Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Longest Guided Busway

Cambridgeshire Guided BuswayThe Cambridgeshire Guided Busway has overtaken Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway as the world's longest. On Sunday I had a trip from Cambridge, to Huntingdon via St Ives. Most people in Cambridge may not even notice the bus-way, as in the city the specially adapted buses travel on ordinary roads and use ordinary stops.

If you look closely you will see small guide wheels (about the size of a small dinner plate) next to the front wheels of the buses. These contact the edges of the bus-way to steer the buses.

You board and pay for a ride like an ordinary bus (I took a double decker bus, with an excellent view from the front seats upstairs). One complication is that there are two separate companies provideing ser sercves and their tickets are not interchangeable: if you buy a return ticket from one company you cannot travel back on the other. You can use a smart card between both services, but these have to be ordered by mail and cannot be purchased on-lboard.

The bus-way starts just outside Cambridge, where the bus leaves the normal road, goes over a car trap (a pit in the center of the roadway to stop ordinary cars driving onto the bus-way)and onto the concrete tracks. The bus-way is mostly built like a concrete railway, with two wide concrete rails (one for each side of the bus) and a raised edge for the guide wheel. There is grass growing between the rails and between the two sets of tracks. The ride is quite bumpy as the bus goes over the joins in the track and also the bus sways from side to side (more so than I remember from the Adelaide bus-way). The swaying is likely more pronounced on the top deck of a double deck bus (Adelaide has had problems with swaying of the rear of articulated buses).

The bus-way follows a disused railway track and at times goes close behind houses, with a high sound barrier on each side (which you can see over from the top deck). Out in the countryside there are wetlands on either side, with people bird watching and fishing. At one point near St Ives there is a marina at the river.

There are several stops along the way with park and ride facilities and I noted one disused railway station. Between St Ives and Huntingdon the bus travels on ordinary roads. To get the guided bus-way experience you might as well just go Cambridge to  St Ives and back.

In 2009 I traveled the 12 kilometers, of Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway which was then the world's longest. The experience in Cambridge is similar. This is not a glamorous mode of travel (like a monorail), but a pratical solution to a particualr problem: where space in confined or ground too soft or undevne for a normal roadway to be built.

The o-bhan bus guidance technology is a simple and proven mechanical system. However, technology has advanced to the point where it should be possible to achieve the same result using electronics. Using automatic lane and cruse control developed for cars and trucks, it should be possible to have buses self steer in bus lanes and keep a safe distance from each other. This should make it possible for buses with no mechanical modifications to travel on an o-bhan bus-way, as well as one on an ordinary roadway. Also it should be possible to use positioning technology and communications technology to safely share one lane for two way traffic.  This would allow, for example, just one lane to be built and passing lanes at the bus-stops. Buses would take turns to use the lane, waiting at the stops (just as trains do on many lines now). This would greatly reduce the cost of the construction of bus-ways. At peak times buses could travel in convoys, with each automatically separated by a safe distance.

Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report 2015

The government Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has issued its first threat report. "The Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report 2015" is a 29 page PDF document (issued 29 curiously dated 1 January 1970). The ACSC is made up of federal agencies including Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO).

The report indicates that the number of significant compromises of federal Australian Government networks decreased from 2012 to 2014. The report includes the end of support for Windows XP and MS Office 2003 as a security risk. Hopefully individuals and organisations changing to Windows 10 will result in improved security.

Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) is listed as "the primary method for Australians to report cybercrime"

A major deficiency in the report is that it does not acknowledge the predominate role of the non-government sector in cyber-security. In particular there is no mention of AusCERT, a non-government organization, who have been providing coordination cyber-security services from before the creation of ACSC, AusCERT has more experience in the field and a longer track record than the governments own CERT and most other federal agencies.

Monday, July 27, 2015

From the Backs at Cambridge

Chapel of King's College CambridgeI don't think it is possible to take a bad photo of the Chapel of King's College Cambridge. Here is one I took yesterday, almost at random (I took a photo from almost the same spot about 20 years ago).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Romeo and Juliet in St John’s College Gardens Cambridge University

The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, runs until 29 August. Yesterday I attended the afternoon performance of  from Romeo and Juliet in St John’s College Gardens. The best part of this was the setting in the gardens, at the "backs" of Cambridge University. This is the open area across the river Cam from the city. We arrived to the performers doing warm up exercise and a wandering ministerial. As well as seating there was the option of a picnic on the lawn.

The performers had the challenge of projecting their voices in the open air, without the benefit of a stage and competing with aircraft and traffic noise. Some were not up to the challenge. Juliet was a little old for the part, but made up with girlish enthusiasm.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

From a Cambridge College Room

Fitzwilliam College Cambridge AuditoriumGreetings from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University (UK), where I have been attending the 10th International Conference on Computer Science and  Education (ICCSE 2015). Most of the other delegates left yesterday and the quad is quiet. Fitzwilliam ("Ftiz") has modern buildings (with plumbing), but retains a modest scale and has quiet quad.

The auditorium used for the conference is only the hight of a two story building, but extends another two stories underground. Like the conference room at Hong Kong Open University (where I attended ICOFE2015), the auditorium also doubles as a basketball court.

Apart from the gardens, the best part of Fitz was the helpful Porter and the barman. The service is understated. Unlike a hotel, when I arrived I did not need to show my passport, provide a credit card deposit and fill in a form. I gave my name, signed in and d was handed a key. Unfortunately, the food was not so good (the baked beans of an English breakfast can be hard to face in the morning). However, the WiFi was excellent (apparently University of Cambridge had suffered a major network outage the day before, but it worked flawlessly during my stay).

You do not have to be alumni or attending a conference to get the university college experience. The service I booked through,, has rooms around the world. But keep in mind that during semester times there may be few rooms available, and during the breaks conferences make block bookings.

ps: There is a performance of Romeo and Juliette to attend at St. Johns. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

World Wide Web Consortium Moving to the Australian National University

The Australian National University will be hosting the Australian office of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). To get things started, J. Alan Bird, W3C Global Business Development Lead based at MIT will be speaking about "Data on the Web", 9:30am, 27 July 2015 at ANU (please RSVP to attend):
" Alan will introduce attendees to some of the most recent standards work of the W3C in vertical domains where the Web is emerging as a major disruptive force, in particular the recommendations around the publishing and use of data."
By the way, I get a mention on the W3C Accessibility pages in the "A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website", as I was one of the expert witnesses in the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission case.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vertical Replenishment of Chinese Aircraft Carrier Using Robot Helicopter

Greetings from the 10th International Conference on Computer Science and  Education (ICCSE 2015) in Cambridge (UK), where Ben M. Chen from the UAV Research Group at the National University of Singapore is speaking on "Unmanned Systems Research and Education". He showed a video of a competition in China, where the UAV helicopter had to pick up a load from one moving platform and transfer it to another moving platform. What got my attention was that this was intended to simulate the transfer of material from a supply ship to an aircraft carrier. This vertical replenishment (VERTREP) application is one still carried out with pilot operated helicopters in most navies. His paper "Development of an Unmanned Helicopter for Vertical Replenishment" provides details. It would be interesting to know the view of Australia about Singapore assisting China with its ability to project naval power.

Computers for clean drinking water

Greetings from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University (UK), where the 10th International Conference on Computer Science and  Education (ICCSE 2015) just opened. The keynote is by Professor Clarence W. de Silva, British Columbia University, on "Sensing Issues in the Automated Monitoring of the Quality of Drinking Water". Professor de Silva pointed out the importance of clean drinking water and water for agriculture. He pointed out that the USA has to purchase water from Canada. Monitoring the quality of water manually is time-consuming and there can be long delays, resulting in the consumer receiving polluted water. Computers can be used to monitor the water in real time and issue warnings, including to smart phones.Interestingly the same system can be used to detect earthquakes, by changes in water quality as well as by incorporating accelerometers.

Later I will be speaking on "Merging Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques for E-Learning".

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hong Kong to Guangzhou by Train

Chinese high speed trainExpress trains run from Hong Kong to Guangzhou about every hour. Just about everyone on the train had a large screen smart phone and a second battery to keep it running on the journey. Seats with mains power are at a premium and USB charing sockets sought after at airports.

The trip takes two hours and is comfortable and scenic. The catch is queuing at peak hours to get on. A new very high speed line is under construction. The train leaves from Hung Hom, Kowloon,and arrives at Guangzhou East Railway Station. Both are connected to the local metro (but finding your way from the intercity terminal to the metro is challenging.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

YHA Mei Ho House Hong Kong

YHA Mei Ho House Hong KongGreetings from YHA Mei Ho House, Kowloon, Hong Kong. This former public housing block was turned into a very modern form of low cost accommodation for travelers two years ago. There are some seventies themed rooms and a free museum on the ground floor with the history of the building and recreations of the old apartments. Nearby is the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC) another old building re-purposed as an artists colony. The district has markets and computer stores, with metro stations and buses connecting to the rest of HK.

One catch is that the YHA is very hard to find from the address given ion their website (Block 41 ,Shek Kip Mei Estate, Sham Shui Po ,Kowloon). The building is accessed from Berwick Street. It is 500 m from Sham Shui Po MTR Metro Station : north-east on Kweilin St, then a dog leg to get across Tai Po Road.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

GovCamp Innovation Dialogues Sydney

Greetings from GovCamp Innovation Dialogues Sydney at the NSW Department of Industry on the 47 th Floor of the MLC building (with a great view of Sydney Harbor). There is a panel talking about innovation. The theme emerging is that there are opportunities for innovation in the public sector, if attitudes can change. Also mentioned was the Public Sector Innovation Network

ps:  I am writing a free open access innovation course. I will be talking on innovation and education at Cambridge University (UK), next week.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Start a Business in Canberra

Recently I was asked how to start a business in Canberra and how to get funding. This should not be difficult, as we have a new local government/university joint facility in Canberra, specifically to help startups: the "CBR Innovation Network" (CBRIN). The hard part is understanding how it operates and all the start-up jargon.

For a start, what is "CBR"? This is the international code for Canberra's airport (just as "LAX' is the code for Los Angeles International Airport). The ACT Government decided to base its marketing of Canberra around use of this abbreviation. This seems a little odd as Canberra's airport does not have any scheduled international flights, so apart from a few plane spotters no one knows what "CBR" is. As a result I tend to spell out the name "Canberra Innovation Network" (and suggest the abbreviation CBRIN be pronounced "See-Brin").

CBRIN's strength is that it provides many start-up services in the one place, provided by specialist organizations. As a result it is very confusing for the novice entrepreneur to work out what are all the  services and which organisations provide what.

CBRIN has an office on the top floor of the ACT Heath building in Canberra's CBD. This is an excellent location, between the ANU campus and the corporate offices of the city, in the center of a cluster of computer companies, private education providers, research organizations. Most importantly, CBRIN is near good bars and restaurants (which research shows is important to the start-up process). However, if you go in the front door of the building you end up in what looks like a hospital waiting room (better to go in the side door and take the lift to the top floor).

CBRIN has:
  1. Events space: This is a large room where events and workshops are held. It can be hard to find, down a long corridor on the west dies of the floor (follow the noise to the function). Last week I attended Matt  Fenwick Life Without Lanyards. book launch and a workshop for the CBR xPS project in the CBRIN events space and the first monthly "First Wednesday Connect" last week. This is the way people are introduced to CBRIN.
  2. Co-working space: The co-working space is an open plan office with long benches for individuals and small groups to work on their start-up. The co-working space is managed by the non-profit organization Entry 29. This is where start-ups start, after being introduced to CBRIN. The co-working space is more than just a low cost shared office: the idea is to foster work relationships between the members. Entry29 members can use the co-working spaces in other cities, when traveling, such as Fishburners Sydney and Spacecubed Perth. (apparently it is obligatory for co-working spaces to have silly names).
  3. Incubator: The incubator is a step up from the co-working space, with each start-up having its own office area, but still located open plan with others. At this stage the start-up is expected to need more tailored and individual business advice. CBRIN's incubator is called "Kiln Incubator".
  4. Accelerator: The accelerator is a process, not a physical space.  A start-up in the accelerator program will most likely be located in the incubator space, but also gets expert help and funding for a limited time, in return for giving up a share of the ownership of the business. CBRIN has associated with it the Griffin Accelerator

Friday, July 10, 2015

Climathon in Canberra

Greeting from the Climathon in Canberra, at the Australian National University. About fifty people will spend the weekend considering what to do about climate change in Canberra. Unfortunately the world have no effective process for combating climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process has proved unworkable and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ineffective (about the only thing which is going to curb emissions is recession brought on by China).

I suggest that the UNFCCC and IPCC processes be replaced with on-line working. Canberra has the combination of policy making and techncial skills to do this. For my part I am teaching how to reduce carbon emissions by using ICT.

At a more local level, I suggest the ACT Government abandon plans for light rail, which will increase carbon emissions and implement bus lanes on existing roads. The bus lanes will displace cars and so reduce emissions.These can be used by conventional buses now, renewable fueled buses in the near future and driver-less autonomous mini-buses ("pods") further in the future.

China Economy and Education

Greetings from Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the "China’s Domestic Transformation in a Global Context" (Ligang Song, Ross Garnaut, Cai Fang and Lauren Johnston) was launched. There is a day long annual China Update. ANU has also been holding meetings with Chinese scholars on the use of on-line courses. Professor Garnaut attributed China's rapid economic growth to changes in labor market policy and in priorities. He noted that adjustments in China and the their effect on the world economy have only just started. 

I searched the report to see what it had to say about education in China, as I teach students from China at ANU and am on my way to two conferences with Chinese educators next week.

The report notes that the "China’s new model of economic growth"included "better use of resources in education, especially in rural areas, to increase
opportunities for all citizens in an expanding modern economy" (
Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 4, 2015). The report goes on to say:
"... upgrading of the industrial structure associated with the new model of growth requires increasingly educated and experienced labour. Current rural education standards and incentives for migrants to accumulate and apply skills in urban employment may not make this more sophisticated labour available to expanding urban industries."
(Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 5, 2015)
The report notes this could result in  structural unemployment and "... could be a potential source of social instability ...".

The report then says:
"The focus on increased investment in education within the new model of growth combines with the large decline in the school-age population to introduce prospects for greatly improved labour quality ...".
(Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 26, 2015)
"Success in maintaining and lifting productivity growth requires heavy investment in education and training."
(Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 26, 2015)
 "... improving educational levels is an important way to promote consumption." (Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 99, 2015)
"... granting migrants full residency rights, such as access to education, health care and social security, is not only an important task and challenge of urbanisation, but also appears to be an intrinsic requirement for China’s economic development. " (Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 108, 2015)
At question time Professor Garnaut was asked about how to measure innovation in China. So I looked for "Innovation" in the report, although it seems to be about innovation in investment policies, not producing new products:
 "In 2014, similar schemes were established between Singapore-based banks and firms in China’s Suzhou Industrial Park, in Jiangsu Province, and Tianjin Eco-City, as part of a broader range of initiatives between the Chinese and Singaporean governments to develop these two innovation-oriented initiatives." (Song, Garnaut, Fang & Johnston, p. 284, 2015)

Table of Contents 

First page
Cover page
Title page
Imprint and copyright information
1. Domestic Transformation in the Global Context
Part I: Domestic transformation and structural change
2. The New Model of Growth and the Global Resources Economy
3. A Compelling Case for Chinese Monetary Easing
4. Consequences of China’s Opening to Foreign Banks
5. Destination Consumption
6. National Energy Market Integration
7. China’s Gas Market Liberalisation
8. China’s Electricity Sector
Part II: China’s participation in global integration
9. Financial Integration and Global Interdependence
10. Capital Account Liberalisation in China
11. The Offshore Renminbi Market and Renminbi Internationalisation
12. China’s Manufacturing Performance and Industrial Competitiveness Upgrading
13. China Becomes a Capital Exporter
14. The Impact of Coastal FDI on Inland Economic Growth in China
15. China’s Trade Negotiation Strategies
16. Boom to Cusp
17. The Trend of China’s Foreign Investment Legal System
"The phrase ‘New Normal’ captures the ongoing shift in the pattern and drivers of China’s economic growth. China’s new growth rate is both slower and imposing difficult structural change. These new economic conditions are challenging yet offer opportunities for China and its economic partners. Reforms must be deepened but also make growth more inclusive and environmentally sustainable, over this decade and beyond.

This year’s Update offers both global context and domestic insight into this challenging new phase of China’s domestic economic transformation. How are policymakers elevating migrant workers concurrent with increasing consumption? Is China’s government spending enough on education and R&D to ensure it can achieve its aspirations to ascend the global manufacturing value chain and avoid the middle-income trap? Are energy market reforms reducing or increasing the price of gas and electricity in China? What are the consequences of China’s financial reforms and expanding Renminbi trading for foreign banks? What does China’s new growth model mean for the international resources economy and for Africa? Do SOEs face market conditions and are they dominating China’s fast-rising outbound investment? What is China’s strategy for navigating fragmented international trade policy negotiations?"

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Life Without Lanyards Launch

"You don't have to hate the public service to leave".

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN )office, where Kate Lundy has launched Matt  Fenwick book "Life Without Lanyards". The book is for those considering leaving government service and moving to the private sector. In the USA this would be for people "Inside the Beltway" in the UK it is for Sir Humphrey's frustrated staff. In Australia it is for those in Canberra.

Canberra is reshaping itself, partly through necessity, from a public service town, to an innovation centre.

ps: Matt said "You don't have to hate the public service to leave". Perhaps should be added "... but it helps".  ;-)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Building a Private Sector Future for Canberra

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) office where I am attending a workshop on the CBR xPS project. This project is sponsored by the ACT Government to help public servants who want to move the private sector. The reason for the ACT Government to do this is presumably change the tradition that when people leave the public service they move out of Canberra, taking their money with them. Canberra therefore needs viable private sector options for people to work in Canberra and also help public servants to transition. My interest in this is that I am designing course material to help those who want to be innovators and entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Marketing through teaching

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society n Canberra, where Daniel Oyston is speaking on "How to build your authority in your industry to find opportunities". His first point was marketing through teaching: show your customers how to make better use of the product, they will trust you and therefore buy from you. He said customers go through stages of: awareness, research, evaluation, decision, purchase and post-evaluation. Daniel told the story of Dyson, who sent him a reminder it was time the clean the filter on his vacuum cleaner and provided instructions. He pointed out customers research products on-line before they contact to buy. As an example, Daniel has the "Ultimate Case Study Guide".

Daniel described taking blog postings and making it an ebook for customers. He also said he has a process of producing a podcast one week and a video the next. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

GovHack Canberra Results

Greetings from the last day of GovHack 2015 at the Australian National University in Canberra. Entries closed a few minutes ago and some of the tams are showing off the applications they built to use open access government data. showed their system to "Explore the history of Australian innovation" using data from the patent office. "... maps the location of all disasters related to Australians since the early 1800's". AuStat generates quiz questions about Australia.

Mathew Purcell, noted computer educator, and his class of Computing and Code Cadets from Canberra Grammar School, recreated the whole of Canberra in the Minecraft game using geospatial data. They also produced Explore CBR to map the locations of public facilities in Canberra. is a "platform to research and annotate road accidents, developing them into narratives for the purposes of reflection and providing increased awareness of road safety".

There is a list of all the project from GovHack 2015 available.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Flying Jacket for Australian Prime Minister

For Mr Tony Abbott's visit to the USS Blue Ridge, the Australian Prime Minister wore a Royal Australian Air Force Flying jacket, with RAAF insignia. The PM is not a member of the military and not commander in chief, so it would be preferable for him not to wear a military uniform. The PM should be issued with a flying jacket for military visits, but with civilian insignia.

The US President is commander in chief of US armed forces, but even so does not wear military insignia. Instead the POTUS flying jacket has the US Presidential Seal.

Following the US custom, the Australian PM could wear a jacket with the Australian Arms and kangaroo insignia.

Name Patch for Left Side of PMs Jacket

As a member of the Australian Parliament, can use the Australian Arms:

Tony Abbot

Prime Minister of Australia

Kangaroo emblem for Right Side of PM's jacket

The 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 and so is suitable for a civilian to wear. The green and Gold of the National Colours would be most suitable:


Friday, July 03, 2015

GovHack 2015 Starts in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where GovHack 2015 has just started. There are about 200 participants in Canberra and another 2,000 at other locations around Australia who will be building applications using free open access government data over the next 48 hours.

ANU is hosting Climathon next weekend, to come up with responses to climate change for Australian cities.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

First Wednesday Connect Canberra Startup Meeting

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) office, where the inaugural "First Wednesday Connect" is being held. Start-up companies are giving quick pitches for their ventures, but the main aim of the evening is for people from business, government and academia to meet each other. This has been useful, as I met Kelly Brown from Nexia, who are helping out with training  the startups (I am designing an on-line course for them as well).