Why Malcolm Turnbull is wrong about the NBN being unnecessary

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The always-interesting tech journo Renai LeMay has posted a controversial article on Delimiter, In defence of Turnbulls’ NBN speed claims. The crux of Malcolm Turnbull’s argument, that Renai supports, is that current broadband technologies, while not as fast as the limitless potential of fibre, are fast enough for what people need to do on broadband today, and therefore spending $40 billion on the NBN is a waste of money.
I strongly feel that looking backwards in technology terms is not the right way to evaluate whether an investment in new technology is worthwhile.

Here’s why:

– In the first few years of broadband availability, the vast majority of people couldn’t see why they’d need it, because dial-up was perfectly fast enough for their emails and web use of the day (which probably meant internet banking once a week and a few Alta Vista searches a week).

– Before home VoIP became possible (adequate broadband speeds and provider availability) people were happy enough paying 40c a minute to call from Sydney to Melbourne.

– Before ADSL2+ became commonplace, most people were perfectly happy to traipse down to the video store to rent a video and pay the associated late fees.

– Before the iPad came out, there was negligible demand for tablet competing. (See how spectacularly unsuccessful all Windows tablets had been, for example.)

– Before the iPhone came out, the vast majority of people loved their Nokias and couldn’t imagine anything better.

– Back when I started at APC in 2003, there was a prevailing view that PC CPU’s were ‘fast enough’ — you could run Microsoft Office at a good clip on them, and if you had a decent graphics card you could run the latest games.

– Before HSPA+ Telstra Next G, people had no idea you could really work effectively from a wireless connection at speeds close to home broadband. (Yes I realise the irony of that example, in the context… but no wireless network is a competitor for the rock-solid reliability of a modern wired network.)

My point is… when it comes to technology, the general public, outside of the tiny technology enthusiast field, do not cry out for new enabling technology. But they sure do appreciate it when it arrives, and when it is done right.

It’s the “done right” part that I think is the key thing about the NBN. It’s what the iPad is to Windows tablets.

I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future of technology (and I do think many of the examples given in the NBN promotional video are a bit absurd), but my personal hopes for the impact of the NBN are:

– That given it is a government project, there will be an impetus for the government to make all government services available online, including face-to-face consultations with government workers.

– That population stress will be eased on major cities because it will be easy to telework from any remote location using a reliable, non-fluctuating connection. (Wireless _does_ fluctuate, and ADSL speeds are a crapshoot on a premise-by-premise basis.)

– That more two-way internet applications will become available, taking advantage of consistently low-latency, high upstream speeds. (I am personally disappointed that the basic NBN connection is limited to 1Mbit/s upstream.) Currently, the internet is by necessity architected around one-way download applications due to the highly asymmetrical nature of connections to end users.

I also don’t agree that any current broadband technologies are capable of providing adequate performance when it comes to upstream speed. Optus’ 100Mbit/s cable, for example, can only provide 2Mbit/s upstream to each user.

My biggest hope, really, is that the NBN will provide consistent broadband speeds right across Australia. Without that, it’s prohibitive for “IP workers” to move to country areas where their broadband options will be limited and variable. As a result, we’re all forced to live in city areas and pay ridiculous house prices, or live in dowdy regional areas like Geelong or Bendigo where decent ADSL2+ is likely to be available, but you’re living in a ‘mini-CBD’ anyway.

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How to tweak OS X Lion to disable window zooming and other eye-candy

lionDon’t like Mac OS X 10.7 Lion’s annoying window zoom effect for new windows? Thanks to Tomas Franz, you can disable it. Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and copy and paste the following line:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool NO

You then need to restart any apps that are running for them to get the new setting.

Hurrah! Snappy window performance again.

Also, if you want to restore CMD+D to being “don’t save” as it was in previous versions of OS X, you can do that with this command:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSSavePanelStandardDesktopShortcutOnly -bool YES

Video of the Vancouver riot kiss couple

Ahhh… very interesting. Like everyone else, I love that amazing picture by Getty Images photographer Rich Lam of the couple kissing in the middle of the riot in Vancouver, but there are so many theories about whether the picture was posed; whether the couple was doing some new form of planking (or perhaps a much older form), etc…

This amateur video from a balcony overlooking the Vancouver riot lets you see what really happened.

Even though the video makes clear that the girl was knocked down roughly and the guy was comforting her (and he gave her a quick kiss too, by his own account), it’s obvious from the video that it was a bona fide moment, not something staged.

The picture itself is one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen — both in the evocative emotions it captured and the framing and technical photography. Just stunning.

It also warms the cockles of my heart to know that the guy is Australian Scott Jones, with his Vancouver girlfriend, Alexandra Thomas. His dad, Brett Jones, posted on Facebook, “That’s my son! How’s that for making love, not war!”

Just awesome.

Cheapest car parking for Sydney Airport?

4d0af4eb941c415ea8a20252767f1340-Car_park_-8Ever wondered whether there are cheaper carparks than the excruciatingly expensive ones at Sydney Airport? The answer is yes!

I just spent a day researching this and found all the carparks in the area — and which ones were cheapest for a 1 day, 2 day, 3 day (etc) stay right through to 15 days.

Check it out — (I’m posting it here for my own reference as much as anyone else…!)

Cheapest car parks around Sydney Airport

How to backup your iPhoto library to Dropbox – and resize images to save space

how-to-backup-iphoto-to-dropbox

iphoto-library-finder-infoIf, like me, you took Steve Jobs at his word when he said iPhoto 6 onwards could support up to 250,000 images, and you’ve been piling them in ever since, you’ve probably got a very large iPhoto library.

Mine is currently sitting at 66,431 images and is 220GB on disk. It’s so big that it convinced me to part with $1800 (Australian) to get the 512GB SSD Apple is making an option with the latest MacBook Pros. Obviously, at that price, it’s a ludicrously overpriced option at $3.50/GB compared to smaller, cheaper SSDs, typically around $2.50/GB, or mechanical hard drives at about $0.14/GB, but I wanted to have a boot drive on which I could have my full iPhoto library so I could work with pictures much more quickly (and boy, does it make a big difference.)

However, one problem I’ve been seeking an answer to for years now is how to backup my photos off-site, in case a house fire takes out both my MacBook Pro and my Time Capsule backup. (Or, if my house was burgled and both the MacBook Pro and Time Capsule were stolen — which actually happened to a family member of mine.)

Simply dropping the iPhoto library into an online backup program like Carbonite or Mozy isn’t viable, because uploading 200GB of data takes so long that it basically never completes — or the backup system gets so far behind that you’d be losing a lot of new photos if your house burned down.

The ‘ideal’ solution I had in mind was to do Time Machine backups constantly to my Time Capsule, as well as a fallback backup of downscaled resolution photos to an online backup location. I like Dropbox (my referral link included in that link) because it works so quietly and reliably in the background, but you could use any online backup service. Although some people might say that backing up the full resolution photos is important to them, to me, the most important thing is making sure those frozen memories don’t get lost — and if I downscale them to fit within 1920x1920px, then I still have a high definition, albeit not camera-resolution, version of the photo.

I’ve now figured out how to do it! Full details after the jump.

Continue reading “How to backup your iPhoto library to Dropbox – and resize images to save space”

UNBELIEVABLE!! NAB’s systems down at critical moment AGAIN!

After my iPad-buying rant a few months ago when I’d travelled to the US to buy one of the first iPads for ACP, only to find NAB’s systems were all down and I therefore couldn’t pay for it, I was assured by NAB’s PRs that they would look into putting better processes in place to warn customers of scheduled outages.

Yet, here I am in the US again, trying to check in to a hotel and all my NAB cards are declining — even though I know there’s plenty of money in the accounts.

NAB’s internet banking presents this message, advising me to try using phone banking instead.

nab-unavail

Which yields this recorded message. Sigh…!

It does appear that NAB is making an effort to let customers know of forthcoming scheduled maintenance on their systems. For example, the last message I got from them is below:

Screen-shot-2010-09-11-at-8.21.06-PM

However, that message says nothing about scheduled maintenance on 11th/12th September.

My guess is that today’s six-hour long outage (their systems are back online now) was probably a system failure, and there was no-one rostered on to fix it overnight. The problem got fixed pretty much around Australian breakfast time, September 12th. It is really irritating, though, that the standard message that comes up in case of system failures specifically says “scheduled maintenance”. I would appreciate a bit of honesty here: either the system is down and they are fixing it urgently, or they are doing scheduled maintenance that they failed to tell me about, and left me in the lurch AGAIN.