Script Challenge prize finally organised

Dario Besseghini and gift: see text for detailsSeveral billion years ago, I set a challenge. I posted a passage of text in an unknown script. Could people decipher it?

Actually it was in 2007. I fully expected it to be solved within days, perhaps a couple of weeks at most, because I’d solved it myself fairly quickly. Before we had computers.

But it took ages. Years.

Finally, Italian computer scientist Dario Besseghini​ solved it in February 2012. That’s him pictured above, on the right.

I’d promised a prize, and Dario provided an Amazon wishlist for me to choose from. And then I forgot about it. Until the other day.

I have just ordered for Dario a copy of In the Land of Invented Languages: A Celebration of Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius by Arika Okrent. That’s it pictured above, on the left. The theme of invented languages seemed particularly appropriate.

So, Dario, my apologies for the delay, and my best wishes for the holiday season.

I know you were fretting because you hadn’t written up your solution method in more detail, but there’s certainly no rush!

I’ve closed comments on this post, so that any conversation will continue at the original place.

Postscript: As an indication of how little I participate in consumer culture, it turns out that this was the first time I’d ordered anything from Amazon since some time before 1 July 2007. How do I know? Because I started doing my bookkeeping in Saasu on that date, so if there had been a purchase there’d be a record of it.

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.


  • 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.


Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse


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.


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.]

Keynoting the Saasu Cloud Conference 2012 with security

On 11 May I’ll be delivering one of the keynote presentations at Saasu’s inaugural conference, the Saasu Cloud Conference 2012 in Sydney.

The cloud is the enabler, it’s the medium that automation grows in. We want to focus on the value of online accounting automation, why it’s often undervalued and how you can get some for your own business or practice.

Saasu makes the online accounting system that I’ve been using since July 2007, and I know the chief executive officer and founder Marc Lehmann and chief happiness officer Tony Hollingsworth.

Good leadership and a good attitude continues to deliver a good product. Well, I think so anyway. At least it works for me.

My keynote will be something about security and the cloud, obviously enough, but I’ll lock down the details before the end of this week.

Mind you, I wrote the ZDNet Australia feature Cloud security? Better get a lawyer, Son! in October 2010, and since then I’ve written Cloud could be ‘privacy enhancing’: Pilgrim and Hybrid clouds the eventual reality for risk management and Today’s cloud winners: the cybercriminals and Want government cloud? Rethink security! so I’ve got plenty of material to start with.

Saasu has kept the price down to a reasonable $99 for a full-day event. You can register online.

[Update 11 May 2012: I’ve just posted notes and background material for my presentation, Security and the Cloud: Hype versus Reality.]

Weekly Wrap 39

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. With three full working days occupied by conferences, I still managed to get a few things done. And not all of it was drinking.


  • Patch Monday episode 78, “Bionic eyes, gigabit Wi-Fi and the NBN”. This is my wrap-up of the NICTA Techfest, including an interview with Dr Terry Percival, one of the inventors of Wi-Fi, about potential future uses of the National Broadband Network. He reckons video will be the killer technology, with the world returning to non-written communication as the norm.


Media Appearances

  • This week’s edition of the Business 21C Weekly podcast from Sydney community radio station 2SER was all about the Australian government’s plans for internet censorship, and I was one of the guests. The program also features web developer Scott David from Flock and the president of the Internet Society of Australia, Tony Hill.

Corporate Largesse

  • The Kickstart Forum on the Gold Coast continued on Monday and Tuesday. My airfares and accommodation were paid for by the organisers, Media Connect. Monday’s lunch was sponsored by Samsung. There was also plenty of freebies from the vendors, though notably less than last year. And substantially fewer USB memory sticks. Should I bother reporting all this stuff? If nothing else, it’s interesting to document for posterity.
  • On Thursday I attended the Digital Directions 2011 conference as their guest. They provided food and drink. Stories relates to the event will appear next week.
  • The lovely folks at Saasu — well, their CEO Marc Lehmann — decided to give me a three-month extension on my subscription, just as a gift. I’d still say it’s a delightful online accounting system even without that.


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. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: The view this morning from the front door of Tea Tree Cottage, one of the Bunjaree Cottages at Wentworth Falls, where I’m living this week. I’ll write more about this experience very soon.]

MYOB, you’re dumped! Hello NetAccounts

Saasu logoMarc Lehmann, you just scored your business Saasu a new customer because you commented on my gripes about MYOB. We’ve just made the decision to run my business with NetAccounts.

Marc, there was a steady flow of “Gee, wow!” moments as we looked at how NetAccounts might work for us — I’ll come back to that. But what really made the difference was how your company communicates. Especially when compared with MYOB…

  • MYOB only ever communicate with me to ask for money. Once, they were quite aggressive about it.
  • MYOB don’t reply to emails.
  • You have to wade through so much clutter to find what you want on their website.

Imagine MYOB were a person. You’d say something to them, but they’d never respond. Instead, they’d just be talking at you — either asking for money or telling you how good they were. Constantly.

You, on the other hand, joined a conversation about MYOB by talking about your product — but you added another insight and kept the conversation alive. “Well,” I thought, “if they’ve won an award and they’re clueful about blogs, maybe I should look at their product.” So I did.

And while NetAccounts certainly looked capable of doing what we needed — gawd, our accounting needs aren’t rocket science! — it was the quality and sincerity of your communication which persuaded me to take a proper look.

  • Your online demos are voiced by you, not some slick presenterdroid. This is reassuring.
  • Your website won’t win a design award, but there’s no clutter and so far I’ve quickly found everything I’ve looked for.
  • Saasu speaks in simple, direct language. You don’t shout about “Your business will be transformed”, you show me how I use your tool to do everyday things.

Imagine Saasu were a person. They’d be conversational, straightforward, to-the-point. All elements which build trust. All characteristics of someone you’d actually want to be involved with your business.

I’ll certainly have more to say about NetAccounts while I set it up over the weekend. But for now, my office manager Virginia Bridger had this to say after an hour or so poking around:

It’s a program that’s obviously been built knowing that human beings are going to be using it.

Oh, and Marc? I’ve just used your logo without asking first. I’m guessing that you won’t mind, given the context. 😉