Episode 175

posted in: Show Notes


Search for ‘Jetsons family’ to test home – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Search for ‘Jetsons family’ to test home

The New South Wales Government is calling for volunteers to live rent free for a year in a so-called smart home in Sydney.

Energy Minister John Robertson says the family will be testing the latest technology to save energy and water.

“This trial is about taking smart, green technologies out of the lab and putting them to the test in the real world with a real family,” he said.

“We’re looking for a family with children because we know that kids use technology different to their parents.”

The home is in the old Olympic village in Newington and is powered by rooftop solar panels and a fuel cell that converts natural gas into electricity.

It is the first home of its kind to be trialled in Australia.

Interested families can apply through www.tenderlink.com/energy

Now Conroy wants Google to filter YouTube in Australia

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has expressed admiration for what he termed as Google’s role in suppressing controversial Web content in countries like China, Thailand, and elsewhere – and confirmed he is trying to use similar filtering to prevent Australians from viewing offensive content via Google-owned YouTube.

Calling the company “probably the world’s leading deep packet filterer, unbeknownst to most people,” Conroy told a Senate Estimates committee that he was discussing the possibility of getting Google to filter refused-classification materials from its YouTube video sharing site. “They have experience in blocking material in other countries at the behest of governments, including China, Thailand and a number of other countries,” he added.

Google, however, is having none of it, denying both Conroy’s claims about deep-packet filtering and suggestions it would voluntarily filter RC content.

Mozilla confirms trojan-infected Firefox add-ons > Application Flaws > Vulnerabilities & Exploits >
Mozilla confirms trojan-infected Firefox add-ons

Mozilla has admitted in a security notice that two experimental add-ons for its Firefox browser contain Trojans that affect Windows machines.

The firm has since removed the add-ons from its official pages, but estimates that around 5,000 instances have already been downloaded.

“Two experimental add-ons, Version 4.0 of Sothink Web Video Downloader and all versions of Master Filer, were found to contain Trojan code aimed at Windows users,” said the company in a statement.

Simply installing the add-ons will execute the Trojan the next time Firefox starts, while uninstalling them will not eradicate the problem. The company advised the use of an anti-virus program to remove the malware.

Mac and Linux users are not affected.

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for February 2010
Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for February 2010

it will issue fixes for Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7, as well as Server 2003 and 2008, Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2004 for Mac.

The patches will be released on 10 February.

Bankers unite to save peeping Dave – Oddware – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
Bankers unite to save peeping Dave

An online campaign has started to save the job of an Australian banker who became an internet sensation after he was caught on live television viewing images of scantily-clad supermodel Miranda Kerr on his computer.

The financial website “Here is the City News” has set up a “Save Dave” page that encourages readers to email the public relations department of Macquarie Bank to save banker David Kiely’s job.

A clip of Kiely’s embarrassing incident on YouTube has attracted more than 1.3 million hits

Buggy Parliament web filter blocked News Ltd
Buggy Parliament web filter blocked News Ltd

The Federal Parliament’s own internet filtering system (yes, the one that filters the net for politicians) has been blocking a News Limited website, it emerged today.

Liberal Senator Scott Ryan told a Senate Estimates Committee yesterday (PDF transcript) that the parliamentary web filter had blocked some “odd things” over the past few months, including News Ltd’s commentary website The Punch in February.

Optus cable to hit 100Mbit/s by mid-2010
Optus cable to hit 100Mbit/s by mid-2010

Optus today said it was on schedule to upgrade the speed of its HFC cable network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to 100Mbps by mid-2010

The company added 164,000 net post-paid mobile services in the quarter, with total post-paid subscribers growing to 4 million. Total 3G customers increased by 8.7 percent from last quarter to 3.34 million. This included 799,000 wireless broadband customers — a quarter of the company’s 3G userbase

Microsoft Surface goes on sale in Australia next week
Microsoft Surface goes on sale in Australia next week

Microsoft will start selling its Surface tabletop multi-touch system in Australia next week

The platform — which was first announced in May 2007 — has been available internationally for some time, and has been used for purposes as varied as military tactical overviews and in restaurants. It provides a computer screen as large as a small table that acts as a touch screen that users can interact with.

reported to be approx $20000

Time to die, but Microsoft can’t kill Internet Explorer 6
Time to die, but Microsoft can’t kill Internet Explorer 6

Google, is now putting the screws on IE6 and is planning to phase out support for the browser, by removing it from Google Docs supported list on March 1st. Today, Google went a bit further, announcing it will discontinue IE6 support for Gmail and Google Calendar later this year

the UK, the government has started instructing its public service departments to stop using the decrepit browser.

But Microsoft says it can’t formally withdraw support for the browser, because in the midst of malcontent about Windows Vista, it agreed to keep supporting Windows XP for another five years — until April 8, 2014. Unfortunately, IE6 shipped as the default browser with Windows XP, so Microsoft is compelled to keep propping it up with patches and fixes for years to come.

James Burt to pay Nintendo $1.5m for illegal uploading of New Super Mario Bros

24-year-old James Burt, from Brisbane, will have to pay Nintendo $1.5 million in damages after an out-of-court settlement was struck to compensate the company for the loss of sales revenue.

Nintendo said the loss was caused when Burt made New Super Mario Bros for the Wii gaming console available for illegal download a week ahead of its official Australian release in November last year.

Nintendo applied and was granted a search order by the Federal Court forcing Burt to disclose the whereabouts of all his computers, disks and electronic storage devices in November.

He was also ordered to allow access, including passwords, to his social networking sites, email accounts and websites.
The matter was settled between Burt and Nintendo last month.

According to Mr Burt’s MySpace site, he is 24 years old and has worked as a manager at games retailer Electronics Boutique in a store in Brisbane since 2004

Surgeon training draws on high-definition imaging

HIGH-DEFINITION footage of complex medical procedures is being transmitted in real-time around the world to help teach doctors and surgeons.

The technology was demonstrated in Sydney yesterday at the 29th Asia Pacific Advanced Networking Consortium where networking provider AARNet set up two 10 gigabit links which carried footage of endoscopic and gastrointenstinal surgeries from Japan and Korea.

The footage was in uncompressed 1080p resolution.



BBC News – Doctor Who props and costumes up for auction
Doctor Who props and costumes up for auction

A selection of props and costumes from BBC One’s Doctor Who are to go under the hammer in London later this month.

Fans can snap up their own Cyberman, Dalek or Sea Devil at the auction, as well as costumes worn by the 10th Doctor himself, David Tennant.

Other highlights of the sale include Kylie Minogue’s waitress costume she wore in a 2007 Christmas special, which is expected to fetch up to £3,000.

The auction will take place at Bonhams on 24 February.

From the same Christmas special, Tennant’s two-piece Paul Smith dinner suit is also up for grabs valued at around £3,000.

A jacket worn by Billie Piper’s character Rose Tyler is expected to raise up to £700 while a pair of her pyjamas and dressing gown could fetch £250.

Two Imperial Daleks costumes from Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as the Doctor in 1988 are also in the sale.

One, altered for exhibition purposes, is hoped to fetch £3,500, while the other could raise up to £7,000.

There is also a selection of vehicles in the auction – including Captain Jack’s Torchwood Range Rover and a black cab from The Runaway Bride episode starring Catherine Tate, aired in 2006.

BBC News – Can battlefield robots take the place of soldiers?

Can war be fought by lots of well-behaved machines, making it “safer for humans”? That is the seductive vision, and hope, of those manufacturing and researching the future of military robotics.

With 8,000 robots already in use, they believe they can bring about a military revolution.

Most of the robots currently deployed on land deal with non-combat tasks such as bomb disposal – unlike lethal aerial drones.

But Bob Quinn, who works for the US subsidiary of the British robot manufacturer QinetiQ, says the future promises more armed robots on the battlefield, including driverless vehicles.

“The closer you are to being shot, the more you understand the value of having a remote weapons capability,” he says.

Robo Wars is on Radio 4 on Monday 8 February at 2000 GMT
Or listen via the BBC iPlayer

Anyone who has seen the Terminator films may find this vision scary. Quinn admits that, even among senior military figures, “science fiction movies caused a great deal of angst”.

He stresses the need to make sure “that the weaponised robots only operate under the control of the soldier and never independently”.

But the speed of modern warfare can make direct human control difficult, says Peter Singer, author of Wired for War.

Take the automated counter-artillery system deployed in Afghanistan.

“The human reaction time when there’s an incoming canon shell is basically we can get to mid-curse word… [This] system reacts and shoots it down in mid-air. We are in the loop. We can turn the system off, we can turn it on, but our power really isn’t true decision-making power. It’s veto power now,” Singer says.

Vegetarian vehicles

But if automated systems are taking decisions, how can we be sure they are hitting the right targets and obeying the laws of war?

US academic Patrick Lin was recently commissioned by the US military to study robot ethics.

QinetiQ Talon robot

QinetiQ’s Talon robots are used to counter improvised explosive devices

“When you talk about autonomous robots,” he argues, “a natural response might be to programme them to be ethical. Isn’t that what we do with our computers?”

A striking example of a robot in need of careful programming is a driverless vehicle developed by the Pentagon, called the EATR.

It can refuel itself on long journeys by scavenging for organic material – which raises the haunting spectre of a machine consuming corpses on the battlefield.

Its inventor, Dr Robert Finkelstein of Robotic Technology Inc, insists it will consume “organic material but mostly vegetarian.”

“The robot can only do what it’s programmed to do, it has a menu,” he adds.

But all this worries sceptics like Professor Noel Sharkey, co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

If there’s an area of fighting that’s so intense that you can assume that anyone there is a combatant, then unleash the robots

Dr Patrick Lin, California Polytechnic

“You could train it all you want, give it all the ethical rules in the world. If the input to it isn’t correct, it’s no good whatsoever,” he says. “Humans can be held accountable, machines can’t.”

If you cannot rely on a robot knowing what to target or distinguishing between enemy forces and innocent non-combatants, Patrick Lin suggests another solution.

“If there’s an area of fighting that’s so intense that you can assume that anyone there is a combatant,” he argues, “then unleash the robots in that kind of scenario. Some people call that a kill box. Any target [in a kill box] is assumed to be a legitimate target.”

No emotions

Other researchers suggest robots may avoid the faults of human soldiers.

“Robots that are programmed properly are less likely to make errors and kill non-combatants, innocent people, because they’re not emotional, they won’t be afraid, act irresponsibly in some situations,” says Robert Finkelstein.

But Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics, an observer of wars past and present, disagrees.

Let’s keep our guys safe, and kill the enemy

Bob Quinn

“We should put our trust in the human factor,” he says.

“Unfortunately the military in their reports often see the human factor as what they call the weakest link. I don’t think it’s the weakest link. I think it’s the strongest link.”

Computers will never be able to simulate the “warrior ethos”, the mindset and ethical outlook of the professional soldier, he says.

The military revolution in robotics has already advanced rapidly in the air, where remotely piloted drone aircraft are now central to conflicts such as Afghanistan.

On the ground, use of robots has so far been more limited.

Yet given the political and popular concern about casualties among Nato forces, robot manufacturer Bob Quinn’s sales pitch is likely to be persuasive.

“Let’s keep our guys safe, and kill the enemy. Unfortunately, in warfare that’s the situation you’re in.”

Google making live translation service

Language lessons may be a thing of the past if Google cracks the live voice translation technology it admits it’s been working on.

The company would combine its advanced voice recognition know-how with its text translation service to create a mobile phone that acts as an instant interpreter.

‘We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,’ says head of translation services Franz Och.

‘Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on.’

Google says one of the biggest challenges will be coping with accents.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Och said: ‘Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch but recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you.

‘The phone should get a feel for your voice from past voice search queries, for example.’

Facebook spills the beans on son’s death | Technology | BigPond News
Facebook spills the beans on son’s death

A Sydney family have learned via Facebook of the death of their 17-year-old son, who was killed in a fatal car crash.

Bobby Vourlis was one of three young people killed when the Ford Falcon they were travelling in ploughed into a power pole.

The accident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, during torrential rain.

Vourlis’ sisters logged onto Facebook yesterday to find condolence messages to their brother.

Police have defended the delay, claiming there were problems in confirming the teenagers identity.

Plans for broadcast license rebates

The government says it will offer license rebates to broadcasters over the next two years in an effort to boost Australian content on commercial television.

A rebate of 33 per cent will be applied this year and then 50 per cent next year.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the government is also committed to reviewing the future role of license fees in Australia as the media sector sees a period of significant changes.

Israel opens electric car grid

Israel is on schedule to inaugurate a revolutionary electric car grid with dozens of recharge stations and thousands of cars on the road by next year, the project’s developers say.

The California-based company Better Place hopes Israel’s model will lead a shift toward electric transportation worldwide.

Between 70 and 100 recharge stations will open across the country by 2011 to service a fleet of electric vehicles, the company said on Sunday at a news conference unveiling a visitor centre north of Tel Aviv.

Beginning in September, the company will test hundreds of cars and install a preliminary infrastructure before the project’s commercial launch.

When the grid is complete, drivers will be able to recharge their vehicles using plugs installed next to parking spaces. On longer trips, motorists can stop at stations where a machine can replace the car’s lithium ion battery. The cars, developed with Renault-Nissan, have a range of about 160km before the battery must be replaced.

Better Place has said users will pay for a monthly package that will include the price of the car, the battery and use of the grid. But it has yet to announce the cost, saying only that the price will be equal to or less than the price of a regular car.

The company, founded by Israel-American businessman Shai Agassi, a former top executive at German software giant SAP, raised $US350 million ($A405 million) from an HSBC-led investor consortium last month, one of the largest clean-tech investments in history. The new financing values Better Place at $US1.25 billion ($A1.45 billion).

Agassi said on Sunday his goal was to help end global dependence on oil.

‘Israel has taken on the problem (of oil dependency) and has decided independently to solve this for the entire world,’ he said.

The visitor centre offers interactive tours, test drives of the electric car, and an automated station to get on the wait list to buy the new car.


Conroy suggested staffer for NBN job

A former Labor powerbroker being paid $450,000 a year as the NBN Co’s government relations point man was recommended by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Mike Kaiser took up the role with the NBN Co – which will build and operate the $43 billion national broadband network – after quitting as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s chief of staff last year.

The appointment of Mr Kaiser, who will earn more than the prime minister, has raised allegations of political interference on the part of Senator Conroy.

In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Senator Conroy confirmed he had recommended Mr Kaiser to NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley.

‘I suggested him as a person of possible relevant experience,’ Senator Conroy told the hearing.

The position was never advertised.

Opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith said the revelations of Senator Conroy’s role in the appointment were ‘absolutely staggering’.

‘This raises serious questions about the NBN Co’s employment and management processes, and the level of political involvement and interference by the Rudd government,’ he said.

‘It is not the job of the minister to suggest potential jobs for Labor mates at NBN Co.’

Senator Conroy was also forced to defend Mr Kaiser over the circumstances that led him to quit the Queensland Parliament in 2001.

Mr Kaiser quit the Queensland Parliament after details of his false electoral enrolment as a 22-year-old emerged.

‘He resigned from parliament and paid the price for a youthful indiscretion in 1985,’ Senator Conroy told the hearing.

Mr Quigley, who interviewed Mr Kaiser for the job following the communications minister’s recommendation, said he believed the former Labor MP was well suited to the position.

‘When interviewing Mr Kaiser I focused on the job the NBN Co had in front of it,’ he told the hearing.

‘My assessment was he could more than adequately do that job.’

Rudd wants to lift legal drinking age

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he’d personally like to see the legal drinking age lifted to 21 years.

But there would have to be rigorous debate and evidence that the policy could reduce binge drinking before the government would consider it, he says.

‘If the evidence is there and it is capable of being proven that it works, then we (will) look at these things and make a decision,’ Mr Rudd said, when quizzed on ABC Television’s QA program on Monday night.

Mr Rudd told the audience, including 200 high school students, that booze, like alcopops, was a concerning factor in P-Plate driving deaths.

‘(The) drinking rates of young teenagers (is) going through the roof … and hugely affecting their ability to, frankly, manoeuvre a car.’

He stopped short of calling for a federal intervention, but said ‘a whole lot of work’ was needed to address the alarming road toll.

The federal government was working to regulate car safety standards across the states, and automatic systems in cars for better handling, he added.

BBC News – ITV fined over I’m A Celebrity… jungle rat killing
ITV fined over I’m A Celebrity… jungle rat killing

ITV has been fined 3,000 Australian dollars (£1,672) after contestants on its show, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, killed and ate a rat.

The fine, for animal cruelty, was issued by the RSPCA in Australia, where the show was filmed last year.

“The animal was killed for a TV show, that’s not appropriate,” said RSPCA chief inspector David Oshannessy.

A spokesman for ITV said: “ITV has apologised for the mistake which led to this incident.”

Rice and beans

He continued: “The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offence, criminal or otherwise in New South Wales, and accepts that further inquiries should have been made.

“This was an oversight and we have since thoroughly reviewed our procedures and are putting in place a comprehensive training programme to ensure that this does not happen in future series.”

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! winner Gino D’Acampo killed the rat while in the jungle camp last year.

The Italian chef and actor Stuart Manning ate it after they were “exiled” and reduced to rations of rice and beans.

BBC News – China shuts down training website for hackers
China shuts down training website for hackers

China has closed down what is believed to be the country’s biggest training website for hackers, state media has reported.

They say the site, Black Hawk Safety Net, gave lessons in hacking and sold downloads of malicious software.

The reports say three people suspected of running the site were arrested.

Hacking is a sensitive topic for China, especially since the internet giant Google recently threatened to pull out of the country.

Google said China-based hackers had attacked its operations but the Chinese government denied any involvement.

The hacker training operation openly recruited thousands of members online and provided them with cyber attack lessons and Trojan software, the China Daily and the Wuhan Evening News said.

Trojans, which can allow outside access to a computer when implanted, are used by hackers to illegally control computers.

Black Hawk Safety Net recruited more than 12,000 paying subscribers and collected more than seven million yuan ($1m: £650,000) in membership fees, while another 170,000 people had signed up for free membership, the paper said.

The Hubei government refused to comment on the reports.

It was unclear when the shutdown had taken place but the Black Hawk Safety Net site was unavailable on Monday.

Hi Mark

The following information should help for your listeners.


Suzie Brady
Media Advisor
Office of Senator Stephen Conroy

The Government will introduce into Parliament legislation for the mandatory ISP-level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) content.

RC material includes child sexual abuse imagery; bestiality; sexual violence including rape; detailed instruction in crime including suicide related material; violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Let’s be clear – RC material is not available in newsagencies, it is not on library shelves, you cannot watch it on a DVD or at the cinema and it is not shown on television.

The Government believes this content has no place in a civilised society.

Since 2000, this material has been subject to take‑down notices by the ACMA if it is hosted online in Australia.

Our proposal will bring the treatment of overseas hosted content into line by requiring ISPs to block overseas content that has been identified as being RC-rated.

Suggestions that ISP Filtering will be inaccruate or slow down internet speeds are plain lies – the report into the pilot trial of ISP-level filtering demonstrates that blocking RC-rated material can be done with 100% accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed.

In December, the
Government released a discussion paper on the additional measures and a public consultation process is now underway – submissions close on Friday 12 February 2010.

The submissions will feed into the legislative framework.

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