8 th February 2005


Entries for the first few years of this diary (covering the NATO-Serbian war) were lost when a hard disk crashed some years ago.  I have restored the disk's operation and copied the files onto the new web server.  They are available in the Archives.


Our Federal Government has finally taken steps to improve the examination system.

Your diarist was a teacher of Engineering for more than a decade, and as an ex-teacher who had to cope with the progressive "liberalization" of the TAFE system, believes he can speak with experience.

Teaching and examining are properly done by two different authorities.  Anything else is an invitation to corruption, an invitation to give a favorable assessment whether for overt (financial) rewards, or by influence to judgment generated by rewards ranging from sexual blandishment to simple flattery.

Basically, a teacher should be a learning facilitator.  His skill should be in teaching the information that will assist students to perform well in an examination that is set to a publicly stated curriculum.  Participation in the assessment procedure corrupts the interactions that facilitate learning.

To those who object that the successful teachers will "teach to exams" and will not teach the "soul" of the subject material, I would retort that the examiners are then at fault.  If they set exams that test "soul", then good teachers will respond by teaching soul.

Of course Brendan is not going far enough.  He should announce similar plans for examinations across the educational spectrum, from Law, Medicine & Engineering through to Secretarial Studies and Plumbing.


Microsoft has announced plans to reduce copyright infringement of it's OS by regulation of the online upgrades that protect from viral attacks.

I do not think that is a good idea.  Linux would love it if Microsoft managed to stop copyright infringement.

At the moment, many people learn about Computers on a (quite possibly) pirated copy of Microsoft OS.  These people grow up and (eventually) either become successful, and use licensed MS-OS, or work for somebody else and use their employer's Windows OS.

If Microsoft is successful in stopping piracy of it's OS, then a large number of young people (who through poverty will be forced to use alternative free Linux or similar OS) will come into the workforce being familiar with Unix type OS.

(It is of course highly unlikely that the Microsoft strategy would successfully stop breaches of it's OS copyright.  For instance, free programs such as "zonealarm" would protect even an unupgraded Windows OS against outside attacks, and virals introduced by e-mail etc can be avoided by using hotmail and care.)

Microsoft needs constant cross fertilization from the market.  The Windows OS only became popular because the original web browser, Netscape, would only function on a GUI (Windows) OS.  (In private correspondence, Shaun of has raised issues with my version of the genesis of Windows.  I concede that he might have a point, but without raw data on dates & takeup, neither of us can be certain.  It is certain though that Netscape had 90% of the market at the period of greatest growth of internet usage, and probably during the greatest windows takeup period.)

Which leads to my second point. The copyright laws of the world are broken.  The benefit given to the copyright owner is disproportionate to the effort required to obtain the copyright.  It is also disproportionately expensive compared to the cost/effort required to breach those copyright laws by making illegal copies.

Looking backwards through time, the failure can be traced...
  1. The first instance of failure of the copyright laws was software piracy of computer games & other software in the last decade.
  2. This was followed by a progressive failure in the music recording industry.  Doonesbury (February 2005) has illustrated the consequences (predicted here in 2003) of this failure. (1) (2).
  3. This is currently being followed by video copyright failures. (As instanced, I was offered a copy of "Shrek 2" for $4 in the Canal St NYNY market two days after it's official release).  As with the music industry, existing video stars are probably the last generation of live stars.  They will be superseded by software generated images that are tailored to perfection.  The owners of those copyright images/stars (digital copies of the movies in which those characters become stars will probably be sold at cost, or offered free on the internet) will most likely obtain returns on their investment by having their characters endorse products.
  4. The new wave of copyright breaches will be in the drug industry, probably initially generic drugs will be sold across national borders, then they will be sold on the internet by unlicensed manufacturers in third world countries.  Another possibility: in the next few years there will evolve a black market in lifesaving drugs, followed eventually by a home "drug analysis & synthesizer" portable laboratory.  (Goodbye DEA and their efforts to control recreational drugs).
  5. Engineering patents will probably be the copyright breach to follow drugs, as the price of a computer controlled manufacturing machine comes within the purchasing ability of the individual.
It sure is goin' to be an interesting decade!


It has for some time been the argument in these pages that there is nowhere safe for the average Joe to invest his retirement cash for a safe haven and a good return.  Real estate has been the safest nestegg for the last decade, but the flood of money (in Australia, for instance, from legislated compulsory retirement investment) represents a legislated (enforced) "savings rate" has been driving the returns from stocks & bonds down to a point where the return is not worth the risk.

Even the big funds cannot find good investments.  For a while they thought that copyright law (see above) would provide a monopoly system that gave guaranteed returns.  They are in the process of learning otherwise.  The latest fad is to purchase utilities infrastructure, (cf. Macquarie Bank) such as turnpikes, electricity power stations, water utilities, airports.  There is a looming public response against the huge profits that will be extracted from those sources, and alternative utilities venues will appear.  (In the case of airports, for instance, legislation limiting traffic density might curtail expected profits, and alternative airports accompanied by rapid rail could undercut price structures.)  Another "safe" investment has been banks, which are selling their product (bank accounts) on security rather than cost.  However banking is a competitive business, and your diarist is already considering moving his expensive, big bank accounts into cheaper, co-op type institutions.  Minerals are the coming fashion, but nationalist sentiment levying higher taxes can be anticipated.

What is our poor average Joe to do?  My two cents suggestion, for what it is worth, is take your money, invest it frugally in your dream idea for a business, or, (if you don t trust your dreams) put it into a federally guaranteed savings account.  I am confident that America will prosper, but the MBA's and capitalists who believe that they are America's core are as finished financially as were the landowners of the UK at the beginning of the now bygone industrial age.