Good news for Queenslanders on the chances of a cyclone hitting Queensland this week

There has been news over the last couple of days about the Bureau of Meteorology getting a little worked-up about a cyclone developing this week and then hitting the Queensland coast.

A low pressure system is currently over the Coral Sea about 250 to 280 kilometres northeast of Cooktown, north of Cairns.

The Bureau of Meteorology says it’s likely the weather system will move close to the coast north of Cooktown on Tuesday or Wednesday.

(h/t Sky News & AAP)

I thought I’d look in to this as I recently bought and received Ken Ring’s ACT/NSW weather almanac for 2015.

Ken Ring's 2015 ACT/NSW weather almanac

So far Ken has been accurate in my area if I allow a day of leeway. My book focuses on the ACT & NSW area but also contains national predicted synoptic charts and rainfall maps for each day of the year. His national synoptic charts have also been a close match to actual daily measurements, give or take a day.

Ken’s synoptic charts agree with the Bureau about a cyclone forming off the Queensland coast this week, however he does not show it reaching land. Instead he shows it getting close enough to bring some rain, but then it changes direction and hits New Zealand’s North Island. Alas as I don’t have his Queensland or New Zealand almanacs, I don’t have access to his detailed daily predictions for these places and thus don’t know how much rain he expects in Queensland or how strong he thinks the cyclone system will be when it reaches New Zealand.

I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on this one and seeing how Ken’s predictions pan out.

Samuel

January 12th, 2015 at 06:47am

Some NFL tips

This was going to form part of a Sunday Bits post, but I don’t have time to finish today’s Sunday Bits before kickoff as my work commitments won’t allow for it.

In today’s games I’m tipping Baltimore to defeat New England, and Seattle to defeat Carolina.

Tomorrow’s games: Green Bay to defeat Dallas, and Indianapolis to defeat Denver.

I really couldn’t decide on the Green Bay & Dallas game, so I went with the result of Glenn Beck’s Moron Trivia, which fills much of the second hour of his radio show on Fridays and involves calling random people in the places from which the teams in one of the weekend’s matches hail, asking them really simple questions (which many answer incorrectly) and deciding the winner of the match based on which location gave the most correct answers. It, surprisingly, has a decent strike rate. As I couldn’t decide on this match, I went with the result of Moron Trivia which gave Green Bay a decent victory.

I should note that these are the only games this weekend. In Australia they are all live on 7mate. In order of the games listed above, they start today at 8:30am and noon, and tomorrow at 5am and 8:30am. All times listed in AEDT.

Samuel

January 11th, 2015 at 08:26am

The 2015 2UE, 3AW, and 4BC presenter shake shuffle and confuse

It’s that time of year again where 2UE announce a bunch of changes to their presenter lineup. This year it involves the other east coast Fairfax stations in a bit of a shuffle.

The big change at 2UE is that Clive Robertson, the standout weekday ratings performer for the station (I shudder to think how low 2UE’s full-day ratings figures would be without Clive), is out. He is being replaced by Walter Williams whose show will be networked out of 4BC Brisbane. This show will be extended by an hour to run 7pm – Midnight instead of Clive’s timeslot of 8pm-Midnight. Fairfax Radio is saying Clive “decided not to return”, although the impression I’m getting from a few sources is that this is not entirely accurate. I wouldn’t expect to hear anything contradictory to it publicly though, given the contractual obligations on Fairfax and Clive.
This almost certainly means we will hear less of Mike Jeffreys who has been regularly filling-in for Clive.

As part of the Walter Williams move, 2UE’s Sports Today show with John Gibbs will be reduced to one hour, running from 6pm-7pm. Co-Host Greg “Brandy” Alexander left the show at the end of last year to focus on his Fox Sports duties.

2UE and 4BC will continue to run Luke Bona’s overnight show, however in a very unexpected move, 3AW will also take this show, replacing Andrew McLaren (no relation to 2GB’s weekend overnight host Michael McLaren) and Mark Petkovic who were apparently made aware of the decision yesterday. This is a peculiar move for Fairfax Radio in that Andrew and Mark work well in the Melbourne market but when Fairfax tried to network their show in to Sydney, Brisbane and regional markets in recent years it caused a massive listener backlash outside of Melbourne. Sydney presenters also rarely go down well with the Melbourne audience, so if this goes as well as the last overnight networking attempt, Andrew and Mark could be back after a couple months of holidays.

Even more odd for the overnights is that weekend overnights will be networked out of 3AW Melbourne (presumably presented by existing 3AW weekend overnight host Alan Pearsall, unless Andrew and Mark are moved to weekends). Back when the 3AW weekday overnight show was networked, weekends remained separate so that the 3AW show could focus on AFL and the 2UE/4BC show could focus on NRL. It will be interesting to see how 3AW’s show handles NRL discussion. This change also means that 2UE & 4BC’s weekend overnight host John Cadogan is out. He will fill-in for Tim Webster on weekend afternoons this weekend and then will be relegated to the subs bench, awaiting a fill-in job.

Update 6:36pm: A strange thing pops up when one does a Google Image search for “Alan Pearsall Radio”
Alan Pearsall on 2UE

To the best of my knowledge, Alan Pearsall has only ever hosted a show on 2UE briefly. This was when Tim Shaw in Sydney went on holidays while the Melbourne weekday overnight show was being networked in 2012, and so Alan’s 3AW show was extended to 2UE for two weekends. I’d be surprised if that was a long enough period of time for that image to have been produced, which makes me think it has been produced for the expansion of his 3AW show to the network.
Unfortunately I can’t confirm where or when that image was made as the page Google alleges it is on, shows no sign of it.
End Update

Of course, we still have the finalisation of the Fairfax/Macquarie merger to come in a few months, so this could all change again before winter arrives.

For the information in this post, thanks go to a few people who can be named publicly: Jason Morrison, John Cadogan, Ash Long, and Radio Today. Thanks also go to some people who can’t be named…you know who you are.

Samuel

1 comment January 9th, 2015 at 06:12pm

Friday Funnies: The Breathe Easies. It’d be funny if it wasn’t funded by taxpayers

There are a handful of community service announcements being run in the US at the moment reminding people to do some really obvious things such as “vacuum up the floor”. It’s a little hard to tell who the target audience is as they come in the form of bizarre little animated music videos which carry all of the characteristics of an animation aimed at small children, which seems odd for messages which are surely targeted at adults.

They are striking for their peculiarity on radio…but the video versions…wow! There’s some laughter there, but I have no words.

Samuel

2 comments January 9th, 2015 at 05:04am

Behold and Witness, Jehovah’s blinding light of Dickson

One of the unusual little changes in Canberra over the Christmas/New Year period occurred on Antill Street in Dickson where the Jehovah’s Witnesses made a change to their humble little unassuming Kingdom Hall.

They added an incredibly bright sign to the Antill St side of the building. This light stands out a lot on this dark side of this primarily residential street.

Kingdom Hall in Dickson at night

The sign is so bright that, from this angle, it appears in photos as just another light on the building. To get a shot of the sign where it is readable, the building has to become almost invisible.

JW.org sign on Kingdom Hall in Dickson at night

The sign was quite startling on the first night, and while it still stands out a lot, I would now describe it as merely distracting, now that I’m used to it.

During daylight hours though, it is almost unnoticeable as it fits in with the building quite well.

Kingdom Hall in Dickson

In fact if you compare that photo to a picture from Google Street View, you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference unless you were actively looking for it.

Kingdom Hall in Dickson before the JW.org sign was added
(h/t Google Street View)

I do wonder what the residents on the other side of the street make of it?

Samuel

January 8th, 2015 at 12:00pm

Islamic terrorists kill a dozen in France; the hesitation to call them terrorists helps the terrorist cause

Islamic terrorists struck a satirical newspaper in France killing a dozen people. The newspaper in question had not been afraid to call describe Islamic terrorists as terrorists, and to comment on their actions, and was probably targeted because of this…they’ve certainly received plenty of threats in the past.

The “Religion of Peace” struck again today against the West, this time in the heart of France, which has more Muslims per capita than any other E.U. nation.

Black-clad gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper known for lampooning Islamic radicals early Wednesday, killing 12 and injuring as many as 15 before escaping, French officials said..

As many as three Kalashnikov-toting shooters were being sought after the attack at Charlie Hebdo, the newspaper known for challenging Muslim terrorists with a 2011 caricature of Prophet Mohammed on its cover and which recently tweeted a cartoon of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Two policemen and several journalists were among the dead.

“We’ve avenged the honor of the prophet!” the killers shouted, according to witnesses who spoke to Sky News.

Stunning video shows the gunmen brazenly strolling down a Paris sidestreet with their AK-47s shouting “Allahu Akbar”, opening fire on a policeman, then as he lies on the ground, finishing him off with a head shot.

(h/t Brian Hayes, Top Right News)

Update 10:49am: YouTube have removed the video previously posted here via Top Right News. Dar0s Studios posted a more graphic version of the video on Facebook which is now included below, replacing the previous YouTube video. Thanks to Casey Hendrickson for the link. End Update
Content Warning: graphic uncensored terrorist violence

Amazingly it seems that the reaction from French police was hindered by the fact that many police there choose to not be armed!

Several Paris police officers who came into contact with the armed terrorists who slaughtered 10 journalists at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, retreated from the gunmen because they were unarmed, according to an eyewitness.
[..]
Paris police officers have the option of carrying firearms, though many choose not to.

(h/t Chuck Ross, The Daily Caller)

There are places where general duties police officers are not allowed to carry a gun, and that is mystifying enough…but for a law enforcement officer to choose to not be armed despite being the front line of law and order and consequently being a target of any armed nutter…I can’t comprehend the logic in that decision.

Meanwhile, sadly, it seems that once again certain countries which should be showing strong leadership against such brutal terrorist acts, are once again showing ineptitude.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made multiple media appearances this morning across many hours, all of which were after French President Francois Hollande called this event an act of terrorism, and for hours Mr. Earnest refused to call it an act of terrorism. He finally, hours later, changed his mind when he appeared on Fox News, but then couldn’t provide any reasonable explanation as to why he’d changed his mind, and why he’d previously spent so long refusing to call it terrorism.

“As you rightly point out, the French president called this a terrorist attack, without a doubt. Last hour, you called them perpetrators. I’m trying to figure out why the language changed,” Fox’s Bill Hemmer told Earnest. “Did you get different information, are you characterizing in a different way, Josh? What is it?”

“What we’re seeing here is an event that just occurred a couple hours ago,” Earnest said “We’re still learning details exactly what happened. But what is clear this is an act much violence, an act of terrorism, that we condemn in the strongest possible terms and we’re going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in France.”

(h/t Al Weaver, The Daily caller)

The French are still learning details too, but it didn’t take them hours to figure out the basic facts of what happened.

Unfortunately this is all too common with this White House. Many-a-time they have refused to call a terrorist attack a terrorist attack, with probably the most egregious example being when they lied through their teeth about who attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi, and why they did it, blaming the incident on an anti-Islamic video that had absolutely nothing to do with it, when the attack was actually the work of Al Qaeda.

I’m not blaming Barack Obama or his administration for today’s terrorist attack in France, but I will say that it is just another example of how his weak foreign policy and weak responses to terrorist attacks of this type help to foster an environment where terrorists feel freer to roam and do their dastardly deeds, as they know it is unlikely they will be brought to account for their actions, especially when so many countries wait for their lead from the US before doing anything themselves.

Samuel

3 comments January 8th, 2015 at 04:46am

I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often

I saw it a lot when I was in the US last year, especially in the colder northern states where Winter had no intention of letting up, and I did wonder how many cars are stolen because of it. My initial thought was the risk of being shot while stealing a car probably deters most casual opportunistic joyriders, but for some that risk might seem better than the risk of freezing in the elements.

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Car thefts have risen drastically since the first of January in Blue Springs.
[..]
“Within the last six days, there have been eight car thefts, five of them between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning,” [Jennifer Dachenhausen, Public Information Officer and Crime Analyst for the Blue Springs Police Department] says. “These cars were all left unattended to warm up, before people headed to work.”

(emphasis added)
(h/t KMBZ Radio, Kansas City)

As I did a bit of driving at night in the cold and snowy bits of the US last year, I probably saw more than my fair share of unattended cars which had been left running. The time which struck me as being most peculiar was seeing about a dozen cars in the carpark of a 24/7 Walmart, with about eight or nine of them running unattended, at about 9pm, in the small town of Fort Dodge, Iowa. It was snowing and there appeared to be more running cars in the carpark than customers in the store, which led me to believe some of the running cars belonged to staff. The carpark was also almost devoid of people and I really doubt that anybody would have noticed if somebody had just hopped in to someone else’s car and driven off.

The article has another peculiar line which caught my attention when I heard it mentioned on KMBZ earlier today.

Since the thefts, two of the cars have been located at two different hotels in the Blue Springs area.

Could it be that tourists without their own transport, not wanting to wait in sub-freezing windy and snowy weather for a taxi, opted for a convenient but illegal method of transportation? Given how cold it gets there, I can understand if they did…not that I would endorse it, but I do understand the motivation.

Submitting insurance claims on those thefts must be a very interesting and difficult experience.

Samuel

2 comments January 7th, 2015 at 05:56pm

Currong Apartments are about to meet their maker

Over the last few weeks, the fences have gone up around the Currong Apartments in Braddon, and so the days are numbered for this rather dodgy bit of Canberra.

Currong Apartments fenced in
Currong Apartments fenced in
Currong Apartments fenced in

Interestingly the power is still on in there as some of the lights in the common areas were on went I went by, and could be seen from outside the fence.

Also interesting is that one of the abandoned cars in the carpark was not removed before the fences went up.

Abandoned car within the Currong Apartments complex

And for purposes of comparison, here is a photo taken from Currong St yesterday.
Currong Apartments fenced in, as seen from Currong St

And a photo from the archives of Samuel’s Blog, taken in January 2007.
Currong Apartments in January 2007, as seen from Currong St

It will be very interesting to see how the demolition takes place as the building is very close to a lot of other residences and many types of quick demolitions would be inappropriate due to the disruption or mess they would cause.

Samuel

2 comments January 7th, 2015 at 10:40am

If the Republicans want to regain the trust of their conservative base, dumping Speaker Boehner would be a good start

Update 5:57am: Boehner has been re-elected as Speaker, which is a shame as I doubt even the scare of discontent among conservatives will be enough to make him work towards more conservative ends. End update

The Republicans won a majority in both the House and Senate at last year’s mid-term election, not because they necessarily stood for certain actions or programs or initiatives (with the exception of some local candidates, as a whole they stood for no new actions), but rather because the voters want someone to stop or at least slow Obama down.

Unfortunately, shortly after winning this majority of both houses of Congress, the remaining Republicans in the lame-duck session of the Congress late last year sided with the Democrats to pass a full-year funding measure which does nothing to slow Obama, and in fact helps him as it makes it easier for him to bypass congress with executive actions on things such as amnesty for illegal immigrants. This was a clear betrayal of the people who voted for Republicans last year who expected Republicans to pass a short-term spending bill which would put the next spending bill under the control of this congress which has a Republican majority in both houses and barely needs to worry about appeasing Democrats, and thus would allow for defunding of programs which Republicans (and their voters) oppose.

Sadly, this was par for the course for much of the Republican leadership, especially Speaker Of The House John Boehner.

The good news is that the new House must elect a speaker, and John Boehner faces serious challenges, such as conservative Louie Gohmert.

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert announced Sunday morning on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” that he would throw his hat into the ring, saying he’s officially a candidate for the speaker gig.

Gohmert’s announcement comes as Boehner’s approval from conservative voters sags.

Gohmert’s office also sent a statement to TheBlaze[..]
***
After the November elections gave Republicans control of the Senate, voters made clear they wanted change. There have been numerous examples of problematic Republican leadership, but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message. However, after our Speaker forced through the CRomnibus by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed new leadership. There had been much discussion. But, until yesterday, no one had stepped up.

I applaud my friend Rep. Ted Yoho for putting his name forward as an alternative to the status quo. Ted is a good man for whom I could vote, but I have heard from many supporters and also friends in Congress who have urged me to put forward my name for Speaker as well to increase our chances of change. That is why I am also offering my name as a candidate for Speaker.
[..]
At this point, the Speaker’s election is not about a particular candidate. It is about whether we keep the status quo or make the change the country demands. I am putting forward my name for consideration as Speaker and hope that with a new Speaker, be that me or someone else, we can fight for the ideals and principles that the voters wanted when they elected us in November.
***
In TheBlaze’s Saturday poll on who should be the House Speaker, Gohmert snagged 16 percent of the vote, putting him firmly at No. 2 on the seven-person list.

TheBlaze readers’ favorite pick among the options provided: South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, whose nearly 10,000 votes gave him 70 percent of the poll participants.

(h/t Zach Noble, The Blaze)

Today we have confirmation that the moves to dump Speaker Boehner and respect the wishes of the electorate are growing, seemingly to the amazement of Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill:

A bloc of at least 15 conservative lawmakers will vote Tuesday to deny John Boehner a third term as Speaker[..]
The incumbent Speaker, who is facing long-shot challenges from two Tea Party favorites — Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) — needs support from a simple majority of the lawmakers present to secure another two years as the House leader.

That magic number won’t be known until the vote, given a number of absences. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) will miss the vote as he undergoes medical treatment. A number of New York Democrats will be attending a funeral of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. And the inclement weather could delay some lawmakers trying to make their way to Washington.

(h/t Scott Wong, The Hill)

It will be an interesting vote in Washington, and without wanting to overstate the case, I think dumping John Boehner as speaker is not only the right thing to do, but could be crucial if there is to be a good chance of a conservative Republican elected to the White House in 2016, as failing to dump Speaker Boehner will make it very difficult to show the public clear differences between Republicans and Democrats at election time.

Samuel

January 7th, 2015 at 04:58am

ACT Government considering a tax on something already funded by a tax

The ACT Government is considering implementing a “container deposit scheme” which would add 10 cents to the cost of drinks sold in recyclable containers such as plastic bottles or in cans. The idea is pretty simple: ten cents is added to the cost of the drink, and you (or anybody else) can redeem the ten cents if you return the container to a special recycling location…although The Canberra Times has a much more convoluted way of describing it which almost excludes the consumer from funding it and instead makes it sound like consumers profit from it:

ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell says Canberra would probably follow NSW into a scheme that paid people 10 cents a pop to return cans and other drinks containers.

Container deposit schemes are industry funded – paid for through a levy on the cost of drinks – and have been strongly opposed by the big drinks manufacturers and by some states, with attempts to develop a national scheme failing.

(h/t Kirsten Lawson, The Canberra Times)

It pays people to return drink containers? Ummm, not quite…it returns the money which was already paid by the customer.

It’s industry funded? Well, if we ignore the consumer-funded levy for a moment, from an administrative standpoint that might be true as it costs money to administer such a scheme and if the entire ten cent levy is being returned to the customer when the container is returned, then the administration costs have to come from elsewhere, and obviously it will come from the drink manufacturers. It fits in well with the saying “a fine is a tax for doing something wrong, and a tax is a fine for doing something right”.

It could be argued that not everyone will return drink containers to the special recycling centres, and the levy from those containers could fund the administrative costs…but alas, as per the proposed NSW scheme which the ACT wants to follow:

Containers could also be recycled as usual in household recycling but in that case the council would redeem them and get the refund.

(h/t Kirsten Lawson, The Canberra Times)

ACT taxpayers (and NSW ratepayers for that matter) already pay for recycling services which handle such drink containers, so all this does is tax them a further ten cents per container for a service which they’re already paying, unless they choose to go out of their way by taking the drink containers to special locations in which case they get their ten cents back, but the drink manufacturers still have administrative costs which they will undoubtedly add to the cost of drinks.

This scheme is allegedly designed to improve recycling rates and reduce the amount of recyclable materials going to landfill, but there are two big problems with it.
1. The latest recycling statistics available from the ACT Government’s website suggest that 75% of recyclable materials are being recycled (as of 2010/2011, an increase of 4% of 2009/2010), and this rate is increasing year-on-year. The vast majority of people are already recycling such materials, and this scheme punishes them for “doing the right thing” unless they go out of their way to do so in specific locations.
2. Other items can still be recycled through standard domestic household recycling services at no extra cost, so even if 100% of drink containers are recycled through the new scheme, trucks will need to continue with their existing suburban runs to deal with other recyclables. When this is added to the number of individuals making trips to these new recycling locations with their drink bottles, and (in the case of NSW’s proposed “reverse vending machines” in public locations) the extra trips by trucks transporting the bottles from the “reverse vending machines” to the recycling depot, what we have is a much less efficient recycling scheme in terms of the number of vehicle trips required to deal with the transportation of recyclable materials.

These container deposit schemes made sense at a time when recycling schemes were new and an incentive such as “have your levy back” helped to educate people to recycle, but at a time when three quarters (and increasing) of recyclable material is being recycled, this is an inefficient scheme which places an unnecessary impost on drink manufacturers, and punishes people for doing what, up until now, governments have insisted is the right thing to do.

Samuel

3 comments January 6th, 2015 at 03:57am

Government-run terrorism insurance scheme’s unintended consequences are hampering businesses

The Sydney Morning Herald had an interesting story this morning about a federal government scheme which is designed to take over from insurance companies in the event of a terrorist incident.

Sydney retailers whose earnings were slashed by up to 70 per cent during the Martin Place siege face smaller insurance payouts if the siege is deemed a terrorism event, because a government body will step in to curb insurers’ losses.
[..]
Under legislation passed following the September 11 attacks in America, the federal Treasurer can declare certain events to be acts of terrorism for insurance purposes.

In those circumstances a federally funded body, the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation, can step in to assess the likely loss from the incident and, where necessary, reduce the scope of claim liability for insurers. The aim of the arrangement is to shield insurers from catastrophic losses and thus ensure they continue to offer the products.

(h/t Mathew Dunckley and Lisa Visentin, The Sydney Morning Herald)

The article goes on to quote a spokesperson from IAG who says the federal government’s decision, regardless of the decision, is unlikely to affect how IAG pays out claims for loss of trade, but completely ignores something which came up on 2GB this morning…the federal government scheme is designed to insure for loss of buildings and does not cover loss of trade, but is set up in such a way that it can effectively nullify any need for insurers to pay out any claims if the incident is declared to be an act of terrorism. This is currently delaying the processing of claims with some insurers as they wait to see if they will need to pay anything, and has the potential to leave some businesses seriously out of pocket despite paying for insurance for exactly this type of event.

It’s just another example of how governments interfering with private business arrangements often leads to all sorts of unintended consequences, partially because governments rarely understand the private sector well enough to write rules which work, partially because governments take time to process things which cause debilitating delays to the private sector which doesn’t have the benefit of ongoing funding from taxpayers, and also because such rules are so often filled with easily exploited loopholes which bureaucrats often can’t anticipate because they’re not familiar with life outside the public sector.

I wrote an email to 2GB’s Luke Grant (who is currently filling in for Ray Hadley and Chris Smith across the middle of the day) about this shortly after he conducted an interview (from memory I think it was with Russell Zimmerman from the Australian Retailers Association, Update: It was, and audio of the interview is on 2GB’s website End Update) on the topic.

Good morning Luke,

This terrorism insurance debacle is a perfect example of the unintended consequences which occur when a well-intentioned government interferes with private business dealings.

It’s amazing that with so many bureaucrats writing the rules, government terrorism insurance for building loss can somehow nullify private “loss of trade” insurance, and nobody in government sees the problem. Unfortunately it’s all too common that bureaucrats who live in government land rather than the real world cause such a mess, and of course the private insurers don’t oppose the measures when the government makes them because they can see just how much money they’ll save.

It’s a mess which would never occur if governments kept their noses out rather than interfering with every little thing.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra, Australia

In this case the good intention of the government was to ensure insurance companies don’t go under while trying to pay out terrorism-related claims. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with such bailout type programs, it ignores the simple economic fact that if a product can’t be offered viably at a price which people will pay, it probably shouldn’t exist, and certainly shouldn’t rely on some magical fallback position of a government bailout from finite taxpayer funds. Sadly it seems that far too many people and industries see the government as a magic pot of infinite money and forget that government money only exists because it is legally confiscated from people via taxation, and thus should be treated with more respect and not expected to be a magical fix for every ill.

Samuel

January 5th, 2015 at 12:49pm

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

Next Posts Previous Posts


@Samuel_SGS on Twitter

Recent Comments

Categories

Canberra Weather

Search Blog or Web

Links

Feeds

Login/Logout


Blix Theme by Sebastian Schmieg and modified for Samuel's Blog by Samuel Gordon-Stewart.
Printing CSS with the help of Martin Pot's guide to Web Page Printability With CSS.
Icons by Kevin Potts.
Powered by WordPress.
Log in