Just recently, I had the opportunity to present my work at the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference 2016, which was being held at ANU in Canberra. As a result of this, I had a good reason to make a trip down to Canberra, the capital of Australia. Owing to the financial constraints from the university, I couldn’t make it a long stay as I did with my Melbourne 2016 trip and instead had to make do with arriving the day before (Monday 28th November) and departing the day after (Friday 2nd December). However, it was a good opportunity for one last hurrah.
Travelling from Sydney to Canberra
The distance from Sydney to Canberra is about 286km, which makes it a bit of an odd distance where you can either drive for about three hours, catch a coach service for around the same, or take a plane that would take about an hour (as it would be a smaller plane and wouldn’t quite reach top speed due to the distance).
Because I had no inclination to drive as kangaroos jumping out from the side of the highway are a real danger, fuel costs can be fairly high and I probably couldn’t maintain the necessary concentration to make it there in the three hours without a break, I instead opted to catch a coach service as the more economical way.
Two providers offered coach services between Sydney and Canberra, namely Murrays and Greyhound. At the day of the booking, Greyhound was slightly cheaper although it did take four hours due to being on the slower service. I didn’t mind it – it was an acceptable compromise as I wasn’t in any great hurry.
I joined the service at Central Station’s Eddy Avenue bus bays. This particular bus was named the “Dundee” and had a registration of 354DOG. Greyhound had made quite a lot of noise around their new buses with bright paint, USB charging in every seat, leather seats and free Wi-Fi, so I was rather eager to try it out.
Loading the luggage and finding the seat was no big hassle, although the traffic jams around Sydney at the time of the 9am service were horrible as usual. This resulted in the bus being a little late reaching the airport and Liverpool. There were a few roadworks on the way as well, which didn’t help, and an inspection at a heavy vehicle station at Marulan. The GPS plot of the trip looked like this:
On the way, to my distress, I saw a number of drivers driving along at 100km/h while on their phone, swerving around ever-so-slightly. Not just one or two. Enough that the driver even had to take evasive action in one case. This behaviour, in one word, is irresponsible.
Thankfully, as I’m not driving, I can take all the photos I want, and be on my phone. Anyway, the Greyhound experience fell short where I had anticipated it most – the Wi-Fi was not working.
As a person who is no stranger to network diagnosis, the gateway was shot and misbehaving badly. Initially, getting AP physical-layer association was no issue, but the DHCP server was dead, and the gateway at 10.1.0.1 was entirely unresponsive even to ARP requests. In other words, the Wi-Fi was a con. The AP eventually fell over too, and on the return ride, it didn’t even reply to association requests, merely broadcasting its beacon. Greyhound did state that it wouldn’t be liable for refunds in case the Wi-Fi and/or USB charging didn’t work. Guess what? The USB charging was both intermittent and not functional depending on which seat you’ve been allocated. It seems that it’s really just false advertising – if you relied on either service, you’d be sorely disappointed. In fact, next time (if there is a next time), I would travel Murrays to see how they fare in comparison.
As a result, it turned into a four hour bus ride that I had to rely on my own connectivity for. This ultimately meant that I didn’t bother to do any blogging or anything of the sort, since I couldn’t afford to squander my limited bandwidth allowances.
But if you think the bad ended there, you’d be wrong. I had a passenger that liked to sleep and “fall” onto you, and could never get comfortable, and had to keep jiggling her legs about probably to maintain blood circulation. I suppose you can’t guard against annoying passengers, but at least on my bus ride back, I had an empty seat next to me.
What was most annoying was the bus itself. The bus had a sort of choppiness to its ride, almost as if it was running over washboard road. When cruising at the cruise-control-regulated 100km/h (according to my GPS), the bus vibrated in a way which caused the toilet door to resonate, resulting in a continuous clatter which drove a number of passengers nuts as they tried to catch some shut-eye. However, this vibration only manifested when we were going straight or turning to the left, and not when turning to the right.
Then a thought hit me – I could run an experiment on the bus itself. To start off with, I took my camera app and recorded a video to grab the audio of the toilet door vibrations. It made a particular squeak near 6khz, so I bandpassed the audio.
In the loud sections, we saw a periodic chirp from the door every 111ms, or roughly 9Hz. I also got my accelerometer monitor app on my phone to record the accelerometer data at 100Hz.
It too revealed a very steady signal (Z-axis signal plotted) which was roughly 9-10Hz. I didn’t bother doing a Fourier analysis and instead looked at the relative position of the peaks. On top of this, there seems to be a 1 to 1.5Hz component as well.
I postulated that with this data linking so well, it would be related to the size of the tyre and the vibration might be a sign that tyres with different outer diameter had been fitted to each side. To test this hypothesis, I did some quick calculations:
100km/h -> 27.8m/s 9Hz -> 3.08m circumference = 324 Revolutions/km = 0.98m diameter 10Hz -> 2.78m circumference = 359 Revolutions/km = 0.88m diameter
As it turns out, when consulting the Bridgestone Truck & Bus Tyre Catalogue, if you look at the range of tyres, the M729 listing shows a type of tyre with 325 revolutions/km size, and another with 358 revolutions/km size. The fact that I managed to measure these figures based on GPS, acoustic and accelerometer based data was rather amusing to me, but seems to confirm my suspicion that the shimmy might have been caused by a tyre size discrepancy (maybe even inflation related).
Regardless, I managed to arrive safely in both directions, and at a reasonable time, so I guess they delivered in that regard.
On arrival, I saw this illegally parked motorcycle in one of the coach bays. It had a warning notice on the seat – which I thought was a nice gesture given that it would have almost certainly led to an immediate fine in Sydney.
In order to keep costs low, luxury hotels with meals were out of the question. Instead, a more budget oriented approach was required. I settled on the Capital Executive Apartment Hotel for AU$120/night, as they were the most economical hotel within a walking distance of the CBD, the bus stop and the event. This proved to be a bargain compared to the other hotels around the area charging upwards of AU$180/night. The next closest at the same price was another 4km down the road! Of course, for this price, you don’t get breakfast nor Wi-Fi, but the location is fantastic.
I walked myself and my luggage from Jolimont Centre via Northborne Avenue, which was recently widened with a new concrete path. I felt honoured to be using such fresh facilities.
On the way, I also witnessed the desecration of the trees within the centre median of Northborne Ave. It wasn’t a particularly nice sight, as the last time I visited Canberra, there were no fences around the trees and the trees were still standing.
As it turns out, this is all part of their plan to construct a light rail for operation by 2019 – an outcome all too familiar with those who know the Eastern Suburbs light rail line which is being built in Sydney.
The apartments themselves look a little dated, especially from the outside where the NRMA logo can still be seen hiding behind a tree suggesting its former motel origins.
The reception is staffed 24/7, and the studio room I had booked for just myself (#106) can hold up to three people. It’s generously sized, and quite functional despite its dated appearance. It comes complete with a fridge, ironing board, iron, telephone, split-system reverse-cycle air conditioner, sliding shutters and a balcony.
The balcony looks out to a row of trees and Haig Park which is across the street.
Looking back towards the entrance, there is also a 26″ LG LCD TV with the local digital TV channels and internal hotel analog-modulator-provided selection of Foxtel channels.
There is a kitchenette complete with another fridge, some cooking utensils, toaster, kettle, etc.
Of course, there’s also the bathroom. As I had already settled in by the time I took the pictures, there are a lot of items everywhere, but really you need to BYO toothbrush and toothpaste.
My favourite part of the stay was the included complimentary goods – including hot chocolate, teas, coffees, sugar and even three kit-kats in the fridge. Who doesn’t need a break?
Rather unfortunately, my check-in was not entirely smooth, as I found a damaged switch on the wall-plate which proved to be a health and safety issue. As a result, I had to stay around and wait for the manager to attend, assess and then get an electrician to replace the switch, costing me some time. The provided key was also slightly damaged (no, they don’t use cards yet).
I crossed the road to visit Haig Park, where I found not much besides a mostly neglected patch of land. I did find this interesting scene on the bench, which I shall name Australian Shakespeare. It might have been a tale of a sophisticated upper-class lady and a middle-class working bloke hooking up at the park bench and ultimately going their separate ways. One can only assume …
Free City Loop Bus
A rather convenient thing which I discovered only after I had arrived at the hotel is the Free City Loop shuttle bus. It was only launched on the 4th July this year, and links a number of limited stops around the city area making it more convenient to get around and avoid having to walk. I didn’t know there was a stop right in front of my hotel!
The route starts at the Sydney Building and runs in a loop that takes approximately 20 minutes. Two buses serve the route, and co-ordinate their position such that the buses appear to arrive at 10-minute intervals. The buses run from 7am to 7pm, although Action Transport seems to tell me that they’re still working out the finer dynamics of the system and it’s only really a trial at this stage.
Unlike the buses in Sydney, it seems that their buses like to use doors which swing outwards, so don’t stand right next to the bus as it pulls up!
Luckily for me, the first stop from the bus stop in front of the hotel is the intersection between Marcus Clarke St and Rimmer St, otherwise known as the ANU stop. That gets me quite close to where I need to go for the conference. If I had known about this, I would have toted my luggage from Jolimont to this stop and ridden around the loop to save walking in the blistering sun.
One delight at being one of these larger stops is having the electronic departure information board. In this case, the free shuttle is labelled 101 London Cct (Circuit). Alternatively, one can browse on their phone to their NXTbus system.
I managed to make it to Canberra (and back) just fine, and my accommodation suits my needs quite well. The Greyhound bus was a bit of a disappointment, although that was not unexpected. In the next part, I take some time to walk around ANU and talk a little about the conference itself, so stay tuned.