Archive for December, 2008

Telstra Wireless Broadband Suxs

28 minutes on hold.

The first thing the operator asks me is the mobile number the IVR asked me for when I first signed on.  They apparently just have one operator doing activations for all mobiles – phones and broadband.  In order to activate the thing you need to give them your first born child – actually, just your name, address and drivers’ licence number.  Apparently that’s for “Security Purposes”.

This was the second time I’d spent 30 minutes on hold to Telstra to activate Wireless Broadband (the first time I gave up in disgust) and the fourth time trying to activate the stupid thing (having called after 9 on a weekday and after 7 on a weekend). Having traversed the Telstra online activation page left me no wiser – since it doesn’t discriminate between mobile phone activation and broadband activation (and does not use consistent terminology with the wireless broadband box).

Given that the pricing is exorbitant I may just give up on the idea.

Online Chat at

]Note: Since WP upgraded to 2.7, Planet LA doesn’t get the title of the page anymore. ]

Just looked up for some stuff.  They have an interactive chat option.  Rather than calling you can chat online to an operator.  It’s neat, although you become acutely aware of any delay.  That said, you can do other things, rather than listen to stupid music while they put you on hold (have typed up this post while waiting for a response…).  Apparently they will email me a transcript when it’s over…

If anyone knows where I can find:

* a harness to hang a portable dvd player over the back of a car seat; and/or
[note at 14:30: JB Hifi has them at $42 ea(!)]

* a power adaptor to take my car’s 12V out to the portable dvd’s 12V in

Please let me know.

[Still waiting for Ashleigh to respond…]

Max Planck Forshung Oops!

Apparently the cover of a recent edition of this scientific journal had an advertisement for a strip joint on it – in Chinese.

Details here.

Taste of Vista, Sillyness of EULA Laws

A relative bought a new computer last week and I went around to set it up.  It was my first experience of Vista (in theory I have a copy of Vista on my home machine, but I haven’t (re)connected the hard drive since I had to remove it to install my Linux set up).   I spent most of my time setting up the hardware, rather than looking at Vista, but it seems nice enough.  I can understand why the user access controls are annoying people.  I was only on the machine for 5 minutes and was already getting annoyed at it.

Interesting from my point of view was that the machine booted straight into the desktop – no EULA was presented.  I also noticed that the 7 day anti-virus trial only had 2 days left to run.  Presumably the store had set up the machine?  The machine is a name brand (Medion, produced by Aldi).  It has an authorisation sticker on the side.  The machine comes with minimal documentation and no printed EULA.

The $64 question is – is my relative licensed to use the software?  If so, what are the licence terms?

Wouldn’t $1Bn worth of Open Coursework be better?

One of the election platforms of the (Australian) Federal Government last year was the provision of computers to all secondary school students (ie years 9-12) in the country, administered by the States.  The problem for the States was that the Commonwealth would fund the hardware, but States would need to pick up software, networking, installation, maintenance and all the other associated costs.

The good news for open source is that the States are trying to squeeze the most they can out of the money they are receiving and it looks likely that Netbooks and open source will play a substantial role:

NSW wants to offer 197,000 secondary school students wireless-enabled netbooks that would possibly run on open-source software such as Linux.

The Australian Article 2 December 08

Now, much as the prospect of Linux laptops in the hands of 197,000 NSW school students warms the cockles of my when-I-have-my-open-source-hat-on heart,  it’s less than impressive to me with my parent hat on.

If I had my druthers rather than taking $1Bn and sinking it into a depreciating asset, I would have taken that $1Bn and spent it on a renewable and appreciating asset like open courseware.[1]  Some back of the envelope calculations indicate that $1Bn could produce a text book and associated teaching notes for every course taught in secondary school in the country [2] – this would save Australian families several hundred dollars per child *per year*.  Moreover, it would save schools a tremendous amount for copyright taxes and text book purchases (the price of text books would not be zero, but would reduce to the be close to the cost of printing). It would make the learning of children more effective as they would have access to all relevant texts in a format most appropriate to their learning style and would be particularly useful for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise not have the same quality of access to texts.

Openly licensing this material would allow the textbooks to be incrementally updated over time.  Moreover, individual teachers would be able to customise and extend them for their needs.    Openly licensed, they would also not be subject to copyright limits which destroy innovation.  There would be no barrier, for example, to enhancing texts with online materials or supplementary applications, audio or video.  Imagine how much more effective our teachers would be if they spent their time customising material for their needs, rather than reinventing the material from scratch…

[1] No, AESharenet FFE (or most other AES licences), CC-*-NC, CC-*-ND are absolutely, definitely not “open” for these purposes as I’m concerned.

[2] Assume 200 pages per text, at 6 person hours per page, and 1200 person-hours in a year = 1 person-year per text.  Assuming a teacher qualified enough to write the texts gets paid $200K/year (<cough>) $1e9 is equivalent to 5,000 texts.

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