Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct

My last day in South Australia I spent in the Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct. North Terrace runs east west on the northern edge of the Adelaide central business district, next to the Torrens River. Within a kilometer along the terrace are campuses of the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia, the State Library, Museum and Art Gallery.

I stayed in the Hotel Richmond, which is located in an arcade between the main shopping precinct (Rundle Mall) at the front and North Terrace behind.

On the next corner is the Centre for Defence Communications & Information Networking (DSIC), where I met the director, Dr Bruce Northcote who was giving a talk that evening to the ACS. The previous evening I had given a talk on how the IT industry could help defence. The building housing DSIC has a learning commons on the ground floor, with informal computer equipped meeting spaces for students.

As befits a high technology university building, the one housing DSIC had the most complicated lift buttons I have ever seen: to call am lift, rather than pressing a button for "up", you enter the floor you wish to go to. Presumably the lift control system then optimises the traffic.

I walked through the Adelaide University grounds to the banks of the Torrens Rive, where there are kilometres of cycling and walking tracks. A short walk up the river and around the corner was the State Library of South Australia. In the cafe I happened across Dr Genevieve Bell , Intel Fellow, Digital Home Group Director, User Experience Group, Intel Corporation, who talked in Canberra last week.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, April 19, 2010

SFIA for self assesment

Greetings from the University of Adelaide, where I am in the software engineering building with 17 people involved in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. It was a little lonely yesterday, with only a few people around the building on a Sunday, but the campus is bustling today with students in academic gown for graduation. Appropriate for the occasion we are starting our deliberations today with a presentation from David Lindley on how to use Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) for professionals to think about their own needs for development of their skills. David entitled his talk: "Know thyself" from Delphi "nosce te ipsum".

David argues that just as Linneaus professional skills. The produced a binomial classification scheme for plants, SFIA provides one for SIFA classification as two parts: one of 86 skill sets and 7 levels of responsibility. The ACS provides education and so SFIA can be used to describe what skill sets and at what level education is being provided. The ACS Computer Professional Education Program is at level 5 of SFIA in a wide, in a specified collection of skill sets. To relate this more widely, a university degree course would aim for level 4 and a postgraduate course at level 5.

SFIA also has a second set of binomial terms for generic skills. Unfortunately this is part of SFIA I am not familiar with and am not sure how it is used.

David claimed that SFIA has been shown to be use full in practice, even though there has not been a Charles Darwin to show that classifications in natural have scientific underpinnings. One worry I have with this is the scientific aura it gives the classification of job skills. I doubt that such a classification has any fundamental underpinnings. Also I worry that SIFA depends on an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) view of ICT. There is a risk that the easily understood management aspects of ICT will be emphasised and the technicalities will be lost.

I used SFIA to develop the Green ICT Course Computer Professional Education Program. However, I used essentially as a shopping list of skills categories, without a detailed understanding (this technique was described by one of my colleagues as "reverse engineering" the course specification from SFIA). This proved useful in practice and using some framework was better than none. Also using an internationally agreed "Framework" impresses those accrediting courses. But I would like a little more about it.

In terms of the individual professional, David argued that they should aim for a small number of skills (2 or 3, up to 5 or 6). This is so as to differentiate the individual from others. The difficulty is to get the individual to identify a few skills, not dozens. He described a technique from Sheelagh Flowerday, an Accredited SFIA Consultant. The suggested method is to first prepare a wish list, which might be dozens. On a second pass select core skills.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Teaching Professional Practice

Greetings from the University of Adelaide, where I am locked up in the software engineering building with 17 people involved in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. Apart from ourselves the only people in the building are some students and the security guard. We have spent the day grappling with some fundamentals of how to run professional, postgraduate level education for ICT online. Link

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

High Technology Tourist Attractions in Adelaide

Any suggestions for what the Net Traveller should see in Adelaide? I will be there Sunday 18th to Tuesday 20 April 2010. I have a meeting most of Sunday and Monday and will be giving a talk Monday 19 April on "Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source". But I have Tuesday free.

On my last visit to Adelaide, as well as being trained in the Moodle and Mahara e-learning tools, I rode the Glenelg Tram from the beach to the city, then onto theAdelaide O-Bahn. The O-Bahn is the world's longest guided bus-way (until Cambridge England get theirs to work). The tram has been extended to the Entertainment Centre, which tourism boss, Ian Darbyshire seems very proud of, so I will take a ride on that.

Unfortunately I will be leaving just before Dr Bruce Northcote's talk on Defence Communications & Information Networking Tuesday 20th April 2010 at 6pm (RSVP). DSIC is a venture between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia for defence systems integration research with industry.

ps: This is the one time of the year that the people who teach the ACS Computer Professional Education Program get to see each other. The courses are run online, the tutors and mentors are scattered all around Australia (some in other countries). We have weekly online text based real time "staff meetings", but it is also good to get together in person occasionally. The operation is in transition from a small tutoring group which can be run mostly on personal contact to a virtual higher education institution which requires more formal procedures. It is interesting, if at at times a little frustrating, to be part of the transition.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, April 09, 2010

Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source

Tom Worthington and other Defence personnel on the USS Blue RidgeOpenSA have invited me to speak on "Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source: Commons for Collins or GPL for Growlers?" in Adelaide, 19 April 2010. Defence programs have traditionally used custom designed computer systems with custom programming tailored to each new defence system. However, there is now more use of commercial off the shelf equipment, which includes scope for more use of open source software. The subtitle of the talk refers to the Collins Class Submarine follow-on project and the acquisition of 12 F/A-18G "Growler"electronic warfare aircraft by Australia. These systems have the potential to use open source software.
Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source
Tom Worthington

5pm 19th April 2010
“The Thinking Space” Science Exchange, 56 Exchange Place, Adelaide SA 5000

Free for member companies, up to 2 reps; $10 for additional reps. $20 for non-members; membership may be applied and paid for at the event.

Free and open source software has obvious benefits, but it can be difficult to explain these to organisations such as the Department of Defence. A brief guide to technology in the defence organisation will be given by a former senior ICT policy advisor. Tips on what to say to who and how to contact defence IT personnel and decision makers will be provided.

Tom Worthington took a temporary six month posting at the Defence Department and stayed for nine years, with time in both the military Headquarters Australian Defence Force and the civilian Defence Material Organisation. During that time he got to fly in military aircraft and occasionally wear a borrowed uniform at wargames, but spent most time advising on restructuring IT projects, including incorporation of Unix into the Defence computing environment.

Tom provided technical leadership and represented Defence at interdepartmental and industry committees. He was prepared the first Defence policy on Internet information services and managed the first Defence web site and and Ministerial site. He advised on technologies and products for the Defence Common Operating Environment.

Since leaving Defence, Tom has been an independent IT consultant and teaches at the Australian National University. He is an honorary life member, fellow and former president of the ACS, as well as a member of ACM and IEEE-CS. He designed the ACS/ANU/OUA Green Technology Strategies course.

RSVP by COB Friday 16th April 2010 to Angela Anderson at Loftus, either by phone 8304 8888, or by email

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seminar on training green technologists online with ebooks, Adelaide, 19 - 20 May 2010

This is to offer a seminar on green technology, professional e-learning and e-books, Monday 19 or Tuesday 20 May in Adelaide.

I am an Adjunct Lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU) and a course designer for the Australian Computer Society (ACS). I will be in Adelaide for a meeting of ACS educators at University of Adelaide. So I thought I should offer a free seminar for anyone interested, assuming someone will provide a venue (ideally at or near Adelaide University).

My "Green Technology Strategies" e-learning course is offered to
University of South Australia postgraduate students as part of the 'Hubs and Spokes' Project with ANU.

The course was originally commissioned by the ACS for their globally accredited Computer Professional Education Program (first run February 2009) and is offered in the Postgraduate Program of Open Universities Australia from second semester 2010.

The textbook is available free online in the National Library of
Australia PANDORA Archive, as well as a print-on-demand book and Amazon Kindle e-Book.

The content of the course, as well as the techniques for preparing it to be part of a globally accredited program and converting the content of the Learning Management System into into a book, may be of interest.

Some recent talks:

ps: The environment and technology do not necessarily mix. On a previous visit to an Adelaide technology park, I could not see the buildings for the trees and got lost. ;-)

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WiMAX Wireless broadband and the National Broadband Network

WiMAX wireless broadband will provide and ADSL2+ equivalent service according to a media release from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy: "Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband". The service will be provided by Adelaide company Adam Internet and subsidised by the government's Australian Broadband Guarantee. However, Adam are only offering up to 12Mbps, whereas ADSL2+ is capable of up to 24 Mbit/s. It would be more accurate to describe the service as similar to ADSL2, which has data rates up to 12 Mbit/s.

WiMax was central to the previous government's plan for broadband ("WiMAX technology supported worldwide", Media Release 84/07, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 20 June 2007). That plan was overliant on WiMax. However, the technology has advanced in the interim and should provide a useful supplement for other technologies in areas where it is difficult, or uneconomic to lay cable.

The new government's plan to aim for fibre optic cable to most of Australia is a good one, provided you not not assume that it will be achieved. It is more likely that we will have a mix of technologies, with fibre cable in new urban areas, where it can be cost justified. ADSL will remain in use in most areas for the foreseeable future, supplemented by various wireless technologies.

Joint media release

Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Hon Michael O’Brien MP
Minister for Science and Information Economy

Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband

Residents living in broadband blackspot areas across the Adelaide metropolitan area are set to receive a state-of-the-art wireless broadband network.

The network will be jointly funded by the State and Federal governments along with leading Internet Service Provider - Adam Internet - which will deliver the service.

"This investment will deliver high-speed broadband to homes and businesses across Adelaide suburbs in advance of the National Broadband Network," the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said today.

"Broadband is an important part of family and business life and this project will help ensure more people in metropolitan Adelaide have access to high-speed broadband services," Senator Conroy said.

SA Minister for Science and Information Economy, Michael O’Brien said Adam Internet, a SA based company, had won the contract to construct the network because of its strong track record and position as one of the industry’s leading Internet Service Providers.

"This contract will initially create an extra 110 jobs during the network construction and customer connection phase with 75 permanent jobs required in the longer term for ongoing operation and maintenance," Mr O’Brien said.

"Work will begin almost immediately on addressing more than 350 blackspot locations across Adelaide. First connections are marked for significant problem areas in Reynella and other southern suburbs.

"About 10 per cent of residential, commercial and industrial, properties across metropolitan Adelaide are unable to use ADSL, the most common form of broadband access," Mr O’Brien said.

Adam Internet Chairman, Greg Hicks said the Broadband Blackspot project was terrific news for affected SA households with residents finally being delivered technology solutions comparable with – or better than – those of their neighbours.

"Adam Internet is proud to deliver the first metropolitan roll-out of WiMAX – Adam Max – ensuring these customers receive ADSL2+ equivalent services," Mr Hicks said.

"AdamMax will effectively blanket metropolitan Adelaide, lighting up blackspot areas and providing a service that is fast, reliable and value for money. We are excited to partner with the Federal and State governments to deliver this service."

The 15 month rollout - which will see the first WiMAX service area coming online in October this year - will be supported by an initial $3 million investment from South Australia’s Broadband Development Fund and ongoing contributions from the Commonwealth’s Australian Broadband Guarantee.

"The Rudd Government is making strong progress to deliver the National Broadband Network, but also wants to ensure better services as this historic project is rolled out," Senator Conroy said.

"The Australian Broadband Guarantee helps deliver fast and affordable broadband to people in blackspot areas, as well as increasing competition in the broadband market."

Mr O’Brien said the broadband blackspot initiative would bolster the South Australian economy.

"A study by economics consulting firm, Systems Knowledge Concepts Pty Ltd (SKC) has shown that the economic benefit to the State of this initiative is estimated to be more than $87 million over five years," Mr O’Brien said.

"The State Government’s Information Economy Agenda 2009-2014 paper sets a vision and framework for delivering South Australia’s digital future. The Broadband Blackspot Project will help us to work towards achieving our digital goals," Mr O’Brien said.

For more information on the Federal Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband, Stephen Conroy,Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 14 August 2009

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (UK), when completed in late 2009, will be the longest guided bus system in the world. It will use similar technology to the Adelaide O-Bahn Busway, which is currently the world's longest. The guided busways combines the features of a bus and tram. A concrete track is being laid, mostly along the right of way of the disused Cambridge and Huntingdon railway. Small wheels on new buses will allow them to be guided on the track, but also run on ordinary roads between sections of track. This has advantages over a tram, which can only run on track, not ordinary roads. The use of the guideway allows for two tracks (one in each direction) to be laid in a smaller space than a roaidway. However, the system has disadvantages: busses have internal combustion engines (not electrically powered as with most trams) and so create local pollution and then have a lower carrying capacity than multi unit trams.

I have attempted to map the route of the bussway. Note that the route is only approximate and the timings are incorrect (these are based on Google maps estimate of walking speed). Also I attempted to use Googles "my maps" feature, but could not work out how to import the directions.:

View Larger Map

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Travelling the world's longest Guided Busway

Glenelg to Adelaide Tram at Glenelg
At 12 kilometres, Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway is the world's longest and fastest guided busway. As I was visiting Adelaide to give a talk, I thought I would take a ride before it is eclipsed by the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (ANU Alumni have been invited to visit Cambridge in July). My hotel was near the Glenelg Tram so I decided to include that in the journey. The tramway runs 12.3-kilometres from the city CBD to the coast south of Adelaide in a straight line. The tram system was refurbished in 2006 with Flexity Classics vehicles from Bombardier and improved track and stops. The network was extended further into the CBD in 2007.

The trams have raised platforms and good separation from traffic (the trams run on their own right of way for most of the trip separated from roadways). Adelaide has a well integrated ticketing system with one ticket working on buses, trams and trains. I was able to purchase an all day ticket from a conductor on the tram. The bus drivers also sell tickets and the trains have coin operated ticket machines. Tickets are validated at the start of each ride with machines near the entrances on the vehicles. Unlike the inconvenient and dangerous Melbourne system, there are no ticket vending machines on the trams.

While the trams are only a few years old, the fabric of the seats are starting to show signs of wear. There appears to be no padding in the seats at all, with thin cloth laid over a very hard plastic shell. A few mm of padding would make the seats a lot more comfortable. The windows of the trams have been covered with advertising on the outside which limits vision through the perforations in the ads. Commuters are unlikely to notice this, but it is annoying for tourists who want to see the view.

The ride of the trams is much better than the old class H trams (which are run on weekends for the tourists) but is still bumpy in places. The few hundred metres of track at Glenegle has a nasty vibration, which made my teeth hurt, and needs work. However, the discomfort is rewarded when the tram comes to a stop at the end of the line in sight of the ocean, with a cafe on one side and a mall on the other.

There are bicycle lockers provided at some stops and bicycles (and surfboards) are not permitted on the trams. The stops are well laid out and designed for long vandal resistant life. There is a sponsored mural near the depot at Glandore.

The section of the line in the Adelaide CBD and at Glenelg is free, providing a very useful service for short journeys. Unfortunately this results in overcrowding of the trams in the CBD. However, this was not as uncomfortable as the loading on the Istanbul tram.

Some of the stops were by request, with an automated announcement advising when the passenger needed to push a button to request a stop. One problem with this is that, unlike a bus, there appeared to be no audio or visual feedback to indicate that the stop request had been received, leaving me wondering if the tram was going to stop. Overall this was an excellent service which should be expanded.

Adelaide O-Bahn Busway

Unlike the trams, which run down the streets of Adelaide, the busway was much harder to find. Google's trip planner advised me to take buss M44 and indicated which stop it left from in the city (in the same street the trams leave from). It would have been useful if the planner indicated what tram stop the bus sto was near, as this is a very long street with a lot of bus stops. Eventually I found the stop and checked the bus had a guide wheel. The wheel looks like one from a children's tricycle, mounted horizontally just behind the front door of the bus. This is linked to the front wheels of the bus and steers it automatically on the busway. I cancelled my ticket in the machine as on the tram. The buses for the buss way look very old and in need of replacement, reminding me of some in India. In particular the articulated buses look very worn (there are technical problems in replacing the articulated buses).

The buses travel slowly through the city traffic, indistinguishable from any other bus (apart from looking a generation older). They then divert onto the busway, past a warning sign to motorists and over a "sump buster" to catch those which did not heed the warning. The busway looks like a children's toy wooden railway rack enlarged. The track is made of concrete sections laid on concrete sleepers. There are gaps between the sleepers where you can see the ground underneath. There is a disconcertingly small lip on the side of the track for the guide wheel. The track for the opposite direction seems very close (with the windows on the right die of the bus limited to only opening a few cm, presumably for safety). It would appear that if the guide system failed the bus would be derailed, colliding with an oncoming bus or plummeting off the bridges into the river, but the other passengers seemed unconcerned.

The busway follows the Adelaide River Torrens Linear Park away from streets, making it feel like a trip in the countryside. The buses travel at 80 to 100 km/h and stop at three interchanges: Klemzig Station, Paradise and Tea Tree Plaza. At each stop the bus leaves the busway and returns to running on a regular road. As a result the busway itself is not very apparent to the commuter.

For a system that has been in use for twenty years, the o-bhan is in good condition. The interchanges look a little dated, the buses look past time for retirement, but the track system looks like it could go on for ever. Adelaide should keep this system.

There is a problem with a slightly bumpy ride with the joins between the sections of concrete track (much more frequent joins that with steel tram lines). These bumps have caused problems with uncomfortable oscillations in new designs of articulated buses, but are also uncomfortable on regular buses. It should be possible to overcome this problem with a computer controlled ferromagnetic damper added to the bus suspension.

Labels: , , , ,

Australian PC Recycling Service

I was standing at a Tram stop in Adelaide yesterday on waiting to try the new Glenelg Tram when I had a call from Brenda Aynsley from the ACS PC Recycling SIG, inviting me to see how they refurbish old computers for community use. The Sig is based at Glandore, about 81 metres (according to Google maps) from the South Road tram stop. So I went along to have a look at the operations.

The PC Recycling Sig is a special interest group of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Computer Society. They take donations of old computers from companies and individuals, refurbish them and then sell them to individuals and non-profit community groups for a nominal amount. Those eligible include pensioners and TAFE students.

This is a sophisticated operation, with volunteers taking the equipment through a carefully documented and controlled process process. The computers are assessed, the hard disks erased using a special program, components checked and where necessary replaced. The Sig is licenced by Microsoft to install the Windows operating system and other software (with careful records kept about which machines the software is installed on). Linux is also available as an option. The computers typically have a floppy disk drive (still used by many people) and a CD-ROM drive (DVD burners are harder to come by). Laptops are also provided, but these seem to be in short supply.

The Sig also provides a computer club to help community memebrs learn about computers and provide each other with support.

Apart from providing low cost computers to the community the Sig also has an environmental role in keeping computers running longer and thus reducing the amount of materials going to landfill. At my talk on Green ICT last night there was a representative from the SA Government's Zero Waste initiative. I suggested they look at helping the ACS replicate their PC recycling scheme accross South Australia.

The ACS would be happy to help set up similar groups in other locations. They can provide the procedure and forms to use to manage the process of wiping hard disks on computers, providing a standard configuration, providing help to users. The ACS can provide a package of materials and procedures and also can provide the licence registration for groups.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Talking on radio about using broadband to save the planet

At 4:20pm today (local time) I will be talking to Grant Cameron on ABC Radio Adelaide 891 Drive about using broadband to save the planet. This is to promote my talk to the Joint IT SM and IT Architecture Special Interest Groups of the Australian Computer Society and itSMF Australia on "Solving Climate Change with IT Service Management". The particular issue I wanted to talk to the radio audience about is how widespread availability of broadband, such as from the federal National Broadband Network proposal, could be used to reduce carbon emissions. An obvious way to do this is to substitute video conference for travel. Also such dematerialisation can include substituting online services for physical goods, such as replacing paper document delivery with online services. A less obvious example is to make public transport more attractive. One good example is that Adelaide now has Google's trip planner for public transport as well as car and foot travel. This makes it easier to work out how to get somewhere, particularly for those who are not used to public transport. Another option would be to install WiFi on Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway and Glenelg Tram (as is envisaged for the e Cambridgeshire Guided Busway) so that people could do useful work or entertain themselves on longer trips.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finding the world's longest Guided Busway

At 12 kilometres, Adelaide's O-Bahn Busway is the world's longest and fastest guided busway. As I am visiting Adelaide, to give a talk, I thought I would take a ride before it is eclipsed by the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway. However, for the visitor it can be a bit hard to find. Adelaide Metro have a web page describing the busway, saying it travels through Adelaide's River Torrens Linear Park to Tea Tree Plaza Interchange, but not where from. Google's trip planner seems to say this is route M44. I will see if I can plot a trip on the new Glenelg Tram and the busway.

Labels: , ,