Episode 234

posted in: Show Notes

iSteve, an authorised biography of Steve Jobs, will be published in 2012
Publisher Simon & Schuster has announced that biographer Walter Isaacson’s book “iSteve” will be published in early 2012.

Many Jobs biographies have been written, but not with his authorisation.

Jobs, 56, has had numerous health problems and announced in January that he would take his third leave of absence in seven years.
During that time, he has survived a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant. He appeared at a press conference in early March to announce the iPad 2.

Net users logged on 21 hours a week

That was the biggest year-on-year increase in the survey’s 11-year history and means average internet use has more than tripled in the past decade, from 6 1/2 hours in 2000

How to take a 15.5 gigapixel panoramic photo
a GigaPan 360 of the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral. (This link will take you to an external site and it may take a while to download).

What makes this different from a standard 360 panoramic shot?
“Resolution is the primary difference. Normal 360 panoramas that you see online are around 6,000 x 3,000 pixels. [The St Paul’s Cathedral shot] is over 170,000 x 85,000 pixels, or 15,500 megapixels (15.5 gigapixels)
“Essentially this means you can zoom to see detail that you could never see with the human eye from the same spot.”
How many pictures did you take and how long did it take to stitch together?
“I took 2,400 images over three and a half hours at St Paul’s

Microsoft launches StreetView rival in Europe
Cars fitted with cameras have begun taking pictures around London and will start mapping major cities on the continent next month.

Microsoft has been keen to avoid the privacy concerns that dogged Google’s service but said that it does plan to gather wi-fi data.
Initially, Streetside will be on a smaller scale than Streetview, according to the company’s director of search, Dave Coplin.

Microsoft’s ultimate aim was to combine Streetside with location-based services, Mr Coplin explained.
To do that, it needed to collect wi-fi data, such as the unique number that identifies the location of a hotspot, the signal strength and the type of wireless signal being used. That information would be used to help locate users.
Unlike Google, Microsoft does not have ambitions to map every street in the world.

Laser gun fired from US navy ship
A high-energy laser (HEL) fired from a US warship off the California coast has ignited a nearby boat

The US Navy has fired a laser gun from one of its ships for the first time.
Researchers used the high-energy laser (HEL) to disable a boat by setting fire to its engines off the coast of California.
While a weaponised system would likely be restricted to military vessels, merchant shipping has also expressed an interest in laser technology.
A gun which uses visible laser light to temporarily blind pirates was announced  in 2010.
The technology is still being tested, ahead of a commercial launch

Microsoft offers Internet Explorer 10 preview
Microsoft has unveiled a platform preview of Internet Explorer 10, just four weeks after IE9 was released

revealed a few early features at the MIX 10 conference in Las Vegas, saying the new browser will offer more support for HTML5 and CSS3.

Microsoft didn’t say when it hoped to release IE10, but said platform updates would be released every eight to 12 weeks.

Controversial NZ file sharing law PASSED!

The New Zealand Government’s amendments to the Copyright Act, the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, that was introduced last night has passed today by its Parliament with support from all major parties.

The new law will allow copyright owners ask for a six-month suspension of internet service to homes that have been found to have repeatedly infringe on copyrighted material. It will also introduce a “three strikes” regime, an introduction of a Copyright Tribunal that will impose a maximum penalty of NZ$15,000. ISPs will also be legally required to send notices of copyright infringement.

It will come into force on September 1, with the exception of mobile networks – who will fall under this law in 2013.

Apple adds privacy tool to browser
APPLE has added a do-not-track privacy tool to a test version of its latest web browser for keeping customers’ online activities from being monitored by marketers.

included within the latest test release of Lion, a version of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system that is available only to developers. The final version of the operating system is scheduled to be released to the public this northern summer

Google as the only major browser provider that hasn’t yet committed to supporting a do-no-track capability in its browser

Do-not-track tools in browsers automatically send out messages to websites and online-advertising networks requesting that users’ movements around the web not be tracked. The system will only work if web companies agree to respect peoples’ tracking preferences. So far, major online-advertising networks, which use tracking to sell ads tailored to consumers’ tastes, haven’t yet agreed to honour the system

Slow start to healthcare identifier service


FEWER than 30,000 people have checked their healthcare identity number since it was issued to all Medicare users on July 1 last year.


The government has automatically allocated identifiers to 23 million people.

None of the 400,000 health professionals with provider credentials have accessed the Health Identifiers service as yet, and only 10 of around 80,000 eligible healthcare organisations have registered with the operator, Medicare.

The $90 million service


The identifiers service is a key foundation piece for the planned $467m personally controlled e-health record (PCEHR), and future e-health initiatives.

edicare documents have revealed only 28,456 people have looked up their HI number while visiting their Medicare Online accounts.


Erik’s Notebook


By Dan Goodin in San FranciscoGet more from this author
Posted in Enterprise Security, 12th April 2011 23:27 GMT

Microsoft has patched a record 64 vulnerabilities in Windows, Office and five other software packages, many of which allowed attackers to remotely install malware on end user machines.
The most important fixes addressed a vulnerability in the Internet Explorer browser that wasexploited in last month’s Pwn2Own contest. Although details were kept confidential, hackers have begun exploiting the critical flaw in real-world attacks, Microsoft warned. The use-after-free vulnerability affects versions 8 and earlier of the Microsoft browser.

The other top priority should be updates that patch critical vulnerabilities in the way Windows handles networking requests using the SMB, or Server Message Block, protocol. By sending malformed packets, attackers can remotely install malware on vulnerable machines with no user interaction required.

Researchers have warned that the flaw could be exploited to install self-replicating worms in much the way a similar vulnerability from 2008 did. Even after Microsoft issued an emergency patch for the flaw, it still opened the door to the Conficker Worm, which commandeered millions of machines.
The monster patch batch also included relief for another flaw in all supported versions of Windows that Google has said was being exploited by “politically motivated” attackers against activists. The MS11-026 update fixes the way Windows parses webpages containing MIME-formatted content.
Microsoft also introduced two tools that are designed to thwart malware attacks. One extends a protection known as Office File Validation to older versions of Office. The feature, which was previously available only to users of Office 2010, helps users to identify malicious Office files by scanning and validating them before they are opened.
The second tool is an update to the winload.exe component that helps flag device drivers that have been booby-trapped to install malware.
The patches were released in 17 bulletins, nine of which carried a rating of “critical,” a designation typically reserved for vulnerabilities that can be remotely exploited to install malware or expose sensitive user data. The remaining eight bulletins were rated “important.”
Microsoft offers a quick overview of this month’s Patch Tuesday here and a bulletin-by-bulletin risk assessment here. As always, SANS has a helpful summary here. ®

NBN 4 MONTHS BEHIND SCHEDULE – CONROY TO BLAME http://netchannel2.com/nbn-4-months-behind-schedule-conroy-to-blame
By Mathew Lentini | Wednesday | 13/04/2011

Malcolm Turnbull is claiming that the NBN is four months behind schedule and that the cost of “embarking on this project blind” is being pushed up by the delays.

The Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband has put the delays at the fault of Senator Stephen Conroy who he claims has been dismissing the party’s calls for a “studied approach” to the NBN.
Citing the Coalition’s proposed Productivity Commission cost-benefit analysis of the NBN from last year scheduled for May 31 this year, he said: “We have now almost reached that deadline and, even without conducting a cost-benefit analysis, the NBN Co has not finalised construction contracts that were reportedly due to be settled last December.”

The Gillard government ruled against the analysis last year on the grounds that it would waste time and money.
The criticism from the Coalition comes as the NBN halts its construction tender process due to cost constraints, the quitting of two of its executives and as NBN Co holds talks with Silcar, a joint venture by Leighton Holdings Ltd and Siemens, regarding a take-on of the prime contractor role.

DATING TOO EXPENSIVE? GET A ‘CLOUD GIRLFRIEND’ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383485,00.asp

By Sara Yin

More details have come in about Cloud Girlfriend, a California-based startup with an incredulous premise: it will match you to your ideal girlfriend for an Internet-only relationship.

According to co-founder David Fuhriman (left), the site that launches on April 26 will not be like the one described in March.
For starters, the
will be free (“unlike your last date,” the slogan says.) So are additional cloud girlfriends.
“What we are creating blurs the lines between reality and imagination,” Fuhriman said in a statement. “We allow people to define their ideal self, find their perfect girlfriend or boyfriend and connect and interact as if that person existed. We will fulfill the 4 steps on the landing page, but not create any fake accounts.”
The four steps outlined at Cloud Girlfriend are: 1. Define your perfect girlfriend. Step 2: We bring her into existence. Step 3: Connect and interact with her publicly on your favorite social network Step 4: Enjoy a public long distance relationship with your perfect girl.
Fuhriman said that besides being a “fun game for people to play” it will also teach people how to manage relationships.
“Like the saying goes, ‘Practice makes perfect.’ The site can help people come together and practice managing a real relationship- and then take it into the real world.” (Un-ironic question: what world is this man living in?)
The founders behind Cloud Girlfriend are still talking to Facebook to make sure they comply with its terms and conditions, but the app has no intention of using fake Facebook profiles. Instead, a real woman will communicate with you through your cloud girlfriend’s profile. Users can choose from a library of photos to determine what his or her cloud girlfriend looks like.
So even though you know that your hot, witty, smart, rich new girlfriend on Facebook is faker than fake, your Facebook friends may not know the difference.
Sign up at Cloud Girlfriend for an invite to the launch.




WE’VE got some good news for anyone who misses those old grey Telecom touch phones.

Your house is about to get another grey box, courtesy of the NBN.

New pictures of the NBN Network Termination Unit, or “NBN Box”, have been published in an information pack for consumers.

The NBN Box will connect you to the new broadband network when it’s rolled out in your area.

All Australian homes will get one, regardless of whether they’re hooked up to the network via fibre-optic cable, wireless or satellite.

Most people will get an internal box, pictured, though there’s also an external version that can be mounted on an outside wall.

On the back are two phone ports and four Ethernet ports. It also comes with a back-up battery and a power supply that plugs into a power point.

The pictures, taken by NBN Co, were released in a consumer guide published last week by the Internet Society of Australia and Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

The guide includes plain-language information and tips on how to prepare for the NBN and what it will mean for households. You can read or download it here.


Apple CEO Steve Jobs has finally agreed to participate in a book about his life.

Simon & Schuster announced Sunday that Walter Isaacson’s “iSteve: The Book of Jobs” will be published in early 2012. Isaacson has been working on the long-rumored biography since 2009 and has interviewed Jobs, members of his family, colleagues at Apple and competitors.

Spokeswoman Tracey Guest of Simon & Schuster said no further details were available and that neither Jobs nor Isaacson would be commenting.

Many Jobs biographies have been written, but not with his authorization. He reacted to at least one book with active disapproval. In 2005, Apple banished works by John Wiley & Sons from its stores because the publisher had signed up an unauthorized biography, “iCon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business,” by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon.

Few biographers are better connected than Isaacson, a former top executive at CNN and Time magazine who has written best-sellers about Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. He is currently the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a “nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute” in Washington, D.C.

“This is the perfect match of subject and author, and it is certain to be a landmark book about one of the world’s greatest innovators,” Jonathan Karp, publisher of Simon & Schuster, said in a statement. “Just as he did with Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, Walter Isaacson is telling a unique story of revolutionary genius.”

Jobs, 56, has had numerous health problems and announced in January that he would take his third leave of absence in seven years. During that time, he has survived a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant. He appeared at a press conference in early March to announce the iPad 2.

By David Braue, ZDNet.com.au on April 11th, 2011
It’s two years now since Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy faced Australia to announce they were going to embark on their ambitious fibre-anywhere plan. And it has been a year since I marked the first anniversary of that date, suggesting early progress was promising.

Man, was I an optimist. While I acknowledged ongoing challenges for Stephen Conroy, who would have guessed then that a year later we would find him reporting to a new Prime Minister?

Nor would I have guessed that we would have progressed another year to find NBN Co suspending negotiations with 14 tenders and losing its head of construction under suspicious circumstances; there are worrying parallels to the last time the government cancelled an NBN contract, after booting Telstraout of its procurement processes and then booting all rationality out of it, into the bargain.

I did, for those who are keeping score, anticipate extensive problems as Labor tried to push its legislation through. Opposition Senators and MPs certainly rose to the challenge, obstructing the NBN at every turn and even complaining extensively as recently as last week about last-minute amendments — made to address many of their concerns about the NBN, no less — and then wasting half a day stalling the process by complaining how little time had been given to discuss them. Indeed, whatever ideological gains the Coalition has made over the past year in fighting the NBN are less the result of its haphazard, reactionary, FUD-driven and, frankly, often embarrassing smear campaign than of Labor’s effort to do anything — anything — to satisfy the interests of the many stakeholders in the NBN and just get on with it.

ISPs that had been agitating for the separation of Telstra for a decade finally got what they were asking for, and promptly attacked NBN Co for threatening their own businesses with a points of interconnect (POI) model that they said would strand their fibre investments and increase their costs connecting to the NBN. NBN Co relented, waited for ACCC guidance and delivered an alternative model with plenty of POIs — which ended up embroiling Conroy in a tit-for-tat battle with Internode (the company thathates the POI model with a vengeance). Just goes to show: you can’t please everybody, all the time.

Facing a continuous barrage of same old, same old ignorant questions about wireless networks from a chronically uneducated public and politically-minded Senators, Conroy and NBN CEO Mike Quigley have struggled to gain enough ideological and logistical traction to actually get on with the job of fixing our ailing national telecommunications infrastructure.

Facing a continuous barrage of same old, same old ignorant questions about wireless networks from a chronically uneducated public and politically-minded Senators, Conroy and NBN CEO Mike Quigley have struggled to gain enough ideological and logistical traction to actually get on with the job of fixing our ailing national telecommunications infrastructure. Election-eve headlines screaming about the cost of the NBN to householders are hard to ignore — even if they’re partisan, insincere and deceptive. Conroy seems to spend most of his public time defending the NBN against critics fuelled by ignorance and blind hatred of what they see as a barely-hanging-on minority government with a sketchy track record on consistency and delivery. When he tries to reach out to the masses by engaging “shock jocks” like 2UE Afternoons host Mike Smith, he comes off as autocratic and foolish.

No, Labor just can’t win when it comes to explaining the reasons for the NBN — even though these reasons are glaringly obvious to anybody actually working in the industry. But with estimates hearing after hearing focusing on the same ridiculous questions that make even Conroy look like a technological genius, it’s a wonder Mike Quigley hasn’t thrown up his hands in disgust and checked into Sol Trujillo’s guest villa for some margarita-fuelled reminiscing. Quigley, you will recall, didn’t actually need this job and only took it for the technological challenge — and his belief that he could make a real difference.

This, then, is what’s wrong with the NBN — and the reason why I included both a full-stop and a question mark in the headline above. Two years on, this ambitious, promising and more-or-less realistic project has been subject to so much partisan, politically-driven, fact-ignoring, FUD-fuelled, back-stabbing “shock-and-awe” duplicity that its purpose has been obstructed and muddied absolutely beyond belief. Yet, caught in its own evolution and desire to please so many competing interests, Conroy and NBN Co have been so buffeted by the winds of opposition that they’ve failed to steer a straight course for the project. The biggest cost of the NBN, as one reader noted recently, is the NBN itself.

Oh — and the fact that Australia is a huge country. Labor could have kept the cost of the NBN much lower by focusing it on current underserviced premises in rural and regional areas, and scaling back the NBN remains one way of pushing it through faster. But in our fiercely egalitarian society, this would have been characterised by opponents as a half-solution that also guarantees financial non-viability. And it would have been.

The worst part is that Labor’s NBN isn’t even the best model for the NBN. That honour goes to the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) roll-out, which would have slashed costs by capitalising on what infrastructure is in the ground and weaning itself from Telstra’s anaemic exchange network. It would have made the most sense to lay a comprehensive FTTN network, service everyone with VDSL running the length of their streets and then fill in fibre last-mile connections as budgets and interest allowed. Yet FTTN was never going to happen, since it implicitly relied on getting unfettered access to Telstra’s local-loop connections — and the company made it very clear, time and again, that that was as likely as Sol Trujillo putting on a pink tutu and doing plies through Federation Square.
So we ended up with the current NBN, which is a beautiful but expensive, complex and risk-fraught venture. For all of our healthy scepticism, we should be happy we have a government that is something so fundamentally positive and valuable for our country. Few governments in the world would have the guts to take on the utterly insane proposition of rebuilding a nationwide customer access network from the ground up, then wrapping it in enough protections that it could become a viable — and, perhaps, one day a commercial — proposition. The government is well-aware that the NBN is a hugely difficult task that is being made more difficult by constant attacks from vested interests. But it is the only way to free our country’s telecommunications environment from Telstra’s iron fist, and position us all for the future rather than being limited by the political and technical compromises of the past.

Yet for each visionary step forward it has taken (Telstra’s submission, while still hanging on David Thodey’s whim, is a significant one), scope creep and the sheer bulk of the NBN’s groaning, heaving, controversial weight has left an impatient populace baying for blood. The NBN is like the calm, well-meaning beast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast — wanting nothing more than to do beautiful things for his Belle country, but vilified and hunted by a bloodthirsty mob that’s whipped into a frenzy by a fear mongering poseur who wants nothing but to get that Belle country for himself at all costs. Sure, he lives in a huge and expensive castle, but he’s all about good intentions and I bet he’d be a great hit with the kids at the local fair.

Frankly, one would have hoped that the NBN would be in better shape going into its third year. With unions baying for Conroy’s blood over the cancelled contract, the promise of punitive settlements with tender bidders that have spent millions preparing bids in good faith, a shaky hold on government that’s been destabilised by Gillard’s carbon tax and Rudd’s recent suggestions of her duplicity and an Opposition that continues to mask its fundamental Luddism behind cries of fiscal prudence, the NBN has more than enough to deal with.

And then, of course, there’s actually building the damn thing.

The worst part is that Labor’s NBN isn’t even the best model for the NBN … Yet Labor had no option but to take on the utterly insane proposition of rebuilding the customer access network from the ground up, then wrapping it in enough protections that it could become a viable — and, perhaps, one day a commercial — proposition.

Given the momentum behind it, I’d suggest that it’s too early to call the NBN dead in the water as much as chronically delayed — by a stubborn parliament, a quietly stonewalling Telstra, a workforce of subcontractors that are genuinely and reasonably concerned about apportionment of risk and an industry that can’t seem to decide whether it’s happy or unhappy about what the NBN has become. But the foundations are there assuming Labor can navigate all this, avoid an election and still put a clear NBN plan into place, things should be looking up by next year — unless the forces of inertia succeed in dragging out this whole painful, desperate opposition to progress until we’re staring down another election.

The NBN’s second birthday isn’t the only milestone we’ve reached today; by my count, this is my 200th Full Duplex column. That constitutes a novel’s worth of words, and I thank the many loyal readers who have come back and participated in the many interesting discussions we’ve had here. I’ll be continuing to follow the NBN and the rest of the telecoms industry as I have been doing — but if you have any other requests or suggestions I’d love to hear from you, either via email to fullduplex [at] braue.com, or via Twitter at @zyzzyvamedia.

By Stephen Withers
Monday, 11 April 2011 11:33
Optus has begun the first commercial femtocell pilot in Australia. A femtocell can be regarded as a private 3G base station linked to the network via the customer’s broadband connection.
One way of overcoming poor or nonexistent 3G reception in a home or office is to install a femtocell, Connected via a fixed broadband service, the femtocell provides a strong signal within a few tens of metres.
Such devices are in common use in some other countries, but Optus has begun what it claims is the first commercial pilot of femtocells in Australia. Dubbed the 3G Home Zone, Optus’ femtocell is initially only available in selected areas of Sydney, Wollongong, Central Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. No indication was given of when it might be offered in other places.

The company claims it provides five bars of signal to mobile devices within 30 metres of the Home Zone. Only devices with Optus 3G SIMs can connect to the Home Zone, and Optus officials say up to four devices can be used simultaneously.

Calls or data sessions begun via the Home Zone will handover to available coverage if you move out of range of the Home Zone, but the reverse does not occur.

Possible drawbacks are that a maximum of 12 devices (phones, tablets and wireless broadband modems) can be registered at a time with the Home Zone, and it uses approximately 1GB of data per month before any calls or data sessions are made. This broadband data usage comes out of your monthly quota even if you are an Optus broadband customer.

Furthermore, 3G calls and data usage are billed or metered as usual even though they go through the Home Zone, so there is an element of ‘double dipping’ where an Optus fixed broadband connection is used.
Use of a Home Zone is not restricted to Optus broadband customers – it simply requires a minimum download speed of 1Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 256Kbps. Many Optus plans are throttled to 256/256 or 128/128 once the quota is exceeded, and the Home Zone stops functioning if the speed in either direction drops below 128Kbps.

“Australia’s first commercial femtocell pilot will provide valuable feedback from our customers on the multiple benefits of this technology,” said Optus’ consumer marketing director Gavin Williams. “We believe femtocells are an important way of enhancing the customer experience of the Optus Open Network by acting as a wireless gateway into the home or office,” he added.

The price of the Home Zone depends on the customer’s mobile plan. For prepaid customers, it costs $240.

The price is $180 with a $29 plan, $120 on $49/$59/$69 plans, and $60 on a $79 plan. Non-prepaid customers can spread the price over 12 equal monthly payments.

A femtocell trial involving Optus’ enterprise customers is also underway.

By: Clint Boulton

Facebook dings Google by releasing Open Compute Project, open sourcing its hardware and data center specs for use by other companies who need to scale.

Facebook April 7 launched its Open Compute Project, an unprecedented play to open source the specifications it employs for its hardware and data center to efficiently power a social network comprising 600 million-plus people.

For the Open Compute Project, Facebook is publishing specs and mechanical designs used to construct its motherboards, power supply, server chassis, and server and battery cabinets. GigaOm has hard data points on the specs.

The company is also open sourcing specs for its data center’s electrical and mechanical construction, including technical specs and mechanical CAD files.

The move is a significant departure from strategies of other companies such as Google, Twitter and Amazon, which closely guard their data center and hardware specifications to maintain a competitive edge in the cutthroat cloud computing market.

“We think it’s time to demystify the biggest capital expense of an online business — the infrastructure,” said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook, at a media event at the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters today.

Facebook broke ground on its first dedicated data center in Prineville, Ore. in January 2010. The data center employs evaporated water to cool the incoming air, as opposed to massive chiller systems that consumer more energy and drive up electricity bills.

With the assistance of chipmakers AMD and Intel and server providers HP and Dell, Facebook engineers have spent tens of millions of dollars building custom servers and power supplies in the past year.

These data center solutions delivered a 38 percent increase in energy efficiency at 24 percent lower cost compared to Facebook’s existing facilities, claimed Heiliger.

Moreover, this technology enabled the data center to earn an initial power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio of 1.07, pushing it well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard mark of 1.5 for Facebook’s existing facilities and those of other companies.

The Green Grid’s PUE is an indicator of data center energy efficiency, and Facebook’s Prineville plant ranks as good as it gets for a major data center.

Dell said it will design and build servers based on the Open Compute Project specification. Moreover, Synnex Corporation will sell Open Compute Project servers, which Facebook designed to be “vanity-free,” or without the aesthetic bells and whistles of existing rack servers.

That means they feature no paint, logos, stickers, or front panel, saving more than 6 pounds of materials per server, Amir Michael, manager of hardware design and server design overview for Facebook.

James Hamilton, vice president and distinguished engineer at Amazon Web Services, toured Facebook’s Prineville data center in February and came away impressed by what he saw.

“I saw an unusually large number of elegant designs ranging from one of the cleanest mechanical systems I’ve come across, three phase 480VAC directly to the rack, a low-voltage, direct current, distributed uninterruptable power supply system, all the way through to custom server designs,” Hamilton wrote on hispersonal blog.

Costly NBN chosen to avoid Telstra fight
April 11, 2011 – 9:34PM

The federal government has confirmed it chose a much costlier national broadband network (NBN) plan to avoid paying up to $20 billion in compensation to Telstra.

Labor went to the 2007 election promising a $4.7 billion program that aimed to connect optical fibres to street-level exchanges.

Since coming to power, the ALP has pushed for a much more expensive $36 billion project, charged with connecting 93 per cent of Australian homes directly to super-fast internet.

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told ABC Television’s Four Corners program that Labor’s original fibre-to-the-node model would have seen taxpayers giving Telstra up to $20 billion in compensation.

“No expert in the field, nowhere in the legal field, commercial field, would give us a suggestion that the sort of bill you’d pay to Telstra was anything less than $15 to $20 billion,” Senator Conroy told the program which screened on Monday night.

“Then Telstra could take that money and build a fibre-to-the-home network past you and strand 70 per cent of $15 billion on the side of the road.”

Senator Conroy believes the initial proposal for a fibre-to-the-node network would have required the government to cut Telstra’s copper network, thereby appropriating the telco’s property rights.

That would have led to a large compensation bill and Telstra competing against the NBN.

Former Telstra corporate affairs manager Phil Burgess said Telstra would have taken action if the original proposal was adopted.

“Absolutely, that’s the way competition works,” he told ABC Television.

“The only way it would be stopped is if they have laws that will prevent it.”

Mr Burgess said a meeting with then prime minister Kevin Rudd and his adviser David Epstein revealed the Labor government’s intention for Telstra to divest Foxtel and separate Telstra.

“That is when they let the cat out of the bag,” he said.

Under the revised fibre-to-the-home plan NBN Co, the company behind the network, is finalising an $11 billion deal so it can buy Telstra’s copper wires and underground cables.

The government’s decision to bypass Telstra, and build its own broadband network directly to Australian homes, was hatched on a plane between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane by Senator Conroy and Mr Rudd.

In the air, the two decided Telstra needed to be separated, to break up a privatised market giant.

But opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull told ABC Television the government was wasting money tackling Telstra’s near-monopoly market share.

“Achieving separation by building an entirely new network owned by the government is surely the most expensive conceivable way of achieving that change,” he said.

© 2011 AAP
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Steve Wozniak considering Apple return in Jobs’ absence

Posted by Luke Johnson on Mon 11 Apr 2011
Wozniak would consider Apple return if asked
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has announced he would consider a return to the fruity tech company if asked despite wishing Apple products were more open.

Having founded Apple back in 1976 with the now talismanic front man Steve Jobs and Ronal Wayne, Wozniak, who is accredited with building the Apple I and Apple II computers, devices that revolutionised personal computing, stopping daily work for the tech giant in 1987 but remains on the company payroll.

Asked if he would adopt a more hands-on, active roll within the company if presented with the opportunity, Wozniak, speaking at a server conference in Brighton, said: “I’d consider it, yeah.”
Speaking on his opinion of Apple products since leaving the firm Woz said: “Unbelievable. The products, one after another, quality and hits.” Believing he could still bring something to Apple he added: “There’s just an awful lot I know about Apple products and competing products that has some relevance, some meaning.”

Although seemingly keen to make a return to Apple at some point in the future, co-founder Wozniak has criticised the closed-system Apple adopts, forcing users of its products to buy further content direct from Apple owned digital stores. He said: “My thinking is that Apple could be more open and not lose sales,” diplomatically adding: “I’m sure they’re making the right decisions for the right reasons for Apple.”

Apple CEO and fellow co-founder Steve Jobs is currently undertaking a third medical leave of absence from the company since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Which Apple co-founder would be provide the most to the company if they returned, Jobs or Wozniak? Let us know what you think via the T3 Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Via: Reuters

Winklevoss Twins Lose Appeal for More of Facebook’s Money
A federal appeals court on Monday ended years of litigation between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his former Harvard classmates, the Winklevoss twins, who claim Zuckerberg robbed them of the idea for Facebook and then lied about its valuation.
After initially settling with Zuckerberg for $65 million in 2008, as depicted at the end of Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed movie “The Social Network,” Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss tried to re-open the settlement in January.
They argued that back in 2008, Zuckerberg had lied about Facebook’s true value in order to push ahead with the 2008 settlement, which might explain why the Winklevoss’ former allotment of shares is now valued at around $140 million, according to PaidContent.
Facebook’s initial request to enforce the settlement was approved by a lower court. Today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
In his 11-page opinion, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote: “The Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace.
“With the help of a team of lawyers and a financial advisor, they made a deal that appears quite favorable in light of recent market activity. For whatever the reason, they now want to back out. Like the district court, we see no basis for allowing them to do so. At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached,” he continued.
“At some point, litigation must come to an end,” he added. “That point has now been reached.”
Colin Stretch, deputy general counsel of Facebook, said in a statement, “We appreciate the Ninth Circuit’s careful consideration of this case and are pleased the court has ruled in Facebook’s favor.”
The Winklevoss twins, nicknamed “Winklevii” in the media, along with Divya Narendra, started a social-networking site called ConnectU during their tenure at Harvard. They claim that Zuckerberg, a former classmate and freelancer for ConnectU, stole their idea to launch Facebook. The four reached a settlement in 2008, which left the Winklevii and Narendra with $65 million.
For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.


Peter Jackson easing 3D eyestrain for The Hobbit? – Shadowlocked

We’ve written a fair bit about the health issues of watching 3D movies. No, you’re not going to go blind, likely as not, but you might be one of the many who suffer splitting headaches or even not be able to participate in the 3D magic at all. Now Peter Jackson is determined to spare us any more cranial collapses by shooting the Hobbit cycle at 48 frames per second, bucking 90 years of filming and projecting tradition at only half that speed.
As Jackson himself observes, shooting higher than 24fps not only provides a smoother and more ‘blended’ mix of (more) frames, but has already been in commercial usage via the 60fps ShowScan format developed by VFX wizard Douglas Trumbull in the late 1970s, and which was used in Universal’s Back To The Future theme-park ride in Florida, amongst other venues.
Shooting at 24fps is one thing, but until now the need to project at that rate would likely have called for a complete refit of the world’s projection systems, a stumbling-block overcome by the increasing use of digital projectors.
“Now that the world’s cinemas are moving towards digital projection, and many films are being shot with digital cameras, increasing the frame rate becomes much easier. Most of the new digital projectors are capable of projecting at 48 fps, with only the digital servers needing some firmware upgrades. We tested both 48 fps and 60 fps. The difference between those speeds is almost impossible to detect, but the increase in quality over 24 fps is significant. “
Presumably prints of The Hobbit which are destined for cinemas which cannot project at 48fps will be downsampled from the higher-rate versions, though Jackson himself admits that this is no minor matter as regards the distribution and marketing of the film.
“…while it’s predicted that there may be over 10,000 screens capable of projecting THE HOBBIT at 48 fps by our release date in Dec, 2012, we don’t yet know what the reality will be. It is a situation we will all be monitoring carefully.”
While this seems to be an effort to smooth out the rough edges of the 3D movie experience, the interesting possibility here is the wide-spread adoption of 48fps even in non-3D output. Only the relative few who have seen ShowScan and similar systems can really comment on the improvement in quality, but the theory of it is easy to understand and very promising.
Jackson himself augurs a few boos from the gallery from the ‘old school’, who were already busy criticising CGI and then 3D before this new-fangled 48fps came along…
“Film purists will criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, but all of our crew–many of whom are film purists–are now converts. You get used to this new look very quickly and it becomes a much more lifelike and comfortable viewing experience. It’s similar to the moment when vinyl records were supplanted by digital CDs.There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re heading towards movies being shot and projected at higher frame rates.”
Blu-ray already operates at 60fps, and is therefore well-placed to benefit from the upgraded frame-count of The Hobbit, so at least, for once, this doesn’t appear to be a clandestine industry attempt to force another round of consumer re-buying.

Green Revolution’s Immersion Cooling in Action « Data Center Knowledge
A four-rack installation of the Green Revolution liquid coolings solution, which submerges servers in a coolant similar to mineral oil.

High-density cooling specialist Green Revolution Cooling has published photos and video of several installations of its product, which submerges servers in a liquid similar to mineral oil. The Austin, Texas startup said its cooling enclosures can eliminate the need for CRAC units and chillers, allowing users to cool high-density servers at a fraction of the cost of traditional racks.

Green Revolution’s CarnotJet Submersion Cooling System resembles a rack tipped over on its back, filled with 250 gallons of dielectric fluid, with servers inserted vertically into slots in the enclosure. Fluid temperature is maintained by a pump with a heat exchanger, which can be connected to a standard commercial evaporative cooling tower. The company says its solutions will work with OEM servers with slight modifications (removing unneeded fans, applying a coating to hard drives).
Liquid cooling is used primarily in high-performance computing (HPC) and other applications requiring high density deployments that are difficult to manage with air cooling. Interest in liquid cooling has been on the rise as a growing number of applications and services are requiring high-density configurations.
Green Revolution’s first unit was installed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin, home to the Ranger supercomputer. This video features a four rack (100 kW) installation at Midas Networks, an ISP in Austin:

Green Revolution says its enclosures represent a 50 percent savings in overall energy costs for the workloads at Midas Networks. The company says the payback on the initial investment in the liquid cooling system ranges from one to three years.
Mineral oil has been used in immersion cooling because it is not hazardous, transfers heat almost as well as water but doesn’t conduct an electric charge. Green Revolution is among a number of companies introducing liquid cooling solutions that immerse servers in fluid. An immersion system with a different design was introduced by UK firm Iceotope at the SC09 event, while Hardcore Computing introduced its Liquid Blade immersion cooling unit last year.
A photo gallery on the Green Revolution web site shows other early installations, in which the enclosures sit atop a containment system to serve as a backstop against leaks.
“The containment here is a 3 inch metal wall, made of angle iron, surrounding the tanks and pumping module and sealed to the concrete slab below,” said Mark Tlapak of Green Revolution. “The area holds significantly more than one rack. In between the tanks we place expanded metal catwalk that sits 3 inches high to allow people to walk around the racks even if the containment area contains coolant. Each tank has two coolant level detection sensors that tie into the control software and send out instant alerts in the event of a change in coolant level.”
Here’s another look at the Midas Networks installation:

Google invests US$168 million in world’s largest solar power tower plant
Google has chipped in a US$168 million investment in what will be the world’s largest solar power tower plant. To be located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall. The plant commenced construction in October 2010 and is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy following its projected completion in 2013.
Although solar power tower development is currently less advanced than the more common trough systems, they offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capabilities. Parabolic trough systems consist of parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a Dewar tube running the length of the mirror through which a heat transfer fluid runs that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine.
Solar power tower systems such as the ISEGS on the other hand focus a large area of sunlight into a single solar receiver on top of a tower to produce steam at high pressure and temperatures of up to 550 ° C (over 1,000° F) to drive a standard turbine and generator. The ISEGS also uses a dry-cooling technology that reduces water consumption by 90 percent and uses 95 percent less water than competing solar thermal technologies. Water is also recirculated during energy before being reused to clean the plant’s mirrors.

Overshadowing the 20 MW PS20 solar power tower plant in Spain, the scale of ISEGS can’t be overstated. It will be the first large-scale solar power tower plant built in the U.S. in nearly two decades and will single-handedly almost double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today and nearly equal the amount of total solar installed in the U.S. in 2009 alone.
The entire complex will consist of three separate plants developed by BrightSource Energy that will be built in phases between 2010 and 2013. The energy generated from all three plants will be enough to supply more than 140,000 homes in California during peak usage hours, with the project contracted to provide 1,300 MW to Southern California Edison and 1,310 MW to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
Google says it has now invested over $250 million in the clean energy sector but its $168 million investment in the ISEGS is the company’s largest investment to date. The size of the investment reflects Google’s faith in the technology and it hopes that other companies will follow its example and make similar investments in renewable energy.

China Decides to Ban Time Travel – Techland – TIME.com
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Related Tags: china, culture, media, time travel, tv, weird
In China… well, in China, many weird things happen. The Chinese government, in another strange episode, has decided to ban time travel. Well, at least when it comes to television shows and movies.
With the way things are run, the state controls and monitors everything shown on your television or your computer. So yeah, China can randomly go back in time and say Marty McFly never existed. Scary, huh? Fortunately, that’s not what they’re saying.
Somehow, though, the government has taken a sudden disliking to the idea of distorting certain historical events, things and people. (Cough.)
The idea of time-travel has soared in popularity recently, and it seems like the authorities have just gotten sick of it. Common themes revolve around protagonists going back to ancient times, with script writers often taking liberties with plots and events. Even worse than just being an annoyance, some people fear a real disrespect for China’s history.
The decision was made earlier this month, with the country’s State Administration for Radio, Film & Television stating that “The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
What’s wrong with these shows? They “casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism and reincarnation.”

Jerry Lawson, creator of cartridge-based video game consoles, dies at 70 — Engadget

Jerry Lawson, creator of cartridge-based video game consoles, dies at 70

By Christopher Trout

Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, the man who invented the video game cartridge, died Saturday morning of a heart attack at a Mountain View, California hospital at the age of 70. His brainchild, the Fairchild Channel F Video Game System, more commonly referred to as the Channel F, came out just one year before Atari’s cartridge-based console, the VCS, opening the floodgates of modern gaming. His earliest foray into consumer electronics began early on, but it wasn’t until he joined Fairchild in 1970 that he really made his mark on the tech industry. During that time, he became the only black member of the infamous Homebrew Computer Club that counted Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as members. He was honored at this year’s GDC for his monumental contribution to modern gaming.

iPhone-controlled Sphero ball gets a chariot for roving FaceTime sessions, office races — Engadget

iPhone-controlled Sphero ball gets a chariot for roving FaceTime sessions, office races

By Donald Melanson

A tiny robotic ball able to be controlled by a smartphone doesn’t exactly need any more selling points, but Orbotix’s Sphero now has an extra one nonetheless. It’s been outfitted with a chariot that can be used for FaceTime sessions or low-level surveillance — or chariot races around your office, naturally. Of course, this is strictly a DIY affair, but we’re guessing this is one project you will actually want to do yourself once you see the video after the break.

JB adopts a brand new approach to retailing with concept store | The Australian

JB Hi-Fi chief executive Terry Smart. Picture: David Geraghty Source: The Courier-Mail
JB Hi-FI is opening a new concept store to test a new brand merchandising format, giving a glimpse of the retailer’s future strategy.
The company says it will open a 1600sq m store in Sydney’s Westfield city shopping centre on April 21 featuring TVs, computers and cameras organised by brand, but none of the usual DVDs, CDs and computer games.
Chief executive Terry Smart said two traditional stores nearby were selling “software” goods such as DVDs, and this gave JB a chance to test the new format.
The concept store, thought to have been inspired by Japan’s Yodobashi, will feature its largest range of home entertainment products and accessories in branded sections, such as Apple, Sony and Hewlett-Packard.
Mr Smart said the brand segmentation would make a strong product statement and was driven by a desire to test its effectiveness.
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Despite increasing competition from online retailers, JB Hi-Fi continues to pursue growth through its bricks and mortar model, but it also sells online.
In a client note, Macquarie analysts yesterday speculated that JB Hi-Fi would eventually roll out the concept store format nationally.
“The store is being pitched as a ‘concept’ store to suppliers, and JB Hi-Fi have been partnering with a number of brand owners to establish a ‘best practice’ merchandise display with a focus on selling features and benefits of products rather than a focus on best price in category,” analyst Rob Blythe said.
“Knowledge about foot traffic and customer behaviour can be developed here before any national rollout.”
Five stores are due to open in Australia and NZ in the second half of fiscal 2011, on top of 13 in the first half, but Mr Smart would not say if any of these would be the concept stores. But he said the stores offered an insight into the future look of JB Hi-Fi’s stores.
“You will get clues through that of what will make up the future JB stores, even though they’ll continue to have the music, movies and games content,” he said.
“It will give us a chance to test what really works. But it’s one we don’t see a big opportunity to roll out into too many locations.”
Rather, Mr Smart said the concept would evolve its traditional stores, with elements to appear in all JB Hi-Fi stores.
The company plans to increase its 143 JB Hi-Fi branded stores to 210 and could also convert some of its Clive Anthony’s whitegoods stores to JB Hi-Fi stores, after last month booking a $24.8m writedown from the business.
Mr Blythe said JB Hi-Fi was one of the few retailers to “constantly innovate and plan for future growth”.
JB Hi-Fi shares closed 0.8 per cent lower at $19.86.

Harvey Norman launches daily deals site – Business – News
Retail giant Harvey Norman today confirmed it had launched a new website to promote daily deals on products to customers, following a trend set by dozens of other companies over the past several years following the immense growth of sites like LivingSocial and Groupon in the United States.
The site, Harvey Norman Big Buys, is currently advertising a Revlon cosmetics pack with lipstick and eyeliner for $53, which it describes as “unbelievable value”. It’s common for daily deals to be shared around through social media channels, but the deal, which is listed as being sold out, has attracted relatively little interest, with no re-tweets on Twitter and just eight recommendations on Facebook.
Harvey Norman confirmed the site was legitimate and owned by the company, but declined to comment further.
The news comes just a week after Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey promised to set up a strong presence for the retail giant online. The company has long maintained that if it was to sell goods online it would be cutting the grass of its franchised stores distributed around Australia, and has recently been embroiled in a bitter battle with international online retailers, which enjoy exemption from certain taxes when selling into Australia.
At the time, Harvey said the company no longer had any choice. “My heart’s beating very strongly on whether we make any money out of it,” he said. “I haven’t got any choice. I’ve got to cannibalise our stores.”
Dean McEvoy, the co-founder and chief executive of group buying site Spreets, which was recently bought by Yahoo!7 for about $40 million, said in an interview it was ironic that Harvey Norman had entered the market, given the company’s recent perceived antipathy towards the internet in general. He also was puzzled by the Revlon sale, given Harvey Norman’s traditional focus on product lines in the electronics and furniture areas.
The executive said the group buying space was attractive because it was currently generating high revenue figures for many of the companies competing in it. Some of the major companies operating in the area in Australia include Spreets, Cudo (backed by ninemsn and Microsoft), Groupon (through its Stardeals brand), LivingSocial-backed Jump On It, and more.
“You’ll find a lot of people jumping into this space,” said McEvoy.
However, the executive said the model chosen by Harvey Norman, delivering a daily deal on one product per day, was fundamentally different to where much of the market was currently. The “daily deal” style of site had been around since about 2001, he said. In comparison, the new style of sites similar to Groupon had been successful because they were actually offering discounts to services, inspiring people to try “something interesting and different” in their home cities.
“Just delivering a bargain or discount to someone is not really that empowering — it doesn’t have longevity,” said McEvoy. “When you’re out there trying to inspire people to try different parts of their city, that’s what we try to do.”
McEvoy said when Spreets was being built, it was important that the company grow a quality database of customers, so that it could take that database to merchants, as well as getting quality deals from the merchants to push to customers. If you sent a merchant bad customers, he said, they might not deal with you again.

Bringing jobs home pays off in tough times – Techie Isles – Blogs
Vodafone has closed its Egypt call centre and transferred 125 jobs back to New Zealand.
The news follows unrest in Cairo, which disrupted the centre, and seems to show that offshoring has its limits. Here’s Vodafone service director Kelly Moore:
“With more and more customers now having their mobile and fixed telecommunications with Vodafone, they want a consistent experience across both our mobile and fixed contact centres. Consolidating our customer management in New Zealand enables us to do that.”
But truth be told, despite claimed savings of around 35 per cent, the Egyptian call centre may have been false economy.
Those commenting on the various news reports of the announcement have complained of poor service from Egypt, saying this led them to ditch Vodafone for rivals.
Customer service is a sound selling point, especially in an increasingly competitive market, like we now have in the New Zealand mobile market.
Furthermore, for complex issues, there are fewer misunderstandings if the person at the other side of the line speaks the same language as you do — accents and all.
For the most basic service, well, we are on the way to automated voice recognition being reliable and suitable.
It may well be a case that offshoring has reached a limit and such jobs will start to return to their country of origin. Only recently we saw Greenstone Energy relocate call centre jobs back to New Zealand, saying this would bring better customer service.
Indeed, when times are tough, as they are now, it may be best for large businesses to try and keep such jobs at home, to show that they are doing their best for the country and we are “all in this together”.
2degrees keeps its call centre work in New Zealand. Vodafone has been playing catch up. Meanwhile, Telecom too may find it worthwhile to bring the call centre jobs home from the Philippines to further boost its image, especially when it has had problems with Manila before.
It may seem like old-fashioned protectionism but times being as they are now, you could say charity begins at home, and this will be good for business too, including the bottom line.

Granny severs caucasus internet – The Take
A Georgian elder woman has made headlines for disconnecting Armenia, Azerbaijan and parts of Georgia from the internet after she cut through a fibre cable. The woman was foraging for copper cable when she severed the line, and has been arrested. The Georgian Internal Ministry is conducting an investigation and said services have been restored.

Stop blindly believing in NBN: Turnbull – Communications – News
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night said that National Broadband Network (NBN) enthusiasts need to demonstrate what applications will actually need the fibre network’s massively enhanced speeds, telling futurist Mark Pesce that he should “lay off the Kool-Aid” with respect to the technology.

Pesce is an Australian inventor and futurist best known for his work on the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) as well as his media appearances and commentary on technology matters. Last night the commentator said on the ABC’s The Drum program that the nation would need faster broadband for as yet undiscovered applications in the future. He noted that mainstream technologies like BitTorrent hadn’t been invented until faster broadband came along.
“You’ve really got to lay off the kool-aid,” Turnbull retorted. The Liberal MP said that it’s “nuts” that even a “notorious, self-proclaimed futurist” like Pesce isn’t able to name the applications that the NBN would fuel in the future. “Speed in and of itself is an abstraction,” said Turnbull. “It doesn’t do anything for you, unless you have applications you can use.”
The comments came as Turnbull and a number of other Liberal parliamentarians have intensified the party’s attack on the NBN project over the past few days.
“If anything, our criticisms of the NBN are more intense now than they were eight months ago,” Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said on Tamworth’s Radio 2TM late last week. Abbott said that the recent collapse of NBN Co’s construction tender process demonstrated that “there is no way on God’s Earth that they are going to be able to build this thing for the amount they are talking about.”
“This is school halls on steroids,” he added. “This is going to be an absolute rip-off of the taxpayer. This is not going to work. We know that this mob can’t be trusted with money. We know they are incompetent when it comes to delivery, and the collapse of the tender process is, I very much predict, a sign of things to come.”
In addition, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, one of the chief Coalition Senators responsible for questioning the NBN in the Senate’s communications committee, last week issued a media release slamming the Federal Government for refusing to comply with a number of requests for further information on the NBN by a Senate Estimates Committee. Birmingham had received a letter from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy stating it couldn’t meet agreed timelines to answer “hundreds of questions” about the NBN.
“Labor’s latest attempt to shield its NBN from public scrutiny is an outrageous attack on Australian taxpayers’ right to know how billions of dollars of their money is being spent,” Birmingham said in a statement.
“Timelines for answering estimates questions were agreed to by all Senators, including Labor Senators. To describe the effort required to answer the questions as ‘unreasonable’ is an insult to the Parliament and taxpayers alike.
“Clearly the government’s paranoia and secrecy are only increasing as the NBN descends further into chaos,” he said. “The government is desperately trying to stop any level of scrutiny of its NBN. What else is it trying to hide? Is the NBN unravelling at the seams?”

NZ passes ‘three strikes’ copyright law – Communications – News
Internet protests have started in New Zealand after its government this morning passed a controversial “three strikes” filesharing bill under urgency.
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill gives media companies the right to accuse people of infringing copyright, with offenders to be fined up to $15,000 by a new Copyright Tribunal.
The “three strikes” bill replaces the abandoned Section 92a of the Copyright Act, devised by the former Labour government.
Campaigns, including an internet blackout protest from people angry that the early legislation would have allowed internet users to be cut-off, led the current government to work out a compromise.
A new bill, which began its parliamentary process last February, allows copyright owners to send evidence of alleged infringements to internet service providers (ISPs), who will then send up to three infringement notices to the account holder.
If the alleged offending continues, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal, which can fine the account holder up to $15,000.
The bill includes a power for a district court to suspend an internet account for up to six months, in appropriate circumstances. However, this is not intended to be used unless the notice process and the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are ineffective.
The third reading of the bill was passed by backed by the main parties, excluding the Greens and two independent MPs. The bill is due to come into effect on 1 September.
“Online copyright infringement has been damaging for the creative industry, which has experienced significant declines in revenue as file sharing has become more prevalent. This legislation will discourage illegal file sharing and provide more effective measures to help our creative industries enforce their copyright,” Commerce Minister Simon Power said today.
However, opponents say disconnections could still be made without sufficient proof of who was guilty.
A Facebook campaign opposing the bill has attracted more than 2000 supporters.
Twitter and Facebook users are also protesting by “blacking out” their avatars by changing the images into black squares and tweeting using the hashtag #blackout.

Sydney council shelves HP in Israel ban – Business – News
A Sydney Council will shell out $3 million of an estimated $4 million to replace IT products including its Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Motorola fleets in its boycott of products linked to Israel.
The Greens-dominated council is set to ditch a string of companies from concrete suppliers to car manufacturers Holden and Volvo, which are alleged to support Israel’s occupation of Palestine, according to News Limited.
Marrickville Greens mayor Fiona Byrne was involved in Marrickville Council’s adoption of a ban on Israeli products in line with the Global BSD Movement in protest over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
A council business paper revealed a hit list of companies to either be banned from doing business with council or have their existing contracts cancelled.
The companies include HP, Chevrolet (Holden), Volvo, Unilever and Motorola, plus ReadyMix and Fulton Hogan concrete companies.
The paper showed that the council would have to spend $3 million alone to replace its HP computers.
Marrickville councillors will vote next Monday on whether the boycott, passed in December last year, will include ripping up all current contracts and services and disposing of equipment, or be confined to future dealings.
The four Labor councillors will seek to get the support of three independents to beat the five Greens and vote down the policy.
Hewlett-Packard has been contacted for comment.

WA Police chase $70k VoIP fraud spree – Security – News
Western Australia Police are investigating a case of IP telephony fraud which saw three Perth businesses faced with a combined bill exceeding some $70,000.
(WA Police image by Nachoman-au, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The WA Police technology crime investigation unit said that fraudulent international calls were made over the businesses’ Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) networks after their networks were hacked.
WA Police Sergeant Graham Clifford said VoIP fraud has cost Perth businesses tens of thousands of dollars.
“Attacks usually occur over weekends in order to maximise the amount of time the breaches will go unnoticed,” Clifford said. “By the time business owners return to the office on Monday or after a long weekend, the damage has already been done.”
“International criminals will scan business phone systems around the world in order to identify vulnerabilities which will make them easier to access. Once access is gained, criminals will log thousands of international calls to premium numbers — which in many cases they own — making a huge profit.”
He said that many Perth businesses have “extremely vulnerable” VoIP networks and use “only the most basic security in place such as factory default access pins or passwords”.
According to the Police, it’s difficult to identify and prosecute VoIP fraudsters.
Perth businesses have had an unlucky past with VoIP attacks. In early 2009, a hacker placed 11,000 calls over a Perth VoIP line costing over $120,000.
Last year, network companies said that clients had been racking up phone bills worth $100,000 because of unauthorised calls placed over compromised VoIP servers. Smaller attacks have netted criminals tens of thousands of dollars worth of calls.
Neural Networks managing director Richard Stephens, who has fought VoIP attacks, said that passwords and prefixes should be enforced so that they cannot be easily guessed. He recommended other methods to prevent or reduce damage from VoIP attacks including placing caps on the amount of calls customers can make over a period, preventing calls being made to countries not usually contacted, and implementing systems to detect anomalous behaviour.

Road toll fault leads to payment backlog – Software – News
A fault with a toll road payment system has caused headaches for Queensland motorists, who now lumped with months of tolls after direct-debit payments failed.
Flow Toll said that four months of tolls for users of the Clem7 and Gateway Motorway in Brisbane have not been collected.
Roads Minister Craig Wallace said he is furious that motorists would be stung with lump-sum bills.
He said that the problem is not confined to Queensland.
“This system, developed by [former Brisbane Lord Mayor and now LNP leader] Campbell Newman and Clem7, can be used in Sydney and Melbourne,” Wallace said.
“So if motorists have used that tolling device in Sydney and Melbourne they might be charged incorrectly because of the stuff up.”
The technical error is another setback for RiverCity Motorway, owner of the Clem7 tunnel, which went into receivership in February with a $1.3 billion debt.

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