New Site Coming Shortly

Over the Christmas / New Year break (2017/2018), I will be re-launching Musings of a Geek at the new URL The site you are looking at now is a relocated archive of the existing site.

Check back in the new year to see if I’m back up and running!

Some life changes have meant that I’ve had little or no time to blog over the last couple of years, but that should be changing with the re-launch of the site.

Apple/FBI Shenanigans Probably Just Theatre

With the news that the FBI has allegedly managed to ‘crack’ the iPhone allegedly used by the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings without the assistance of Apple, I can’t help but wonder what has really been going on.

Did they really need Apple’s help getting into the phone? In all seriousness, I doubt it. With NSA surveillance of just about everything happening online or near-online, the chances of them finding any information that isn’t already in the hands of US government agencies is pretty low.

In fact, I bet they find nothing they don’t already know.

My suspicion is that US authorities do know that devices such as the iPhone are difficult to get into in some instances, and that they have used this particular case to try and make an example of Apple within the context of a very public and emotive case.

“Give us a back door into your devices!” they demand. “Help us protect liberty!” they exclaim.

They just want an easier way.

And Apple stands up and says “you know what? No…”

If a backdoor is provided – (and even if appropriate legal trimmings are placed around the use of it) – it will still be used by law enforcement for purposes in which it should not be used.

Laws only stop those people who are inclined to follow laws. Once a backdoor is in there, hackers will find it and use it.

Bravo to Apple for standing its ground – but when it comes to the privacy of data on your phone – (or any other device) – that horse already bolted years ago.

The authorities can already get at your stuff if they want to – the backdoor will only make it easier for others to get to your data.

This is just theatre.

MH17 Final Report Released

The Dutch Safety board has released its final report into the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July of 2014.

Here is the summary video of their findings:

Investigations into aircraft accidents are not only important with respect to providing closure for all affected people, they also provide an opportunity to use the collected information to improve safety for the future by allowing airlines and aircraft manufacturers to improve their systems, procedures and aircraft to avoid similar accidents.

While this is considered the “final report”, typically crash investigations are never considered “final” as there is always the possibility of new evidence being eventually unearthed, and a criminal investigating into this accident is still underway.

Most importantly, may the 298 souls aboard rest in peace.

National Nine News – Indian Edition?

While on a brief break from work, I’ve been re-acquainted with just how bad daytime television can be. Just now I was flicking channels, and caught literally the last few seconds of Punjabi News on SBS2.

Have a listen:

Music sound familiar?

Should do – take a listen to the Nine Network Australia’s ident from 1992 to 1995:

Still the one?

Still the music!

Turnbull Still Failing Miserably On NBN

A year ago, I wrote an article criticising the lack of progress on the revised NBN plan, introduced by Malcolm Turnbull after the change in government in 2013.

I labelled it a “dismal” performance – and that’s exactly what it was.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam questioned progress at a Senate hearing on July 11, 2014, which revealed:

“Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN plan is in tatters after revelations in a Senate hearing today that not a single user has been connected to its Fibre to the Node trial, despite announcing the pilot nine months ago.”

In the nine months previous to July last year, not one user had apparently been connected to an MTM-based NBN service – not one.

You would hope that after an entire year that things might be moving along a little better, but how have things been going in the 12 months since last July?

“After nearly two years the revised agreements with Telstra has only just commenced, and the Optus agreement hasn’t. The rollout of FTTN and HFC is still in the trial phase and of the million premises made “serviceable” by the NBN, only 67 were served by an MTM technology.”

Only 67 in twelve months? After nine months with none?

Where is the media attack on this, after it mercilessly attacked the previous FTTP plan? A plan which was at least making progress, albeit more slowly than expected or hoped.


“Mr Turnbull’s commitment to telling the truth has resulted in the company saying almost nothing. The Strategic Review was heavily redacted, blacking out anything that involved forward commitments. It is now 34 months since NBN Co last issued a full Corporate Plan.”

No corporate plan in 34 months? Under the previous government, these were coming out generally once a year – and sometimes more often than that.

If these details are correct – and they do appear to be – some serious questions need to be asked. He promised a “value for money” NBN solution, and we’re getting nothing of the sort. We are getting redacted documents, and little or no transparency. Certainly, we’re also getting little or no progress.

Malcolm Turnbull is the responsible minister here, and the buck stops with him. Yet in every visible way, he is still failing dismally.

Sunday Nerding: Stories That Stopped The World

Nerding has been away for a few weeks, but returns today with an ITV special on how television news handles breaking news stories.

Being presented by ITV, this documentary has a British flavour, but as a news nerd, I find this fascinating.

These are the “where were you when?” moments in life – and I remember many of them myself.

Turnbull Sells Out – When Is The Exorcism?

Time for a quick waltz down memory lane.

Who else remembers the nonsensical plan by former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, for the mandatory filtering of all internet connections in Australia, to attempt to block all material online which had been classified “Refused Classification” (RC)?

The campaign against it was long and hard, and eventually Conroy shelved it once and for all in November 2012 after several attempts to save face and water it down.

Politically, Coalition MPs lined up one after the other to bag the plan:

  • Joe Hockey:

    “The filter does not work. The ISP-based filtering system does not work. Therefore it creates a level of assumption of trust that can’t be met by the technology.”

  • Jamie Briggs:

    “The Liberal party announces that we oppose the internet filter. A great victory for common sense!”

  • Tony Smith:

    “The Coalition did not implement a mandatory ISP level filter when we were last in Government because it was not workable or effective, and offered parents a false sense of security.”

Of course, one of the biggest opponents was Malcolm Turnbull, who succeeded Smith as shadow communications spokesperson, and later became Communications Minister in the incoming Coalition government in 2013.

“I am absolutely and utterly opposed to it — it really is a bad idea in all respects. I have nothing good to say about the filter. The best thing the Government could do is drop it.”

Turnbull said the filter would slow down the internet and create a false sense of security, where parents would believe it was safe to let their children use the internet without supervision because of the filter. He said the filter would not catch much of the objectionable content distributed online, because it would not be funnelled through the world wide web.”

Fast forward to 2015, and what has happened?

“The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, introduced into parliament by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March to curb online piracy of film and TV shows, passed with the Coalition and Labor’s support 37-13.”

Sorry, what? Who introduced the legislation?

Malcolm Turnbull?

Of course – (to keep the context up-to-date) – the original Conroy plan was for the blocking of RC material, which is almost exclusively highly offensive content, and this new filter is about blocking websites that direct people towards the downloading of copyright material.

Both illegal, and both a significant issue.

Major concerns at the time included:

  • The fact that people who still wanted to access RC material would still be able to do it through other means, so you weren’t actually blocking them from anything, and the filter was therefore a waste of time, money, and effort.
  • That once you have a mechanism to block websites – (even for a legitimate purpose) – you create a mechanism whereby other kinds of sites can be blocked by a government who wanted to shut down something controversial, with little or no transparency as towards what is and isn’t blocked – you’ve given them a new toy that might be abused in the future.
  • There were a number of cases where sites that should not have been on the RC list, were on the list, and would have been blocked within Australia. So-called “scope creep” was always the fear – and it happened, perhaps inadvertently, but the point was proven.

But, back to Turnbull, and his previous stance against breaking the internet in this way:

“It’s dead, buried and cremated, and if it shows any signs of revival it will then be exorcised,” a jovial Turnbull told the crowd.”

So, despite the fact that such a filter would would slow down the internet and create a false sense of security, here we are.

Will we get scope creep? We don’t know – just as we didn’t know last time around. Turnbull would undoubtedly deny that there would be, but that was one of his arguments at the time. He has given us exactly what he said was a “bad thing”.

Five years later Turnbull has sold out his beliefs that this technology is stupid, that it can’t do the job, that it slows down the internet, and introduced the same kind of filter, albeit to tackle a different kind of online content.

The filter is back – (just wearing a different colour of lipstick) – and I think we’re owed an exorcism.

My questions are – when is the exorcism, and where’s my invite?


Sunday Nerding: New York City Subway

With recent news that Melbourne is to receive a new underground rail line – (the Melbourne Metro) – to start moving the city towards having a true metro-style train system, I thought it might be interesting to look at what kind of work it takes to build something like that under a living city.

This episode of Extreme Engineering from 2011 documents work to expand New York’s underground network for the future.

Getting Melbourne Moving – Properly

The recent cancellation of the controversial EastWest Link by the Victorian state government, combined with the reinstatement of the previous Melbourne Metro rail project – (cancelled by the previous state government) – and today’s announcement that the so-called “Western Distributor” project is moving to the next stage, has created heated debate across the community about what should and shouldn’t be built to improve Melbourne’s transport woes.

The two most obvious road issues in Melbourne are the significant congestion on the Eastern Freeway, and on the Westgate Freeway – users of which have all suffered for many years in peak hour periods.

The East West Link was designed to connect the city end of the Eastern Freeway – (which currently stops dead at Hoddle Street/Alexandra Parade) – with CityLink at North Melbourne, removing the dead stop and providing an excellent path onto the Tullamarine Freeway from the east through to Melbourne Airport.

On the surface, this sounds like a reasonable plan.

The problem was that it provided no extra direct connections to the Melbourne CBD – people travelling to the CBD from the Eastern Freeway would still have to pile onto Hoddle Street, or carry on through the new tunnel and enter the city from the west via CityLink, increasing congestion at the western connections to the CBD – at Dynon Road, Footscray Road, or even all the way down to Southbank at the end of the Westgate Freeway.

Rather than reducing congestion, it would have served mainly to just move some of it from the north-east corner of the CBD, to the west of the CBD – the problem being that the Westgate Freeway is suffering major congestion also, so East West Link wasn’t really going to fix anything it was supposed to fix.

Eventually, a second section of the East West Link – connecting it to the Western Ring Road at Sunshine West – was to provide the long-mooted “second river crossing” to relieve Westgate Freeway congestion, but still without any additional direct connections to the Melbourne CBD.

It had other problems too.

The Western Distributor – (which has had several design theories and iterations itself) – was designed to reduce congestion on the Westgate Freeway, and get large numbers of trucks off suburban streets in Yarraville, Seddon, and Footscray – (a long term issue in the area) – by providing a direct link to the Port of Melbourne from the Westgate Freeway.

The latest design – unveiled today – takes the solution one step further. It links the Westgate Freeway with the port area, and then CityLink, and provides another direct freeway connection into the CBD at Footscray Road/Docklands Drive – doubling the freeway access to the CBD from the west of the city, and providing an extra path that should shift a large amount of traffic off the Westgate Freeway route, running over the bridge and into Southbank.

It also doesn’t increase traffic on Footscray Road, because the new freeway section there would be above Footscray Road.

Which is better?

I guess that depends a little on which side of the city you live on – but given the East West Link appears only to transfer traffic from the east of the CBD to the west of the CBD, emotions aside it appears the Western Distributor plan is better.

But what do the people of the east get out of this? On the surface, it might appear that they have been shafted – and there will be more years of suffering for them, but the plans for public transport in the north-east of Melbourne should address much of that.

One of the main reasons there is so much traffic on the Eastern Freeway – which currently pours onto Hoddle Street – is that there are no mass public transport options in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs.

People either have to drive to train stations on the Ringwood or Clifton Hill group lines to get to the city by train, just drive which most seem to just do by default, or catch bus services which run on the Eastern Freeway anyway.

Building new roads has never been proven to improve congestion, and sometimes serves only to encourage more traffic onto the roads to fill the space.

Another way to improve congestion is to have less cars on the road, and one of the best ways to do that is to provide people with another option – such as mass public transport.

Getting cars off the roads also has obvious environmental benefits.

And you know – the previous government which cancelled the Melbourne Metro rail project, and came up with East West Link – had a plan for all of this, but promptly abandoned it when the federal government said they wouldn’t provide money for rail projects.

What was that plan?

Below is the detailed document published by the PTV and the previous government – which cancelled it – along with the accompanying video:

To my way of thinking, this makes a whole lot more sense than just shifting road congestion around on a map.

Admittedly, it does leave the eastern suburbs with their current problems for the time being – but provides a far better long term view of what Melbourne should be into the future. Certainly, successive governments will need to stay the course on this plan, and that’s never a given – but one can only hope some sort of common sense will prevail.

The reinstatement of the Melbourne Metro rail project is the catalyst that gets that plan back into motion, a plan which allows for the Doncaster, Rowville and Airport rail extensions to be done properly.

East West Link may well be needed done the track, and it will provide a useful link to the airport for travellers in the east when it is built – but given the economic value of the road in its current form is dubious at best, doing the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the Western Distributor first, provides a much more sensible path for the future.

If only the politics of the exercise wasn’t so vitriolic, and people could stop and think about the long term outcomes.

One can hope.

Remember When The Turnbull Staffer Said This?

The sacking of SBS reporter Scott McIntyre after a series of controversial tweets with respect to ANZAC Day has certainly stirred up a whirlpool of reaction, and fired up the free-speech debate in Australia.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull got involved, making sure that McIntyre’s tweets were seen by his boss, SBS managing director Michael Ebeid.

“Mr Turnbull, who has described the comments as “despicable”, drew them to the attention of SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid.

Now, whether or not Turnbull directly requested/required/suggested the sacking of McIntyre isn’t really the point. Personally, I doubt that he did, but his actions did put McIntyre and his employment directly in the firing line of SBS management.

“But in his capacity as a reporter employed by SBS he has to comply with and face the consequences of ignoring the SBS social media protocol.

Maybe – but ignoring the content of the tweets for just a moment, all McIntyre was doing was expressing his view – who are SBS – (and Turnbull, for that matter) – to decide what is and isn’t an appropriate level of free speech?

Is expressing free speech a breach of SBS social media policy?

On the evidence – apparently so, and that’s a big concern. Turnbull’s basic view of the matter was that the tweets were “offensive”.

Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren’t – that’s the point of free-speech – not everyone is going to agree with what we say.

McIntyre certainly wasn’t rude in his tweets, he just expressed an unpopular opinion.

Boohoo – we all confront unpopular opinions every single day of our lives.

Get over it.

But how far should a public person, or someone representing a public person go when it comes to addressing public issues?

Remember when one of Turnbull’s own staffers said this?

“Nobody challenges your numbers because nobody takes your psychotic rantings seriously. Nobody. Nevertheless they are all wrong. All of them – you don’t have a clue about the existing deal, much less how it might be modified. Given what you write is a delusional fantasy that exists only in your own mind, you can get fucked.”

Turnbull of course, when it was brought to his attention tried to mop things up neatly:

“Turnbull, the shadow communications minister, addressed the spat on Twitter on Wednesday, posting: “Regret my staffer’s lapse into vulgar Anglo-Saxon in an email to a blogger. Charm remediation has been administered and equanimity restored.””

So apart from an apparent tickle over the wrist with a metaphorical piece of soggy celery, the staffer wasn’t disciplined, and certainly was not separated from his employment.


While the tweets sent by McIntyre were in regard to a much more sensitive subject than that which extracted the definitive expletive from Turnbull’s staffer in 2013, Turnbull has seemingly made sure he was shot down for speaking his mind.

If you are Michael Ebeid, when Malcolm Turnbull – (your boss) – rings you to bring some tweets to your attention, he isn’t ringing you to have a laugh about them – he wants action taken. Why else would he do it? Turnbull saying that it wasn’t up to him is nothing more than semantics, something he is very good at.

You can express an unpopular view, and lose your job. Or you can tell a constituent to “get fucked” and all is sweet.

Whether you agree with the sentiments expressed by McIntyre or not, Turnbull has managed to front up with a double standard that should be explained.