Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Convert Latex Document to Microsoft Word with IEEE Template?

Is there some way to convert a LaTex document to MS Word? I prepared a paper for an IEEE conference using Overleaf/LaTex. The conference previously said PDF was okay, but are now asking for MS. Word.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Blockchain Roadmap

Greetings from the Department of Innovation, Industry and Science in Canberra, where I am attending The Inaugural Blockchain Australia National Meetup Roadshow. There are about sixty people present, mostly lawyers in dark suits. I am here as a member of the ACS Blockchain Technical committee. My aim was to mention the ACS' reports on blockchain, but the first speaker has already mentioned them.
  1. Blockchain Innovation: A Patent Analytics Report by IP Australia
  2. Blockchain 2030: A Look at the Future of Blockchain in Australia.by CSIRO
  3. Blockchain Challenges for Australia  by the ACS Blockchain Technical Committee (I suggested to the section on blockchain for education)
We are having discussions around the tables and contributing via an app.  I have suggested there is a barrier to blockchain use through the lack of IT professionals trained in its use. This creates an opportunity for Australia to provide training and qualifications on blockchain to the world.

Two speakers mentioned the idea of a Blockchain Cooperative Research Center (CRC). I don't think this is a good idea. Blockchain is moving so fast it needs something more flexible than a CRC. This could be linked to the startup centers associated with universities and bodies such as the ACS.

The last question we were asked was what the National Blockchain Roadmap should be called. we looked at each other on our table and typed in: "National Blockchain Roadmap". ;-)

I am sitting next to the Blockchain Collective,  who have developed an Advanced Diploma of Applied Blockchain. Also I bumped into Neil Alexander from coina.ge (in the ACS Harbour City Labs in Sydney).

 ps: It is a very Utopia event, with the MC mentioning there had been an episode of the TV comedy sending up government blockchain use.Already I have had two lawyers tell me about their parenting techniques, and received one invitation to give a presentation on the ethics of IT. ;-)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Defence Industry Workshop on Extended Reality in Canberra, 5 November

The ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science is hosting a Defence Industry Workshop on XR, Tuesday 5 November. Defence and government organizations, as well as industry, and academia. are invited to attend. The Australian National University (ANU), is investigating the establishment of an Extended Reality Cooperative Research Center (XR-CRC) with other universities.  The term XR includes augmented reality, virtual reality, and other forms of computer generated simulations, using wearable, and other technology. For more details contact Dr Penny Kyburz, Senior Lecturer, Human-Centred Computing, ANU CECS.

ps:  It happens I was the Defence representative on a joint industry project to produce a graphical user interface in the early 1990s. Unfortunately the Web came along and made our work obsolete. ;-)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Report on Breech of Australian National University Systems

The Australian National University has released a 20 page "Incident Report on the Breech of the Australian National University's Administrative Systems". The supporting materials may also be of interest.

Contents of the report

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Foreword
  • Executive summary
  • Detailed timeline of the data breach
    • Figure 1: Simplified overview of actor   
    • Figure 2: Attack timeline
  • Post notification events 
  • Malware and tradecraft analysis
  • Lessons from the attack and follow-up actions
    • Personally identifiable information
    • Phishing awareness
    • Table One: Issues and Remediation
  • Appendix
    • Appendix A: “invitation” phishing email    
    • Appendix B: “meeting” phishing email    
    • Appendix C: “planning” phishing email   
From the Executive Summary:
"In early November 2018, a sophisticated actor gained unauthorised access to the ANU network. This attack resulted in the breach of part of the network known as the Enterprise Systems Domain (ESD), which houses our human resources, financial management, student administration and enterprise e-forms systems.

By gaining access to ESD, the actor was able to copy and steal an unknown quantity of data contained in the above systems. There is some evidence to suggest the same actor attempted to regain access to ESD during February 2019, but this second attack was ultimately unsuccessful. ...

Technical gaps aside, ANU ultimately views this breach and cybersecurity more broadly as an organisational issue, one which requires a change to the University’s security culture to adequately mitigate. It is through this lens we will undertake the next phase of our cybersecurity work – a strategic information security program. This program encompasses the modernisation of IT and security infrastructure and, more importantly, an emphasis on culture and security awareness among students, staff and researchers; and the protection of the data they entrust to ANU.

The investigation following the breach, which contributed to the contents of this report, was conducted in close cooperation with Australian Government security agencies and Northrop Grumman. ANU is grateful for their continued support."

EY Suggests More University Completions for Productivity Increase

The Productivity Uplift from Better Outcomes for Our University Students was commissioned by the Australian Government from EY. The report suggests more university completions would increase economic productivity. However, I suggest the report's authors made some unjustified assumptions, and if implemented the report's recommendations would reduce, rather than increase productivity. 

The 27 page report emphasizes "job-ready" graduates, suggesting a productivity uplift from improved graduate outcomes. I teach work skills to undergraduate and postgraduate students, so would welcome any way to improve these, but EY's approach makes a few questionable assumptions.

EY's report suggests that aligning graduate skills with workforce needs would boost economic growth. However this leaves out the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. VET is specifically intended to provide intimidate skills for jobs. In contrast vocational education is only a part of what universities do. Abandoning research and the fostering of advanced skills by universities, and instead focusing on short term job skills will harm the Australian economy in the long term. This focus will turn out graduates who can meet intimidate needs, but not create new industries, or have the skills to work in them.

The EY report points out that the proportion of students completing their degree after nine years has fallen from 75% in 2009 to 66% in 2017. The claim is that improving
completion rates, could save money. However, this assumes that these students learned nothing useful in their non-completed studies, and that the three year degree is the best way to learn vocationally relevant skills.

There are some easy and inexpensive ways to increase the completion rates of students. I suggested some in my submission to the Senate last year.  

 The simplest way to increase completion is to have students undertake shorter, nested university programs, combining VET and university. Students can be encouraged to undertake shorter certificate and diploma programs at TAFE, before university. Government can also encourage universities to offer nested programs, where the students get vocationally useful qualifications, on their way to a degree.

Other ways to increase completion rates are to provide quality online part-time programs, and improve the teaching skills of university academics. At present, online education is seen as a poor substitute for on-campus face-to-face education. However, research shows there is no significant difference between the two.

In reality most Australian university students who are officially enrolled on campus are not attending most of their classes. These are really blended mode students. Unfortunately university academics have not been trained to teach in this mode and are instead giving lectures to mostly empty classrooms, with the recordings of the lectures being watched by students. This is a poor quality form of online education, but most academics have not been given the training to do any better.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Water for Rivers in NSW

Greetings from the Muda Aboriginal Corporation in Bourke, western NSW, where I am taking part in the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival 2019. We have been to  Walgettand Brewarrina, next is Wilcannia and Menindee. One issue is water for rivers.