Blog template

After the mess of the last attempt, and noting the large number of people reading on mobile devices (phones 39%, tablet 10%), I’ve switched to a plain but hopefully more mobile-friendly blog template.

Here is a photo of some people doing geeky things to test the pictures.

Computers at Pax

I’ll probably do some tweaking, but any feedback on how it looks (particularly on phones and tablets) is very welcome!

Update: Testing a photo from Flickr:

Melbourne city, viewed from Regional Rail Link near Tarneit

The need for speed part 1: Internet uploads

Not to pre-empt anything, but this year I expect to have two film and television students in the house.

For this, I’m considering upgrading my Internet.

We’re currently on iiNet Naked ADSL2+ costing $69.99 per month (for 1000 Gb of data, of which, to my surprise, we’re using about a quarter). Actually I’m paying an additional $10 for VOIP, but I’m planning to ditch it because we rarely use it, and it seems quite unreliable — the handset frequently can’t get a signal. I don’t know precisely where the problem is, but given everyone in the house has a mobile phone, it seems an unnecessary cost.

Why upgrade the Internet? Well one of the things the boys have highlighted is the relatively slow upload speeds.

This is important for film students, because these days everything is digital, and moving big video files around quickly is important.

Computers at PAX 2014

Current speeds

Our download speeds are okay. Our upload speeds… aren’t.

Using the iiNet broadband test:

  • Latency 12ms
  • Jitter 3ms
  • Download 7.63 Mbps
  • Upload 0.68 Mbps

Using the Department of Communications My Broadband test:

  • Latency 15ms
  • Jitter 0ms
  • Download 7.54 Mbps
  • Upload 0.53 Mbps

This isn’t good. By my calculations it means that a 50 Mb file (which is not that big by modern video standards) would take 12 minutes, and that’s assuming no other bottlenecks.

A 500 Mb file would take over two hours.

Theoretical speeds

This explainer web page from Optus compares theoretical speeds, and notes that the limit of ADSL2+ upload is 820 Kbps (eg 0.82 Mbps).

The ADSL upload speed is so slow that when Isaac wants to send a big file to Dropbox (or whatever), it’s often quicker to go into campus (about an hour’s trip away) and do it there, then come home again. I suppose it gets him out of the house, but it’s not brilliant, is it.

It’s not just study. He’s starting to do post-production work as a part-time job. This is the kind of agile digital economy PM Turnbull often drones on about.

Cable internet is faster; around 3 times faster for uploads. DOCSIS theoretically allows faster upload, but queries from customers were answered in a vague way by Telstra. The speculation is the Telstra and Optus cable internet networks are set up for cable TV, which are pretty much all download.

If only we had some kind of universal super-fast internet service providing a future-proof fibre connection to everywhere. Some kind of Network of Broadband right across the Nation.

Well, I checked. NBN (especially proper NBN, fibre-to-the-premise/home, but even fibre-to-the-node) would be great, and would improve upload speeds by up to 50 times, but isn’t getting to my area anytime soon.

So what are the options?

Given their enlightened social media operative Dan, I’d be more than pleased to sign up for Optus Cable… if they serve my street. This is confusing as their web site variously says Yes or No depending on how I enter the address. I suppose I’m going to have to ring them up.

Also notable: complaints about speed from local Optus cable users.

Telstra cable does serve my street. Theoretically may get me about a threefold increase in upload speeds (around 2.4 Mbps), for $95/month for 500 Gb or $115/month for 1000 Gb — and appears to include a home phone service.

Importantly, with cable there are no guarantees about speed — it depends on network congestion.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. Assuming I don’t want to pay a heap of money for a fibre connection myself, are there any other options?

Some blog stats for 2015

Here are a few blog stats from 2015…

Posts: 166 — more than I thought, but I suppose there’s been a post every few days.

Comments: 1,692

Top ten commenters:

  • Daniel 176 (seems I still like commenting on my own posts)
  • Roger 132
  • TranzitJim 69
  • Llib 52
  • David Stosser 48
  • Andrew 47
  • enno 45
  • John of Melbourne 44
  • Tom the first and best 44
  • Kiwi Nick 41

The following are from Google Analytics…

Google Analytics graphs

Across the year: 470,650 page views / 347,223 sessions

Per day that’s an average of 1289 page views per day, up from 986 the year before. More than I’d expect.

Busiest day of 2015 was March 24th: 13,754 sessions (15,123 page views), with 11,000 of them coming from Social Media — and almost as high for each of the following two days. It appears I got a lot of hits from Facebook that day onto the Hidden message in train seats post… I assume the post got linked from somewhere popular. (It currently has 1100 Likes in Facebook)

English language users: 95.71%

Countries: Australia 86.12%, USA 3.88%, UK 2.21%

Cities: Melbourne 68.23%, Sydney 8.60%, Brisbane 2.92%, followed by Perth, Adelaide, London, Canberra

Browsers

  • Chrome 42.75%
  • Safari 23.73%
  • Safari (in-app) 11.26%
  • Firefox 10.72%
  • Internet Explorer 7.34%

Operating Systems:

  • Windows 37.91%
  • iOS 30.29%
  • Android 17.15%
  • Mac/OSX 12.16%
  • Linux 1.15%

— that seems to indicate a huge number of users on mobile, which reminds me that I need to fix the quirks in my small screen blog template.

In fact, Google Analytics also tells me that desktop is 51.14%, mobile is 38.85%, tablet is 10.01%.

Most popular pages (apart from home page): Hidden message in train seats 10.82%, Identity card options 2.48%, How much power a kettle uses 1.89%. Some of these old pages seem to live on via Google.

The most popular 2015 posts were the one with detail on the Bentleigh area grade separations 1.32% (6,226 page views) and the one with detail about the next generation High Capacity Metro Trains 1.01% (4,776 page views) and the updated list of current Melbourne train types 0.84% (3,962 page views).

Search engine referrals:

  • myki top up 33,687
  • melbourne train map 32,827
  • daniel bowen 14,092
  • flagstaff station 6,412
  • melbourne free tram zone 6,329
  • keypass 5,844
  • melbourne airport to city 4,897
  • free tram zone melbourne 4,156
  • proof of age card vic 3,576
  • top up myki 3,501

Social media referrals:

  • Facebook 44,831
  • Twitter 33,649
  • Reddit 18,919
  • Blogger 740
  • Google+ 84

— wow, this really says something about the relative use of Google+, doesn’t it… though of course it’d be higher if I posted links there more often.

I’d love to pull some stats on which categorie(s) of posts are the most popular, but attempts to work that out via the number of comments in each post category had me baffled — WordPress has changed the database design around to make it quite difficult. I’ll keep researching. Certainly in terms of page views, the transport-related posts dominated, but they seem to be most of my posts these days…

What other metrics are worth noting?

Ocean Colour Scene touring Australia

Back in the day I watched the 1998 movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and liked it.

Then I watched the 2001 TV spin-off Lock Stock which was okay I guess (it was notable for having Martin Freeman in a couple of episodes, in one of his early roles).

But what really grabbed me was the theme music, an instrumental version of a song called July by Britpop band Ocean Colour Scene — possibly because another of their songs had been used as the movie’s theme song.

Ocean Colour Scene were pretty big in the UK, with their second album Moseley Shoals (1996) being possibly their best known and most successful. I’ve bought quite a few of their albums over the years, and they’re still going. But they never seem to have made it internationally.

I’m not sure I could name a favourite song; they’ve done some great ones, but one I will note as being thematically up my alley is Mechanical Wonder — as author Simon Fowler wrote: I wrote this walking the dog on the Grand Union Canal and it yearns for a time before the roar of the M40.

To my surprise, for the first time, they’re coming to Australia, as part of their tour marking twenty years since Moseley Shoals was released.

Marita found it first, and (spoiler alert) has bought me tickets for Christmas.

Ocean Colour Scene playing in Melbourne

Honestly, I thought I’d have to try and make it to England to see them in person. Instead I’ll only have to make it into the city. How good is that?!

If you’re a closet OCS fan, or like the Britpop genre, book fast — the Perth show has already sold out.

Sydney Sunday: Doctor Who galore

Sunday! And so we get to the main excuse reason for the trip to Sydney on this specific weekend: the Doctor Who Festival.

I’ve been to Comic-Con in Melbourne twice, but this was a different beast: 98% dedicated to Doctor Who, with little bit of Sherlock (which has many of the same producers/writers/crew members/fans!) getting a look-in too. But its official status meant this event got big guns in the guest department: star Peter Capaldi, former Doctor Sylvester McCoy, semi-regular cast member Ingrid Oliver (as Osgood), showrunner Steven Moffat, writer Mark Gattis, special effects supervisor Danny Hargreaves. These things don’t get to Australia very often — that’s why I was willing to build an interstate trip around it.

Doctor Who Festival Sydney: miniature Dalek props in a Dalek city

But first: Doctor Who is currently airing on Saturday nights in the UK, and in Australia the ABC puts it on iView as soon as the UK broadcast is finished: in this case, 8am Sunday.

So we got up at about 7:30am, showered and dressed and went downstairs to enjoy the slightly bland but plentiful breakfast buffet, then with our unlimited hotel WiFi organised ($9.95 per 24 hours), we fired up iView on the iPad, plugged it into the TV and watched the episode. Which I won’t talk about in case anybody hasn’t seen it.

Then we headed for the bus stop outside Museum Station, where Google Transit told me we needed a 373, 377, 392, 394, 396, 397, 399 or M10 bus. This was a common theme for the inner-city trunk bus routes: as each bus approached, I’d look back at the phone and see if the number matched one on the list.

The bus took us to Moore Park and the Hordern Pavillion, where after a lengthy walk trying to find a way in (like the restaurant the night before, sadly clearly designed to prioritise arrivals by car), and a mild panic trying to find the right ticket barcodes (thank goodness everything was available in my email, and thank goodness for mobile internet), we entered the Festival.

Inside the Doctor Who Festival

Doctor Who Festival Sydney: I feel like I've forgotten something

The main hall was a mix of displays and small theatre areas: a very impressive fullsize Lego TARDIS, sessions on writing, production, Cosplay, a big display of costumes and props, some merchandising, a special effects display, “pub” quiz, and areas for autograph signing and photos with cast members.

People were snapping away at anything that moved, and many things that didn’t. Two uber-fans behind us in the queue for the costumes and props seemed amazed that few people were taking photos of Matt Smith’s actual coat.

A Festival crew member showed us the stick from the recent Dalek episode — actually made of rubber, making it safe despite the pointy end, and had the advantage of not being caught up in quarantine as an actual stick would.

Doctor Who Festival Sydney: Adam Spencer with Sylvester McCoy

Doctor Who Festival Sydney: Adam Spencer with Peter Capaldi, Ingrid Oliver and Steven Moffat

After a circuit, we went into the Sylvester McCoy session — which was very entertaining, as he strolled around the theatre taking questions.

We had pretty good seats despite not having paid the premium for the front section, so we stayed put in the theatre for a short time until the Capaldi/Moffat/Oliver session started. Before it was a trailer for the new Sherlock episode, which got applause from the audience.

On stage, Moffat noted that it would be a good idea not to talk about the climactic events of the latest episode, given many wouldn’t have seen it yet. Oliver said the first time she really appreciated the popularity of the show among fans was seeing lots of people dressed up as her character. They took some pretty good questions… though the one that got the biggest laugh was when one little kid asked Capaldi how much longer before he’d be quitting.

After that we grabbed a bite to eat then went back into the hall to join a long queue for photos with Capaldi. These had been pre-booked at $60 a pop, which seems to be the going rate for a photo with a star of this calibre. Churning through one about every 30-45 seconds during a session lasting a bit under an hour must mean a fair wad of cash is collected, though a whole infrastructure of queues and staff is needed to make it all run smoothly.

It must be a bit exhausting for the star, but he seemed to be managing okay. He was chatty with everybody, greeting them by name (with help from assistants), and he seemed to have figured out a range of poses for photos that would make the punters happy.

I told him I was enjoying his stint as the Doctor, and I loved him as Malcolm Tucker too. I don’t know if he was taking it all in, but we posed for a simple handshake (other people got more “in-character” poses). So here’s me making a deal with Malcolm Tucker:

Hatching a deal with Malcolm Tucker... or maybe it's the 12th Doctor Who

After collecting the photos that we wandered around a bit more, before looking in on a special effects presentation.

Special effects whiz Danny Hargreaves blew bits off a “stunt Dalek”, and with the help of some audience members and a sonic screwdriver, had sparks flying off a Cyberman.

By then, we’d just about had our fill of Doctor Who.

Was it worth $195 each? Well, you know, YOLO. The boys were delighted. I refrained from paying the $170 additional for premium tickets (which gained you a showbag, access to a “lounge” and a fast track queue to good seats up the front of each session).

Doctor Who Festival Sydney: A Cyberman gets his comeuppance

Bus way outside Moore Park/Hordern Pavilion

Finding dinner

Eventually it was time to go; we headed back to the bus stops, and were about to cross ANZAC Parade to wait for a bus back when we saw a bus approaching on the parallel bus way. I’m not clear on why some buses do and don’t use it, but it took us back to the hotel for a bit of a rest.

Time for dinner: I thought we could catch the ferry to Manly and have fish and chips — especially as we’d hit the ridiculously low Sunday Opal $2.50 cap, so all PT would be free for the rest of the day.

The Manly ferry only runs every 30-40 minutes at that time, so I checked Google Transit for the quickest bus to Circular Quay. It showed a “5 CC” bustitution service that would take us there — but while I’m pretty sure we were standing at the suggested bus stop adjacent to Museum Station, the regular 5 CC buses didn’t stop there. After seeing a few of these zoom by (and other buses not going to Circuular Quay) we walked up one stop and quickly got a 5 CC to the Quay… only to miss the ferry by a couple of minutes.

Circular Quay

Trains at Milsons Point station

Sydney Opera House

Another ferry for Milsons Point was leaving shortly, so I identified via Google Maps that there was a fish’n’chip shop nearby to there, and we caught that instead. Dinner in the park under the northern end of the Harbour Bridge, then we walked back across it at dusk.

A further walk through the CBD, via a supermarket to get some fruit to eat and also something flat for storage of our precious printed Capaldi photos, then back to the hotel for some sleep.

Total steps that day, according to my phone: 14,938.