Category Archives: technology

A Minister Replies re NBN – Sort of

On 15 February, I sent an email to the Minister for Regional Communications, Regional Development and Rural Health, Senator Fiona Nash. These portfolio responsibilities could almost translate to NBN – National Broadband Network – in terms of who would benefit most from an operational an infrastructure. The content of my email related to a person who posted their disgust with how the NBN is failing them in Tasmania, a place that was touted to be the first state to have the best NBN services. But hey, our current government has really stuffed things up because the Prime Minister himself thinks he knows better than network engineers and technology specialists. So the system is now a joke.

Here is a smattering of my original email and the included content from the complainant (I don’t have permission to post the whole message, so I’ll just include a snippet and a link so you can go read the whole thing yourself if you’re on Facebook).

Dear Minister Nash

Here is something you can possibly attend to or push someone in your new area of responsibility to attend to. This sounds like a right stuff-up.
You’re stuck with a dud system. Perhaps you can influence some improvements.

Jan Whitaker
Berwick Victoria

From the facebook person, in a message that was sent to me:

> Today is day 21 with a failed NBN connection for us. We live in Port
> Huon, Tasmania, in the beautiful rural Huon Valley.
> We have had one occasion where an NBN technician has turned up, the
> day before a scheduled appointment because the technician was in the
> street doing another job. We were not at home.
> Since then there have now been four scheduled appointments to which no
> NBN technician has shown up. Excuses, via the ISP from NBN have
> included – ‘We didn’t have all the correct information” which is
> incorrect. “They weren’t home, so we left a card in the post box”
> which has never happened. “We went to the wrong address” which is
> unverifiable, oh and my favorite “We don’t often go down there.” Which
> is clearly correct. I await with interest the excuse for the no show
> on Friday, appointment 4, perhaps ” The dog ate my Purchase
> Order/IPhone/Car Keys?”

Then it just gets worse. The person asks for help and direction how they can actually get what they have been promised.

Today, I received a reply from the Minister. Well, not from her, exactly, but from one of the minions in the Department of Communications and the Arts, which is the department responsible for this fiasco of a project. It’s a doozy. They seem to think I am the person with the problem. Who knows if they bothered to go to the Facebook user and reach out to them. Well, you can read it yourself. The letter is available here (hope this file access works for you):


[UPDATE: from a reader]

When an Assistant Director replies for a Senator, it’s a brush-off.” He doesn’t even make the directory listing for the department. Not even the title makes the list.

If you are an NBN victim, maybe the address provided for assistance can help you, family, friends. Unfortunately, the PDF I received has the link embedded and it can’t be copied directly from it easily, nor clicked on to activate. On top of that, there is no ability to reply to the email I received because it is an noreply “service”. Anyone know how to get in touch with I’m sure the lovely person named Jason Sleeman? I guess I could write him a PAPER letter and post it to Canberra. This is from a COMMUNICATIONS department!

Back to the NBN, I’m one of the “lucky” ones with NBN nowhere in sight for my area, and I’m 35 minutes from the city of Melbourne. I don’t think I’ll need that policy address soon. I despair for the person with the actual installation problems.

We do live in crazy times. I’m not so sure they’re interesting any more. Just infuriating.

Two Months On – What has changed?

Two months ago almost to the day (tomorrow), Australia received a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. I say received because we the people don’t elect them. We elect local representatives from parties who then in majority (usually) form the government of the day. In reality, the leader of the country isn’t directly elected, although some in the public think otherwise and talk as if they are. So, there was a ‘spill’ (love that term), the noxious Tony Abbott was voted out by his Liberal Party ‘mates’ (sic) and Malcolm Turnbull was installed in the chair.

What has changed?

Pretty much nothing but style – the policies have remained:

  • children and their families are still in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG;
  • climate action is laughably bad paying polluters from tax coffers not to pollute instead of charging them when they do;
  • marriage equality is a long way off, if ever
  • all of our communications “metadata” (yeah right) is being collected for 2 years and law enforcement in some cases can access without judicial oversight
  • the financial situation is still a mess, switching from a “budget emergency” to “go out and borrow on that credit card” to who knows what, the Treasurer (oh, yeah, we got a new one of those, too – prior Immigration — NOT Minister, Social Services — NOT Minister, Scott Morrison) doesn’t know if it’s a revenue problem or a spending problem (Hint: it’s a population change demand situation, not a problem at all)
  • the health minister is still going to get her mitts on ALL of OUR HEALTH DATA through a goal-post shifting Health Record that will now become Opt-Out
  • health funding is still cut (on future growth) by $80Billion
  • education funding is still cut
  • and the National Broadband Network redesign to cripple it, brought about by Malcolm himself, is still costing more and doing less than the original NBN we were promised by Labor.

What has changed is there is now a dapper dressing millionaire PM who can inflect his speech well when reading from a prepared speech, doesn’t embarrass us quite so much when we let him go out of the country, and has soothed/smoothed the worst of the worst aspects of Abbott’s reign. He did change a few of the Ministers, for good or bad, but he left in some really bad ones:

  • Dutton as Immigration Minister — NOT, an ex Queensland drug squad cop who knows zilch about Immigration other than ‘lock them up’ in camps
  • Morrison as Treasurer — NOT, a Hill$$$ong evangelical Christian who was an Liberal party apparatchik who is totally out of his depth
  • Brandis as Attorney General (took away his Arts portfolio, though), a dilettante with $15,000 bookcases he keeps rebuilding in each office for same amount (maybe it was a cost saving measure to keep him in place) — Mr. Metadata extraordinaire who supports bigotry
  • Christopher “Poodle” Pyne as Minister for ‘Malcolm’s favourite word of the moment’ Innovation — has Chris ever created anything? Anything???? Name just 2 things, please
  • and a cast of more.

Did I say the policies stayed? Yeppers. It’s still the Libs. Doing deals with their under-buddies, the Nats and their business mates (cough)Rupert(cough). It’s still regressive tax proposals, anti-citizen, anti-civil rights, more for the 1% Neo-Liberalism/Neo-Conservative claptrap.

But at least Mal doesn’t embarrass us overseas. (Yet)

You’re Never Too Old (Or Young) To Learn

I belong to a computer user club for which I often give presentations (as well as organising others to do so). This month, I assigned myself the task to find out what was going on in the online learning world.

I spent many years of my career in alternative education programs, distance learning in all sorts of formats from TV to radio to audio- and video-teleconferencing, mostly pre-Internet, so I was curious to find out what had happened in the last 25 years. Just as I was leaving that role back then, online was emerging. One of my first forays into online teaching was organising a first year college English subject to be delivered to students in Moscow during the Glasnost period. It was just a glimmer of what was to come not long after with the emergence of the World Wide Web.

My research and preparation for the talk last week was an eye-opener. But I shouldn’t have been all that surprised.

Here is the PDF of my talk slides, complete with links. If you’ve wondered what a MOOC* is, you’ll find it here, along with free, fee, formal, informal, a range of countries and levels, in almost any subject you may have wanted to learn about on your own time (mostly) just for the love of learning it.

If you have a favourite or more to promote, feel free to leave a comment.

                                             Link: Learning Stuff Online

*MOOC: Massive Open Online Course

Book Review: The Word Exchange

[also posted on Goodreads]

The Word Exchange – Alena Graedon

I picked this novel up at the library and decided to read it based on the back blurb. I’ve been working on a project about a dystopian story of a world without words, so I wanted to see how someone else handled this topic. The answer: very differently. But still, enjoyable themes. Plus I learned something as a writer from this book that I can apply to my own revisions from this author’s first novel, things I didn’t care for.

There are some really deep layers in this story, from philosophy of language, how important it is to we humans, to the impact of technology, our tools, on our ability to be human. Graedon exposes the risks involved when we don’t think clearly about those risks and what could go wrong.

I enjoyed the characters and dealing with occupations we don’t think about – lexicographers and dictionary publishing. Be honest now. When is the last time, if ever, you thought about who does this work?

The possibility that the really bad things that happen in this fictional world would/could really happen is probably at the low end, but there are already impacts of our technologies that we are experiencing: reduced emphasis on hand-writing, reduced reliance on memory, and poor spelling. These are forms of aphasia – damaged language centres – so maybe she is on to something and we are sleep walking into a major shift in our use of language. We may be communicating worldwide and with more frequency than in the past but are we really doing it well and clearly?

A good effort.

Recording with a basic Kogan PVR model KGNFSTBVAA

I have a ‘new’ old Kogan PVR from a friend because my Supernet recorder ‘broke’ again. This Kogan one is a model KGNFSTBVAA – which presumably stands for Kogan F? Set-Top Box (VAA??). It requires an external memory device such as a memory stick or external harddrive. It is a single HD tuner, so nothing flash on this inexpensive model.

The manual leaves a lot to be desired. It is available from the some old Manuals websites if you look around.

The reason for this post is that I searched for over an hour on the internet to find out why I couldn’t record using the timer. To save others some grief, I thought I’d put up the solution, which was simple once I realised it was there.

– Timer Service. There is a selection of Channel or Record. Change to record. Otherwise, the system just turns itself on and you can watch the broadcast. The Channel option is handy if you’re watching something to fill in time and just want to switch to a program you really want to watch. NOT so good for recording.

So the steps are:

  1. EPG
  2. Pick the channel where the program will appear
  3. Arrow through until you find the program on the listings
  4. Press the green button to open the timer
  5. choose if this is once or daily with the arrows
  6. **set the timer service to RECORD**
  7. If your stations tend to run over the appointed times, adjust the start/end time for the recording so you don’t miss the ending (happens to me ALL the time)
  8. Save

I am recording my first timed session right now on an 8Gb memory stick. I want to find out how much data space 1 hour of recording takes up before I go buy any more memory.

Hope this does others some good if you get a ‘hand me down’ gadget. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward using the manual for set-up. Even the menus are relatively fine without the manual.