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George Brandis as Pluto by cartoonist Dave PopeThe 9pm Edict cover art version 2, 150 pixelsNASA sends a boy band to Pluto. Prime Minister Crusader Rabbit makes sense of the Middle East, more or less. And we hear some presciently ironic words from Singapore.

In this podcast, there’s talk of Singapore, censorship, wine, and taxes. Amongst other things.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe automatically in iTunes, or go to SoundCloud.

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If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

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Spider in my water glass: click to embiggenMy week Monday 3 to Sunday 9 June 2013 was laid low by an excess of the black dog. Most unproductive. Most annoying.

I’d intended things to be fairly quiet, to counterbalance the previous week’s hectic pace. Well, quiet it was, because it was the beginning of a new month and nobody had paid me yet. Most inconvenient before a long weekend.

Still, I did nearly drink a spider (pictured), and did quite a bit of pre-production for my new SEKRIT podcast project. The first episode will appear very soon.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Thursday I interviewed Sean Richmond at Sophos in North Sydney, and he bought me a coffee.

The Week Ahead

Monday is a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday, in theory, but I’m planning to continue my planning for the weeks ahead.

The only fixed appointment is on Wednesday afternoon and early evening, when Intel launch their 4th Generation Core processor chips in Sydney. So that means I’ll probably stay overnight in Sydney that night and cluster some appointments around it.

My writing schedule says that I’m doing pieces for Technology Spectator and CSO Online, as well as my usual column for ZDNet Australia.

[Photo: Spider in my water glass, which I nearly drank, but managed to spot it at the very last moment — and there was water everywhere.]

Vesuvio's $8 Bloody Mark: click to embiggenMy week Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2013 was spent in San Francisco and San Jose which, I am reliably informed, are cities in The America.

It also finished nearly a week ago, so I’ll just list the things for now. Should I be in the mood, I’ll reflect upon the week tomorrow.

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • I travelled to the US as a guest of NetSuite Inc. Their largesse consisted of: return flights Sydney to San Francisco with United Airlines; limousine airport transfers (well, one way at least, ‘cos the return journey was buggered up); two nights accommodation at the St Regis Hotel, San Francisco, plus USD 100 in American Express gift cards to cover meals; dinner and drinks at Colibri Mexican Bistro; private bus to San Jose; three nights accommodation at the Hilton San Jose; dinner and drinks at ARCADIA by Michael Mina, San Jose; dinner and drinks at Testarossa Winery, Los Gatos, followed by moar drinks at ARCADIA; an iPad Mini 16GB Wi-Fi, engraved with the NetSuite logo; a 3.5-ounce tin of Wine Lover’s Chocolate by Bridge Brands Chocolate; a NetSuite-branded HydroFlask thermos; a NetSuite-branded North End Sport windbreaker (that is, a kind of polyester jacket); a NetSuite-branded ball-point pen and notebook; a re-usable shopping back by RuMe; the usual conference satchel full of never-to-be-read pieces of paper and cardboard, and endless food and drink in the press lounge.

The Week Ahead

Since it’s already Saturday afternoon, there’s not really much point, is there? There’ll be a new Weekly Wrap tomorrow.

[Photo: Vesuvio’s $8 Bloody Mary. At Vesuvio in San Francisco, the bar where Jack Kerouac used to drink, you can get one of these fine Bloody Marys for just $8. Plenty of vodka, spiced as you require, with a huge stuffed Spanish olive, white pickled onion, lemon and lime.]

[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.

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Monday 12 to Sunday 18 November 2012 was another week dominated by travel — this time returning from Singapore on Monday, spending almost two days in Sydney, then heading to Coffs Harbour on the mid-north coast of NSW through until Saturday.

This is also another week where you just get the facts of the media objects I produced. Heck, if you really want to know what’s happening in my world then follow my Twitter stream.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 163, “The law and technology behind Australia’s internet filtering”. Conversations with David Vaile, director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales, and high-profile network engineer Mark Newton.

Articles

Two more articles were written as well, but they won’t appear until the coming week.

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • On Monday I flew back from Singapore, ending my trip there that was covered by Verizon Enterprise Solutions. This was all detailed last week. Related stories have yet to appear.
  • On Tuesday I attended the launch of VMware’s Cloud Index, which was a lunch at Sydney’s new QT Hotel. This is what happened to the old State Theatre and Gowings buildings. They paid, obviously. Again, related stories have yet to appear.
  • Wednesday through Friday I attended Flexibility 2012, the local government IT conference in Coffs Harbour that was organised by the Coffs Harbour City Council. Technically this isn’t largesse, because I spoke at the conference and wasn’t paid an appearance fee. I’ll post the audio of that presentation and an annotated transcript some time in the next few days. Nevertheless I’ll record the fact that they covered flights to and from Sydney, two nights accommodation at the conference venue, Opal Cove Resort, plus food and drink. [Update 20 November 2012: They also gave me some local produce as a gift, a jar of Valley of the Mist macadamia nut chutney.]

The Week Ahead

The week ahead is annoyingly unplanned. I had intended to go to Melbourne on Wednesday for the 5th birthday party of Business Spectator, parent of Technology Spectator, a masthead for which I write. But it’s looking like my cashflows won’t be good for that.

So, I’m going to map out the week in detail tomorrow, Monday. I’ll do a supplementary blog post then.

[Photo: Sydney Harbour from the air, taken from Qantas flight QF2117 yesterday. The image isn’t the sharpest, and neither does it have the best colour grading, because it was shot through both the plane window and the arc of the spinning propeller. But at least it gives a small flavour of the magnificent view.]

This week saw my third appearance on Marc Fennell’s program Download This Show on ABC Radio National. Great fun.

Cleaning up the web: Nearly three years since announcing the proposed mandatory internet filtering system Cleenfeed, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s scheme is dead. But what have they replaced it with and were we better off with Conroy’s old system? Meanwhile, we peek into the secret UN meeting that could radically change the way the net is governed, and take time out to ask whether games can truly change our minds and society.

The internet “filtering” stuff of course relates to the Interpol blacklist that I’ve written about for Crikey once or twice, and which was also the subject of this week’s Patch Monday podcast.

My fellow guest was digital arts evangelist Fee Plumley. The audio below is linked directly from the ABC’s website.

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The audio is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

[Photo: Waiting in ABC Studio 291, Coffs Harbour, the location from which I joined the program.]

Here’s my week Monday 20 to Sunday 26 August 2012. Once more it’s nothing but the facts, ma’am, because I’m so far behind in these posts.

Podcasts

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday I attended the launch party for the Samsung Experience Store in Sydney, where of course they provided food and drink.
  • On Thursday through Saturday I attended Consilium at the Palmer Coolum Resort on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The Centre for Independent Studies covered by flight from Sydney to Sunshine Coast, accommodation, food and drink, a limousine from the resort to Brisbane airport, and a flight back to Sydney — but I wasn’t paid for my appearance at the event.
  • On Sunday I flew from Sydney via Los Angeles to San Francisco to attend the VMworld event at VMware’s expense. I’ll list all of the freebies from that event on the next Weekly Wrap.

[Photo: View from Millers Point, taken from my room at The Sebel Pier One Hotel in Sydney. On the left is Pier 2/3, and across Sydney Harbour is Harry Seidler’s controversial Blues Point Tower.]

A couple weeks ago Telstra was caught monitoring the web browsing done by customers of its Next G mobile network and reporting them to an overseas company, Netsweeper. I’m writing more about this soon, so here’s some background so I can link to it.

Josh Taylor explained the story for ZDNet Australia, I did for Crikey, and of course there were others. In brief, though, Telstra told Netsweeper what URLs were being visited by Next G customers — in theory with any personally-identifiable information removed — so Netsweeper could discover new web content and classify it for the content filtering system they were developing for Telstra.

It’s a bit wrong. Telstra stopped the project quick smart. But some people, including me, reckon the situation is rather more serious.

Geoff Huston, chief scientist of regional internet registry Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), reckons it’s so far outside the law that law enforcement agencies should be getting involved. As a common-carrier telco, Telstra is in a privileged position. It shouldn’t be reporting anything about any aspect of digital communications to third parties, except as strictly required under law, just as it can’t do anything with analog phone calls.

Huston explained his views in a blog post, All Your Packets Belong to Us, and discussed it with me on this week’s Patch Monday podcast, Hands off our packets, it’s the law.

You can hear Telstra’s PR response on Phil Dobbie’s Twisted Wire podcast, Is your phone watching you?

(Neither of those podcasts are yet appearing in iTunes or other podcast application feeds. On Monday ZDNet Australia was merged into a new global content management system and the podcast feeds broke. I know the CBS Interactive technicians know it’s a problem, but I don’t have an ETA on when it might be fixed yet.)

On Tuesday, Whirlpool had what purported to be an internal Telstra memo from chief executive David Thodey, who seemed to agree that they’d very much crossed the line.

That’s why I want to remind everyone that privacy is not an aspiration at Telstra — it is an essential requirement and our license to operate.

Privacy at Telstra is everyone’s responsibility. We have to do better.

Now there’s some complicated issues in all this. I’ll be exploring them in the coming week. Meanwhile, do listen to those two podcasts and have a bit of a think.

Here’s a quick wrap of my week from Monday 25 June to Sunday 1 July 2012, mostly so the media output is documented. I won’t bother with a photo for now.

Podcasts

None. Long story, which I’ve started writing a post about. Stay tuned.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

None. In the last week of the financial year everything goes very, very quiet.

The Week Ahead

With Bunjaree Cottages booked out for most of the school holidays, I’m lurking in a SEKRIT location in Sydney. Work plods along in the background. It’s nothing very exciting.

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) and via Instagram. 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.

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