Aug 31, 2016

Naive Victorian apartment rules shoot economy in the foot

While apartment approvals in New South Wales are booming, the Victorian government has taken a carefully planned set of steps to slash future apartment approvals to token levels.
Given that Victoria has been erecting many more apartments than NSW and all the other states, this will deliver a severe blow to employment in the state and, in many ways, is a bigger threat to the construction unions than the proposed Commonwealth ABCC legislation.
Given Melbourne has a similar population to Sydney, the Victorian government’s decision to slash apartment building will not only create a Victorian recession but also increase the risk of the nation going into recession within 18 months, as the current pipeline of Victorian apartment projects are completed. NSW cannot carry the whole nation.
In summary, Victorian approvals are set to be slashed because the Victorian government is increasing the cost of building apartments by about $100,000. That means an apartment that currently costs $400,000 will now cost $500,000 and so on up the scale. Whether it was planned or not, the boost to the cost of apartments will make it tougher for first home buyers to get onto the property ladder and force dwelling developments into the outer suburbs, with the greater levels of infrastructure investment that such projects require. Only when the price of apartments rises to cover the higher costs will building restart.
Currently, Victoria faces a glut of apartments, particularly smaller ones, but given the looming price hikes for future apartments the glut is likely to be of a much shorter duration than was originally feared.
I am grateful for the research conducted by Craig Yelland, a director of one of Victoria’s leading architects, Plus Architecture.
The Victorian government requirements that will lead to a lift in the cost of apartment building come in two parts:
  • Firstly, any apartment complex over two storeys must allow more open space and be further set back from the road which means that less apartments can be built on any block. Under the old rules, a block where, say, 367 apartments could be built, now only 213 can be built — a 40 per cent reduction in the yield. The actual boost to the cost of apartments caused by this regulatory change depends on the project, but for most it will boost the cost of each apartment by $20,000 to $40,000.
  • Secondly the Victorian government has introduced around 15 specific building requirements each of which add between $2,000 and $10,500 to the cost of a unit — a combined increase of $62,500. The details can be viewed in this PDFbut by requiring greater window areas and other changes, they lift the minimum size of the apartments and lessen the flexibility.
Combining the two sets of measures adds an average of around $100,000 to the cost of apartments.
Had these measures been introduced at the start of the apartment building boom their blows would have been less devastating. But in 2016, the measures come in the middle of a bank credit squeeze on apartment developments, which is forcing many developers around the nation to use high-cost second mortgage financiers to fund more of their apartment developments. This is also curbing development in NSW.
If the Victorian government had confined its attack on the apartment industry to requiring greater size and higher quality, the blows would not have been so devastating. It would take time but apartment developers would be able to market new stock on the basis that it offered a better apartment and therefore it should cost more.
But to improve apartments at the same time as reducing the amount of apartments that can be built on any one block and to time the moves so it coincides with a bank credit squeeze shows extreme naivety on the part of the Victorian government. Alternatively, it could be a carefully planned move to divert development to the outer suburbs.
One of the reasons why so many more apartments are being built in Melbourne than in Sydney is that in years gone by it was easier to gain a permit. The Sydney apartment market became dominated by Harry Triguboff because few other developers had the patience to go through all the hoops. Now it’s easier to gain approval in Sydney.
The apartment boom has enabled Victoria to overcome the impact on jobs of the recent decline in manufacturing. But coinciding with the cessation of apartment developments, the Victorian government has decided to stop coal seam gas development and deprive farmers of the $100,000-a-year income which Queensland farmers are enjoying. The inevitable rise in gas prices will start to hit the state as apartment developments are slashed.
The almost inevitable Victorian recession will change the national outlook and make a nonsense of the Federal Budget growth sums. The development of lower cost apartments in Melbourne will restart when prices rise by around $100,000 per apartment and the banking regulator allows the banks to once again lend to apartment developers. Meanwhile the value of development land will fall.

Aug 29, 2016

The True Corruption of Agile | 8th Light

Andrew Binstock recently wrote a blog entitled The Corruption of Agile, which built upon another blog by Allen Holub entitled The Agile Holocracy. Allow me to summarize:
Holub says:
"...agile is a culture, not a set of practices..."
Binstock amplifies:
"Whether a site is Agile or not depends on its culture. Does the culture support the personal values of the manifesto? If so, it's Agile, if not, then it's doing something else. So, indeed you could have a fully Agile site without TDD, continuous integration, or scrum. Likewise, you can have a site that uses all three practices, but cannot adapt to changes and is wholly inflexible in its work — so, not at all Agile."
At first blush these statements seem reasonable. After all, a culture is an expression of values. However, Holub's and Binstock's statements carry with them the implication that culture and practice are separate. They are not. Indeed, culture isdefined by practice.
You know the culture you are in by observing the practices of the people around you. If you see a woman in a burka, you can guess her culture. If you see a bride and groom breaking a glass under a canopy, you can guess the culture. If you see a batch of children swinging a stick at a paper mache donkey hanging from a tree, you can guess the culture.[1]
You can't have a culture without practices; and the practices you follow identify your culture.


As an example of this I was once a member of a Jiu Jistsu dojo: Hakko Ryu, the School of the Eight Light. We adhered to the practice that, upon entering or leaving the dojo, we would bow to the dojo. This was an expression of respect for the place in which we learned, and for the knowledge and skills that we gained. If a new student joined, they would quickly observe and emuluate this practice. No one had to tell them to do it. The practice was contagious.
One day, our Sensei proposed a new practice. If you were late to class, instead of simply bowing, you would also drop down and do 10 pushups. He asked us if we would accept this new practice. This created an immediate schism. The younger folks were all in favor of this new practice because it was an expression of respect for the value of punctuality and also respect for those students who were on time. Others of us were opposed because this new practice represented a disrespect for those of us who had complex schedules that made regular punctuality impractical. We valued our professions and our marriages above the dojo and did not want that value punished.
The Sensei had made his proposal at the end of a class, and asked us how we felt. I blurted out that I was "fundamentally opposed". When asked why, I could not articulate the reason. The practice struck at a value that was so deep and intrinsic, I could not find the words. Indeed, even though this event happened over fifteen years ago, I only just found the words as I wrote this blog. At the time I simply responded by saying I needed more time to process.
The class ended with no decision. The subsequent scene in the locker room was grim. Those of us who didn't like the proposed rule eyed each other and shook our heads. One member even vocalized his frustration by saying "things are changing for the worse around here."
Fortunately, before this negativity could get out of hand, the Sensei walked into the locker room and said: "Forget I said anything about it. Please act as though the proposal had never been made." This was a very wise move. The negativity and suspicion had not had time to take root, and by the next class it was gone.
This is an example of how deeply entangled practices are with values and with culture. Cultures express their values through their practices. It is absurd to imply, as Holub and Binstock do, that practice is irrelevant to culture.
Despite Binstock's assertion, if you find yourself in a team who practice continuous integration, short iterations, pair programming, and test driven development, it is a powerful indication you are in a team who shares the values of the agile manifesto. If they did not share those values, they would not follow those practices.


Of course it's possible for a team to be so entrenched in practice that, over time, they forget the values expressed by those practices. This is a common failing of bureaucracies and religions. They become so strongly defined by their practices, that the practices become rituals, the original values are forgotten, and the rituals becomethe values.
The fear of ritualism is appropriate. In 1999, when Kent Beck and I decided to put our energies into the promotion of Extreme Programming, we feared that we could be starting a religion instead of a movement, and vowed to fight ritualism when it arose. This concern and vow was expressed again in the 2001 meeting that produced the Agile Manifesto.
But in the years since, ritualism has not been the problem. We don't see lots of people ritualistically practicing pair programming, test driven development, small releases, on-site customer, etc. We do see people adopting these practices out of enthusiasm. But enthusiasm should not be mistaken for religion or ritualism. Enthusiasm implies a change to the status quo; ritualism implies the exact opposite.
Perhaps it was the fear of ritualism that motivated Holub and Binstock to suggest the separation of practice from culture. Perhaps they fear that the emphasis upon practice is necessarily a deemphasis of value. But this is entirely incorrect. The current enthusiasm for TDD, for example, is a very deep expression of value.
In any case, if you separate the practices from a culture, as Holub and Binstock suggest, then you corrupt the culture. You simply cannot have a culture devoid of practice.


I raised the specter of TDD because Binstock railed against it rather loudly in his blog. For example:
"It will pain some readers to know that the vast, error-free Internet predates Agile and even predates TDD. Crazy, right?"
And again:
"When I speak with adherents of test-driven development (TDD) in particular, there is a seeming non-comprehension that truly excellent, reliable code was ever developed prior to the advent of this one practice. I sense their view that the long history of code that put man on the moon, ran phone switches, airline reservation systems, and electric grids was all the result of luck or unique talents, rather than the a function of careful discipline and development rigor."
These rather snide complaints are disappointing. Is a practice like TDD, or the enthusiasm for that practice, so threatening that it should be answered with derision?
Of course good software was built before TDD. Good software is being built todaywithout TDD. So What? Those facts imply nothing at all about the effectiveness of TDD. After all, many doctors saved lives before the practice of sterile procedure, and many accountants managed to keep reasonable accounts before the practice of double entry bookkeeping. So what? Past success does not imply the ineffectiveness of new practices; nor does past success imply that the enthusiasm for new practices is inappropriate.

The Tension of Adoption

I understand why people might look at new practices with skepticism. The enthusiastic adoption of a new practice by one group creates tension with others who do not adopt the practice. The adopters can make the non-adopters feel slighted and invalidated; as if everything they had ever done in the past was wrong. The adopters, in their enthusiasm, may claim that adoption is a new requirement of professionalism. The non-adopters may claim that the adopters are fanatics who are detached from reality and ignorant of the past.
Certainly this happened with sterile procedure in medicine. The adopters were derided and dismissed by the medical establishment for sixty years before the adopters eventually outnumbered the non-adopters. Doctors at the time did not like to think that they were causing disease by failing to wash their hands. They also expressed their concern about the time such washing procedures would require. Then, as now, doctors were busy people. Hand-washing rituals would reduce the number of patients that could be treated.
Double entry bookkeeping had an even more checkered history, being adopted, forgotten, re-adopted, decreed, and ignored, for three centuries. The fight to make that practice mainstream was long and difficult.
Nowadays these practices are ingrained in the cultures of medicine and accounting. It is hard to imagine a doctor who fails to scrub before surgery, or an accountant who uses single-entry bookkeeping for corporate accounts.
The new practices won out over the old ones because the population of those who did not wish to change their practices gradually declined while the population of those who were enthusiastic about the new practices grew. The new practices expressed a shift in the values of the cultures that adopted them. Those practices cannot nowadays be separated from those shifted cultures.

The True Corruption of Agile

The biggest problem I have seen within the Agile movement is the elimination of the practices. One by one, over the years, the practices have been de-emphasized, or even stripped away. This loss of practice has diluted and changed the Agile culture into something that I don't recognize as Agile any more. It has been a shift away from excellence towards mediocrity, away from hard realities, towards feel-good platitudes.
It began with the notion that anyone could become a "master" of anything by sitting in a two day class and getting a piece of paper. Soon to follow was the dilution and eventual loss of the technical practices. This prompted Martin Fowler to publish his classic and definitive blog: Flaccid Scrum. Then came the emphasis of project management over craftsmanship and the rise of the soft skills (attitudes) over the hard skills (practices).
At that 2001 meeting in Snowbird where we wrote the Agile Manifesto, Kent Beck stated one of our goals: " heal the divide between development and business." Unfortunately the deemphasis of practices within the Agile movement has only served to widen that divide. While project managers have flocked into the Agile movement, developers have fled out of it. The original movement has fractured into two movements. The Software Craftsmanship movement has preserved the coupling between practice and culture; whereas the Agile movement has shifted away from it.
So, to my mind, the true corruption of Agile is Holub's statement:
"...agile is a culture, not a set of practices..."
No. Agile is a culture expressed through a set of practices.
Are those practices set in stone? Are the original 13 practices of XP the holy writ? Are you an apostate if you don't practice TDD? Of course not. But if you don't use those particular practices, you'd better use some that are as good or better. And the practices you use will define your culture and be an expression of your values.
If your values are those of the Agile Manifesto, then your practices will likely look alot like those original 13; because to a large degree it was those 13 practices that drove us to write that manifesto.
If you've got better practices, I'd love to see them. If I believe they are better, I'll adopt them in a heartbeat. Because, under no circumstances, will I become the doctor who gets in the way of hand-washing.

  • [1] If your political correctness alarm just started to ring, you can shut if off. Yes, I'm profiling. I'm profiling because cultures define profiles. If a culture did not define stereotypes and profiles it would not be a culture. There is no such thing as a culture without profiles.
Robert Martin (Uncle Bob) is a Master Craftsman. He's an award-winning author, renowned speaker, and has been an ├╝ber software geek since 1970.

Aug 26, 2016

See You Skype: 8 Alternatives That Are Worth the Hype | GetApp


by Karen McCandless 

Published on 17 June 2015

Skype might be good enough for your Grandma, but can it really be trusted for your business communications?


On paper, Skype is now a tempting choice for a company, as well as being the go-to tool for catching up with tech-fearing relatives. While some businesses may be using the familiar consumer version (which is also available as a web service), the app also comes in another flavor: Skype for Business, which is part of the Office 365 platform. Skype for Business is a rebranded version of Lync, Microsoft's previous business communication tool. It was launched in mid 2015 and brought with it a whole host of enterprise security and IT control features, and includes some great tools for company collaboration.

But Skype (in both forms) is by no means without its issues (many of which are well documented), such as poor call quality, out-of-control notifications, poor connections, problems with Skype credit, and so on. The good news is that there are many communication apps that are credible alternatives to Microsoft's popular product. Here are some of the best of the bunch.


ringcentral RingCentral is an voice-focused alternative to Skype that brings a professional edge to VoIP for business. The solution emphasizes security, as well as ease of use, focusing on voice calling, text messaging and conference. And those are tasks that RingCentral does exceptionally well. Overall, it's solid, reliable, and flexible.


Aircall's VoIP solution is an excellent way to simplify and localize the way you connect with your customer. From providing you with local phone numbers in up-to 30 countries, to cascading phone calls through team members, to the shared inbox option where multiple employees can access voice messages, Aircall has a strong feature set. There are also no limits to the amount of calls you can make at one time, while desktop notifications mean that you can always be aware of when your customers are calling.


8×8 helps you to better service your customers with a smattering of intuitive features and a squeaky clean interface. It's a fully-featured VoIP application that provides more than just phone service. 8×8 also includes first-class web conferencing, faxing and mobile integration. If you're switching from Skype, you'll appreciate the improved audio quality, which sounds clear as a bell, thanks to its audio compression methods. Add to that excellent iOS and Android integration, and 8×8 quickly becomes a worthy alternative to Skype for business. is all about VoIP rather than video chat, focusing on providing the a fully-featured conference call service for your business. Innovative features include conference calling for up to 500 people, SMS messaging to your number, the ability to send and receive faxes from your account, and integration with the mobile app, which allows you to start group messaging chats. While you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading's software, you computer can serve this purpose just as well.

Team on the Run

Team on the Run is a robust and scalable mobile messaging application, Team on the Run was designed for businesses of all sizes. From five-person wedding planning agencies to private organizations with 10,000 or more employees, Team on the Run is a reliable and convenient tool that saves organizations time, money, and space. In addition to secure mobile messaging, Team on the Run also offers mobile corporate directories, ECM support and cloud storage access, web chat, and VoIP/walkie-talkie capabilities..


As the name suggests, GoToMeeting is all about arranging meetings and it makes it pretty easy, too. With the ability to virtually meet with up to 25 people, you can either chose to chat via video or VoIP, or join with your mobile phone. There's a plethora of other useful features, including screen sharing, personal "chat rooms", and the ability to record the meeting and share it with those people who were unable to attend. It's straightforward and simple to use.

Zoho Meeting

There are a couple of features that make Zoho Meeting a particularly interesting alternative to Skype. First of all, as Zoho offers a number of other apps such as CRM, Chat, and Calendar, you can start the meeting directly from there, as well as other integrations such as Google Apps. What makes it a useful business tool is that you can rebrand the app according to your company brand, as well as easily manage users and create customized reports. Then it also comes with all the usual features, such as VoIP, video chat, and screen sharing.

Cisco WebEx

Cisco WebEx has a strong focus on HD video calling, with a key feature being its ability to show seven screens at a time. It also comes with audio and video recording options, as well as annotation, note taking, and whiteboarding tools. The screen sharing feature is pretty cool, allowing you to only share certain apps on your screen, instead of your whole desktop, as is the "call me" option, which has a phone call you instead of you having to dial in.

While may market itself as a simple solution that is super easy to use, it actually boasts features to rival its more "complicated" competitors. It has the usual VoIP, screensharing, video chat, and file transfer features, plus record functionality, the ability to chat with up to 250 participants, calendar plug ins, integration, cloud storage, and personal chat rooms, along with integrated mobile apps. Overall, it's a fully-featured program that is suitable even for tech novices.

If you still haven't found what you're looking for, check out GetApp's full list of communication apps, or see how customer service, CRM, and call center apps are rated on GetRank, GetApp's quarterly ranking of business apps.

Joseph Gutnick’s brother labels fallen millionaire a fraud | Herald Sun

THE brother of Joseph Gutnick has dubbed the fallen millionaire a fraud claiming he sold a home from under him despite it meaning he and his family could be left homeless.
Now the brothers could be forced to face off in the Supreme Court as developers desperately try to have Abraham Gutnick evicted from his home of 14 years.
Joseph and Abraham Gutnick are at war over the sale of the St Kilda East property the former Demons president off-loaded as he faced bankruptcy.
Abraham says the brothers had an agreement dating to 2002 that the house was his in exchange for a Bondi property he says was left to him by their dad Chaim.
But on paper the house stayed linked to Joseph who paid all rent, utilities, rates and associated outgoings.
Abraham Gutnick leaves the Supreme Court. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
The Supreme Court heard today that when selling the property to developers, they were forced to sign a side agreement keeping the deal secret.
Abraham lives in the home with his wife, five children, and 88-year-old mother-in-law.
“We allege fraud against Joseph Gutnick,” his lawyer Kristine Hanscombe QC said today.
“Joseph Gutnick sells his property out from under his brother in a deceitful way.”
Abraham wants to appeal a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision handing possession of the property to the developers that bought the home.
The matter is due to go to trial in the Supreme Court where evidence about the alleged agreement is expected to be heard.
Mr Gutnick, who was once worth $300 million, filed for bankruptcy last month.
He claims he has just $16,087 in cash and cash bank deposits, and doesn’t own a car or home, documents filed in support of his bankruptcy state.
He currently has debts of more than $275 million, after a legal dispute with former business partner Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO).
The former Melbourne Football Club president and mining mogul states he has not sold, transferred, or given away any assets worth more than $1000 in the past five years.
Other than general household furniture, Mr Gutnick said he does not own any items of value, including jewellery, artworks or antiques.

Aug 18, 2016

China cracks down on underground bank network

China has launched a massive crackdown on underground banks in a bid to stem the multi-billion illegal cross-border yuan trade. So far, around 450 suspects from 192 illegal banks have been detained over 200bn yuan (£23bn, €26.5bn, $30bn) )in illicit transactions this year alone.

The crackdown comes as Beijing faces strong capital outflows due to expectations of the yen weakening. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) noted that China's foreign exchange reserves fell by about $450bn last year, despite signs of stabilisation in recent months.

Luo Yonglong, the Deputy Director of supervision with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said the widespread use of underground banks had created a huge monetary black hole which undermined the financial markets as well as affected the government's macroeconomic policy. "The damage is obvious," Luo said, according to the SCMP.

Under current laws, the capital account is largely unavailable to individuals. Chinese residents can change only up to $50,000 worth of foreign currencies per year.

Despite this, there is great demand for offshore property as well as for illicitly gained funds to be moved abroad, the newspaper said.

"Underground money shops are a scaled business now in China, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of shell companies with the sole purpose of getting money out of China," Renmin University Professor of finance, Zhao Xijun, said. He added authorities have no choice but to act as the situation could easily get out of control and disrupt the market.

SCMP said the authorities have admitted that the underground bank network had become "wider and deeper" and that it was becoming harder for officials to clamp down on them. While these networks are found across the country, they are particularly prevalent in Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Fujian, Shandong, Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Gansu.

Chinese Yuan

Underground banks in China are posing a major problem to authorities Reuters

In June, Guangdong police arrested 17 people from an underground bank network, which they claimed posed a serious threat to national security. The suspects allegedly used a fake electronic component company and its subsidiaries as a front for money transfers.

"Underground banks have covered up crimes ... and some [suspects] have abetted criminals involved in terrorism and drug smuggling, severely threatening national security," a senior official with the Ministry of Public Security said, according to Legal Daily.

The main suspects used a web of over 360 bank accounts at 13 commercial banks.

Aug 17, 2016

Drowning by averages: did the ABS miscalculate the Census load?

There’s an old parable used in introductory statistics classes to illustrate how an average can be misleading when maximum values are of interest. The parable is of a person who drowns while walking across a river.

The person can’t swim but is not concerned because the average depth of the river is only 20cm. The problem is the average depth of the river is not useful information here; what is needed is information about the maximum depth so that they don’t end up over their head.

The river might well be only 20cm deep on average but several metres deep in the middle. As with river crossings, so too with various networks loads.

While the precise reason for the meltdown of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) online census system last night remains unclear, there is a lesson to be learned about load testing.

Prior to the census date of Tuesday, August 9, the ABS announced that there was no danger of the system being unable to handle the load on census night. Why? Because it had tested the system.

Or, rather, the ABS paid a considerable sum of money to an external party to test the system. Load testing is performed to some given specifications and here we find what could be a serious problem in the ABS testing procedure.


In order to reassure the public, who were growing nervous about the new online census, the ABS made the following statement:

The online Census form can handle 1,000,000 form submissions every hour. That’s twice the capacity we expect to need.

From this statement, it seems the ABS load-tested for 1 million submissions per hour, while expecting 0.5 million per hour. But there are between 9 and 10 million households in Australia, and the ABS was expecting around 15 million census submissions in total, with 65% submitted online.

Of course, not all these submissions would come on August 9, but most would. Moreover, the vast majority of these submissions would be expected to come in the peak-traffic time of early evening (between around 6pm and 10pm AEST).

The ABS’s expected load of 0.5 million submissions per hour only makes sense as an average load across a large part of the day. For example, if there were 0.5 million submissions evenly spread across 12 hours on August 9, that would give us 6 million submissions for this period.

But it is clear that load would not be spread evenly. And, to stress the obvious, it is the peak load that we’re interested in. Any reasonable estimate of the peak load for the early evening period is in the vicinity of several million per hour.

Worse still, there is no reason to expect the load to be evenly spread within this period. It is not beyond the realms of plausibility that 3 or 4 million people would be trying to log on to the system at, say, precisely 7.10pm.

Of course, all of this is consistent with an average load of 0.5 million submissions per hour for August 9. But from what the ABS has said, it is not clear that it tested for such peaks.

ABS up to its neck   

So we should be careful not to take averages too seriously. As any statistician knows, an average is one (very crude) way of summarising data.

Other summaries include information about the most frequent data (mode), the middle of the data (median) and the spread of the data (variance).

To take the average too seriously in some settings, such as in the river-crossing parable and calculating network loads, is tantamount to confusing the average with the peak (i.e. to take the river to be uniformly 20cm deep or the census submission rate to be uniformly 0.5 million per hour).

It might seem uncharitable to suggest that such an elementary statistical mistake lies behind the ABS website problems last night – especially when talking about an organisation filled with statisticians.

The ABS’s story this morning is that it deliberately shut down the system to protect it from a number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. This is like the river crossing being hit by a flash flood at the crucial time.

But there is good reason to suspect that even without such DDoS attacks, the system was in serious danger of being overloaded. This means even a small rise in the water level, as it were, could have been enough to cause a catastrophic failure.

Our intrepid river crosser may in fact have been drowned by an unexpected flash flood. But given their failure to recognise the limitations of averages as statistical summaries, they were in trouble the moment they dipped their toe in the water.

Aug 16, 2016

Car Door Won't Stay Open - How To Replace Hinge Detent Mechanism

This GMC Jimmy had a problem with the driver's side door. First, the door had begun to sag because the hinge pins had become badly worn.
Second, the door would swing too easily. Sometimes the door would swing shut unexpectedly (especially on a windy day or when the car was not parked on a level surface), which can cause the door to hit the person getting into the vehicle. Also, the door could open too fast and strike an adjacent car in a parking lot.
Car doors usually have two detent positions, halfway open and fully open. A detent is a device that holds something in place... for example an automatic transmission gear shift usually has detents that keep the shift linkage in the desired gear. A car door detent device may also be called a hold-open mechanism.
When a car door swings uncontrollably, it's possible that the detent mechanism has worn out.

Aug 13, 2016

Tartan myths: case of English snobs telling Scots what to wear

In 1937, the keeper of the Privy Purse tore a strip off a kilt-maker who dared to inquire whether he might sell kilts made from the ­Balmoral tartan, invented by Prince Albert in 1853 and still worn by the royal family. That tartan, declared Ulick Alexander, “is purely personal and private to His Majesty and the royal family and can, in no circumstances, be worn by other people”.
The same line is maintained today, with the royal website stating that the only non-royal permitted to wear Balmoral is the Queen’s piper. This is nonsense. The idea of ancient ownership of tartan is a myth, for the entire story of tartan is a glorious invention, cooked up by a couple of enterprising gay Victorian fashionistas from Egham in Surrey, popularised by a German prince and probably first worn by the Chinese.
The Queen can no more stop you from wearing her tartan than she can dictate your choice of underwear. The ban on commoners sporting the Balmoral pattern is a convention, not a rule, and therefore there to be broken.
The real history of tartan is not a clan-based system of what may be worn by whom, but a sartorial free-for-all, in which everyone wore whatever pattern appealed, or no pattern at all. The regulations about who may wear what tartan are a Victorian hangover that says much about the strange British predilection for codification and exclusive uniforms. Like so much else in our national life, tartan was appropriated to make social distinctions, to prove membership of a particular ancestral club, and to bar non-members.
Some of the earliest tartan was found on a 3000-year-old mummy discovered in the Taklamakan desert in northwest China. Little is known for sure about Cherchen Man and his tartan trews, but he certainly didn’t come from Scotland. The Iron Age Hallstatt people of central Europe also wore tartan. The very word itself derives from the French tartarin, meaning cloth from Tartary, in what is now Russia and Ukraine.
Early travellers in the Scottish Highlands reported while the locals wore clothing of different, and often intricately woven patterns, these did not necessarily denote allegiance to anyone or membership of any body, but depended on location, the availability of different dyes and above all personal taste. Some wore several different tartans at once.
Contemporary paintings of the Battle of Culloden suggest the ­Jacobite troops went into the fray not clad in tartans denoting specific clans, but wearing a bewildering variety of patterns. The idea tartan could be used as a differentiating uniform came soon after, with the Dress Act of 1746 banning the wearing of tartan except by ­Highland regiments of the British Army.
In 1815, the Highland Society (of London, naturally) began trying to regulate which tartan was whose. The chief of clan Macdonald confessed he had no idea what his clansmen wore. “Being really ignorant of what is exactly the Macdonald tartan”, he suggested the society choose one for him.
The tartan explosion began with George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, when Walter Scott and the Celtic Society urged the Scottish population to turn out “all plaided and plumed in their tartan array”. The clan-specific tartans that emerged as a result were invented wholesale. But it took the Victorians to ­ignite the tartan taxonomy craze, with their new chemical dyes, ­romantic myths about Scottish history and taste for social and familial distinctions.
The Vestiarium Scoticum, published in 1842, identified and listed the various “official” Scottish tartans, allegedly based on a 16th-century ­Scottish manuscript. This was the work of two men, the Sobieski Stuarts, who claimed to be grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Vestiarium was a forgery. The Sobieski Stuarts were from Surrey, apparently named John and Charles Allen. They were probably not brothers at all, but lovers. Like most fashion trends, the whole thing was a ­magnificent scam.
But the royals went mad for it. Prince Albert appears to have been afflicted by a particularly chronic case of tartanophilia. In addition to designing the royal tartan, he decked out Balmoral Castle in no fewer than three different tartans: Royal Stewart and the green Hunting Stewart tartans for ­carpets, and Dress Stewart for ­curtains and upholstery — a crime against interior decoration that even the most tasteless Scottish hotel would avoid.
Encouraged by this royal ­obsession, sartorial snobs and canny retailers began creating ­tartans at an astonishing rate, investing them with tribal and symbolic meaning and complicated clan lineage, most of it totally bogus. There are somewhere between 3500 and 7000 different tartans, with around 150 new ones being invented every year.
I occasionally wear a Macintyre tartan kilt, but my children wear trendy black kilts bought off the internet. My Polish friend got married in Royal Stewart tartan. Just this week I had lunch with a Russian minister, on holiday in Argyll, who wore the Campbell kilt. This is exactly how tartan should be worn, and was worn in ancient times.
The fiercer of the dress enforcers like to claim they are adhering to tradition by wearing the ­“correct” tartan (and by implication, preventing the unentitled from admission to the tribe).
But anyone with a proper sense of history should go back far further, to an earlier, more generous custom: and wear whatever tartan they like.

Aug 12, 2016

IBM's reputation at risk in wake of census bungle

Three days after millions of Australians headed to bed frustrated and angry, having unsuccessfully tried to complete the census online, we still don't know exactly what went wrong, or who to blame.

Politicians have chosen to blame the only non-government entity involved - US-based tech giant IBM, which won the $9.6 million contract in 2014 to design, develop and implement the online census.

Who's responsible for the census hack?

There are a few different theories as to who is behind the disruption on census night. Fairfax David Wroe explains the possibilities.

"The denial of service attacks were completely predictable and should have been repelled readily. They weren't because of failures in the system that had been put in place for ABS by IBM, and as I said there are issues for both IBM and ABS about that," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told radio station 2GB on Thursday.

"There is no doubt that there were serious failures in the systems preparation for an entirely predictable denial of service attack."

Meanwhile Senator Nick Xenophon has said taxpayers should ask IBM for their money back.

Even Treasurer Scott Morrison has raised the possibility of legal action. 

"If there are issues relating to the service provider in this case, then you could expect us to pursue that to the nth degree," Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Friday morning.

Last night an IBM spokeswoman finally came out publicly to say the Australian Signals Directorate [ASD] confirmed no data was compromised and it "regret[s] the inconvenience that has occurred". 

Diamond Joe Gutnick accused of hiding assets as his brother fights eviction

The brother of recently bankrupt businessman Joseph Gutnick has launched urgent legal action to stop being evicted from a property linked to his brother amid allegations the one-time mining magnate has been hiding assets from his creditors.

Abraham Gutnick is fighting a series of eviction notices served between May and June this year ordering him to leave his home of more than 10 years at 7 Balaclava Road, East St Kilda.







'Diamond Joe' loses his sparkle

Once a BRW rich-lister, mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has filed for bankruptcy.

The Supreme Court of Victoria heard on Thursday the eviction followed a "set of circumstances within the family", Abraham Gutnick's lawyer Kristine Hanscombe, QC, told the court.  

Abraham Gutnick lives at the property with his wife, five children and 83-year old mother-in-law, the court heard.

Joseph Gutnick's brother Abraham leaving court on Thursday as he fights a series of eviction notices.

Joseph Gutnick's brother Abraham leaving court on Thursday as he fights a series of eviction notices. Photo: Sarah Danckert

Joseph ("Diamond Joe") Gutnick, who in July declared himself bankrupt owing creditors $275 million, and his wife Stera sold the property at 7 Balaclava Road to real estate agent David Besser and Renato Spinosa on July 27 last year for $1.85 million, according to land title records.  

On the same day Mr Besser and Mr Spinosa established the company, Balaclava Heights. The eviction notices were served by Balaclava Heights.

The property sale came just after Joseph Gutnick lost a legal battle in Singapore on May 7, 2015, brought by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative (IFFCO) that would end up costing him $54 million and sending him bankrupt.

Abraham Gutnick had no idea the house he lived in had been sold until several months after the transaction when he "heard rumours within the family that Joseph Gutnick was trying to hide assets", Dr Hanscombe told the court.

Joseph Gutnick declared himself bankrupt in July.

Joseph Gutnick declared himself bankrupt in July. Photo: Jesse Marlow

Dr Hanscombe told the court the lease agreement over the property was between two companies – the then owner of the property Edinox Pty Ltd and the tenant Mazal Properties – controlled by Joseph Gutnick, his wife Stera and son, and that the wheeling and dealing over the property was a "charade".

Company records show Joseph Gutnick transferred his shares in Mazal to his wife Stera five days before selling the property. 

The court heard Mazal Properties paid the rent on the Balaclava Road property up until June this year.

Lawyer for Balaclava Heights Leslie Glick, QC, said Mazel signed a 12-month lease over the property in August last year to give Abraham Gutnick time to move out.

"Mr Gutnick, Joseph Gutnick was looking after his brother. His brother's charity has looked after him," Mr Glick told the court.  

Mr Glick told the court the owners of the property had been trying to inspect the home for some time but had not been able to gain entry.

"Abraham Gutnick ignores us and won't let us in. What is he doing there? He's lived on the charity of his brother since 2003," Mr Glick said.

Mr Glick told the court his client, Balaclava Heights, "had nothing to do with Joseph Gutnick".

The Supreme Court application came after warrants were issued to take possession of the property within 48 hours this week.  The warrant was issued after a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing this week.

 Abraham Gutnick, who the court heard is due to have surgery next week, attended court with his wife and children. At times during the hearing he held his head in his hands. He declined to comment after the proceeding that could have left him homeless. Joseph Gutnick did not respond to request for comment.

The warrants have been stayed until a full hearing into the matter this month.

As revealed by Fairfax Media, Joseph Gutnick declared himself bankrupt on July 8 this year owing his creditors $275 million, including more than $130 million in debts to related parties or family members.  

The former BRW Rich Lister claimed to have only $16,087 in cash, $2 million in superannuation and no other assets. He also claimed he made no asset transfers in the five years leading up to his bankruptcy, according to bankruptcy documents. 

His decision to enter bankruptcy followed a bruising legal battle with IFFCO that found he owed the company $54 million.

IFFCO launched the legal action after a deal between the co-operative and Joseph Gutnick's company Legend International, to supply tonnes of phosphate to be used as fertiliser, went wrong.

Legend International has since been placed into administration as a worldwide search is conducted for Joseph Gutnick's assets.

Aug 11, 2016

Gutnick clan moves to up Merlin Diamonds stake

The Gutnick family is preparing to plough nearly $2.4 million into listed explorer and miner Merlin Diamonds a little more than a month after the clan's patriarch Joseph Gutnick entered bankruptcy.

Merlin Diamonds announced on Friday it would hold a general meeting on September 6 to consider a recapitalisation proposal that will lift the Gutnicks' stake in the group to close to 40 per cent.







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'Diamond Joe' loses his sparkle

Once a BRW rich-lister, mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has filed for bankruptcy.

Mr Gutnick already owns 14 per cent in the company however the recapitalisation will reduce his individual shareholder to 6.7 per cent while lifting his family's exposure to 32.8 per cent.

The equity injection is expected to help the struggling Northern Territory diamond mine owner to conduct further exploration of the diamond reserves on site and to develop those reserves so that they produce minerals. 

Joseph Gutnick resigned as a director of Merlin Diamonds on July 8.

Joseph Gutnick resigned as a director of Merlin Diamonds on July 8. Photo: Jesse Marlow

Chabad Properties, a company that counts Mr Gutnick among its shareholders, will provide a $2 million to the company for its exploration and development plans by way of convertible notes.

Fairfax Media revealed last month Mr Gutnick and his wife Stera issued a $2.7 million mortgage over a sprawling property on Inkerman Street in St Kilda East through Chabad Properties.

Chabad Properties, according to Merlin Diamonds notice of meeting, is the trustee of the Machon Chaim College Fund – a charitable education organisation.

Mr Gutnick resigned as a director of Merlin Diamonds on July 8, the day after he declared bankruptcy, leaving his eldest son Mordechai Gutnick to take over the chairmanship of Merlin Diamonds.

Mordechai Gutnick is also a director and shareholder of Chabad Properties and took over a number of his father's businesses ahead of the bankruptcy.

Under the recapitalisation process, Mordechai Gutnick will also tip in $392,054 for development, exploration and working capital purposes through his company NRMZ. Delaware-incorporated Regals Fund LP will also chip in $1.3 million.

If shareholders approve all three equity injections, Chabad Properties will become the group's largest shareholder with 28.23 per cent. Regals will own 20.09 per cent and NRMZ 5.53 per cent. 

Mr Gutnick's bankruptcy came after a legal stoush with the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative that resulted in a phosphate supply deal with his company Legend International that went bad. Before his bankruptcy the Supreme Court of Victoria found Mr Gutnick was personally liable to pay IFFCO $54 million over the botched deal.