Archive for January, 2015

Faster mobile broadband: one of the benefits of the analogue TV switch-off

One of the benefits which we are now starting to see from switching off analogue television is that radio frequencies previously needed for television can now be used for other purposes, such as expanding the amount of bandwidth available to mobile phone providers.

Telstra, Optus, and TPG have all bought some of this recently-vacated space on the 700MHz band, with Telstra and Optus switching on their new frequencies on January 1. Unfortunately, as with most of these launches of higher-speed mobile technologies, different carriers are implementing it differently, which means differing speeds and compatibilities among carriers. Regardless of that, 700MHz offers better range and building penetration than the common existing frequencies, and thus should improve coverage and reliability for people with phones which support it.

Telstra are using a system which increases speeds by having customers’ phones use both the 1800MHz and 700MHz frequencies concurrently. Very few phones currently support this (the short version being that if you own a phone and aren’t sure if it supports it, it probably doesn’t…you’d almost certainly know if it did). The speeds on offer are quite impressive though, with 150Mbps on the download side and 40Mbps on the upload side (that’s megabits per second, just like the speeds advertised for wired internet connections…divide it by eight to see megabytes per seconds).

A handful more phones (including iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5) support using the 700MHz frequency without coupling it to another frequency, and for them speeds of 80Mbps for downloads and 40Mbps for uploads under good conditions are reasonable.

Optus are using the latter option of using 700MHz on its own and thus their best speeds are more compatible with more phones, but unfortunately they have rolled this out to less places than Telstra at this stage.

The good news for those of us on phones which do not support the new frequency is that both Telstra and Optus are upgrading the backhaul networks to cope with the greater promised speeds, and this means greater capacity even on the older 3G and 4G frequencies, which should improve speeds to some extent on these older technologies, especially in places which become quite congested.

As far as coverage for the new 700MHz networks go, the basic rule of thumb is capital cities are covered, and major regional centres are covered. Telstra have gone to some length to spell out which areas are covered by them, while Optus have been a bit less forthcoming, probably so as to avoid a press release from Telstra pointing out which locations covered by Telstra are not covered by Optus.

Optus coverage 700MHz coverage (courtesy of Gizmodo):

Optus’ release quotes David Epstein, Vice President, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Optus stating that “We are improving our 4G network today with 700MHz in parts of the Sydney CBD, Chatswood and Eastern Suburbs; Brisbane CBD, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts; Adelaide CBD, Melbourne CBD, Geelong, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula; plus Hobart CBD, Perth CBD, Claremont and Cottlesloe. Whether you are in Armidale or Sydney in New South Wales, Townsville or Brisbane in Queensland, Ceduna or Adelaide in South Australia, or Wangaratta or Melbourne in Victoria, with the right device Optus 4G will have you covered as our network expands”

Telstra’s 700MHz coverage, again courtesy of Gizmodo (although I should note this list indicates which towns were to receive coverage as of January 2, and while it probably includes towns which received it on January 1, I can’t be entirely sure that it does)

ACT

Canberra: Kinlyside, Ainslie, Lyneham, Dickson, Downer, Hackett, Bruce, Belconnen, Kingston, Fyshwick, Symonston, Narrabundah, Red Hill, O’Connor, Giralang, Yarralumla, Deakin, Barton, Campbell, Parkes, Acton, Capital Hill, Pialligo, Forrest
Turner, Braddon, Canberra CBD, Reid, Banks, Charnwood, Dunlop, Evatt, Florey, Flynn, Fraser, Hall, Latham, Melba, Page, Scullin,
Spence, Lawson, McKellar, Bonython, Chisholm, Gordon, Gowrie, Greenway, Isabella Plains, Monash, Richardson, Russell, Watson,
 Chisholm

NSW

Cessnock: Loxford

Cooma: Polo Flat

Dubbo: Dubbo

Dungog: Dungog

Forster Tuncurry: Tuncurry

Maitland: Windermere, Aberglasslyn, Anambah, Bolwarra, Gosforth, Lorn, Melville, Mount Dee, Oakhampton, Rutherford, Telarah, Windella, Horseshoe Bend, Morpeth, Oswald, Raworth, Beresfield, Metford, Pitnacree, Maitland, South Maitland

Milton Ulladulla: Mollymook, Mollymook Beach

Mittagong: Aylmerton, Braemar

Narellan: Oran Park

Newcastle: The Junction, Wickham, Georgetown, The Hill, Bar Beach, Hamilton East, Tarro, Cooks Hill, Broadmeadow, Hamilton, Tighes Hill, Hamilton North, Islington, Maryville, Mayfield East, Waratah, Newcastle CBD, Hamilton South, Newcastle West, Mayfield North, Newcastle East, Stockton
Queanbeyan: Queanbeyan West

Shoalhaven: Shoalhaven Heads

Singleton: Hambledon Hill, Gouldsville, Mount Thorley

Sydney: Alexandria, Barangaroo, Darlinghurst, Dawes Point, Eveleigh, Forest Lodge, Haymarket, Millers Point, Pyrmont, Rosebery, Ultimo, Edgecliff, McGraths Hill, Pitt Town, Pitt Town Bottoms, Vineyard, Glebe, Dulwich Hill, Birchgrove, Double Bay, Lewisham, Lidcombe, Newtown, Petersham, Rozelle, St Peters, Stanmore, Sydenham, Ashcroft, Cartwright, Hammondville, Hoxton Park, Lurnea, Macquarie Links, Miller, Sadleir, Wattle Grove, Annandale, Clontarf, Cremorne, Cremorne Point, Mosman, Cammeray, Mount Druitt, North St Marys, Rooty Hill, Tregear, Whalan, Oxley Park, Artarmon, Crows Nest, Greenwich, Lavender Bay, McMahons Point, Naremburn, Neutral Bay, North Sydney, Northwood, St Leonards, Waverton, Willoughby, Wollstonecraft, Woolwich, Auburn, Camellia, Constitution Hill, Granville, Harris Park, Holroyd, Mays Hill, Merrylands, North Parramatta, Oatlands, Parramatta, Pemulwuy, Pendle Hill, Rosehill, Rydalmere, South Granville, South Wentworthville, Telopea, Westmead, Daceyville, Eastlakes, Kensington, Caringbah South, Maianbar, Yowie Bay, Watsons Bay, Waverley, Woollahra, Woolloomooloo, Bellevue Hill, Bondi Beach, Bondi Junction, Bronte, Centennial Park, Darling Point, Elizabeth Bay, Moore Park, North Bondi, Paddington, Point Piper, Potts Point, Queens Park, Redfern, Rose Bay, Tamarama, Vaucluse

Tamworth: Gidley, Taminda, Wallamore

Tweed: Pumpenbil

Wollongong: Port Kembla

QLD
Ayr: Home Hill

Brisbane: Browns Plains, Heritage Park, Meadowbrook, Munruben, Park Ridge, Park Ridge South, Regents Park, Shailer Park, South Brisbane, Ashgrove, Auchenflower, Boondall, Camp Mountain, Chelmer, Clayfield, Draper, Eagle Farm, Ferny Grove, Fitzgibbon, Fortitude Valley, Gaythorne, Gordon Park, Grange, Hamilton, Hendra, Herston, Indooroopilly, Lutwyche, Margate, Milton, Mitchelton, Newmarket, Newstead, Northgate, Paddington, Petrie Terrace, Pinkenba, Redcliffe, Samford Valley, Samford Village, Spring Hill, St Lucia, Taigum, Taringa, Toowong, Wights Mountain, Wilston, Windsor, Wooloowin, Zillmere, Annerley, Dutton Park, Fairfield, Highgate Hill, Tennyson, Woolloongabba, Yeerongpilly, Yeronga, Alexandra, Kangaroo Point, Craignish, Nundah, Karragarra Island, Lamb Island, Macleay Island, Balmoral, Bulimba, Coorparoo, East Brisbane, Greenslopes, Hawthorne,
Morningside, Norman Park, Oxley, Seventeen Mile Rocks, Sinnamon Park, Cordina, Graceville
Bundaberg: Kensington, Rubyanna
Central Queensland: Tieri

Gladstone: Barney Point, Gladstone Central

Gold Coast: Broadbeach, Broadbeach Waters, Mermaid Beach, Mermaid Waters, Maclean, Surfers Paradise, Wilsons Plains

Goondi: Goondi, Goondi Bend, Goondi Hill

Gympie: Victory Heights, Banks Pocket, Araluen

Hervey Bay: Beelbi Creek, Dundowran, Eli Waters, Toogoom
Innisfail: Belvedere, Cullinane, Hudson, Mighell, Mundoo, O’Briens Hill, Coolana, Harrisville, Lowood, Rifle Range, Tarampa, Wivenhoe Pocket

Mackay: Beaconsfield

Mt Isa: Happy Valley, Healy, Kalkadoon, Lanskey, Menzies, Mica Creek, Miles End, Mornington, Parkside, Pioneer, Ryan, Soldiers Hill, Sunset,Town View, Winston

Rockhampton: Bangalee, Berserker, Frenchville, Koongal, Lammermoor, Park Avenue, Wandal

Sunshine Coast: Alexandra Headland, Sunshine Coast Regional Districts, Twin Waters, Minyama, Mountain Creek, Buddina, Marcoola ,Pacific Paradise, Point Arkwright, Valdora, Parrearra, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, West Woombye, Sunrise Beach

Toowoomba: Blue Mountain Heights, College View, Crowley Vale, East Toowoomba, Lawes, Mount Kynoch, Postmans Ridge, Prince Henry Heights, Rangeville, Redwood, Rockville, South Toowoomba, Spring Bluff, Toowoomba, Withcott

Townsville: Castle Hill, Cluden, Condon, Gulliver, Heatley, Kirwan, Mount Louisa, Rasmussen, Thuringowa Central, Vincent

VIC

Albury Wodonga: Albury, East Albury, Lavington, North Albury, West Albury, South Albury

Ballarat: Alfredton, Bakery Hill, Ballarat, Ballarat East, Ballarat North, Black Hill, Bonshaw, Cambrian Hill, Canadian, Delacombe, Eureka, Golden Point, Invermay Park, Lake Gardens, Lake Wendouree, Magpie, Mount Clear, Mount Pleasant, Newington, Redan, Sebastopol, Soldiers Hill, Wendouree

Bendigo: Flora Hill, Golden Gully, Golden Square, Kangaroo Flat, North Bendigo, Quarry Hill, Spring Gully
Berwick: Cora Lynn, Garfield, Tynong, Vervale, Burnewang
Campaspe: Carag Carag, Colbinabbin, Corop

Castlemaine: Harcourt

Eastern Melbourne: Derrimut

Geelong: Bell Park, Belmont, Breakwater, Drumcondra, East Geelong, Geelong CBD, Geelong West, Manifolds Heights, Marshall, Moolap, Newcomb, Norlane, North Geelong, Rippleside, South Geelong, St Albans Park, Whittington

Hamilton: Mortlake

Kyneton: Woodend North

Melbourne: Narre Warren North, Ardeer, Albert Park, Balaclava, Caulfield North, Elsternwick, Elwood, Middle Park, Port Melbourne, Ripponlea, South Melbourne, St Kilda, St Kilda East, Bangholme, Frankston, Skye, Newport, Wandin North, Footscray, Seddon, Spotswood, West Footscray, Yarraville, Kingsville, South Kingsville ,Williamstown North, Abbotsford, Carlton, Carlton North, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, East Melbourne, Fitzroy, Fitzroy North, Parkville, Princes Hill, Richmond, Southbank, West Melbourne, Aberfeldie, Ascot Vale, Flemington, Kensington, Moonee Ponds, Travancore, Braeside, Melbourne Airport, Aspendale Gardens, Bonbeach, Chelsea, Chelsea Heights, Edithvale, Waterways, Brunswick, Brunswick East, Brunswick West, Bittern, Boneo, Crib Point, McCrae, Merricks Beach, Rosebud, Rosebud West, Sorrento, Heatherton, Moorabbin Airport, Alphington, Fairfield, Northcote, Kew, Hawthorn, Hawthorn East, Armadale, Burnley, Kooyong, Malvern, Prahran, South Yarra, Toorak, Windsor, Albion, Cairnlea, Clarinda, Mernda

TAS

Hobart: Austins Ferry, Barretta, Battery Point, Bellerive, Chigwell, Claremont, Dennes Point, Dowsing Point, Dynnyrne, Electrona, Flowerpot, Gagebrook, Glenorchy, Howden, Howrah, Huntingfield, Killora, Lawitta, Leslie Vale, Lindisfarne, Montrose, Mornington, Mount Nelson, Mount Stuart, New Norfolk, , Oakdowns, Old Beach, Opossum Bay, Otago, Rosetta, Rosny, Rosny Park, Sandy Bay, Tinderbox, Tolmans Hill, Tranmere, West Moonah

Launceston: Blackwall, East Launceston, Invermay, Launceston, Mayfield, Mowbray, Newnham, Newstead, Norwood, Prospect, Prospect Vale, Ravenswood, South Launceston, Youngtown
Devonport: Ambleside, Miandetta, South Spreyton, Spreyton, Tarleton

NT

Alice Springs: Alice Springs

Darwin: Bakewell, Bayview, Bellamack, Coolalinga, Darwin International Airport, Driver, Durack, East Side, Fannie Bay, Gray, Hughes, Larrakeyah, Leanyer, Muirhead, Parap, Pinelands, Sadadeen, Stuart Park, The Gap, The Gardens, Tivendale, Uralla, Winnellie, Wishart, Wulagi

SA

Adelaide: Collinswood, Gilberton, Walkerville, St Morris, Trinity Gardens, Evandale, Marden, Glynde, Felixstow, Payneham, Payneham South, Firle, Tranmere, Magill, Wayville, Everard Park, Black Forest, Frewville, Parkside, Eastwood, Glenunga, Toorak Gardens, Glenside, Linden Park, Stonyfell, Beaumont, Rose Park, Beulah Park, Kent Town, Heathpool, Kensington, College Park, Hackney, Joslin, Royston Park, Auldana, Rosslyn Park, Dulwich, St Peters, Clarence Park, Ashford, Glandore, Kurralta Park, North Plympton, Plympton, Mitcham, Lynton, Torrens Park, Para Hills West, Parafield, Evanston, Evanston Gardens, Evanston Park, Elizabeth, North Adelaide, Elizabeth East, Para Hills, Glanville, Birkenhead, Peterhead, Exeter, Moana, Seaford Rise, Sellicks Beach, Hindmarsh, Thebarton, Torrensville

Coober Pedy: Thevenard

Hamley: Hamley

Murray Bridge: Mobilong

Port Lincoln: Hawson

Port Pirie: Port Pirie South, Risdon Park South

Riverlands: Golden Heights, Holder, Ramco, Ramco Heights, Waikerie

The Barossa: Gawler West, Reid, Tanunda, Bethany, Vine Vale, Light Pass

Whyalla: Whyalla Playford, Mullaquana, Whyalla Norrie, Kimba

Yorke Peninsula: Kooroona, Moonta, Moonta Bay, North Moonta, Port Hughes

WA

Albany: Centennial Park, Frenchman Bay, Lange, Lockyer, Milpara, Mira Mar, Orana, Walmsley, Collingwood Heights, Spencer Park, Yakama, Vancouver Peninsula

Busselton: Geographe, Reinscourt

Forrestdale: Forrestdale

Kalgoorlie: Somerville, South Kalgoorlie, Kalgoorlie, Piccadilly, West Lamington, Boulder, Victory Heights
Mandurah: Parklands, Greenfields, Coodanup, Dudley Park

Perth: Gingin, Maylands, Bedford, Inglewood, Mt Hawthorn, Highgate, East Perth, North Perth, Coolbinia, Menora, Mt Lawley, Glendalough, Osborne Park, Herdsman, Churchlands, Tuart Hill, Joondanna, Yokine, West Perth, Kings Park, West Leederville, Leederville, Shenton Park, Daglish, Crawley, Nedlands, Claremont, Mt Claremont, Karrakatta, Mount Clarence, Wembley, Jolimont

Perth South: Oldbury, Applecross, Mt Pleasant, Casuarina, Mandogalup, Postans, Wandi, Anketell, The Spectacles

Southern Perth: Lathlain, Victoria Park, Burswood, East Victoria Park, Rivervale, Redcliffe, Ascot, ,Kensington, Como, Karawara

I suppose we can be thankful that the problems with analogue television were a characteristic of the technology and not the frequency, because I dare say not many people would be very excited about receive high-speed fuzzy, ghosting Internet plagued with static and stuck in a 4:3 aspect ratio…although it would be fun to see one of the carriers thrust such a thing upon customers for a few hours on April Fools’ Day.

Samuel

January 5th, 2015 at 07:09am

Shortland Street on a 7two hiatus until February

One of my guilty pleasures is the often comical New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street. Of late, 7two has been airing it roughly 31 months behind New Zealand television (and catching up slowly, I think) with episodes from May 2012 airing in the last few weeks.

Unfortunately as 7two will be filled with tennis for most of the day for the next four weeks, Shortland Street will not be on. The tennis tends not to clash with Shorty’s 9:30am airing in the AEDT timezone, but does in other timezones and so will not be airing, as this would cause some states to either be out-of-sync or miss out on episodes completely, and the overnight 4:30am-ish replay often clashes with 7two replaying old tennis matches.

For poor Dr. Chris Warner this means another month in prison while he waits to see if anyone can prove that he didn’t kill Hayley, and for me it means a month without such amusing low-budget shenanigans as the helicopter crash from the show’s 20th anniversary episodes which aired over the last few weeks on 7two.

Oh well, I suppose a month without Shortland Street gives me some extra time in my day to devote to other things, such as my dogs and this blog.

Update January 8: It looks like Shortland Street will be back a week earlier than I thought. January 26, Australia Day. I can’t thoroughly confirm this yet, but I’ll keep you posted. End Update
Update January 15: It is now confirmed by Seven’s advance schedules that Shortland Street returns on January 26 at 9:30am. The late night replay does not return in that week due to continued late night tennis replays. End Update

Samuel

3 comments January 5th, 2015 at 05:31am

A few interesting new year radio changes in the US

There are a few interesting changes happening in talk radio in the US to coincide with the start of the new year (or thereabouts).

Wall Street Journal Radio Network closes, but one show continues
The one which probably affects the most stations is that The Wall Street Journal Radio Network has closed down. This network provided a large number of stations with programming, including short-form business reports multiple times per day. Many affiliates of these business reports have switched over to taking reports from Fox Business Network which provides similar but shorter reports, although it probably leaves a number of stations without business and finance reports, especially if they were using Wall Street Journal reports while another station in the market took Fox reports.

Gordon Deal and Gina CervettiOf interest internationally is that morning news program The Wall Street Journal This Morning (and associated program The Wall Street Journal This Weekend) did not shut down when the network closed on December 31. In what I can only describe as a surprising but pleasing move, the program simply changed name (to “This Morning, America’s First News” and “This Weekend”) and distributor, and was able to keep most of its staff, and was even allowed to retain ownership of its existing podcast distribution process (hence the international interest). The show, which is hosted by Gordon Deal, did however lose newsreader Gina Cervetti, replacing her with a former colleague of Gordon Deal, Jennifer Kushinka. Gina’s last day was Wednesday, but was heard on Thursday’s New Year’s Day show in her normal role as that day’s show seemed to be pre-recorded and still had the old Wall Street Journal branding.

Making the transition even easier is that the new distributor of the show, Compass Media Networks, was able to retain the same satellite distribution channel and did not change the format for commercial breaks, which was probably a benefit to many of the broadcast affiliates given that the change happened over a period which traditionally has fewer staff on-deck to handle network programming changes.

Unfortunately not all affiliates are taking the renamed program. WCBM in Baltimore, for example, replaced it with a replay of the first hour of Coast To Coast AM for the Thursday and Friday of this week, and is extending the local morning show by an hour so that it starts at 5am as of Monday. Kansas City is an interesting one as well, as the show changes affiliate on Monday when it effectively “comes home”, moving from KCMO to KMBZ. KMBZ used to run The Wall Street Journal This Morning from 2008 until 2011 when it moved to KCMO.

KMBZ Kansas City splits AM and FM programming
Speaking of Kansas City and KMBZ, they have their own interesting change starting on Monday.
KMBZ's AM and FM signals splitting on January 5, 2015

KMBZ did what a bunch of AM talk radio stations did in the US in the early stages of this decade in that they added an FM simulcast of their AM station. This year, they’re splitting the signals and placing different talk programming on each one, with a little bit of overlap. This could be a growing trend in talk radio as I’m aware of at least one other station which has recently done the same thing…WTRC-FM (News/Talk 95.3 MNC in South Bend, Indiana) had been running its programming on WTRC-AM (1340 AM, Elkhart, Indiana) and last year split the AM station so that it has its own local morning show and does not take the FM station’s afternoon drive show, but seems to run the same programming the rest of the time.

KMBZ’s split is a bit more thorough than WTRC’s split. KMBZ has been running live and local programming through all of the daylight hours except for 11am-2pm when Rush Limbaugh’s national show is on (although Rush has strong ties to Kansas City so his show isn’t quite as non-local as other syndicated shows), and stayed live and local until 9pm when it ran Glenn Beck on a 13-hour delay, followed by Coast To Coast AM. The new format keeps live and local programming on the FM station through all of the daylight hours and through to 9pm, with only the overnight hours being non-local, but interestingly makes them all live as well, with nationally syndicated shows Ground Zero 9pm-Midnight, Coast To Coast AM Midnight-4am, and This Morning with Gordon Deal 4am-5am.

The AM station becomes primarily nationally syndicated shows with Darla Jaye as the only local host. Glenn Beck fans should be pleased to now receive his show live (albeit only two hours of it rather than the three they used to get), while Rush Limbaugh fans will continue to receive his show, and Sean Hannity returns to the Kansas City market after a year’s absence since KCMO dumped him when Sean split from KCMO’s parent company Cumulus Media in favour of exclusive distribution by Premiere Networks. America Now (currently without a regular host and being guest hosted by increasingly prolific Texas personality Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo) also airs live from 5pm-8pm, as does Coast To Coast AM Midnight-4am with a replayed first hour 4am-5am. Delayed airings of Herman Cain (8pm-10pm) and Laura Ingraham (10pm-Midnight) round out the schedule.

KMBZ is the market leader for talk station in Kansas City by a few dozen country miles and has been consistently gaining listeners for some time now. There is some serious strength in the new AM lineup from a national political talk perspective, while the FM station retains the local strength which has pushed KMBZ up the ratings board for some time, so it should be interesting to see how the split stations perform. I expect good results and wish the KMBZ team lots of luck with it all.

I regret that when I visited Kansas City I did not get in to town until late on Friday and thus heard very little of their local programming. Next time will be different.

America’s Morning News extends by an hour, competing directly with all hours of “This Morning with Gordon Deal”
Elsewhere, Talk Radio Network’s America’s Morning News (the morning block of their most-of-the-day syndicated all-news format) is taking advantage of the closure of The Wall Street Journal Radio Network and what, for a while there, looked like the closure of The Wall Street Journal This Morning, by expanding their show by an hour and running 5am-9am Eastern instead of 6am-9am Eastern (This Morning with Gordon Deal runs in hour blocks, live 5am-7am Eastern and repeated 7am-9am Eastern). They have also added a number of affiliates including KDWN 720 AM Las Vegas, boosting the number of affiliates to 160. The show seems to be especially popular among stations outside of the Eastern timezone where it can easily run as a precursor to local morning news/talk programs, and the addition of a 5am Eastern hour makes good sense as it makes it easier for Eastern timezone stations to take the show.

Buckley Radio no longer in radio
Also of some interest to me is that family-owned Buckley Radio has sold its remaining radio assets to Alpha Media. One of the affected stations is KNZR in Bakersfield, California, which is home to Inga Barks among others, and has an interesting and successful format in that the entire morning schedule (except the 5am hour Correction: The 5am hour “First Light with Dirk Van” is a nationally syndicated show after all and runs on KNZR on a three hour delay…it’s amazing how many radio shows can be sustained in the US as it means I’m constantly learning about them) is nationally syndicated programming (Coast To Coast AM, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh) and live and local programming fills all of the afternoon hours. Inga is a great host and often fills in for Mark Levin on his nationally syndicated show. I hope Alpha is kind to Inga and the rest of the Buckley stations…I don’t know about the rest of them but I do know the Bakersfield stations are successful and thus are in good shape to be treated well by the new owners.

2015 is certainly off to a busy start in talk radio in the US. I’m sure there are more changes than I’ve noted, and as is generally the case with this industry, I’m sure there will be many more changes throughout 2015.

Samuel

January 3rd, 2015 at 01:06pm

A workaround for an error with the WordPress Blix 0.9.1 theme under PHP 5.5

At this point in time, this blog is running a theme which it has been running since I first moved it to a WordPress installation in 2005. I have modified the theme a little bit over the years to make the colours more suit tastes and adjust a few functions to work a bit better for my needs. All that said, it is an ancient set of PHP scripts designed to work under an equally ancient version of PHP, and given how much has changed in PHP over the years it could be considered a miracle that the Blix theme still works at all.

Recently I came across a problem which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. Out of the blue, errors started appearing on this blog about failed login attempts where a script on this blog had tried to login to the database as the chief administrative user without a password:

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user ‘root’@’localhost’ (using password: NO) in /home/samuelgo/wp-content/themes/blix/BX_functions.php on line 44
Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/samuelgo/public_html/wp-content/themes/blix/BX_functions.php on line 44
Warning: mysql_num_rows() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home/samuelgo/public_html/wp-content/themes/blix/BX_functions.php on line 45

I first noticed this problem just after I fixed an issue where the WordPress installation couldn’t login to MySQL and thought it was related and possibly a sign of a very poorly implemented hacking of this blog, but it turned out to be unrelated. The reason WordPress was unable to login to the database was that this site was moved from one server to another and a file with login details was slightly corrupted in the process, and this was easily corrected.

The above errors are related to a function which, on the Archives page, shows the number of comments on each post. Previously the “mysql_query” function in the BX_functions file used the login details which WordPress uses, but the “mysql” function has been deprecated as of PHP 5.5 and, while it still works, now seems to need to be explicitly told which login details to use, or it just assumes it should login as “root” without a password (which is possibly the dumbest login details I can think of as it has almost no chance of working on anything but the most insecure of servers). This error, consequently, appears next to each and every post on the archives page, often multiple times. I was able to suppress these errors from displaying until I could get around to figuring out what the problem was, but this still caused the error to be dumped in to an error log many thousands of times per day, causing the error log to grow by hundreds of megabytes each day until I would delete it before it could use up all of the disk space available to this website.

A Google search for the error message shows a lot of blogs running the Blix theme and related themes, but no solution to the problem, so now that I have figured out a workaround, I’ll post it here for the benefit of everyone.

The solution is a tad cumbersome in that it requires the WordPress database username and password to be added to the BX_functions.php file. In reality it is only a workaround as the “mysql” function has been deprecated in favour of other functions and, as such, it will probably exhibit increasingly bizarre behaviour in future version of PHP until support for it is completely removed. This solution works for now, but the only long-term solution is to change to a more modern WordPress theme…I’m still trying to find one that I like as much as Blix.

The solution is to edit your Blix theme’s BX_functions.php file. I would recommend making a backup copy of the file first. This file can usually be found in the /wp-content/themes/blix directory of your website, but if you have a version of Blix which is installed in a different location, then you’ll need to find BX_functions.php in whatever directory the theme is installed in.

You should see a section which looks like this, starting around line 43 (again this may vary if you have a customised version of Blix):

echo "<li>".get_archives_link($url, $text, '');
$comments = mysql_query("SELECT * FROM " . $wpdb->comments . " WHERE comment_post_ID=" . $arcresult2->ID);
$comments_count = mysql_num_rows($comments);
if ($arcresult2->comment_status == "open" OR $comments_count > 0) echo ' ('.$comments_count.')';
echo "</li>\n";

You will need to add a couple lines as follows below the line starting with “echo” and above the line starting with “$comments = mysql_query”.

mysql_connect("server", "username", "password");
mysql_select_db("databasename");

Naturally you need to change these details so that
“server” is the address of your MySQL server (this is often “localhost”)
“username” is the username of your MySQL user
“password” is the password of your MySQL user
“databasename” is the name of the MySQL database used for your WordPress installation.
Do not remove the quotation marks from around these details.

If you’re not sure of any of these details, you should be able to find them in the wp-config.php file in the root directory of your WordPress installation.

Once you’re done, the above section of the BX_functions.php should look something like this:


echo "<li>".get_archives_link($url, $text, '');
mysql_connect("server", "username", "password");
mysql_select_db("databasename");
$comments = mysql_query("SELECT * FROM " . $wpdb->comments . " WHERE comment_post_ID=" . $arcresult2->ID);
$comments_count = mysql_num_rows($comments);
if ($arcresult2->comment_status == "open" OR $comments_count > 0) echo ' ('.$comments_count.')';
echo "</li>\n";

And the errors should go away.

It’s an annoying issue, but it’s nice to have a solution, even if it is only really a temporary workaround in lieu of upgrading to a theme designed for a modern version of PHP.

Samuel

January 1st, 2015 at 08:38pm

If you’re donating to Heritage Foundation with a non-US credit card, do it by phone or PayPal, not on their website

The Heritage Foundation, like most US organisations which can accept tax-deductible donations, is in the last stages of their end-of-year appeal. This is an important time of year for such US organisations as it is the end of the tax year for donation purposes, just like in Australia at the end of June when our tax year ends. Of course, being an Australian, I’m not eligible for any tax rebate for donating to a US organisation.

Like most organisations, Heritage is flooding supporters with email requests for donations, and including a link to the donation form on their website. Unfortunately this form has a bug which causes it to not handle transactions involving non-US credit cards properly. The transaction will succeed, but the page will claim it was declined and advise you to check the address you entered. It wasn’t until the third attempt that I worked this out…so yes, silly me did just give them triple the donation I meant to give.

The good news is that Heritage believe they can reverse the unintended payments…but not until Monday morning their time when some of their senior staff are back on deck, and by then I figure it will cost them extra in fees because my bank will have finished processing the payments, so I won’t bother and instead will just not donate to them for a while. I will call them back on Monday to make sure their senior staff are aware of the issue though.

So, if you’re using a non-US credit card and want to donate to The Heritage Foundation, their website buries a contact number ((800) 546-2843) and a link to a PayPal page (to which I won’t link…if you want to use it, go via the above link to the Heritage website rather than trusting a direct link to PayPal from my site) half way down an FAQ page. If only I’d seen that earlier.

Meanwhile I was also going to donate to Hillsdale College’s end-of-year campaign, but their website doesn’t accept non-US postal addresses (due to the same problems which Heritage have, perhaps?) and they have to be called by phone. Unfortunately they went home before 5PM eastern time, so that will have to wait until next week.

I did, however, donate to the Institute Of Public Affairs‘ end-of-year campaign (although why they have one at the end of the year, apart from it being a nice date, escapes me).

It is nice to start 2015 on a conservative note by supporting these organisations, even if it is requiring more effort than I was expecting.

Samuel

2 comments January 1st, 2015 at 08:46am

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