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

Fairfax and Macquarie Radio merger officially announced

After a number of failed attempts in recent years, and a heap of speculation over the weekend, the official announcement was made to the stock exchange a short time ago: Fairfax Radio and Macquarie Radio are merging.

The business mechanics of it are a tad complicated, but effectively what is happening is that Macquarie Radio is buying out Fairfax Radio, and paying them with Macquarie shares so that, at the end of the transaction, existing Macquarie shareholders will own 45.5% and existing Fairfax shareholders will own 54.5%. Five directors will be appointed to the board, two each from the existing Macquarie and Fairfax, and one independent.

To deal with the regulatory problem of being able to own only two stations per market, Sydney music station 2CH will be sold. While this sounds simple enough it will pose a few problems with staff at 2CH currently overlapping with staff at 2GB, especially 2CH breakfast presenter Glenn Wheeler who hosts Saturday nights on 2GB and occasionally fills-in on other 2GB shows, and 2CH presenter Kel Richards who is a regular night time fill-in on 2GB. 2GB’s Macquarie Radio News also provides news for 2CH, often in the form of a two-and-a-half minute pre-recorded bulletin. With a merger of the 2GB and 2UE newsrooms, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Macquarie pre-record is dumped in favour of Fairfax’s own three minute pre-recorded national news. Behind the scenes operations could also be adjusted in some way.

Meanwhile 2UE and 2GB face an interesting future for presenters as it seems unlikely from a business standpoint that they will run competing talk formats, and will either further soften 2UE’s format or change it completely. Update 15:21: A leaked email from Fairfax management to Fairfax Radio staff has been posted by Mumbrella, and it notes that 2UE will remain as a News/Talk station. They seem confident that they can grow the audiences of breakfast hosts John Stanley and Garry Linnell, morning host Stuart Bocking, and weekend morning power duo George Moore and Paul B. Kidd, which tells me they do plan on further softening the talk format on 2UE to appeal to a different demographic to 2GB. End Update. If talk is to be removed from 2UE (and that is a big “if”) then it is likely to take up a music format similar to Fairfax’s Magic format in Melbourne and Sydney, which targets similar demographics to 2CH (removed as part of update as this statement is now redundant).

I expect a lot of 2UE personalities will be brought across to 2GB in various degrees, probably as fill-in hosts at first. One which I do wonder about is John Gibbs, host of Sports Today on 2UE, who used to commentate on rugby league matches with Ray Hadley’s Continuous Call Team when it was on 2UE…as I understand it, Ray and John don’t get on as well as they once did, but with a vacancy on the Continuous Call Team caused by the (entirely unnecessary overreaction in my view) sacking of Steve “Blocker” Roach earlier in the year and a need to find efficiencies in the merged entity, it might be inevitable that Ray and John could end up working together again. It is also possible that, when AFL isn’t in the way, 3AW might take Melbourne Storm matches from 2GB, and when NRL isn’t in the way, 2GB might take Sydney Swans matches from 3AW, or perhaps 2UE will just start taking most or all AFL matches from 3AW rather than just Swans finals (although 2UE managed to get out of that contract this year somehow…so who knows).

Elsewhere, Fairfax’s 96FM in Perth is being sold to ARN (reportedly for $78 million). In the merged entity it is the “odd one out” as the only FM music station, so selling it makes sense even though it is not required legally as it does not take the merged entity’s number of stations in Perth over two.

Macquarie’s Queensland regional network (MRRN) will be sold, indicating that the merged entity if interested only in running stations in metropolitan markets. This seems like a shame, but probably makes sense given that Fairfax’s history of running regional stations is abysmal.

What this means for the possibility of the expansion of Ray Hadley and Alan Jones’ shows in to other markets is unclear. My tip is that Ray Hadley’s show will probably air live in to Brisbane on 4BC, especially given a large exodus of talent from 4BC over the last few years amid struggling ratings, and Alan Jones’ one hour highlights program will probably air on the entire network. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ray Hadley’s show is packaged as a highlights show for 3AW Melbourne and 6PR Perth. Whether the new entity will treat sacked 6PR presenter Howard Sattler or sacked 4BC/2UE/2GB presenter Michael Smith any better is a mystery, but one can hope.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Price is moved back to Melbourne and given a show on 3AW. Currently Steve Price has a show on weeknights on 2GB which he sometimes presents from Melbourne and sometimes from Sydney, with the Melbourne broadcast coming from the studios of RSN 927. His co-host for the first hour, Andrew Bolt, also uses those studios, with the lack of visual cues between the two combined with a slightly delay over the interstudio link causing occasionally clunky interactions. I’d expect them to both broadcast from 3AW’s studios from now on, and it wouldn’t surprise me if their show was to broadcast on 2GB and 3AW simultaneously, with possibly 4BC as well. That said, I don’t expect much of 3AW’s lineup to change.

This all hinges on the approval of existing shareholders (a vote will be held in March) and regulatory approval which shouldn’t be difficult given the sales of 96FM, 2CH and MRRN.

Interesting times in talk radio in Australia are certain in 2015.

Samuel

December 22nd, 2014 at 09:44am

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Today’s New York Post

IMG_2972.JPG

H/T Fox News’ breakfast show “Fox & Friends”.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 10:00pm

US Midterm Elections: the early washup

Counting is still going but the overall results are a certainty. Republicans now have control of the House and Senate, effectively stopping Obama’s awful agenda where it is. Some efforts might be made to wind back some of Obama’s policies but while he still has the power to veto legislation, there probably won’t be much progress on returning the US federal government to conservative governing principles…that might have to wait until after 2016. In fact, I think you will see the next two years on both sides being more about what they plan to do after 2016 rather than what they plan to do before the Presidential election.

Republicans have increased their Senate stake, taking up to nine of the seats which belonged to Democrats. It’s not a filibuster-proof majority, but (detestable) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada) got around not having a filibuster-proof majority by perverting the rules of the Senate. It will be interesting to see if Republicans follow his lead (I hope not) or uphold the rules even if it slows them down.

The Republican majority in the House has increased by more than anyone realistically expected.

Currently the Senate has Republicans 52 to Democrats 45. An easy locked-in majority for the Republicans with three seats still to decide.

Currently the House has Republicans 233 to Democrats 159. A locked-in majority with 43 seats left to decide.

Republicans have gained multiple Governorships, including two states which are traditionally hostile territory for them: Massachusetts and Illinois. On the subject of Governorships, Jan Brewer was not able to run for Arizona Governor again due to a term limit. Her successor Doug Ducey easily defeated the Democrat challenger Fred DuVal, currently 54% to 41%. Keep an eye out for Jan Brewer on the national stage.

Maryland is another difficult state for Republicans, but they have taken out the Governorship, with the “rain tax” imposed by Democrats being one of the major issues there. Larry Hogan is currently leading Anthony Brown 52% to 46% late in the count.

The one incumbent Republican (of the eight House seats in Maryland) Andy Harris utterly obliterated his Democrat opponent 71% to 29%, while six of the other seats have stayed with Democrats easily (showing how hard this area is for Republicans to win) while in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, Dan Bongino is maintaining a 2% lead over Democrat incumbent John Delaney with 14% of the count to go. It will be tight, but Dan is putting up a very good fight.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, one of the great examples of good conservative leadership, won easily as well, currently leading 53% to 46% very late in the count.

Before I bring up a race in Virginia, I have to bring up the fact that I made the mistake of turning on ABC News 24 for a few minutes earlier when they were discussing the US midterm elections. Their analyst made the odd statement that ‘the Tea Party has really been sidelined in this election’, and then went on to talk about how Republicans have won so much because of their conservative, small-government, constitutional message. Given that is the definition of the Tea Party, one wonders what he thinks the Tea Party is?

I bring this up because in Virginia back in the Primaries, Dave Brat managed to oust then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as the Republican candidate for Virginia’s 7th House District. Dave Brat today defeated Democrat challenger Jack Trammell in a landslide, 61% to 37%.

Elsewhere there is mixed news out of California. Democrat Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown (who has helped to create a man-made drought across the rural parts of that state) has defeated his Republican challenger Neel Kashkari, currently leading 57% to 43% with 29% counted.

There is some good news from California though. Sandra Fluke, the peculiar woman who made headlines a couple years ago when she effectively demanded that society as a whole should pay for her birth control measures and was subsequently called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh, has lost her bid to get in to the state Senate…the bad news though is that she was one of two Democrat candidates without any other challengers, so the victor was another Democrat. Currently Ben Allan is leading Sandra Fluke 63.3% to 36.7%.

There were a heap of ballot initiatives around as well. I’ll have a look through some of them and point out some of the more interesting ones in a future post.

Overall it looks like a fantastic day for Republicans and conservatives…but more importantly for the American people and the world. At long last, after six years of Obama, Congress is finally in a position where there is a willingness to keep the executive branch in check. It is probably safe to say that the days of Obama’s executive overreach are over. Unfortunately it will take longer to undo the effects of his disastrous policies, but at least he won’t be able to get many more (if any) of his wishes through the Congress. Alas it might take until 2016 to get some real momentum on fixing the country.

Still, a very good day with a very good outcome. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 05:24pm

Two big Republican Gubernatorial victories

Massachusetts, a fairly left-leaning state, has gone to the Republicans. Charlie Baker has defeated Democrat Martha Coakley. Currently leading 48% to 47% with 82% counted and most of the rest of the count being fairly safe Republican ground. Safe enough for media outlets to be willing to call it.

Illinois, home state of Barack Obama, has gone to the Republicans. Bruce Rauner is leading incumbent Democrat Governor Pat Quinn 51% to 46% with 85% counted.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 03:54pm

The Senate is now in majority Republican hands*

Fox News has called Iowa for Joni Ernst. Associated Press has called North Carolina for Thom Tillis, dispatching the deplorable Kay Hagan.

It’s a majority. It looks like there are more seats to come for the Republicans.

Great news.

*Once the new Congress sits, which is not immediately.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 03:30pm

State of play in the Senate (and some other US elections)

The early calls for a Republican victory in South Dakota were accurate. Mike Rounds is leading Democrat Rick Weiland 51% to 28% with 47% counted. The nearest independent candidate is on 17%.

Virginia is in play. Democrat incumbent Mark Warner is leading Republican Ed Gillespie by about 10,000 votes (less than 1%) with 93% counted.

North Carolina is looking good for the Republicans and could give them the +6 they need to take a majority in the Senate. Republican Thom Tillis is leading the reprehensible Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan 49% to 47% with 96% counted.

In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst is leading her Democrat opponent 49% to 47% with 53% counted.

Republicans Cory Gardner and Tom Cotton are winning easily in Colorado and Arkansas respectively.

The projections from many media outlets are now suggesting the Republicans will retain their House majority (there’s no doubt on that one) and pick up as many as nine Senate seats (much more than the six they need). At this time, no Republican incumbent Governor has lost, and there are incumbent Democrat Governors who look set to lose to a Republican.

It’s looking like a big victory, and should stop the Obama agenda quite convincingly. I expect the next two years will be more about the platform each party will take to 2016 than anything else, as it’s unlikely that Barack Obama will acquiesce to the wishes of the people and sign much of the legislation passed by the Republicans or adhere to their attempts to make him stick within his constitutionally mandated powers (something which he has so far proven incapable of doing).

A very good election so far…and lots of work to do once the new Congress sits.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 03:23pm

Some non-Senate races of interest

There’s another Senate seat which all the news outlets are calling based on opinion polls rather than a vote count, which gives the Republicans +5…one more and they have a majority.

Some other races of interest.

Gubernatorial races:
Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin is being re-elected easily. 17% counted, he leads 60% to 39%.

Texas is also an easy victory for Republicans with Greg Abbott leading by a similar margin to Scott Walker. Greg Abbott replaces outgoing Republican Rick Perry.

South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Hayley is also being re-elected by a similar margin.

Unfortunately in Pennsylvania, Republican Governor Tom Corbett has been ousted by Democrat Tom Wolf, currently 57% to 43% with 56% counted.

Maryland is a very tight race. Democrat Governor Anthony Brown (one of the people responsible for Maryland’s rain tax) is leading Republican Larry Hogan by 1%, or about 8,000 votes, with 30% of the vote counted.

Illinois could change hands to the Republicans. 51% counted and Republican Bruce Rauner leads incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn by 1%.

And there are a couple of other states which look like changing hands, mostly from Democrat to Republican, but all of those races are far too close to call at the moment.

In House seats.

One of the great shames of the 2012 election was that Mia Love did not win a seat in Utah. This time around she is running for Utah’s fourth district and the opinion polling looks good for her. No votes counted as yet.

In Indiana, none of the seats are changing hands. Seven Republicans and two Democrats.

In Maryland’s 6th district, Dan Bongino is currently leading incumbent Democrat John Delaney, 50% to 48% with 33% counted. This is a big comeback from the early stages of the count where Dan Bongino was down by a long way. We won’t have a result here for a while, but it’s good to see Dan is in the lead.

Lots happening around the traps. It is looking like a good night for the Republicans overall at this stage. In fact, as an example of how good things are looking for the Republicans, TheHill.com just sent out an alert about the Democrats picking up their first Republican House seat of the night…four and a half hours in to the count! I’m not sure which seat they’re referring to though as they didn’t specify and there are far too many house seats for me to scroll through them quickly.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 02:34pm

It’s +4 for the Republicans

Remembering they need to gain six senate seats to form a majority in the Senate, and keeping in mind my earlier note that all the news outlets are calling South Dakota based on opinion polling without any of the count having been reported, another Senate seat has changed hands to the Republicans.

Colorado has voted for Republican Cory Gardner over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. 63% counted…it’s 50% to 44%.

More polls close in moments from now. I’ll put together a quick rundown of some non-Senate races of interest shortly.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 02:00pm

Louisiana heading to a runoff election next month

Louisiana has a different system than most other states. Instead of a Primary system which allows people to elect one candidate per party for election day, a whole heap of candidates can run on election day. Today for example there are four Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian.

If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, then the two candidates who receive the most votes will face each other again in a runoff election. It looks pretty certain now that Louisiana’s Senate race will go to a runoff election on December 6.

Right now, with 10% counted, Republican Bill Cassidy is leading incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu 43% to 42% (61,953 to 61,584). Bill’s a good candidate…hopefully he goes on to win the runoff.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 01:53pm

Possible third seat, but I’ll wait for a count

This is odd. NBC, CNN, Fox, and pretty much everyone else is awarding South Dakota to Republican Mike Rounds, making it the third of six Senate seat pickups which Republicans require for a Senate majority. The odd things is that they are all making this pronouncement without any votes having been counted…they are going on opinion polling which gave Mike Rounds a strong lead.

I’m going to wait until I see some actual numbers. Calling a race before any votes are counted is just silly.

Samuel

November 5th, 2014 at 01:29pm

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