Archive for October 29th, 2009

Another flawed pigeon test declares the Internet to be slower than pigeons

It’s not the first time that this sort of test has been done, and it probably won’t be the last either, but it’s time to knock the stupid theory on the head once and for all.

ABC TV’s Hungry Beast program have found that a carrier pigeon is able to transport a 700MB file between two rural towns, more quickly than a car or the Internet. Apparently this makes pigeons faster than the Internet, supposedly dispelling Kevin Rudd’s theory that we would be worse off under a Liberal government which he seems to think would replace the Internet with carrier pigeons.

In terms of raw throughput, they may be right. The pigeon took one hour and five minutes, which is an average speed of 179.5 kilobytes per seconds. The car took a bit longer…and here’s where the test falls down on throughput…the Internet connection dropped out a number of times and didn’t finish the download, which says more about the phone line used for the Internet connection than anything else.

As it happens, the test is very wrong on throughput, at least in areas with ADSL 2+. On my home connection, I can regularly get downloads of a bit over 2 megabytes per second (2,000 kilobytes per second), which is more than ten times the speed of a pigeon.

That said, the pigeon test can be debunked even further, as the test only takes in to account raw throughput of large files, and completely ignores the way that the Internet actually works.

Take what happens when you visit the home page of this blog for example. Firstly, your web browser sends a request to the server for the page, then the server sends the raw HTML code of the page back to your browser. Your browser reads this, and generates a new request for the css stylesheets as well as every single unique image on the page (16 at the time of writing) as well as all of the embedded content such as YouTube videos of which there are a few, and the servers responsible for these images and embedded content send the requested data back to your browser. If you then go and watch one of the YouTube videos, the browser has to request that, and YouTube’s servers send the data back to your browser.

On the Internet, this doesn’t take very long. Requests go back and forth in moments, and it’s the larger bits of data (images, videos etc) which take time to download due to bandwidth restrictions.

You try doing that with a set of carrier pigeons. This site is hosted on a server in Melbourne, and I’m in Canberra, so your calculations will vary depending on your location, but let’s assume that the news report is accurate and that pigeons fly at about 130km/h (which sounds dubious to me, but we’ll run with it). Melbourne is about 650km away if you go in a straight line, so it would take a pigeon five hours to travel that distance.

Imagine that. You request my website at 7am on Monday, the pigeon arrives in Melbourne at midday, and returns with the HTML code of the website at 5pm. Your browser then requests the css stylesheet and, say, nine images, because you only have ten pigeons at your disposal…they are a finite resource after all. The pigeons arrive in Melbourne at 10pm, and get the data back to you at 3am Tuesday. You now have the stylesheet, so the formatting looks about right, and you have some of the images, although some of the formatting images are linked from the stylesheet so the site is still a bit odd in many places. Your browser requests the rest of the images and the embedded YouTube players, the pigeons get to Melbourne at 8am, and bring the data back to you at 1pm.

So, the total time required to load just the front page of this website via courier pigeon is 30 hours. This would not get any faster if you had more pigeons either, as you wouldn’t have known about the formatting images until you got the stylesheets back.

Thanks to browser caching of formatting images and stylesheets, you might be able to reduce the loading time of subsequent pages on this website to twenty hours, but that doesn’t really make the site any more useful to you.

And just think…if it takes that long to load a domestic webpage, how long would it take to load a website from overseas? It’s about 15,000 kilometres to the US, which is roughly 23 times the distance from Canberra to Melbourne, so if we multiply the domestic loading time of 30 hours by 23…ye gods! It would take 690 hours (28 days and 18 hours) to load the front page of this website. Yes, that’s right, a month to load one page.

And none of this even takes in to account the extra hours required for DNS lookups before you can even send a request to the appropriate server.

All I can say is thank God the ABC and their pigeons don’t run the Internet!


October 29th, 2009 at 02:41pm

Sydney’s 99.3 2NSB bites the dust

Sydney’s 2NSB, 99.3FM across the north shore, has shut down due to financial problems, apparently. The station is currently relaying the BBC World Service instead of broadcasting local programming, fulfilling its licence condition that it must continue to broadcast until such time as the licence is cancelled or an agreement is reached with ACMA.

The Mosman Daily reports that the station’s board of directors decided to call in the administrators on Monday night, programs were quickly taken off the air in favour of the (cheaper) BBC World Service and the locks were changed. The station had been on the air for 26 years.

Unfortunately the news report is very light-on for details, and is in fact so vague on some points that one can’t help but believe the rumours floating around that there is a fair bit more to the story than what has been reported. If that’s the case, then I expect that we will hear more about this as time goes by.

I am quite disappointed by the closure of 2NSB as I liked the format, and I also enjoyed doing a media news segment with Oly Peterson on Tuesday afternoons.

I must thank reader Max who emailed me about this early this morning, albeit cryptically. Even though it’s bad news, I’m thankful that it was brought to my attention.

Farewell 2NSB.

Update 3pm: Radioinfo have now picked up the story, incorrectly describing the station as “silent” in the process, but have no more details than we have here except to say that some unnamed board members recently resigned. Instead they’ve done the usual “we have nothing but won’t be outdone” reporter’s trick of filling their article with a blow-by-blow account of the station’s history. End Update

Update 6pm: Now Radioinfo are getting somewhere. ACMA have informed them that they will wait “several weeks” for the voluntary administration process to take its course, before deciding whether the broadcasting licence needs to be cancelled. This means that there is a glimmer, albeit a tiny one, that something will eventually fill the role of “2NSB”, although considering that the current format proved to be thoroughly unprofitable, it is unlikely that this will be similar to the 2NSB that we knew. End Update

Update 16 August 2010: John Southgate, one of the people responsible for the revival of 2NSB has written in with the following comment. Thanks John!
Sydney North Shore’s FM99.3 has been operating successfully since February 2010 with a new board of directors and in August 2010 is ready to recruit a permanent station manager. Details of the position can be found on the station web site at or through SEEK at
End Update


1 comment October 29th, 2009 at 12:54pm

Thursday bits, bobs and errata

And with that, I’m back. The whole catching up on sleep and getting my energy back thing has been a limited success, but I am now back to being able to put my thoughts in to writing without having to spend a week working out how to word it, so we’ll call it a success.

I’ve got a lot to get through, and seeing as blog posts with multiple short stories in them seem to be the flavour of the trimester on about half the blogs I read, and it’s convenient in this case, I’ll bite and run such a post here.


Sleep? Hmmm, well it’s 3:32am as I type this and I last finished sleeping at 8am yesterday. You do the math. That said, in the last few nights I have had dreams where I:
1. Was in a repeat episode of Third Watch. Nobody could be bothered attending to the emergencies as they all knew that the people survived the episode, so why bother risking injury doing the stunts again?
2. I plunged to my death in a taxi, on a wet night where the left half of the road had been washed away. A very vivid and disturbing dream.
3. KXNT’s Alan Stock was elected as Chairman of the Nevada Action Committee, although what this actually achieved is beyond me, because the only thing he was required to do as part of this job was take five minutes out of his show each morning to read the KXNT phone number over and over and over and over and over (we’ll come back to this in five minutes when he’s done with the phone number)


Speaking of KXNT, their traffic bed (the music they play under their traffic reports) is one of the bits of music which I managed to get stuck in my head this week. I also managed to get the First Option Mortgage jingle stuck in my head for three excruciating hours, and get it stuck in somebody else’s head simply by mentioning it on Facebook. Apparently it’s called “ear worm”. I also had another song stuck in my head, but I dare not try to remember what it was lest it happen again.


Frasier and Seinfeld repeats at 7:30pm and 8pm weeknights respectively on Go! Channel Nine receive my perpetual thanks for this.


There was some Bollywood movie on SBS Two the other night. I watched ten minutes of it near the beginning during which time the married couple managed to patch up their differences, and the wife declared that she didn’t really care about her husband’s flaws anyway. How they could drag that about the next three hours is beyond me, and I’m glad that I didn’t stick around to find out. The ten minutes was good for a laugh though.


Cisco have calculated (which is probably code for “guessed”) that the average broadband Internet user downloads 11.4 gigabytes per month. I average 20-25GB per month and will probably start doubling that in the not-to-distant future if one of my household projects gets off the ground.


Facebook have decided to preserve the accounts of deceased members, minus status updates and other “sensitive data”. This intrigues me as I have often thought about what would happen to this site and my other online data if I were to cease existing for whatever reason. I would like to keep it all online permanently, but am yet to find a viable solution. The National Library’s PANDORA project archives the essence of this site, but seems to have a lot of broken links and missing data, which is hardly surprising given the sheer size of this site (6.97GB and growing). Preserving this site is a work in progress…I suppose I’ll just have to stick around for long enough to ensure that it happens.

Anyway, if and when I shuffle off this mortal coil, I’m happy for my Facebook account to be preserved as some sort of shrine, but I don’t want anything to be removed from it. How does one go about sharing this wish with Facebook. One’s will?


Speaking of the dead, Yahoo have finally killed off Geocities. I’m glad that I was reminded of this imminent death the other day, as I had one page on there which I needed to save. I’ll republish it on here at some stage.


Monash Drive has been removed the ACT “National Capital Plan”. The proposed road had been slated to run along the foot of Mount Ainslie behind Hackett, Ainslie and Campbell, roughly in-line with the already cleared sections which the high voltage power lines use. Politically, the road was never going to happen, which is a pity because it could have reduced a lot of congestion, especially in the years ahead.


We’ve been following Barack Obama’s approval ratings here for some months now using the figures from Rasmussen, who had the polling figures closest to the outcome of last year’s election. That said, the other polls are interesting as well, especially when you consider that in the Gallup poll, Obama has recorded the worst third quarter of an elected president in recorded history. A nine point drop in his approval rating in the space of three months.


The White House have declared war on FOX News, claiming that they’re not a news organisation. The White House clearly can’t tell the difference between news programming and opinion programming, even when it’s pointed out to them. Funnily enough though, the other networks have defended FOX. Late last week, White House officials tried to ban FOX from a White House Press Pool interview session, but the other networks wouldn’t have a bar of it, quite clearly telling the White House that “if Fox can’t be a part of this, then none of us will interview your chap”. It worked, and the White House backed down, for now.

Here’s the point. FOX out-rate every other cable news network consistently, partially because of their news programming, and partially because of their opinion programming. People want to watch it. The White House don’t like the opinion programming as it is often critical of the Obama administration, unlike others such as MSNBC whose opinion programming often favours the Obama administration. The other networks know that if they let the White House exclude FOX, then they are all trapped in an unwritten “do as we say, or we cut your access” agreement. It is an attack not only on FOX, but on every other network, on freedom of the press, and on freedom of speech.

Glenn Beck, on one of FOX’s opinion shows, put together a rather amusing piece on the War On FOX which had me in hysterics when I first watched it.

One wonders if people would have voted for Obama’s “new era of bi-partisanship” if they had known that “bi-partisan” is defined as “the other side will do as we say, therefore we all agree”.


The ANZ LogosThe ANZ Bank have a new logo, and a TV ad which looks strangely familiar…I’ve seen the whole “life juggled above head, but we can make it easier” ad before, I just can’t remember where. Anyway, the logo, is it just me, or does it look like somebody chucking a tantrum after being kept in line for an hour?


Channel Seven have announced their new digital channel, to be called “7TWO”, on (you guessed it) channel 72. I’m not in the least bit surprised that regional affiliate Prime aren’t putting it to air straight away, I mean Prime own the “6” channels in digital TV land, and it would look rather silly have 7TWO on channel 62. I suspect that Prime are working on their own branding of the new station…PRIMExtra perhaps?


RIP Don Lane, one of the great entertainers, who passed away at the age of 75.


Remember when the Large Hadron Collider was about to be turned on for the first time and people were afraid the world was going to end? It amazed me how many people who believed that, were subsequently placated when it was turned on, broke down, and the world didn’t end. The whole cause for concern was for when it would finally reach the actual colliding stage, which it never did.

Well, without wanting to alarm you, the LHC boffins are ready to start it up again. Perhaps now would be a good time to book a flight on NASA’s newly-tested-to-be-successful space vehicle.


733-KXNT, 733-5968, 733-KXNT, 733-5968 (Alan’s still going…)


Clive Robertson filled in for Tim Webster on 2UE and 2CC’s afternoon show yesterday. What a relief! Tim Webster, as much as like him personally, has bored me to death of late…I can not listen to his show any more, I just can’t. Tim is much better suited to a news-based show than the lifestyle-amalgam show that he is now presenting. Clive, however, suits the format perfectly, and is brilliant afternoon entertainment.

Memo to 2UE for next year’s lineup: Breakfast with Mike Jeffreys, Mornings with Stuart Bocking, Afternoons with Clive Robertson, Drive with John Stanley, Nights with The Two Murrays, Overnights with Jim Ball.


And now at 6:18 it’s time for KXNT’s traffic and weather together on the eights, here’s Tate South (finally, Alan’s morning Chairman task is finished, which means that I can wrap up this blog post).


There was an ad on TV last night for that boat from Victoria to Tasmania and back, in which they advertised the rate for taking your car with you as being an “each way” rate (eg. “x dollars each way”). Sorry, but does that mean it’s the return rate (you can travel each way for this amount) or the one way rate (each way costs x dollars)?


Congratulations to Chris Matlock, KXNT’s Radiostar competition winner for this year. I listened to the entries of the 20 finalists when I was last in Deniliquin, and Chris was my favourite from the start, so I was very pleased to see him win. Chris will have his own show soon, apparently, and will start off co-hosting with Ciara Turns on “Sundays with Ciara” on Sunday, November 8 between 10am and 1pm. That will either be 4am-7am or 5am-8am Monday, November 9 in Canberra, depending on whether daylight saving has ended in the US by then.


And finally, Lord Christopher Monckton spent much of the latter part of last week and the start of this week outlining the issues with the proposed Copenhagen climate change treaty which, don’t forget, is designed to stop a warming which hasn’t happened in about the last decade. The main points:
1. The setting up of a world government, with binding power over all countries.
2. Some peculiar scheme to send all the money from the western countries to the developing countries, to pay for some supposed “climate debt”.

Glenn Beck interviewed his lordship last week, which makes for very interesting and enlightening listening.
Part one:

Part two:

(thanks to Padders for the link to those videos)

If you ever needed proof that the whole global warming thing has everything to do with social change, and nothing to do with climate change, you now have it.


3 comments October 29th, 2009 at 04:47am


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