Archive for September, 2009

A Review of Gnome Shell from my Perspective (and a Comparison with Compiz)

September 26, 2009 4 comments

I tried out Gnome Shell today. (And it didn’t break everything! I followed their instructions it build and ran fine, and when I killed it, my normal environment with the normal Gnome Panel and Compiz… went back to normal.) Its shaping together nicely, there are many good things and I think its a great effort by everyone behind it. (But just a warning I don’t know all the technical things behind everything here, so please excuse me if I miss something or don’t use the correct terminology. This review is just from my perspective/my view. It is not a proper usability evaluation, nor have I looked and which is better engineered or anything too technical.)

My Desktop Running Gnome Shell

My Desktop Running Gnome Shell

My Desktop Running Gnome

My Desktop Running Gnome

The obvious difference is there is no bottom panel in Gnome Shell and the top panel is different (but its still in development of course so in a later version they may make more use of it).

My Current Work-flow

Window Management

Normally in Gnome I use Compiz a lot to help me manage my open windows. Compiz/Compiz Fusion has a lot of plugins, but over time I’ve found a few which I really like and I use all the time.

If I have a bunch of windows in one workspace and I want to switch to another I usually use Scale (shortcut of Super + Tab), although I still sometimes use the bottom taskbar, and I always use that taskbar when the window is minimised (Because Compiz can’t access minimised windows pixmaps so they don’t appear in Scale unfortunately. This is a real killer.). I can also right click on a window in this view to close it. This makes it really easy and fast to kill a heap of windows that I have finished with. This makes my search space when changing windows much less and hence much easier.

The Compiz Fusion Scale Plugin

The Compiz Fusion Scale Plugin

To change workspaces I use Expo (shortcut of Super + E). But I don’t actually use more than I workspace all that often, even though I think I should be. The other great thing is I can drag windows from one workspace to another while in Expo.

Compiz Expo Plugin

Compiz Expo Plugin

Some other shortcuts I use for window management very frequently are,

  • Alt + Left Mouse to move a window (with the great wobbly windows effect)
  • Alt + Middle Mouse to resize a window.
  • Alt + Right Mouse to close a window.
  • Super + Scroll to zoom in.
  • Ctrl + Alt + (1-9) on the keypad to place a window in a grid. This is great for getting say a terminal to run your program next to the editor with the code. This gives me the benefits of a tiling window manager such as xmonad (although changing the window focus between two side by side windows is not as easy as it would be in xmonad)/an arrangement similar to what you can get using Terminator.
  • Super + Shift + (Up Arrow/Right Arrow) to extend a window to the maximum extents in a vertical/horizontal direction.

I keep making refinements to this, but it works very well for me as it is.

Application Starting

In Gnome I use the Panels Run Application dialogue (see pic) (with the shortcut Alt + `) and the terminal (with the shortcut Ctrl + `) to start new applications. Those shortcuts really make things easier and faster.

The Panel's Run Application Dialogue

The Panel's Run Application Dialogue

The run dialogue is good. I can run programs like firefox, gedit just as you would in the terminal but it means I don’t have to have a terminal open or open one first (its all amount maximising efficiency, so I can get to where I want to be as fast as possible). Also I can enter locations such as /etc/whatever and Nautilus will be opened to that location. That text box has tab completion (and it actually shows the suggestions) which makes things easier and faster.

In Gnome Shell

Gnome Shell Activity Mode (sorry, I'm not sure what its actually called)

Gnome Shell Activity Mode (sorry, I'm not sure what its actually called)

Window Management

In Gnome Shell (it uses Metacity not Compiz) you can do all your window management and application starting through the Activities mode. Which can be started either by the Super key, clicking Activities, or dragging the mouse to the top left edge (although it seems I must go to the exact 0,0 pixel not 0,1 or 1,0 which is a bit annoying). This is good it gives the user some choice they may happen to have their hand near Super so they use that, or they may only using the mouse so they can use that (actually I will set up Compiz Scale to work with both Super Tab and a top left mouse move).

On the down side, Gnome Shell did not seem to be as fast and responsive as similar Compiz tools. What I mean is that on my system where the Scale tool is fast, as in the windows move smoothly and quickly, when I go into the Activities mode its has a small delay (less than a second, but its still annoying) and its seems a bit jumpy and jerky when everything is moving. But of course its still in development so I’m not going to criticise this. Apart from this, it seems just like Compiz Expo + Scale together. This activity mode window management is good, but there are some small things like I can’t seem to close windows from this activity mode (like I can in Compiz’s Scale), but I can move windows from one workspace to another in Gnome Shell just like in Compiz’s Expo. Also it can also be annoying to have Scale and Expo mixed together (of course I can just just Alt + Tab or move windows around so I can focus on another, but I don’t really like that idea).

Unlike Compiz/Gnome’s multiple workspaces, in Gnome shell you can add these dynamically. Which I think is a better idea than the static type that normal Gnome/Compiz uses.

Gnome Shell allows you to dynamically add/remove workspaces

Gnome Shell allows you to dynamically add/remove workspaces

Things seems to be shifting towards emphasising multiple workspaces. What I need to try to remember to do is USE these multiple workspaces, grouping windows together where they group nicely, instead of just putting everything in one workspace. Window managers could help me with this, like they could remember that I often have Firefox on workspace 2, so when I run it automatically put it there and switch to workspace 2. I haven’t tried this, so I don’t know if it would help me, or just frustrate me by doing what I don’t want every time. I’m not even sure if Compiz can do this anyway.

I’m not sure where dock’s like Avant or Cairo fit in, but I never really found them to make things easier.

Application Starting

The other noticeable thing in Gnome Shell is that bar on the left. In normal Gnome you have your menu bar which has Applications, Places and System (which I wish I could easily shorten to Apps, Places and Sys to save space). Given I have this new user thing on the right where I can shutdown/logout/suspend/hibernate… from the only real thing I use System for is the Preferences and Administration. Yet I can never remember if what I want is in admin or pref. I recently discovered this system preferences thing which just puts it all in one window categorised into appropriate groups. I’m sure some find the two lists easier and some find the single window easier. When I scan with my eyes in a list I just go up/down, but when I scan a grid my eyes wander all over the place with no apparent system. As such its probably a more random search than a well defined one. There is heaps of things you could test out (we looked at some in my HCI course) to try to make the grid layout faster but nonetheless I think I like the grid better.

I use the Places bar often, and I think the Gnome Shell implementation makes things easier as they are listed in two columns, unlike traditionally where the number of bookmarks is limited and I need to navigate to a sub-menu to show them all. It seems I can’t change the size proportions of those three sections on the side, but again its still in development. You could look at this a number of ways but because the panels are gone, if you are using a full screen application you can focus on that, with nothing cluttering the edge or distracting you from your task at hand. Traditionally everything in layered down, you have panels, then window decorations then menu bars, status bars, tabs (in Firefox), removing all that so that you just have the task at hand in your vision can be a great thing (yes I know there is a full screen feature in Firefox, and you can set Gnome panels to hide). When you are working in a browser its up to the web site (unless you have the time to do some Greasemonkey scripts) to allow you to again remove outside clutter, yet many application-like web sites allow you to do this (Alt + Shift + G when editing in WordPress, u in Google Reader (to some degree)). Anyway that is moving away a bit from the topic of this post.

At the bottom of the left bar, you have recent documents. I use recent documents very very rarely (as in the shortcuts to them, not the documents themselves). Although I still think that a well designed system for access to recent documents integrated with some kind of search capability would be very useful for me, and I would use it often. However I am yet to find such a system that I like. The concept in my mind is something like the Lifestream design that Wei Zhou blogged about. An interface where time is on the horizontal axis, where you could change the scale and location of this view easily, view related things such as the weather for that particular time, your location if you have a GPS enabled laptop, etc. Also it should be integrated with a good filter feature (anything such as file type, file size, location, tags…) that lets you narrow down your search space. Something like that is what I have in my mind as a great use of a “recent documents” feature. GNOME Zeitgeist looks like it may address some of this.

Lastly the top section is the application launcher.

Gnome Shell Menu

Gnome Shell Menu

The actual menu in some ways is much better than the normal Gnome menu. Larger icons and a short description of the application are good. When I open the Gnome menu bar, I never need to see what’s on my screen in order to make my selection from the menu bar (and if I forgot what I wanted to start I can always close it then open it again). You have the whole screen so you may as well use it, and Gnome Shell seems better in this respect. The bad thing is I don’t like the use of pages. If not everything will fit on one column, you have to change the pages at the bottom. Instead you should be able to scroll through the options with the mouse wheel, or the ones that don’t fit go in another column to the right (like Windows XP can do, and yes I used to use Windows XP).

The search box above this doesn’t behave like the traditional Gnome Panel’s Run Application dialogue. For example I can’t type a file path, and tying gedit then enter won’t take me where I want to go (gedit). Instead it takes me to some other entry I have defined in the menu bar. Now I can see some reasons why this could be better. Really I want to launch any executable files in my $PATH, but a user who doesn’t use the terminal probably doesn’t want this. An option so that the user can choose how they want it to behave would be better, I think.

Gnome Shell's search box doesn't behave as I expected.

Gnome Shell's search box doesn't behave as I expected.

Having all my icon application starters in the top Gnome Panel was nice but there is no reason those can’t be added to Gnome Shell, but again it’s still in development. Although now that I’ve been using the interface for an hour or so, I think that they may create more clutter. Actually I think I would prefer that that top panel bar in Gnome shell would only appear in the Activity mode (but still recognise the top left mouse gesture). Although this may be scary for newbie’s (hey I got intimidated the first time I used Blackbox, I couldn’t work out that right clicking on the desktop gave me a menu) so an option would be much better.

Anything thing I wanted to mention was, I use Firefox a lot, and a lot of the concepts and issues with window management can be applied to tabs in a browser. The folks over at Mozilla are working on this so I’m eager to see what they come up with, but as more and more things are done through HTML web pages, it just means I’m going to have more and more tabs open that I need to manage, and navigate. Like starting a new application in a desktop environment you often start a new task (web page/tab) in a web browser. I’ve been using Ubiquity for a while now at I find it really good. Although they are up to release 0.5, I’m still using 0.1.9rc6. Although I can think of many improvements, its still really efficient at starting new tasks.

Oh an in case you were wondering from my Screenshots there, I’m using the orange-theme (orange-theme – 1.3.0.jaunty.ppa2+nmu1) from

Categories: computing Tags: ,

Compiz Scale Plugin: A Small Usability Thing

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

A feature that I thought was very much lacking from the Compiz Fusion Scale plugin (as shown)…

Compiz Scale Plugin

Compiz Scale Plugin (1)

…was that I could not seem to close windows in this view. After some investigation you can. I had not noticed that the Scale Addons tool in Utility in CCSM (CompizConfig Settings Manager) is related to the Scale tool in Window Management. Now there under bindings in the Scale Addons tool is Close Window. It turns out I had two problems,

  1. I could not grab the mouse button like you can grab the keyboard combination when setting new bindings. As such I didn’t know which was Button 1, 2, 3 and so on. Turns out Button 1 is the left mouse, button 2 is the scroll button, and button 3 is the right mouse. But another common model would be button 2 for right mouse and button 3 for middle. After all I could have just used some trial and error, but because of problem 2 I wasn’t sure if it was the mouse bindings that were the problem or something else.
  2. Problem 2 was because I had “Key Bindings Toggle Scale Mode” in the Scale plugin turned off (i.e. when I initiated the window picker using Super+Tab I had to keep holding Super to key all the windows up and letting go of super would select the selected window.) As such when in my mind I thought that I wanted right click to close the window, I really needed to set the binding to Super+right click.
Categories: computing Tags: ,

GENL2021 – Introduction to The Australian Legal System – My Lecture Notes

September 19, 2009 7 comments

I try my best to be accurate, but I would not be surprised if I have made some errors here. Also this post is still a work in progress and I’ll be making changes.

Week 1 & 2

Historical Origins of The Australian Legal System

  • Common Law Legal System
    • Australia has a “Common Law Legal System”. The main feature of this that separates it from other Western legal systems is the degree that it relies on precedent (through the doctrine of precedent). Under this system laws either come from Parliament, called legislation, or Courts, called case law or common law.
    • I’ve come to realise that its not enough to just follow just the legislation as cases can provide extra details and insights into the legality of a matter. Furthermore you can rely on these precedents in court (although it seems they can go back on their decisions and make new precedents to override old ones, as seen with [2009] HCA 14.).
    • Institution Laws People
      parliament statute law members of parliament
      courts common law judges (most courts)/magistrates (in the local court)
    • Barristers are the ones in court arguing a case, eg. in litigation. Solicitors are the people you usually go to see first. They can arrange a barrister, draft wills, give legal advice, etc.
  • Norman Period
    • Australian Law stems from English law. English Law started out in the Norman Period.
  • Feudalism
    • It is a hierarchy where the king is at the top. The king own all the land and leases it out. This goes down a few levels where at the bottom you have people who are allowed to use the land if they share their crops and provide military service if necessary.
    • feudalism
  • Trials by Ordeal and Trials by Battle.
    • Relied on “divine intervention” to determine the verdict.
  • The Writ System (court orders…)
    • Lead to Equity.
  • Equity -> eg. forced to comply with the contract.
  • Constitutionalism -> Can be thought of as ‘guidelines for government’
  • Magna Carta
    • Just an old document. But an important clause was that no one could be detained without being charged, and right to trial.
    • allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment.
    • Includes,
      • A right that a person can seek relief from the unlawful detention of him or herself, or of another person.
  • Westminster (Parliament)
  • Monarchy <-> Republic
  • House of Lords/House of Commons (Upper House/Lower House)
  • Parliament
    • Legislative Arm -> Creation of laws
    • Executive Arm -> Administration of laws
  • The Bill of Rights 1689
  • Non-Partisan – Not affiliated with a political party
  • Security of Tenure of Judges – Protects from external pressure. ie. contractual right not to be sacked without just cause.
  • Trial by Jury
    • Originally (ages ago in England) the jury were locals, now they are impartial (and so are the judges) which means that they have no prior knowledge of the case.
  • Saxton’s introduced compensation into the law

Week 3

Rule of Law

The rule of law had origins in the Magna Carta but its not what we now consider “the rule of law”.

The key theme of the Rule of Law is everyone is subject to the law.

Eight Ways to Make Law Fail (based on the allegory concerning Rex):

  • Failure to publicise law
  • Obscure law
  • Retroactive law
  • Contradictions in the law
  • Unable to comply with the law
  • Unstable daily amendments to the law
  • Differences between rules/laws as announced and their administration

However at least some of these (if not all) are not law themselves. They are not in the constitution so there is nothing stopping a government from creating say retrospective law.

Law, Land & Society Before 1788

Terra Nullius is a term used to describe be land belonging to no one. The British belied Australia to be Terra Nullius as they did not see the land as having an established legal system.

Week 4

Types of Legal Systems

  • Common Law
    • Adversarial System (this is the type of procedure practised in common law courts)
      • “relies on the skill of each advocate representing his or her party’s positions and involves an impartial person, usually a jury, trying to determine the truth of the case.” (, Adversarial System)
      • Mostly done orally in the court room.
  • Civil Law
    • “The Code”
    • No precedence (so there is no case law)
    • Inquisitive System (this is the type of procedure practised in civil law courts)
      • “has a judge (or a group of judges who work together) whose task is to investigate the case” (, Inquisitive System)
      • Mostly done through written submissions to the judge.
    • Judge actively steers routes of evidence investigation (compared with a common law system where the lawyers do this).
    • No jury (mostly).
  • Communist Law
  • Religious Law
  • Customary Law
    • eg. Aboriginal customary law
    • Never written down

These legal systems “supposedly” all have the same aim.

Separation of Powers

Kept separate to balance power of any one:

  1. Legislative Arm (Parliament)
    • Amends/Creates Laws
  2. Executive Arm
    • Administrate Laws/Initiating Laws/Enforce laws
    • Government Departments, Governor General, Police…
  3. Judicial Arm
    • Courts/Judges (High Court…)
    • Interpret laws

Jurisdiction is the power of a court to exercise judgement.

Three different types of jurisdiction,

  • State vs. Federal
  • Original vs. Appeal
  • Civil vs. Criminal

Week 5

Federation and Laws Made By Parliament

  • Australia Act 1986 (ie. federation) (according to the constitution) stipulates the number of senators and the distribution among the states.
  • It was not until the UK passed their statues did Australia become legally a federation.
  • Senate (Upper House) -> Scrutinise Bills
  • House of Reps (Lower House) -> Draft/Introduce Bills

To get voted into the senate you need 1/6 + 1 of the votes. Once you reach this quota extra votes that would be used on you are distributed to the voters other preferences. Senators are only up for election every two elections (usually).

  • Senate -> Representative of the State
  • Reps -> Representative of the Country (Although its a little more detailed as they are really representative of the electorate. Because of this you can have a party with 49% of the votes but still get no members into the house of reps.)

We generally get lots of independents in the senate because people rarely vote 1. Labor 2. Liberal. If someone supports party A where B is A’s greatest competitor, most people will usually not vote for their opposition as 2, so they sometimes put some independents (remember once the quote is met, surplus votes are redistributed (either as the voter order their preferences, or if not chosen by the voter, how the party chooses)).

  • With regards to politicians voting on bills, a Conscious Vote is crossing the partly line (or whatever the party decided on how they would vote) vs. a Party Vote  where you (the politician) vote as your party does regardless on what you think.

Preferential Voting ensures a strong 2 party system.

Passing a Law: (Repeated for each house)

  • 1st Reading
  • 2nd Reading – Purpose of the bill (Sometimes used by lawyers to interpret the law).
  • 3rd Reading

The Australian Constitution stipulates which matters the Commonwealth have power to make laws over and which the states have power.

Week 6

Laws Made By Courts & Precedent

An indictable offence is one where you can go to prison over it.

A case begins in the local court with committal proceedings, except for the more serious cases which begin in the supreme court. But there are some exceptions, for example certain constitutional cases will go straight to the High Court.

The different courts are listed, although the list is not complete as you also have local courts in most states.

Local court -> District Court -> Supreme Court -> High Court.

Hierarchy of the Australian Courts

Hierarchy of the Australian Courts

  • If you don’t like the decision make by one court you can appeal to a higher one.
  • For a matter to be heard in court there must be “reasonable prospects of success”.
  • Civil matters claiming over $750 go straight to the supreme court.

In a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt must be established, this is not the case in civil cases.

Because we have a common law legal system (adversarial), “the judge can only make a decision about what was herd in court and cannot make any other inquiries about the case”1.

“A judge will usually order that the costs of the successful party be paid by the unsuccessful party.”1

  • Ratio decidendi
    • reason for judgement.
    • meaning “the reason” or “the rationale for the decision.”
    • Unlike obiter dicta, the ratio decidendi is, as a general rule, binding on courts of lower jurisdiction—through the doctrine of precedent.
  • Obiter dicta
    • is a remark or observation made by a judge that, although included in the body of the court’s opinion, does not form a necessary part of the court’s decision.
    • statements constituting obiter dicta are not binding (meaning cannot be used as argument for a precedent), although in some jurisdictions, they can be strongly persuasive.
  • The High Court is the final court of appeal in Australia in matters of both State and Federal.
  • Must rely on a precedent in a higher court (which implies that the precedents set by the high court are binding in all other courts).
    • BUT the Full Court of the High Court is not bound by previous decisions made by the High Court, so the High Court can overrule itself.
    • The Full Court of the High Court means all the judges (there are 7 and they are called justices) sit in and vote on the case, rather than just one judge per case.
  • The full court of the Federal court means at least three judges sit in.
  • Try mostly have an odd number of judges as when making a decision on a case, the majority prevails.
  • If you don’t like the precedents try to find differences that can distinguish the cases.
  • If no precedent, you can look at obiter dicta, or you can look into other jurisdictions (these are not binding but can be persuasive).

Week 7

The Legal Profession

Barristers and Solicitors are distinct parties. They have different roles and have no relation. “Solicitors have more direct contact with the clients, whereas barristers often only become involved in a case once advocacy before a court is needed by the client. Barristers are also engaged by solicitors to provide specialist advice on points of law. Barristers are rarely instructed by clients directly (although this occurs frequently in tax matters). Instead, the client’s solicitors will instruct a barrister on behalf of the client when appropriate.” (, Barrister)

In Australia Barristers are always sole traders. The research for a case is done by the solicitor who gives a brief to the barrister before they appear in the court.

Attorneys are much the same as Solicitors. The term Attorney is used more commonly in the US.

Week 9

Adversarial System

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • Negotiation
    • Informal
    • Voluntary
    • Both parties meet privately and try to work out a resolution without needing to go to court.
    • Can lead to a settlement.
    • Private. Unlike adjudication which is public. Companies that don’t want the media attention that may come from a court case, make take this option.
    • Quick
    • Cheaper than adjudication
    • One negative for the public is that no precedent is set, so little people cannot rely on large corporations to set the precedents for them.
  • Mediation
    • Less formal that adjudication.
    • Voluntary
    • Mediator is present
    • Outcome only accepted when both parties agree to it
    • Individual may feel in control of the matter rather than their lawyer.
    • Business relationships can be maintained
  • Conciliation (only for some courts)
    • Mandatory
    • Mediator present, but cannot enforce/make a decision on the outcome
  • Adjudication
      • Can be lengthy taking from months to years.
    • Arbitration
    • Tribunals
    • Courts
  • Legislation
    • The government changes the law to make a certain dispute clear.

This is very much a scale. At the top the parties very much are in control of the outcome. Whereas at the bottom they don’t have much control at all of the outcome (so long as the system is not corrupt). The top is informal, wheras the bottom is formal. At the top things are by agreement, whereas at the bottom things are much by imposition.

Other Legal Institutions

  • Tribunals are set up by laws.
  • They are like courts but are less formal.
  • Unlike courts the strict doctorine of precedent does not apply to tribunals.

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) is one such tribunal (they are is the NSW jurisdiction). The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is another tribunal (federal jurisdiction). As per their website “The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) provides independent review of a wide range of administrative decisions made by the Australian government and some non-government bodies. The AAT aims to provide fair, impartial, high quality and prompt review with as little formality and technicality as possible. Both individuals and government agencies use the services of the AAT.”

In most cases if you are unhappy with the tribunals decision you can appeal to a court, although there are conditions on this. For example as stated on the AAT’s web site “If you disagree with the Tribunal’s decision you may appeal to the Federal Court on a point of law. This means that the Court can only hear an appeal from the Tribunal decision if you or your adviser believe the Tribunal made a mistake in law in deciding your case. Because there are many rules about Federal Court appeals you may wish to get legal assistance.”

Week 10

Contracts and Torts


  • A contract is an agreement that is enforceable through the courts.
  • Contracts can be written or verbal, but written contracts are easier to prove.
  • For a contract to be valid there must be, (i.e. otherwise the contract is void, meaning its not legally binding)
    • An intention by the parties to be legally bound by their promises,
    • agreement by the parties on the terms of the contract,
    • consideration from both sides.
  • If the parties do not intend for a contract to be legally binding and there is agreement on that then the courts will honour this. (See Rose and Frank v Crompton [1923] 2 KB 261).
  • When not expressly stated the courts will presume that, (but this can be rebutted, see Wakeling v Ripley (1951) 51 SR (NSW) 183)
    • social, family or domestic agreements are not intended to be legally binding, and
    • commercial agreements are intended to be legally binding.

Agreement of a Contract

  • As mentioned for a contract to be valid it must have agreement by the parties.
  • Offer and Acceptance
    • An offer is made by one party, and if accepted by the other, then the contract has agreement. (I think that means, if you make an offer they say okay, you cannot go back and not be bound by the contract.)
    • An “invitation to treat” is not an offer.
    • Lapse of an offer
    • Acceptance
      • Silence is not acceptance (Felthouse v Bindley (1862) 11 CB (NS) 869) (but an act can be)
      • Acceptance must be in response to an offer for the contract to be valid (R v Clarke (1927) 40 CLR 227).

There is a bunch of related conditions regarding selling of goods. See the Trade Practices Act.


  • A tort is a civil wrong.
  • Breach of Contract is a tort.
  • Don’t need to have a contract to commit a tort. eg. Tort of Negligence.

Week 11

Criminal Law

(work in progress)

Criminal Law is meant to cover matters concerning the state.

  • There are sanctions for failing to abide by the law. But there is no capital punishment in Australia.

Reasons for sanctions,

  • Retribution – “they ought to suffer”
  • Deterrent
  • Incapacitation – protect society by locking the criminal up in jail.
  • Rehabilitation – try to change them so they won’t re-offend.


  1. proof of crime (actus reus)
  2. criminal intent (mens rea) (although some “strict liability” crimes don’t need this)

Two types of offences,

  1. Summary offence -> Decided by a magistrate. No jury. Max 2 years imprisonment.
  2. Indictable offence -> most cases have a jury.
  • Prosecution need to prove defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • A hung jury is when the jury cannot come to a unanimous (although now they will accept one who votes different to everyone else) decision.
  • A persons previous criminal history can only be made known at the sentencing (after a jury has decided if they are guilty or not).
  • The jury decides the defendants guilt/innocence, the judge decides the sentencing.


  • Could be prison.
  • Could be periodic or home detention.
  • Could be community service.
  • Could be a fine.
  • Could be discharged on a good behaviour bond.

Week 12

Mabo Decision

Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)

Wik Decision

Native Title (Amendment) Act 1998 (Cth)



Categories: law, unswcourse Tags: ,

Sydney Gets a new (and improved) Weather Radar

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

I just realised that the new capabilities of the Sydney BOM radar aren’t just something that I had missed before, rather they are indeed new. The Buero brought online their new Terry Hills radar (on 9/9/09). Here is their media release (from Wednesday 9 September 2009).

New Sydney weather radar now online

Sydney has a new state-of-the-art weather radar that will help forecasters and the community see in greater detail upcoming weather – including severe weather such as thunderstorms.

The Doppler weather radar was launched today at Terrey Hills by Australia’s Director of Meteorology, Dr Greg Ayers.

The new radar is more sensitive and uses the latest technology to provide clearer radar images at a higher resolution than previously possible. It replaces one that has been operating at Appin, south of Sydney since 1992.

Commissioning the radar, Dr Ayers noted the significance of its range which spans Sydney and surrounding areas – “an area that is home to more than a quarter of the Australian population.”

“Weather radars play an important role in helping the community prepare for and manage the threats posed by extreme weather.”

The Bureau’s Regional Director for New South Wales, Barry Hanstrum said the improved capability offered by this new radar will help forecasters “more easily detect and track thunderstorms in the Sydney area and detect dangerous wind changes during the fire season.”

The new radar animation, covering the previous half hour’s weather, now consists of six images, one every six minutes where as previously it was just four images. “This upgrade will certainly provide a new level of detail about weather in the Sydney area,” Mr Hanstrum said.

“The greater sensitivity of the radar will also assist in better detection of drizzle and light shower activity over Sydney.”

This new Doppler weather radar is the fifth of six new high resolution radars to come online as part of the Australian Government’s $62.2 million dollar radar upgrade project.

Recently the Government announced a further $48 million program to install four new radars around Australia as well as invest in the underlying science to integrate this technology into the current radar network. Imagery from the Bureau’s network of weather radars is available on the Bureau of Meteorology website, © Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2009, Bureau of Meteorology (ABN 92 637 533 532). Information is presented with the permission of the Bureau.

This is great news! Higher resolution radar images, new images every 6 minutes, a Doppler wind map. They have some nice documentation which I’ll read when I get a chance. The only thing I don’t like is the radar loop only shows the last 30 minutes. This is nothing to do with the radar, just the web interface. But the situation is not too bad, they have all the radar maps/data available through their FTP site, and they have a permissible licence which allows republication of this data, so anyone is free to build their own interface which could allow you to loop through more than just the last 30 minutes (which is something I have on my TODO list). But, I think they only keep something like the last hour or 1h42min of radar images on their HTTP/FTP servers so you would need an always on machine to ensure you have all the data.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

A rant about the state of copyright and my misunderstandings of it

September 12, 2009 1 comment

I’ve run into a little legal problem. By a problem I mean that if I were convicted for this I could face “a fine of not more than 550 penalty units or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.” Apparently one penalty unit is $110. So that means in the worst case a $60, 500 fine and 5 years imprisonment.

What’s all this over? Well I thought I better check up on the Copyright Act 1968 (which I will refer to as The Act) and it is an indictable (meaning you can be sent to jail if found guilty) offence to do the following. (SECT 132AL, The Act)

(1)  A person commits an offence if:

(a)  the person makes a device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work or other subject‑matter; and

(b)  copyright subsists in the work or other subject‑matter at the time of the making of the device.

(2)  A person commits an offence if:

(a)  the person possesses a device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work or other subject‑matter; and

(b)  copyright subsists in the work or other subject‑matter at the time of the possession.


(11)  In a prosecution for an offence against this section, it is not necessary to prove which particular work or other subject‑matter is intended to be, or will be, copied using the device.

And herein lies the problem. As a regular citizen this is too ambiguous, because people have different interpretations of what a “device” is. Case law can help here as it can give concrete examples of what is illegal and what is not, but someone always is going to be the first one to have to step up to the court to make the case law. Statute law should be clear enough on its own to be understood by the general public.

The term “infringing copy” could also be interpreted different ways, but the law actually explains what it means here (unlike for device which is to be interpreted as “includes a plate” where a “plate includes a stereotype, stone, block, mould, matrix, transfer, negative or other similar appliance.” (The Act)).

Back to the actual problem that I’m referring to, I read the “Time-shifting” fact sheet from the Attorney-General’s Department,$file/Copyright+Fact+Sheets+-+Time-shifting.pdf (wow what an ugly URL!). It says that it is now legal to record a television or radio broadcast to watch or listen to at a more convenient time. However broadcast does not cover streaming of content online. As such ABC’s iView and friends fall outside this scope. When you stream content from ABC’s iView using an Adobe Flash player I’m not sure if any content is actually written to disk or not but it is definitely saved on various memories, however this “copy” would fall under SECT 111B of The Act and is legal.

What would probably not fall under SECT 111B is there are tools, or what a court may call “devices”, that are “intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work” (SECT 132AL, The Act). You can use these tools to store a permanent copy of material that ABC’s transmits to you. My problem is I wrote a script which “helps” users make infringing copies of material published by SBS. Its not the part that actually copies the material (flvstreamer does that) but I can just imagine some lawyer convincing a judge and jury that they should send me to prison. Its way too confusing because you don’t even need these scripts you just need your OS. tcpdump can be used to capture the traffic just like these tools do. Then there is the word “intending” which is open to interpretation to much.

The computer is a copying machine, its not going to stop and check if the copy will be infringing or not. Sorry this has turned into a bit of a rant, but The Act really annoys me. Maybe its because I interpret it different to the people who wrote it, or the people who will use it to send me to prison or give me huge fines.

Then there is the whole other thing of who is held liable. I wrote about the script on, and linked to its location on Will they come after Automattic (the owner of or me or the owners of pastebin.cem? But I’m (or maybe its not really me at all but Automattic) publishing all this in the US (I presume is hosted on servers in the US), so that makes all this Australian Copyright Act garbage useless.

Oh and the other thing, under the current act, if you visit a web site most browsers will cache that to disk (I wouldn’t call that a temporary copy “as part of a technical process of use”, but I would call the copying of the data for the HTML document to registers, the processor cache and RAM a temporary copy, but this is not defined in The Act.). Are then web browsers a “device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work” because they ask for content from a web server, get given it and then save it to disk? (but it’s no defence to say heaps of other people are breaking the law and you have singled me out so you can’t charge me) Does it matter that the web server can send a “Cache-Control: no-cache” response header, if they don’t does that mean that we are allowed to cache all this to disk? But that HTTP header and even the whole HTTP spec is just a W3C recommendation.

This is just a little bit on my reasons why I have no respect at all for the Copyright Act. I don’t want to have to worry about any of this legal stuff, but I must because if I don’t the government can send me to prison or impose huge fines and I don’t want to take a risk there.

Oh and in my defence, the script that I linked to in this post, I would not classify as “device, intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work” if anything it would be flvstreamer, but then you cannot single those out. If publishing that script I linked to, or flvstreamer is illegal in this country then publishing an HTTP web browser, tcpdump, or an OS that interfaces with a network must also be devices that are intending it to be used for making an infringing copy of a work.

Also something I’ve been wondering for ages, how can anyone ever be convicted of downloading copyright infringement mealy by downloading it over the internet? One cannot know if such material is protected by copyright (they don’t even know what the data is until they have downloaded it), and one cannot know if the entity they are receiving the data from is the copyright holder who permits this use. A lawyer may come along and say that this is all true, but I wouldn’t want to bet my life on the fact that the court will also agree (given the track record of the courts, see Cooper v Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd [2006] FCAFC 187).

Anyway back to studying for my COMP courses.

Categories: law Tags: ,

Finding the Second Reading of a Bill

September 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Say I know of a law (could be any law but I’ll try to choose a recent one as the records don’t go back all that far) and say its the FAIR WORK ACT 2009. I found this through AustLii, now I want to find the bill that this act was created from, as well as any bills that lead to amendments to this act. This information cannot be found in the Act itself. I could do a search on AustLii for the Act Name minus the year and the word Act, and add the word Bill, but because I don’t know enough about parliamentary procedure I don’t know if this is the rule and all acts must be named the same as the bill, or this is just something commonly done. Ideally there should be some references in the database that link bills to an act (if it has been passed).

Now that I have located a Bill I can read the bill on AustLii, but I’ve heard that there are these things called “First Reading”, “Second Reading” and so on that happen in parliament that give the reasons for the introduction of a bill. I want to find that information. So I head over to,


Because I’m not too familiar with parliamentary practice I don’t know where these first and second readings fit in. So I do a search for “FAIR WORK BILL 2009″ Second Reading”.

From the search results I manually look down the list to find the one that appears to be the second reading.

From the search results I manually look down the list to find the one that appears to be the second reading.

I have to manually look down the list for one that appears to be the second reading. Sure there may be technical reasons for this which may explain this but at first glance it seems that debates that are the Second Reading of a Bill appear to end with “: Second Reading”. Perhaps an advanced search could use this to determine if a debate is a Second Reading of a Bill or not. Looking at the XML data provided by OpenAustralia for that day you can see that the debate has a minor-heading of “Second Reading”, so sorting and searching by this attribute shouldn’t be too hard.

Admittedly I don’t know enough about the way parliament works. Are these second readings mandatory or just customary?

Categories: law, politics Tags: , , ,