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

11/2/2016: The ads aren’t really in good spots on mobile — this requires some customisation. But most of the other mobile layout looks pretty good.

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?

Bye bye home phone, hello VOIP

I finally got around to replacing my home fixed line phone with VOIP. I took the easy route of sticking with my ISP, Netspace/iiNet.

Previously each month I’d been paying $59.95 for ADSL2+ broadband, plus for the home phone $22.95 rental, plus $6 for caller ID, plus $2.93 for an unlisted number.

Local calls were costing me 30 cents, but because I only make at most perhaps about a dozen a month, a grand total for net+phone of around $95 per month. With all the phone costs included, each call was costing me about $3. (Some of them can be quite lengthy, which is why I decided not to abandon any form of home phone completely.)

Switching to the equivalent Naked (eg without a home phone) ADSL plan, with VOIP (which doesn’t count towards the plan quota, and includes free local and national calls) is costing me $59.95 per month. On top of that I’ve decided to rent (rather than buy) a BoB2 combined VOIP-capable modem and VOIP phone for an extra $9.95 (on a two year contract — I’ve checked; we won’t get the NBN in that time).

So I’m at $69.90 per month with most calls included — saving about $25 per month.

The changeover

One thing that scared me about doing the change were the warnings that it would take 10-20 days, and that I would be without Internet during this time. As an extremely wired, internet-addicted person (and indeed family), this terrified me, and I ended up timing it for the January school holidays when the kids were away. (I figured I could find ways around it on my own, like using my mobile, though I’d need to take it easy to avoid high fees.)

This turned out to be a furphy. The text might imply you’ll be without Internet for the full switch period, but in fact once I’d signed-up, an email I received said that in fact it would be out for only up to one day.

If I’d known that I would have done it a lot sooner. In fact any outage was barely noticeable — it probably happened in the middle of the day when we were all out.

I think they’ve severely undersold how easy it is to switch.

The catches of VOIP

There are catches of course.

The BoB2 wasn’t quite plug-in and go, as advertised… it seemed to have picked-up the wrong logon info from somewhere; possibly an issue with migrating off an existing account. Easily solved.

I had ummed and ahhed over keeping my old phone number or switching to a new one. In the end I placed the order requesting to keep the old one, but when it was provisioned, they’d actually allocated a new one. I don’t mind — I almost chose it that way — so I won’t bother to get it changed back, though there’s a few people I’ll need to notify.

By ordering VOIP you have to waive your rights under the telephone service Customer Service Guarantee. Basically that means if it doesn’t work, you don’t have much recourse. That’s OK for us — we barely use the home phone anyway; the mobile is much more important, so this is really just a backup (and cheaper option for local calls).

Some complain about VOIP call quality — in the calls I’ve made so far, it’s been okay for me. I haven’t yet tried it with a lot of network traffic going on. Theoretically QOS should ensure it’s okay, but it’ll be interesting to see how well that works in practice.

They note that calls to 13 numbers don’t necessarily go to a local branch of the company you’re ringing, unlike those made from conventional fixed lines.

They also warn about not keeping it as the only phone in the house, in the event of emergencies. Fair enough, we have mobiles for that. And you can’t dial 190X premium numbers at all. (No loss!)

Finally, although you get free national calls to fixed lines, it’s worth being aware that this excludes 1300 and 13 numbers, which are listed at 30 cents each, untimed. What I’ve also found is that some other types of calls cost — I used the 1194 Time service a couple of times to check voice quality without ringing a human. Turns out these cost 35 cents a pop, despite not being listed on the call rates list. Odd.

Overall

So far I’m happy, and saving a big heapa money. I wish I’d switched ages ago.

Quick random thoughts

The Herald Sun paywall launched in March, and offered free 2-month passes. Any word on what’s happened now those have run out?

Strange dream: Woke up with the most enormous sideburns. Struggled to get them removed before having to go to work.

Another dream: Was invited to a very elaborate dinner party at Alan Kohler’s place, which in the dream was in Carnegie around the corner from where I used to live.

Another dream: Woke up to find the kids had re-arranged their bedroom. TARDIS-like, they’d managed to fit furniture into the room that in real life wouldn’t fit in there.

QR-codes in emails now? Really? What use would this be apart from on printouts? And shouldn’t we be discouraging printouts?

I felt like I was being a bandwagon jumper for buying a Beastie Boys the week after Adam Yauch passed-away. I even looked around and found something else I wanted to buy, to try and diffuse the judgement of the JB Hifi checkout person. Oh dear. In retrospect it’s a little like slipping a dirty magazine in between a bunch of nerd mags at the newsagent.

Perhaps the preface for everything on Twitter (indeed everything online) should be: “You may choose to disagree, but my hypothesis is this:”