Sunday, November 26, 2017

Autonomous Electric Bus in Canberra

EZ.10 driverless electric shuttle bus from company Easy Mile, on demonstration run in Canberra's city center. Marghanita da Cruz steps out of the bus. The wheelchair ramp has been deployed, as part of a demonstration. This would not normally be used for ambulatory passengers.
Easy Mile EZ.10 Shuttle
Yesterday I went for a short ride on an EZ.10 driver-less electric shuttle bus from company Easy Mile, on demonstration run in Canberra's city center.  The bus traveled a few hundred meters through Canberra' central mall.  While it has a maximum speed of 40 kph, this was done at walking pace, as it weaved in between the street furniture.

The vehicle hold six people sitting in two rows facing each other and with room for another six to stand (or a wheelchair). There are very wide doors making entry easy. The vehicle is higher than it is wide and looks more like a cross between a lift and a golf buggy than a bus.

The ability of the vehicle to find its way between the obstacles in the mall was impressive, with a smaller turning circle than even a mini-van. Also it was able to deal with pedestrians who strayed into its path. When the vehicle's sensors detected a person it would first ring a bell (like that of an old fashioned street car), then slow down and, if the person was not out of the way, stop. No one seemed perturbed or frightened by the vehicle slowing making its way along.

There is also a  wheelchair ramp which can be deployed by the press of a button (the vehicle also kneels to make entry easier).

This would appear a practical form of transport around a university campus (the Australian National Universality could do with a half dozen such vehicles),  or a city center. It would be a useful way to get people to and from light rail and other more conventional forms of public transport.

Tomcar Military Electric Vehicle
While the EZ.10 is imported, this is an industry which Australia could enter. There are already Australian companies making small electric vehicles for farms, factories and the military. Our universities and high-tech companies have the expertise to design the software for the sensors to operate the vehicle.

The EZ.10 shuttle is on an  Australian tour it will be in Canberra today (Sunday) until 12 Noon and 1pm to 3pm, then Cairns from 4 to 8 December and Mooloolaba from 14 to 16 December.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cyber-enabled Information Warfare in Canberra

Dr Herb Lin, Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University, will speak on "Cyber-enabled information warfare and the end of the Enlightenment" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 12:30 pm 5 December 2017. His "On Cyber-Enabled Information/Influence Warfare and Manipulation" with Jackie Kerr is to be published in the Oxford Handbook of Cybersecurity (2018).
"The West has no peer competitors in conventional military power. But its adversaries are increasingly turning to asymmetric methods for engaging in conflict. In this public seminar, Dr Herb Lin will address cyber-enabled information warfare (CEIW) as a form of conflict or confrontation to which the Western democracies are particularly vulnerable. 

CEIW applies the features of modern information and communications technology to age-old techniques of propaganda, deception, and chaos production to confuse, mislead, and perhaps to influence the choices and decisions that the adversary makes. A recent example of CEIW can be seen in the Russian hacks on the US presidential election in 2016. CEIW is a hostile activity, or at least an activity that is conducted between two parties whose interests are not well-aligned, but it does not constitute warfare in the sense that international law or domestic institutions construe it. Some approaches to counter CEIW show some promise of having some modest but valuable defensive effect. If better solutions for countering CEIW waged against free and democratic societies are not forthcoming, societal discourse will no longer be grounded in reason and objective reality – an outcome that can fairly be called the end of the Enlightenment."

Friday, November 17, 2017

Australia Day by Johathan Biggins at New Theatre Sydney

The play Australia Day by Johathan Biggins opened at the New Theatre in Sydney last night. This is a loving, humorous and at times bighting look at local politics. Anyone who has been on a committee to organize a community event will recognize the characters and situations.

Set in the scout hall of a fictional Australian inland town, the play tracks the progress of the committee organizing Australia Day celebrations. Along the way issues of race and identity, politics and corruption and explored. This is leavened with humor and the playwright's obvious affection for the characters.

David Marshall-Martin's set evokes the austere, slightly tattered atmosphere of an old scout hall, complete with photo of a very young Queen Elisabeth and slightly tatty flags.

Alice Livingstone was clearly enjoying herself as "Maree Bucknell", one of the quirkier characters of the committee. Louise Fisher's costume design for Amelia Robertson-Cuninghame, as a greens politician was a little too glamorous to be believable. But the way Amelia says "its nothing personal" while blackmailing a fellow politician was chillingly real. She would make an excellent addition to the cast of "House of Cards", now they have a vacancy.

At last nights performance I was a little in awe happening to sit next to a New York theater critic making notes in a battered spiral notebook. I was explaining for my amateur how in my blog reviews I try to find a popular work to relate the play to. The obvious film to equate "Australia Day" to is "Rats in the Ranks", Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly's fly-on-the-wall documentary of the 1994 Leichhardt Council Mayoral elections. But while covering many of the same themes, Australia Day is a lot more fun.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lockheed Martin Collaboration Center for Canberra

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) where  there is a briefing local companies on possible collaboration on Lockheed Martin's bid for the Defence Department's AIR6500 project. This is a Battle Management, C4ISR, and Air/Missile defence system. Kate Lundy, ACT Defence Industry Advocate, opened the briefing. There will be further briefings: 14 November in Sydney, 15 November Newcastle, 16 November in Brisbane and possibly Darwin in December.

It was mentioned that Lockheed Martin will open a Collaboration Center in Canberra, for local companies to demonstrate their capabilities. One aspect I found worrying was that possible local contribution was described as "niche", suggesting local companies can only have a minor role.
While missiles and other hardware grab attention, it is increasingly the case that these are just peripherals to networked computer systems which are the key to defence. Australian companies have major, not niche, capabilities in the field of complex networked computer systems.
The role of cyber was mentioned in the briefing, however unlike Australia's potential adversaries, I suggest this is not being given the priority it needs by the Australian government or the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The conventional military will be just a peripheral of the cyber warfare system in future conflicts.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Reducing download traffic for mobile broadband

Virgin are discontinuing prepaid mobile broadband in Australia. Instead of Internet access being "shaped"  to a slower speed when the monthly allocation of data download is used up, there will be an additional charge imposed for each extra gigabyte of data (which happens to be identical to the extra charge imposed by Optus, Telstra and Vodafone). Virgin have offered twice the monthly data allowance for one one dollar extra under a new plan. But a quick calculation of my data use suggests that the new excess charge may double my bill.

To reduce downloads I looked at a few options. One was to reduce access speed at my end of the connection, using something such as "Throttle". But this was fiddly and an inconvenience.

Next I tried compression in the web browser, as that is where most of the downloads happen. Google Chrome Data Saver works well. The compresses the content of the web page. With  Arjun Suresh's Data saver proxy it can even be used with the Firefox browser. But the data saver doesn't work on secure websites and does not make image files significantly smaller. Overall it claims to be saving 30% on my browsing so far.

Most useful has been Bandwidth Hero by Anatoliy Yastreb. This compresses just the images on a web page. It works very large JPEG images. I had to stare at the screen closely to notice the images were slightly blurry, even when using the highest compression setting. Currently this is saving 71% on image downloads. I have only found two problems so far:
  1. "Convert to black and white" is on by default. I suggest changing this to "off", as few people will want their web pages in monochrome.
  2. The transparent background on some GIF and PNG images comes out as black, making many buttons hard to read. It would be better if the compression process was skipped for GIFs and PNGs (or at least for small ones, or those with transparent backgrounds).
ps:I hadn't noticed Belong have shaping for their two mobile data plans. In the fine print it says:
"You can purchase additional data if your allowance is low or has run out. We do not apply data top-ups automatically.
If you have no data remaining, your service will be slowed to a maximum of 64kbps for the rest of that monthly payment cycle, but we won’t charge you any extra. Your data at the slower speed will be unlimited."

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Woden Valley to Silicon Valley: Lessons for IT startups

Greetings from the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra, where Yohan Ramasundara, is speaking to the Australian Computer Society on "Woden Valley to Silicon Valley - lessons for IT startups". Yohan spent three and a half months seconded from IP Australia to Austrade in Silicon Valley. He started the talk by explaining he geography of Silicon Valley. He mentioned the work of the Aussie Founders Network

Yohan criticized the fragmented nature of the Australian government presence in Silicon Valley with federal and state organizations having separate initiatives, in contrast to the Swiss government. One successful Australian government initiative is the Australian Landing Pad @ WeWork, San Francisco. From the photos Yohan showed WeWork SF looks much the same as WeWork Sydney.

Yohan pointed out that people skills are needed as well as technical skills for a successful startup. He also pointed out that successful entrepreneurs are open about their business and willing to to talk to budding start-ups.

Yohan was positive about Standford University and its Product Realization Lab. This is available to students in any discipline and supports traditional fabrication (wood and metalwork) as well as hi-tech. There is now a modest ANU MakerSpace in Canberra. One of my teams of ANU Techlauncher students used the 3D printer to make a case for their project.

Yohan pointed to the Alchemist Accelerator as emphasizing the customs of business. But he pointed out that rules about punctuality differ between cultures. Yohan also pointed out that investors invest in the team of talent as much as they do the idea.

Gabe Sulkes then talked about his work as the Landing Pad Manager for Austrade. He was live on-line from the USA and, for once, the network  held up. ;-)

Lockheed Martin Looks for Battle Management Partners in Canberra

The Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) is hosting a meeting for Canberra businesses interested in working with Lockheed Martin on the Defence Department's AIR6500 project for Battle Management, C4ISR, and Air/Missile defence on 13 November 2017. Kate Lundy, ACT Defence Industry Advocate, will facilitate.

Lockheed Martin is looking for companies to help with:  Command & Control (C2), Cyber Security,  communications, Data fusion/analytics, Sensor Integration, Clean energy technology, Computing, Networking, Training , Engineering Services,  Logistics Support and Facilities.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

ACS Accelerator Hub for Sydney

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) have announced that their new Sydney head office will include an accelerator for tech start-ups. The new office will be in International Tower 1 Barangaroo, Sydney. This is a very new, very modern, very tall tower-block, at odds with the traditional location for an innovation centers. Such centers are traditionally in old, re-purposed industrial and commercial buildings. Fishburners is in an old Sydney warehouse, Spacecubed is in a former bank in Perth, Canberra Innovation Network in an old medical building, River City Labs an old department store in Brisbane.

Cambridge Judge Business SchoolFurther afield the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at
University of Cambridge is in an old hospital (over-refinished in post-modern style). This is not just a matter of fashion: innovation depends on people meeting and learning to work together. The trappings of corporate culture can disrupt innovation and not in a good way.