Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Computer Engineers Need to Fix their Own System

The Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers Computer Society (IEEE CS) sent me a reminder that my membership was due. Unfortunately their online membership system does not appear to be working properly.

I don't recall seeing a previous message, but this may be because they were trapped by my Spam filter. The IEEE was offering a prize for renewal of membership. Unfortunately this and the verbose way the message was written made the Spam filter think this was junk mail.

Having finally received the reminder, my problems were not over. In accordance with good practice I ignored the long URL in the message, in case this really was not a genuine message from IEEE and instead manually entered the IEEE address. I then had to navigate my way through several levels and enter my user id and password twice. Along the way I had to wait watching a blank screen as large amounts of multimedia a web 2.0ish code downloaded. All I wanted to do was pay my membership, not be entertained.

Having finally arrived at the membership renewal form, I decided to check the options for electronic delivery of newsletters. I tried to decline a subscription to "Build Your Career eNewsletter (weekly) ", which I had not subscribed for and never heard of. This resulted in:
Status Conflict
There is a conflict with your last request. Please click the Undo button to undo your last request.
For a detailed explanation of this conflict, please click the Explanation button.(SBL-CFG-00164)
The explanation was not very helpful, but seemed to be saying in technical language that I had tried to un-subscribe from something I was not subscribed to.

Then I got:
"Error Message

Applet: Cfg Cx Runtime Instance Frame does not have the Edit template file specified.

We are unable to complete this transaction. Resolve any error listed above and try again. If the problem persists, please call ..."
I went back to the start of the renewal and started again, but got as far as the checkout, but could not complete the transaction

I have sent IEEE a message detailing the problems and suggesting they might like to add an accessible,e low bandwidth, mobile compatible, non web 2.0 option to their web site. .

I might renew my IEEE membership, if I can get their system to respond.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Google Maps Real Estate

I tried out Google Maps Real Estate on Canberra, but this showed too many houses for sale and rent. So I narrowed it down the the suburb, there were still to many, so I tired my street. At this point I discovered the home next door was for sale. This is the first I heard of it. It is a little worrying when you have to look in a global database to find out what is happening a few metres away.

The service lists property and apartments for sale and rent through agencies. There is a page with details for Real Estate Agents to upload my listings to Google. There are two options: Data Feeds or the Google Base API. Data feeds require the supplier to export a file and upload this to Google. The Google Base API provides a more direct, but more technically complex option. There does not appear to be an option for individuals who are just selling one house privately and want to list that. No doubt someone will come up with an ad don service for private sales.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson on

Michael Jackson on have set up a Michael Jackson store. It is remarkable how quickly sellers have reacted to his death. As well as albums and MP3 downloads for sale, this has videos, books and a discussion area. Surprisingly, not all the discussion is uncritical tributes from fans, with allegations about his relationships with children discussed.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Openness via New Government Budget System

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is holding an Industry Briefing in Canberra, 31 March 2009 on "Operation Sunlight" This is a project to improve the openness and transparency of public sector budgetary and financial management and to promote good governance practices. It appears that this will involve the redevelopment of the Government's Central Budget Management System (CBMS).

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dematerialising Share Purchase

Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank have offered existing shareholders the purchase of additional shares. With the offer comes a paper form to fill in and return. The obvious way to "dematerialise" this process would be to offer an electronic form which could be sent via the Internet. But if you pay electronically using Bpay, the process is even simpler: send the money and send no form at all. Because a client reference number is provided with each share offer and this number is sent as part of the payment, the sender can be identified and no separate form is required. Apart from the complexity of processing the form, this removed the worry of security of the information over the Internet (the payment transaction goes via the banking system). This process could be used for many more transactions.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Three Dollar Linux Compatible Microsoft Mouse

Microsoft Basic Optical MouseHarvey Norman are having a half yearly clearance sale, with the Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse reduced from the recommended retail price of $19.95 down to $8. At the same time Microsoft are having a 25% cashback offer on hardware. The redemption is based on the RRP, so you get $5.00 back, resulting in the mouse costing $3.

I was curious as to how Microsoft could run a cashback offer on low value items, such as mice. The way the system works is that you enter the details into a web page, along with your bank account number. The system gives you a redemption number, which you include with a copy of the purchase receipt and send by mail. This way Microsoft doesn't have the expense of sending cheques or of entering the financial details for the bank into their computer. They may not even go to the trouble of checking the redemption numbers. But presumably the details of what was sold by which retailer for how much is of value to them.

Microsoft had a box to check if I wanted details of Microsoft products. I did not check the box and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft can resist the temptation to send me unsolicited junk mail. The Terms and Conditions state: "The Promoter will only use your personal details for marketing purposes outside those described above if you “opt in” to join the mailing list when prompted.".

Apple MAC OSX Universal LogoThe mouse works fine under Linux. The box has three logos on the side: one for "Certified for Windows Vista", one for "Mac" and the third labelled "universal". At first I thought this third "Yin Yang" symbol might be a Microsoft euphemism for "Linux", but it turns out this is the Apple logo to indicate compatibility between Mac Power PC and OSX Operating Systems.

BAC Strikemasterpps: The terms a little worryingly also state: "There is a risk that injury or death may result from participating in this part of the competition. ". Hopefully this is about the option of winning a flight in a Strikemaster Jet, and not some fatal flaw in Microsoft mice. ;-)

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economics of Spam

The paper "Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion", details how researchers hacked into a spam network to measure its effectiveness. I was interviewed about it ("Spammers making a profit") on ABC Radio for the PM program. The researchers suggest that Spam is not as profitable as previously thought. My main concern with the research was over the ethics and legality of the research technique.

Ever wondered how the companies that send out junk emails make any money, when most people delete the emails without reading them? Well, a group of computer scientists in California has found that spammers are turning a profit, despite only getting one response for every 12.5-million emails they send.

From: Spammers making a profit, PM, ABC Radio, Wednesday, 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio, 12 November, 2008 (audio also available)

The researchers hacked into the "Storm" botnet network and monitored how many messages were sent. They then set up two fake e-commerce web sites to see how many people would click through the spam ads to buy the products. They found only one in 12.5 million clicked through. Based on this they suggested Spam is not very profitable. It seems a reasonable conclusion and I suggested in the radio interview that the people doing this could probably earn more from the effort involved via legitimate e-commerce.

There are numerous research papers on the economics of Spam. The wall Street Journal covered this in 2002: For Bulk E-Mailer, Pestering Millions Offers Path to Profit. That spam may not be as profitable as previously thought is interesting, but does not necessarily lessen its appeal to criminals.

However, my main concern was the methodology of the research. It is ethically and legally questionable for the researchers to hack into a spam network. Like any citizen, when a researcher finds someone doing something illegal, they have a responsibility to report that to the appropriate authorities so it can be investigated and those involved prosecuted. In this case the researchers do not appear to have done that and instead monitored the network and even set up their own e-commerce store to exploit it.

The researchers are from Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, Berkeley and University of California, San Diego. Those institutions have ethical guidelines for research which the researchers should have consulted before proceeding.

In the ethics section of the paper, the authors state: " First, our instrumented proxy bots do not create any new harm" and "Second, our proxies are passive actors and do not themselves engage in any behaviour that is intrinsically objectionable; they do not send spam e-mail, they do not compromise hosts, nor do they even contact worker bots asynchronously. " and "Finally, where we do modify C&C messages in transit, these actions themselves strictly reduce harm. Users who click on spam altered by these changes will be directed to one of our innocuous doppelganger Web sites.".

However, the authors do not address the issue of if they were taking part in a criminal activity or if they should have reported the criminal activities to the appropriate authorities. It seems a flawed argument for the researchers to say their activities were no more harmful than those being observed.
The “conversion rate” of spam — the probability that an unsolicited e-mail will ultimately elicit a “sale” — underlies the entire spam value proposition. However, our understanding of this critical behavior is quite limited, and the literature lacks any quantitative study concerning its true value. In this paper we present a methodology for measuring the conversion rate of spam. Using a parasitic infiltration of an existing botnet’s infrastructure, we analyze two spam campaigns: one designed to propagate a malware Trojan, the other marketing on-line pharmaceuticals. For nearly a half billion spam e-mails we identify the number that are successfully delivered, the number that pass through popular anti-spam filters, the number that elicit user visits to the advertised sites, and the number of “sales” and “infections” produced.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.4.1 [Public Policy Issues]: ABUSE AND CRIME INVOLVING COMPUTERS
General Terms: Measurement, Security, Economics

From: Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion, Chris Kanich, Christian Kreibich, Kirill Levchenko, Brandon Enright, Geoffrey M. Voelker, Vern Paxson, Stefan Savage, CCS'08 Conference, ACM, October 2008

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

On-demand books for learning

Michael Porteous from Pearson Education Australia sent me a copy of "E-Commerce Enabling Technologies", to see if it would be suitable for an e-commerce course. Apart from the useful content, this slim textbook (143 pages), is interesting for the way it was produced.

The book is by Boualem Benatallah and Fethi Rabhi (both from, University of New South Wales) and Hye Young Paik, (Queensland University of Technology). It appears to have evolved from a set of lecture notes on e-commerce technology, and provides a good detailed guide to using XML and related technology for business and related applications.

The book is an A4 format paperback, from Pearson's SprintPrint service, for on-demand text book production. Judging by the fonts and layout of the book, the content has been produced using LaTex and then printed with a standard cover. This way an author, particularly one familiar with computers, can quickly produce a reasonably professional looking book.

One challenge from this approach is that this came content could be provided in electronic format online as well. The same LaTex file used to generate the printed book can be used to create an e-Book and a set of web pages, suitable for placing on the web, or in a Learning Management System. However, if this is done, difficult questions of intellectual property rights arise. The authors of this book are from universities funded by the Australian Government, so why should students of such institutions have to pay to receive a copy of this work? Why not make the electronic version free online?
E-Commerce Enabling Technologies

Australian produced title
Boualem Benatallah , University of New South Wales Fethi Rabhi , University of New South Wales Hye Young Paik , Queensland University of Technology

ISBN: 9780733970207
ISBN10: 0733970206
RRP inc. GST: $59.95
Published: 12/07/2004
Format: Paperback


E-Commerce Enabling Technologies 4e assumes that students have a basic knowledge in programming and are familiar with general computing concepts. It covers a broad range of e-commerce technologies with a coherent and complete view of state-of-the-art technologies.

This edition presents a balanced view of the e-commerce revolution on existing management and business practices with the technologies that are involved, and is a cross disciplinary text that can be used in both Business and IT courses (BIS & CIS crossover).

It is also suitable for technical IT staff, which requires an update of recent developments and the experienced computer academic who wonders Whats this e-commerce fuss all about?

New to This Edition

· Chapter 2 Development of Applications for the Web has been enhanced to give students a better understanding of this expanding area.
· Chapter 6 Introduction to XML is covered in a more coherent and student friendly way for easier learning.
· Chapter 9 E-Catalogs gives students a simple and comprehensive look at a new area of development in the BIS/CIS area.

Features and Benefits

· More practical programming examples so students can put what they learn into practice.
· End of Chapter pointers to give students more information on particular topics.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: E-commerce Models, Architectures and Systems
2 Development of Applications for the Web
3 Distributed Objects for the Web
4 Java for Enterprises
5 Data Access
6 Introduction to XML
7 Web Services
8 B2B Integration Frameworks
9 E-Catalogs
10 Case Study: Online Securities Trading

About the Authors

Boualem Benatallah, School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales has a background in the area of databases and Web applications. His latest interest is in the integration of Web-accessible data sources and services.

Fethi Rabhi, School of Information Systems, University of New South Wales has a background in concurrent and distributed processing with the view that e-commerce applications are complex systems of interacting entities and where issues of communication semantics and languages are paramount.

Helen Paik, School of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology is part of the new wave of academics who are strongly grounded in novel Internet/Web technologies and experienced in working for industry (IBM Global Services in this case).

From:Description of "E-Commerce Enabling Technologies", Pearson Education Australia, 2008

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report

Garnaut Climate Change Review Final ReportProfessor Garnaut has delivered the "Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report" on climate change to the Australian Government. The key recommendation is a reduction of 25 per cent in emissions by 2020 from 2000 levels. The full text of the review is available online, along with appendices and other material. Unfortunately, the printed version of this Australian report is being published in the UK, not Australia. The 720 page book will weight about 1.3 kilograms and if air freighted to Australia will generate the equivalent of 100 kg of CO2 emissions per copy.

Report online

Currently only a PDF version of the report is available, but a HTML version is due out 15 October 2008. Hopefully the HTML will be correctly formatted in accordance with web accessibility standards, unlike the current web site.

Preliminary pages


  1. A decision-making framework: (PDF, 482kb)
  2. Understanding climate science: (PDF, 1.24mb)
  3. Emissions in the Platinum Age: (PDF, 1.74mb)
  4. Projecting global climate change: (PDF, 3.58mb)
  5. Projecting Australian climate change: (PDF, 301kb)
  6. Climate change impacts on Australia: (PDF, 293kb)
  7. Australia's emissions in a global context: (PDF, 1.15mb)
  8. Assessing the international response: (PDF, 228kb)
  9. Towards global agreement: (PDF, 497kb)
  10. Deepening global collaboration: (PDF, 209kb)
  11. Costing climate change and its avoidance: (PDF, 530kb)
  12. Targets and trajectories: (PDF, 245kb)
  13. An Australian policy framework: (PDF, 113kb)
  14. Australia's emissions trading scheme: (PDF, 414kb)
  15. Adaptation and mitigation measures for Australia: (PDF, 192kb)
  16. Sharing the burden in Australia: (PDF, 260kb)
  17. Information barriers to known technologies: (PDF, 184kb)
  18. The innovation challenge: (PDF, 242kb)
  19. Network infrastructure: (PDF, 589kb)
  20. Transforming energy: (PDF, 1.28mb)
  21. Transforming transport: (PDF, 718kb)
  22. Transforming rural land use: (PDF, 638kb)
  23. Towards a low-emissions economy: (PDF, 655kb)
  24. Fateful choices: (PDF, 56kb)

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Applicaitons of Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce

Each year I give lectures at the ANU on Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce as part of Information Technology in Electronic Commerce ( COMP3410/COMP6341). While the principles don't change, and the technology does not change that much, each year I like to freshen up the course with some new examples. The area covered includes document representation, meta-data, data management, digital library, electronic document management and e-commerce.

It might seem surprising that the principles don't change, but e-publishing is much the same as publishing of books was, minus the paper. Similarly management of e-records is like managing paper files, without the paper. The difficult task with this is to convince computer scientists, software engineers and information systems students that it is worth worrying about the the details of policies and practices and that these are difficult topics.

Technologies have changed a little with XML being firmly established. This makes it important to point out to the students that there was a time before XML, HTML and the web and there will be a time after them.

One area worth looking at with recent developments are XML based office document formats. The controversy over ODF and OOXML as international standards has calmed down somewhat, and a detailed look at the similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses of these (as well as alternatives) would be useful.

The examples used change most often. What last year was a complex challenge, such as how to build a global electronic publishing system for the world's ICT research has now largely been solved.

Some areas I was thinking of looking to for examples were:
  1. In flight E-publishing for the airline industry
  2. e-Courts
  3. e-enabling carbon trading and energy reduction systems

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Australian Government Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

The Australian Government released its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper today (Wednesday 16 July 2008). There is a Summary, Fact sheets, and media release available, as well as the Full report. The report is, in part, a response to the Garnaut Climate Change Review. The government is inviting submissions on the green paper.

Too Much PDF

The summary of the report is an efficiently coded as a reasonably accessible web page, but most of the other documents are large PDF files. The chapters of the report have been provided as separate files, for individual download, which helps, as well as the full 3 Mbyte document. The summary has been offered first, then other chapters and the full report last. This is a good approach as many people will only need the summary, but will tend to click on the full report, if it is offered first. However, it is a little confusing as three versions of the summary are provided: a HTML version, a PDF version and the summary chapter of the report in PDF. It would be better if the HTML version of the summary had been offered, before the PDF version. Apart from the cost and inconvenience to the reader, large PDF files contribute to carbon emissions, due to the need for increased electricity use in transmission, processing and storage of the documents.
Exclusion of Transport Fuel Questionable

The Government proposes an emissions trading scheme, with a limit set on how much carbon pollution industry can produce, and the price set by the market. Funds from the initial sale of permits will be used to help households and businesses reduce carbon emissions. However, the government proposes to cut fuel taxes to offset the initial increase due to the permits for the first three years. This will remove the incentive for fuel users to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and so remove much of the value of the scheme. The three year review for this seems to place it just past the next election, removing political pressure from the government. It is unfortunate the government has taken this cynical political approach to an important global issue and so placed the lives of millions of people at risk.

Internet key to the strategy

One interesting point is that the use of the Internet is key to the Government's strategy:
5.9 ... Emissions obligations under the scheme, the types of assessment methodologies used and any uncertainty estimates reported by liable entities would be published by the Government on the internet as soon as is feasible after reports are submitted ...

5.5.2 ... An initial focus of compliance activities is likely to be education and outreach, such as consultations on the design of administrative processes; provision of information (via the internet, seminars and other ways) to liable entities on how to comply; and providing convenient and inexpensive
ways to interact with the regulator. ...

7.5.1 ... More frequent auctions also have a higher administrative cost for the regulator. However, the capacity to hold auctions on the internet means that costs are unlikely to be an important factor in determining auction frequency.

7.5.5 ...Given modern internet-based auction platform technology, the complexity of simultaneous auctions can be managed at relatively
low cost.
7.5.6 ... Internet auction platform - Auctions may be conducted using an internet platform. The internet platform will encourage more entrants and greater competition because it is low cost and readily accessible.

From: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper, 2008 (emphasis added)
However, not all government use of the internet for the environment has been successful. The report mentions: "8.5.1 ... the One Stop Green Shop, which is a single, user friendly government web portal designed to link schools, businesses and families to household efficiency programs provided by all levels of government.". This web site was announced 13 May 2008, but a web search finds that "OneStopGreenShop" is a commercial web site selling environmental products which existed before the government announcement.

The government must have known of the existing OneStopGreenShop before making an announcement. It seems unlikely that government staff would be so poorly trained as to not try typing in the name of their proposed web site to see if it was already in use. For the government to be appropriating the intellectual property of an exiting business, or endorsing it, seems questionable.

No Online forum

The government is inviting submissions on the green paper by electronic means, which is to be commended. But all that is provided is an email address to write to. This would be a good opportunity for the government to show leadership and sponsor an online forum for discussion.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Garnaut Climate Change Review Draft Report

The Garnaut Climate Change Review Draft Report was released today at the National Press Club. There is a Media Release with a summary (PDF, 312kb). The full Draft Report is 548 pages (13.5Mb of PDF). Public forums about the report will be held in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane from next week.

One of the key messages of the report is that a way must be found to decouple economic development from fossil fuels. One of the obvious ways to do this is with the commerce of information, not physical goods. Unfortunately this is something Professor Garnaut has not grasped.

The report itself fails to use efficient online techniques to reduce the environmental footprint of its distribution and allow more public consultation. The report is formatted as relatively inefficient PDF (about ten times larger than it need be) and so will itself contribute to the greenhouse effect. Also the public forums are only being held in a few locations, requiring those in outlying areas to consume fossil fuels to attend, with no online forum.

The lack of understanding of the role of electronic communications in sustainable development is also illustrated by the notation in the PDF version of the document, which claims that it is "... printed on 9Lives 80, a paper composed of 80 per cent post‑consumer fibre and 20 per cent totally chlorine‑free pulp ..." and "All inks used in the printing of this report are vegetable based". Neither of these claims is true, as the electronic document is composed of bits of information, with no particular physical form.

Very few of the people reading the report will ever see one of the small number of paper copies produced. It is therefore important to ensure the electronic version they do read is efficiently produced, as well as being an adequate substitute for paper and ink. Understanding that will be key to the solution to climate change.

Appended are the table of contents and the media release, reduced to an efficient text format:

Garnaut Climate Change Review Draft Report

Preface ix
Terms of reference x
1. Australia’s climate change challenge 1
1.1 The context of the draft report in the Garnaut Climate
Change Review 6
1.2 Main themes 8
1.3 Main policy tendencies 9
1.4 Adaptation: prospects and limits 11
1.5 Synopsis 12
2. Policy choice about climate change mitigation 23
2.1 Risk and uncertainty 25
2.2 The costs of mitigation 27
2.3 Four kinds of benefits from mitigation or avoided
climate change 32
2.4 How effective adaptation reduces the cost of climate
change and the benefits of mitigation 36
2.5 Measuring the benefits of mitigation against the costs 38
2.6 A graphical representation of the benefits and costs 39
2.7 Valuing the future relative to the present 42
2.8 The Review’s recommendations in a world of
uncertainty and important immeasureable impacts 45
3. The science of climate change 47
3.1 The earth’s atmosphere and the natural
greenhouse effect 48
3.2 Understanding climate change 53
3.3 Linking emissions and climate change 57
3.4 Adressing the extremes: severe weather events,
low likelihood outcomes, and thresholds 70
3.5. Uncertainty in the climate science 74
3.6 The science behind global mitigation 76
4. Emissions in the Platinum Age: the rapid, recent and
projected future growth of greenhouse gas emissions 87
4.1 Greenhouse gas emissions by source and country 87
4.2 Recent trends in carbon dioxide emissions from
fossil fuels 89
4.3 Existing emissions projections 92
4.4 The Review’s no-mitigation projections:
methodology and assumptions 93
4.5 Results from the Review’s projections and
comparisons with existing projections 96
4.6 The impact of high energy prices 101
4.7 Resource limits 104
5. Observations and projections of global climate change 111
5.1 How has the climate changed? 112
5.2 Understanding climate change projections 120
5.3 Projected climate change for the no-mitigation
and mitigation cases 124
5.4 Assessing the extremes 132
6. The Australian context to climate change 143
6.1 Attributing observed and projected climate change
to humans 144
6.2 Historical climate change in Australia 144
6.3 Projected climate change in Australia 151
7. Impacts of climate change on Australia 161
7.1 Understanding Australia’s vulnerability to climate
change 164
7.2 Implications of the no-mitigation case for Australia 165
7.3 Direct impacts of climate change on Australia 168
7.4 Indirect impacts of climate change on Australia 186
7.5 Conclusion 193
7A Climate cases considered by the Garnaut Review 197
7B Infrastructure impacts criteria 198
8. Australia’s emissions and the economy 199
8.1 Australia’s emissions profile and international
comparisons 199
8.2 Emissions profiles of Australian industries 206
9. The modelled economic consequences of climate change
in Australia 213
9.1 Capturing the impacts of climate change through
economic modelling 214
9.2 Representing climate change impacts in
economy-wide analyses 217
9.3 The contribution of individual climate change
impacts to net economic impacts 241
9.4 A final caution 244
10. The wider costs and benefits of climate change
mitigation in Australia 249
10.1 What proportion of market impacts does the modelling
include and how significant are the exclusions? 250
10.2 Insurance costs of climate change mitigation—
extreme climate change scenarios 260
10.3 Non-market impacts that Australians value 264
10.4 Assessing the costs of climate change beyond 2100 266
10.5 Implications for evaluating the costs and benefits
of climate change mitigation policy 267
11. The international response to climate change to date:
an assessment 269
11.1 The evolving international framework for addressing
climate change 270
11.2 National-level commitments and policies to
mitigate climate change 273
11.3 Assessment of progress under the Kyoto Protocol 277
11.4 Projections given the current trajectory of
mitigation effort 280
11.5 Accelerating progress 281
12. Towards agreement on global and national
emissions limits 289
12.1 Agreeing on a global goal 290
12.2 What form should national commitments take? 294
12.3 A graduated approach to national commitments 297
12.4 Principles for allocating emissions entitlements
across countries 300
12.5 Shaping a per capita approach to the allocation
of emissions entitlements 305
13. Deepening international collaboration 309
13.1 International public funding for mitigation 310
13.2 International public funding for adaptation 315
13.3 International trade in emissions rights 318
13.4 Price-based sectoral agreements for the
trade-exposed, emissions-intensive sectors 321
13.5 Climate change and trade policy 323
13.6 International aviation and shipping 325
13.7 Forestry-related emissions 326
13.8 Enforcement mechanisms 330
14. Australian mitigation: overview of the policy challenge 337
14.1 Emissions entitlement limits for Australia 339
14.2 Addressing the greatest market failure ever seen 341
14.3 Mitigation policy: a broader reform agenda 345
14.4 Income distribution effects 356
15. An Australian emissions trading scheme 359
15.1 Framework to guide scheme design 361
15.2 The emissions trading scheme in operation 364
15.3 Transition period: Australia’s emissions
trading scheme to the end of 2012 390
15.4 Optimal design features of an emissions
trading scheme under a global agreement 392
15A Trade-exposed, emissions-intensive firms 397
16. Research, development and innovation 403
16.1 What is innovation and how does it happen? 405
16.2 Ensuring optimal levels of early research 408
16.3 Rewarding early movers 414
16.4 An overarching framework for innovative activities 424
17. Network infrastructure market failures 427
17.1 Infrastructure for the transmission of electricity 429
17.2 Infrastructure for the distribution of electricity 435
17.3 Gas transmission infrastructure in Australia 437
17.4 New infrastructure for the transportation of
carbon dioxide 438
18. Information and agency barriers 443
18.1 The impact of information and agency barriers 444
18.2 Public good information 446
18.3 Information asymmetry 452
18.4 Early adopter spillovers 454
18.5 Principal–agent problems 455
18.6 Minimum performance standards 458
18.7 Applying the market failure framework to buildings 460
19. Income distribution effects of climate change
mitigation policy 469
19.1 Impacts will flow through the economy, and will
be uneven 470
19.2 Effects of an emissions price on households 474
20. The energy transformation 481
20.1 The role of energy and the basis for transformation 482
20.2 Drivers of the transformation 489
20.3 The path to transformation 497
20.4 Key economic impacts 507
20.5 Risks to the transformation 507
20A Stationary energy compensation 511
List of figures and tables 515
List of shortened forms 520
Glossary 522


Friday 4 July 2008


Australians are facing risks of damaging climate change. Without strong and early action by Australia and all major economies we are likely to face severe and costly impacts on Australia’s prosperity and enjoyment of life, according to the Garnaut Climate Change Review’s Draft Report, released today.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, Professor Ross Garnaut said that by 2050, unmitigated climate change on middle of the road outcomes would mean major declines in agricultural production across much of the country, including a 50 per cent reduction in irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin. By 2100, irrigated agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin would decline by 92 per cent.

Early economic modelling results of readily measurable unmitigated climate change for middle of the road outcomes on temperatures and decline in rainfall – indicate that climate change would wipe off around 4.8 per cent of Australia’s projected GDP, around 5.4 per cent of projected household consumption, and 7.8 per cent from real wages by 2100.

“These readily measurable costs are only part of the story. There are also conventional economic effects that are not currently measurable, the possibility of much larger costs from extreme outcomes, and costs that aren’t manifested through markets,” said Professor Garnaut.

The full economic modelling results, to be released in a Supplementary Draft Report in August, will help complete the picture for Australians, by comparing the costs and benefits of climate change mitigation. This will inform the Review’s consideration of emission reduction trajectories and targets.

The Final Report will be released in September.

Professor Garnaut said that the climate change impacts would be significantly reduced with strong global mitigation.
“Australia needs to play its full part in the international effort if global mitigation is to have a chance.
The first step is to take action as part of the developed world, with a view to bringing in developing
countries – first of all China – on the earliest possible timetable,” he said.

“Australia would be hurt more than other developed countries by unmitigated climate change, and we therefore have an interest in encouraging the strongest feasible global effort. We are running out of time for effective global action, and it is important that we play our full part in nurturing the remaining chance.

“We will delude ourselves should we choose to take small actions that create an appearance of action, but which do not solve the problem. Such an approach would risk the integrity of our market economy and political processes to no good effect,” said Professor Garnaut.

“Australians are well placed to deal with the challenges of this major economic reform. As with all economic reform, mitigation policy must be forward-looking. Policy interventions and the use of public and private resources should focus on improving future economic prospects rather than reacting to past decisions”, said Professor Garnaut.

The Draft Report provides the Review’s suggestions on the design of the emissions trading scheme (ETS). Professor Garnaut reiterated his support for the ETS to cover as many sectors as practicable.

“The more sectors included in the ETS, the more efficiently costs will be shared across the economy. Transport should be included,” said Professor Garnaut.

The Draft Report advocates the full auctioning of emissions permits and the return of all revenue to households and business.

“The cost to consumers of rising energy and petrol prices, can be balanced through payments to households, while preserving price incentives to reduce emissions,” he said.

The Report proposes that half the proceeds from the sale of all permits is allocated to households, around 30 per cent provided for structural adjustment needs for business (including any payments to TEEIIs), and the remaining 20 per cent allocated to research and development and the commercialisation of new technologies.

“The proceeds from the ETS should be allocated for purposes that will help Australia adjust to a lowemissions future,” said Professor Garnaut.

“A massive increase – reaching $3 billion per annum – is required in Australia’s commitment to lowemissions technology research, development and commercialisation,” he said.

The Draft Report states that it would be in Australia’s interest to find out as soon as possible whether there can be a low-emissions future for coal, and to support rapid deployment of commercially promising technologies. This follows from Australia’s role as the world’s largest exporter of coal and the central place of coal in growth in emissions from Asian developing countries.

“Australia has the opportunity to play a leadership role in funding and co-ordinating a major global effort to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage technologies, and to transfer those technologies to developing countries,” said Professor Garnaut.

“Additional mitigation policies should only be undertaken where they will lower the overall cost to the economy, by correcting market failures,” he said.

Professor Garnaut said that he supported the phase-out of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, once the unconstrained ETS was fully operational.

“The Review’s first aim is to lay out the issues for policy choice in a transparent way. We will have done our job if Australian governments and the community make their choices in full knowledge of the consequences of their decisions,” said Professor Garnaut.

Professor Garnaut will host public forums on the Draft Report in a number of cities around Australia between 7-11 July 2008.

For more information visit


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Web of Australia LiteratureAustralia literature trapped in the web

Cover of Gilgamesh: A Novel By Joan LondonOn my travels through Greece recently, I met Australian Joan London. As I had just came from Turkey, she mentioned she had written a book touching on Armenia. It was not until then, I realized this was the Australian author of Gilgamesh (2001), which the UK The Guardian gave a very favorable review of.

In the first posting of his new, and very insightful, Canberra Times Blog, Colin Steele discusses the positive and negative effects of the web on authors. One aspect Colin did not mention is the effect on how books are sold. Australian authors suffer from being in a small sub-category of literature. This can make their books hard to find online.

In my work as an ICT consultant I advise companies about how to make their products and services visible on the web. Perhaps I should be offering this service to authors as well. In looking for Joan's books, I noticed a few problems:
  1. Author's name: "Joan London" is not sufficiently unique. While a search will find her books, it will also find references to people named "Joan" in the city of London.
  2. Book names: There are a lot of books with Gilgamesh in the title. As an example looking for "London Gilgamesh" finds a restaurant in London, as well as the book. Looking for her latest, The Good Parents, in Amazon, will big up a lot of self help books for parents if you use just "good parents" for the search.
  3. Publishing location: A book published in Australia is not listed, or not listed as quickly, in online catalogs, as ones from the US and UK.
None of this would be a problem for a trained librarian, like Colin, or for someone who knew exactly what they were looking for. But for the average person doing a web search for a book, or author, they heard mentioned, it can be the difference between finding, or not finding the book and therefore resulting in a sale or no sale.

Enlightened publishers can also make the web search process easier. As an example, Grove Press, have permitted the full text of Gilgamesh to be searched, via This allows customers to find the book in a search and for me to be able to find there are 36 pages with references to Armenia and see exactly what they were. This facility is most useful for non-fiction, but can also allow a potential reader to find a book they may be interested in.

See also: Australian Authors, Joan London.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting Past the Carpet Sellers

One confronting aspect of the tourist part of Istanbul are the carpet sellers. The Istanbul Lonely Planet City Guide warned me, but I was still not ready for the reality of being stopped every few metres and offered carpets, souvenirs, shoe shine, food and tours. The sellers have a carefully developed technique of getting your attention, engaging you in conversation and then getting you into a situation where you feel you must buy something. After the first few hours of this I was ready to get back on the aircraft and never visit Turkey again. But after a day or so I got more used to to brushing off the requests, with a polite "no thank you", or six. Perhaps after a few more days I would have got to the point where I could simply ignore them and say nothing.

However much you may have been warned it is difficult to not react naturally to what appears a genuine, friendly and helpful greeting. This is a face to face version of the scams conducted on the Internet, which play on human reactions. A little like the ELIZA program which mimics human intelligence with a few stock phrases. The sales people have a set of stock phrases ready to respond to key phrases from the tourist. This includes standard responses if the person fails to react. After a while you can predict the exact response you will receive to any think you say.

If you are someone who can't help but stop to help a stray kitten, then it might be best to have a paid guide to protect you from carpet sellers of Istanbul, or go as part of a tour. Alternatively avoid the major tourist areas completely and visit the less traveled areas. In the markets where the locals shop you are unlikely to be bothered.

In a way the carpet sellers are just an extreme version of all sales techniques. The seller attempts to form a relationship with the potential customer. From the skeptics point of view this is just a way to make a sale. But a sales professional would say this is about ensuring the customer obtains satisfaction, which involves a personal interaction, not just an exchange of material goods. Web based e-commerce does essentially the same thing.

Systems such as find out about the customer either directly via an online survey, or by observing the user's interactions. The system then sends helpful information to the customer. If they do not hear from the customer for a wile, systems, such as, will send some product suggestions, based on the user's previous behavior. This is much like the carpet seller.

ps: After escaping the carpet sellers of Istanbul, my telephone rang. It was Tim Hopcraft from Logic Australia Pty Ltd. to say he had some new samples of some samples of interlocking flooring I asked him about for a flexible learning centre to ANU might be building. The new flooring has space to run computer cables underneath and a carpet square attached to its surface. Afterwards I realized that makes him a carpet salesman and so I had not escaped at all. ;-)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ads for PDF

Adobe are working on how to have paid ads in PDF documents, similar to Google AdSense ads on web pages. The new system is called "Ads for Adobe PDF" and is in beta. There is a video,
View the demo above and check out the sample screenshot.
FAQs and an application form . The system tries to allow for PDF's lower interactivity than web pages (the ads are fixed in the PDF document, but only for a limited period). The service is being provided with Yahoo! who already have a web based advertising service. There is also an Ads for Adobe PDF discussion forum. It will be interesting to see how well this service is accepted. It could be a good way for publishers to be recompensed for the cost of providing material. The current service seems more targeted at publishers might also be useful for self publishing authors.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Rethinking business process management

CSIRO's ICT Center is having a talk by Professor Benatallah on From Business Processes to Service-based Process Spaces, 25 March at ANU in Canberra. IP Australia issued a request for tender for Services Oriented Architecture components on 20 March. It would be interesting to apply Professor Benatallah's techniques to that project.


From Business Processes to Service-based Process Spaces
Professor Boualem Benatallah (CSE, UNSW)
DATE: 2008-03-25
TIME: 14:00:00 - 15:00:00 ...

Over the last decade, capabilities arising from advances in online technologies, especially Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), enabled enterprises to increase productivity, simplify automation, and extend business to locations far beyond their normal operations. Enterprises also embraced emergent process-aware services that enabled automation to gain more visibility in process executions.

The focus of process improvement has expanded to include monitoring, analysis and understanding of business processes. Now, at all levels, business process monitoring and management is firmly recognised as a strategic priority for modern enterprises. However, while business process management and monitoring have enabled enterprises to increase efficiency, new usability challenges have also emerged. These challenges are increasing the pressure for enterprises to look at business processes from an end user's perspective.

In this talk, we propose Process Views as new abstractions focusing on re-conceptualising the form and function of existing business process management systems to create a new generation of service and process-centric systems to better support the management of personal, ad-hoc, and as well as structured business processes over multiple applications and data sources.

We further define and propose Process Spaces as a new research agenda for the business process research community. The term Process Space refers to the superimposition of Process Views over heterogeneous IT systems for the purposes of simplifying access to multiple applications and data sources and to provide the means to manage process views in a unified and flexible manner.

From: From Business Processes to Service-based Process Spaces, CSIRO, 2008

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Print on demand flat pack furniture

Laser cut tableOne of the revolutions now happening in publishing is print on demand books. You can now do the same thing with furniture: Up load your furniture design to Ponoko, and they will laser cut it from sheets of wood or plastic. You then assemble the parts.

At present Ponoko are only offering to do the cutting; you have to do the sales and distribution. But I expect it will not before such companies offer the additional services the print on demand companies do: they will also sell and distribute the items for you. With this you could design a table and upload the design. When a customer paid for a table, the laser would cut one out and ship it. You would then receive the payment, minus cutting, shipping and handling costs. You would not have to handle any wood, just bank the money.

Of course the catch with this is that the laser cutter is limited to smaller size sheets of thin wood and plastic. The items currently displayed by Ponoko all have a cardboard cutout look to them. Also on demand production is more expensive than mass production.

However, such a process can produce wonderful products in the hands of a skilled designer. The University of Tasmania Architecture students are trained to make designs using a Computer Numerical Control router. One graduate is Peter Walker, who makes wooden surfboards, when not teaching furniture design. prefabricated computer equipped classrooms could be made this way, including ones for remote indegnious communities.

It would be interesting to imagine a store like Ikea, but which make the furniture on demand. The store has no furniture in stock, just a large supply of designs, sheets of wood and a machine to cut it with. You try out the design in the store and then they make you one to take home.

Stewart Brand mentions laser cut plywood in his book The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility as does Alastair Fuad-Luke in ecoDesign: The Sourcebook.

See also:

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Metadata for Electronic Conveyancing

In August I wrote about the National Electronic Conveyancing System (NECS) being worked on with standards for buying property online, including lodging land titles. Progress seemed to be slow and now seemed to have got slower, with media reports of disputes between the states. Refreshingly for such a body, the NECS publish their minutes in a blog-like format, so you can read the official version, and then compare this with the media reports.

Some media reports are about if a federated or centralized model should be used . This is partly a matter of state rivalry and of possible loss of state revenue to a federal body. Little seems to be to do with making a more efficient system for the benefit of homeowners. There are some obvious ways to get around these issues, which NECS do not appear to have employed.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

St George Bank Annoying Queuing System sent me a check for royalties on online sales. These are difficult to deposit and made more difficult by a very annoying queuing system introduced by St. George bank.

Unlike Google, who send checks in Australian dollars (and even do direct deposit to Australian banks), send paper cheques in US dollars. At least I think they are in US dollars, as the cheques do not identify the currency or the country they are from. The first time I tried to deposit one of these the teller looked at me suspiciously.

This time I did not manage to get to the teller at all. St. George Bank have introduced a "take a number" queuing system. I pressed "international transactions" and was issued number "D810". A screen showed that A240 was being served, as were some B and C numbers, but no Ds. So I had no idea when, or if, I would ever have a turn. After a while of standing around and seeing if there was any way to find out, I gave up and put the cheque in a deposit envelope in a slot.

The bank called the next day to say that I must come to the counter to deposit overseas cheques. However, by then I was interstate. The following week I turned up at the branch used the name of a teller to bypass the queuing system. This seems a bizarrely inefficient way to run a bank and is not good for the customer.

In the longer term I will see if I can find another bank which does not have this very customer unfriendly system, which seems to be designed to drive people away from St. George bank. Or perhaps will realize that not everyone in the world works in US currency and will have a direct deposit system in US dollars by the time of my next payment.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Canberra IT Pioneer Looks at Payments Again

Gpay screen image from Google PatentBrand Hoff gave a talk to the ACS Canberra Branch last night about his career as an IT entrepreneur "From "Micro-Business to Multi-National - The story of TOWER Software and TRIM". Most of this was about Tower Software and the development of the Trim Records Management System. The talks was sprinkled with anecdotes about the difficulties of making long term decisions in the rapidly developing software industry and tips on how to do business in IT.

Towards the end he talked about the work of NICTA which he is on the board of. He mentioned NICTA have licensed their "OKAY" embedded operating system for use in smart phones.

Also Brand put up an advertisement for a programmer to work on a micro payments system. This appears to be for a system with some of the features of the Snap payments system he was involved with some years ago. It could be a good time to do this with industry speculation about a Google patent for a payments system and smart phones creating interest in the area. From a quick look the Google idea does not look that different to Snap.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Online applications

According to September 2007 PC World, the ability to have web applications which work offline is coming, but not quite here yet. PC World points out that many of the applications don't allow the user to seamlessly switch from offline to online and have more limited features than pure online services (which are themselves much more limited than the typical PC application).

Firefox 3 is planned to have an offlineResources attribute to allow the web designer to tell the browser what should be cached for offline use. The Google Reader feed reader now has an offline options, which requires Google Gears to be installed on the user's PC. Dojo Offline is an toolkit to make Google Gears easier to implement.

The same issue of PC World looked at web based office packages, such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets, ThinkFree and Zoho. Currently these are purely online: you have to have an Internet connection to work on documents, or export the work to a PC based package such as or MS-Office.

Also in PC World were more specialised business applications available online, such as HighRiseHQ and FreeCRM Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs). These are also online only systems at present. Also of interest is the AgoraCart Open Source e-commerce shopping cart software, although this is downloaded software, not an online system hosted on a host web site.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

XML for Electronic Conveyancing of Australian Property

The National Electronic Conveyancing System (NECS) is working on standards for buying property online, including lodging land titles. They have been around since 2005, but progress seems to be slow. Most recently there is an agreement with the Lending Industry XML Initiative (LIXI) to use XML standards. However, I wasn't able to find any documentation about actual standards to be used, just on governance and business models.

The UK Land Registry seems to have made some progress, with PISCES, developing standards:, including one for Residential Conveyancing, released 7 April 2006. This includes a User Guide, Business Specification (with Process Map (PMP), Document Exchange Table (DET), Component Model (CMX) and Code Lists (CDL), and Schemas.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Researching Web 2.0

Roger ClarkeRecommended free seminar by Roger Clarke on researching Researching Web 2.0 at the Australian National Unviersity, Department of Computer Science:


Web 2.0 - Tsunami or Mirage?

Roger Clarke (DCS, ANU & Xamax Pty. Ltd.)

DATE: 2007-07-30
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, Computer Science and Information Technology Building, ANU

There's considerable excitement about the notion of 'Web 2.0', particularly among Internet businesspeople. In contrast, there's an almost complete lack of formal literature on the topic. Movements with such energy and potential need to be subjected to critical attention. Industry and social commentators should have the opportunity to draw on the information systems literature in formulating their views.

This paper performs a tentative assessment of Web 2.0, with a view to stimulating further work that applies existing theories, proposes new ones, observes and measures phenomena, and tests the theories. In order to do so, it examines the origins of Web 2.0 in the marketing arena, followed by its technical under-pinnings, and then considers the alternative, communitarian perspective.

From 1984-95, Roger Clarke was Reader in Information Systems in ANU's then Department of Commerce. Since then he has been back in full-time consultancy through his company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. He focuses on strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure and dataveillance and privacy.

He has retained his connections with academe as a Visiting Fellow in the ANU Department of Computer Science (1995-2005) and as an Adjunct Professor from April 2005. He is also a Visiting Professor in eCommerce at the University of Hong Kong (2002-), and a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at UNSW (2003-). He has also undertaken Gastprofessur at the Universities of Bern (Switzerland) and Linz (Austria), and been a Gastdozent at the European Business School and the University of Koblenz (both in Germany).

Books on:

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Wikimedia with Advertising

The series of projects I had ANU students do on using the web for museum collections has taken a turn to the commercial. The Semantic Web turned out not to be an idea we could manage to make work any any sort of sensible way (perhaps Microformats would work better). The latest project was to make scholarly publishing more interesting and interactive, by using a Wiki. One spin off was to add advertisng in Wikimedia.

Available are:
  1. Initial presentation
  2. Initial report
  3. Final presentation
  4. Final Report

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Amazon.Com Context Links feature needs some work have "Context Links" in Beta release. With this system you add a few lines of code to a web page and Amazon automatically inserts links to products in their catalog. If someone buys the product, you get a commission. This is an extra feature in their affiliate program.

I tried Context Links on my own Blog and on the ACS Digital Library, with limited success. On one of my travel web pages, Amazon put in a link from "Eurostar" to a European train travel guide, which made sense. But it also put in a link from "ICE" to a novel about a frozen wasteland (ICE is the German high speed train). This was a forgivable error.

On the ACS Digital Library it put in a link to a subscription which could be purchased on Amazon for one of the journals. Strictly speaking this was correct, but it was a surprise to those of us organizing the publication, as we didn't know subscriptions were for sale on Amazon. Far worse was that it put in links to books by authors with the same name as ones who wrote in the library and to books which happen to have the same names as papers. This makes the facility essentially useless for use in serious scholarly writing.

Context Links also put some odd links on my Blog. For an entry about environmental building in Canberra, it linked the word "Canberra" to a set of papers for a conference held in Canberra.

Compounding the problem of the poor choice of what to link to is that the automatic links look, by default, like normal links. So readers of my web pages think that I put in the odd links myself. Google's AdWords works much better, providing links to relevant advertisements and clearly differentiating the advertisements from the content of the web pages.

When I first saw Context Links I was worried as I already had a student programming something similar. But the student will not have to do much to do better than Amazon Context Links.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Download Movies to Set Top Box from Web Store

There are a lot of reports in the media about video and TV available on-line. However, this is still a lot harder then it looks. You need a lot of bandwidth to download broadcast quality video (some services are only offering thumbnail size images). Some free services are full of pirated TV shows, uploaded by viewers. It is not clear if the average person wants to watch TV on their computer. One interesting alternative is the partnership between Amazon and TiVo. have a service to sell or rent videos online: Unbox Video Downloads. These are a mixture of old moves and TV shows. Buying a download costs a bit less than a DVD. Rentals are a few dollars each. As an example the DVD of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is $US19.99, whereas the download is $US14.95 to buy or $US3.99 to rent. But you need the broadband connection and to fiddle around with a computer to watch the download.

Amazon has now done a deal with TiVo, to allow videos to be downloaded direct to broadband connected TiVo set top boxes. The video is downloaded direct to the hard disk in the STB:
"Amazon and TiVo have joined forces to offer movies and TV shows that can be downloaded straight to TiVo DVRs via the set-top box's broadband Internet connection. "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" bridges the gap between Internet video and TV, offering a practical method of viewing Web-gathered content, but the offering may be too little too late for TiVo.

If hours of prerecorded TV content aren't enough for TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) subscribers, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) will offer a solution. The digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer and the supersized online retailer announced their new "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" (AUT) service Wednesday.

For Amazon, the joint venture provides a captive audience more than one million strong.

For TiVo, the service adds another compelling feature to the device. However, will it attract new users? Will it be enough for a company that has all but been shut out of the market it created? ..."

From: Amazon, TiVo Partner for Direct-to-TV Downloads, By Walaika Haskins, 02/07/07, E-commerce Times

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Friday, February 16, 2007

My First Cheque from Amazon ChequeThis photo is of my first cheque from Amazon.Com for selling products on my web site. In return for linking to Amazon from my web site, I get a commission on sales. This is not going to make me a fortune, but I wanted to see how it works as an example of e-commerce.

I gave the ANU e-commerce students a lecture on Web Services using the Amazon system. The students tend to doze off when I am telling them how to use the web, metadata and all that technical stuff to do business on-line. What gets their attention is when I talk about something selling books and use the magic words: "this is not just theory, I use this to make MONEY". :-)

Amazon provide facilities for showing products on-line, similar to Google's AdSense. But Amazon's systems seems less able to select products the customer would be interested in. I set the ANU students an assignment question to work out how to interface to Amazon's system to create a better service.

The Amazon commission did not earn enough for them to send me a payment for about a year (they don't send one until it gets to $US100). But last October it started earning $US100 a day. This dropped back to a few dollars a day shortly afterwards and I never worked out what caused the spike.

Banking the cheque from Amazon turned out to be difficult. Unlike Google, who send cheques in Australian dollars (and now have an electronic deposit option), drawn on an Australian bank, Amazon's was in US dollars. So I had to take it to a special counter at the bank. Amazon do not write on the cheque that it is in US dollars, nor that they are in the USA, which caused some confusion. The teller had never heard of "Amazon Services LCC" which made them suspicious. The address at a PO Box in "Incline Village, NV" made them more suspicious. From Google Maps, this seems to be a small settlement next to a golf course.

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