Friday, April 12, 2019

Amazon Cheque for Fourteen Cents

Amazon.com Cheque My first payment from Amazon was ten years ago. Unlike Google, which pays by bank transfer in Australian Dollars, Amazon still sends old fashioned paper cheques, in US dollars.  Banks charge a considerable amount to deposit a foreign cheque, so I have the system set to only send one when the balance is high enough to make it worthwhile. So I was surprised to receive a cheque this week for fourteen cents.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Blockchain 2030 Report

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society's (ACS) head office in Sydney, at the launch of the report "Blockchain 2030: A Look at the Future of Blockchain in Australia". Speaking at the launch, ACS President, Yohan Ramasundara, likened blockchain to a fifth generation fighter being launched from the deck of an aircraft carrier into a turbulent sky. Ed Husic, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, was not wearing a green jacket (as those who launch carrier aircraft do), but launched the report. His main message was that we should not have to play catch-up on tech, such as blockchain.

This is the second report on Blockchain, from ACS. The first report was by IP Australia, the second (today), is by  CSIRO.

There was much talk about "trust" at the launch. However, I suggest that  blockchain is about doing business in the face of a lack of trust. Either you don't trust the people you are doing business with, or you don't trust the government, and the blockchain provides a way to work with this lack of trust.

One interesting question for the panel was what would be the effect of quantum computing on blockchain. Australia is a leader in both technologies. Unfortunately the panel did not have a clear answer.

ps: I am on the ACS Blockchain Committee.
'Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger technology whereby a database is distributed across numerous users, and changes to the database are validated by consensus among the users. While it is best known as the platform
for Bitcoin, blockchain technology can be widely applied to improve business processes, increase transparency, and drive the creation of new jobs and industries.

Over the last decade, blockchain technology has grown in popularity and use, and has already begun to disrupt existing markets in Australia and around the world. The opportunities blockchain presents have been invested in, studied, explored, and considered, in almost all sectors of the economy. Blockchain has attracted significant public and private investment, and introduced previously non-existent products and services across multiple industries.
Despite its potential, there is significant uncertainty regarding future adoption of blockchain technology in Australia. For instance, there are unknowns around blockchain’s capacity to work at scale while remaining decentralised, and protect confidentiality whilst also being transparent. The extent to which the public will trust decentralised systems is also uncertain. These uncertainties raise the question: can blockchain progress beyond the hype to deliver tangible, high-value applications and a thriving industry for Australia, or will blockchain amount to little more than a market bubble?'

From: "Blockchain 2030: A Look at the Future of Blockchain in Australia" CSIRO/Data 61, for ACS, 2019

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Once in Royal David’s City, New Theater

Michael Gow’s autobiographical play "Once in Royal David’s City" deals with the death of his mother.

The surreal elements of the play reminded me of Dennis Potter's, The Singing Detective for the BBC. Characters suddenly spotlighted burst into song*, or mimed to the sound of other actors. Characters explain to the audience what the next scene is, and interact with cast members sitting in the audience.

I am wary of any playwright getting autobiographical, and Gow is more self indulgent than most. However, this can be forgiven, due to the excellent performances in the New Theater production, particularly Alice Livingstone, as the dying mother.


* At one point the play gets a bit Reds. But a crowd spontaneously bursting into a revolutionary song is something I have seen happen in an Sydney Inner West pub. ;-)

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

IT in the 2019/2020 Australian Federal Budget

Some IT items from the 2019/2020 Australian Federal Budget:
  1. Stronger Regional Connectivity Package: $220M for improved internet and mobile services  in regional Australia.
  2. Unique Student Identifier (USI): $18.3 million over four years for a centralised digital training record, for both VET and university students. The USI currently applies only to the VET sector. The Australian Government is likely to find universities less cooperative with the USI than the VET sector. Worryingly, when I just tried the USI website, it was not responding.
  3. Online Safety Grants Program:  $10.0M over four years for online safety education for children. This funding is only for non-government organisations.