Weekly Wrap 264: The endless war on entropy continues

Another dreadful Sydney winter day: click to embiggenMy week of Monday 22 to Sunday 28 June 2015 was a disaster area. This Weekly Wrap is appallingly late as a result. And that’s why I chose a pretty picture.

While the cold weather and dreary mood didn’t help, because that meant I was fighting a cold most of the time, the main problem was that my computer is dying. And that leads to…

Podcasts

Articles

None published, but a bunch of work was done on a ZDNet feature that will appear very soon.

5at5

Only one edition of 5at5 was published this week, on Wednesday. To save me having to tell you this, you could just subscribe.

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

None. It tends to dry up at the end of the financial year.

The Week Ahead

Well most of it’s gone, of course. But I’ve been doing all the end-of-financial-year administrivia, planning that crowdfunding campaign, mapping out July, and coming to terms with the many, many things that need to change this financial year.

On Friday I’ll be doing some work on a certain SEKRIT television project. Well, it’s not that SEKRIT, but I’ll make a formal announcement when the time is ripe. On Saturday I’ll be migrating to Sydney for a week or so. And on the weekend I’ll also be finalising the plan for that crowdfunding campaign, and recording an episode of The 9pm Edict. Busy!

[Photo: Another dreadful Sydney winter day, being the view of the Sydney skyline from Rydges Camperdown hotel on 30 June 2015.]

Australia’s Budget 2013 keeps us stuck in the past

[As it turns out, my planned Budget commentary for Crikey didn’t happen. I got up early in San Jose, read the budget papers and made notes, but then my as-yet-unwritten article got spiked. This is a quick and somewhat belated post based on my notes, not as polished as it might have been if written for Crikey.]

Photo of Budget 2013-2014 papers: click for official government budget websiteThe problem with Australia’s Labor government is that after having had One Big Idea for a bold new future in the National Broadband Network (NBN), they’ve come up with almost nothing anywhere else. This year’s federal budget was a dull plod. Again.

There was even one move which struck me as remarkably dumb: capping the available tax deductions for self-education expenses at just $2000 a year. Apparently that saves $500 million, and that’ll go to the schools — and schools are good for the kiddies, of course — but that’s half a billion dollars less for people to be able to keep up with a rapidly-changing work environment.

This strikes me as particularly stupid when so many of the people servicing the computers, networks and other technology that powers small business are often freelancers, as are so many web developers and designers.

Two grand a year doesn’t go far when it costs nearly half that just to attend the annual user conference for just one of your core software toolsets — more if you have to add airfares and accommodation — and the rest would soon be burnt up on a handful of reference books.

Back when I used to work in various management and staff development roles, I was told that any organisation that wants to advance its knowledge base should be spending at least 5% of its time on staff development. In a technology field, in my opinion, that should be at least 10%. That’s four hours a week, or a week or so every three months.

That still doesn’t sound very much, but it’d cost at least four times that capped amount. And that’s still not compensating freelancers for the loss of billable hours.

“Business and training groups have already said capping the expenses will stop employers from being able to offer staff new training initiatives. There were reports [the week before the budget that] the government would end up reversing the move, but the budget papers now state the change is locked-in,” wrote Patrick Stafford at SmartCompany.

“The announcement is sure to raise the ire of small business groups. Many business owners also use these deductions for short courses and industry-based training sessions.”

There’s two particularly galling lines in the budget papers themselves. First, the tax deductions are now only available…

…where these expenses are incurred in the production of the taxpayer’s current assessable income.

So you’re discouraged from educating yourself for the jobs that will become available even in the very near future. Why?

The potential for uncapped claims for a wide range of expenses provides an opportunity for some people to enjoy significant private benefits at taxpayers’ expense.

Orly? That’s a bit rich, given that vast sums already given to private schools. Or the “baby bonus” that people on quite significant household incomes still get for extruding another brat. That simply reeks of hypocrisy.

Continue reading “Australia’s Budget 2013 keeps us stuck in the past”

So how should I cover Budget 2013?

Crikey logoI’ve commented on Australia’s federal Budget for Crikey every May since Labor took power in 2007. This year will be no exception — but how will I top last year’s rant?

Why do politicians and their groupies always go on about the budget “sending a message”? Can’t they just use Twitter, email and the phone like we all do? But there is indeed a message in the budget: the government has no real vision for transforming Australia, and isn’t particularly interested in developing one with us.

I talked about the $240.3 million allocated to new IT systems for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); $43.7 million for upgrades at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC); adding a further $233.7 million to the $477 million already spent on the National e-Health Initiative; $198 million for an “aged-care gateway”; $17 million to “enhance” the MySchool website; and so on. And then I concluded:

Why, in a cashed-up nation that is, or was, renowned for its eagerness to develop and adopt new technologies, is all this stuff just mouse nibblings at the edges, buried under the dull plod of business as usual? Sometimes I just want to cry.

To see how I approached the topic in previous years, check out the summary I wrote last year.

So once more I’ll be up early local time — I’m currently in San Jose — to knock out something before or perhaps in between conference sessions. Are there any particular angles you think I should look out for?

[Update 25 May 2013: Crikey decided they didn’t need my input after all. Rather than waste my notes, today I wrote Australia’s Budget 2013 keeps us stuck in the past.]

Weekly Wrap 101: Codeine and counter-surveillance

My week from Monday 7 to Sunday 13 May 2012 was less productive than it might have been thanks to my shoulder being “out” for a few days, resulting in severe pain. No, I don’t mean I have a gay shoulder. I mean that a rib wasn’t seated properly.

The shoulder was repaired on Wednesday and is now slowly getting better, thank you. But despite the pain and the codeine haze, I did get a little work done.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 137, “Removing the anonymity from Anonymous”. A conversation about the tactics of Anonymous, LulzSec and other hacktivists with Israeli information security researcher Tal Be’ery, web security research team leader at Imperva’s Application Defense Center (ADC), where he leads efforts to capture and analyse hacking data.

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

None.

The Week Ahead

The current plan? A day of writing at Wentworth Falls on Monday. A day of travelling on Tuesday, taking the train to Sydney and then flying to the Gold Coast. Once there I’ll be covering the AusCERT 2012 information security conference for ZDNet Australia, flying back to Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday afternoon I’m speaking about the total surveillance society at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Elsewhere

Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream (or they used to before my phone camera got a bit too scratched up). The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags. Yes, I should probably update this stock paragraph to match the current reality.

[Photo: Fuckin' art, innit, taken at the Hotel InterContinental, Sydney, on Saturday 12 May 2012.]