Weekly Wrap 130: Storms, sunburn and a two-hour cruise

The week of Monday 26 November to Sunday 2 December 2012 was strange. It started with stormy weather, and the misty conditions continued until Wednesday. But by Thursday I was sunburnt and dehydrated in sweltering heat.

I should not have walked through the heat from Potts Point to the Sydney CBD, even though I could take a photograph of the city along the way.

It was also a stressful week. To the usual month-end cashflow blockage was added a series of strange problems with a client’s marketing email template.

The client had chosen to use an old template, and the line spacing fell apart in modern versions of Microsoft Outlook. Then some of the links to PDF files on their website didn’t work, with the links being somehow scrambled so they delivered a “404 File not found” error instead of the PDF file. Sometimes.

Eventually we discovered that the links broke — sometimes — when URLs containing white-space characters (such as “%20” for a space) were passed from Outlook to an out-of-date version of Adobe Reader.

Thankfully the week ended with some semblance of normality, and the weekend was restful.

Podcasts

Articles

Media Appearances

  • On Sunday morning I was asked, at the last minute, to be the bespoke Twitterer for ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra. That just means that I had to listen to the program — which I was doing anyway — and tweet about it.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday I attended the Retail Tech Forum at Wildfire Restaurant, Circular Quay, which was organised by Bass PR for various clients: Dassault Systèmes, who do many things but in this case provide 3D modelling and visualisation tools for retail environments; retail software systems vendor Island Pacific Australia; 3Q Holdings, who also do retail tech; Meridian Systems, who make “technology solutions” for the project management of “capital buildings” and the maintenance thereof; and analysts Frost & Sullivan. I daresay an article will come out of this at some point. Meanwhile, here’s the lunch menu and pictures of the beef short rib starter and the corn-fed chicken main course.
  • On Thursday I had lunch at Establishment with the people behind Uber Sydney, a smartphone-based service that provides on-demand ordering of a black town car. An article will come out of this eventually.
  • On Thursday afternoon I went on a two-hour cruise of Sydney Harbour aboard Matilda III, which was the Internet Industry Association’s Harbour Policy Party. The photographs start here.
  • On Thursday evening I dropped into The Indies’ Christmas party at the Burdekin Hotel on Oxford Street, The Indies being the four PR firms Bass PR, Shuna Boyd PR (which doesn’t seem to have a website?), Einsteinz Communications and Espresso Communications. I had just one glass of wine, my only alcohol for the entire day, before exhaustion set in.

The Week Ahead

Starting this week I’ll be based in Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney, thanks to a housesitting arrangement with someone who shall remain anonymous. I’ll be there until the end of the first week of January. Unless plans change.

This week is another busy week. I daresay I won’t get around to producing the Patch Monday podcast until Monday morning. I’ve got some writing to do too. Then on Tuesday, Optus is showcasing their 4G smartphones at a lunch in Surry Hills. On Wednesday I’m attending VMware’s Cloud Panel, a lunchtime event at The Star casino.

I’ll try to record next week’s Patch Monday podcast on Thursday, because on Thursday night I’m going to Fuel Communications‘ Christmas party and then on Friday I’m covering a one-day conference Privacy in the 21st Century (PDF), organised by the Communications Law Centre at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Since I’m covering that conference for both Crikey and ZDNet, it’ll be sensible to get that podcast out of the way.

[Photo: The Nepean was crossed. It has been my habit to take a photograph each time I cross the Nepean River en route from Wentworth Falls to Sydney or vice versa, which I then tweet with the caption Crossing the Nepean. Yesterday I missed, and the outbound train was already at Emu Plains before I could take a snapshot.]

ASIO’s got it easy, says terrorism expert

“ASIO don’t seem to realise how privileged they are compared to intel orgs in other Western democracies,” tweeted terrorism researcher Andrew Zammit (pictured) yesterday.

Zammit is a researcher at the Global Terrorism Research Centre (Monash University) and Australian Policy Online (Swinburne University), and he was responding to my blog post from yesterday, “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?” and the attached podcast.

Here are his subsequent tweets, turned into continuous prose:

CIA for example has ongoing congressional oversight (of actual operations) as opposed to our occasional parl[iamentary] inquiries, people can FOI CIA docs only a few years old (ASIO has 20-30 year exemption) and some of the CIA’s analytical roles are transparent, as in analysts will have CIA business cards whereas even an ASIO kitchen hand’s identity will be kept secret. And CIA isn’t even a domestically-focused agency. So yes, ASIO needs to be less precious about being asked questions.

I agree. From the perspective of the United States I’m a foreign national, yet I’ve spoken with officers from the FBI, NSA and the Secret Service — all of whom had business cards with their full names. The closest I’ve gotten in Australia is chatting briefly with a DSD chap, one of two attending Linux.conf.au in January this year — given names only, and I suspect that those given names were really in scare quotes.

The excuse always given is “operational security”, but I do think the world has changed. The tools and methods are surely not so different from SEKRIT agencies to private-sector security companies and even analysis in non-security realms, given that so much technology is now available off the shelf to all comers.

Surely these days OPSEC is more about protecting sources and the specific operations that are or are not being conducted?

Of course I really don’t know this stuff. I’ve never worked in this field. I’ve never even held a security clearance. I’m just an interested bystander mouthing off. But I am intrigued.

Transcript: Hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

Back in February I spoke at the “Freedom of Information? panel held in Redfern by Recordkeeping Roundtable. I’ve previously posted the audio of my contribution. Here’s a transcript.

Recordkeeping Roundtable’s website has the raw transcript as supplied, but I’ve decided to edit it up a little to make it more readable. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Transcript: Hacking and irrational actors in Redfern”

Talking hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

The Recordkeeping Roundtable panel “Freedom of Information?” held on 29 February was recorded, and here’s the audio.

The promo, as I told you earlier said:

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely and appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods — are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

I was the first speaker, talking about the new, disorderly ways of liberating information, using the Anonymous crack of Stratfor as an example. Since then, though, we’ve discovered that the whole thing might have been an FBI sting operation against WikiLeaks!

Recordkeeping Roundtable has posted the audio of the entire event: opening remarks by moderator Cassie Findlay; me; the speech by former diplomat Dr Philip Dorling, who now leads the journalistic pack in FOI stuff; the speech by Tim Robinson, Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney; and the question and answer session.

Here, though, is a tweaked and slightly less bandwidth-hungry version of my speech.

Play

[The original audio recording by Cassie Findlay was sampled at 44.1kHz. This version has the audio levels compressed and normalised, and re-sampled to 22.050kHz. It’s posted here under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.]

[Update 26 May 2012: A transcript of what I said is now available.]