Ten years ago: the Games

Ten years ago this month Melbourne was in the grip of the Commonwealth Games.

As I noted at the time, it was a good excuse to Blame The Games for any delay or anything else going wrong. (Including crowded trains.)

Blame the Games

But it was also a lot of fun. These photos are from the baton relay as it went down my mum’s street.
Commonwealth Games Baton Relay, Melbourne, March 2006
Commonwealth Games baton relay

Here’s a short video… note the lack of lots of bystanders holding up phones, taking photos/video. Ah, those were the days, pre-smartphone. (Mobile phones did have cameras, but they weren’t very good.)

These are from our day at the athletics.
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006

Crowds at Richmond Station on the way home — an enlightened policy of no car parking at venues, and public transport included in Games tickets, as well as extra services, meant things actually flowed pretty well. Plus everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006

To get official vehicles around quickly, they had “Games Lanes”. See, it is possible to provide on-road priority… now, why can’t we do more for trams and buses?
Commonwealth Games "Games Lane" Melbourne, March 2006

Finally, a non-Games photo: I must have found this old pre-privatisation (1999) map at a station somewhere. Looks like it might have been South Yarra.
Met rail map, outdated but still on display, 2006

Oh oh la la: Ocean Colour Scene live

Ocean Colour Scene played last night at Max Watt’s (formerly known as the HiFi bar — I assume the current name is a pun about loud music, rather than being named after a person).

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve wanted to see them play live for decades, but this is their first tour of Australia.

OCS

The tickets were a Christmas present from Marita. We got there about 8:15… there was no sign of the support act “El Mariachi” — perhaps they’d been and gone. OCS was expected at 9:15. I bought myself a t-shirt and a drink and we found a good spot to stand.

I’d been warned it was a hot stuffy venue, which might not be pleasant after a hot day in Melbourne, but lining the walls were numerous air conditioners, and despite it being a sold-out gig, the heat wasn’t oppressive… at least for the audience.

They were clearly feeling it on stage though. Frontman Simon Fowler seemed to be suffering more than most, but didn’t seem to let it affect his performance. His voice doesn’t seem to have lost any of its power in 20 years.

In fact the whole band performed really well. Holy crap that Steve Cradock can play a guitar (he also plays in Paul Weller’s band). Drummer Oscar Harrison let loose with a short drum solo — I think it was on the end of You’ve Got It Bad. Bass player Raymond Meade, who joined the band last year, was more low-key (as bass players often are), but was great too.

Ocean Colour Scene playing in Melbourne, 23/2/2016

While the band was terrific, the sound quality, I thought, wasn’t great. Maybe it was where we were standing, and/or my ears can’t handle the noise these days, but it seemed just a little too loud and distorted. Not that it stopped me enjoying it thoroughly, and singing my lungs out.

They started with their 1996 album Moseley Shoals in full. It was their second album, and their most successful — about half of the tracks ended up being included on their 2001 “best of” compilation, but even those that missed out are great — of those, I particularly like The Downstream, but I love some of the more well-known tracks such as The Circle, The Day We Caught The Train, and one I think is a masterpiece: One For The Road.

At the bar I’d overheard some English accents — it seemed a number of expats were in the audience, and whether they were Brits or locals, many people seemed to be singing along. Most of the songs are very singalongable.

Ocean Colour Scene - Melbourne set list (via "Cornton Thornholders" on Facebook)
Set list, via Facebook

After Moseley, they went on to some of their other songs, finishing up with Hundred Mile High City, with its killer riffs, which incredibly they seemed to play note-for-note, but faster than the original studio version.

A great night.

Glenhuntly level crossing and the vanishing petition

Liberal Caulfield MP David Southwick has a campaign running to get the Glen Huntly level crossing grade separated. I somewhat cringe at the “Blame Labor” rhetoric, but the rest of it I agree with completely.

A 2014 report by VicRoads found the Glen Huntly Rd level crossing to be of the highest priority for removal with boom gates expected to drop for 82 per cent of the morning peak between 7am and 9am within seven years, rendering the crossing virtually impassable. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing is also traversed by trams on route 67 between Melbourne University and Carnegie that are also subjected to significant delays. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing needs to be removed for safety and to prevent gridlock.


Remove Glen Huntly Road Level Crossing from David Southwick on Vimeo.

I lived in the area for 8 years, and know only too well that the train/tram crossing causes suburban and freight trains to slow to a crawl, delaying pedestrians, trams, cyclists, buses (on nearby Neerim Road), ambulances (there’s an ambulance station further west on Glen Huntly Road) — as well as train passengers both trying to get in and out of the station, and on the trains themselves. Even express trains have to slow down to 20 km/h.

So I went to sign the petition… onto David Southwick’s web site:
David Southwick web site: Glenhuntly level crossing petition

At the bottom it says: Sign the petition here: http://doublecrossed.com.au/

But clicking through, what do we find?

It’s the Liberals’ anti-Skyrail web site:
Double Crossed web site, February 2016

That’s not what I want to support. I want to support removing the Glen Huntly level crossing.

Indeed, thanks to the reclaimed swampland in the area, it’s possible that the only practical way of doing it might be to use elevated “Skyrail”.

So what’s happened here?

It seems when David launched his campaign, the initial Double Crossed web site was indeed a petition in support of more level crossing removals:
Double Crossed web site, mid-2015

Early this year when it was revealed the government planned the Caulfield to Dandenong crossings to be elevated, the Libs changed tack and the Double Crossed web site became the “anti high rise rail” petition you see today.

But nobody updated David Southwick’s links. And I wonder how many other Liberal MPs have similar campaigns now inadvertently linking to anti-Skyrail petitions?

Perhaps not many. The only one I could find was Christine Fyfe (MP for Evelyn): “Sign the petition if you want your local level crossing removed – instead of a broken promise.”

Other Liberals have links to it, but they are clearly about Skyrail.

So where do I sign in support of removing the Glenhuntly crossing, but keeping a neutral stance on Skyrail? Perhaps I’ll need to go into his office to sign.

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.

14/2/2016: Via a child theme and a plugin, I’ve enabled numbering on the comments. This was nowhere near as straightforward as I thought it would be. The instructions for creating the child theme in particular to keep the modifications separate from the parent theme were particularly geeky, but it seems to have worked.

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?

Update 22/3/2016:

I finally made the switch, to Optus Cable. Comparing the My Broadband test old and new results:

Old: Latency 15ms / Jitter 0 ms / Download 7.54 Mbps / Upload 0.53 Mbps

New (at lunchtime): Latency 1 ms / Jitter 12 ms / Download 27.61 Mbps / Upload 1.96 Mbps.

New (at 6:15pm): Latency 78ms / Jitter 24 ms / Download 19.80 Mbps / Upload 1.29 Mbps. So download and upload speeds have both increased by about 3-4 times.