Bonfire preparations

I’m not blogging as much as usual, and will try to get back onto regular posts but have been so busy! Have some great posts coming about life and work in Parliament House πŸ™‚

Today was out at the “farm” (the cute name for the 170 acres of untouched Australian bush that belongs to my parents). Anyway, some lovely photos are below. Po had a great time and was very tired by the end of the day, even though he wasn’t the one making bonfires!

Kat with the bonfire Po looking adorable Camp site The Dam at the

Virgin 3G on Ubuntu Jaunty

Today I bought a Virgin 3G USB dongle for internet access while on the road, and I thought I’d share the experience. It turns out I don’t need to write up the documentation because it mostly works out of the box, and the little bits I need to change are already well documented πŸ™‚

First I looked at the Ubuntu 3G Hardware page to see what the best supported cards were. We already have our mobiles on Virgin, so I was pleased to see the default Virgin mobile Broadband device was supported, the Huawei E169.

When I plugged it in, I then created a new mobile broadband connection through the network manager. If I used all the defaults, and then selected the connection through Network Manager, it would ask for a password and fail.

So I followed the excellent instructions from the Ubuntu forums hereΒ to both disable chap from the /etc/ppp/options and edit my network managed mobile broadband connection with a few settings (the Virgin Broadband number and password, plus the changing of the name from the default VirginInternet to VirginBroadband) and within minutes it is working perfectly!

This configuration is on an EEEPC 1000H running Ubuntu JauntyΒ (9.04) which is currently in beta, but looks great.

Going to work on the Hill

I am very excited to say that I am now working as a Policy Adviser for Senator Kate Lundy! This is a very different direction for me. I have worked in the ICT industry for almost 10 years, been deeply involved in FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) for nearly as long, and although I have worked with several Government agencies, I’ve never been involved in the political arena. I’ve also been a long term observer of Senator Lundy, watching her really involve herself in our industry and try to ensure there is sufficient political debate and understanding around core ICT issues.

I felt and the Senator agreed that it was important I announced this new role in my blog considering the public profile I have, and that I have always tried to be as open and transparent in my actions as I could. Senator Lundy feels that online and transparent engagement with the democractic process is an important goal, and I am now a part of that process.

On a personal level, I am extremely excited about this role. I love Parliament House, and now I am working here. I have always wanted to understand how policy and legislation comes about, and how the political process works. But I have, as have many Australians, been fundamentally disinterested because of, well, the politics πŸ™‚ This role gives me an opportunity to really understand – and hopefully participate effectively in – the system.

This role is my new full time employment, and as such I will not be engaging in any new Waugh Partners’ or other business. Jeff will be continuing as a Waugh Partners’ consultant, focusing primarily on his new website development work.

From a community participation level, I intend on maintaining my participation in various industry and community groups, however I will not be in any leadership or advocacy roles. I have spoken to Donna BenjaminΒ and James Purser, who are both specifically interested in creating a FOSS Government liaisonΒ  group, and if anyone else is interested in useful engagement with the Government, please speak to Donna or James.

Traditionally a person employed as a political staffer would not have any kind of “public” role. This is largely because of the challenges in ensuring a clear distinction between when a person is speaking on behalf of their employer, or themselves. Taking this into account, plus my existing online presence, we will be experimenting with me continuing to blog and twitter, and I hope to establish a good balance.

I see my new role as a way of contributing to a more robust and informed discussion within Government about ICT, skills development, online engagement in the democratic process, and the importance of openness (standards, technologies, transparency) in sustainable ICT procurement, in industry development and in global competitiveness. I hope that my peers in the FOSS community, in the ICT industry, in the media and in education are supportive of me in this role, and I look forward to an open dialogue to help shape future directions of ICT for and within the Australian Government.

Jeff – the potato chip!

Many of you will be familiar with Jeff‘s hackergotchi:

jdub - hackergotchi
jdub - hackergotchi

Well, First Dog on the Moon, a political and funny cartoonist in Australia has just created a shirt based on Jeff’s hackergotchi labelled “on the internet nobody knows you’re a potato chip”. Just awesome!

on the internet nobody knows
on the internet nobody knows

Get your potato chip shirt from the site linked to the image πŸ™‚

Being a woman sometimes sucks

Every so often I come across particular behaviours towards women that really make me feel uncomfortable, upset, frustrated or just plain angry. I just had a comment posted on an old blog post of mine about women in IT:

Wow-this iss uch a popular site.

Why is it however, that when you women do something that men have been doing for ages (without any fanfare or blowing our own trumpets), it’s such a massive acheivement????

Tht’a the problem these days-women are so up themselves, men don’t wamt to know them.Thats the REAL reason why women can’t find men..but of course, that’s not the womens fault…is it??

What a load of bitches.

The post was apparently from a “Hugh G. Rection”, which of course demonstrates the maturity and spinelessness of this particular individual. I was going to just ignore the comment, but it just irked me so I thought I’d write a blog post why.

The behaviour never ceases to surprise me, and in one way I hope I never cease to be surprised, because I would hate to think I’d ever just accept it.

I was talking to a male friend recently and he said he had accidentally offended a female geek by making a crass joke about “jugs”, and I spoke to him about how it isn’t about the crassness. I know many women (and I’m one of them) who can be very rude or crass at times. It is because things like my friend’s joke about jugs, or the comment on my blog above, or being avoided at geek conferences because I’m female, or the occasional death threats against women or women groups, or, or, or…. all these behaviours are constant reminders that I am a woman, when my gender really shouldn’t make any difference. This constant reminder of my gender is thrust upon me and most women I know in IT, and this differentiation unfortunately builds the foundations of some really negative (albeit much less common) behaviours towards women in IT. I am just another geek, the same as a male geek is just another geek. People will always have a reason to disagree about code, opinions, or whatever, but I am really sick of my gender being a reason to be targeted, something that has to be pointed out as being different or somehow weird.

I try to remain positive constantly, and am always saying that we can only improve the environment by coming together as a community to deal with negative behaviours (including sexism, racism, and any other antisocial and destructive perspectives). I usually try to live the change I want to see and I understand that a lot of sexism isn’t done with malicious intent and I myself try to refrain from sexist (or other negative) humour or perspectives. This isn’t a men vs women issue, in fact most men I know are wonderful people, and some are more upfront about smacking down sexism than a lot of women, for whom doing so would often enough incur unwanted attention. Ultimately there is a latent sexism in many parts of the world that I’ll have to deal with regardless, but I would like to ask the Free and Open Source community in particular to please be considerate of the people around you, and try to ensure that whatever project you are in, you are doing your best to make it an open and friendly environment for anyone to get involved. It is after all meant to be a meritocracy, meant to be about freedom and personal empowerment. Let’s try to minimise the impact of old world biases on our awesome community.

In response to the comment above, right now in many countries (including Australia) there is a mistaken perspective that there are no women in IT, that we’ve not really played much of a role, and as such IT is somehow a masculine thing to do. None of these perspectives are true, however the myths are turning many young people (and particularly young women) away from the industry. FOSS in particular is supposed to be a community where anyone can succeed according to their skill and effort. By allowing incorrect perspectives about the industry to flourish, we are not ever going to have a good cross-section of society participating in FOSS, and FOSS – like politics – needs to be openly participatory and representative. Also, we can see in various FOSS projects that gender, politics, religion and other potential barriers to personal interaction can be bridged through common base values and goals.

I believe until any person can participate in any FOSS project without their gender/race/religion being a thing of mockery, hatred, curiousity or any other differentiation, then we are not being true to the philosophies of software freedom or technocratic achievement. Being treated like a human being, and with some basic level of empathy and equality should be a reasonable base expectation for everyone πŸ™‚


We are moving at the moment. More details on this soon, but if you are trying to get in contact with either of us, please give us aweek or two to get back to you πŸ™‚ Otherwise call/sms us if it is urgent.

Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.

Max Payne stick figure safety instructions

Some people may have seen the rather funny (and disturbing, be ready for violence) Max Payne stick figure movie and recently when I went to Malaysia the safety instructions for my room were so similar that I had to blog them. Please find my annotations for them below πŸ™‚

Stickman adventures – part one

stick figure 5

When you check into a room, laser the windows shut and the alarm systems so they don’t work. Then you’ll be uninterrupted in your scheming for world domination.

Stickman adventures – part two

stick figure 2

If you come across your evil twin in an adjoining room, ask him/her to answer the door while you prepare to throw a phone at their head. You’ll find that if you want to pull a wall down, bricks should be thrown through an open door, not closed.

Stickman adventures – part three

stick figure 1

If your fists explode when punching the air, trying hitting the fist with a phone. If bricks come flying at you, make sure you ignore the ones coming at your head. And if the bricks persist, then run towards any nearest closed door.

Stickman adventures – part four

stick figure 4

Floating disco lights should be distrusted, and you should stay close to the floor. If anyone is jumping from a building near you make sure you wave hello, especially if they are falling onto a mysterious X. Try to wear a funny hat.

Stickman adventures – part five

stick figure 3

Finally if a weird I Ching device turns up in your luggage, don’t put it into the washing machines or bricks will be thrown at you. You can escape bricks by disabling the elevator so people are forced to use the stairs.

TechFest, TechGirls, GeekGirls and Software Freedom

The last couple of weeks have been CRAZY! After getting back from my incredible Gung Fu week away, It was straight into everything. I flew back Saturday night, Sunday morning Jeff and I ran an OLPC TechFest in Sydney which had some amazing people come along, get talks about the OLPC server and XO projects, and then have some useful hacking time. In the middle of that I ran away to a wedding which was a big and wonderful Italian wedding, so Jeff was left holding the fort at the TechFest. There will be a more full report about the TechFest soon but there is a great write up by Sarah Maddox, so thanks Sarah! Awesome work by Martin Langhoff and Joel Stanley, who both totally rock!

A couple of days ago I spoke at a TechGirls event up at the Central Coast. I was the keynote speaker to about 200 girls aged 11-16 from the area, and it was fantastic! I got some excellent feedback (from girls and teachers alike) and I received this email which made it so incredibly worth it!

I thought you spoke extremely well and you have inspired me and my friends a lot. I aim to be a Graphic Designer sometime in the near future and you have encouraged me to follow my dreams. Up until today i was undecided if that was the career i wanted to pursue but after your speech today it has made my mind up. Thankyou very much for attending and sharing your views today. You have helped me choose my career.

Yes! I got a few other awesome emails and it was so exciting to have so many girls keen to get into IT.

Tonight was the third GeekGirl dinner in Sydney, which was awesome. Over 110 people (about 85% women) all getting together for an awesome evening of food, wine and talks. We had Claudia and another girl from Yahoo, and then Sara Falamaki, and all the talks were awesome. Then we played Guitar Hero for a while and it was a late night home. An awesome night and a major thanks to Damana, all the other organisers and to Yahoo for putting on such a great night πŸ™‚

I’m currently (and have been for a couple of years) President of Software Freedom International, the body behind Software Freedom Day which is coming up in September. This is an awesome day and we had over 330 teams from over 90 countries last year all taking the concepts of freedom, democratic software, and of course FOSS to the mainstream. All the teams generally do events that are locally relevant and you’ll see some teams have an entire village do a march, or a music festival, or, as Nepal did last year, a candle lighting ceremony πŸ™‚ It is a fascinating and exciting event and I’m so proud to be able to help make it happen. Anyway, we opened registrations for teams almost 2 weeks ago and we already have over 160 teams registered for this year! We are expecting around 500 teams. Check out the easy to browse map for teams near you, and register your event today! Only the first 300 teams get a team pack with shirts, stickers, badges, some CDs and more πŸ™‚


Lastly, one of my best friends Sue recently posted a whole schwag of photos on Facebook from our trip to China in 1999. It was one of the best trips of my life. I learnt a lot there and it reminded me how much I want to return! Below is a (kind of crappy) scan of one of my favourite photos!

Horseriding along the Yellow River (Huang He) in China

Yes, that is me with short, red hair and riding a young and very fast horse. The locals thought I was lost control but I galloped to the group in the distance and back again. It is one of my best memories πŸ™‚ There are also some photos of us at Shaolin Temple and more, but you’ll have to find me on Facebook πŸ™‚