Tuesday, 19 December 2017

So on and Sofort

It might seem strange as a photographic enthusiast, but I’m over cameras. There was a time, when I was working in photographic retail, that I visited DPReview a dozen times a day and was forever pressing F5 on nikonrumors.com, waiting for the rumoured release of a brand new 12 megapixel full frame DSLR.

Not any more.

After selling these products for years and seeing the same people come into the store and purchase mark I, II, III and IV of the same cameras, I realised we had reached the point of diminishing return with digital cameras. Incremental increases in autofocus speed and image quality had not improved the photography of these chumps. All they were getting were larger photos of the same unimaginative crap. For almost all photographers today, the limiting factor is not the camera, but the idiot behind it.

This is why it’s so nice to find a camera which makes me excited to go out and take photos again: the Leica Sofort.

The Leica Sofort is an instant camera that uses Fujifilm’s popular Instax Mini instant film. It is essentially a slightly more brutalist — and more expensive — version of a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. Why would you go the Leica over the much cheaper Instax? For the same reasons anyone buys a Leica product: because it’s a Leica.

Operation of the camera is straight forward, with a power button, flash and exposure settings on the back, and a lens that offers close range (1–3m) and distance (3m+) settings.

This simplicity makes the Sofort a blast to use.

Travelling overseas recently, I shot around 60 exposures with the Sofort, and part of me thought, in the event of a mugging, I’d much rather lose one of the “real” cameras in my bag than my irreplaceable Sofort frames — don't take that as an invitation!

Instant film allows photographers a different way of seeing. As someone who came into photography at the tail-end of the last instant film era, I can appreciate why the new films and cameras are so popular.

For me, instant film is a sort of visual notebook far more tangible than what can be done with a smartphone and its in-built camera.

The importance of physicality can’t be overstated. My 2 year-old son knows exactly what the Sofort is for. I’ll get the camera out, and before I’ve even turned it on, he’ll be saying “CHEESE!” with the toothiest grin I’ve seen. I’ll never forget his first gasps as the picture developed right before his eyes — a picture of himself. Then I was able to leave a couple of frames on his grandfather’s fridge before we jetted back to Australia. Cue the old man voice saying "you can't do that with digital".

The only slight letdown is the quality of the lens. Yes, I know this is instant photography, but the Sofort isn't cheap and the Leica name is synonymous with extreme glass, so it's sad they sully their good name with cheap plastic. Instax film is very capable when shot with real glass. I can only assume it must have been cheaper for Leica to repurpose the Fuji Instax lens, rather than designing their own. No doubt the inevitable Leica Sofort Super Elmar starting at $599 (plus $299 for the Limited Edition Ostrich Skin Edition) will address some of these issues...

So is the fun of instant photography exclusive to the Leica Sofort? No, of course not. Any Instax camera provides a similar experience — and the larger format Instax Wide looks very enticing — but none does it with the same bold presence as the Leica Sofort. Anyone who truly loves images owes it to themselves to give one of the Instax lineup a try.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Credit Where Credit is Due...and Nowhere Else

Malcolm Turnbull was in high spirits the morning after the same-sex marriage vote. ABC News: Matt Roberts

For those who say today showed the 'best' of our Parliament, it did not. They abrogated their responsibilities for craven political purposes. Even with the vast majority of the electorate behind him, the Prime Minister couldn't find a spine to vote NO to the hateful and hypocritical amendments put forward by the regressive 'conservatives' of his own party.

In his final spar with Leigh Sales for the year — unfortunately this interviewer/interviewee combo has jumped the shark and can serve no further purpose aside from meta entertainment — Turnbull said he was "so proud" the legalisation of same-sex marriage had occurred during his prime ministership.

That's a bit like saying "I'm so glad there have been more sunny days in Sydney this year under my leadership". His leadership on this matter has been non-existent and same-sex marriage has occurred not because of him, but despite him. If his leadership wasn't terminal in the eyes of the average centrist voter, this is likely the final confirmation they need that this PM stands for nothing except for his own preservation.

Remember, parliamentarians went out of their way to avoid doing their one job: voting on legislation. This could have been resolved in days, not months, saving tens of millions of dollars and the untold (and unmeasured) pain from vitriol hurled at the LGBTIQ community — they will be counting that cost for a long time to come.

But now those delusional (mainly) old, white 'conservatives' will reap what they have sown, with a thousands of newly-enrolled younger voters ready to give them the toss at the next election. They have trashed the institutions that, as 'conservatives', they should trying their best to conserve. They deserve everything they will receive.

To those who have championed this cause — inside the parliament and out — I salute you, particularly those who have fought the eternal intransigence of the antediluvians in your midst. You deserve to cheer and celebrate, without spineless blow-ins jumping on the bandwagon.

Like most Australians, I am truly delighted with the outcome, but I am dismayed by the process. Now run along and get married — it's pretty great.

Edit: oh and I forgot to say this — eat shit, Lyle.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Overheard: Google Home

“Oh I soooo want Google Home,” one woman said to her colleague as they commuted into the city.

The benefits were self-evident, she said, like being able ask the omnipresent connected listening device to convert ounces into grams when cooking in the kitchen, “But because my husband works with computers — like, how do I describe it, like…”

“Like a competitor?” The colleague asked.

“No, not a competitor, but he works with like with spyware and that sort of stuff, Google products are off the shopping list.”

The colleague made a sympathetic disappointed noise, “I love my Google Home. It’s so good.”

“He’s concerned about like security and hacking and stuff.”

“Oh yeah, but you know, you’d like to think a company like Google would be protected from hackers and stuff,” the colleague said.

“Yeah if you couldn’t trust Google, who could you trust? They’d have to be safe from all that. They’re so big.”

“Exactly. It’s just so great, so convenient, just being able to ask it anything…”

“My husband always talks about how these things are always listening…but seriously, good luck to anyone listening to our conversations. They’d be bored in a few seconds!”

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

25Mbps is more than enough

Watching last night's Four Corners on the clusterfuck that is our National "Broadband" Network, I got angry. I got angry that the rarest beast in Australian politics — a truly visionary policy — got trashed for the purpose of political point scoring.

I got angry that the people who are vested with responsibility for the future of this country can't (or won't) see a future that many can, where fast, future-proof technology (yes, fibre is as close to a future-proof technology you'll ever find) places us at a substantial competitive advantage.

I've written extensively about the Coalition's clusterfuck of an NBN many times before on this blog, critiquing the Coalition's policy from its announcement in 2013. But even going back only 4 years, to that infamous press conference where Turnbull and Abbott pretended to be friends announcing the Liberal's deficient NBN policy, even I'm surprised how much their assumptions have dated.

At the press conference, both Abbott and Turnbull said 25Mbps was "more than enough" for home users and that the network would be completed by 2016. They said that instead of the "expensive" fibre option connecting 90 per cent of Australians, the Liberal's use of the existing copper network would allow the network to be rolled out faster and cheaper than Labor's policy.

The network is now scheduled to be completed in 2020 — only four years late — and will likely end up costing about $20 billion more than the Liberals originally claimed. All this for a woefully inferior product.

But what's most interesting about the 2013 press conference is just how inadequate 25Mbps is — a fact known to most tech people then as now.

As Four Corners mentioned, data use by Australian internet users has more than doubled over the past two years. Going back even further to the time of Abbott and Turnbull's awkward presser shows how wrong assumptions of data use only a few years ago were. Since June 2013, total data use has skyrocketed by more than 350 per cent, with fixed-line connections accounting for the vast majority of increase.

If that increase occurred in only four years, imagine what will happen over the next four? Or the four years after that? Very quickly, the NBN begins to look like a DIY crystal radio set in a 4K HDTV world. Then what? A future government will likely have to spend billions more upgrading the network, when it could have been done once, done properly and be done with fibre.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Sowing the seeds...

An interesting Tweet from the AEC. One that could cause the Turnbull government irreparable damage come next election.

It's reasonable to assume the majority of the updates and new registrations are to ensure voters are on the roll for the $120 million same sex marriage optional non-binding opinion poll. Given that, it's also reasonable to assume that the new enrolments would skew towards younger voters, as marriage equality is a galvanising cause for under 35s.

These new enrolments will also likely vote at the next federal election.

We know young voters skew towards Labor and the Greens, and only vote for the Coalition in comparatively small numbers.

The Coalition holds five seats across the country on a margin of under 2,000 votes. Of course, there's no saying where, geographically, the 16,990 new enrolments are located, but more left-leaning voters is the last thing the Coalition needs, particularly on current opinion polls.

And there's still a week left to run for new and updated enrolments.

It would seem the Prime Minister, in his bid to appease the Delcons of his own party, has unwittingly contributed to his own demise.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


As God once implored, "GET ON WITH IT!!"
I — and most Australians — am over the continuing “debate” over marriage equality. I say “debate” because it’s really just an excuse for a bunch of old, white, conservative homophobic men to explain why their old, white, conservative and homophobic attitudes aren’t actually any of those things. It’s not about homophobia, it’s about God. Or freedoms. Or, somewhat counterintuitively, rights. Or the Decline of Western Civilisation. Or the slippery slope that will somehow lead to people marrying donkeys, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!!

I’m not even here to put forward my opinion on the issue of marriage equality — at this point it doesn’t matter — rather I wanted to highlight the absurd position the Old White Conservative Homophobes have put the institution of the Parliament in.

Put simply, I have never seen a group of people try so hard to avoid doing their job. As elected parliamentarians, they have (almost) literally one job: voting on legislation.

These delusional conservatives have twisted themselves in Gordian knots trying to argue that, while parliament has no problem making laws that deal with life and death issues, they should not use their One Power to change the Marriage Act.

According to the very definitely not homophobic mostly white mostly male MPs against marriage equality, changes to the Marriage Act must be sent back to “the people” for their consent through an expensive and unnecessary plebiscite…one which wouldn’t even be binding on said MPs. This process is unlike any other change to law (except changes to the Constitution itself).

Never mind the fact that the Marriage Act has already been unnecessarily and cynically amended through a standard parliamentary vote by the Howard Government to specifically exclude same-sex couples from it in 2004.

This batch of delusional conservatives could be better defined as “reactionaries”. Through their actions (or inactions), they are undermining, rather than conserving, traditional institutions (such as the parliament) by outsourcing their Constitutional responsibility.

Why, aside from a party room pledge, does *this* legislative amendment have to go back to "the people" for their say, dear Delcons? Why not establish a plebiscite to seek a mandate for other changes to law that are incredibly divisive? Oh, because that's not how the Westminster system which you "conservatives" hold in such high esteem works?

Meanwhile, the rest of the Australian population (and dare I say, God himself) is just yelling out “GET ON WITH IT!!!”…

The Delcons of the Liberal and National parties will no doubt continue to tie themselves in knots trying to justify why they can't do their one job...and by the time they've untied themselves, they'll find themselves in opposition with a two term legacy of getting absolutely nothing done.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Politicians Jumping On-Line to Surf the Information Super Highway

Insert naff cyber stock image here

The above UK Labour MP’s Tweet is a great example of everything wrong with most of our elected officials’ understanding of the internet. As remarkable as the internet is on a technical level, it is no longer remarkable in daily use, yet for many of our politicians, it remains a novelty worthy of its own romantic comedy (Now Showing: You’ve Got Hate Mail).

“The Internet” needs capitalisation because, to these taxpayer-funded dullards, it is a new frontier where criminals, paedophiles, and — terror of terrors — Muslim extremists wait in prey for their next victims. It isn’t just another piece of critical infrastructure in need of investment and protection, like highways or the power grid, it is a niche curiosity. It is the Information Superhighway. It is Cyberspace. It is the animated shooting stars of Netscape 3.0. It is best viewed at 640x480.

This is what makes the current push by some politicians to allow the state access to encrypted services, at best, silly and at worst, incredibly dangerous.

Encryption is vital to the functioning of our information-based society. Without it — and I’m not exaggerating here — society falls apart. It isn’t some optional extra beloved of terrorists to plan their nefarious deeds in the dark, it is what keeps our online banking safe, our personal data secure, our private conversations private. It’s what gives business the confidence to do business without the worry of proprietary data ending up in the hands of competitors. Of course, no system is completely secure, but without encryption, you’d may as well tattoo your bank PIN on your forehead for all to see.

Without trust that the everyday transactions we make (financial or otherwise) are free from illegitimate interference or interception, the very systems which underpin modern society collapse.

Ultimately, attempts to make systems less secure for the evil few ultimately make systems less secure for all. The tools used by the "good" guys to access the "bad" guys ultimately end up being used by the "bad" guys against everyone. This is not a theory, it was recently borne out by the WannaCry ransomware attack which was based on Windows vulnerabilities hoarded by the NSA, but reportedly not shared with Microsoft until they were leaked to the public.

Our pluralistic societies are regressing. The United States is joining Syria and Nicaragua on axis of inaction on climate change; the United Kingdom seeks to join China, Iran and North Korea and other autocratic states in controlling the internet. The worst part is of all this is that there's no evidence such controls will make ordinary people safer, in fact only the opposite.

Worst of all, no evidence has been presented that encrypted message services played a role in the latest atrocity in London, but even if these services did, they bear no more culpability than the manufacturers of the knives they carried, or the maker of the van they drove, or the operator of the roads on which they travelled.

In the vast majority of terrorist incidents in the West, the perpetrators have been known to the authorities. How will access to WhatsApp or iMessage or Signal help agencies when they fail to act on the information they already have?

Alas, even those politicians who should know better are pushing to undermine the foundations of our information society. The man who "practically invented the internet in Australia", Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared war on encryption — and the apps he himself has admitted using instead of secured government comms — saying of encrypted messaging apps, "security services need to get access to them".

It's sad that the tech literacy of our parliamentarians hasn't progressed much since the Commonwealth Minister for Communications —ya know, the guy in charge of teh Interwebs — stated that broadband was primarily for consuming porn and gambling, and that Mr and Mrs Average would never want such a service (and that the state had little role in ensuring reasonable access to decent internet). Or who can forget the Attorney-General's misadventures in the land of metadata ("well...well...well...the web address")? It would not be an issue if these dunces had responsibility for, I don't know, tiny lapel pin flags, or garbage collection, but they claim to make laws that affect millions of people and billions of dollars without the slightest hint of curiosity.

With democratic leaders sounding every bit the autocrat these days, there has never been a more exciting time to be innovative, agile...and encrypted.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The last refuge(e) of the scoundrel and the bigot

Changes to immigration and refugee policy always have been the last refuge of the scoundrel or the bigot. Rarely are such changes anything but reactionary, designed to engineer a bump in the polls and "send a signal" (i.e dog whistle) to a specific portion of the electorate.
And so it is the case with Malcolm Turnbull's latest policy "leak" announcing a tightening of Australia's citizenship process.

It's been observed before, but this arguably marks the complete disappearance of the leather-jacketed Turnbull beloved by most Australians of the centre...and many Labor supporters. The erudite classical liberal Turnbull has been subsumed by an ugly combination of John Howard and Tony Abbott in a better suit. Like Darth Vader, "he's more [Liberal Party] machine now than man. Twisted and evil."

But he has a problem. The people he is trying to appeal to, the folks who think that hearing a foreign language on the street is tantamount to an "invasion", simply don't trust him. Even with all of his lurches to the right, they still ultimately view Turnbull as a latte-swilling inner-city leftie. Besides, these people get their jollies from people like Hanson, and even if he wore a tiny moustache, red and black armband and brown tunic, Turnbull could never satisfy their needs.

Turnbull's greatest weapon could have been his wide appeal — that frightened Labor silly when he won the leadership — but this has now been all but scuppered, and is entirely of his own making.

Rudd found himself in a similar position before the 2013 election. Seeking to close down refugee policy as an election issue, he tried to outflank the right by announcing no refugees who arrived by boat would be resettled in Australia. It's doubtful he gained even a single vote by being a part of the "lurch to the right" on immigration policy he had previously argued strongly against. He sold out his principles and, perhaps unsurprisingly, voters didn't think more of him. All it allowed was the then-opposition and next government to wave inhumane policy through without debate and without an effective opposition. And didn't it just work out so well for Rudd and Labor in 2013...

Is there anyone who seriously thinks gaining Australian citizenship is easy? Well, yes, otherwise Turnbull wouldn't be embarking on this course. But like those who think citizenship comes in a cereal box are informed by A Current Affair. They're told how dem imgrints get more than poor old granny from Centrelink, with none of their beliefs actually supported by evidence. So basically we have policy, in conjunction with the 457 visa announcement, that exists not to address serious issues, but designed solely to manage the incorrect and often xenophobic beliefs of a few. So much for leadership.

Changes to immigration and refugee policy always have been the last refuge of the scoundrel or the bigot. Voters now have to decide which one Turnbull is.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

With Friends Like These...

The business lobby's tone deaf response to Mark Kenny's entirely story about the groups' offices being shut on a Sunday demonstrates why they're going to lose — if they haven’t already lost — the battle over penalty rates.

The lobby groups and their acolytes got their knickers in a knot over the story, saying that as a professional group and not a service provider, there was no demand for them on a weekend and were thus shut. This is true, but it completely misses the point of the story.

Their response misses the optics — as PR flacks are fond of saying — of the situation, which is that those who are so very eager to cut weekend penalty rates value their own Saturday–Sunday weekends. This was the point that Kenny admitted he was trying to make. He succeeded, even if his targets didn't get the hint.  Some labelled Kenny's story a "stunt", while others continued the habit of scoring own goals,  criticising the story by saying "it's called a normal working week, duh“, to which Kenny replied "exactly".

The blindness to these optics means business groups have lost this battle before it has begun, even if they had "masses" of evidence to support their dubious claims (they don’t). They try to blame the SDA — whose agreements have often reduced penalty rates in exchange for higher base rates of pay — not realising the old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. Some have tried to insult workers by saying they’re “lucky” to have a job and should go without penalties entirely. Basically every negative sentiment workers feels about employers is being confirmed.

It’s very difficult for captains of industry large and small to claim victimhood at any time, let alone when profits in some sectors are at record highs, trust in business is low and they’re campaigning for even more funds from the public purse by way of company tax cuts. Trying victimhood on for size while advocating slashing the take home pay of their lowest remunerated workers is not a good look. Combine this with an almost sociopathic disregard for the effect of pay cuts on workers, and you've got a battle that's already lost for employers.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Closed Sundays

closed sign
Shameless cliche of a stock photo from Wikipedia Commons — https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Artaxerxes

You really have to question the PR and business acumen of Australia's most egregious rentseekers. Completely predictably, Fairfax's Mark Kenny spent a few minutes on Sunday afternoon calling some of Australia's peak business lobby groups.

Surprise, surprise, no one picked up. These offices were closed on Sunday. I guess the 24/7 economy is a case of "do what I say, not what I do".

This Sunday silence goes to the heart of the hypocrisy of those loudest voices in favour of cutting the take home pay of our poorest remunerated workers. The weekend is still special to them.

Perhaps just to get a taste of weekend work, the lobby groups' phones can redirect to the mobiles of their respective CEOs. It might interrupt their day in the MCG corporate box hobnobbing with all the other knobs, but it might help them understand why Sunday isn't just another day.

If nobody in their offices has the skills to redirect their phones, then I'd be happy to teach them for a fee on Sundays.

Monday, 6 March 2017

President Trumble cites #fakestats. Sad!

President Trumble has gone on the attack, claiming there are "masses of evidence" to support claims that penalty rate cuts will lead to more jobs.
Sadly, this mass of evidence was not presented at the Fair Work Commission hearings into penalty rates. Nor were the Treasury Secretary or the Treasurer, it would seem, appraised of this evidence. Instead, on penalty rates, the Coalition Opposition-in-Exile has been mumbling about "independent umpires" and blaming Bill Shorten for everything.
The Opposition-in-Exile is like the dog who has caught its own tail and has absolutely no idea what to do with it. For years, some in the Liberal Party have been complaining about penalty rates as a handbrake on employment without providing any evidence (aside from spectacular own-goal anecdotes about business owners who want to put more workers on Sunday because the owners want to spend time at home with the family).
Now they've got their desired cut and they are disowning it as quickly as possible. The government expecting the egregious rentseekers of the business lobby group world to do the heavy lifting selling the case for a penalty rate cut. Sadly they are about the Coalition's least reliable suppprts, condemning the government on inaction, then staying silent when action takes place.

Could it be there simply is no evidence to suggest "more jobs" will be the ultimate outcome of "less pay"? Hands up if you've worked in a business where a colleague has left and not been replaced? [my hand is up].
Years of deregulation and wholehearted embrace by all of the good and bad of economic liberalism has brought first hand experience to employees that employers aren't really interested in creating jobs, they're interested in creating profit. Not a criticism, just a fact. If more profit can be created through more jobs, then great, more jobs come. But nine times out of ten, existing workers are saddled with a higher workload while employers pocket the difference.

So what about those "masses of evidence"? Simply put, they don't exist. No evidence of the sort — certainly not "masses" — was put before the Fair Work Commission and no labour market expert takes such claims seriously. All cuts to penalty rates will do will make the lowest paid tighten their belts even further — a latte at the cafe in the morning before work replaced by a Blend 43 in the tea room; a lunch break focaccia in the food court replaced by a Vegemite sandwich brought from home. These are the likely outcomes. In an age when the twin pains of youth unemployment and underemployment are on the increase, it'd be nice to see the government help those under 30 for once, instead of actively harming them.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

T minus 4 Years

Donald Trump was sworn in as President overnight in an inauguration that was bleak and miserable as the weather in Washington D.C.

Despite the inevitable forthcoming Twitter protestations to the contrary, crowd numbers were down substantially on the past two inaugurations. Anti-Trump protests abounded in the city, with reports of some damage to shops and property.

Those expecting the new President to strike a conciliatory tone in line with the loftiness of the event were sorely disappointed. Trump basically reaffirmed the worst of his campaign sloganeering, telling the world he's going to govern for the anxieties and worst excesses of White America.

Mine — and most of the world's — only hope is that if this is to mark the end of Pax Americana, they do so with a whimper rather than a bang.