Vatican digitizes manuscript collection.

This post from the International Business Times highlights a Vatican project to digitise their manuscripts. This is a cool thing as a medieval reenactor, but it is most likely one of the largest collections of historical documents from all over the world. So it makes it a great resource for schools.

In this collection there are a range of Artworks, Illuminations & Manscripts from the 1400s onwards. Of course that are items from Itailian history, along with the Aztec, Japanese, & Herbew cultures.

The Vatican Library Digitization Project part of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana aims to scan, save and distribute these slices of history and have set up a crowdfunding website to aid in this happening. And for €5 a page it’s worth it.

NICTA’s Industry-research collaborations

NICTA’s Perfect Match event spotlighted Research Excellence in ICT, and the research sector-Industry partnerships that have formed. The four industry-research collaborations highlighted current research in the use of big data, the importance of good communication skills in collaborating, and the board interesting and unique solutions that can come from these partnerships.

Talk #1

Ben Spincer (Director of Technology Strategy and Innovation, Telstra) and Professor Chris Leckie (Deputy Lab Director, NICTA Victoria and Professor, Department of Computing & Information Systems, The University of Melbourne). Talked generally about their partnership and the important elements they discovered in the process.

The different in time-frames for reporting where a business will need regular timely reports each week to know the current state of the business. Research needs a longer time frame, so that the time can be spend on the exploration of problem, the design of possible solutions, the development of prototypes (either software or hardware), and the evaluation of the solutions. All of which is the Problem Solving Methodology applied to the real world.

To build a good working relationship both organisations need Open Communications, Similar Interests and objectives. Even from a common ground the message is not always communicated clearly. So a process to back & forth emerges where each side articulates what the project is about. However, people can’t always describe what they want, but can describe what they don’t., until after a number of cycles they agree on the true objective (ie what they really want)

With Big Data there is the challenge of privacy vs the possibility of what you can do with it. The randomisation of personal data

Product Development from an IT failures perspective

Product Development from an IT failures perspective

Talk #2

Ruby O’Rourke (CEO, HubCare) and Colin Griffith (Strategic Adviser, Broadband and the Digital Economy, NICTA) Are developing a game changer, in terms of integrating multiple government services (Health, Welfare, Community support, Social Services) to allow the connecting of government with it’s citizens and vice-versa.

They did raise some point that I’ve mentioned above, and here are some of the other points;

  • The maintaining of privacy for all citizens while continuing to provide needed services.
  • The use of specialist teams across multiple locations.
  • Applying research opportunities to the front line of society.

Talk #3

Brian Sloan (ANZLIC Secretariat, Spatial Policy Brand, Department of Communications) and Peter Leihn (Director, Security and Environment, NICTA). They outlined an open source software project that collects the Victorian government open data and displays it on a ‘spinning globe’. From the stand point of there is an economic benefit from open data, but they needed to build a vision of it. Similar projects have been build in collaboration with Google for three other states (QLD, WA, & NSW), but the open source solution was cheaper and free from potential problems with Google.

Government wanted a 12 month feasibility study for of giving the go ahead, but they avoided that by working with NICTA and completed a working prototype for proof of concept with 3 months. The next objective is to incorporate the other states and all three tiers of government, then to move onto data analytics.

Check out National Map Project, which takes data from

Tallk #4

Larissa Andriske (Occupational Therapist, Barwon Health) and Associate Professor Pubudu Pathirana (Deakin University) the final talk was about 5 projects design to assist rerehabilitation and self management with technology. these included virtual, remote physiotherapy and a project that concentrates on motion system analysis that analyses gait (walking).

Here the challenge was to make the designers and developers of the technology understand the needs of the therapists and the patents. So the therapies became a technical problems for the researchers.

Questions & Answers

Concerning Time-frames on projects. Agile Software Development is being applied to research to make it more responsive. Universities tend to have long lead times for their projects.

About Geospacial Data in time. There is or will be a slider for historical datasets as part of the process to enable predictive analytics (ie future projections). They used a super computer that processed data on tapes that would normal take 8 years in 2 – 3 days. (wow!)

NICTA have note been involved in any partnerships with the Manufacturing sector, but they did mention META, the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce of Australia.

Concerning Start-ups and new companies. how do they connect with researchers. NICTA has done a little thinking in this direction, and they have few rules to allow adaptability. There is also the state startup scheme, however, a search of Business Victoria and Grants Victoria provided no extra information. Although Grant Finder (,, and this article from 2012, 10 top government grants for start-ups may provide some useful information or promising leads.


What is true for business is also true for student collaborations. So for ICT education it means that;

  • Collaboration is built on effective communication skills. The client’s true desires or objective are not always present in the design brief or case study. This helps in building a clear vision
  • Both sides of the partnership need to be aware of the needs and requirements of the other. For example reporting time frames.
  • Unexpected result can emerge from partnerships. So it’s not worth starting to a predefined plan in hand.
  • The applications of Big Data are wide and varied, but concerns such as privacy must be addressed.
  • These examples provide insight into business collabroation and can be used for student case studies

Open Source cancer drugs?

It appears that the idea of Open Source is being applied to many different fields of research and development. Just look at Project Marilyn on, which has the noble goal of making cancer drug research open source.

We believe that pharmaceuticals can be developed without patents, which would result in a better and less expensive healthcare for everyone.  “Project Marilyn” will develop a new anti-cancer compound, 9DS, which has very promising scientific results and is the best candidate for proving our social cause.

The project has been featured on Techcrunch and wired, and made its goal. These crowdfunded projects seem to point the way to the democratisation of how money is directed.

The year of security flaws

It really is the year for big bugs in code!

First there was the heart-bleed exploit in the OpenSSL code, which allows the mining of sensitive data from the memory of remote servers. It is most commonly used in eCommerce circles to ensure encrypted (ie safe) transmission of financial records between computers, like when you buy something.  It has been around for at least 2 years before being discovered. It also now seams to have it’s own website,

Then there was the shellshock flaw in the BASH shell, which allows the execution of arbitrary code, and had been around since 1989. It was discovered on the 12th of September, with fixes been released by Apple on the 29th of September, and Florian’s patch been confoirmed by Zalewski on the 1st of October.

And now there is bug in PowerPoint (See TechCrunch’s blog), which allows full control of the Windows machine by a PowerPoint document when opened!

Free space sounds from NASA


Quiet simply, Thank you, NASA! 

A blog post from creative digital music, NASA Posts a Huge Library of Space Sounds, And You’re Free To Use Them points to a bunch of useful resources. There’s NASA stream on SoundCloud with a bunch of audio clips under the CC Non-Commercial licence. And a range of things on, which can be found with a search, or browse through the massive NASA Audio Collection (Public Domain licence).




3D printed housing

Italian firm WASP (World Advanced Saving Project) has produced a 3D printer that creates houses out of mud. The details can be seen from the following two articles 3D printed mud houses will soon be an option in impoverished countries, and Delta 3D printer from WASP prints sustainable houses made from mud. The ideas behind the technology are great, however, my concern here has to do with the social effects of the technology. If the effect of using this technology is to replace humans in the construction of a home or shelter, then is that not likely to lead to a deskilling of the local workforce, which is likely to lead to more social problems. Is it the best solution to go into an impoverished community and offer an external solution like this? What are the repercussion from doing so?

Another similar story is, Giant Chinese 3D printer builds 10 houses in just 1 day.  Using mine tailings, a cheap material, it’s able to quickly extrude the structures to create a house. This is great for emergence housing after a natural disaster (bushfires, or floods), or for humanitarian disasters. However, in Engineering there is a diagram that describes the Fast-Cheap-good because it is cheap & quick it suffers. This image from Sunflood Studios shows it clearly;

Fast, Good, Cheap - Pick Two

Fast, Good, Cheap – Pick Two

Do you trust the source?

As part of year 7 ICT (a junior ICT class), we are exploring if we can trust the source of the information. So I presented a PowerPoint that DHMO produced, talking about the dangers of the substance and provided a link to website for the students to read. By treating the website and it’s ideas as real my goal was to fool the students and to then reveal the lie for a classroom discussion.

Following the reveal, I prompted the classroom discussion with some questions, making it a little like a detective story;

  • Can you tell who is the author of the website? (Authority)
  • Does what they are talking about make sense, or is there something else going on? (Accuracy)
  • Has the website being kept up to date? (Currency)
  • what sort of language are they using? (Objectivity)
  • Are the links on the website consistent with its intent? (Coverage)

The aim here is to start students critically think and evaluate about the websites they look at. Check out, Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools and Evaluation of Web documents, both from Cornell University’s Library.

Other peoples resources;

Is multitasking effective?

There has been something about multitasking that I never felt was right, and it’s been difficult to explain. Multitasking has been seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I’ve had reservations about it. Part of this problem has been because of my background in computers & engineering, where multitasking requires additional processor time to handle organising the multiple tasks. Another part, is that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of the term Flow, describes that to get into the zone of best work efficiency the task undertaken must match closely to the skills that you have. (NB: For some background of Flow, look at his TED talk, Flow, the secret to happiness).

From a computer’s perspective multitasking is less effective than doing one thing well. A computer is able to get away with it because of the speed at which it processes the numbers- although some of its speed is consumed with handling (or remembering) the multiple tasks and switching between them so rapidly that the users does not notice the delay in the computer.

However, people are not computers. Maybe the human brain is better equipped to deal with multiple tasks, however, current neural research supports the idea that multitasking is not everything we want it to be. Dr. Travis B points out in, The Real Harm in Multitasking, that the cost of multitasking is a loss of attention and more error prone work. A Stanford study shows that media multitaskers pay a mental price: it may impair your cognitive control, because according to Professor Clifford Nass, “They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” and “Everything distracts them.”. This potentially leads to greater difficultly in focusing on a single task, which is something Daniel Goleman discusses at length in his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

And the devil is in the detail with multitasking. Cognitive tasks require focus, and time for the mind to adjust to the problem-space (ie to gain an understanding of the problem), before embarking on finding a solution. But mindless tasks, such as unlocking a door, that don’t require conscientious effort, can be multi-tasked. For example; walking and talking on the phone.

Research may support a slight gender bias for females to multi-task, and males to mono-task, but the influences could be more cultural than genetic. Allan & Barbara Pease’s book, Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps: How We’re Different and What to Do About It, does explore the cultural & genetic influences on people’s development, but does not draw any definite conclusions in either direction. These gender biases can only be described as tendencies and more importance must be placed on the skills of the individual.

One of the interesting things is the comments from The Real Harm in Multitasking, of people who demonstrate a preference from a particular style of working, either mono-tasking, or multitasking. And there is more of a case for individuals to have natural predispositions in the way they prefer to work, the type of task undertaken, and the individual habits formed. According to the study Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brainthe developmental trajectories of males and females separate at a young age, demonstrate wide differences during adolescence and adulthood.

If there is a preference for multi or mono tasking, then it is likely to be formed during the middle years (years 5-8 or ages 9 to 13) regardless of wither it is nature or nurture.

In an education context, a solitary focus on multitasking is a mistake, because the primary goal of education is to develop thinking or to place some thought between emotion and action. This requires the full attention of the brain, and can not be done with a distracted mind. Once the lesson is learned it can be shifted to the automatic neural systems. However, it is worth noting that experts like Olympic athletes, concert musicians and such, keep this neural processing in the conscious part of this mind to further develop their skill. Which points to the deeper question of why are you developing the skill in the first place? This is one of the fundamental questions of student engagement.

Returning to the question of Multitasking, it is a question of the reason behind the activity. Does it aim to improve the cognition around a task (ie learning), to reason out a solution to a complex problem (thinking), or is it completing work where the thinking has been completed (doing).

About Ballistic Publishing

Ballistic Publishing have a good range of art books covering areas like Matte Painting, Concept Art, Character Modelling & Design, Game Art. The really good thing they do is provide an online copy you can flip through to determine how appropriate it is for a school.

The Creative Essence Series which started with The Face provides a good foundation in how to create the human face on computer in 3D. It starts with the reference photography moving through modelling, UV mapping, texturing and finally into rendering. Aimed at mid-to-advanced artists it will need to be supported with a range of activities to reach this goal. I did trial this in year 11 VET Multimedia class to limited success.

Inspiration can be found in each book in the d’Artiste series which covers one of a range of digital art subjects with the aim of being an artist master class, the Exposé Series which is a yearly collection of fine artworks from around the world, and the Exotique Series which focuses on beautiful CG characters.

These books are best suited to senior visual arts students as a way to inspire and to provide ideas & examples