Archive for August, 2010

Baloney from Photographers

Baloney from Photographers

Australian photographers are upset because they can’t reproduce Australian landmarks without paying a fee and associated paperwork.  They will nevertheless probably take the high moral ground if someone reproduces their photos without paying a fee and doing the associated paperwork.

Dave Beazley on resurrecting and old computer

Dave Beazley has an interesting post on using Python to resurrect and old computer.  He has set up a system to record his BASIC text files (typed on his laptop) into a compatible audio format for upload through the old system’s audio port.  Neat.

Hung Parliament: OMG!!! Not the End of the World!!!!

Hung Parliament: OMG!!! Not the End of the World!!!!

All the baloney over a hung parliament annoys me.  When we go out to vote we don’t vote for parties, we vote for people.   The fact that the exercise of power has allowed people to form voting blocks doesn’t mean that its problem when those people are no longer able to exercise their power.  If you believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, then ultimately the more independent votes there are on a policy (which are rewarded or punished by the public voting for the candidate later), the more likely you’re going to get a better outcome.

While the Liberals are saying this is a massive disendorsement of Labor (which it certainly is) it also certainly isn’t an endorsement of the Coalition (who are enjoying a swing of approx 1.8% towards them) – with Denison now likely to go to Labor, the forecast is that Coalition will only now at best equal the number of Labor seats in parliament, but will have more of the popular vote than Labor.  From the electorate’s point of view they are equally distasteful (especially given that the parties’ fortunes are floated by the preference flows from the minor parties).   The Greens on the other hand have enjoyed the great bulk of defections from Labor.  I’d say the mood in the nation is against Labor/the Coalition generally and in favour of a Green agenda, probably with a Labor flavour.  A Coalition minority government facing a hostile senate seems inherently unstable, but so too does a minority Labor government with the support of three ex-Coalition independents facing a not-so-hostile senate.


I was in Qld for the 2007 election and my impression of the mood then was “Well, you’ve promised some big things, here’s your mandate, now go and do it”.   Labor didn’t.   I think that more than anything is the cause of their fall from grace.  The feeling was almost palpable when they stepped down from their position on climate change.  Had they gone to a double dissolution last year (or an early  election) on carbon I think they would have gotten a better outcome, because that’s what they were elected to do.  The big swing to the Greens is consistent with this.

I’d be interested to know whether all the energy Labor spent on the censorship regime had an effect as well.  At the very least it was an opportunity cost.  I would also be interested to see how many votes were below the line, and whether there were more than last year.


Of course, shame on you if you intentionally voted informal.   If you don’t like the major parties, vote for the minor parties.  In the senate there’s even provision for you to leave out the major parties if you vote below the lineVoting informal doesn’t avoid deciding who should be elected.  It just means you delegate the decision to someone else (ie the people who voted formally).  If you think voting informally is a protest, then you’re a fool.

Russel Coker suggests that people who don’t take how to vote cards vote informal, but I can’t see how he could have any evidence either way.  I don’t take how to vote cards (which always seem silly – surely you can work out what order to put your half a dozen or so house of reps preferences, and for the senate, they just tell you to vote above the line) but don’t vote informal.


I guess the other thing to note is what a consummate professional John Howard was in managing the agenda – although the early years of his Prime Ministership were not as polished.

Conference Videos – My $0.02

Conference Videos -My $0.02

I have just had a look at a heap of videos from a variety of conferences.  They all make the (I think) mistake of assuming video of the presenter is in the least bit relevant.  If you can’t see the slides (by which I mean actually read everything on the slides – I’m looking at you absolutely tiny text shell prompts and text editors showing code) then, assuming the presenter is not using wild gesticulations which add meaning to their presentation, the video might as well be plain audio.  The value of video is to sync what the speaker is saying with the slides.  Seeing the presenter shuffle from side to side looking up and down occasionally (as charming as it might be) does not add anything to the presentation.  A 20MB download is better than a 200MB one if they’re otherwise equivalent modulo video of a shuffling speaker.  Often they get the worst of both worlds, zooming out to get both the speaker and the slides – and getting a poor representation of both of them.   Compare eg the Java is the Cobol of the 21st Century talk where the speaker is just a voice against just about any recording of a conference presentation where the speaker is visible.

There was one conference which did something which seemed pretty much perfect.  They recorded both the slides (ie – the video output to the projector went via a splitter to a recorder – it was not recorded visually from the screen) and the presenter.  The video of the presenter was the overlaid into a small box in the corner.  See this example, a v. interesting talk about dictionaries in Python which IMHO, and with due respect to the speaker, would not have been at all lessened if the speaker was not visible at all.  Compare to the video of this talk which shows only the speaker and no slides/screen (-  I am not intending to criticise the speaker here, only commenting on how much the video would have been improved if the screen was shown with the presentation audio).

You should avoid if possible recording the slides from the projection because the difference in contrast between both the black text and white background within the projection, but also the projection and the rest of the room exceeds the exposure latitude of video recorders – which is why results are usually poor.   This is particularly troublesome if you’re trying to capture both the speaker and the slides on a single frame.

At least one conference did exactly the opposite – putting the slides in a tiny, unreadable, box in the corner (?!).

So please, if you’re planning on videoing a conference and you only have one camera, don’t video the speaker, video the slides and record the speaker’s voice.   If you have two cameras, then overlay the speaker into a small box in a corner (or release two videos one of the slides with audio, one of the speaker).   Somewhere where they won’t obscure the slides.  Or do video of the speaker during their intro and during question time. Frankly though, I’d be surprised if video of the speaker adds anything.

World’s Tiniest Open Source Violin

World’s Tiniest Open Source Violin

By no means new, but one of my favourite XKCDs has been given particular relevance this week by Oracle’s Java law suit.  See also this 2004 article by RMS.  The politics of technology regulation over the last 30 years has regularly traded long term pain for short term advantages – and probably illusionary advantages at that.

Blog Stats

  • 273,965 hits

OSWALD Newsletter

If you would like to receive OSWALD, a weekly open source news digest please send an email to oswald (with the subject "subscribe") at