Random: Opal Stuff, DTRS, Bus Advertising, Drive by Download, etc.

Another week of random, and this week it’s much of the same, focusing on topics such as our public transport network, what’s happening with some MVNOs and drive-by-downloading. The main difference this week – I’m enjoying a day off thanks to the Queen’s Birthday public holiday!

stationupg-posterStation Upgrades

As expected, station upgrades continue, with the orange eye catching poster on the platform at Granville. I have peeked into the refurbished toilets, which are not yet ready, but they have settled on a tough textured charcoal tile for the floor and a sky-blue/aqua tile for the walls (at least, for the male toilets). It seems like they’re also re-doing the floors at Town Hall and Wynyard with similar tiles from what I have seen.

The digging seems to have intensified around the laneway closes to the lifts at Granville. This picture was taken Tuesday 3rd June:


This picture was taken Thursday 5th June:


Stations Go Smoke Free

At long last, in the interests of public health and clean air, it seems that many places have finally gone smoke free. I know it’s a fairly contentious issue, especially surrounding freedoms and all, but I won’t get dragged into this. Lets just say, as a non-smoker, I appreciate some clean air – too often I’ve had to queue at bus shelters with no option but to inhale secondhand smoke from smokers smoking at both ends of the shelter or risk missing my bus.


My hope is that it will be enforced and people will get used to it. That being said, I recognise that those who do choose to smoke are finding it hard to do so legally, and it’s an inconvenience for them as well.

Riding Alongside a Track Inspection Vehicle

I’ve spotted one of the new Track Inspection Vehicles before on my journeys on Sydney Trains, but never have I had the privledge of being accompanied by one for a long period of my journey. I just so happened to be riding a train into the city, when, on the Blue-Mountains tracks towards the City, I saw this unit labelled MTPV1 riding along. It’s a very quiet machine, and we were constantly leapfrogging it, only to be leapfrogged by it a few minutes later.


It looks like whoever was driving it was tucking into some breakfast …


DTRS Network Continues to Grow

It seems the digital train radio system network is still being built out at this stage. Careful looking around seems to suggest new bases popping up near Macdonaldtown yard, as well as Flemington Maintenance Centre, likely to be GSM-R stations for the use of railway maintenance crew. A few more to add to the map when I have the time.


Also spotted was an OSCAR set with ATP Test on it, in the Auburn/Maintrain yards. It seems like they have one of many different types of sets fitted with ATP for testing purposes. Would make sense to check the integration and functioning of the ATP system on different styles of train, to be sure it’s working properly.

Opal Pulls the Savings Drawcard

Opal continues to push their advertisements with people at stations again screaming “Opal Information” at the top of their lungs to try and get us to listen. But this time, they’ve started to enlist station posters with an aqua green colouring, which have all the savings worked out for you. For example, this one was spotted at Central.


These are customized for each station, although their use cases may have been carefully chosen to highlight the best savings or more typical journeys. It’s not to say that all users will see savings. Interestingly, it also reaffirms the fact that light rail will not see Opal until 2015.

Opal Bus Rollout – I Spot one in Opal Service!

I suppose it’s true that if you keep travelling the same routes, it’s not as exciting. Just so happened this week that Vivid Sydney had inspired me to make some journeys that I wouldn’t normally have done – and as a result, I got to snap some Opal Bus action. The first hint I was going to see something was this placard on the bus stop post:


Seeing this label indicates that there are routes which use this stop that accept Opal cards. This one didn’t specify which routes were involved, but other labels sometimes specify just one route number instead. I stood there for a few seconds to take the photo, and while walking up to the next stop along the route, I met the bus and surprised the driver, who was quite alarmed that I wanted to take a photo of the bus as it was caught in a jam. Don’t worry! I just wanted to snap the OPAL/PREPAY indicator on your desto!


From the looks of the buses that I catch to and from uni, more and more buses are being installed with readers. Many of them are not ready, and have the “coming soon” label plastered over them – these are typically buses with the older Datafare 2000 drivers console which has not been replaced with the newer Parkeon Wayfarers.


Only once the driver’s console is replaced and the drivers receive proper training for it will the Opal cards be ready for use on those buses.

Bus Advertising Increases

It’s interesting when we look at the trains and see they have now embraced more advertising inside the carriage, that the same thing seems to have happened for our newer buses. Those who have caught the older Mercedes non-airconditioned ‘tin can’ style diesel buses will remember the advertising frames inside the bus, which are mostly absent in more modern buses. Instead, many of the modern buses carried more advertisements plastered on the outside and over the windows instead.

Well, it seems that has all changed, when I rode in several metrobus services which have had new advertisements – now plastered in each seat position. For example, sitting in the “single” seats of the articulated buses, they’ve mounted it on the metal divider:


If you’re sitting in a regular seat, it’s mounted to the seat in front of you …


And if you still haven’t noticed it yet … lets put it on the window for good measure:


Not all the ads are for the Iconic, mind you … for example, the next day, I saw this one for Red Bull:


All of these are rather modern ads which seem to utilize TapIt infrastructure to provide QR codes and NFC capability (and tracking). Underneath the ad, it seems they have used an NXP NTAG203 anti-metal sticker with read-only permissions, encoded with a TapIt URL shortener.


Users of mobile devices have probably been driven nuts by this problem, but increasingly, it seems that companies are taking shady black-hat routes to try and increase their user-base, reach and possibly even revenue by unorthodox and plainly deceptive means. I mentioned time-delay based ads which download applications to your phone – last time it was from mtrack.softwarejourvey.com. This week, I have encountered the same scam, but from a different domain, this time it’s mt.apehi.com.


The script invokes a popup, the text is the same. It says “Your Android Phone may have (13) Virus! The Virus may corrupt your data! Please follow the instructions to remove the Virus.” The user is only given one button – OK. Pressing back to kill the dialog still results in the script causing a redirect to a page where a fake download progress bar is presented. Previously, some similar scams provided a cancel button, but not this one.


The size of the fake download varies, but the same sort of style is employed. Almost certainly, it leads to an APK download, which leads to an installed application if the user is silly enough to accept it and have other sources for applications enabled.

But the audacious guys don’t stop there. You know I enjoy myself a little bit of Cyanide and Happiness from time to time … who doesn’t like a laugh?


But then, while reading the comic … it launched itself a download …


I think it’s clear by now that Mobogenie is a pile of crap – whoever or whatever they are, they could not amass a legitimate user-base by themselves and instead rely on such shady, deceptive and harmful tactics to install themselves.

The damage is not just inflicted on users who install it, but also those who are assaulted by such messages without any option to get out of it (thus losing their position in their page and having to re-load and waste bandwidth on that). It also harms the publishers of the content who may get unfairly blamed or lose visitation because they’re seen to be peddling malware.

Whatever the case, ad publishing networks need to do more work to make sure this crap doesn’t happen. Less reputable ad networks that let this scum in should get shuttered out by more reputable ad companies.

If only Chrome had an option for changing user agent to a custom string. Pretending to be a desktop would evade all of this. There are other browsers that let you do this, but I’m still a Chrome user when it comes to Android.

Site Looks Ugly in Landscape? We’ll Fix That!

I won’t lie – I drink quite a bit of Coke from time to time. They’ve run a promotion called Coke Rewards where unique codes from labels can be used to redeem points and exchange them for prizes. I’ve noticed their site was quite broken in Landscape mode on phones – in portrait, it looks like this:


In Landscape, it loads like a site missing its .css file – completely without styles. That is, until they fixed it.


Uh, okay. I love it how they seem to think the problem is in the way the USER is holding his/her device and not with the design of the service itself. Definitely a quick fix, but not one I would like to see elsewhere.

LaCie Porsche Design USB Key Problems

I did a review of the LaCie Porsche Design USB key a while back, and I had been using it as my temporary USB key to store test data for my experiments. Unfortunately, it seems, the drive decided to corrupt itself this week and along with it, took a few hours of my work. I knew this when I plugged it in, and instead of detecting correctly, it was detected as an Innostor NAND Flash USB Device – this is probably the OEM.


After this incident, the root directory was corrupted, and while I could recover most of the files (before chkdsk), chkdsk mangled the FAT even worse.


Formatting and retesting the key saw no problems – I suspect the open connector design may be to blame for poorer contact and potential for shorting out the additional USB 3.0 pins against the connector shell when used with USB 2.0 ports – so extra care may be required.

TPG Mobile Cuts Data for Super Value Plan Heavy

New users of TPG mobile would note that the older Super Value Plan Heavy had been discontinued for a while to the dismay of many. Those who had the plan had continued along with the original set of conditions, however, it seemed that TPG’s messaging was indeed leading up to something.

The first thing we noticed was their variation of contract terms to allow them to vary the contract when given 21 days notice. Now that sounds pretty standard. What I didn’t see them doing was actually using it – in this case, to cut the data allowance from 3Gb to 2Gb on account of “supplier increasing their rates”.

The full e-mail is below:

tpg superv plan var

It seems like a pretty standard thing to do as many plans no longer offer more than 2Gb of included data and make it fairly pricey to get any more. I suppose it’s a problem of over-subscription they are trying to solve, as many more users are getting onto smartphones, the demand for data continues to increase and the strain on older 3G infrastructure is starting to show. Oh well.

Lycamobile Pushes Settings Update

I’ve been on Lycamobile Data for a while now, and it is slow as noted before. However, I have done several blog posts thanks to it, and the time saving of having data available is a convenience that’s hard to do without. One thing I’ve noticed since joining Lycamobile is the sheer amount of SMS spam they send. One thing did catch my eye – a data settings update, but this one requires the entry of the PIN (0000).


I was hopeful that it would change something, but it didn’t. It probably just committed the APN settings to the SIM for future use, in case of swapping the SIM between phones, that would mean there’s no need to push data settings again. However, it wasn’t a cure for any performance issues or a change to authentication.

Last Words

Well, that’s another week of random observations, however, there’s a few small things to note as well. I’ve finally gotten around to using a brass curl soldering iron tip cleaner instead of a wet sponge, and they’re definitely right when they claim it reduces heat loss. It works almost as well, although I do prefer the wet sponge when getting every last bit of solder off is important. The curls do work well enough, and the lack of water is a bonus for me, but there is a tendency that the curls can flick solder into stray beads which land “somewhere” in your room, not to mention that the curls do need to be replaced after a while.

Another big thing, I suppose, was the Apple keynote at WWDC. This year they bought out no new hardware, but did announce new versions of OSX and iOS, along with new features, some of which are unashamedly stolen from Android and third party developers, and others being so obvious as to lead us to say “why wasn’t it like this originally?” They have also outdone themselves by offering a new programming language (do we need this?) and a new interface to graphic hardware in the phones and tablets that is closer to bare metal (to improve performance).

I’ve actually always been a proponent for native bare metal coding – I’ve always seen it as a way of providing the best performance at the cost of compatibility. The majority of mobile operating systems at the moment have gone the other way, by abstracting features into APIs and using virtual machines to bridge the gap between hardware and software to some degree. It’s part of the reason why Android can run happily on ARM as well as x86 (well, except the optimized binary CODECs in some apps). Unfortunately, this is why some more complex high-performance apps will not run on some hardware.

I can’t see it being any different in Apple’s case – by introducing this layer, it’s likely they will see apps take better advantage of the hardware, but at cost to battery life, compatibility and possibly constraining their choices of future hardware for compatibility reasons. Wise move? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll have to see how it pans out.

But I suppose I’m still bitter from the “pure binary” days of Windows Mobile 2003.

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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