We spotted ourselves on Google Street View

In January 2010 we spotted a Google Streetview car passing the post office in Bentleigh.

Spotted ourselves on Google Streetview

Google Streetview car, BentleighGoogle Streetview finally updated its pictures, and it includes imagery from that day. Alas, it wasn’t shooting when the car passed us, but it did once it entered the nearby side street — that’s why you can see it turning. So while we’re in view, it’s only from a distance. Still, myself and the boys are recognisable — gotta like that!

Shaped! Oh the humanity!

My Internet access account got shaped on Sunday afternoon, for the last day-and-a-half of the billing cycle, as we apparently burnt through 30 Gb (peak) in the month. No big deal — it may just mean Youtube is unbearably slow for 36 hours, and I’ll have to curb my practice of having lots of browser tabs all doing stuff at once.

On poking around in the account, I find that Netspace has again upgraded its plans without telling anybody — in fact following iiNet’s takeover of Netspace, they’ve aligned with iiNet’s plans. For the same price as I’m getting 30Gb peak+45 Gb off-peak (midnight to 7am), I could be getting 50 and 50 (with different off-peak hours: 2am to 8am).

I think even the shaped speed has been upgraded, from 56 kbps to 256 kbps. And it offers quota-free access to a bunch of sites in the iiNet FreeZone — including ABC iView. Neato.

There’s a gotcha in the small print: Uploads and downloads are counted towards the monthly quota on all current plans — the existing plan I’m on only counts downloads.

Normally it would be expected that uploads would be much less than downloads, but I don’t know what my upload traffic is like. Maybe my modem/router knows, but I don’t see the option anywhere to tell me. Netgear DG834G — anybody know?

Still, it’s unlikely to be anywhere close to 30Gb down+20Gb up… so I might switch anyway.

(Some people are raving about TPG’s unlimited $59.95 plan. It would cost me a connection fee, but worth looking into… though I don’t know if I could meet the system requirements. Apparently you need a PC with something called a 3.5″ 1.44MB diskette drive, and their support is limited to Win 98 Second Edition, 2000, ME and XP only.)

Update: I decided to go ahead and switch plans. Given the new plan includes uploads in the quota, the Usage tool is now quoting my total downloads and uploads.

Period/Classification Downloads Uploads Total
Normal Traffic – Peak 31240 Mb 16559 Mb 47799 Mb
Normal Traffic – Off Peak 2742 Mb 11320 Mb 14062 Mb

Retired

The other day I retired one of my oldest web pages, an FAQ on Melbourne public transport.

It started life (I think around 1993, before the Web was around) as a Usenet FAQ for the misc.transport.urban-transit group.

In 1994 it was posted (with an incomplete attempt to convert it to HTML) on Railpage — where unfortunately it is still online, as I haven’t been able to find someone who can remove it.

When I wrote it, there was little information available online about public transport. But from about the late-90s, official sources of information on public transport became more prevalent online (and in the last few years, more accurate and useful), so now keeping a separate FAQ is largely pointless, and potentially confusing, so I’ve taken it offline, though it lives-on in the Internet Archive.

The page had a slightly awkward format (designed by someone on the Usenet group) to allow better comparisons between cities, but (like this old video) some of the detail means it is something of a time capsule.

Fare procedures: Tram: pay conductor (or show valid ticket). On Z class trams, when paying, place your money in the tray in front of the conductor. On driver only trams, pay the driver. Exact change is not required, although large notes may not be accepted. Keep your ticket as proof of payment until you alight.

Here, just for laughs, is the old FAQ’s rail map (remember, it was originally posted on Usenet, which takes plain text only).

MELBOURNE METROPOLITAN TRAIN SYSTEM
-----------------------------------
                                                 ZONE 2      .
                                  *Epping                    .
                    ZONE 2        |            *Hurstbridge  .     ZONE 3
        Broad- *             .....|.......    /               .
        meadows|    *Upfield.     |  ________*Eltham           .
               | ...|......       | /      .                   .
ZONE 2        .|.   |     ZONE 1  |/        ..                 .   *Lilydale
             .  \   |             *Clifton    ..               .  /
  St Albans* .   \  | Nth         |Hill         ..Box Hill     . /
           .\     \ | Melb        |               ..    *_______*Ringwood
         .   \__*__\_\_*___*_*_   |       Camberwell.  /       . \
      Footscray/         | 3 4 |  |           *_______/        .  \
        .     |         2*    5*  |Richmond  /   \   .  ZONE 2  .  \
        ______*Newport    \_*__|_/__*______*/     |  .          .   *Belgrave
       /.     |             1        \Burnley\    *Alamein     .
      /  .    *  ~~~~~~~~            |\       \    ..         .
     *    . Williamstown~~   ZONE 1  | \       \______*Glen Waverley
Werribee      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~        |  \       .           .
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     |   *Caulfield       ..
       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   |   |\   .         ..
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~..|...|.\.. ZONE 2 ..
  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Sandringham*   |  \    .....       ZONE 3
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    |  .\...
CITY LOOP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~...|..  *Dandenong
1 Flinders St~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ |     \
2 Spencer St~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Frankston*      \
3 Flagstaff~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ |       *Pakenham
4 Museum~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    |
5 Parliament~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Stony Point*

     \___ Rail lines
     __*_ Major stations
     .... Fare zone boundaries; overlaps generally apply over 2-3 stations
     ~~~~ Port Phillip Bay

The A to Z of online stores

Pondering the fact that I’d browsed both dstore.com.au and estore.com.au, I was curious as to what others exist…

astore.com.au — watches and jewellery

bstore.com.au — Birkenstock shoes

cstore.com.au — forwards to Codagenic, selling an ecommerce platform

dstore.com.au — all sorts of stuff; been around for years

estore.com.au — geeky stuff; a division of City Software

fstore.com.au — toys and gifts

gstore.com.au — green products

hstore.com.au — hobbies

istore.com.au — registered, but not in use

jstore.com.au — not in use

kstore.com.au — registered, but not in use; apparently under construction

lstore.com.au — not in use

mstore.com.au — registered, but not in use

nstore.com.au — registered, but not in use

ostore.com.au — not in use

pstore.com.au — registered, but not in use

qstore.com.au — not in use

rstore.com.au — dent removal from cars

sstore.com.au — not in use

tstore.com.au — not in use

ustore.com.au — not in use

vstore.com.au — registered, but not in use

wstore.com.au — web hosting

xstore.com.au — adult products

ystore.com.au — forwards to melbourneit.com.au domain name sales; not clear if it’s owned by someone else but unused

zstore.com.au — party entertainment

The importance of context (even on Twitter)

I’m not having a go at anybody in particular here, but making a point.

I tweeted what I thought was an amusing comment from someone I don’t always find myself in thorough agreement with, Roads Minister Tim Pallas:

Tim Pallas’s pledge: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.” http://j.mp/9Z9zlB #vicvotesdanielbowen

A couple of people re-tweeted it, with this one adding a comment.

RT… @danielbowen Tim Pallas: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public” http://j.mp/9Z9zlB #vicvotes WTF is wrong with Lycra?! FO Tim

You know, I think before you blast someone’s comment (apart from the fact that it was clearly meant to be taken in jest), you might want to read the context by following the link provided. Here’s the full paragraph:

While some people look good in lycra, It is perhaps appropriate here that I reiterate my pledge to the Victorian people that I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.

So in fact Pallas didn’t say anything was wrong with lycra. He just made a funny, self-deprecating comment that he shouldn’t wear it.

Foolishly I decided to point this out to the Tweeter:

Maybe you should read the full quote?

…and got this response back:

I did and the issue isn’t even worth answering. It just gives credence to the doped on the other side.

Does that actually make any sense? I’m seeing words there, but I can’t comprehend the meaning.

I didn’t bother taking it any further.

But my point is that while I love using Twitter, the brevity of messages shouldn’t be an excuse for wilfully ignoring context, nor blasting away with both barrels when you make an assumption as a result of that lack of context, particularly when the link to all the information is merely a click away.

Domain Registry of America/Domain Renewal Group – scammers

If you have your own internet domain name, you may have come across the Domain Registry of America (DROA), also known as the Domain Renewal Group.

They’re a bunch of scammers who regularly and repeatedly send out letters which look like an invoice for a domain name, but are in fact custom advertisements for overpriced online services. If you blindly follow the form and send them money, you’ll transfer your domain name over to their registry, and pay a handsome amount for doing so — almost certainly more than you were already paying.

Domain Renewal Group scam

Their carefully worded FAQ (which is similar to the letters) tries to make out that at US$30/A$45 per year, they are cheap. They’re not. There are any number of domain registrars that will register a .com domain name for around US$10 (at the moment about A$10) per year — or even less.

So you might as well just chuck any letter from DROA into the bin.

Or, I pondered, could you go and harass them in person? You see, I noticed one of their offices is here in Melbourne: “189 Queen Street #209″ — that’s US-speak for “unit 209″.

So I went along to see if I could find it.

Medina Serviced apartments, 189 Queen Street, Melbourne

I had a good look around, and couldn’t actually find number 189. There is an optometrist, which is supposedly 185-191. Next door to that is a Medina Serviced Apartments building, with no street number on it. I thought this might be number 189 (I checked later and found that it is indeed) so I went and looked inside. According to the list in the lift, there is no unit 209. There’s not even a level 2, unit 9 — levels 2-5 are the carpark. So it doesn’t seem to be there.

Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

185-191 is on a corner. I checked around the corner (in Little Bourke Street) for another entrance. I didn’t find one, but it’s notable there there’s a business centre there, though it has a Little Bourke Street number. Peeking inside the window, I did note that their letterboxes are numbered from 201, and there is a 209. I wonder if that’s them? Looks like it — a commenter here reckons he was directed from the Medina to the business centre.

So, 189 Queen Street #209 clearly doesn’t exist. Which is no surprise really — like I said, the whole thing’s a scam.

ANZ free wifi

The ANZ-sponsored free wifi at Southern Cross Station is a nice idea, and would be quite useful… if it worked.

100820102388a

I tried for several minutes one day the other week to get it working, and couldn’t. My mobile could detect both an ANZ Wifi and a “Free public Wifi” network, but neither seemed to actually do anything.

Apparently it runs until the end of September, as well as (for some of this period) some cafes in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Sydney Manly ferries.

I also spotted a tram the other day that allegedly has free wifi on board. Who knows if it actually works though.

It was twenty years ago today

Exactly twenty years ago today, on the 12th of August 1990, I posted my first online writing — under the distinctly odd title the Toxic Custard Workshop Files. Being well before the Web, it went to a handful of people at uni via email.

The very first Toxic Custard email

As I later wrote (in 1997):

Well, back in them days of ’90, I was in the second year of my course, a Bachelor of Pretending Cobol Is Structured, failing Photocopying 215, and me and me mates had just discovered the Internet. We suddenly realised that there was more to computer networks than just using Phone and Talk to annoy people in the next room, or sending Mail to tell people to meet you for lunch and Tetris at the corner shop.

I was messing around with my mate Bw.. err Brian Smith. Hi Brian, if you’re reading. And another pal of ours, Ray Chan, who was in an Electronics, Robotics And Other High-Tech Stuff course, came up with an idea for an electronic magazine, called “The Serial Saga”. Hi Ray, if you’re reading. We thought this was great, and immediately mugged him in the corridor and stole his idea. Ray never actually wrote anything, but did manage to create a monster robot which went berserk the next semester, and killed 5 lecturers due to a faulty diode in its corduroy detection circuits.

Ray actually vanished completely, at least from where I’m sitting. I’m still in regular contact with Brian, though he went crazy and emigrated to the USA about ten years ago.

The wacky title dated back to my last year of high school in 1988, when Mark Bainbridge and David Holicek and I planned to do an amateur comic sketch video show. It never actually happened.

My early writing drew on inspirations from uni, as well as some recycled material from high school, with a good dose absurdist Pythonesque influence. Some of it was fairly juvenile. As was I.

The Internet as we know it today — an unparalleled worldwide high-technology time-wasting device — was in its infancy. I recall frequently having to explain to people the concept of this new-fangled “email”.

Over the years my writing slowly matured and moved from the surreal into the real world, the humour that was deliberately infused into everything was gradually toned-down, and now the blog has taken over just about completely.

I dabbled in a lot of technologies as they came along — never the first, but often early: the web site came along in April 1995, and shortly after that the first diary/blog entries. Tried what is now known as podcasting in 1997. Blogged the 1996 election. Issued an official screensaver in 1998. Online video? 1999… originally in RealVideo format, which probably nobody can play anymore, so here it is on YouTube:

Most (all in fact, I think) of my old pre-blog absurdist writing is still online.

And even now, I occasionally meet people who tell me they used to read the Toxic Custard list, or Usenet posts, back in the 90s.

Some of my favourite Toxic Custard highlights:

And also:

  • Your taxes are paying for this: This blog, archived at the National Library — “World Wide Web diary/weblog of: Daniel Bowen, a computer programmer in Melbourne. His web diary is a straightforward account of his daily life. The website includes numerous photographs, information about the author and links to his home page and to the weblogs of other diarists. It also includes an archive of the diary from its inception in 1994. Recent entries feature the comments of readers.”
  • An early Usenet post (TCWF 6, 5th September 1990. The man referred to at the start, Ewen G MacPerson, was based on a lecturer, Ewen D McPherson.)
  • Debate over whether Toxic Custard should have its own newsgroup (January 1991)

The twenty-year-old email list still exists, by the way, mostly as a weekly compilation of my blog posts here and at geekrant.org.

So, happy birthday, Toxic Custard.