Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Problems with IEEE Website Has Me Reconsidering Membership

I have been a member of the IEEE Computer Society for 34 years, but problems with renewing online this year make me wonder if it is an organization I want to be associated with.

When I tried to renew I got:
"Bad Request

Your browser sent a request that this server
could not understand. Size of a request header
field exceeds server limit."
The IEEE support center suggested:
"... delete all the cache and cookies and refresh the browser and then access your IEEE account. Please use latest version of Google Chrome to access your IEEE account and the website works well on Chrome.".
That worked, but shouldn't the website work with other browsers?

On my next attempt in Chrome, I got further, but then some images are not appearing. Instead of images I get:
"White check mark on TEAL background"
From the context, I eventually worked out this must indicate "Yes", but that is what the ALT text should say. As it is the website doesn't conform to accessibility guidelines.

So I went to the IEEE feedback page to report the accessibility problem. I filled in the form, but then got the error message:
"⚠ Unsuccessful submission. Please enter the correct CAPTCHA value."
But there is no CAPTCHA image displayed on the page and no alternative provided.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Colombo to Galle by Train Down the Coastal Line of Sri Lanka

A few weeks ago I traveled from Colombo to Galle along the Coastal Line of Sri Lanka. The line follows the coast for about 100 km, sometimes so close to the beach that you can feel the spray on your face.

To plan the trip I used Seat 61 and booked through Visit Sri Lanka Tours. The tickets were at the Colombo Fort ticket office, as promised. However, the office took some finding, as it is not in the main hall of the station (where the local ticket booths are), but through a door to the left (when facing the building) on the outside. There was no one at the Colombo-Galle-Matara window, so after a few minutes I tried the one next to that and got my ticket (it might have been better to pay extra and have the ticket delivered to my hotel). The next challenge was to find the right platform and car, in the early morning commuter rush.

After asking a few people I ended up in the right place. I had booked the 1st class observation car, which was "air-conditioned". The car was far from new and the air conditioning was an electric fan on the roof. But it was only one quarter full, and had a clean toilet, which is luxury on any form of Sri Lanaka transport. There was a large window on the end of the car (with one pane cracked), providing an excellent view of where we had been, plus opening widows on each side.

Sri Lankan train driver at the controls on the Coastal Line. One problem is the large number of people bothering you. I had someone at my seat asking for a donation to an orphanage (chased off by the conductor). Someone in a blue shirt then asked if I would like to see in the locomotive. I thought this was yet another tout, but it turned out to be the driver. So I got to see the driving cab of the locomotive. I was worried this might distract the driver from preparations, but there was a second crew member in the cab.

A Colombo street, as seen from a train on the Coastal Line of Sri Lanka.
The ocean, as seen from a train in Colombo, Sri Lanka.The track goes though the city in a cutting, then out to the beach, just past Galle Face Green. On one side is the coastal road and on the other the beach. There were  people causally strolling across the track, as well as Tuk tuks. However, it is clear they know ever inch of the track, every bump (there are many) and where to expect problems.

Bridges on the Galle to Colombo Coastal Line of Sri Lanka. Photo is from the observation car at the back of the train.
While the coast with villages and fishing boats is impressive, I was more interested in the rapid development evident on the landward side.

The passengers are mostly foreign tourists. There are the a few seasoned backpackers. One provided a running commentary which was a little disconcerting at times, pointing out this is the line with the worst rail disaster in world history, when the 2004 tsunami derailed a train.

Galle Station on the Coastal Line of Sri Lanka.
Buses at Galle station in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort is in the background.After a comfortable journey, the train arrived on time at Galle Station, an impressive slightly Art Deco looking building. Getting from the station across the busy road to  Galle Fort proved difficult. I tried the foot-bridge over a creek to the bus terminus, but then could not find how to get across the road. Back across the footbridge and on the other side of the station I found a crossing. This lead to Darmapala Park, which has a bridge to the Fort, but I decided to take a shortcut along the road (dodging past the many parked buses).

Typical street in the Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.
Galle Fort wall in Sri Lanka.Galle Fort is an impressive structure and large enough to spend a day wandering around. The Galle National Maritime Museum (also devastated by the 2004 Tsunami), provided a break from the heat. The building is almost as interesting as the exhibits, being part of the fort wall. I walked around getting blisters, while turning down numerous offers of Tuk Tuk rides.

After wandering around I had a quick drink in the hip little Old Railway Cafe, overlooking the station. It was then a short walk back to the station, where I bumped into the driver, who pointed out that his locomotive was changing ends and the observation car would be at the front.

Galle to Colombo Train on the Coastal Line of Sri Lanka. The locomotive is approaching the observation car for the return journey to Colombo Fort.
The observation car's end window was now partly blocked by the locomotive. But there was still a good view to ether side. As we rattled along, there were twilight views of people fishing, boats on the beach, and fish for sale at town markets (so close I could smell them). Sitting next to me was a local, who introduced themselves as a guard on the Viceroy Special steam train tours, asking if I knew Scott McGregor.

Despite the twilight, and my entertaining companion, th the trip back was an uncomfortable two hours. The locomotive was belching diesel smoke. It might be a good idea making the trip one way, from Colombo to Galle by train, and come back another way.

As the train pulled into Colombo Fort there was a tropical downpour, and I got back to my hotel sopping wet. Outside my balcony there was a train going past. That makes for a complete day of train tourism in the tropics. ;-)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Real Store is Still a Good Place to Shop for a Watch

Recently I was in Singapore and decided to buy a watch. My decades old hand-me-down watch was making odd beeping noises, stopping occasionally and the batteries were getting hard to find. Also I wanted something smaller, and simpler.

Timex T41101 Expedition WatchThe watch I inherited has analog hands as well as a digital display, alarm, and calendar. Unfortunately the current fashion is for either simple analog dress watches, or complex, large chunky diver's style watches. The former lack the alarm function and the latter are large with lots of dials and numbers. I am not a diver or pilot and just wanted something small and simple: hands and one digital display.

At the less extreme end of the diver's style watch is the  Timex T41101 Expedition. This has a very readable analog clock-face and one small digital display. But it still has a bezel with markings around the outside, which has no practical function. This unit goes some way to integrating the digital display on the round clock-face, by making it curved.

Pulsar PBK03 WatchThere appear to be few simpler watches with a round format, perhaps because of the difficulty of integrating a  a digital display. More common a rectangular watches. This gives them a slight antique look. A good example is the Pulsar PBK03. There is the similar, less expensive Armitron 20/5124BKSV, but this does not look quite as elegant and I am not familiar with the brand.

Casio AQ-230A WatchBoth the Pulsar and Armitron have a crown for adjusting the watch hands. This makes them very quick to set, and is useful if you change time zones often. If you are willing to forego the crown and the sweep second hand, there are less expensive watches. The analog hands in these are set using a push button, which is much slower to use. An examples is the Casio AQ-230A. This watch is unusual, in that the case is plastic, but plated to look like stainless steel or gold in some models, with the back of the case and the band really are stainless steel. The Skmei by Autulet looks similar, but with a steel case. These watches are much cheaper than the Pulsar and Armitron and don't have luminous hands (the CASIO doesn't have a light for the digital display either).

Timechant 1267 Talking Watch
Another option I looked at were talking watches. These are intended for those with limited eyesight and use synthetic speech in place of the digital display. Unfortunately many of the more advanced models are designed to automatically set the time by a radio signal not available in Australia. The simpler Timechant 1267, doesn't need a radio signal. 

However, a watch is difficult to choose, unless you have placed it on your wrist.  So in Singapore I looked at the watches available. The first store I looked at in Orchard Road had prices displayed about four times those I had seen online, and after some haggling this came down to twice as much. I then found the 3D Watch Shop Singapore. They had a large range of stock and prices displayed about the same as online and I purchased the Casio AQ-230A.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Battery Electric Tuk Tuk in Colombo

In early October I was in Sri Lanka to speak at the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) National IT Conference (NITC 2018). The event was at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, who provided guests with a ride in a battery-electric Tuk Tuk. This provides the excitement of a ride in one of these three wheel taxis, with more comfort and safety.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

New Port City Colombo

Photo from hotel roof cafe overlooking the old and new waterfront at Colombo. The grey warship at the port in the background is Japan’s Kaga, a helicopter carrier.
Tom Worthington in Colombo
In early October I was in Colombo, Sri Lanka to speak at the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) National IT Conference (NITC 2018).What was the waterfront when I visited in 2013 is now a kilometer inland, with reclamation for a new Port City Colombo.

The new city is intended to be in the style of Singapore. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

JS Kaga at Colombo
The grey warship at the port in the photo background is the Japanese warship, JS Kaga. Like Australia's HMAS Canberra, this was intended to carry helicopters, but may be adapted to operate F-35B stealth fighters.

Train past Galle Face in Colombo

Train past Galle Face in Colombo
View from Hotel Samudra Balcony
In early October I was in Colombo, Sri Lanka to speak at the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) National IT Conference (NITC 2018). The conference put speakers up at Hotel Samudra. This is a training hotel of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, with students training in running of a hotel. There are only ten rooms in the hotel.

The students line up outside each morning at 8am, in their perfect white uniforms for the raising of the national flag and anthem. This is not something you see in the average hotel. The rooms are large, with balconies overlooking the beach, but could do with some maintenance. The students are very keen to provide service, but are students. This was a very different atmosphere to an impersonal hotel.

The train from Colombo to Galle runs between the hotel and the ocean. This would be a delight for train spotters. Also the new Colombo port is visible in the distance, past Galle Face. On Friday night there were fireworks at the Galle Face, which I could almost reach out and touch.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Secured My Website with Let's Encrypt

I now have Let's Encrypt providing a free security certificate for my Tomw website. I am not doing any e-commerce transactions requiring high security, but it was annoying web browsers were issuing "Not Securewarnings for my web pages, so I set about fixing this. The Cpanel system provided by my web hosting provider offered several for-fee certificates. Then I saw Let's Encrypt offering a free certificate. There was a lot of complex technical detail about how to get a certificate. Instead I asked my provider if they could do it and an hour later it was done. About the only difference is that you use HTTPS, rather than HTTP.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sydney Technology and Innovation Precinct

The NSW Government has set up a panel of experts, headed by David Thodey, Jobs for NSW Chair, to produce a vision for a technology and innovation precinct in central Sydney. The Sydney Technology and Innovation Precinct will include Ultimo, Central Station, Redfern Station, Eveleigh Rail Yards, to Camperdown. This area includes University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Technology Park (ATP). This is a roughly rectangular area of about 7 square kilometers of the inner west of Sydney. The deadline for submissions is 10 September 2018.

In my closing address to the 1998 Information Industry Outlook Conference, in Canberra I proposed using the Cambridge model for Australian innovation precincts. This has now been done in Canberra, next to the ANU.

EduTECH Asia in Singapore 8 to 11 October

EduTECH Asia is on 8 to 11 October 2018 at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore. I am speaking on Decreasing Campus Energy Use With Flexible Classrooms and e-Learning in the new EduBuild stream on 9 October and the next day taking part in a discussion of "Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces". There are also some free activities and exhibition.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

ACS President Calls for Expansion of Australian Defence Industry

Cutaway Diagram of HMAS Canberra LHD Ship Opening the Australian Computer Society conference at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra this morning, Mr Yohan Ramasundara, ACS President, called for an expansion of Australia's local defence industry. Mr Ramasundara pointed to Austal as Australia's only commercial company with the capability of designing and building warships locally. He suggested that Australia should aim to design and build locally warships on the scale of the Canberra Class LHDs, which were built in Spain and then transported to Melbourne for completion.

Following Mr Ramasundar, Dr Vikram Sharma, CEO of Quintessence Labs in Canberra, mentioned work being undertaken for the Australian Department of Defence on quantum key distribution for cryptography. 

I will be speaking at the conference at 1:15pm, in the security stream, on m-Learning from Canberra for the Indo-Pacific and how this can complement China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Unknown Unknowns of Computer Consulting

Andrea Parsons

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where computer consultant, Andrea Parsons is speaking to TechLauncher software engineering students on "The Unknown Unknowns of Computer Consulting". Andrea started with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's famous quote: "... there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know ..." (US DoD Briefing, February 12, 2002).

Andrea undertakes engagements under a fixed price quotation. This starts with a scoping study to find the limits of the unknown unknowns. The quote includes an investigation and discovery step. The example given was of a new payroll system. The problem was, in essence, to get the client to understand how complex a problem this was.

Andrea emphasized the need to engage with stakeholders, avoiding "us" and "them". She pointed out the silliness of people sitting down the hall from each other, but communicating specifications by email.

What I found interesting about this is that many of the issues in software design are similar to those for educational design. In the courses MDDE 605: Planning and Management in Distance Education and MDDE 617 - Program Evaluation in DE, I had to plan a new educational initiative and in the latter prepare a quote for evaluation of an existing course. Presumably many other professions undertake these planning and estimation tasks.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Vale Brenda Aynsley

Brenda Aynsley,
Brenda Aynsley OAM FACS CP, a Past President of the Australian Computer Society (ACS), has passed away. As reported by Jan Whitaker:
"It's with deep sadness that I let the Link community know that our dear colleague and friend of many years, Brenda Aynsley, passed away quietly this morning in Adelaide, after a long illness. Many here will know Brenda from different paths in the IT community, and those of us who were lucky enough as a true friend. I will miss her more than I can tell. There is to be no funeral, but if I get word of other wishes, I will pass them along."
From: Sad news - Vale Brenda, Jan Whitaker, Link list on Australian network policy and communications, 12 August 2018, 12:49:51
As Brenda wrote on her LinkedIn entry, she was:
 "... totally absorbed by and committed to the Internet and technology, not because of the nature of the toys and tools, but because both provide the means of facilitating effective communication between citizens of the world. ..."
Her work was global, but I knew Brenda as a fellow member of many ACS committees, and one of my successors as ACS President. Brenda changed the direction of my professional work, as one of the team training myself, and others, to teach computer professionals (Lindley, Aynsley, Driver, Godfrey, Hart, Heinrich, Unhelkar & Wilkinson, 2013).

Brenda was most recently Chair on the ACS South Australia Branch, a relatively recent appointment from January 2018. She was also Convenor of the ACS SA PC Recycling Group, a position she had held for eighteen years. I visited her at the PC Recycling group and included this in my ICT Sustainability course.

Brenda Aynsley was as the first female President of the ACS, in 2013.

In 2015 Brenda gave evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security during an inquiry into metadata privacy 29 January 2015. She was also interviewed on the subject for the WSIS FORUM 2015.

Brenda was recognized for service to the information and communications technology sector in the 2014 Australia Day Honours list, with an Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). She was a Flinders University alumnus, being awarded a BA in 1982 and DipSocSc in 1984. 

Brenda held so many positions in the computer profession in Australia and internationally, it would be difficult to list them all. Here are a few:
  • Chair,  International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), International Federation for Information Processing.
  • National Vice-President, Australian Computer Society, 2002-2003 and 2010-2011; Honorary Life Member, 2008.
  • Chair, ACS National Community Engagement Board, 2009-2010.
  • Chair, Ageism Task Force, 2010.
  • Lead Tutor and Academic Program Coordinator, ACS Professional Year Program.
  • Founding Member, Electronic Frontiers Australia, 1994.
  • Honorary Secretary, South Australian Branch, Australian Computer Society; Chairman, 1999-2001, 2004-2006 and 2018; ACS Member, since 1989; Founder and Manager, ACS PC Recycling Group, since 2000.
  • Chair, SA Committee, The Pearcey Foundation, 2006-2012.
  • Opened South Australia's first Internet Café, 1995.
    Founding Member, South Australian Internet Association, 1995.
  • Fellow, South Australian Branch, Australian Computer Society, 2003.
One of her more recent articles was on "Creating a Culture of Professionalism – the Board’s Role" (February 14, 2018).


Lindley, D., Aynsley, B., Driver, M., Godfrey, R., Hart, R., Heinrich, G., ... & Wilkinson, K. (2013). 11. Educating for professionalism in ICT: Is learning ethics professional development?. Professionalism in the information and communication technology industry, 211. URL

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Will the NEG transform Australia's energy landscape?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where a panel is speaking on "Will the NEG transform Australia's energy landscape?".

Shane Rattenbury
First up is Mr Shane Rattenbury, ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability.  Minister Rattenbury was one of the recipients of a letter today, from 23 energy researchers: "Call for Full Release of National Energy Guarantee Modelling". He pointed out that the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) will not reduce emissions significantly more than "business as usual". Also there will be a considerable number of coal plants reaching their design life just after 2030, requiring to be replaced.

Also to speak are Professor Frank Jotzo (Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU), Dr Hugh Saddler (energy consultant) and Ms Katharine Murphy (Political Editor, Guardian Australia).

ps:  Professor Jotzo and Dr Saddler agreed that the NEG was not a lot better than "business as usual". Katharine Murphy, looking at the political aspects, suggested the NEG could be useful, not because it achieves any fundamental reform, but primes the political process for something more ambitious.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Blockchain: What is it good for?

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society's new headquarters in Sydney. I am taking part in a workshop, as a member of the ACS Blockchain Committee. It is a little hard to focus on the details of what advice we should provide Australian government, industry and community on the how and why of blockchain, due to the view. The new ACS office is on the 27th floor of a building on the Sydney waterfront, with panoramic views all the way to the Blue Mountains.

Getting back to the workshop,  ACS has published a series of articles on blockchain. We have a mix of technologists, lawyers and industry people in the room, working out what the issues are. As an example, what are the issues in using blockchain in education?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Uluru Statement from the Heart on Wikipedia

Denise Bowden,
signing the Uluru Statement,
in Central Australia.
I was surprised that the "Uluru Statement from the Heart" did not have a page in the Wikipedia, so I have added it for NAIDOC Week.
"... We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. ...".

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Katharine Murphy On Disruption

Greetings from the Australian National University, where Michelle Grattan is asking Katharine Murphy about her new book "On Disruption".

This is a short 121 page, A6 size pocket book, which is very readable. This is a bit Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, being in part a personal reflection on becoming a journalist and part on the nature of political discourse in the age of the Internet. It starts "It was the fag end of summer and I was decked out in a new linen threepiece suit from Sportscraft."

Michelle Grattan asked about the story of the week with Senator Leyonhjelm's comments about Sarah Hanson-Young. Katharine Murphy commented that women have decided not to accept such comments any more.

One question from the audience is where does the money come from. Katharine Murphy replied that The Guardian has a membership scheme, rather than a pay-wall. This is curious as in effect, the for-profit company takes donations like the pay-what you can Lentil as Anything
restaurant in Sydney.

The thesis of the book is that the Internet has "disrupted" journalism, in the same way Uber disrupted taxis. The problem is not knowing where all the information "washing around" the Internet came from "... perhaps someone in a basement in Moldavia".

What I find surprising is that journalists did not realize the Internet was going to disrupt  their business until it happened. Hopefully the academics in the audience are listening, as the Internet is coming to disrupt them.

Last month the "Father of the Internet", Vint Cerf, talked at the Australian National University in Canberra. Australia has had Internet access for thirty years, about ten years after the US development.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

IT Changes Everything in Sri Lanka

I am scheduled to speak at the National IT Conference in Sri Lanka (NITC 2018), 2 to 4 October 2018, organized by the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL). The theme of the conference is: IT Changes Everything
To help me prepare a presentation, the conference organizers have provided some references as background, from which I have extracted some quotes:

Development of Sri Lanka’s digital economy strategy

"Work on the country’s digital economy strategy has begun with input from world-renowned consultancy firm McKinsey, the Prime Minister’s Policy Development Office said yesterday.  ..."
From:  "Work begins on Sri Lanka’s digital economy strategy with McKinsey input", Daily FT, 8 January 2018
 Sri Lanka’s Digital Economy Strategy

"... This initiative will strategize the promotion of the Digital Economy through the lens of three economic development thrust sectors, namely, agriculture sector, tourism sector and the manufacturing sector. It is expected that each of the sectors identified above will could develop at least one flagship programs to support this initial stage of Sri Lanka’s Digital Economy Strategy. ..."

From "Sri Lanka’s Digital Economy Strategy", Department of Government Information, Sri Lanka, 7 January 2018
 Sri Lanka Vision 2025
"The country needs to develop strategies that encourage the use of digital and other emergent technologies to become globally competitive and to drive the nation towards a digitally empowered economy. Enhanced digital ecosystems, through reduced transactions costs, will stimulate inclusive growth and job creation, especially by empowering the self-employed and SMEs.

...  Sri Lanka’s IT literacy rate was a meagre 27.5% in 2016, with only 15.1% of households with internet access. The technology service sector has long been dominated by ICT, and there is little focus on promoting disruptive innovation technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data mining and other high-quality technological services. The economy needs a shift towards innovative, knowledge based business ventures.
  1. We will put in place a plan of action to encourage the transfer of appropriate foreign technologies into Sri Lanka. ...
  2. We will actively promote private sector investment in digital technology. Incentives to support emerging industries in robotics, cybernetics, and electronics will be provided. We will support development in advanced technology by encouraging education institutions to link up with the private sector. To improve market access for startups, we will facilitate the convergence of multiple technologies and integration with global startup networks. We will encourage the private sector to plan early for future workplaces, commerce, and manufacturing in the digital era. ...
  3. We will incentivise private sector investment in the ICT industry. ...
  4. We will integrate ICT literacy into school curricula. ...
  5. We will increase free Wi-Fi provision and increase incentives provided to widen internet access. ...
  6. We will continue the national digital identity initiative. ...
  7. We will increase digitalisation of Government operations. ...
  8. We will strengthen ICT based marketing interfaces. ...
  9. We will encourage innovations in mobile payment systems and peer-to-peer lending
    platforms with necessary oversight. ...
  10. We will strengthen Sri Lanka’s National Intellectual Property Office to manage
    registration exploitation, regulation and resolution more effectively. ...
  11. We will strengthen the legal framework for electronic transactions. ..."
From Chapter 9, Technology and Digitalization, "Vision 2025: A Country Enriched", Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Sri Lanka, 31 August 2017 (numbering of proposals added).


I was then asked to:
"1. Outline your topic and it's relevancy in-line of the overall theme of "IT changes everything"
2. How do we drive a digital economy? What should be the key measurements? Timelines?
3. What changes are needed at different levels of the society? E.g. how do you propose we change the current education system?
4. What are you looking forward to during you planned visit to Sri Lanka during early October for NITC?
5. Any other info you think which is important."


Framing the digital strategy for a nation is too much for one conference presentation. As an educator, I will naturally focus on education. The area I have been looking at in Australia and for the Asian region in my graduate studies has been vocational education. How do we bridge upper schooling, vocational colleges and university?

What are you looking forward to?
The easiest question to answer is "What are you looking forward to during you planned visit to Sri Lanka...". On my previous visit I enjoyed meeting people from the local IT industry and educational institutions. Highlights were a visit to a higher education institution which has connections to Australia and a IT company campus (where I gave a talk on emergency management using the Internet).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Australia’s Digital Pulse

Greetings from Parliament House in Canberra, where Michael Keenan, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation, launched the Australian Computer Society's Digital Pulse Report. Mr Keenan pointed out that IT was a global industry and taxes needed to be low or companies would move elsewhere. He also mentioned the government was changing IT procurement to allow smaller companies to tender. Interestingly, the report was prepared by Deloitte with help from LinkedIn:
"With domestic graduates from ICT degrees still below 5,000 a year, the only way we’ll reach workforce targets is by importing labour, much as we’ve done for the past five years. We need more ICT workers with skills in artificial intelligence,
data science, cyber and blockchain, and filling these positions with migrants suggests a missed opportunity to provide rewarding employment for the next generation of Australian workers. Further, our existing workforce has diversity issues: only 28% of ICT workers are women and only 12% are over 55, compared with 45% and 15% in all professional industries respectively."
From "ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse",  Deloitte and ACS, 27 June 2018
My colleagues at ANU are teaching artificial intelligence, data science, cyber security and blockchain. The diversity issue is one which will perhaps be addressed by changes in university programs generally, and STEM ones in particular, to include more work relevant skills. This sees computer professionals having to learn people skills, and as a byproduct makes the courses more inclusive.

ps: I was last at Parliament House on 4 June to speak to the Senate Committee on the Future of Work and Workers. I suggested changes to the education system to better address changes due to technology.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

False Alarm from Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre

Thursday morning I noticed a worrying message from the Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre:
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2018 03:29:03 +0530 ...
"IOTWMS-TSP INDIA has detected an earthquake with the following preliminary information:
Magnitude  : 8.5  M
Depth      : 10  km                      
Date       : 20 JUN 2018
Origin Time: 2154UTC
... this earthquake may be capable of generating a tsunami affecting the Indian Ocean region."
This was alarming because an 8.5 magnitude earthquake is extremely large. But then I noticed the location was given as "TEST_TEST_CENTRAL CHILE".

As confirmed later, this was a test message which escaped from the internal system, out to the public:
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2018 05:33:31 +0530

This is not a real event. This event was issued due to an operator error during an internal test. ..."
It took two hours to issue the correction, which is an unacceptably long time.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

August Osage County at the New Theater Newton Sydney

The play August: Osage County at the New Theater, Newton Sydney, last night was like many family gatherings you have been to, combined with The Big Chill. Adult children gather at the family home after many years, due to a family tragedy. They argue with each other, and their partners, over the same old things, with long buried secrets emerging. At more than three hours, with two intervals, this is a long play, but worth staying to the end.

The Australian cast did a good job with mid-western US accents. Alice Livingstone had fun with the role of slightly mad matriarch.

I did not understand why playwright Tracy Letts inserted a native American into the middle of this play.  Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou, gave a credible performance with little dialogue to work with, but passing comment on all happening around her through expression.

The set design by Sallyanne Facer was a little bare for a lived in family home. Also I found the red LED displays on the theater lighted overhead a little distracting.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Australia Declares Cyberwar

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Australian Computer Society (ACS) today released a national cyberwarfare deterrence policy paper (Painter, 2018). The policy advocates unilateral reciprocity for cyber-attacks on Australia.

The report quotes Australia’s International Cyber Engagement Strategy:
"[h]aving established a firm foundation of international law and norms, the international community must now ensure there are effective consequences for those who act contrary to this consensus."
However, the Painter doctrine is more in line with the US strategy of promising "swift and costly consequences", saying:
"... every country has the right to act to defend itself, but, if possible, acting together, with each country leveraging its capabilities as appropriate, is better. Collective action doesn’t require any particular organised group ...". 
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued a draft learning design standard, detailing the knowledge required for government cyber security specialists. Civilian specialists working for government may well find themselves involved in offensive operations. The ANU offers a course in Cyber Offensive Security Operations as part of a Master of Cyber Security, Strategy and Risk Management. To address the ethical issues with being involved in such operations I have run students through a hypothetical on Cyberwar over the South China Sea.


Deterrence in cyberspace - Spare the costs, spoil the bad state actor: Deterrence in cyberspace requires consequences, Chris Painter, Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited, 1 June 2018.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Green ICT in the Mauritius Declaration on Digitalisation and Sustainable Tourism

The "Mauritius Declaration on Digitalisation and Sustainable Tourism", adopted last week, includes a section on "Green ICT".
"7. to consider the rigorous application of “Green ICT” techniques to ensure minimal environmental impact being given that a connected world together managing the resulting data will in itself impose an environmental load;"
Nations are welcome to make use of my "ICT Sustainability" course materials. I would be delighted to have an excuse to visit tropical islands to discuss it. ;-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Green Climate Fund for Development

Greetings from the Australian national University in Canberra, where Howard Bamsey, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund is speaking on "The Green Climate Fund, climate finance, and the imperatives and pathways for global transformation". He started by pointing out the developed nations committed to "mobilize" $100B a year for developing nations actions on climate change by 2020. What "mobilize" means I am not sure. The DFAT "Roadmap to US$100 Billion" (2016) says "effectively mobilize private finance".
reetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where

Ambassador Bamsey pointed out that the cost of PV solar power had dropped making it economic for use in developing nations. Also he pointed out that green bonds had taken off and the link to Islamic Finance. In 2008 I attended the Malaysian Corporate Governance Conference at the Securities Commission, Kuala Lumpur, the regulator for Islamic capital markets in Malaysia and noticed this link.

The IEA has a "Tracking Clean Energy Progress" page, which Ambassador Bamsey pointed to. He used the example of technology incubators as one initiative (but I am not sure who's or for what). He suggested that most investments are on mitigation and more is needed on adaption for the most vulnerable.

Ambassador Bamsey suggested that China has taken an engineering approach to climate change as the government is full of engineers (whereas the Australian Government is full of lawyers and economists).

This all seemed very general, so I asked for examples of investments and how much carbon emission, or other benefits resulted. This was perhaps because I spent the morning marking ICT Sustainability assignments from my students, where they had to say what improvement their proposals were expected to make.

Unfortunately while promising to get specific, Ambassador Bamsey would not say how much the Green Climate Fund had invested or how much mitigation and adaption this was expected to produce. Not everything can be reduced to a few numbers, but if the world is investing $100B a year, then it would be good to have some idea it was effectively spent. Also worrying is that fund is expected to run out money to invest by the end of the year. Interestingly the ACT Government is working on channeling private investment to the fund, however as a potential investor I would want to know what environmental and social return on investment I will get.

The current Ambassador for the Environment, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Patrick Suckling, spoke next. He pointed to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as a successful investment activity.  Ambassador Suckling then talked about having an investment bank rather than aid. I assume this was a metaphor, not the Australian government was going to have a bank to invest in development programs in the region and earn a return on investment.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Father of the Internet in Canberra

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, will speak on "The future of the Internet" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 26 June 2018. For an understanding of the way the Internet was envisioned, I recommend Carl Malamud's 1992 book "Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue", in which he reports on discussion with Vint Cerf and Australian Internet pioneer Geoff Huston.

I stumbled across Vint and Geoff in Stockholm during the Internet Society 2001 Conference. I went through the wrong door and interrupted a meeting deciding global domain name services. Geoff looked up and said "Hi Tom", when I saw Vint and just about everyone else running the Internet in the world, I turned and fled. ;-)
"Vint Cerf will explore areas where serious technical and policy efforts are needed to reinforce the utility of the Internet and diminish some of the harmful behaviors we are seeing. Some of the work will require transnational cooperation. Some solutions have much to do with educating users about protecting themselves when online and thinking critically about content. Technical improvements in software production will help, as will better security tools and practices. Vint will finish up with some speculations about the arc of the Internet as we get to the mid-2000s.
Vint will be coming to Australia as a featured speaker at the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, 24-26 June 2018."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Making Canberra a Mobile Place

Dickson LibraryGreetings from the Canberra Wine House, where I am taking part in the "Ideas and Actions for Dickson: Community Workshop". This is hosted by a team of planners contracted to the ACT Government. I booked for this event, thinking it was about master-planning for the Dickson shopping center and surround, as it is developed in conjunction with the new light rail and bus hub. However,  it was instead about how to get more sense  of community in the area.

In the late 1990s I chaired the Dickson Precinct Community Group, to provide advice to the ACT Government on planning the area. The Draft Master Plan, and Community Consultation and Cultural Profile Report from 1998, may be of interest.I was a little disappointed that the 2018 activity did not seem as organized as that twenty years ago.

We were asked to come up with ideas which could be implemented relatively quickly. My serious one was to issue planter boxes to the local primary schools and kindergartens and then place these around the library. A less serious one was an "uber-park": build a shallow planter box on Eclipse Engineering's Container Roll-Out Warehousing System (CROWS™), and stack these in a shipping container to create a relocatable pocket park.

The container would be transported by truck to a location, the pallets slid out and arranged to form a grassed area. The empty container would then be used as a kiosk. I was surprised when one of the other participants also suggested a relocatable "pop-up" park, so perhaps it is not such a silly idea.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Data Driving the Smart City in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Future of the Web: Data drives the Smart City, just started. This is in conjunction with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This will be repeated Thursday 10 May in Sydney. I consider the "Smart City" to be like the smart home: mostly marketing hype. It will be interesting to see if today's speakers can change my view.

The first speaker was Dr Ole Nielsen, Deputy Chief Digital Officer and Director of Digital Transformation, ACT Government. I asked Dr Nielsen if the ACT Government was securing system sufficiently against cyber attack. He replied that data should not be stored on drives connected to people's email and data stored in the basement of offices is no more secure than on Amazon Web Services.

9.35am Industry Keynote  Dr Mukesh Mohania (IBM Distinguished Engineer in IBM Research)


 Ubiquitous sensing, located Dr Kerry Taylor (Chair, W3C Spatial Data on the Web)
 10.35am  Break
 10.50am  Smart Grid Dr Lachlan Blackhall (Head of the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, ANU)
Dr Armin Haller (W3C Office Manager, ANU)
 11.30am Power to the People:
Privacy in the smart city

(in Melbourne) Dr David Hyland-Wood (Blockchain Protocol Architect, Consensys)
(in Canberra) Dr Peter Christen (Professor, Data Mining and Matching, ANU)
(in Sydney) Christine Cowper (Principal Consultant, Information Integrity Solutions)
12.00pm Panel:
“How do we best enable smart cities?”
round-up of W3C activities and value proposition
capacity building – what skills do we need?
what issues should we consider? How do we solve them?
Discussion with all earlier speakers

chaired by  J. Alan Bird (W3C Global Business Development Lead)
All above speakers as participants
Interactive audience

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Container Roll-Out Solar System

ECLIPS Engineering demonstrated their Container Roll-Out Solar System (CROSS) in Canberra today. These are standard solar panels attached to a hinged framework mounted on a shipping container compatible platform. This can be sued to reduce military fuel use.

The demonstration was held at the Canberra drag-strip, normally used for Street Machine Summernats Car Festival. In place of high speed cars there was a forklift which unloaded the solar panels from a shipping container. 

The system is designed to provide power for military forward bases and mining camps. A stack of platforms is transported to the site in a standard 20 or 40 foot shipping container. The container is stacked with platforms, each fitted with 5 or 10 solar modules. Each platform is slid out, placed on the ground and then the panels hinged up to face the sun.

The panels are standard domestic units, mourned to an aluminum frame with standard brackets. While made of glass, the panels are reasonably robust. The steel platform they are mounted on appears heavy enough to keep the panels in place in the strongest wind.

This appears a workable system for military use, but may be over-engineered for civilian applications. The platform used is derived from one used for transporting tens of tonnes of supplies. The 20 foot unit weighs more than 1,350 kg, of which less than one quarter would be the panels and their frame. A much lighter platform might be developed to hold the few hundred kilos of solar panels. This would particularly useful for transport by air.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Australian Energy Security Board Not On Track to Deliver Affordable Energy

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Clare Savage, Deputy Chair of the Energy Security Board is speaking on the National Energy Guarantee. Clare said that the board would not be proposing technical reliability measures, be included in energy suppliers contracts, as this would be too complex. However, financial markets have far more complex traded commodities, so I can't see why this can't be done for energy. If reliability measures are not being provided as part of the market based energy system, then I can't see how they can be provided cost-effectively. If reliability is just a requirement imposed on providers we are likely to see a similar situation as with wires and poles, where companies overbuilt the system in the name of reliability, to push up prices to the consumer and thus increase profits. The Australian Energy Security Board is going down a path which will deliver reliable power, but it will be expensive power, with high carbon emissions.

The Australian Energy Security Board has to work within the constraints set by government. However, it should still be possible to design a system which will reward innovations in new technology which can deliver reliability, along with low emissions at an afford able price.  I suggest the Board change their approach to explore those options.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Information Awareness Month 2018 off to a Bad Start by NAA

May's Information Awareness Month 2018 got off to a bad start with the National Archives of Australia (NAA) emailing out an invitation to the launch in the form of an image. Those who have difficulties seeing images could click on the included link, but NAA should have included the details of the event as text. This is a matter of common courtesy and also helps comply with Australian anti-discrimination law. Ironically, David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, will be presenting the National Archives Awards for Digital Excellence at the event.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Silent Disco Loud on Teen Angst

The play "Silent Disco" opened at the New Theater in Sydney on Saturday. Set in a typical Australian city suburban school, teenagers come to terms with relationships and a bleak future working at the local supermarket checkout. At the same time their teacher exhausted from caring about their charges reminisces over their teen years.

This performance suffered from a number of handicaps. The play, by Australian Lachlan Philpott, was first presented in 2011, but already sounds a little dated. References to iPods and SMS do not match contemporary teen language. The actors playing the teens are too old to be believable. A teenager having to go all the way to Kings Cross to buy drugs seems old fashioned.

Set designer Ester Karuso-Thurn has produced a suitably bleak representation of a school classroom (reminding me of a demountable I spent many hours in). Sound designer Jessica Dunn uses loud brash music for raging teens.

"Silent Disco" is at the New Theater, Newtown, Sydney until 14 April 2018.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Women in Design Wikipedia-edit-a-thon at Sydenham Library in Sydney

Greetings from the Hack the Canon: Women in Design Wikipedia-edit-a-thon at Sydenham Library in the Sydney Inner-west. Speakers are Olivia Hyde, Director of Design Excellence, NSW Government Architect; Zoë Sadokierski, senior lecturer, School of Design at the , University of Technology Sydney; and  Cathy Lockhart industrial designer and academic. Thee will be wikipedia editing to follow and the event goes until 4pm, so come along.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Climate mitigation and adaptation in the ACT

Greetings from the Canberra Renewables Innovation Hub, where the ACT Government is holding a workshop on the Climate mitigation and adaptation in the ACT: costs, benefits and implications report (22 February 2018). It is going to be a difficult exercise, as this is a sixty eight page technical economic report, presented to a general audience.

ps: It turned out to go well, but this wasn't really a general audience, but a self selected group of experts and enthusiasts.  

My suggestions were:
  1. Public-private pocket parks: These would be modeled on the private part at the center of the City-edge development at O'Connor. This looks like a public park but is owned by the bodies corporate of the surrounding apartments. 
  2. Pop-up Community Groups: ACT Government would provide a website where a group of residents could register a community group. When enough people had joined, this would be a legally constituted group and receive government support to run a community garden and the like.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Federal Regulation Needed to Stop Financial Institutions Placing Customers at Risk of Scammers

Had a call from someone claiming to be from NIB Health Insurance. They wanted to discuss my policy and asked me for personal details to verify who I was. However, when I asked the caller to verify who they were, they could not. They provided a telephone number and suggested I call. I explained that as they gave me the number, I could not use it for verification. They then gave me a web address to check the number, but again, as they gave me that I could not rely on it being genuine.

The caller did not seem to grasp the fact that because I get so many scam calls, I have to assume anyone calling is a scammer, until they can prove otherwise. Assuming this caller really was from NIB, the company appears to not understand that they should not call customers in this way. By doing so they make it easier for scammers. I suggest a mandatory code of conduct needs to be put in place for insurance companies, and other financial institutions, to stop this practice.