Monash logo Jim Breen's Home Page - Part 2

Some Boring Personal Details

Career

I ended up as a University academic by a rather circuitous route. After a distinctly ordinary degree in mathematics, I joined the old Postmaster General's Department as a trainee programmer in 1968. I moved around a bit between the PMG and the Defence Department, and ended up a middle manager planning computer networks and facilities, having been a systems programmer, communications specialist, etc. Along the way I collected an MBA, which convinced me I didn't want to be manager, so in 1983 I joined a consultancy as a communications consultant. Lots of travelling, stress and missing my family led me to move to academia, and in 1985 I took a position of Principal Lecturer at the old Chisholm Institute of Technology. My management training/experience leapt out of the woodwork, as I was immediately made Head of the Department of Robotics & Digital Technology.

In 1990, as part of the "unification" of the tertiary education system in Australia, Chisholm merged with Monash University. My position was converted to the university equivalent (Associate Professor), and I took up a fixed-term appointment as (full) Professor while I was heading a department. In 1997, after 11.5 long-suffering years as the Head of the Department of Digital Systems (as the Department of Robotics & Digital Technology became in 1995) I handed over the reins to David Abramson in February 1997, and looked forward to the opportunity to concentrate on teaching & research. In 1998 along with three other departments we were reorganized into the School of Computer Science & Software Engineering, which is about half the Faculty.

By 2002 I had had enough. As I was 55 I was eligible to take early retirement on a (diminished) pension. My interests had drifted from communications to computational linguistics, so I seized the opportunity to make a major change. As a try-out, I took nearly a year's leave from the University (in Australia one accumulates a special form of leave called "long-service leave"), and when that was over in August 2003, I retired. I was appointed an Honorary (now Adjunct) Senior Research Fellow at Monash.

Personal

I live in Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne) with my wife of 44 years, Julia, who is a music teacher, teaching flute & piano within the Suzuki Method. Our eldest daughter, Katrina (41) lives nearby in Surrey Hills; she is a Suzuki teacher too, having done a BA in violin at the VCA. She has also completed a Diploma in Community Development, and works as a volunteer in a number of charities. Our son Simon (39) returned a few years back from the UK where he was on a working-holiday, where he worked in a bookshop, having previously done an honours degree in French and studied for an MA in French cinema. He now works in customer service with a software company associated with the book industry. Our youngest daughter, Louisa (35) is a free-lance pianist. She returned from London a couple of years back, having completed an MMus in 2001 at the Royal College of Music, followed by two years there as a Junior Fellow. In January 2006 she married Simon Forrester, a violist and violinist, and they live nearby in Blackburn South with their cat Oliver. In October 2010 they had a son, Edward, our first grand-child! Their second son, Robert was born in December 2012.

Our house lies on the banks of Back Creek, one of the few surviving creeks in the area. With some neighbours we have formed the Friends of Back Creek, for which I maintain the WWW page.

At the moment we are petless; our two elderly cats, Shadow and Stanley, died in 1998 and 1999 at the ripe old ages of 18 and 17.

Our main escape these days is our little weekender at Jamieson on Lake Eildon, about 2.5 hours from Melbourne. It's great for swimming & bush-walking, and is close to our favourite cross-country skiing spot at Mt Stirling. I am also a member (and former treasurer) of the Hawthorn Rowing Club, so you'll find me out on the Yarra in a scull or a four several times a week. Here are some pictures of my not-so-new scull. (I sold this scull at the end of 2008 - I wasn't using it enough.)

My late elder sister Patricia, suffered from MSA (Multiple System Atrophy). Her husband John maintains that WWW site as a resource centre for the illness.

Miscellaneous

Membership

Just to keep me out of trouble, I was a member of the University's Academic Board for 10 years (resigned at the end of 2000), the Education Committee of the Faculty of Information Technology, etc. etc. (If you are within Monash, you might like to look at my attempts at journalism in my Academic Board Reports collection.) I was a member of the Australian Internet Working Group (AIWG) (formerly the AARNet Engineering Working Group (AEWG)), which set up the first Internet backbone in Australia. I am a member of the board of the Japanese Studies Centre (a consortium covering all the Universities in Victoria dealing with Japanese studies matters). For 15 years I was a member of the Council of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (my youngest daughter's former school), and served as President and Treasurer. I am also a member of the Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne.

Linux

I have been a Linux user since 1994, and since 1999 have used it alone as my working environment. Why? Well I have been a Unix user since 1985 and an X11 user since 1991, so that is my preferred environment. Linux is far more cost-effective than the commercial Unices, and enables me to have compatible environments in my office and home.

In February 2001 I installed RedHat 6.2 on my new Toshiba 2800 Notebook. You can read the saga. In March 2002 I installed RedHat 7.2 on the same notebook. The story is much shorter. In September 2002 that notebook was stolen, and I replaced it with an IBM ThinkPad T23 on which I installed RedHat 7.3, which has its own short story.

At the end of 2005 I replaced the T23 with an R50e, on which I installed Fedora Core 4. No story. Worked "out-of-the-box".

In early 2009 I bought an ASUS EeePC 701, which came pre-loaded with Xandros Linux (based on Debian "etch".) Quite an impressive little system, and good value for $A300. My main challenge was to install a Japanese environment and input method. I use it as a carry-around email, Skype, etc. system.

2009 also saw me changing over from the RedHat/Fedora world to the Ubuntu flavour of Debian. There were several reasons for this: most people I interact with use Debian; I was annoyed by Fedora versions changing quickly without a clear upgrade path or ongoing support, etc. etc. I am now (June 2010) using Ubuntu 9.10 on all three of my workstations (home, Monash Uni., Melbourne Uni.)

Odd Things