Google Maps adds regional NSW train to transit

In other TrainLink related news, Google Maps now includes transit times for NSW TrainLink Regional Trains and Coaches.

Now, you can plan connecting trips from Sydney Trains services and NSW TrainLink Intercity services all from one place.

Google Maps is now showing transit directions and times for NSW TrainLink regional services
Google Maps is now showing transit directions and times for NSW TrainLink regional services

TripView now also provides a similar capability, without real-time tracking.  But it’s still pretty cool!

Save on NSW regional trains using Opal

How I can potentially save $30 off a single one-way trip using an Opal card

If you live in or travel frequently to regional NSW, one way to travel to and from Sydney is to ride on one of NSW TrainLink’s regional train or coach services.  Services may be sparse and are still rarely packed.  North Coast services are a bit lengthy compared with a road trip on the Pacific Highway, but fares are generally cheaper than fuel for one person.

This week, I travelled home to Taree on the Grafton XPT NSW TrainLink service from Sydney (Central) – the trip took 5.5 hours and cost $46.80 – one way.  But on the way up to Taree, stopping by Broadmeadow and Dungog, I realised that there is potential to save even more!

If I swapped out part of my journey to use regular Intercity TrainLink services (the ones within the Opal network), I can potentially save around 70% of a regular one-way ticket.  A single one-way trip from Sydney to Taree costs $46.80, where as a single one-way trip from Broadmeadow to Taree costs $25.02.  Further shortening the trip from Dungog to Taree only costs $18.56.  Compare that cost difference with the maximum train fare on an Opal card which is $8.30 (peak) or $5.81 (off-peak).

This could mean your $46.80 fare could be reduced almost by half to $24.37 (Sydney to Dungog on Intercity services, Dungog to Taree on Regional services).  The deal is even better if you’ve reached your weekly travel reward cap of 8 journeys or travel on a Sunday when Opal fares are capped at $2.50 – where the minimum cost would be $18.56 and $21.06 respectively.

TrainLink Intercity Intercity Cost TrainLink Regional Regional Cost Total cost
Central to Taree $46.80 $46.80
Central to Broadmeadow
$5.81 Broadmeadow to Taree $25.02 $30.83
Central to Broadmeadow
$8.30 Broadmeadow to Taree $25.02 $33.32
Central to Dungog
$5.81 Dungog to Taree $18.56 $24.37
Central to Dungog
$8.30 Dungog to Taree $18.56 $26.86
Central to Dungog
(travelling Sunday)
$2.50 Dungog to Taree $18.56 $21.06
Central to Dungog
(weekly travel cap)
$0 Dungog to Taree $18.56 $18.56

So, if you don’t mind waiting at a station to change trains, you could save over half of your transport costs travelling to regional NSW.

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

NBN Co to conduct 200 end-user FTTN trial

Update 5:03pm: The link to the test agreement was incorrect in the original article. The link has since been updated.

In their second FTTN trial “test agreement” released today, NBN Co reveals that they’ve begun planning for an additional 200-end users to trial and test the Fibre to the Node network. Unlike the FTTN technology pilot which began in the middle of last year at Umina Beach, this trial appears to be user-centric.

iTnews reports that this trial will take place in the Lake Macquarie region.

“iTnews understands the trial will take place in the Lake Macquarie region of NSW.”

Earlier this week at a Senate hearing, Telstra admitted that the earlier FTTN technology pilot run at Umina Beach was to test the FTTN technology and that further trials would be needed to establish the actual experience and speeds that end users can expect at a commercial launch:

“We don’t believe the trial represents real world experience, it was operating over spare copper pairs… In terms of customer experience, we would be of the view there are other trials which we believe may be occurring in the future, that we have to look at.”

Tony Warren

However, based on the test agreement released today, this additional 200 end-user trial will still rely primarily be a “Second Line Pilot” where an unused or new phone line is connected to the end-user premises for the Internet connection. The agreement states that only a “limited number of Single Line Pilot” premises will be nominated by NBN Co, to test the performance of existing phone lines:

“a limited number of Single Line Pilot Premises nominated by NBN Co and agreed to by Test Participant”

It is expected that the FTTN product will be ready for initial product release by the third quarter of this year.

Netflix launches in Australia with 1k titles!

Netflix has finally launched its Australian and New Zealand offerings. Needless to say, one of the first questions was “what movies/TV shows are being offered”?

Based on my initial number crunching, it looks like a total of 1,326 titles are being offered by Netflix in Australia. I’ve compiled a spreadsheet that lists all titles I was able to get from the Netflix site. There is also a US vs CA vs AU comparison on the second sheet of that spreadsheet.

Here’s a quick comparison grid for Netflix in Australia, the US and Canada.

Common titles in AU v US v CA
AU 676* ~145 ~138
US ~145 ~5,649* ~2,291
CA ~138 ~2,291 ~1,567*
AU+US+CA ~367 (common in all 3)
Totals in each countries
Total 1,326 ~8,500^ ~4,000^

* These are unique titles — titles are are only available on that country, and not the other two in this comparison
^US and CA titles are obtained from Netflix Canada vs USA list

Updated at 10:27AM with revised estimates: AU list is now broken down into seasons — this should fix things up a bit. Note, figures are not hugely different. Old figures are at the bottom of the post for comparison.

Please still take these figures with a grain of salt, and take note of the disclaimer below.

Update at 9:00AM: It has come to my attention that the comparison between AU and US/CA isn’t as easy as matching the title IDs as I have done… because of the way the data was extracted. The AU list was obtained by getting a list of titles (for TV shows, it’s the series name) – where as the US/CA list is broken down into each season of the TV show.

An updated spreadsheet is coming soon. Apologies for the inconvenience!

As usual, it looks like Australians are still getting less titles available. One can only hope the list of titles offered by Netflix in Australia will increase as time goes on.

Disclaimer: the numbers are estimates and for reference only. There is no guarantee of their absolute accuracy and may only be good for “order of magnitude” approximations.



Rewind/Fast Forward 2015

I will be speaking at Rewind/Fast Forward on Wednesday 25 March at Doltone House on Hyde Park, Sydney in celebration of 20 years of the commercial internet in Australia.

I’ll be speaking alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry, including:

  • Simon Hackett – Founder of Internode
  • Pippa Leary, CEO, APEX
  • Mark Scott – Managing Director, ABC
  • David Skellern – Founder of Radiata
  • David Spence – Chairman, PayPal Australia
  • Michael Malone – Founder of iiNet
  • Mike Cannon- Brookes – Founder and CEO of Atlassian

We will be sharing our knowledge on developments over the last 20 years, and the major challenges to come by exploring topics like ‘creative destruction’, ‘connected living’, and ‘intelligence revolution’.

You can register to attend the event by using my speaker promo code and receive a discount: RFF2015-SPKRM

My take: OccupyHK and the future of HK

It’s never pleasing to see your home “country” up in arms in protest. Having grown up in Hong Kong for the first six years of my life, the influence Hong Kong — despite not being a country of its own — remains embedded in who I am as a person… much more so than that of mainland China which I had never had the chance to visit.

I was born on the same year that Hong Kong was handed back over to China — 1997… so it’s been a short 17 years since the handover and for the most part, I’m led to believe that life has remained relatively normal. Uniquely enough, democracy (in essence) has somehow co-existed in a special region of a communist country of China. This is what this “Occupy Central” or “Occupy HK” campaign has lived up to — civil disobedience and protests is the very lifeblood of democracy.

I won’t explore much about the actual campaign. I believe it’s one of many that will continue for the next few years. But the question is: how will China’s commitment to keep Hong Kong as a separate state (the so-called Special Administrative Region) hold up for the next 50 years?

Assimilation and integration appears to be the inevitable consequence of this handover… both of which have seen to become devastating approaches when implemented in other countries. You only have to look at Australia, and Stolen Generation to see the consequence of poor integration and assimilation policies. It has rarely worked.

But… you might also be scratching your head… wouldn’t the barrier between China and Hong Kong be significantly lower given both are of the same ethnicity — that is, Chinese? Well, yes and no. Being of the same ethnicity is a good start… but many of the major barriers still remain.

Within the people, the culture, attitudes and language is vastly different. I, for one, cannot speak Mandarin (which is the primary dialect of Chinese in mainland China)… but have sufficient skills to communicate in Cantonese — the dominant language within Hong Kong. Culture is different — having been a British colony for over 100 years, Hong Kong is also subjected to an anglicised society where, some would argue, there are apparent differences when it comes to civility and orderliness. There are obvious contrasts between citizen’s current rights and freedoms. It’s probably a fair observation to say that many Hong Kong citizens are displeased with the “infiltration” of mainland travellers into the city in recent times.

But both China and Hong Kong have changed significantly since the British handed it back to China. There was the Chinese boom, and suddenly, China became wealthy and far more powerful in the international stage. Hong Kong was no longer the “rich Chinese cousin” of China and nor is it the gateway into China it once was. Some may say this left Hong Kong jealous, others would say their mainland Chinese population are now oppressing the Hong Kong citizens.

There are many, many barriers that many Hong Kong citizens will struggle to break down in the next 50 years. That is a given. It’s the eventual truth that Hong Kong will gradually lose its democratic rights during these 50 years to transition back into its communist ruling. Many, especially the youth of my age, will struggle to comprehend and accept this transition. Many will immigrate to other countries to seek for their “democratic rights”, perhaps. But others will accept it in a disgruntled manner.

But in my opinion, it’s better to start this slow and painful integration and assimilation earlier in small gradual progressions then to have a sudden shift towards the last few years of the 50 years of the hold-off period. In an ideal world perhaps, the Central Chinese Government could limit their involvement in Hong Kong until the 50 years is up and then attempt the integration afterwards… but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

There will be plenty more protests ahead, I’m sure. It’s a right for citizens of Hong Kong to exercise these democratic rights they now have. I live in democratic society today too, so I’d definitely be encouraging everyone (who can and wants to) to cherish this unique opportunity to “speak out”… before you lose the ability to even do something as simple as that. So yes, OccupyHK! Protest! And remember, Great Firewall of China is only 33 years away, maybe even less.

Secular state funding religious agendas

School chaplaincy program continued at a cost of $243.5 million over five years

The school chaplaincy program has been controversial, to say the least, since it’s conception. Why do we, in a secular society, fund for exclusively Christian spiritual advisory roles in schools.

This is not at all, a criticism of the work that chaplains do in schools. In fact, I believe they do play an important role in the wellbeing of students in schools — not only spiritually, but also socially and emotionally.

But is it conceptually right to enforce Christianity in a secular state? The Australian Government, unlike our British origins, is secular — meaning, not associated with religion or spiritual matters. As the Abbott Government extends funding to the program that required substantial law change as it was found “constitutionally invalid”, I find myself questioning yet again… why is it funding for school chaplains — why is it not a generic funding for “spiritual” or “emotional” advisors, in which chaplains would fit the role in.

Media hits a new low: Devine praises homophobia

We might live in the 21st century, but homophobia still forms a fundamental part of society — be it subliminal or deliberate. As are homophobic slurs, which seem to just flow out of mouths of most youths these days.

You know what I mean? “Gay this, gay that.” “Fag this, queer that.”. People are repeating these words like it’s about to run out of fashion. Is this really part of the Australian culture?

I don’t normally follow the NRL (nor the AFL for that matter), but recent developments have really caught my attention. Primarily after my research into the repeal of Section 18C, I’ve come to realise that rules against bullying, discrimination or bigotry in general is quite strict in the sporting codes. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that those two sports could in fact be the safest association for minorities to be “protected” from discrimination.

This is why when Mitchell Moses made the homophobic slur last week, which was caught on the referee mic, I was quite surprised it got the attention it did. While I’m not advocating or encouraging these slurs in any way, I do of course acknowledge that people do “slip up”. Perhaps being a carer debut, this slip up could be considered really bad timing.

Of course, you’ll have your naysayers, like “journalist” Miranda Devine wrote her ironicly offensive and completely missing-the-point article “NRL bosses are totally gay” to explain that in fact, what Moses said was not a homophobic slur! Wait, what? A homophobic slur was in fact… not homophobic at all? You have me dumbfounded. Let’s hear from the women herself:

“Gay” no longer just means “homosexual”. The word has changed meaning over the last decade. Young people use “gay” to mean lame, or dumb or stupid, as in: “That’s so gay.”

In my honest opinion, that’s the dumbest piece of crap I’ve ever read.

The only reason why the word “gay” is used in the derogatory manner it is today is because of the word’s meaning of homosexuality. The phrase “that’s so gay” does not directly translate to “that’s so dumb”. It’s because “young people” (as Miranda puts it) think homosexuality is unacceptable, something that should be challenged or humiliated for. The use of these words in the manner they’re expressed is the result of homophobic attitudes, full stop.

Before you start redefining the English language, Miranda, I remind you that I am a “young” person. I’m not gay, I would consider myself quite straight on the spectrum. I certainly do not agree with what Moses had said. I’m not in the position to comment on his personality, as I don’t know him at all! He might well be supportive of the LGBTIQ community… but if the NRL did not respond to those comments, it’s putting out a message that those comments are acceptable and tolerated in society. He is, I believe, the first of many martyrs in this growing movement against homophobic intolerance in sport.

The moment role models start using these slurs and “journalists” start believing that it’s “acceptable”… you seriously start to wonder the integrity of Australian culture. Mateship? Fair go for all? Nah, just a growing homophobic epidemic.