Thursday, 2 July 2015

"If something's not impossible, there must be a way to do it"

Sir Nicholas Winton: a real-life super-hero passed away 1st July 2015.

A stockbroker who quietly rescued 669 children. After the war, Winton did not discuss his efforts with anyone; his wife found out what he had done only after she discovered a scrapbook in their attic in 1988, detailing the children's parents and the families that took them in.

New York Times
Wikipedia: Sir Nicholas Winton
Power of Good: story
Washington Post on Sir Nicholas Winton

Sadly, during a BBC interview in October 2014 he said, "I don't think we've learned anything ... the world today is in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Kalray - new product meander

Kalray's interesting chips are modelled on the kind of hierarchical architecture that has proved itself in 1M core HPC configurations. Their solutions have 16 clusters of 16 tightly coupled processors in a VLIW architecture. Those clusters rely on message passing. Their main differentiator would be their energy claims of 20 pJ's per instruction.

ILP -> 16 threads -> 16 units = 256 core hierarchy

The previous Kalray generation's interconnect
They have just announced their V2 uP product and next gen PCIe card, TurboCard3, with a dutiful improvement in processing from 1TFLOP SP to 3TFLOP SP claimed in the just released PR. They are running a little behind as V2 was scheduled for  2014 with a 1024 core due in 2015 according to the 2013 presentations listed below.

Here is some background on Kalray;

Promising: 100GFLOPS/W with 1024 cores at 12W implying 1.2 TFLOPS == nice!
I'm rather fond of Kalray's type of approach but it hasn't been a happy hunting ground for companies in this space. Maybe Kalray will be the one to break through.

Tilera "failed" with its more than $100M in VC being acquired for $50M by EZchip. Its story is not over but its grand vision has been scaled back. Early chips were somewhat starved of memory and their CPU nodes were viewed by many as a little weak. It remains an interesting proposition and here's to hoping EZchip makes it work more broadly.

Picochip similarly raised $110M in VC and was acquired by Mindspeed for $52M. Hardware is hard as PixelFusion/Clearspeed also demonstrated.

Adapteva's Epiphany III and IV chips and Parallella boards represent a cool architecture. The company has achieved extraordinary results in the context of its limited funding and a successful Kickstarter. I'd love to see it take off.  Limited funding seems to be its main problem. Adapteva looks somewhat starved of funds and is unlikely to achieve their original hope of zillion core chips. The non-push on their 64 core variety, from an apparent lack of funds, seems to suggest a refocus. Epiphany IV, the 64 core chip, is EOL'd. Parallella is making good strides in the embedded / hobbyist space with an attractive SBC with a Zynq + 16 core chip but is unlikely to succeed wildly simply due to its cost. It's hard to measure yourself against the success / volume of either of the two systems sitting on my desk here: a $35 Raspberry Pi 2 and a $4 STM32 Cortex Arduino focused board.

Kalray's main competition is likely to be the tiled Intel and ARM processors from the pool of Intel Phi, AMD, Cavium, et cetera.

However, I personally think the future may be RISC-V. I buy RISC-V's "ISA is not so important just pick one and make it open" argument. If I was to build my own SoC for HFT (anyone?) or IoT, RISC-V, I'd choose you. Sorry Picachu. There must be a lot of people thinking the same thing as I'm a little slow.

Good-luck Kalray, the pJ per instruction argument is a good one. However, my new technology bet, if I was to bet on a company or start-up, would be on a RISC-V ISA based solution.


PS: Yes, I do think RISC-V has a very good shot at usurping x86[_64] and ARM...

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Federal and High Court Judicial Employment Paradox

All judgments by a Federal Court or High Court judge, if that judge has been remunerated by a external party, including by an education institution, may be Constitutionally invalid.

Awful implications. Let me meander through my simpleton reasoning.

Can judges have other employment?

Is it appropriate for a High Court jurist to have external employment?

It is allowed or constitutional for a High Court jurist to be employed by a third party?

My Federal Court of Australia case pointed to potential conflicts in this space with a judicial relationship from third party employment to counsel, the other parties wife, donations to the employer and a bunch of other factors. A potential minefield for a system that seeks to ensure the public would have no reason to question the impartiality of the decision making process. Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.

In a broader context, it begs the question of what kind of employment may be appropriate for a judge?

One benchmark for judicial ethical standards is the UN Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. The UN's main interpretive view was commissioned and given by UNODC in "Commentary on the Bangalore principles of judicial conduct."

The commentary interprets that jurists really shouldn't have outside employment but makes an exception for educational institutions. It says that the role of the judiciary is important in legal education though it strives to point out that the remuneration should be similar to what an academic is provisioned for the same work. Special consideration may make such engagement problematic. It makes an important exception though, and that is where the employment or remuneration would be contrary to the constitution or law. It seems a sensible approach.

I think it is clear in my case the judge acted improperly, but where is the line? I have argued in this blog previously that apprehended bias is like pornography and that you "know it when you see it." Is it appropriate for a judge to have external remuneration for work? Should it be, as the Bangalore Principles suggest, only at educational institutions?

In my case many of the significant conflicts were in the context of an educational institution, a university. Hence my specific meandering here. Also many judges have remunerated positions at universities as they seek to selflessly serve their communities. It seems to me that the conflicts in my instance were many, wide, and perhaps not representative of the usual conflicts nor perhaps typical of a judge that may be more conscious of judicial ethics. So, arguably, my specifics are perhaps not too relevant for the broader question of judicial employment; just a trigger for thought.

Chapter three of the Australian Constitution says something on the matter. It says in Chapter III, section 72:
Judges' appointment, tenure, and remuneration
The Justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament:
                     (iii)  shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix; but the remuneration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
                   A reference in this section to the appointment of a Justice of the High Court or of a court created by the Parliament shall be read as including a reference to the appointment of a person who holds office as a Justice of the High Court or of a court created by the Parliament to another office of Justice of the same court having a different status or designation.
At my first read I thought "shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix" naturally excluded external remuneration as such remuneration would not be remuneration that the Parliament fixed. I wasn't so sure on a second reading though as it could be read as an expectation that a judge would not have external remuneration rather than an insistence. Is the cat in the box dead or not?

Thinking about a special leave application to the High Court in my case resolved the issue for me. Quite simply, really. Judges cannot in the High Court, nor the Federal Courts have external remuneration. Notably this reasoning does not affect judges in the Supremes or other state or district courts. Let me meander through the obvious reasoning.

The Judicial Employment Paradox

Hypothetically, if Joanne Citizen was to be aggrieved for some reason due to the external remuneration associated with a presiding judge in the FCA, who does she appeal to? After the Full Bench of the Federal Court, the last chance hotel is the High Court.

Now, if in your reasoning before the High Court you wish to bring into question Chapter III, section 72 (iii) from above, you have a problem. Any party reading a judgment from on High that decided against you would feel that perhaps the jurists may be conflicted. Why? They would be deciding on their own current or potential future remuneration. As part of your special leave application to the High Court you would have to ask that all the judges withdraw, or recuse, themselves leaving no one to decide the case. Who cuts the bald barber's hair?

This paradox solves the problem as is necessitates the interpretation of Chapter III s72 (iii) to require that all judges of the High Court and other courts created by the Parliament, such as the Federal Courts, cannot therefore have external remuneration.

This is a problem. Whilst it would have been beneficial in my matter, I'm not sure it is good policy to exclude the forty odd good jurists of the Federal Court and a handful of good jurists of the High Court from teaching institutions. However, this is also unremarkable as it is clearly countenanced by the Bangalore Principles that such employment may be unconstitutional. It clearly is a consideration in the Australian Constitution.

The clarity of such a logical proof by paradox eliminates any potential fuzziness in the wording of the Constitution. There is no wriggle room, just Wiggle boom, in the reasoning.

This then creates a far reaching problem. All judgments, decisions or declarations by a Federal Court judge or High Court judge who was engaged in external remuneration may be Constitutionally invalid.

Potentially all of their judgments or perhaps just any judicial decision making after such remuneration was first arranged.

The Hon Kenneth Hayne was remunerated by the University of Melbourne for His Honour's work in the Law Masters, as was and is his wife The Hon Justice Michelle Gordon. Indeed many good judges in the Federal Court have worthy appointments deemed to be of service to the community. Unfortunately that service invalidates their judgment in the eyes and i's of the Constitution.


Big Oops.

Fiat justitia,



I had a brief but interesting twitter debate with Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders:

You can read the public record here or see it as an image below.

The good professor raises a couple of points. She says judicial employment is principled. I agree. I raise two questions above:

  1. is it appropriate, which goes to principles or ethics; and, 
  2. the further question of whether it is constitutional. 

Judicial engagement with an educational institution, such as Melbourne University, is clearly principled. Service is good. The Bangalore Principles say it may also fit into an appropriate framework for judicial conduct. The caveat in Bangalore is it must be lawful and constitutional which is obvious.

Is it constitutional? I think not. Professor Saunders thinks so. The good professor says the judges don't get remunerated by the university but I think they do.

Remuneration is not just about money, it is about financial and non-financial rewards. See background on remuneration and benefits.

It's not just about the fringe benefits of the lunch room. This thought experiment may be enlightening. Is a judge more likely to get a HCA appointment if they are an academic or, all other things being equal, which they never are, if they are not? Think about the benefits from status, engagement, direct influence and carried influence from teaching. Clearly, the job has benefits some of which are remunerative in quality.

I don't have the authority of a professor but I fail to see the logical flaw in my argument. Authority, deserving as it may be, does not make one right.

I'm clearly outranked. Our minds differ but we both come to the table with elements of prejudice lurking. What do you think?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Judicial Ethics and Responsibilities - The need to bypass the Court

The Court system in Australia is broken. A viral alternative commercial dispute resolution system needs to be put in place by the business community to cure the legal cancer afflicting and destroying business in Australia. Businesses and people should only do commercial transactions with those counterparties agreeable to an appropriate alternate binding resolution process. The courts are conflicted and will not reform. The business community needs to make the courts irrelevant and take back control.

Let me meander though some rambling thoughts on why I think this is so.

Poor judicial behaviour by a few affects the many

The interactions between judges, politics and their business friends are too close in Australia, and in Victoria in particular. Judicial standards of behaviour and ethics are breached with no consequence and often with reward which may even relate to the propensity to breach.

I have experienced such improper judicial conduct first hand. Bad judges who make poor and unethical decisions, such as The Hon Justice Jennifer Davies and The Hon Justice Michelle Gordon need to do some weekend reading to relearn their societal obligations.

When cronyism results in the appointment of bad judges, such as Gordon J, to the High Court of Australia (HCA), you have to wonder if this is just the way things are? Should there be a higher international regard for judicial ethics and responsibilities given at least those two aforementioned so called "justices"?

Well there is.  The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.

This is an important document. Its purpose as described by itself:
THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES are intended to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges. They are designed to provide guidance to judges and to afford the judiciary a framework for regulating judicial conduct. They are also intended to assist members of the executive and the legislature, and lawyers and the public in general, to better understand and support the judiciary. These principles presuppose that judges are accountable for their conduct to appropriate institutions established to maintain judicial standards, which are themselves independent and impartial, and are intended to supplement and not to derogate from existing rules of law and conduct which bind the judge. 

Australia picks and chooses which treaties apply when it suits

These principles are not binding on Australia but are expected to be followed. As we now appreciate, even ratified International UN treaties seem to be not binding as considered by the High Court when there is a perception of conflict with local law. This seems a little strange given the effort that goes into negotiation and ratification of treaties.

A good example of this riding roughshod over international obligations was considered in the case of Sri Lankan boat people being mistreated at sea. International treaty 0. Australian law 1. Humanity begone.

Australia ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (16 Dec 1966) on 13 Aug 1980 after signing it on 18 Dec 1973. Australia is expected to comply. Australia made various reservations to a number of paragraphs though not many. Australia made the following declaration to the UN (full declaration below at [1]):
“Australia has a federal constitutional system in which legislative, executive and judicial powers are shared or distributed between the Commonwealth and the constituent States. The implementation of the treaty throughout Australia will be effected by the Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities having regard to their respective constitutional powers and arrangements concerning their exercise.”
Though Momcilovic v The Queen (2011) 85 ALJR 957; [2011] HCA 34 makes it unclear of how to resolve rights and law conflicts, as the HCA only supports a parsimonious reading.

So, Australia can make a UN treaty and a declaration on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia but that is not considered law. One would have thought that it would indeed be required to be accepted as law as the country had the opportunity to make exceptions or disagree in its "Declaration" for those parts it did not accept. In the case of the ICCPR Australia did indeed make exceptions or easements which you would think implies the acceptance of the non-aggrieved clauses as a matter of law. Also testament to the seriousness and consideration of such Treaties or Covenants is the reticence of Australia to enter into them in the first place. Of the UN's 18 Human Rights Treaties, Australia has ratified only 13, which is not so bad being the same number as the UK and NZ, but behind Germany, France and Spain with 16 or 17 ratified. Mongolia has ratified 17. China is not doing so great with only 8 treaties ratified but at least it is not a recalcitrant like the USA which has only ratified 5.  Goodluck with enforcement in China though.

There is more work to do on such International Treaties, especially by the HCA. The Hon Michael Kirby has written well on these matters in "The Road From Bangalore" which is available as a resource of the HCA.

The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct

Transparency International promoted the welcome endorsement of the Bangalore Principles by the Member States of the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 59th Session in Geneva.

The UN's Economic and Social Council in its 45th Plenary Meeting in 2007 asked in resolution 22 that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to continue in its work on promulgating and explaining the Bangalore Principles. UNODC published an excellent work, "COMMENTARY ON THE BANGALORE PRINCIPLES OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT" in September 2007.

The expected behaviour goes beyond the specificity of Ebner v Official Trustee [2000], but perhaps not the substance, in its recommendation for judicial conduct with respect to their outside work, remuneration and conduct, especially with regard to parties related to litigation, including legal representatives.

Victoria seems the worst one of the states of the Commonwealth of Australia with respect to judicial ethical concerns. Much of this comes from the close and personal relationships judges have with many in the community and the deference or implicit prejudice that eventuates.

Let's look at Gordon J's activities in my case:
  1. Gordon J worked at Melbourne Uni and was remunerated by it;
  2. Opposing counsel Sharpe and Collins worked with Her Honour at Melbourne Uni;
  3. One of the main participants, who admitted to conduct that was criminal, Greg Robinson, donated, in combination with his wife Patricia Desmond, at least $300,000 to Melbourne Uni;
  4. Professor Patricia Desmond ran a department and was a significant figure at Melbourne Uni;
  5. Their family member, received a Melbourne Law Masters Prize, in the year leading up to the trial, and Gordon J teaches part of the Melbourne Law Masters course;
  6. Gordon J's and her husband were and are friends of the Governor of Victoria who worked with one of my opponent's main shareholders Bill Burdett; and,
  7. many other associations and friendships linking my opponents to Gordon J...
Hardly the stuff that would let your Joe Public have any confidence in the impartiality of the decision making of Gordon J in the matter. Let alone if Joanne Public had to consider the fact that Gordon J changed the course of the trial and refused to hear evidence that had witnesses scheduled and the all the other shenanigans that went on in my particular matter. Shameful behaviour from Gordon J simply gets rewarded with a High Court appointment. Such is the lack of integrity in the HCA appointment process. That process needs to be fixed, but more importantly there has to be a wider recognition of appropriate judicial behaviour and ethics. Gordon J is a bad offender, but not the worst. Registrar Burns acted corruptly. It is hard to describe the depths of depravity in judicial decision making that The Hon Justice Jennifer Davies succumbed to in the liquidation proceedings before Her Honour's court. Bad jurists such as Gordon J, Davies J and Registrar Burns should not be so ignorant as to not see their own faults on reflection. They should resign and apologise to the court.

The vast majority of jurists in the court system are there for law and order and carry their ethics well. It is a shame that a few bad eggs let them down and undermine public confidence in the law. Even worse though, is the fact that far from sanction, jurists receive unjust rewards regardless of their behaviour as is the case in Gordon J's appointment to the HCA. Whilst it is bad for Joanne Public to see such cronyism at work, imagine how bad it must be for an ethical judge that strives to promote the just application of law and yet all that hard work, commercial isolation, and social sacrifice is for nought, as it is not good law and diligence that gets rewarded, just cronyism.

Still no South Australian has been appointed to the High Court in over 100 years.

The solution - viral binding alternate arbitration

The commercial way of the future is for corporations and people to bind together and only deal with those other parties that will subject themselves to binding arbitration in an alternate dispute resolution system. That is, the viral introduction of a completely new system. All contracts should require such binding abandonment for the transactions concerned to proceed. The viral part is that effort be required to reasonably make all other transactions by the parties to all other related and unrelated parties also subject to the alternate system that is not the current court system. The system is broken and it is incapable of fixing itself. A renewal is needed, at least until it too succumbs under its own weight and conflicts in another hundred years and needs another new renewal.

My father has fond but distant memories of many tax disputes being resolved by an adjudication of sensible person presented with the facts from the ATO and party in dispute without much drama, time spent, and with little legal cost. Such systems can and did work well for a great majority of instances.

Viral systems of shunning outsiders within commercial systems has worked well for various parties including financial authorities in the US where businesses have been prevented from dealing with counterparties that would not agree to certain rules or jurisdiction. Beyond the Masons, even Islam's success may have been partially built on requirement that Islamic businesses favour another Islamic business before another and, in the old world, if you did not join that club, you could not eat. The business community could control its own destiny here and wrest it from the courts and government.

Maybe we can thank the Honourable Justice Michelle Gordon if such a new system could come to pass as then Her Honour's arrogant, hubristic, and, at times, improper, approach might be seen as the rightful mother of a new and better system for commercial dispute resolution. If legal representatives were to recommend a process that was in the best interests for their clients, they would be obliged to recommend such an alternative system. Indeed lawyers, of all types, have a contract of conscience to strive for such a system on behalf of their clients.


The courts are broken. If the government nor the courts won't or can't act, the business community should look to itself to cure the ridiculous costs and eternal timeframes baked into the system. Someone needs to rise and put forward a realistic and implementable strategy to achieve an alternative dispute resolution system that bypasses the current legacy court system.

Fiat justitia,



[1] UN ICCPR Declaration from Australia:
Reservations: Article 10 "In relation to paragraph 2 (a) the principle of segregation is accepted as an objective to be achieved progressively. In relation to paragraph 2 (b) and 3 (second sentence) the obligation to segregate is accepted only to the extent that such segregation is considered by the responsible authorities to be beneficial to the juveniles or adults concerned". Article 14 "Australia makes the reservation that the provision of compensation for miscarriage of justice in the circumstances contemplated in paragraph 6 of article 14 may be by administrative procedures rather than pursuant to specific legal provision." Article 20 "Australia interprets the rights provided for by articles 19, 21 and 22 as consistent with article 20; accordingly, the Common wealth and the constituent States, having legislated with respect to the subject matter of the article in matters of practical concern in the interest of public order ( ordre public ), the right is reserved not to introduce any further legislative provision on these matters." Declaration: "Australia has a federal constitutional system in which legislative, executive and judicial powers are shared or distributed between the Commonwealth and the constituent States. The implementation of the treaty throughout Australia will be effected by the Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities having regard to their respective constitutional powers and arrangements concerning their exercise." 28 January 1993
"The Government of Australia declares that it recognizes, for and on behalf of Australia, the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the aforesaid Convention."

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Daleks are more than just climbing stairs

This is the first known robot to run and jump autonomously.

Interesting use of feasible rather than optimal planning. Electric motors for power and LIDAR for sensing.

Source: MIT News 29 May 2015.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Metamako's MetaApp - a trading swiss army knife

MetaMako's new MetaApp32 looks pretty intriguing.

Metamako's MetaApp32
A four core 64 bit Intel x86_64 with a Xilinx Virtex 7 attached to it in a neat 1RU chassis. Internal 64GB SSD and two external SSD bays for the x86. PCIe v2 x8 connection internally between the x86 and the FPGA. The external PCIe interfaces directly to the FPGA is also x8 and can run PCIe v3. So I guess you can also think of the unit as a giant FPGA card for your bigger x86 server if the on-board Intel system is not enough. FPGA, x86, Layer 1 crosspoint, time-stamping, multiplexing and switching, all the components for assembling a pretty kick ass trading platform are there which is why I'm thinking of this as the Swiss Army knife. It's looking like a pretty flexible piece of kit, though I'm not sure how the pricing looks yet. At least not having to visit the DC to repatch cables thanks to the layer 1 reconfig means saving some money when looking at the TCO.

Metamako seem to have been percolating on it slowly as the PR mentions it has been in customer hands since around February on beta with some now using it in production. A few asterisks in their datasheet pdf indicating a few extensions, such as netconf support, is not quite there yet, but on its way.

I do like the idea of being able to run CentOS 7 on it. MetaMako's Dr Dave tells me it has an internal JTAG interface between the x86 and the Xilinx Virtex 7 to make life much simpler for the FPGA savvy developer. There's a lot to like about this one if it fits the budget.

I'd imagine there would be quite a few people in the network space thinking about how such tool might make their router, SDN, storage, firewall, packet capture, or WAN gadget sing. It may be a glimpse of the future as Intel digest Altera and their combined product portfolio evolves to integrate FPGA and processors into combined packages.

It will be interesting to see how it travels. The Arista 7124-FX platform wasn't overly successful as it was a bit of a kludge with 8 ports only for the FPGA and the rest on the switch chip. The Arista FX also wasn't a performance demon as they were quoting 250ns or so RTT to the FPGA on board and that is not so compelling when you could do better elsewhere. The FX was a neat packaging concept even if Arista quietly faded it. Metamako have muxing functionality running on this thing with sub 100ns RTTs which holds out the possibility of some compelling trade performance if you can manage the FPGA development. FPGA development is notoriously difficult for traditional software developers. Hardware is different. Xilinx's relatively new SDAccel platform eases the burden opening up this kind of development to many more people, broadening the base of potential hardware developers.  It is not just the Microsofts and Baidus (MS Catapult paper), or large trading houses that can afford to tinker with FPGAs now. Food for thought.

Happy trading,


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Is Exablaze failing?

No sight nor sound of the 40G NIC from Exablaze.

Their own blog and Waters Technology reported back in 2013 that a 40G NIC was on the way.

See the old article here at

Turns out Exablaze can't seem to deliver on the promises (aka lies) they make. Now that their financial trading business has been shuttered, perhaps the tech business is not far away from the same fate?

Good riddance you'd have to say.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Self healing concrete - roads maybe?

I found this lime producing bacteria laced concrete quite thought provoking and inspiring for some reason. It makes me wonder about the economics of road building and if concrete may make a comeback.

Self healing concrete from Delft University of Technology and Henk Jonkers.

It's a finalist in the European Inventor Award 2015.

Bacteria that lies dormant in rock for 200 years and then does its work. Makes it hard to rule out life on Mars, doesn't it.

It raises questions about what is low tech and high tech. What is natural or organic and what is artificial?


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Some interesting "white box" switches

Pica8, Inventec, Edge-Core and Quanta have all been pumping out various 10G, 40G, and now 100G white box switches. Generally Broadcom's Trident+, Trident II or Tomahawk ASICs at the core.

Out of the Open Network Install Environments (ONIE): Cumulus, Big Switch, and PicOS seem to be the more popular with Cumulus having more mindshare to me. That is a pretty fuzzy situation to me though. I'm not too sure who is winning in the ONIE space.
Edge-corE AS6701-32X with ONIE
40GbE Data Center Switch

Any how, here are some samplings via links to some of the current offerings:

Interesting alternative platforms to the usual suspects, especially when combined with alternative network operating systems. In that respect, I note some of the Quanta switches are listed as Ubuntu Compliant for their x86 Intel Rangely which has left me wondering about what that means exactly...

Anyhow, here is a pretty decent tutorial on the whitebox market from Big Switch Network's Rob Sherwood from ONUG last year if you wish to meander some more.

Network OS choices via ONIE seem more important than the hardware itself.


Update: I saw Chalon Duncan post a reference to the following article which explains what I was missing about Ubuntu on switch platforms:
Mystery, to me, solved.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Hon Justice Michelle Gordon gets more press

Is Michelle Gordon the best the Coalition could do? The Australian, Professor James Allan, 1 May 2015
"The point is that you might have thought an Abbott government would want to make High Court appointments based on, you know, who will take a ­conservative approach to interpreting our Constitution. That sort of thing. Instead, after seeing their two High Court appointments thus far, I basically haven’t got a clue what our Attorney-General George Brandis and Prime Minister Tony Abbott are treating as core factors in deciding whom they appoint. The most recent was Michelle Gordon."
"Is identity politics the main game in town now?"
"It’s a joke that in 115 years there hasn’t been a single appointee from South Australia. Or Tasmania. If identity politics is now the only game in town, at least make it a woman from South Australia who just might have a few more federalist inclinations in her than those from the Sydney or Melbourne Bars. To repeat, a conservative government can do better..."
"Is she the best, or even “an obvious top five”, choice the Coalition could have made?"
"Now I happen to agree that being the spouse of the person you’re replacing ought not to rule you out. But it ought not to rule you in, either."
"Indeed, for the sake of appearances such incestuous-looking appointments ought to have to pass a higher hurdle than would apply to other candidates."
"In other words, to pick the wife of the retiring judge she has to be incontestably better than anyone else."

Poor judgment on the High Court, Australian Financial Review, Editorial 16 April 2015
"Justice Gordon ... insists ... [she] should be judged by the quality of [her] work. While there's much to be said for that, the latest instance is not reassuring for those who think that judges should not intrusively meddle in business arrangements struck by consenting adults. Justice Gordon handed down the original ruling that found the ANZ Bank guilty of "unconscionable" behaviour for simply enforcing a contractual arrangement that included a fee on credit card customers who failed to pay their debts on time. Her judgment displayed plenty of meticulous lawyering but precious little commonsense and was thankfully demolished last week by a full bench of the Federal Court."

"The American system of requiring presidential appointments to the Supreme Court to be confirmed by a Senate is clearly foreign to the Australian political model. But we struggle to fathom how a Liberal Attorney-General has elevated to the highest court in the land a judge who has made such a flawed anti-business ruling."
Australia needs a judicial appointments commission to prevent such cronyism from happening again:

The age of perception: a $20 trillion dollar per year opportunity

During the last two to three years, the world has changed.

Perception has been solved. Computers were bad at it. Now they are good at it.

The main culprit is the new generation of artificial neural nets branded as deep learning. Great leaps have been made in image, video, speech and text semantic analysis. The improvements have been stunning in a field used to steady incremental improvement. It has been, and continues to be, simply fantastic scientific drama.

What's the likely economic impact?

On 30 April 2015, PWC released a good whitepaper on STEM with support from the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) at Victoria University. CoPS rolled out their famous computable general equilibrium (CGE) modelling to support the economic considerations. As summarised by PWC, the key findings of the report included:

  • 44 per cent or 5.1 million current Australian jobs are at risk from digital disruption in 20 years
  • 75 per cent of the fast growing occupations require STEM skills
  • Changing 1 per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP
  • Top three occupations least at risk in the workforce of the future are doctors, nurses and teachers
  • The top three occupations at risk are accountants, cashiers and administration workers

Much of the report is about the probabilities of disruption to various occupations. Those probabilities were derived from a 17 September 2013 Oxford University paper, "The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation" by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne. They reviewed 702 US occupations and found 47% of the total US employment at risk. Not too dissimilar to the 44% of Australia population at risk found by PWC/CoPS.

What does at risk mean? In their conclusion on page 44 Frey & Osborne say, "We refer to these as jobs at risk – i.e. jobs we expect could be automated relatively soon, perhaps over the next decade or two."  Frey and Osborne suggest we do the following to stay relevant, "For workers to win the
race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills."

PWC quote an impact of a benefit of some $57 billion being added to GDP for an increase of 1 percent in STEM roles for Australia. A one percent workforce increase is pretty conservative given Australia is over 30 percentage points down on Singapore STEM graduate output from their universities. I understand PWC's reluctance to headline the true scale as it is enormous and difficult to seem credible. It is a revolution on the scale of the industrial revolution.Luddites will be misunderstood again. Opposing the moon and tides is no real choice as you'll be naked when the tide goes out.

Let's meander through the numbers as applied to the Australian top automatable jobs. We'll then multiply by a population factor 14.6 (321M US to 22M Oz). I'll crudely use the Australian Average Weekly Earnings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which is, um, less than ideal. Then for completeness we'll just scale to the world's population which would have more roles affected but at less value, but let's not allow another complete fudge to stop us. The scale is suggestive. 50% either way and the big numbers are still big. It is a revolution.
Employment categoryProbability of automationWorkers impacted$Billion
per year
Accounting clerks/bookkeepers97.5%263,34821.1
Checkout operators/cashiers96.9%128,74510.3
General office administration96.1%284,17122.7
Wood machinists93.4%31,0812.5
Financial and insurance93.1%128,42510.3
Farm, forestry and92.5%106,0178.5
Personal assistants and92.4%137,91711.0
Sales administration workers91.1%56,9644.6
Keyboard operators87.1%59,8524.8
Hospitality administration and85.5%248,86219.9
Sales assistants and85.2%698,78055.9
Real estate sales85.2%70,6735.7
Factory process workers84.6%52,6314.2
Fabrication trades workers84.3%90,0397.2
Clerical and office83.8%114,7109.2
Printing trades workers82.9%23,9301.9
Mobile plant operators82.8%127,29810.2
Food preparation assistants82.5%154,43812.4
Food process workers82.2%63,0725.0
Glaziers, plasterers and81.4%60,9774.9
Food trades workers80.7%173,63913.9
Automobile, bus and80.5%94,9467.6
Machine operators80.1%83,7576.7

Australian Total


US population multiplier

US Total


$4 trillion of effect per year for the USA. That is quite a sizeable disruptive opportunity. So, the guess is that at around 20-30% of GDP represented by such services will be disrupted by automation. World GDP in 2014 was around $77 trillion, so perhaps we may be looking at a $15 to $25 trillion per annum dollar disruption across the world. That is quite some blue sky opportunity. And risk. You'd better put your head down and be part of the revolution rather than a casualty.

No one likes the guillotine.

At the bottom of this post I've listed the job categories from the PWC report they claim will be less affected. Not quite sure why DBA is in there, but there you go. Debate away.

Personally I think this is going to happen much faster than Fey and Osborne thought (one or two decades) due to the current perception revolution. Let's meander through this revolution in science.

The Age of Perception

Computers have promised since Arthur Samuel's checker program in the 1950's to give us the Jetson age with household robots and cute metal dogs with wagging tails. Sixty years later we're still waiting. A major problem has simply been that computers cannot perceive. No sense from their senses. They have struggled to visually label objects, turn sound into text and never in a crowded room, nor have they been all that good at working out if a story on Reuters is good or bad for a company.

Five years ago they still couldn't do any of that acceptably well. Now they can. The dawn of the Age of Perception has passed and the Age of Perception has begun. Computers can perceive.
Atlas, platform for the DARPA challenge
from Boston Dynamics
which is now owned by Google.

In some cases human performance has been exceeded. Indeed, human level performance is under threat across the entire perception spectrum. Don't forget the perceptions we don't have, such as radar, ultrasonics, infra-red. It is not just wider fields and ranges. The practical harnessing of this powerful array of new perceptive powers has hardly begun.

Geoffrey HintonYann LeCun and Andrew Ng are three notable stars who survived and emerged from the second multi-year neural winter as part of a rapidly growing constellation. It's not just for the big firms. Hundreds of start-ups are scrambling to benefit. Robotic systems at last have the promise of very useful perception.

We're not talking about truly intelligent systems yet, but we will see seemingly intelligent systems thanks to the discovery of the new perceptive powers. I'm referring to useful semantic analysis from sensed data as perception. You have to be careful not to confuse perception, such as semantic classification of a video feed, with true higher level cognitive reasoning. Many tasks just need good perception and adequate heuristics.

You may have used a deep net in the last week and not noticed. The Android or Apple speech recognition on your phone are types of deep learning nets. This is not yet another promise of maybe in a few years we'll really crack it. The future is now. There is a tsunami of application potential building from this great tectonic rumble that is already affecting our lives.

The long awaited automation, or semi-automated, revolution is happening. It is not just about going from cheap floor vacuums to self-driving cars. Our newest children may never know what it is like to pick up the toys of their own children, wash dishes, clean rooms, iron clothes, weed the garden, or do perfunctory cooking.

So why has Google been snapping up robotic and deep learning companies?

Well, it is probably a $1 to $10 trillion dollar a year opportunity, just in the US. Maybe it's the $20 trillion dollar global opportunity. Maybe it's just the fight to stay relevant. Buggy whips indeed.

This is going to affect you and your family and the choices you need to make. Governments need to plan for the disruption. Societies' economic fabrics with be dissolved and rebuilt simultaneously by the invisible hand.

Fight or flight? Ignorance is flight. The choice is yours.



Note: PWC used computable general equilibrium (CGE) modelling to arrive at their conclusions but it still amounts to crazy arsed intelligent guessing at the end of the day.

I also liked the list of jobs that are unlikely to to be automated. It is hard to agree with all of the probabilities above and below, but it is interesting and a fun debate. Read the Oxford paper. You'd better get yourself and your kids one of these jobs:

Employment category Probability of automation
Medical practitioners 0.4%
Education, health and welfare managers 0.7%
Midwives and nurses 0.9%
Advertising, Public Relations and
sales managers 1.5%
Database and systems administrators, and
ICT Security Specialists 3.0%
Education professionals 3.3%
ICT managers 3.5%
Tertiary-level teachers 3.6%
School teachers 4.0%
Engineering professionals 4.2%
Legal professionals 6.5%
Social and welfare workers 6.8%
Accommodation and hospitality managers 7.2%
Construction, distribution and
production managers 8.2%
Child carers 8.4%
ICT network and support professionals 9.7%