Saturday, January 31, 2015

Startup Muster Australian New Business Ventures

Startup Muster is preparing a list of Australian new business ventures. I filled in their survey form for my Higher Education Whisperer venture. What was interesting was that after answering a question I was shown the results so far from all participants. It is useful to see how your startup compares with others in Australia.

The previous surveys showed Australian startups had 19% female founders in 2013, 30 to 35 was the most common age, with 84% having been to university, and this being their first startup ventrure for most. NSW leads Australia for stat-ups, with 48% of the total and the Sydney CBD being the most common location. About half of the startups use a co-working space. 28% of startups have one founder, 66% have one or two, 86% have three or less. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

USA Alone Cannot Defeat Islamic State

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Amin Saikali, author of "Zone of Crisis: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq" is speaking on "The Middle East: Is the ‘Islamic State’ vanquishable?" (there will be a podcast later). Professor Saikal argues that the so-called Islamic State (IS) cannot be defeated by the US-led air campaign. He says a land based imilitary operation will be required and this would be preferably undertaken by local forces, not the USA and its western allies. He also points out that IS promotes itself as a continuation of the Caliphate abolished with the formation of modern Turkey after WW1. But there is still a romantic notion of restoring power to the region. Professor Saikal argues that the appeal of a Caliphate can be countered by the formation of modern democracies respecting human rights. To an outsider it may seem madness that anyone would support a totalitarian theocracy, but it might be more appealing than current totalitarian governments.

In my view an areas where Australia could contribute is in combating IS on-line. There are some suggestions this may be happening with an Australian Cyber Offensive, but also can include more subtle information campaigns. These are important skills our military forces need to learn, in any case, for future conflicts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Climate Change and War

Dr Albert Palazzo, Director of Research in Strategic Plans - Australian Army Headquarters, will speak on "Climate Change and the Future Character of War", at the Australian National University, 6pm, 10 February, 2015. Also on this topic Dr Palazzo has written "Climate change, migration and the importance of the international order" (Lowy Institute for International Policy, 14 May 2014):
"The replacement of the existing world order will have implications for a planet affected by climate change. Without a functioning safety valve, conflict between and within states will become more frequent and more vicious. As the deficit between resource requirement and availability widens, peoples who see their futures in terms of survival will be more prone to move in order to provide for their needs. As the support of the international community lessens, the destabilisation of weak states will become more prevalent and some areas of the world will sink into turmoil and chaos."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Outcomes of the Lima Conference on Climate Change

Marcus Priest from Sparke Helmore lawyers, will speak on the "Lima call for climate action", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1pm 30 January 2015.
The Abbott Government will face increased international scrutiny over its commitment to tackling climate change in the lead up to the next United Nations meeting in Paris in 2015. This scrutiny is likely to influence the way the Government implements its Direct Action policy and its proposal to reduce the Renewable Energy Target. That is the key takeout from the Lima conference of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. However, the final outcome of Lima was messy and less than hoped for. This was especially so given the landmark announcement by China and the United States in the lead up to Lima of an agreement to cut or cap carbon emissions after 2020. Despite the high hopes it soon became clear in Lima that one of the key dynamics of climate change negotiations over the last 20 years – the division between developing and developed countries – was again the major sticking points in the talks. This issue now looms large for next year’s meeting in Paris and will need to be resolved if there is to be any prospect of a meaningful post-2020 agreement.
My course "ICT Sustainability" starts again at ANU, 16 February.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Global Warming Has Increased the Risk of Nuclear War

The Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Security have advanced the hands of the "Doomsday Clock" to "3 Minutes To Midnight". This is in response to "... unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity". From: "It Is 3 Minutes To Midnight - Climate Change And Nuclear Tensions Push Doomsday Clock Hands Forward", Media Release, 22 January 2015. There is also a more detailed Analysis: Three minutes and counting.

Perhaps there should be a standardized global "Hot Line" for use between nations. The hard part would be agreeing who could talk to who and having them train to use the system. Not much hardware or software is needed: the Moscow–Washington hot-line uses off-the-shelf text-chat and email software (such hot-lines don't use voice communication). However, such a system would have to operate in the face of cyber-attacks and electronic warfare, by the nations involved in the dispute and third parties.

Data Retention Bill a Threat to Civil Rights

The Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) has released "The Data Retention Bill: A threat to civil rights protections that just won't work!" (Media release, 22 January 2015). ISOC-AU has criticised the draft Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, saying it is "deeply flawed", a "serious threat to existing civil rights protections" and too broadly defines the data to be retained for access by agencies.  ISOC-AU has made submissions to parliamentary inquiries on the issue.

ps: I am a member of ISOC-AU and support their position.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Boutique Brewery Opens at ANU in Canberra

The Wig and Pen (W&P) Boutique Brewery has reopened in the foyer of the Australian National University School of Music, after some controversy. The W&P had to relocate from Civic (a few hundred metres away from the new location) due to redevelopment of the site. The new locaiton is in what was the "green room" of Llewellyn Hall, where musicians prepared for their performance.

One of the distinctive doors from the old W&P has been retained at the new location, but the bar currently is a little lacking in atmosphere, it is just one big square room.  This should improve with the accretion of posters on the walls advertising musical performances.

The W&P's award winning beer is on tap. I had an excellent low alcohol beer. I suggest W&P investigate a 0.5% " non-alcoholic beer. This could be popular with the thousands of nearby public servants, who are being discouraged from drinking at lunch time, as well as those who avoid acholocol for cultuyral and health reasons.

The selection of food on offer at W&P is limited at present (schnitzels, fish and burgers). AI had a hamburger and chips, which arrived promptly and was good. The conversation was about solar panel monitoring using Linux computers and the application of quantum physics to the functioning o0f the human brain (as befits a university pub).

The new W&P is well worth a visit.

Friday, January 16, 2015

ICT Sustainability Executive Briefing in Canberra

Fujitsu is holding a free ICT Sustainability Executive Briefing in Canberra, over lunch, 10 February 2015. I will be on the panel to discuss their ICT Sustainability: Australian Benchmark 2014 report, along with William Ehmcke, Director of Connection Research, who carried out the research. I get my students to read use some his previous work in my ICT Sustainability course *the students start again in mid February 2015) at ANU.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Can Islamic State Be Defeated?

Professor Amin Saikal will speak on "The Middle East: Is the ‘Islamic State’ vanquishable?" at the Australian National University in Canberra,6pm, 29 January 2015.
The rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS) on vast swathes of territories in Syria and Iraq, and the US-led military response to it, have introduced another complex dimension to an oil-rich but already very volatile Middle East. The old correlation of forces in support of maintaining the status quo, especially following the Iranian revolution more than 35 years ago, has been changing.

A set of new alignments and realignments along multiple regional fault-lines, including sectarian divisions and geopolitical rivalries at different levels, has come to redefine the region and possibly change its traditional political and territorial contours. IS has confronted all the regional states, from the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with a common enemy. Yet, it is the United States and its Western allies that have taken the lead in launching a military intervention to ‘degrade and eliminate’ IS, despite lacking a laudable past record in this respect. This raises a number of questions. Should the problem of IS have been left to the regional actors to handle?

Whilst IS may be containable, can it be defeated? Even if IS is eliminated, what guarantee is there that another extremist group won’t replace it? Can IS become a franchise, as al-Qaeda has? What is the possible best way to deal with religious extremism in the Middle East? What can be expected of the on-going air campaign against IS in terms of its consequences for the region, and the US and its allies? This conversation will focus on these questions in an attempt to unpack the nature of the mess that is the Middle East – a region so turbulent and yet so rich from which the world cannot simply disentangle itself.

Electricity Storage for the Grid

Professor Donald Sadoway (MIT) will speak on "Innovation in Stationary Electricity Storage" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11am, 22 January 2015.
Massive electricity storage would offer huge benefits to today’s grid, reducing price volatility, improving stability against loss of power, increasing utilization of generation assets by enabling us to design towards average demand instead of peak demand, and deferring the costs of upgrading existing transmission lines. When it comes to tomorrow’s grid, storage is critical to widespread integration of renewables, i.e., solar and wind, which due to their inherent intermittency present challenges for contribution to baseload. Comprising two liquid metals and a molten salt electrolyte, the liquid metal battery has been invented to offer colossal current capability and long service lifetime at very low cost, i.e., the price point of the electricity market. The round-trip efficiency of these batteries is greater than 75% with a duty cycle of 4 h discharge. Fade rates of 0.0002%/cycle have been measured which means retention of >99% of initial capacity after 10 years of daily cycling and 80% of initial capacity after 300 years of daily cycling.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cybersecurity is Everyones Responsibility

Had a request from the ANU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs unit to be interviewed on radio about the apparent Islamic State (ISIS) hack of US twitter accounts and the Anonymous group's attacks on IS websites.

According to news reports (such as "Apparent Islamic State backers hack U.S. military Twitter feed", by David Alexander and Jim Finkle, Reuters, Jan 12, 2015), hackers claiming to be from ISIS posted their own messages and videos to  the U.S. Central Command Twitter account. The account was shut down after 30 minutes and no internal military systems were reported compromised ("Statement from U.S. Central Command Regarding Twitter/YouTube Compromise",  U.S.
Central Command News Release #20140101, January 12, 2015).

In a separate incident, the hacking group "Anonomus" are reported to have briefly disabled an ISIS website (see "Anonymous Declares War Vs Al Qaeda, ISIS; Brings Down A Jihadist Website", by Esther Tanquintic-Misa, International Business Times, January 13, 2015 ).

Neither of these incidents are particularly serious. Also it cannot be clearly established who was behind them. But there is a real risk of far more serious attacks. The first and best line of defence is a well trained workforce, which knows what to do (all Australian Defence Force Academy undergraduates will be trained in cyber security, commencing this year) and UNSW Canberra has the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS) for advanced research. There is the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) for the general public to report incidents, the  Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) which companies can subscribe to for assistance.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Replacing Rechargeable Batteries in an Cordless Drill

Battery technology has improved since 2007, when I replaced the batteries in a string trimmer. Recently I replaced the batteries in a low cost cordless drill. You can buy a replacement battery pack or replace the cells yourself. The drill I have had a battery pack with ten NiCd 1300 mAh sub-C cells (as fat as a disposable C size battery, but shorter). I found that AA size "pre charged" (or "Low Self Discharge") rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) cells are now available with 2300 mAh capacity at a reasonable price. So I could replace the batteries with smaller ones with more capacity and which will hold the charge longer.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries can be replaced with NiMH, but you may need a different charger. The Lithium batteries used in laptops and newer power tools require very specialized charging and can explode or catch fire if not charged correctly. Only a Lithium battery specifically designed for the tool should be used. Do not substitute lithium batteries for other types.

The first step should be to ensure the battery to be replaced is discharged (check with a multimeter). Then remove the screws holding the pack together. Remove the sub-C cells (ten x 1.2 Volts for a 12 volt pack). Two cell in my pack were holding the battery's connectors in place and I decided to retain these (while electrically insulating them from the new cells with tape).
Battery Holder
To make up the new pack I wrapped a strip of silicon self amalgamating tape around one AA cell, then added one next to it and wrapped the tape around both, then a third and fourth. Then I soldered the batteries in series, using a soldering iron and insulated wire. This made a flat pack of four cells held slightly apart by the tape to provide some ventilation and cushioning. I then built another pack of four cells and pushed the two together, held by the stickiness of the tape. I then make a pack of the two remaining batteries and stuck them to the eight, wrapping tape around all. I used some closed cell foam to hold the cells in the battery case. If you are not confident with soldering, you can use a battery holder.

Digital MultimeterI tested the battery with a multimeter, to make sure the voltage and polarity were correct (and matched that of the charger). Apart from the drill not working correctly, connecting the batteries the wrong way (negative terminal to positive), may damage the drill, the charger or cause the battery to explode.

New Years Eve Fireworks in Sydney

New Years Eve Fireworks Over Sydney HarbourNew Years Eve Fireworks in Sydney from Greenwich, looking out at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbor (where a lucky few are glamping).