Category Archives: Uncategorized

What is the NBN for?

The NBN is primarily a machine for winning elections.

Conroy created it (I know the people who put the idea in his head but he did the political leg work) and used it to get Rudd elected.

Conroy then had to build it and he used it to get Julia elected.

It didn’t work a third time for Rudd because the slow progress of the NBN just confirmed the perception that the government were hopeless.

Abbott didn’t understand the NBN and told Turnbull to demolish it.

But Turnbull kept the NBN because he knew what it was really for and he eventually used it to help win his election.

Now Fifield has been given control of the machine with strict instructions to not touch anything.

I think Turnbull’s plan is to get millions of people migrated to the NBN then reduce the CVC charge in 2018 to ensure users are finally happy with the performance.

Late in 2018 he will announce a sale process and TLS shares will jump in value which will make a lot of Liberal voters happy.

Then he will have yet another go at riding the NBN machine to victory in 2019.

Or ScoMo or Dutton will.

The real threat to Hollywood

I’m at the CommsDay Congress in Melbourne and in the goodie bag (provided by my client TransGrid) is an 8GB USB “thumb drive” which would be described as a “fingernail drive”. Over the last 10 years conference giveaways have shifted from a CD-ROM to USB sticks of 16 megabytes and doubled every year. This 8GB drive must have cost only a dollar or two for it to be given away with a pdf brochure on it. The same 8GB can store 8 movies at compressed high definition and perhaps a couple at really good resolution. That’s 4 next year and 512 in eight years. That’s one really high def movie for every day of the week and a couple of extras for the weekend. That’s the entire output of Hollywood including the stuff that never got shown on a big screen http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/year/2014 You don’t need a broadband network for this, you need sneakers. 

  

Some idle thoughts on Dallas Buyers Club LLC v iiNet

In his August 14th 2015 judgement Justice Perram said “If the explanatory memorandum is to be believed, ss 115(5)-(8) are aimed squarely at peer-to-peer file sharing. There are aspects of the provisions which are puzzling from a drafting perspective. The use of the expression ‘on a commercial scale’ is not defined although subs (7) tells one what one is to take into account in determining whether a particular infringement was on such a scale. This appears to be focussed on the possibility that whilst one might be able to show that a particular user shared three copies of a work by uploading it, one might not be able to show much about what those three individual downloaders went on to do by way of sharing themselves.”

Peer to peer file sharing has been around a long time. Bittorrent dates back to 2001 and Napster to 1999. But you might be forgiven for thinking that the Copyright Act 1968 didn’t anticipate peer to peer file sharing and indeed it didn’t.

According to CommLaw the history of amending Section 115 of the Copyright Act recorded in the End Notes is “am. No. 110, 2000; No. 34, 2003; No. 158, 2006”

These all occurred during the Howard government and Daryl Williams was Attorney General in 2000 and Philip Ruddock was in 2003 and 2006. The 2006 amendments were very important because they implemented the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I have been told that representatives of the Hollywood studios sat in the Attorney General’s offices drafting the amendments so it must be particularly galling for them that the judge in this case could not see how to apply the Copyright Act to this peer to peer sharing.

There must have been some amazing tantrums after the judgment was handed down.

Perhaps next time the Copyright Act is amended some technologists might be consulted during the process, but perhaps the world is better if they just mess it up so that it’s unenforceable.

Windows 10 – Shut up and take my money!

I got an email from Holly Raiche, ISOC-au ex ED / ICANN luminary / ACCAN director, that she forwarded to the ISOC-au / Internet Australia mailing list from a friend who lives in the Cook Islands who was complaining that Windows 10 had eaten her satellite internet quota of 15GB and run up a NZD280 excess bill in less than half a month.

Of course the causes are Windows 10 cloud services and it automatically updating itself.

I mentioned this Internet consumption problem online and Phil Dobbie called me and he recorded a Balls Radio podcast segment (at 18:52) with me on the topic.

Having done this I thought I should have a play with Windows 10 myself so I downloaded it this morning, all 4GB of it.

Then I attempted to buy a license from Microsoft.

mswin10fail

Ouch! This was painful and didn’t work. I got as far as putting my PayPal details in and confirming my shipping address (for a download only version of Windows) and then the browser wedged looping around between Microsoft and some analytics company.

I tried three different browsers on my Mac.

Eventually I created a new Microsoft Live account and tried again with Chrome which worked! Perhaps it didn’t like my @mac.com address? More likely it has decided my decade old Live account is defective in some way because I never respond to their spam.

Full marks to Microsoft for charging GST and issuing a proper Tax Invoice.

Naturally the expensive new license key didn’t work!

So I downloaded Windows 10 again, thinking “well perhaps there is some timestamp thing” since the downloads seem to be generated specifically for each customer and have a time limit for use.

Another 4GB of download later and it still didn’t work.

MSWIN10FAIL2

I thought a bit harder: perhaps selecting the single language version was a mistake? So I selected the plain Windows 10 and put International English into the default language box.

Another 4GB (that’s 12GB so far!) download and the key worked! I selected Custom install because I’ve been paying attention to social media… Things ground along at a fairly rapid pace and eventually I was given this evil choice:

MSWIN10wificonnect

Think about that! I have the choice of automatically connecting to wifi networks my contacts share with me. It didn’t offer the choice to prevent my computer from sharing that information. Perhaps that comes later? I still haven’t seen an option to disable this insidious hole in my WiFi network security.

I wonder what else Windows 10 shares? Let’s look at the Update and Security screens. “Choose how updates are delivered” looks interesting.

MSWIN10updatesharing

Bless Microsoft’s cold heart, they’re using my PC as a P2P node and I’m joining the sharing economy where people on the Internet can get parts of the latest update from Microsoft from my computer. Good job I’m a nice guy and not messing with those files…

Windows 10 also offered to give all my private stuff (keyboard input and document “inking”, whatever that is) to Cortana which would ensure Cortana could help me more. I clicked “Skip”.

It offered to send pretty much everything I type into a web browser to online services to check spelling and improve page loading. Say what?!? I clicked “Skip”.

Now it looks like Windows 10 already sucked down an update and is planning on rebooting at 3am tomorrow to apply them. Again, bless its little digital heart. Good job it’s not running my alarm clock or swimming pool or watering system.

I selected Reboot Now and everything worked. Quick booting, smooth, impressive even.

Moving along, VMware Fusion offers a VM-side tool. Installing this seems to have confused the display driver. It’s not a big issue but I had to turn high performance graphics off and untick Use Full resolution for Retina display before things worked nicely on my external monitor. Not a big issue but another thing that burnt some time.

I ran a quick browser benchmark on Internet Explorer vs Safari and I think 22,000 vs 25,000 was pretty much line-ball. It doesn’t seem that running in a VMware VM does Windows 10 too much harm. I don’t actually own any modern Windows software so I can’t test Word against Word for instance.

I’ve stopped being a WinXP hipster and have Windows 10 running in a VM on my Mac. It’s like carrying around a seductive little portal into hell. I can run all those vendor config tools for DC to AC power inverters and network appliances without fear that my Windows will certainly be p0wned within minutes, but now I’m back to the simple uncertainty about when. I can run Internet Explorer so all those government websites will be slightly more cooperative and I can look at a desktop that belongs on a tablet. Cool.

MSWin10Success

How good are Uber at GST?

UBER not tax invoiceUber just sent me an email saying that they’re raising Uber charges 10% in Australia so that their drivers can collect GST, more or less. It also include a link to their blog with the promise of info about Tax Invoices.

Indeed there is. It says that you can email them to ask for a Tax Invoice for bills over $82.50 which is the ATO cutoff for requiring a Tax Invoice to substantiate the GST input credit for a business.

It goes on to say “All rides with UberTaxi (Sydney) or UberBlack (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth) will always have a Tax Invoice that you can download from riders.uber.com.”

So let’s see if Uber know how to issue a Tax Invoice.

In their instructions the ATO say Tax Invoices must have seven features:

  1. that the document is intended to be a tax invoice – MAYBE – the words “Tax Invoice” do not appear on the document but Uber do state on their blog that it is a Tax Invoice so they must intend it to be.
  2. the seller’s identity – YES
  3. the seller’s Australian business number (ABN) – YES
  4. the date the invoice was issued – YES
  5. a brief description of the items sold, including the quantity (if applicable) and the price – MAYBE – It says “Transportation services” which is vague but accurate.
  6. the GST amount (if any) payable – this can be shown separately or, if the GST amount is exactly one-eleventh of the total price, as a statement such as ‘Total price includes GST’- YES
  7. the extent to which each sale on the invoice is a taxable sale (that is, the extent to which each sale includes GST)
    either the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘total price including GST’, or
    it shows the GST included in each line item (see column with the GST amount), and the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘the total price includes GST’.- YES

It appears to me that Uber are providing a mechanism that lets properly registered drivers issue documents that the ATO will probably consider to be Tax Invoices but I would feel more comfortable if they put the words TAX INVOICE on it.

Labor made data retention

You can’t have it both ways Labor. Reports that you’re “rethinking” Data Retention mean you’ve worked out your supporter base doesn’t actually like surveillance. You unquestioningly supported it in spite of the evidence put in front of you by experts. So now it’s yours. You made it. You didn’t OPPOSE it, so you get no credit for opposing it now. Future performance is predicted by past behaviour – remember that at the ballot box voters.

The Age article

Do Greeks pay enough tax?

Let’s look at the assertion that Greeks don’t support their welfare state by paying tax.

Using OECD data from http://www.oecd.org/ctp/tax-policy/revenue-statistics-and-consumption-tax-trends-2014-australia.pdf
Australia’s tax revenue 2012
$416b total tax revenue
$163b personal tax 

23m population

AUD$18K total tax per person

AUD$7K personal tax per person (not per adult, per person)

Greece’s tax revenue (from the Greece equivalent page) 2013

EUR65b total tax, say $92b at 2013 exchange rates (similar to now)

EUR13b personal tax, say $19m

11m population

AUD$8K total tax per person

AUD$1.7K personal tax per person

But you say, the bankers have crippled Greece with austerity so let’s look at 2004.

Using OECD historic data from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=REV

Greece’s total tax revenue was EUR58b

Interestingly the population was the same 11m, so that’s EUR5K per person which means the current EUR8K austerity induced “small” tax take is 60% higher. Small relative to Australia’s tax revenues which are more than double at current exchange rates.

Australia’s total tax revenue was USD$205b or AUD$281b and the population was 20m, so that’s AUD$14K, compared to $18K now, a 30% increase.

So Greeks are now paying more tax, 60% more, but they certainly weren’t paying tax on the scale needed to support their welfare state a decade ago.

If they can grow their economy at the current tax rates they might just about reach the point where they are paying enough tax to support a reasonable welfare system.