Dirty Racks

Recent discussions on Facebook have covered this topic and I finally managed to track down the photos of one of the messiest racks I’ve ever encountered. As part of the CSC Team I had to clean up this mess. It took a month or so of planning it out and then we had a 10 hour window in which to complete it.

CSC Rack 01

In this first photo you can see the racks in all their messy glory. It was up to us to clean it up and make it so that we could put the door back on and close it. The difficult part of this mission came about because under each patch panel is a Controller for an AS400. So it was simply a case of unplug everything and patch it back in using the 15cm cables we had. Part of our mission was to rename every AS400 terminal so that it would have its own unique Name in preparation for the merger of the Brisbane and Sydney Mainframe systems.

To rename an AS400 terminal involved a few steps:

  1. You had to login to the AS400 with “root” access and remove the Terminal Profile
  2. You then had to recreate the Terminal Profile by defining the Controller and Port that the Terminal would be plugged into
  3. We then had to patch the Terminal in from the Patch Panels to the correct Controller and Port
  4. We then had a small team of minions who had to go out and touch every terminal and tell it what Controller and Port it was now on

This process was complicated further by the fact that each rack had patch panels numbering from 001 to 180 or so and out on the floor, there were three columns of desks with non-linear numbering. What this meant was figuring out which Port 130 on the floor matched up to which Port 130 in the racks was made a little bit harder. The left column mostly matched up with the left rack, the right column mostly matched up with the right rack, and the middle column had some from Rack A and others from Rack B. The numbering confusion arose in the early 90s when the building housed both the Pizza Hut and the KFC Call Centres and the systems were meant to be separate.

The weeks of testing and mapping out of the ports on the floor to the patch panels in the room made the whole process far more tedious than it should have been.

We were lucky in that 30 terminals were actually Citrix thin clients that ran an emulator and these all plugged into a regular 10 Mbit Hub (not a switch) so they would work as long as they were plugged into the network somewhere. We started our Clean Up night at 2200, an hour before the Call Centre closed by renaming the Citrix clients and then moving all the Operators onto them. We then went in and unplugged everything else.

CSC Rack 03

At this point the Call Centre had closed and I had unplugged pretty much everything, including the thin clients. Most of the patch panels for them were in the top right and the hub was in the bottom right. Unfortunately I’ve only been able to find one other photo from the rest of this night, it was a long time, many camera phones, and 3 computers ago so I fear that the rest of the data has been lost. Either to the mess that is my file system or through a hard drive failure and lack of backup (make sure you BACKUP).

CSC Rack 04

This is the last photo that I could find chronicling the adventure. The big mess of long cables that have returned to the racks were due to the fact that we weren’t able to move the hub to be closer to the Citrix thin client patch panels so the cables had to go back. There were also further complications because the left rack housed all the patch panels for the Windows machines that the Supervisors and Management used and also the various printers.

If you look under the mess of long cables you can see the much neater patching connecting the Patch Panels to the Controllers. Eventually we were able to convince the IT Department to send out some of their recently retired 10/100 switches and I was able to install them in better locations and I was able to pull out all those long cables. We found that soon after moving to two switches and removing the hub the packet collisions on the network dropped. The Citrix thin clients being plugged into a hub meant that every time one of them spoke, the packet was sent to EVERY other device on the network. Printers were faster, the Windows machines were able to move data faster, the Citrix thin clients even responded faster.

It was a long and busy night but we eventually got it all done, I wish I could show off a photo of the finished work but they appear to be lost forever.

Netflix Vs Foxtel Vs Free to Air

Why will Netflix or other similar streaming services inevitably beat out Foxtel and Free to Air services? Advertising.

Today I managed to finally plug my TV into the Free to Air satellite and I’ve had the TV on for most of the day and during that time about 50% of the viewing has been advertisements and it got me thinking. Why do people pay for Foxtel still when services like Netflix exist now? Lets take a look at the current offerings in Australia.

Free to Air

  • Pros: it is free
  • Cons: advertising and a lack of choice for content

Free to Air is based solely upon advertising revenue. It is a “free” service, all the shows produced and the services provided are paid for by companies getting their message out to the public. This results in TV shows being peppered with advertising. Currently in Australia the commercial TV networks are allowed 13 minutes of non-program matter during peak hour and up to 16 minutes at other times per hour. That means that during peak hour, a 30 minute show will consist of 7 minutes of advertising.

Foxtel

  • Pros: more channels than Free to Air
  • Cons: costs at least $25 per month for the basic channel, still get advertising

Foxtel is essentially the only choice for Cable TV in Australia and when it first came out one of the big selling points was the lack of advertising. The government actually restricted Foxtel from advertising during programs for the first two years of it running. Since then Foxtel has bumped up their advertising to include up to 5 minutes worth of advertising for every 8 minutes of programming. There are a couple of channels that run ad free however they are usually included in a package that adds an additional cost to the base rate. Why would anyone want to pay money AND get advertising inserted into their paid content?

Netflix and other streaming services

  • Pros: pick what show you want to watch, when you want to watch it, costs at least $11 a month with no advertising
  • Cons: uses valuable bandwidth which in Australia can cost extra

Out of the three choices Netflix and other streaming services have the least amount of advertising involved. Based on data from Netflix, you pay a flat rate for as many TV shows as you can consume and you get no advertising. Granted you may not get access to every show available due to licensing issues, you still get a varied library of media to consume and you don’t have to spend a third of your day watching advertisements.

Summary

Netflix and other streaming services have one big bottleneck that is currently affecting their take up in Australia. Poor internet connectivity. With the average Australian having ADSL speeds it is hard to stream HD content to a TV without extensive wait times or having to resort to lower quality streams. Had the plans for a proper Fibre roll out come to be I think the TV ecosystem would be vastly different to what it is now. Foxtel would have lost the major share and newer services like Netflix, Stan, and Presto would be able to compete on a more level playing field. As it is, Foxtel manage their own cable infrastructure which ensures the speedy delivery of their content, and the Australian ISP ecosystem is based around quotas, not speed, like it is in many other markets.

Addendum

There are other services out there currently that side-step all of these options, the chief being SickBeard and Torrenting. By downloading the shows illegally to a local hard drive consumers are able to side-step the bandwidth requirements for streaming, and more importantly, they are able to side-step the geographic licensing issues that plague many shows in Australia. For example, you can’t get the latest episodes of Game of Thrones on any streaming service in Australia unless you are a Foxtel customer. Game of Thrones requires the Premium Movies & Drama package which results in a monthly cost of $50 per month just to see the latest episodes in Australia. Is it any wonder that Australia holds the record for pirating TV shows because it isn’t possible to get the show legally through multiple services? Monopolies will drive consumers to the illegal methods when the prices are to high.

Sources

The Saga Continues

Back in December I had a car written off in an accident along Mona Vale Road. In this post I documented the details of the accident and a declaration of my mission to get that blind spot fixed up.

I am pleased to report that after contacting 3 different councils and the RMS I managed to get the vegetation leading up to the intersection cut down in such a way that it is possible to see the traffic lights and any stopped traffic with plenty of time to stop safely.

This post has been brought about in part thanks to the ineptitude of the RMS and Bankstown Council as I received a letter last night to advise me that my car has been abandoned in Greenacre and if I don’t remove it they’ll fine me $550. Thankfully we still had all the paperwork from the RMS showing that we no longer own the car so now I get to see what Bankstown Council does about it.

Power of Prayer

On my Facebook Newsfeed last night I saw that a friend of mine had liked a post from a mother telling the world that her baby was doing a lot better in hospital. This great news however was tarnished by her thanks.

I absolutely believe that you should be allowed to believe in whatever and whoever you want and that for some people, the power of prayer is real in that it gives them strength. What I find issue with is the fact that this woman thanked everyone for whispering to her invisible friend for their support and at no point did she make any mention of the tireless efforts from the medical staff. The doctors that spent years studying medicine or the nurses that put everything into caring for other people. The work done by researchers slaving away in labs hunting for the ever elusive answers. Or the families and friends of those medical staff that support the system.

It is probably irrational of me but I think that if you really wanted to profess your gratitude, thank the people that did the actual work at the same time that you thank the people that spoke to your invisible friend. Prayer may give you the strength to keep battling onwards while your little one is sick but science and medical staff are the ones doing the hard slog. Thank them too.

The Expanding Earth

Facebook’s suggestions usually show up a lot of crap but occasionally you get a nugget so wonderful that you simply have to share it with everyone. This shiny little nugget comes from Neal Adams. He is convinced, and is doing his best to convince others, that plate tectonics is completely wrong. That the plates didn’t rotate and twist about but instead the planet just got bigger. The animations in his video are fairly convincing too, as long as you disregard that creating mass in volumes large enough to double the mass of a planet just isn’t possible.

Check out the video for his “facts”:

Neal’s Youtube channel even shows other videos that indicate that he believes that the Moon, Mars and even some moons of other planets are doing the same thing too.

He’s even got a theory for how the dinosaurs became extinct. He makes the claim that migration is what killed them off.

If you ever need a laugh, check him out. The pseudo science crap that he spouts is better than some comedians that I’ve heard.

Help Out A Mate

As part of the Market Research group that I am a part of I recently did a survey for the Help Out A Mate team. I know a lot of folks who are both still in the Australian Defence Force and others who have served their time.

A part of the research has lead to the creation of the www.healoutamate.com.au site. I received the following email from the research organisers and I am posting it here for everyone to see.

Hi everyone. An important project is currently being undertaken for men and women who are ex-members of the Australian Defence Force (who have left the service since 1999) and their families. The project is looking for ex-members and their families to participate in research to help improve the way important services are communicated to and for them. People can participate in the research in various ways, through focus groups, individual discussion, via an online forum or survey—for example we are holding focus groups and individual discussions this week in Brisbane and then in Townsville and Sydney the following week or two. Some people have already agree to participate but there is need to have more join in. Please respond to the call to participate or pass this on to help find as many people as possible for this important project. Participation is voluntary and participants’ privacy and confidentiality will be maintained. Anyone interested can contact Fiona Mclean at [email protected] or on 0478 972 900, visit the website www.helpoutamate.com.au or Facebook page for more information and to sign up to participate. Please help whether it is for you, family or your mates.

I can only hope that those of you who have either served, or know someone who has served would be willing to pass this message along.

HelpOutAMate Logo
HelpOutAMate.com.au

TCL 55″ E5691 Series 4K Ultra HD LED LCD 3D Capable Smart TV

I’ve recently just purchased the TCL 55″ E5691 Series TV and given that there weren’t a lot of reviews out there I thought I should write one up.

First impressions of the TV when I got it home were, “Its big”. Like really big. The previous TV that we had in our space was only 40″ and it looked large because my couch is only 2 metres from it. This one is huge, the 55″ screen looks blisteringly large. When you first turn it on the splash screen is white. Bright white and enough to have you casting shadows on the wall behind you. It took us about 4 hours of tweaking the brightness, contrast, sharpness, and other settings to get it to a point where your brain doesn’t hurt. A few other reviews that I’ve read indicate the same initial problem.

Once we had it up and running we plugged a Playstation 3 into, popped on the Bluray of Harry Potter, and started noticing some issues. Dark scenes with lightning in them were distorted and looked quite dreadful. After the movie I flipped over to the Apple TV 2 and tried a HD copy of the same movie and found that things were pretty much perfect. After a fair bit of Googling I came to the conclusion that the distortion was produced by the older Playstation 3. The Apple TV 2 and the Chromecast had no issues at all.

I received the Active 3D Glasses a week later due to a retailer issue and since then I’ve played around with some content. The glasses themselves aren’t bad, they are pretty light for an Active 3D set. The trouble now is trying to find decent 3D content. Youtube has a few videos that worked really well, others just didn’t line up properly. The TV has an auto 3D mode which detects the type of 3D and adjusts the display accordingly. Most of the Side By Side content matched up in the middle however there were a few movies where the text wasn’t lining up properly and I couldn’t find any options on the TV to adjust the picture to have the text line up properly. I don’t know if that is something that is a problem in the content or the TV but it would be nice to have a sliding control on the TV to fix issues like that.

I’ve not been able to find any 4K content to play on the TV yet so everything I’ve been watching has been 720p or 1080p upscaled. The in-built Apps on the TV are somewhat limited but they do offer a few cool things. Some of the Streaming apps are good for watching TV, as long as you don’t mind getting everything in Chinese, and the inability to uninstall these default apps is a bit frustrating but I’m sure that TCL probably has deals with the App creators about that kind of thing.

Overall, for a 55″ 4K 3D capable TV costing only $1000, it is pretty good. It isn’t as blazingly good as a $4000 Samsung but it certainly slides neatly into the mid-range “I want a big screen but I am poor” market.

If anyone came up to me with a limited budget but big hopes and desires I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them about the TCL E5691 however I would advise them that the first couple of hours will be sent tweaking settings and to ensure that the devices they are going to plug into it are at least HDMI 1.4.