Planet OWOOT

The Sydney Project: Powerhouse Museum

Mary Gardiner (puzzlement) - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 1:41pm

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. Welcome to our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney.

This was our second visit to the Powerhouse Museum, both times on a Monday, a day on which it is extremely quiet.

The Powerhouse seems so promising. It’s a tech museum, and we’re nerd parents, which ought to make this a family paradise. But not so. Partly, it’s that V is not really a nerdy child. His favourite activities involve things like riding his bike downhill at considerable speeds and dancing. He is not especially interested in machinery, intricate steps of causation, or whimsy, which removes a lot of the interest of the Powerhouse. Museums are also a surprising challenge in conveying one fundamental fact about recent history: that the past was not like the present in significant ways. V doesn’t really seem to know this, nor is he especially interested in it, which removes a lot of the hooks one could use in explaining, eg, the steam powered machines exhibit.

We started at The Oopsatoreum, a fictional exhibition by Shaun Tan about the works of failed inventor Henry Mintox. This didn’t last long; given that V doesn’t understand the fundamental conceit of museums and is not especially interested in technology, an exhibit that relies on understanding museums and having affection for technology and tinkering was not going to hold his attention. He enjoyed the bendy mirrors and that’s about it.

I was hoping to spend a moment in The Oopsatoreum, but he dragged me straight back out to his single favourite exhibit: the steam train parked on the entrance level. But it quickly palled too, because he wanted to climb on and in it, and all the carriages have perspex covering their doors so you can see it but not get in. There’s a bigger exhibit of vehicles on the bottom floor, including — most interestingly to me — an old-fashioned departures board showing trains departing to places that don’t even have lines any more, but we didn’t spend long there because V’s seen it before. He also sped through the steam machines exhibit pretty quickly, mostly hitting the buttons that set off the machines and then getting grumpy at the amount of noise they make.

He was much more favourably struck with the old game tables that are near the steam train. He can’t read yet, and parenting him recently has been a constant exercise in learning exactly how many user interfaces assume literacy (TV remote controls, for example, and their UIs now as well). The games were like this to an extent too; he can’t read “Press 2 to start” and so forth, so I kept having to start the games for him. He didn’t do so well as he didn’t learn to operate the joystick and press a button to fire at the same time. He could only do one or the other. And whatever I was hoping V would get out of this visit, I don’t think marginally improved gaming skills were it, much as I think they’re probably going to be useful to him soon.

We spent the most time in the sinkhole of the Powerhouse, the long-running Wiggles exhibition. This begins with the annoying feature that prams must be left outside, presumably because on popular days one could hardly move in there for prams. But we were the only people in there and it was pretty irritating to pick up my two month old baby and all of V’s and her various assorted possessions and lump them all inside with me. I’m glad V is not much younger, or I would have been fruitlessly chasing him around in there with all that stuff in my arms.

It’s also, again, not really the stereotypical educational museum experience. There’s a lot of memorabilia that’s uninteresting to children, such as their (huge) collection of gold and platinum records and early cassette tapes and such. There’s also several screens showing Wiggles videos, which is what V gravitates to. If I wanted him to spend an hour watching TV, I can organise that without leaving my house. He did briefly “repair” a Wiggles car by holding a machine wrench against it.

Overall, I think we’re done with the Powerhouse for a few years.

Cost: $12 adults, $6 children 4 and over, younger children free.

Recommended: for my rather grounded four year old, no. Possibly more suited to somewhat older children, or children who have an interest in a specific exhibit. (If that interest is steam trains, I think Train Works at Thirlmere is a better bet, although we cheated last year by going to a Thomas-franchise focussed day.)

More information: Powerhouse website.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

You don’t need to change all your passwords

Skud - Wed, 09/04/2014 - 10:21am

This is probably going to be a wildly unpopular opinion and IDGAF. So many of my non-technical friends are freaking out that I feel the need to provide a bit of reassurance/reality.

First, an analogy.

In 2005 we learned that you can open a Kryptonite U-lock with a ballpoint pen. Everyone freaked out and changed their bike locks ASAP. Remember that?

Now, I wasn’t riding a bike at the time, but I started riding a bike a few years later in San Francisco, and I know how widespread bike theft is there. I used multiple levels of protection for my bike: a good lock, fancy locking posts on the seat and handlebars, and I parked my bike somewhere secure (work, home) about 90% of the time and only locked it up in public for short periods. Everywhere I went I saw sad, dismembered bike frames hanging forlornly from railings, reminding me of the danger. Those were paranoid times, and if I’d been riding in SF in 2005 you can bet I would have been first in line to replace my U-lock.

These days I live in Ballarat, a country town in Victoria, Australia. Few people ride bikes here and even fewer steal them. I happily leave my bike unlocked on friends’ front porches, dump it under a tree while I watch birds on the lake, lean it against the front of a shop just locked to itself while I grab a coffee, or park it outside divey music venues while I attend gigs late at night. I have approximately zero expectation of anything happening to it. If I heard that my bike lock had been compromised, I wouldn’t be in too desperate a hurry to change it.

Here’s the thing: if you are an ordinary Jane or Joe living the Internet equivalent of my cycling life in Ballarat, you don’t need to freak out about this thing.

Here are some websites I use where I’m not going to bother changing my password:

  • The place where I save interesting recipes
  • The one I go to to look at gifs of people in bands
  • That guitar forum
  • The one with the cool jewelry
  • The wiki I edit occasionally
  • The social network I only signed up for out of a sense of obligation but never use

Why? Because a) probably nobody’s going to bother trying to steal the passwords from there, and b) even if they did, so what?

This Heartbleed bug effectively reduces the privacy of an SSL-protected site (one whose URL starts with https://, which will probably show a lock in your browser’s address bar) to that of one without. Would you login to a site without SSL? Do you even know if the site uses SSL? If you’d login to your pet/recipe/knitting/music site anyway — if you’d do it from a coffee shop or airport — if you’d do it from a laptop or tablet or phone doesn’t have a strong password on it — if you don’t use two-factor authentication or don’t know what that means — then basically this won’t matter to you.

(I’m not saying it shouldn’t matter. You should probably set strong passwords and use VPNs and two-factor authentication. Just like you should probably lock your bike up everywhere you go, floss, and get your pap smears on the regular. Right? Right? *crickets*)

So if you’re a regular Jane — not working in IT security, not keeping state secrets, etc — here’s where you really need to change your passwords:

  • Any site you use to login to other sites (eg. Google, Facebook)
  • Any site that gives access to a good chunk of your money with just your password (eg. your bank, PayPal, Amazon)

(To do this: use this site to check if the site in question is affected, then if it’s “all clear” change your password. Don’t bother changing your password on a still-affected site, as that defeats the purpose. Oh, and you should probably change your passwords on those sites semi-regularly anyway, like maybe when you change the batteries in your smoke alarm. Which I just realised I should have done the other day and didn’t. Which tells you everything, really.)

Beyond those couple of key websites, you need to do a little risk assessment. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Has anyone ever heard of this site? Does anyone care? Is it likely to be a target of ominous dudes in balaclavas?
  • If I lost my login to this site, or someone could snoop what I had on that account, what is the worst that could happen?

If your answer is “I’d lose my job” or “I absolutely cannot survive without my extensive collection of Bucky/Steve fanart” then by all means change your password.

If your answer is “Eh, I’d sign up for a new one” or “Wait, even I’d forgotten that site existed” then you can probably stop freaking out quite so much.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Internet security expert, just a moderately well-informed techhead. Some people, including better-informed ones, will disagree with me. You take this advice at your own risk. La la la what the fuck ever, you’ll most likely be fine.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

A Walk Before Church

Kylie Willison - Wed, 09/04/2014 - 9:23am
Sunday morning I went for a little walk before church to take some photos of Hobbs House as I had seen it on a walk once before.         This tree is just a little way along the path in front of the house and was possibly used as a shelter by Indigenous … Keep reading →
Categories: Planet OWOOT

Seeking a volunteer for 3000 Acres (Melbourne, Australia)

Skud - Tue, 08/04/2014 - 2:12pm

As you might know, I’ve been working on 3000 Acres over the last few months. My time there is almost up and they’re looking for volunteers to continue developing the site. If anyone in the Melbourne area is interested in working with me on this, and then taking it over, please get in touch! It would be a great way to get involved in a tech project for sustainability/social good, and the 3000 Acres team are lovely people with a great vision. Feel free to drop me an email or ping me via whatever other means is convenient, and please help us get the word out.

3000 Acres connects people with vacant land to help them start community gardens. In 2013 3000 Acres was the winner of the VicHealth Seed Challenge, and is supported by VicHealth and The Australian Centre for Social Innnovation (TACSI) along with a range of partners from the sustainability, horticulture, and urban planning fields. We are in the process of incorporating as a non-profit.

Our website, which is the main way people interact with us, launched in February 2014. The site helps people map vacant lots, connect with other community members, and find community garden resources. Since our launch we have continued to improve and add features to our site.

So far, our web development has been done by one part-time developer. We are looking for another (or multiple) volunteer developers to help us continue to improve the site, and to help make our code ready to roll out to other cities.

We’re looking for someone with the following skills and experience:

  • Intermediate level Rails experience (or less Rails experience but strong backend web experience in general). You should be comfortable using an MVC framework, designing data structures, coding complex features, etc.
  • Comfort with CSS and Javascript (we mostly use Bootstrap 3.0 and Leaflet.js) and with light design work (eg. layout, icons)
  • Familiarity with agile software development, including iteration planning, test driven development, continuous integration, etc.
  • Strong communication skills: you’ll particularly use them for writing web copy, advising on information architecture, and project management.
  • You should be in Melbourne or able to travel regularly to Melbourne to meet with us. Phone, Skype, and screen sharing may also be used — our current developer is based in Ballarat.

We welcome applications from people of diverse backgrounds, and are flexible in our requirements; if you think you have skills that would work, even if they don’t match the above description exactly, please get in touch.

We envision this role being around 8 hours a week ongoing (somewhat flexible, and mostly from your own location). Initially you will work closely with our current developer, who can provide in-depth training/mentoring and documentation on our existing infrastructure and processes. Over the next 3 months you will become increasingly independent, after which time you will be expected to be able to create and maintain high-quality code without close technical supervision.

For more information you can check out:

If you’re interested in working with us, please drop Alex an email at No resume required — just let us know a bit about yourself, your experience, and why you want to work with us. If you can show us an example of some relevant work you’ve done in the past, that would be fantastic.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

Indian Film Festival of Melbourne

Claudine Chionh - Tue, 01/04/2014 - 9:49am

If your knowledge of Indian cinema is limited to Bollywood musicals, the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, which runs from 1 to 11 May, will give you a broader view. The festival includes recent mainstream and independent films from across India and the subcontinent and screens at HOYTS cinemas in Melbourne and Chadstone.

Lakshmi, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor and set in Hyderabad, looks at one of the darker aspects of contemporary Indian society. It is based on the true story of a 14-year-old girl who is sold into prostitution and becomes the first person in the district of Andhra Pradesh to successfully have sex traffickers prosecuted. The film has generated controversy in India for its unsentimental approach and for some violent scenes. This is not a film for the timid but it raises awareness of a form of systemic abuse that affects children in India and other parts of the world.

Lakshmi screens at HOYTS Chadstone on Friday 2 May and HOYTS Melbourne Central on Tuesday 6 May as part of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

Cross-posted to A Wok on the Wild Side.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

AppRTC : Google’s WebRTC test app and its parameters

Silvia Pfeiffer (ginger) - Wed, 19/03/2014 - 9:42pm

If you’ve been interested in WebRTC and haven’t lived under a rock, you will know about Google’s open source testing application for WebRTC: AppRTC.

When you go to the site, a new video conferencing room is automatically created for you and you can share the provided URL with somebody else and thus connect (make sure you’re using Google Chrome, Opera or Mozilla Firefox).

We’ve been using this application forever to check whether any issues with our own WebRTC applications are due to network connectivity issues, firewall issues, or browser bugs, in which case AppRTC breaks down, too. Otherwise we’re pretty sure to have to dig deeper into our own code.

Now, AppRTC creates a pretty poor quality video conference, because the browsers use a 640×480 resolution by default. However, there are many query parameters that can be added to the AppRTC URL through which the connection can be manipulated.

Here are my favourite parameters:

  • hd=true : turns on high definition, ie. minWidth=1280,minHeight=720
  • stereo=true : turns on stereo audio
  • debug=loopback : connect to yourself (great to check your own firewalls)
  • tt=60 : by default, the channel is closed after 30min – this gives you 60 (max 1440)

For example, here’s how a stereo, HD loopback test would look like: .

This is not the limit of the available parameter, though. Here are some others that you may find interesting for some more in-depth geekery:

  • ss=[stunserver] : in case you want to test a different STUN server to the default Google ones
  • ts=[turnserver] : in case you want to test a different TURN server to the default Google ones
  • tp=[password] : password for the TURN server
  • audio=true&video=false : audio-only call
  • audio=false : video-only call
  • audio=googEchoCancellation=false,googAutoGainControl=true : disable echo cancellation and enable gain control
  • audio=googNoiseReduction=true : enable noise reduction (more Google-specific parameters)
  • asc=ISAC/16000 : preferred audio send codec is ISAC at 16kHz (use on Android)
  • arc=opus/48000 : preferred audio receive codec is opus at 48kHz
  • dtls=false : disable datagram transport layer security
  • dscp=true : enable DSCP
  • ipv6=true : enable IPv6

AppRTC’s source code is available here. And here is the file with the parameters (in case you want to check if they have changed).

Have fun playing with the main and always up-to-date WebRTC application: AppRTC.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

The Sydney Project: Art Baby

Mary Gardiner (puzzlement) - Wed, 19/03/2014 - 9:24am

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. I’ve therefore decided to embark on a self-imposed challenge to go and do different child-focussed activities in Sydney and review them!

Art Baby is a preliminary Sydney Project entry, because it wasn’t an activity for preschoolers! Instead, it’s an activity for carers of babies, who tour the Museum of Contempoary Art with their babies.

by Robert Montgomery

Mostly, it’s a short (45 minute) tour of one of the exhibitions (it was Volume One today), and the fact of having babies in tow is largely irrelevant. (Most of the babies today were two or three months old, much too young to do much touching or exploring.) I very much enjoyed our tour guide, who significantly contributed to the artworks with some background about each artist, and with her personal reactions to the art works. Fine art has really grown on me in recent years, as I’ve come to understand many genres — fine art in this case, but not it alone — as a conversation, and that you need to come at it with a cheat sheet that brings you up to speed on the conversation. A good tour or audio guide is the way to go with fine art museums, given that I’m unlikely to ever follow the conversation as a practitioner or serious student. Today’s tour, by an art educator and artist, was an excellent insider briefing.

The baby-relevant part of the tour is the conclusion in the Creative Learning room where the older children would do the Art Play (3yo and under) and Art Safari sessions (3–5yo). This includes a piece specifically commissioned for the children’s room, a child-safe and welcoming artwork for them to interact with. (Much of the museum is an attractive nuisance for children, with many bright, changing objects that they must not touch. It’s a shame. This adult would like a museum of fine art you can beat upon.) Afterwards, everyone has coffee (included in the price) and goes their separate way.

I’m keen to trial Art Safari with my 4yo now.

Cost: $20 plus booking fee.

Recommended: yes. It’s a good introduction to the MCA collection, and the timing is suitable for people with babies in tow. You could also just attend a normal tour, of course, but sometimes it’s fun to be part of a WITH BABY market segment.

More information: Art Baby website.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

Drupal Community Working Group

Donna Benjamin (kattekrab) - Fri, 14/03/2014 - 5:08pm
Friday, March 14, 2014 - 18:08

The Drupal community working group exists to uphold our code of conduct, and work on the supporting policies and procedures we need to do that. Read more about it in the Governance group on

[Photo Community Summit at DrupalCon Prague by Amazee Labs]

Categories: Planet OWOOT

Radio debut and leaving a career in technology

Claudine Chionh - Tue, 11/03/2014 - 1:53pm

I was a guest presenter on Joy 94.9's Technogaze on International Women's Day (listen here). For my first radio segment (since childhood anyway), this was much easier than I expected. I already knew two of the presenters, Raena and Donna, from many conversations about women in technology, so it felt like a casual chat in front of microphones. If radio can feel this relaxing, I'm eager to do more.

We spent half the program talking about the role of women in the IT industry and how girls' upbringing and role models affect their career choices. What I didn't talk about was that I have recently left the industry myself and would have been better off leaving long ago, as I don't believe web development is the best place for my skills and interests. One of the reasons I stayed as long as I did was my long history of involvement in women-in-technology groups such as Linuxchix and Drupalchix. I identified so much with the mission to encourage women in technology that I stayed in the field in spite of my own personal needs.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

Guest presenting on JOY's Technogaze for International Women's Day - Saturday 8 March

Claudine Chionh - Fri, 07/03/2014 - 10:45am

I'm making my radio debut tomorrow! Technogaze is the technology program on JOY 94.9, Melbourne's GLBTIQ community radio station. For International Women's Day (noon tomorrow, Saturday 8 March), I will join the regular panel and talking about women in technology and whatever else might come up in the program.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

A Precious Treasure

Kylie Willison - Tue, 04/03/2014 - 8:52pm
I received an email from a distant cousin, Carmel, a couple of days ago. She found me via my tree website and told me that she had a photograph of my 2x great uncle Charles Noah Wigley which she wanted to pass on.  The photograph arrived today and I am ‘over the moon’.  Charles was a … Keep reading →
Categories: Planet OWOOT

Panopoly: Magical Mystery Tour

Donna Benjamin (kattekrab) - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 8:28am
Monday, March 3, 2014 - 09:28

Here's the slides from the Panopoly talk I gave at DrupalSouth.

Categories: Planet OWOOT

What Is An Outdoor Pauper?

Kylie Willison - Sat, 22/02/2014 - 1:40pm
I came across the term outdoor pauper today while searching the 1891 English census so I went straight to Google to find out what it meant. For all things relating to poor relief and workhouses I turn to  The glossary says that indoor relief or an indoor pauper was a resident of a workhouse … Keep reading →
Categories: Planet OWOOT

The Murder of Corky Jack – Trove Tuesday

Kylie Willison - Mon, 17/02/2014 - 11:12pm
Probably the most sensational happening Elmore has ever experienced was the murder of John Duggan………  You will have heard of John Duggan as he was commonly known as “Corky Jack”.  He was murdered during the winter of 1888.  He got his nickname by wearing pieces of string with corks attached on his hat to keep … Keep reading →
Categories: Planet OWOOT

#4good brekky is happening nationwide as part of Changemakers Festival 2013!

Sarah Stokely - Sun, 13/10/2013 - 10:03pm
I’m excited to announce that #4good brekky, a social gathering for people who work, volunteer or study for social good, is happening across Australia this November as part of Changemakers Festival 2013! What is #4good brekky? #4good brekky combines a bunch of good things – breakfast, great coffee, and conversation with people who are working […]
Categories: Planet OWOOT

#4good brekky returns to Melbourne on 25 September

Sarah Stokely - Mon, 16/09/2013 - 4:11pm
#4good – a place for changemakers to meet! If you work, volunteer or are studying for social good, you are warmly invited to Melbourne’s second #4good brekky  on Wednesday, 25 September from 7.45am  at STREAT cafe, 5 McKillop St, Melbourne. #4good brekky combines a bunch of good things – breakfast, great coffee, and conversation with […]
Categories: Planet OWOOT

#4good brekky is coming to Sydney – a place for changemakers to meet

Sarah Stokely - Fri, 13/09/2013 - 10:31am
If you work, volunteer or are studying for social good, you are warmly invited to Sydney’s first #4good brekky  on Thursday, 19 September from 8am at Single Origin Cafe, 60 Reservoir St, Surry Hills. #4good brekky combines a bunch of good things – breakfast, great coffee, and conversation with people who are working to make […]
Categories: Planet OWOOT
Syndicate content