responsibility, in China this is done at the local level.Education, medical and pension schemes have many hundreds of millions of beneficiaries. Local government accounted for 90% of infrastructure expenditure in 2007 and for most of the national roads.
Professor Wong told anecdotes of where roads stopped the last few kilometres short of a poor villages, as the lowest level of government can't afford to provide the service and the higher levels will not.
Another problem is that there is no common definition of national citizenship in China. Instead citizens are residents of where they were born. As a result migrants to the city and their children, cannot receive services, not matter how long they live there. As a result about 16% of the population (and about half the migrants in cities) are missing out on government services, including education.
Professor Wong pointed out that until last year local government was prohibited from borrowing and so there were no statistics on the level of debt (as they were not supposed to be doing it). In 2013 local government debt was estimated to be ¥18 Trillion (and not sustainable).
By 2012 local government expenditure was about 22% of GDP. An area of interest is that expenditure counties is increasing, whereas central expenditure has been decreasing. The problem is that the counties are spending more than they receive in revenue.
Professor Wong explained that each level of government only communicates with those above and below them. So the counties are the only level which can communicate with the central government (including the central treasury). As a result the central government doesn't know what happens to the money it gives the county independently of what the county tells it.
The priority for all levels of Chinese government is economic growth. But Professor Wong explained that local government did not have money for investment. As a result local relied on land for 35% of revenue. Local Investment Corporations (LICs) were set up to borrow money and develop land (as suggested by the World Bank). This makes sense in terms of economic theory, as future users of the infrastructure can then pay for it. In practice the local government acquires land (as government owns the land anyway), borrows money from banks to develop the land and then sells the developed land. This has been very successful to pay for urban infrastructure, but removed financial constraints from government. Professor Wong described this as a Ponzi scheme, with new borrowing being used to pay the interest on old loans. The solution to this being to have the LICs issue bonds, to be purchased by state owned banks, converting the debt to a format which can be managed within the regulated banking system.
China's Third Plenum's financial reforms are centralising expenditure. Professor Wong argued that this was a problem as there was already an imbalance between the level of government which collected the revenue was different to that which spends it.
Professor Wong pointed out that China has a very small central government, much smaller than Australia and the USA. China has 10 million civil servants, but only about 100,000 are in the central government. As a result these staff are not capable of providing significant oversight without cooperation of other levels of government.
It occured to me that IT could be applied to assist with all levels of Chinese government. This would be a way which local levels of government could continue to administer and deliver services, while having central oversight, without requiring more staff. By monitoring multiple levels of government and also key non-government organisations (such as banks and telecommunications companies), government could detect misapplication of resource through fraudulent reporting. As an example, the central government could get a reasonable measure of the number of residents, students and workers in a city, from financial transactions and cell phone statistics. In 2012 I talked to a visiting Chinese delegation on "Framework for e-Government: Security, Green ICT and Data Management". However, when I asked the professor about this, she pointed out that while Chinese school students have swipe cards to sign in each day at school, local authorities had still managed to rig have this system report daily teaching at schools which had been torn down years ago.
It would be interest to see a similar analysis for Australia. The Australian system has continual arguments over central distribution of revenue. Also an unhealthy relationship between land development and government is not unknown in Australia (as for example with NSW ICAC inquiries).
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Classic Low Bandwidth Interfaces
The interface problem became farcical when I tried to report it to LinkedIn's help service. The link for help is on the bottom of the web pages, but when I tried to scroll down, the system kept adding more content to the page. There seemed to be no way to ever reach the bottom of the page. Eventually I found the help link elsewhere and requested a classic interface.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Assess a New IT Environment
As far as I could work out from the presentation, Dr. Elford conducts online surveys in the workplace. These are much like those I have experienced as a student and which are routinely used to assess attitudes to courses. However, such surveys are not in "real time" or even near real time as Dr. Elford claims. It is not feasible to survey people frequently: as a student I get annoyed if I was surveyed more than every few months.
For near real time information something other that surveys are needed. Educators use analytical tools to carry out an analysis of data automatically recorded by the system, without the user having to fill in a survey and to provide information in day, hours or minutes, not months or weeks. In the case of students it is no good waiting until they fail courses to discover something is wrong. A similar approach could be used with employees, with computer and building information systems being used to asses how satisfied and productive staff are, before a problem gets out of hand.
Dr. Elford also mentioned co-working spaces, where small businesses can rent a seat in a shared office. A new co-working space, The Studio, one opened in the Canberra suburb of O'Connor recently). Dr. Elford seemed to be suggesting these made for a happier workforce.
Monday, September 01, 2014
NSW Opal Card Not Compatible With Airport Train
ps: Even when the card has been accepted at a railway station, I noticed that after the gate opens a red "Card Rejected" is displayed.
RAAF Leather Flying Jackets
A few weeks ago I purchased an "A2 leather flying jacket" as worn by Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) personnel. These are sold in Canberra and on-line by the Military Shop, which is a non-government store, which sells to the public, as well as to law enforcement and military personnel.
The photo does not really do the jacket justice, which is not as shiny as it appears there (and the shine wears off as the jacket is worn in). Despite the name "flying jacket" these have not been used as much by pilots since World War 2 and even ten were more in bars that the cockpits.
The RAAF style A2 is available in only one color (it is part of a uniform after all): a very dark brown, described as "seal", with a soft tan colored cloth lining. The leather is goatskin, the zip and fasteners are bronze colored metal. I did find a discussion of the issue of leather jackets to RAAF pilots in Hansard (1995) and Air Force Policy stating leather flying jacket are only to be worn by aircrew in flying uniform (2001).
There are only two options with the jacket: with or without Velcro panels for affixing patches. The jackets are available in a very large range of sizes from XXXS to 2XXL. This makes it much easier to buy one of these jackets than a civilian jacket: you decide if you want Velcro or not and then select a size (no worrying about color or style).
A2 style jackets have two large outside patch pockets and two internal ones, plus two pen holders inside. Unlike civilian copies, the A2 jacket has no hand-warmer pockets. It took me several days to get used to not being able to put my hands in my pockets. It may be that this is to ensure a better military posture, or just that such pocket would be difficult to access when strapped into a cramped cockpit.
There appears to be no insulation in the jackets, just the outer leather and inner cloth, making them suitable for winter and spring weather (not summer). There are no buttons, or other attachments, to catch or fall off (the shoulder straps for epaulettes are securely sewn in place). These jackets are not designed for a motorcycle.
The jacket looks well made. The leather collar is held down by two metal press studs and can be stood up to keep your neck warm. There is a leather flap over the main zip at the front which is stiff enough not to need any buttons or Velcro to hold it in place. There is a metal loop and hook to hold the collar closed, but this is hard to use and not really needed (a metal press stud would have been better). There were a few loose threads around the pockets. The toggle for the inside zipped pocket came off (this also would be better with a metal press stud).
The jacket has stretch material cuffs on the sleeves and around the bottom. This makes it more comfortable to wear when sitting down. I wore the jacket on a 14 hour flight from Sydney to Vancouver and found it very comfortable (it is a flying jacket after all). The jacket was too warm for Vancouver at 25 degrees C, so I stuffed it in my bag for a week. When I pulled it out to wear on the flight back it looked better than before, having taken on a bit of character.
Flying Jacket for Prime Minister
Name Patch for Left Side of PMs Jacket
Prime Minister of Australia
Kangaroo emblem for Right Side of PM's jacketThe kangaroo emblem is commonly used by the ADF to identify Australian personnel in situations where the Australian flag could be confused with the UK. It is also used by sporting teams as so is suitable for a civilian to wear. The green and Gold of the National Colours would seem suitable for the left side of the jacket:
ps: Given the volatile nature of Australian politics it is handy that the name tags are attached with Velcro, so they can be changed quickly, like PMs. ;-)