Investigating: Vodafone & Kogan Mobile Data Connection Issues

Access to the internet is so important nowadays that we rarely stop and think of the consequences of not having access to the internet until it stops working. Because of my recent relocation, getting access to the internet was an issue. At this premises, there hasn’t been a phone line in years and the distance to the exchange means that ADSL2+ would be at a crawl (expecting about 3Mbit/s at best). Cable is available, but it’s fairly pricey and the install fees wouldn’t make sense since NBN HFC is apparently coming in mid-next-year.

As a result, the only logical conclusion was to opt for a wireless connection to the internet. For any self-respecting nerd, the idea of being on a wireless connection feels a little “wrong”, as we know from experience that such systems are often variable in performance due to shared-medium congestion, interference, sometimes poor signal levels, etc. In fact, as this area is adjacent to a number of new property developments which also are not served by copper nor NBN (yet), congestion had reached such a high point in the 3G-era that Optus 3G was slower than dial-up. But compared to not having a connection, a wireless connection is definitely preferable and the advent of LTE has provided a much needed boost to available bandwidth.

Because of a number of rather lucrative deals, I’ve spent the past few months having my primary data connection being routed through Vodafone Pre-Paid and most recently, through Kogan Mobile which is carried through the Vodafone network (and is practically the same stuff). This experience has been rather interesting to say the least.

Connection Problems and Strangeness

One unexpected side effect of being on Vodafone or Kogan Mobile is that the connections are routed through a corporate-grade NAT.

Your device is issued an IP within the 10.x.x.x private network segment, as a result, meaning that your device is not directly exposed to the internet. Unfortunately, this breaks the end-to-end connectivity model of the internet, but seems to be a more common approach as IPv4 address exhaustion continues to be a potential issue and IPv6 migration is still not as far advanced as many would like.

The outside facing address is shown to be part of a NAT pool, which surprisingly, in my case terminated in VIC despite being in NSW. Depending on the data session, it can jump around between different pools from time to time. Unfortunately, as the devices are behind CGNAT, direct port-forwarding for running servers is not possible and other technologies are a mixed whether they work or not. While I had no issues with SIP (surprisingly), I did run into troubles with FTPS which meant that I had to either revert to plain (insecure) FTP or go over my own VPN to my other fixed-line-connection. This may just be down to the NAT’s ALG interfering with the transaction.

Oddly enough, my first data plan was with Lycamobile which also seemed to have a CGNAT of its own, but FTPS worked just fine even with the same internal networking structure which adds two NATs into the path (i.e. mobile phone tethering NAT + household main router NAT). FTPS also seems to work through my other mobile broadband connections, so this was a bit inconvenient.

But the bigger annoyance was that from time to time, very important “big” sites would just stop working.

On my mobile phone, Facebook would complain that it can’t connect and even visiting mail.google.com via Chrome complains of connection refused. At first, I dismissed this as transient, but it seemed to recur without any noticeable pattern. Sometimes rebooting the equipment worked and other times it didn’t.

Initially, I was lazy and just waited it out – it seemed to fix itself after a few hours. But after not being able to check my e-mail in the middle of job application season, I decided to work around the issue by routing out of an alternate connection. The alternative via Telstra always seemed to work just fine – it just cost a lot more in comparison, so I didn’t want to rely on it more than necessary.

On the desktop, things were even more dire as it warned me that something might be tampering with my secure connections and it refuses to connect as the pinned certificate does not match. This is both curious and rather cryptic.

Early on, I had a feeling that the DNS was part of the problem and I was being redirected elsewhere. As a result, I flushed all the DNS resolver caches on my PC, in my router and set the router to ignore Vodafone’s own DNS and instead use the Google Public DNS servers at 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

This seemed to solve the problem for a few days, but then today, the same thing happened again. I got tired of switching connections, so it was time to understand the problem.

Playing the Detective

The scenario is as follows – I couldn’t load my e-mail with the load failing to connect to mail.google.com with an HSTS error. The connection goes through Ethernet via a Mikrotik router (NAT), via USB 2.0 to my Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X (NAT) and into Vodafone’s infrastructure (Kogan Mobile). The router is configured to ignore peer DNS and use Google Public DNS only. Caches on the router and locally have been cleared to no effect.

At first, I thought it could be malware – so I tried using a different device on the same network. The result was the same, meaning it was unlikely to be device specific.

The first thing is to see why the HSTS error is occurring – so where are we being sent to when we attempt to load mail.google.com? The answer to this should come from the DNS. Bringing out nslookup reveals something strange:

The left side shows the queries for mail.google.com being sent to the router first, then to Google Public DNS (primary) and Google Public DNS (secondary) before sending it to Cloudflare DNS. The right side shows the responses for mail.google.com when routing out of my secondary Telstra connection. In all cases, the one on the right shows valid responses, whereas Vodafone somehow seems to be returning the loopback address as where mail.google.com resides.

This also explains why I get the HSTS error on my desktop, as I am running VMWare Workstation which binds locally to the HTTPS port 443, thus my browser’s request for mail.google.com is being sent to VMWare which replies with its self-signed certificate triggering the HSTS error (as it should).

I didn’t take any screenshots, but using Google Public DNS to resolve other domain names didn’t have any issues – it seemed specific to mail.google.com and also instagram.com as of that moment. This seems highly suggestive that something is tampering with the DNS queries, but where is it and what is it?

I tried to solve this question by using traceroute, but it didn’t seem to show anything anomalous. In the case of Vodafone, it goes through their network and straight to Google. In the case of Telstra, it’s pretty much the same. This makes sense, because they are probably peering with Google as one of the major destinations of the internet – but this means that whatever the culprit is wasn’t caught by a traceroute. This makes me suspicious there is some deep packet inspection “catching” only DNS queries regardless of destination and spoofing replies.

As I have used nslookup directly to target 8.8.8.8/8.8.4.4/1.1.1.1, it seems highly suggestive that whatever is tampering with it is probably not local to my network. To be sure, I decided to investigate the router’s DNS cache. By flushing it and querying mail.google.com from my desktop through the router, the router’s cache contains the bad response.

This tells me that the bad DNS replies are not the fault of the router, so might it be because of the phone I am using to tether with? The phone feeds the router, so logically I rebooted the phone, reconnected it and saw no change in behaviour.

In fact, I installed termux on the phone itself and used the phone itself to make a direct DNS query and got exactly the same result. Alas, it seems that Vodafone is indeed giving us a reply that gives a loopback address – how strange.

Digging further using the Fing app, it seemed that the phone could correctly resolve the address for mail.google.com, but how?

The answer seems that the Android apps are using Vodafone’s own DNS servers in their own network to resolve addresses.

By the time I came this far in my investigation, the problems with resolving mail.google.com were slowly subsiding. At first, the replies to queries to 8.8.8.8 began producing a valid IPv4 reply (but not IPv6). This is enough to get me back into my mailbox. Vodafone’s own DNS is making correct replies.

So you might ask – why don’t I just use Vodafone’s DNS servers? The problem was that in the past, the exact same issue occurred using Vodafone’s DNS servers. The responses indicated various sites were at 127.0.0.1 resulting in a failure to connect/load/HSTS errors. I swapped to Google Public DNS to try and evade these issues, and while it seemed to work for a while, today even that method seemed to fail. So while I could go back to using “peer DNS” and prioritise responses from Vodafone’s own DNS, I would probably run into the same trouble sooner or later.

Why is this happening? I have absolutely no idea. I expect my data to pass through the internet “verbatim” without being tampered – the evidence seems to suggest one of several possibilities:

  • maybe there’s a misconfiguration or a bug somewhere in Vodafone’s NAT equipment that is corrupting DNS requests from time to time or caching incorrect responses.
  • maybe Vodafone’s NAT or routing equipment is configured to intercept and respond to DNS by “proxy” as a means to ensure the court-ordered content blocks are less easily circumvented and this equipment is problematic.
  • maybe there’s an active attempt to poison any caches along the way resulting in the propagation of incorrect responses back down the chain.
  • maybe there’s something wrong with Google and Cloudflare’s DNS servers at the exact moment (extremely unlikely).
  • maybe there’s something wrong with my phone that I use to tether (even though it works fine with other carriers, a prospect I feel is unlikely).

Ironically, as I was writing this, the problem came back for a few minutes and my cache got polluted again. To get around it for now, I’ve added a static DNS binding for mail.google.com to just one of their server IPs. While it won’t help with their load balancing, it should ensure I can continue to reach the site.

At least I’m happy that I understand where the problem appears to be and it’s not something that I can do much about. These are still all issues which I generally didn’t face on such a regular basis while on a fixed line connection (maybe once or twice a year rather than everyday for a few hours).

Speed and Bandwidth Quotas

Coming from a household that had only 9/1 on ADSL2+, I thought we had it bad. Being on “Lightning-Fast Vodafone” was supposed to be a treat, although a treat that would only last so long as the bandwidth quota allowed. Living life as a digital citizen with a bandwidth quota really does limit the amount of indulgence you can have (if you don’t want to break the bank), but the need for such quotas is understandable especially in a shared medium context.

I haven’t used Vodafone in many years – they just weren’t competitive and the VodaFail era really did deflate their image quite significantly. After a period of heavy network investment, they came back “all-guns-blazing” with such offers such as $7 starter SIMs offering 18Gb over 35 days (double-data) and occasionally, even Kogan managed a $0.99 SIM with 23Gb over 30 days. At these prices, it seems inevitable that Vodafone would at least see some curious people give them another go.

As a result, I employ my Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X (MTK edition) as my means of accessing the Vodafone network. Featuring an LTE Cat6 (300/50Mbit/s) modem with LTE-A capability and support for all bands that Vodafone operate on, it’s not a bad match. Using USB 2.0 tethering (to avoid Wi-Fi slow-downs) to a Mikrotik hAP cabled to the PC and placed up high for a full five bar signal with LTE+ indication (i.e. carrier aggregation), I did my absolute best to optimize my internet.

Despite this, while browsing, the internet still felt somewhat slow compared to the old fixed line, especially in the evenings. At first, I thought it was my imagination, but I wanted to check so while reviewing the Fingbox, I also used a bit of my excess quota and the Internet Speed feature to record some data to analyze.

In all, speed tests occurred during the period of 9th June through to 21st June (Vodafone) and 26th June to 1st July (Kogan Mobile). Speed was tested at 12am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm (at a random time within the hour) but not on all days. Results for each time are aggregated to show the trend – a total of 16, 17, 16, 16, 15, 16 samples respectively.

This is not intended to be a highly scientific appraisal of the performance of the Vodafone network – the performance will vary depending on location, signal strength, signal quality, interference, equipment used, number of carriers in use, local congestion, speed test server congestion and transit-link bandwidth just to name a few variables. However, this is what I seem to experience in my location.

A look at the mean (dark line) and median (grey line) shows there is a clear downward trend in speeds as the day progresses. Around midnight, the traffic loading should be relatively low and speeds peaking around 42Mbit/s have been observed, averaging about 24Mbit/s. However, at 9pm, we see that the speeds top out at around 14Mbit/s and average around 8.5Mbit/s. Despite that, we can see there are a number of samples that read below the 10Mbit/s line and a few under 5Mbit/s as well, meaning the service isn’t quite as fast as even the base-level NBN standard connection would be. On the upside, I think this means there might be quite a few Vodafone customers around here.

To some degree, a limited speed is expected due to the nature of the shared medium and Vodafone’s spectrum availability, however, it does pale to my previous analysis of Telstra during “We’re Sorry” day where even my older Cat4 LTE device supporting only 1800Mhz was able to deliver 100+Mbit/s in the evening and stay above 25Mbit/s (mostly) during the day, albeit at a different location. As a result, for the proponents who think that wireless can be an adequate replacement for cabled technologies, I think this is highly dependent on what level of quality you expect from the service.

The upload speed is more even and mainly hovers around 8-9Mbit/s during the day with peaks of 16Mbit/s. The lower rate is expected as the radio is only capable of 50Mbit/s upstream (ideally), but this suggests that upload bandwidth is not as contented as download bandwidth. Nothing unexpected there.

Unlike 3G-era technologies, LTE offers much improved and relatively stable ping times – the median ping time is about 34-41ms throughout the whole day, although the mean ping time is skewed significantly by a few outliers which corresponded with low-points on the download speed test. These events may be symptomatic of base-station outages, interference, extremely high loading, etc.

Conclusion

Most of the time, the internet just works and we don’t think about it. But not having the internet really puts a downer on productivity and enjoyment – it’s become vital to modern day living. As a technology enthusiast, the internet is probably even more important to me, so when it does go wrong, I try to find out why.

It seems that Vodafone uses a CGNAT of sorts and this breaks my FTPS. Oh well, not much I can do about that. At least SIP works fine … and I still have a fixed line elsewhere I can tunnel my data through.

It seems that Vodafone might be sending incorrect DNS replies breaking access to some sites from time to time. I tried changing to Google Cloud DNS, but that broke today along with Cloudflare DNS suggesting Vodafone or an intermediary may be somehow tampering with DNS requests to other servers “in flight” (caching? proxying?) or (less likely) something is wrong with both DNS servers at the same time when reached from Vodafone or my particular phone which works fine with other carriers.

Maybe there is an active DNS poisoning attack resulting in bad replies being cached, but if I’m querying Google Public DNS, I expect an answer from them (not a proxy) and I would expect Google wouldn’t let their own subdomain records be poisoned. At least I know how to clear my DNS caches and can make a bind a static DNS entry for the most affected sites to continue along (or edit some HOSTS files).

Vodafone and their resellers, including Kogan Mobile, have offered relatively irresistible plans and that has kept me online for the most part, so I am thankful. But sometimes, there are issues with such deals, in this case, the speed doesn’t seem to be quite as fast as their rivals. Can’t have it all …

Update – 5/7/18

It seems that today, while posting an article, DNS poisoning happened again resulting in requests to Facebook and Yahoo being misdirected to 127.0.0.1 loopback address. For now, I’ve removed the Google Public DNS and only rely on Vodafone’s internal DNS to see if it helps but it’s not a configuration I prefer and I remain unconvinced that Google Public DNS is to blame.

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Tested: Canton-Power DDO603SA 3.3V Buck-Boost Converter Module

If you like to experiment with electronics, sooner-or-later you’re going to build something you’d like to use in a portable way, perhaps running off batteries. While things that run off 5V are easy to cater for, as USB is ubiquitous, other voltages can be a little more tricky. For 3.3V devices, you could run them off 5V with a low-cost foolproof linear regulator, but you’re wasting 33% of the power as heat. If you wanted to avoid the regulator though, then you’ll run into the trouble of battery voltages not being a “neat” multiple of 3.3V. You could try two AA cells, but then you’d start off at 3V and as they run down, the voltage could fall too far. If not, then you could try three cells, but then it’ll be a bit too high at 4.5V and could cause damage. Likewise, a Li-Ion battery can see voltages from 3V up to 4.2V fresh-off-the-charger. What’s really needed is a buck-boost converter that can accept voltages below-and-above 3.3V and convert it to 3.3V.

As a result, I went to eBay to try and find a relatively cheap and small boost-buck converter that could run an ESP8266 or similar device requiring 3.3V from a range of input voltages. I settled on a generic module that was listed for AU$1.84 including postage.

The Module

The module is quite diminutive in size and came in a zip-lock bag with no other information. It appears to be as described – two inductors indicating two stages with a number of on-board ceramic surface mount capacitors for smoothing. The chip is marked with 2149F, so I suspect it is a MicrOne ME2149. While the chip seems capable of switching up to 4A, the SS34 Schottky diode is only rated at 3A. Looking further, the power dissipation limitations of 0.8W for the package suggest that maybe 1A is a more realistic expectation.

The inductors themselves are of the open type, so I suspect this is probably not going to be the most efficient design possible.

Only after looking at the back of the module did I find anything to identify it – it’s a Canton-Power DDO603SA which appears to be available in 3V, 3.3V, 3.7V and 5V variants. These variants may only be down to a change of the surface mount feedback setting resistors.

Methodology

In order to most accurately test the module without making the set-up needlessly complicated, I decided to mount the unit onto a high-quality breadboard. Power to the module was supplied by a Keysight E36103A 20V/2A programmable power supply in 4-wire remote sense mode. The module was loaded using a B&K Precision Model 8600 DC Electronic Load also with external sense mode turned on. The unit was plugged into the breadboard with the adjacent pins used for load and supply to minimise breadboard resistance contributions. The pins next to this were used for sensing – as very little current flows through the sense connections, this would not affect their performance and allow for lead resistance to be compensated.

A Panasonic low-ESR 1000uF electrolytic capacitor was added (not in shot) to the adjacent pins at the input to the converter to ensure any current-transients were taken care of and avoid the length of the supply leads from affecting module performance.

Voltages and currents were read from the power supply and load respectively to avoid needing further external instrumentation and introducing further connection resistance. As a downside, the current readings were only to the milliamp when above 20mA, although the introduced error in efficiency appears to be ~1% at the most. For the most part, we are interested in the “overall” big-picture performance of the module rather than fractional-percents.

Results

Because of the lack of proper specifications for the module, I had to work conservatively to get results without destroying the module. I found that it didn’t reliably work below 1.1V despite some claims that it works at 0.9V, although the claimed maximum of 6.5V didn’t seem to be too strenuous for my module.

The first thing I was interested in knowing was the quiescent no-load current consumption. This is important especially for projects where the powered equipment remains asleep or in very low power consumption states as the power consumed by the converter can be quite a bit higher and limit the run-time from a set of batteries.

From the graph, it seems the quiescent consumption is not too bad. It won’t break any records, but seeing as the consumption is below 1mA throughout the voltage range, getting down to about 180-300uA in the 3-5V range, you should still get quite a bit of life out of batteries.

Converter efficiency was not too exciting either, with most of the results in the 70-80% band depending on voltages and load. Due to the two-stage topology, such results are somewhat expected, especially in lower current ranges where the quiescent contribution to reduction of efficiency dominates. The module seemed pretty well-behaved up to 250mA, but above this, the module would not start-up under load, instead chirping quietly but pegging the current limiter on the power supply at 2A. This suggests maybe some type of latching-event under high-current output which may lead the module to wasting energy or even self-destruction depending on the current available. As a result, I don’t suggest using the module with any more than about 250mA of load on the output at start-up. However, if the module is running, it seems happy to have its load increased up to about 1A although at higher currents, the module cannot operate with the lower input voltages.

Unfortunately at this efficiency, if your voltages are strictly higher than 3.3V, then a linear converter wouldn’t be that much worse (especially if the quiescent current is lower). You’d really only choose the buck-boost when the voltage varies above and below 3.3V.

Looking at the output voltages, once the input reaches 1.5V, the output appears to be regulated. The voltages up to 100mA of load are relatively close to the intended 3.3V but with a notable reduction as current increases. By the time 250mA is reached, it has deviated quite noticeably, with higher currents further reducing output voltage.

The testing did not assess the output ripple and noise nor whether the unit has any overheat, over-current, short circuit protections.

Conclusion

For an AU$1.84, this boost-buck converter module is cheap and relatively “anonymous” in terms of proper specs. While I didn’t test the ripple or protection, it seems the unit was most happy in the 1.5V to 6.5V range with output currents of 250mA or less. If started below 250mA, then it can provide even 1A (as tested) but with increasing levels of voltage drop as a result. It might be just enough for an ESP8266 but probably not ideal, but what do you expect for the price?

The efficiency was an “expected” 70-80% as a dual-stage converter with the component choice obviously affected by price. You would only choose this over a single-stage buck or boost if your input voltage is known to vary both above and below the output voltage of 3.3V. The quiescent current was also decent, being 180-300uA between 3-5V, meaning that you’re not wasting too much energy just powering the converter but it is still quite high compared to an ESP8266 in deep sleep that consumes just 20uA or a linear regulator which often is around the same.

The biggest issue seems to be that above 250mA, my unit failed to start-up and instead shorted out the supply, suggesting that the unit might self-destruct in some cases (e.g. with a high current supply).

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Visited: Powerhouse Museum (Free Museum Weekend 23-24 June 2018)

Once a year, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences holds a free museum weekend. This year, it was held over the weekend of 23rd – 24th June 2018 with free tickets that could be booked online to visit the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory, Museum Discovery Centre and Australian Museum. While I’ve heard of this event in the past, I never found out about it until after the event.

Luckily, this year, I managed to find out about the free museum weekend in time so that I could book a ticket to the Powerhouse Museum. This museum focuses mainly on technology, engineering, design and science. I had only some vague but positive recollections of visiting it in my primary school days, but knowing that it is soon going to be relocated, I felt it was an opportune time to visit it in its current glory – before it changes forever in 2023.

While I had intended to post it during the free museum weekend, time got the better of me, so better late than never!

The Visit

It was Saturday morning, the skies were mostly clear and the sun was out. A good day to be out and about. I approached the museum via The Goods Line walk and already, a familiar sight emerged. When I was still a child, the old Entertainment Centre and walk-bridge still existed, the light rail line wasn’t there and this new Cafe (which looks a bit out of place) wasn’t there either. Instead, I do remember the blue and white sign with the words “POWERHOUSE MUSEUM” quite vividly, even if I can’t find a photo of it in my archives at the present moment.

This is only one of the two entrances to the museum. As it was the free weekend, a larger-than-normal crowd already began to congregate at opening time. After a short queue and battling through a traffic-jam of strollers, I made it in.

From this entrance, the logical place would be to head through to the Wiggles exhibit, but unfortunately that was what all the parents and children were doing. Instead, I wandered about in the opposite direction, walking past a number of design classics. The Telecom Australia Gold Phone is definitely one of them – there was a Blue Phone as well. It’s always fascinating to think that something that was so iconic had almost entirely been forgotten from my memory purely because it had been progressively away and replaced by something new – new payphones, mobile phones, etc. A relic indeed, back when a local call could be had for just 20c.

In an era where environmental sustainability is an issue, I was glad to see an exhibit about that. The Powerhouse Museum itself is probably one of the major science and technology museums in the area, so I think it has an important role to play in inspiring young children of today to take up the challenge of engineering a better future. Regardless, no matter where I turn, it seems that there’s always something that I somehow recognize and connect with. In this case, as a photovoltaics engineer, it’s solar cells – specifically mention of UNSW professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham and Dr. Zhengrong Shi of Suntech who all were very important figures in the commercial success of photovoltaics.

Not far from that was an exhibit about water which included a row of bottles labelled with Sydney Water Corporation with water of different colours. Having done my PhD with the UNSW Water Research Centre, it was also rather interesting to see this exhibit.

Seeing this particular Freeplay S360 radio sitting in a cabinet bought back memories too. These used to be on sale in Dick Smith Electronics, back when they were a real electronics retailer. I remember them being somewhat pricey so I never got one, but the idea that you could use either solar charging or a dynamo to charge a battery and listen to radio without using any disposable batteries was a rather exciting proposition to me as a kid. The translucent casing was really cool, especially as I liked knowing what was inside a product and what made it work.

I didn’t expect to see the Honda Insight, which made seeing it even more fascinating. For one, it was an odd-coloured line-green hybrid car with the rear wheel partially covered by a fender skirt like a car from before the 60s. For another, it didn’t really seem all that successful with the Toyota Prius being the much more recognized hybrid vehicle. As a result, I’ve never recalled seeing one of these on the roads, ever!

The Solar Resource car that raced in the Pentax World Solar Challenge is also on display, although like many other displays is showing its age. But seeing this was a good indicator of how far we’ve come – especially as solar races continue to run and vehicles (e.g. UNSW Sunswift’s VIolet) continue to be developed, refined and improved.

It seems that the protective coating over the cells is delaminating in places, but it’s still good to see that the panels get some sun … (just kidding!)

In that particular area, there were a number of other transportation artifacts, but I didn’t have the time to stick around …

… as I was distracted by seeing this behemoth – the old train departure board at Central station from 1906. It’s interesting to see some suburban stations on the board, which indicates just how long our rail system has endured.

Behind this is the Space exhibits – the most interesting was a simulation of the space inside the shuttle, complete with American style power outlets. The sterility feels kind of welcoming.

Off to the side, there’s a lot of other exhibits about machines along with this very nice (and large) plasma ball. As nobody was playing with it, it was happy to put on a nice show.

Some old batteries were on show too – I still remember the Eveready General Purpose batteries … about $0.90 a packet of four AA cells from Woolies in the mid-90s?

In the Interface: People, Machines, Design exhibit, there were a number of iconic technology items on show – the Nintendo Power Glove, GameBoy, Sony Walkman, various Apple Computers, Braun Hi-Fi, etc. But this IBM Selectric typewriter looked pretty elegant in its curvy green shell.

The Steam Revolution is an exciting corner for anyone that loves to see things in motion. A lot of different machines are constantly rotating, pistons sliding, etc. The transport corner also has a steam engine and a number of flying machines hanging from the ceiling.

But owing to a lack of time, I had to leave after about 50 minutes walking around. I didn’t manage to visit every exhibit, but on my way out of the other exit, I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the pretty Ferrari sitting by the entrance.

Conclusion

While I had visited the Powerhouse Museum as a primary school kid, I haven’t visited it until now. Once I stepped inside, some of what I saw was familiar, while others seemed completely new. It was a good experience to have the chance (and a reason) to visit the Powerhouse Museum before it moves and is inevitably changed. The museum houses a good number of exhibits, some of which are a little dated, some of which are quite historical, some of which are interactive/targeted to children and others which are quite timely and relevant. I can definitely see how it might play a role in helping shape the future for children and pique their interest in STEM fields.

Bonus: Sydney Growth Train Testing

While I haven’t had the time to post random postings in a long time, I thought I’d mention the fact that I’m still travelling around by public transport a lot. As a result, a number of times while passing the Auburn maintenance facility, I noticed a Warratah train that was a little more orange and black than a normal one – but I didn’t have a camera to take pictures of it.

Since then, I’ve come to learn that these are known as Sydney Growth Trains, or Warratah Series II trains. It seems that Downer is responsible for delivering 24 x 8-car trains and the main improvement is to the passenger displays. The first one was unloaded earlier this year in around March and has been testing since.

Seeing as I had my DSLR on me, I managed to snap a few photos from the V-set train I was on – apologies for the blur from the dirt and scratches on the window.

The set is known as B1, and the consist seems to be made of D1101-N1701-N1901-T1301-T1401-N1?01N1?01-D1201. Judging from the number patterns, the two carriages that were obstructed by the Millienium in front are probably N1801 and N1601. They are definitely orange at the end and have a black curved accents which remind me of someone going a little overboard with eyeliner. The carriages are filled with water containers to simulate passenger weight loading, and clear signs are placed on the doors warning passengers not to board the train which is under test.

I look forward to actually riding in them once they are commissioned, although this does mean another end of an era as the S-set “sweatboxes” get retired for good.

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