Senator Scott Ludlam on “Corrupted Nerds”

Cover art for Corrupted Nerds: Conversations episode 7: click for podcast pageToday I posted the first of three podcasts that will emerge from my coverage of the Breakpoint and Ruxcon conferences in Melbourne recently.

I managed to catch Greens Senator Scott Ludlam for a few minutes in between his session on the Ruxcon panel and whatever his next function was, and we spoke about the new attorney-general Senator George Brandis’ appointment of a former ASIO director-general as his chief of staff.

By the time I added the introduction and theme music and the like, all of those format elements ended up being longer than the interview itself, so I decided to add my own opinion. That means it’s a bit different from how Corrupted Nerds: Conversations normally works, but I’m hoping it’s interesting nonetheless.

In the next few days there’ll be two further, full-length podcasts. One is about electronic voting and why voting on the internet is a bad idea. The other covers how people have been discovering all sorts of things about North Korea using free and commercially-available satellite imagery to do their own intelligence work. Stay tuned.

Corrupted Nerds is available via iTunes and now SoundCloud.

iSpy: Talking total surveillance at Sydney Writers’ Festival

Here’s the complete audio recording of last weekend’s panel discussion iSpy at the Sydney Writer’s Festival with Tommy Tudehope, me and moderator Marc Fennell.

Even before Google controversially demolished the privacy walls between its various products, we were already living in the total surveillance society. With every keystroke we are voluntarily telling companies, governments and heaven knows who else an awful lot about ourselves. Should we be worried about the uses to which this information could be put?

The panel was originally inspired by my Sydney Morning Herald op-ed You are what you surf, buy or tweet, and I thought we’d also talk about some of the issues I raised in my more recent ZDNet Australia story The Facebook experiment.

But we covered a lot more, including research by Sophos that showed around 50% of people would automatically befriend anyone on Facebook, the progress of the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill and the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, the fact that The Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam seems to be the only Australian politician paying attention to this stuff, using TOR to help make your web browsing anonymous, the surveillance policy split between the NSA and FBI, anonymous currencies like Bitcoin and Canada’s MintChip, Electronic Frontiers Australia, the Pirate Party Australia, Georgie Guy’s blog, and data mining company Acxiom — which in the recording you’ll hear me misspell as “Axxiom”.

The recording was made using my Zoom H4n sitting mid-way between me and Mr Tudehope, so Mr Fennell is off in the distance somewhat. But at least we have a recording.

If there are any issues you’d like to follow up, well, please post a comment.

Weekly Wrap 86: Linux, paranoia and a few rants

My usual weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. This post covers the week from Monday 23 to Sunday 29 January 2012.

This week included the last of my output from I’ve just gathered all of my coverage plus selected other people’s in one place for your convenience.

Add this week’s media output to last week’s and you can see why I’ve been kind of exhausted. Thank the gods, we’re having a pseudo-long weekend.


  • Patch Monday episode 122, “War on the internet: it’s all about power”. The podcast covers the previous weekend’s War on the Internet forum Electronic Frontiers Australia and The Greens, and featured Suelette Dreyfus, co-author with Assange of Underground; Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam; Crikey’s Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane; and headline speaker Jacob Appelbaum, internet security researcher, software hacker and activist.


Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • D-Link gave me a DCS-930L Wireless N Network Camera, which they sometimes describe as a “cloud camera”, the arsehats. I’ll be writing about that separately.
  • On Wednesday Chris Wood, regional director for Australia and New Zealand at security vendor Sourcefire, bought me a coffee.


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: Three sprigs at Threefold. Three sprigs of mint in three brown bottles grace the windowsill in the toilet at Melbourne’s Threefold Foodstore and Eatery. I think that’s just a wanked-up word for “cafe”. I had the spatchcock, thank you very much.]

Weekly Wrap 22

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets and in the media and so on and so forth — and this week I’ve done a lot of writing.



  • Patch Monday episode 63, “The govt’s data retention dreams revealed”. If you’d prefer to listen to the edited highlights of that Senate hearing rather than read about it, this is the go.

Media Appearances

  • Parity Bit episode 1. A new IT-related video podcast produced and presented by Owen Kelly. I was chatting with him and the other panellists about #ozlog and other news stories. I didn’t swear once.


Not a sausage.

Corporate Largesse


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: Enmore village in the spring rain, taken from the Warren View Hotel. Compare this with the similar view from a few weeks ago.]

Data retention by ISPs: your comments?

Tomorrow’s Patch Monday podcast will be about data retention for law enforcement. Specifically, internet service providers (ISPs) retaining the metadata of all your online communications, possibly for years. I’d like your comments.

Here in Australia, it was revealed in June that the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) had been discussing these issues in secret with ISPs, law enforcement and other government agencies. I covered that in Patch Monday in July, Is Australia’s data retention idea that scary?

Since the AGD activities were revealed, and following the Google Wi-Fi sniffing incident, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts has been running an inquiry into The adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online.

On Friday the committee heard evidence, and late in the afternoon the discussions turned to ISP data retention. Delimiter has published a summary, and a story explaining that the Privacy Commissioner won’t talk about those AGD discussions. stories say the Privacy Commissioner is against the idea although Neil Gaughan, Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police reckon it’s really just the status quo translated to the new medium.

Here’s a recording of Friday’s Senate hearing, starting from when the AGD’s Catherine Smith introduced the topic. She’s Assistant Secretary, in charge of the Telecommunications and Surveillance Law Branch.

This was recorded off the internet, so there are some gaps where the audio stream re-buffered. I have cleaned up the sound but it’s otherwise unedited. I’m compiling a 10- or 15-minute summary for Patch Monday. This is really only for the political tragics — or those who simply can’t wait to hear the persistent questioning by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

If you’d like to provide an audio comment on this issue for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733 and leave a voicemail. The deadline is 8.30am Monday morning, Sydney time. The podcast is now online, but you cal still leave an audio comment for next week’s episode.

[Photo: SATA beehive data storage, adapted from an original photograph by Konstantinos Koukopoulos, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Audio: Many thanks to journalist Josh Taylor for providing the audio recording.]

ICT Election Forum: what questions?

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is once more holding a Federal Election Forum on ICT issues, with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, his Coalition counterpart Tony Smith MP, and The Greens’ spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

As you can see from the photos, Australia’s political diversity is once more represented by a bunch of middle-aged men in dark suits.

When I wrote about the equivalent event in 2007, I noted that the Minster at the time, Liberal Senator Helen Coonan, looked rattled and scored a few own goals. Conroy, by comparison, was alert and scored some sharp political points. And Democrat leader Senator Lyn Allison — remember the Democrats? — was quietly confident.

Labor’s broadband promise was a Fibre to the Node network with a “guaranteed” minimum speed of 12Mb/sec to 98% of Australians, costing $4.7 billion. The Liberals were promising WiMaX through the OPEL consortium. From memory, mandatory internet censorship didn’t even get a mention, as both parties only added that little gem to their agendas after the official campaign period had started.

How times have changed…

This year’s moderator is Sky News political editor, David Speers. An odd choice, I must say. Sure, he has the profile and Sky News Business is the host broadcaster. But wouldn’t it have been better to have someone with a better technical knowledge of the portfolio, rather than a general political news reporter? My worry is that it’ll degenerate into political point-scoring rather than analysing competing policies.

So let’s help out Mr Speers. What are the issues this year, do you think? What questions should he ask?

I think we can take a question or two about internet censorship for granted. Please try to think beyond the obvious indignation du jour.

The Federal Election Forum is next Tuesday 10 August 2010 at the National Press Club in Canberra. The debate starts at 1pm Canberra time and will be broadcast on Sky News Business and possibly ABC News 24. [Update 3pm: The Forum will also be streamed live at YouTube’s Australia Votes channel.]

[Photo credits: Stephen Conroy via Wikimedia Commons. Tony Smith via Office of Tony Smith MP. Scott Ludlam via The Greens. This composite image is licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0 license.]