Monday, December 29, 2014

Muru-D Telstra Start-up Accelerator

muru_dThe Telstra Muru-D Start-up Accelerator hosted a Christmas party with the Sydney Educational Technology Meetup group (SydEduTech) on 19 December. This was held at Muru-d's offices in trendy Oxford St, Paddington.

Getting into the building provided difficult, as this is a working Telstra telephone exchange and was was on a heightened security state due to a recent incident in the centre of Sydney (the army base donw the road was at SAFEBASE alert CHARLIE). After having my photo id carefully checked, I was escorted to the muru-D floor, which has been converted from holding racks of telecommunication equipment to be a place for start-up companies.

Like many such co-working spaces, muru-D has a warehouse conversion aesthetic, with cable-ways still visible on the ceiling, long rows of desks in an open plan environment . There is space for presentations with bean bags and stackable cardboard stools. Unlike the average co-working space, there is a roof-top deck next to the well equipped gym and kitchen, with panoramic views of Sydney (and glimpses of Sydney harbor and the bridge).

There were a series of typical start-up[ talks from the latest batch of businesses (Telstra selects a small number to be in residence every six months). These were well presented, with the usual enthusiasm (and the usual worry about how viable they were).

As this was a joint event with SydEduTech there was an emphasis on education. Also I noticed a strong connection with Chinese business.

The vent gave me some useful ideas. From January 2015 I am taking over teaching of the Australian Computer Society's "New Technology Alignment" (NTA) on-line postgraduate course.

Shipping Container Public Building Acton Park Canberra

shipping_container_building_acton_park_canberraThe ‘Westside @ Acton Park’ is a shipping container building in Canberra's Acton Park, designed by Cox Architecture and Murtagh Bond Engineers. This is four shipping containers high (not as tall as ANU Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall, which is six containers high). Westside is to be a cultural centre run by by Stomping Grounds Collective. Hopefully it will be more successful that the ACT Government's previous venture on this site, which was to be a futsal stadium, but was not used.

shipping_container_building_acton_park_canberra_2The building consists of a steel frame supporting the roof and stairs, into which shipping containers have been stacked three high. This differs from typical shipping container buildings where the containers themselves support the roof and stairs. Having a separate frame provides more flexibility in what containers can be used, as they do not have to hold up the building. This also allows the containers to be interchangeable, much like the concept (never implemented) for Le Corbusier's Unite d’Habitation

The location of Westside was proposed for a convention centre in 2011.  This convention centre was not proceeded with, but the design of Westside lends itself to modular expansion and perhaps could grow into a convention centre. One facility

Asia Pacific Hall at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for DialogueOne use mooted for the convention centre was dialogue. In August I visited the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.This is a purpose built room, which wile impressive, I suggest is too inflexible in design to be viable for Canberra. The dialogue room is circular with stepped seating and translation and electronic voting facilities for each seat. While excellent for its intended purpose, such a room is not suitable for conference presentations and other uses. A rectangular room with a flat floor could have temporary seating installed for this and other purposes. Delegates could now be expected to arrive with their own wifi equipped devices for translation and e-voting.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fix for Spray Head Function on Dorf Oasis Veggie Spray Sink Mixer

The rubber cover over the spray button of the Dorf Oasis Veggie Spray Sink Mixer tap cracks after a few years use. This appears to be a design fault with the hard plastic lever which controls water flow tending to push through the rubber cover. After having one tap and a replacement both have the rubber split, I found I could repair the rubber with black silicon rubber cement. To reinforce the button I used the silicon rubber cement to stick a small patch of silicon self amalgamating tape both the top and under the button. But I wonder if it is worth the effort. While useful, these type of spray mixed faucets are too complex to be reliable.

Australian Information Security Certification

In "Could the Government's cybercrime focus be a catalyst for change?" Tony Campbell (IT News, ) suggests the Australian Computer Society could "act as the certification authority for information security exams". This would follow the practice of the British Computer Society (BCS) for the UK.

The UK Cyber Security Strategy: Protecting and promoting the UK in a digital world, was released 25 November 2011. A GCHQ Joint Cyber Unit has the central role. Also the UK expanded its Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure.

As Campbell points out, a review of Australia’s cyber security strategy was announced in November. The ACS assisted with public consultationson cyber-security around  Australia in October 2011. As a member of the ACS Cyber Task Force I assisted in preparing the ACS Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper and "Response to The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Discussion Paper". PM&C was planning to issue a "CyberWhitePaper" in early 2012, but this did not occur.

The ACS Virtual College already includes Information Security as an elective. It could be expanded to cover the  Australian National Plan to Combat Cybercrime, and working with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

E-waste in India

The Indian state of Puducherry has issued an Order for Management and Handling of E-waste  (16th September 2014). The definition of e-waste includes e-waste’ covers electrical and electronic equipment to be discarded, including computers, laptops, printers, copying
equipment, electrical and electronic typewriters, facsimile, telex, telephones and television sets. Unusually it also includes refrigerators,
washing-machines and air-conditioners, but excludes central air-conditioning plant. E-waste is is to be sent to authorized collection centres, registered recyclers or returned to the manufacturer. This may be of interest to students of "ICT Sustainability", inclduing the course COMP7310, being offed by the Australian National University on-line to all postgraduate students in first semester 2015.

Monday, December 15, 2014

National Library of Australia Cafés Reopen

Greetings from the National Library of Australia in Canberra, where I am delighted to report the NLA Bookplate and Paperplate Cafes have reopened. They closed in mid November, due to the commercial provider ceasing trade. The Wombok salad is back on (and better than ever) at the Paperplate Café, the less formal of the two, downstairs opposite the map room.

I have only had a coffee so far at the more formal Bookplate Café upstairs next to the NLA foyer (and with stained glass windows). The new management appear to have avoided the mistake of messing with the menu, but have done some redecorating. There are two large sets of dark wood bookcases, one full of antiques, such as typewriters, an old voltmeter and a plug-board from an analogue computer. If visiting Canberra, this is a good spot to stop, rest and eat. One catch is that the Federal government is now charging for parking in the parliamentary triangle area, so visitors also have to pay for parking when visiting the university (I avoided this by catching the Number 3 bus).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Google Accounts Interface All But Unusable

Google sent me an email to say I needed to renew payment details for a web domain. This used to be a quick process with a simple web form. But their system now displays half blank screens saying "Loading", followed by warnings from my web browser about unresponsive scripts and garbled forms where I can't tell what to enter where. After several attempts working my way through all this I finally managed to enter new billing details. Only then did I notice that I was being warned my domain will not be renewed on July 2 next year. Why was Google wanting me to urgently update details six months in advance? Is it because their interface is now so hard to use it may take six months to get it to work? ;-)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

ANU Energy Update 2014

Greetings from the ANU Energy Update 2014 at the Australian National University in Canberra. The event was opened by Oliver Yates, CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), who pointed out Australia was over-reliant on coal for power generation, particularly brown coal and that renewable energy was a viable alternative.He said that as a banker he had never seen "An executive team driving by looking through the rear vision mirror", which was clearly a criticism of the Australian Government's energy policy.

Ian Cronshaw from the International Energy Agency presented highlights from the World Energy Outlook 2014. It is expected that by 2040, oil, coal, gas and renewables will have equal shares of energy production, without policy changes to address carbon emissions. China's energy use is expected to flatten out by 2030. US and Canadian production of oil, including "unconventional" sources will decline with, the middle east dominating by 2040. Coal for electricity generation in the USA is declining, being displaced by gas. China's use of coal is not expected to "peak" before 2040, but the growth will reduce.Use of coal will continue to increase in India, but be a relatively smaller proportion of energy use. European coal use will continue to fall, with renewables increasing. Without policy changes, the Carbon Dioxide budget for the planet to 2100 will be used up by 2040. This requires action at the Paris climate change summit.

Hans-Josef Fell, architect of the German renewable energy legislation, pointed out that the International Energy Agency's predictions in the past have underestimated the cost of fossil fuel and the success of renewable energy. His book "Global Cooling: Strategies for Climate Protection", 2012 is available.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cancel White Bay Cruse Terminal Architecture Award

Sydney's White Bay Cruse Terminal received the 2014 Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture. However, the terminal was not equipped with "shore power", requiring ships to run their diesel engines, causing high levels of air pollution from the high sulfur fuel used, as well as noise pollution. Rather than looking at the way the "light shimmers on the multifaceted surface of the ceiling", I suggest the judges should have looked at the detrimental effect this facility is having on the local environment and excluded this project from consideration for an award. I suggest the Australian Institute of Architects withdraw the award.

Tom M. Dow, VP Public Affairs for Carnival described a "Cruse Ship Shore Power Project" (2006). Ships can be equipped with high power electrical sockets and the wharf with matching plugs and cables. The photo shows the shore power connections to a ship at the Port of Seattle.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Could order and ambition emerge from the fragmented climate governance complex?

Eliza Murray, will speak on "Could order and ambition emerge from the fragmented climate governance complex?" at CSIRO IR & Friends (ANU), Canberra, 4pm, 8 December 2014.
 Over the past two decades, climate change governance has become a complex web of institutions, with over 100 international forums and a vast array of national, local and non-government initiatives. Experts are worried that this fragmentation creates loopholes, inefficiencies and conflict, and some have called for centralised coordination through the UN. But could coordination instead emerge from the bottom up? From flocking birds to flowing traffic, complexity science has shown how order can emerge from the seemingly simple interactions between individuals in a system. This research adopts a systems perspective to analyse the dynamics of the climate governance complex across scales. Using hyperlink network analysis and qualitative methods, it measures the degree of fragmentation of the climate governance system and investigates which sectors and regions are most fragmented. Eliza Murray is currently researching the global governance of climate change with the support of the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation. She was awarded the Garnaut Prize for Academic Excellence in 2012. Her previous roles include Director of Land Sector Policy at the (then) Australian Department of Climate Change.

ICT Super-Corridors for Southeast Asia

Professor Chun Kwong Han will speak on "Knowledge super corridors in Southeast Asia" at the Australian National University in Canberra,  12:30pm, 10 December 2014.

Developing countries in Asia are in the process of transitioning from a production economy to a knowledge-based economy (k-economy). Various new knowledge and information communications technology (ICT) mega-projects are being designed and executed at the international, national, state and industry levels to sustain competitiveness. The structures and processes by which these so-called ‘knowledge super corridors’ are developed and implemented are complex economic-social-political decisions.
A sophisticated model is developed from critical and practice theories, whereby the new critical practice lens generates knowledge for understanding, evaluation and action. In this talk, Professor Han will illustrate the value of the model with two case studies on a k-economy blueprint and a knowledge portal in emerging k-economies in Southeast Asia.

US Government Continues Criticism of Australian Climate Change Policy

Greetings from the Australian National University where the Light, Energy and the Environment Congress plenary is being held. The US Ambassador introduced Dr. Steven Chu, Professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology and former U.S. Secretary of Energy. Dr. Chu was the first energy secretary who was a scientist and was charged with increasing renewable energy use.

This acceptance of the need for action on climate change by the US Government contrasts with Australia, where reports indicate that the Australian Trade and Investment Minister will be sent to climate change talks in Peru, to ensure that the Foreign Minister does not agree to carbon emission reduction measures. The support for Dr. Chu's visit to Australia appears to be a continuation of the criticism of Australia's climate change policy by the US government.

Dr. Chu pointed out that there were significant oil shale deposits yet to be exploited around the world. He also criticized Russia for warning of the environmental effects of shale oil exploitation in Improper while proceeding with it in Russia. He suggested that the world should not wait for this oil to run out before changing to renewable energy sources.

Dr. Chu the drew parallels between anti-smoking campaigns and global warming. The public health problem is that there are decades between the time a person starts smoking and resulting disease. This makes it difficult to first find the cause-effect relationship, then convince the public to act and finally for health to improve. Dr. Chu pointed out that the ratio of isotopes of carbon can be used to show the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is due to human activity and is not due to natural causes. He pointed out that the effect of increased carbon dioxide levels will take hundreds or a thousand years to recover.

Dr. Chu claimed that wind and solar power will be cheaper than coal and nuclear power within ten years. He pointed out that when the environmental cost of carbon dioxide pollution is included, renewable energy is already cheaper than coal (obviously this does not apply to Nuclear power). Dr. Chu predicted a cost of 50 cents per watt for solar panels by 2020. However, Professor Loren Brandt previously pointed out vulnerability in the Chinese solar industry, which dominates the world market. Also Dr Renate Egan, has pointed out that by 2013 the cost of the PV panels for a domestic solar installation was less than the cost of the system. The installation cost is lower with large scale industrial installations. Dr. Chu mentioned that companies such as Solar City lease domestic roofs for energy production and the regulatory costs could be reduced to make this more efficient. Also he suggested that production line techniques could be sued for installation. But I suggest there is considerable scope for Australian companies to innovate in how to sell and install solar power.

Dr. Chu is also be speaking at the ANU ECI Energy Update, next Tuesday, 9 December 2014.