Another week, another random post! We begin this week with a quick site update – while I can’t say I have much faith in the scientific accuracy of Alexa’s ranking methods, after 13-14 months of being online at this domain …
… I now rank under 1 million! I couldn’t have guessed this would happen. Thank you readers! While this isn’t really much compared to the “really popular” sites which rank under 100,000, it’s an achievement nonetheless, especially considering that this is the product of my scraps of time and dedication. It’s also rather exciting because the content doesn’t necessarily appeal to a wide audience, but it does seem focussing on unique content has paid off.
And a reminder, if you’re interested in getting started with the Raspberry Pi and looking at some of the accessories you might need, I’ll be presenting a webinar for element14 which you can register to attend here.
Malaysian Airlines MH370 – The Media Fails
The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines MH370 has dominated the news over the past week. While the loss of a plane is tragic, and the lack of progress and systematic investigation is a problem, I think it highlights a more sinister problem with the media in general.
Initially, upon reports of the flight’s disappearance, media were spouting inconsistent stories for days. Whether the plane safely landed or not, what the number of suspicious passports were and their nationalities, whether communications were lost simultaneously or not, and where the wreckage could have been all changed back and forth depending on the sources you relied on.
Old news “floated” back to the top with each edit (causing Google to say “37 minutes ago” as opposed to “8 hours ago” even though the last edit was a null edit), and experts were summoned to provide credence to different theories. Different news outlets even started taking shots at other news outlets for writing things which they claim are improbable.
Even worse was the frequent employment of “an unnamed source” or a “source on the condition of anonymity” – it’s a cheap cop-out to try and pass speculation as facts, or news. Of course, there are delays imposed by the official communication channels, but to spread news based on speculation is borderline irresponsible. It seems as if the outlets wanted to be the oracle and jump the gun. They hoped they’d guess right.
As the same news floated through different sources, they all added their little embellishments and just like a network feeding back from itself, it “ran away” from the truth.
Shortly after nothing was unveiled by the search and rescue teams after a day, and in light of the inconsistent information available, it became fashionable for news outlets to start reporting the LACK of new news. I don’t know but that’s not exactly news. If anything, almost all of them stopped talking about the Ukraine and Russia conflict.
It seems that the whole “media” and “news” establishment is a very fragile series of linked “amplifiers” which take every tiny snippet they can find, “merge” it with some other stuff (or embellish it) and then push it back out. Such a feedback network is prone to runaway. I have to question just how much the large “reputable” media outlets are doing given the amount of inconsistency and confusion that has been caused.
It is very unusual for a plane to be able to disappear in the modern world, although as more details emerge, the picture continues to get clearer. I just hope the Malaysian investigation team gets their act together and those who have data related to it know how to analyze and make it available.
Stay Tuned for the Retune
The final stage of completing our transition to digital-only TV requires a reshuffling of transmitter frequencies. This process is referred to as a restack, and television viewers have been advised of the impending retune date on the 18th March (Tuesday) via television and radio advertisements featuring “Roy the Remote”. This reshuffling should free up the upper UHF frequencies for sale and re-use (hopefully that will mean a 700Mhz 4G band).
Around the Sydney area, the retune will affect the following channels on the following transmitters on the 18th March:
- Sydney Gore Hill viewers (majority) will only see SBS move from 28 to 7. In fact, it’s been simulcasting since analog turned off, you can already scan 7 to get the new SBS.
- Sydney North West transmitter viewers will see Ten move from 45 to 31, and Seven from 48 to 28.
- Sydney South West transmitter viewers will see SBS move from 64 to 40, Seven move from 47 to 42 and Ten from 50 to 43.
- Kings Cross and Mosman fill-in transmitters will see SBS move from 34 to 32, Seven from 48 to 28 and Ten from 45 to 31.
Illawarra transmitter viewers will see ABC move from 51 to 35, and SBS move from 54 to 39 but not until the 23rd June.
As a result, the new post-retune Sydney channel table will look like the following:
Gore Hill Station Ch Freq (Mhz) ABC 12 226.5 SBS 7 184.5 TVS 29 536.625 Seven 6 177.5 Ten 11 219.5 Nine 8 191.625 Sydney North-West Station Ch Freq (Mhz) ABC 30 543.5 SBS 32 557.5 Seven 28 529.5 Nine 33 564.5 Ten 31 550.5 Sydney South-West Station Ch Freq (Mhz) ABC 41 620.5 SBS 40 613.5 Seven 42 627.5 Nine 43 634.5 Ten 44 641.5 Manly/Mosman/Kings Cross Station Ch Freq (Mhz) ABC 30 543.625 SBS 32 557.5 Seven 28 529.5 Nine 33 564.5 Ten 31 550.5
With proper planning, it is possible for digital transmitters to share frequencies, by ensuring that the coverage areas are unlikely to overlap, or if they do, that they do so constructively in a Single Frequency Network. This ensures that the signals from co-channel transmitters are synchronized and received as multipath within the guard interval, and can be tolerated by the receivers. The Manly/Mosman and Kings Cross fill-in transmitters have the same channel allocations as the Sydney North-West transmitter, with the exception of the 125khz offset of Channel 30 (as some co-located channels have to possibly reduce interference).
What this means for your average TV viewer is that they may lose some channels after 9:30am on Tuesday, and they will need to rescan their TV or set top box to receive all channels again. There is some intricacies, as in some areas, multiple signals can be received and an autoscan may not store the most appropriate versions of each channel as they are received from different frequencies. As such, I would suggest users be familiar with which transmitter their antenna is pointed at, and do a DTV Manual Scan of just the frequencies in the post-retune table. If you would like a shortcut, you can only delete the channels that are moving, and scan their “new” channel.
Some set top boxes have issues with manual scanning and forget their channels, so a full factory reset, followed by a manual scan of channel numbers in ascending order may be required.
Transport Sydney Stuff
Having done some more travelling around on public transport, thanks to going to uni a fair bit, I’ve managed to make a fair number of observations about Transport Sydney.
Tap and Go/Paywave/Paypass Ticket Payments
It seems the Quest terminals at most ticket windows across the Sydney Trains network now have tap and go readers affixed to them. They are likely connected to the bank via broadband, so it makes ticket payments fast and simple – no more fumbling for change, screwing around with the pin-pad to get your PIN keyed in.
The thermal receipt print has also changed to say Sydney Trains, although the back of the receipt paper still has CityRail. Maybe not for long.
UPDATE: The day after, I came across the new EFTPOS receipt paper! So yes, they’re adamant on changing everything!
Magnetic Stripe Tickets
Over the past few weeks, I’ve also managed to get a ticket from a vending machine that seems to have a new printer belt or a cleaned dot matrix printhead. Its printing was very nice and even, how it should be.
I also bought a ticket on some poorly-cut ticket stock which had a white stripe across the top. Never seen that before.
UNSW Bus Queue
Having to attend the uni most days, the bus queue for the 895 express from Eddy Avenue, Central, to UNSW has never been worse in my memory. Queue times of about 45 minutes have been experienced, and my ankle isn’t very happy about that one. In the above panorama (yes, people were walking by at about the same pace as the sweep was going along), the queue reached from Eddy Avenue right through the park, almost reaching the traffic lights on the other side. I don’t think relief is anywhere in sight …
I’ve got myself an alternative route, but the time taken to go from Central to UNSW still is about 50 minutes in the mornings if you don’t get there before about 8:05am.
Network Status Screens at Sydney Terminal Concourse
I managed to catch a glimpse of the new network status screens with an odd anomaly which resulted in the text-region having a green background with dark blue text foreground. This made it a little difficult to read.
Inner-West Light Rail Extension
Riding on the train, in-between Lewisham and Petersham, the Munco Scott Ltd. flour silos were always a regular sight. You would see it as the train passes over the bridge that goes over a relatively disused rail line. This image was taken from Google StreetView, and has a bit of a stitching anomaly, but this is how I remember it.
Prior to my illness, I did see some work on that area, but I didn’t know why. This time, I saw a red and white light-rail car run along the line, which caught my attention. The familiar sight of railway stanchions were replaced with light rail. This was the Inner West Light Rail Extension project, which seems to be on track to run services.
Great news, as the Transport Sydney family grows just a little bit bigger.
Opal Card Deployment Grows
It seems the Opal Card deployment is also going well, with over half the Sydney Metro stations being Opal enabled. The southern half of the network is missing out for now. The sound of the beep of the cards being placed on readers are now occasionally heard even at smaller stations.
On a trek to Cabramatta, I spotted the Opal poles from across the road and went in for a closer look.
The station was recently Opal enabled, and had a sign to inform customers of this fact.
Some of the poles are outfitted with readers on both sides, while others are outfitted with readers on only one side.
The opal readers have a glass outer surface, which looks like the same stuff they make train windows out of. Unfortunately, the LCD is quite difficult to see when it’s in direct sunlight, the two images will give you something to compare.
Aside from that, I also saw the use of the pop-up messages on the passenger information displays to advertise the Opal card.
I spotted one of their buses, through closed doors, with an Opal card reader (mount, enclosure).
Around UNSW and around the city, it seems that mysterious spray-painted checker-plate boxes marked “Traffic Survey” with a camera on a long thin pole have been appearing. I think this may have something to do with bus or traffic flow analysis – noting I’ve seen one on Elizabeth St, one on Eddy Ave, one on Anzac Pde, and one on High St, I suspect it’s more likely to be for university bus traffic monitoring purposes.
The poles are very flimsy, and are always “supported” by another one. The spray paint of Traffic Survey doesn’t inspire much confidence – it might be a secret people-monitoring operation (I joke, of course).
Having been near another one at the uni, I’ve managed to get close enough to find out more.
It turns out that these installations are for Sky High Traffic’s video collection service. I wonder who is commissioning these surveys and for what purpose.
Random Sydney Trains Operational
I was at Auburn station and I spotted some United Group Limited (UGL) employees holding a rig that looks like an extendable tube with a guard’s indicator at the end. It’s a box with some LED arrays on it. I don’t know what they were doing, but it looked interesting.
I also managed to spot a train running on the rail closest to Sydney Markets near Flemington. That rail is rarely used, and is probably only used when shuffling trains in and out of Flemington Maintenance Centre. I’ve never seen it in use other than by freight occasionally, so that was cool.
New Sydney Buses
It was a nice sign to see Sydney Buses getting some investment in new buses. I spotted only a few of these new ones, but their new LED based desto boards look quite different and are very easily readable. I really like them.
Apologies for the tilt, which was corrected in software (leaving the corner filled in grey).
Always on the look-out for a good salvage, I often pass Electrical Engineering at UNSW. I managed to pass it one day and see this …
I think this is a very clear case of I’m a lazy person and I can’t be bothered to take the trolley back. But what makes this worse? It’s not just one trolley, but it’s several, many of which are in the skip bin. What a waste! And it would have taken lots of effort to get the trolley into the skip that they might as well have left it on the side or returned it. I certainly hope they didn’t take the trollies to the dump, because they’re from a recently opened supermarket on campus that almost certainly are new.
On my way to uni, in a bus near Auburn, I managed to snap this picture of trash being dumped near a bus stop. In this picture, you’ll be able to spot a dissected Teac FD-235HF 3.5″ Floppy Drive just discarded unlovingly on the ground.
It’s things like this that make me sigh.
Bicycle Signs in Sydney City
While walking around the city, I noticed quite a bit of investment into new bicycle route signs. These are much nicer in terms of size and readability, and some of them even have distances in kilometers on them. So now you know which way to go, and how far (and how long) it’s going to take you. Having ridden around the Western suburbs myself, I’d love to see this kind of thing happen out here as well. Like it or not, it’s a sign that bicycle riding is a serious form of transport (pun intended).
Philips LED Light Globes
I managed to make it to a Woolworths earlier this week, and having once purchased Philips LED light globes that I was rather satisfied with, I decided to check out their range once again. It turns out it has expanded, the list of regular replacement LED globes for ES/BC fittings and their prices are:
Product Price W/$ Philips LED Bulb 5W ES Warm White $9.99 0.501 Philips LED Bulb 5W BC Warm White $9.99 0.501 Philips LED Bulb 8W ES Warm White $13.49 0.593 Philips LED Bulb 8W BC Warm White $14.16 0.565 Philips LED Bulb 10W ES Warm White $16.79 0.596 Philips LED Bulb 10W BC Warm White $16.79 0.596 Philips LED 13W ES Warm White $19.99 0.650 Philips LED 13W BC Warm White $20.99 0.619
As it turns out, the BC version is more expensive at the 8W and 13W sizes, and I can’t see a good reason why. But the best “watts per dollar” result is at 13W. It’s still a bit pricey, but at least there is some variety and exposure – hopefully that will help to bring prices down in the future.
Oh I Sigh at Microsoft
This week, I unexpectedly fell victim to two issues with my large fleet of computers, both thanks to Microsoft. The first one involves the Windows 7 “feature” called Startup Repair.
It turns out, my headless box had been improperly shutdown before due to power loss, and then failed to start-up again the next time because the power cable fell out. I tried it again, but the box didn’t come up on the network after a long wait. I decided to plug in a monitor and got greeted with the horrific sight of it running Startup Repair.
I shall make it clear the installation had no problem really, but because of Startup Repair, it now did.
After this, booting resulted in a BSOD. Interestingly, the text string that used to accompany BSODs like these should say something like BOOT_DEVICE_INACCESSIBLE which alludes to the problem.
It seems that startup repair has somehow removed the AHCI SATA drivers, and now the system won’t boot at all – not to regular nor safe mode. Switching the BIOS to IDE emulation allowed me to boot, but switching from IDE to AHCI mode was faught with problems, so I’m now left in IDE emulation mode. It’s better than reinstalling – I don’t have time for that right now.
The other problem struck my laptop which refused to install Internet Explorer 11, due to a problem with KB272904. Ultimately, installing the KB alone didn’t work, clearing and rebuilding the Windows Update database didn’t work either. I had eventually solved it by downloading the standalone installer for IE 11 and installing it.
iOS 7.1 Update
Just another update for iOS which aims to make things a bit smoother and more efficient. It was another ~230Mb of bandwidth used, but it applied with no problems for me on my 3rd generation iPad. I don’t notice much of a difference really.
Aldi Mobile Corrective Notice
A while back, I noticed Aldi Mobile was forced to publish a corrective notice which tells everyone exactly why their unlimited plan was in no way unlimited. I think carriers need to be extremely careful to understand what the word unlimited means.
Once before, I made a post lamenting ads which auto-launched app-stores or pop-up boxes on mobile devices, and it seemed something may have been being done about them. But even today, I’ve managed to get annoyed by it. Is it a co-incidence, but most of the issues seem to stem with ads which are provided by Yahoo’s ad services. So come on Yahoo! Do something about it!
It’s been another busy week or two, and unfortunately, the VHS Corner isn’t going to see much action until I manage to make some time. I’ve now been able to put myself more toward to my PhD, now that my ankle is good enough to make it to uni for most days of the week. The pain’s not entirely gone, but it seems to be getting a little better.
And that ends another week of random-thoughts. Thanks for reading!