Random Post: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, ElectroneX, Train Stuff, Site Updates, etc.

It’s been another long break from my last random post, and it’s no co-incidence that I’ve been extremely busy. In fact, I’ve been so busy that the blog hasn’t been able to get the time it deserves – so I took some time out today to clear away some of the clutter that’s on my mind. Think of this as a “cleansing” process …

DSC_7352Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

It just so happens that today is the mid-autumn festival day, so happy mid-autumn festival! It’s time to enjoy the mooncake in the company of your family and look up at the beautiful moon.

 

ElectroneX

It’s not long to go to ElectroneX in Sydney – the showfloor is open on Wednesday from 10am to 6pm and Thursday from 10am to 5pm at Redfern Technology Park.

electronex

Remember the Raspberry Pi Model B+ article? Well, here’s the scoopI’ll be at Electronex at the element14 stand demonstrating the Raspberry Pi, and something akin to the ADSBpi. Furthermore, there’s supposed to be an exclusive offer as well (although I don’t know what it is). So, if you’re around, do come around and visit me at Stand B11*!

* when I’m not at some other stand salivating at the new and shiny equipment.

Site Upgrades

This week, an upgrade to WordPress 4.0 and many theme updates were released. Luckily enough, this upgrade went rather smoothly – but I did spend some time fixing up my custom theme files, so if the site looked weird for a day, now you know why!

It’s also been a pretty contentious issue, when it comes to the free internet and advertising, about the use of AdBlock by end users. Some believe it amounts to piracy, as users are not “paying” for the content by viewing the ads, whereas others believe it should be a free choice of an end user whether they want their browser to render such content (and viewers aren’t exactly bound by contract to render it a particular way). Some sites have already proclaimed that AdBlock and ad blindness have made the sites impossible to run.

New micro-transaction based systems for contributing money to creators have failed to reach unanimous support, and I think the vast majority of users wouldn’t bother to go to such lengths to support their sources of entertainment as some could easily be replaced by someone else’s work.

But how big of a problem is it? Well, I decided to crunch the numbers for the past three months for this site. It comes out that on any given day, 30-40% of views are made by users who do not view ads. The long term average is about 36%, but it does “move” about in the 30-40% range on a day by day basis.

I think I should say that I have no objection to end users running AdBlock. If that’s what they feel like to get by on the rest of the internet, it’s a reflection of the noisy and obtrusive ads that have become the norm since ad blindness became more widely developed. But I have done as much as I can to make the ads as unobtrusive as I can, by leaving them at the top and bottom with separation from the content – so if you do run my ads, you have my thanks! But if you don’t, don’t worry – I won’t judge.

Since I’ve never earnt enough from my content to make a living from, that doesn’t really mind me. I see every earning as being a contribution at reducing the cost burden of hosting things (we’re almost at 200Gb/month of bandwidth), but it has never been enough of an earning to buy me anything (say for testing) … oh well.

Station Upgrades

The station upgrades at Granville are almost completed. The carpark has taken shape, as has the new bus terminal. Last time, they were still wiring up the lights, but that’s been done. It’s not far from opening!

20140829Panorama

Friday 29th August 2014

This image was taken at night with the phone camera … not the best image, but there’s not much work going on anymore.

20140903Panorama

Wednesday 3rd September 2014

Techniclean crews are on site cleaning up – seems like it will be open and ready really soon. The laneway at the side is now connected by the stairway, for pick-up and drop-offs.

20140822_113150I also mentioned the change of pole-mounted lighting to LEDs – here you can see the regular metal halide sort on the left side, and the new LED type at Granville.

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Unfortunately, not all the LED upgrades go well – after all, some of the products are low quality and some suffer defects. I mentioned seeing one of the tubes at Granville flickering – I’ve found another tube that’s now completely dead.

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Chances are, something’s probably gone open circuit due to a faulty solder joint somewhere or a cracked wirebond.

I managed to walk up close enough to a tube near the stairway and noted the model code VBLFT-245-C-50 LED T8. From a search online, this corresponds to the Vibe 22w 1200mm Natural White LED lamp, worth about AU$77 each. Compared to the 38w tubes normally fitted, that’s a power reduction of 42%.

It was then, I stumbled across this document which outlines the VEETS and ESS approved ANL Lighting Products. Up till now, I didn’t even realize that NSW even had an Energy Savings Scheme (ESS). Apparently, lighting retrofits for commercial lighting qualify for this ESS scheme, and can be claimed by accredited providers – so chances are that some companies have wanted to get the money and have worked with Sydney Trains to retrofit whole stations.

This would explain why different stations have deployed different solutions – some from Philips, others from Osram, and others I have yet to identify. Maybe they’re trying to get this all done before the scheme dries up … a wise idea.

Further upgrades have been spotted at the maintenance centres – Flemington Maintenance Centre and Clyde Central Warehouse are now adorned by bright orange signs, in the Sydney Trains colours.

Opal Cards

It looks like the cut-off date for Adult Off-Peak Return and Adult Weekly tickets (amongst others) has come and passed without much chaos at all, which seems to be good news. More and more users are hopping onto the Opal card system, and it seems that things have gotten a bit better – I’ve heard much less error dings from the readers than in the past. However, students still need to use paper tickets …

The new Warratah trains are also now constantly running announcements after their regular phrases, reminding passengers, “From the first of September, adult off-peak return tickets, adult weekly and fortnightly tickets, will no longer be sold. Be prepared and get your Opal card now, at opal.com.au.” (More about the actual recording and how I got it when I get around to it …)

It seems that some people still don’t understand that paper tickets aren’t Opal NFC tickets, and so I have caught many of them tapping their paper tickets on the readers and looking absolutely lost.

The bus rollout has almost completed, and the majority of buses seem to be Opal enabled. Once you hop on one of the buses, route-enabled or not, it seems that Opal works just fine. After some careful observation, it seems that the new Parkeon Wayfarer units use GPS to get locations to determine the stop, and hence, the Opal readers are “enabled” for tapping on and off within a certain distance of designated stops. It would also make sense, as that would mean that Wayfarer is a portmanteau of waypoint and fare collection.

I’ve also seen some revenue protection officers on trains with beefy Samsung phones inside big sturdy cases – I wonder if they’re also trialling the use of commodity NFC-enabled phones to do fare checking as well. There are already several Opal balance checker apps, although not having a card myself, I can’t see for myself how well it works.

Fox Sighting

Walking home one day from the bus stop, I managed to pass by the Sydney Water pipeline and something caught my eye. It was dim, lit by only one streetlamp, but its illustrious golden red fur stood out from the background. It was a wild fox! I’ve never seen one here in Australia, so I thought they weren’t “a thing”, but this one just stood watching me quietly. I took a photo with my smartphone, flash off, knowing it’d be worthless, but with some post-processing … it resembles the low-quality photos that litter loch-ness sightings …

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Just when I thought I’d take another shot with better exposure compensation set … it was gone. Elusive as ever … without having made any noise. It squirreled away through a hole in a fence … unlikely to be spotted again for a while.

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Loose Ends

  • It seems that there’s been a big furor about the celebrity nude photo scandal – let me just make it clear that I have no interest in it whatsoever, and I haven’t bothered to go looking, but the sheer number that have seems astounding. But it also serves as a timely reminder that what separates you from your data when it comes to cloud services is often just the password, some secret questions and access to your “backup” e-mail account. Lose enough of these, and you can end up losing a lot more than that. It didn’t quite need to be this way … and if a user isn’t too good with their passwords, even with the best password-based security, a breach is inevitable. It’s a shame that two-factor authentication is not more convenient, prominent and made default.
  • Chrome for tablets and mobile phones was updated recently. I don’t really like the new update – it makes the Google logo front and centre on every new tab, and moves the address bar from the top where I expect it to be. It also looks a little chunkier. But worse still is the stop loading, and refresh buttons are no longer at the end of the URL where they used to be, and I have to bring up the menu by pressing menu-button to get to it! Why can’t they just leave that alone?
  • The smartphone and tablet is near saturation – Samsung’s release of an edged phone doesn’t seem that appealing, but if used properly, could serve as a taskbar on the side of the phone for faster application switches without compromising on the main screen space. However, I can’t see myself buying one. However, it’s Apple’s turn tomorrow, so lets see what they come out with. With so many rumours swirling about, it will be hard to satisfy all users, and while wearables appeal to a certain demographic, I don’t think they will ever be as widespread as phones and tablets are. High cost wearables would only limit the appeal somewhat more – but I suppose exclusivity is an Apple trait.
  • My newsfeed has been saturated by people test-driving the Tesla Roadster when it arrived in Australia at The Star. While I’m not a particularly hardcore car enthusiast, the Tesla Roadster has always been quite interesting because it uses technology intelligently and shows us how incumbents have been rather conservative and slow at bringing us the leading edge technology. As a result, while others stand in awe at short clips of wacky things on the touchscreen, I shake my head, immensely annoyed at the fact that this isn’t the norm. It should be. We’re at an age where a decent sized tablet with a nice screen, a modem, wireless connectivity, a boatload of storage and sensors can be had for about $300, cars really need to keep up with the time while simultaneously realizing where to be conservative – i.e. in critical embedded control systems (e.g. ECU).

That’s another load off my mind – another “memory dump” to come when time permits!

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

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5 Responses to Random Post: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, ElectroneX, Train Stuff, Site Updates, etc.

  1. George says:

    Just so you know, your post made me turn off Adblock for this site, and made me feel very guilty, seeing as I had read most of your posts!!

    • lui_gough says:

      Dear George,

      Thanks for that! It wasn’t my intention to guilt anyone, but to make them reconsider what sort of impacts AdBlock can have. Other sites do their darned worst to make AdBlock a pure necessity – pop-up ads, pop-over ads, expanding overlays, highlighted text, etc. They will even spread their content out over tens of pages. Because I’m not one of those “commercially focused” websites, and because I’m a content consumer myself, I’ve tried my best to keep things clean and reduce the annoyance factor by not chasing the path of “most revenue”.

      I definitely appreciate every little bit of help I can get, so thank you for that! And thank you for reading too!

      At the same time, I recognize that technology is a greater power, and so I still have no technical objection to AdBlock itself. It does have many valid uses, and is a tool by which the consumer can make a choice and push back against over-advertizing and annoying ad methods/designs. If only the sites that were seeing dwindling ad-impressions understood that users have a legitimate reason for choice, and respected that, there would be less of a “war” going on. At the end of the day, the more privacy conscious can have legitimate reasons for blocking ads, to avoid “profiling” based upon ad clicks, or site visitations for example. Less reputable ad services have, at times, unwilling been involved in the spread of malware. Whatever the reason, I understand and respect it – everyone has their own computer and should feel free to do whatever they want with it. As long as they’re not abusing my website (e.g. DDoS, widespread mirroring/plagiarism), I’m happy. It seems odd that companies that make computing products and websites seem to forget that the owner should be allowed to do anything with their device …

      Maybe if some stick to their guns and refuse to use intrusive advertising methods, they might be able to retain users and encourage them to disable their AdBlock. At least, that’s my philosophy anyway. But too many bad experiences, or too much hassle (as it is with the micropayment schemes) would lead users to just “set it and forget it”. Too bad most of the large content publishers are in it for the money … and noisy video-ads seem to be the new “annoying toy”. If there’s a surefire way to get me to close a website, it’s to make it start animating a person in the corner to some music …

      – Gough

      • sparcie says:

        I agree, I understand why people use ad blockers, especially on those websites where full screen ads that cover the content are common. Those video ads probably have to be the most annoying when you’re browsing with multiple tabs. I tend to close those sites quickly and not return.

        On the flip side of the coin, I personally don’t use an ad blocker because I like to support the people who produce the content I like to read/watch. I will avoid sites that have noisey or intrusive ads, but fortunately haven’t run into that too often. The only time I’ll tolerate a video ad is when I’m watching my favourite youtube channels.

        People think everything on the internet should be free, but that’s a bit unrealistic. No-one can provide any kind of service, whatever it is, with out some kind of cost. A bit of advertising is a nice way to deliver a service/content and keep it free for the end user. No-one ever complains about ads in newpapers or TV the same way.

        Sparcie

  2. quix says:

    i think “click to activate plugin” (with whitelisting youtube) in google chrome is the best of both worlds. i rarely need flash to get the information i’m after. and the ads still get served (from those that care to send jpg/gif/html)

    • lui_gough says:

      Great point! I did disable Flash and make it click-to-activate on my Firefox install, but I have a feeling that this is an “interim” measure, as soon HTML5-based video ads might be coming, and those are rendered by the browser without the need of plugins.

      – Gough

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