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Star trail spiral over Pakenham

Star trail spiral over Pakenham

I’m not sure why I didn’t blog about this at the time, but almost two weeks ago we had clear skies in Melbourne so I decided to have another crack at photographing star-trails.

Star trails are created by several long exposure photos, blended together to showcase the movement of the Earth. Once upon a time, star trails would need hours of work in PhotoShop. These days more and more new cameras have this creative feature available “in-camera”, including my Olympus OM-D.

There were a couple of failed attempts at star trails on the night, thanks to poor low-light focus and looking in the wrong direction.  I’ve then used the smart-phone app called SkyVew for iPhone to see the best direction to point my camera.

This picture is the end result, 60 x 60 second exposures (lets call it a one hour exposure), looking South over Pakenham.

 

Star Trails over Pakenham

Friday night junior footy

Junior football at Koo Wee Rup on a cold and wet Friday night.

Floodlights shine through the darkness at the Koo Wee Rup football ground, it’s wet and only five degrees Celsius, the not so perfect setting for junior Aussie Rules football.  The opening bounce was at 7pm, and it was only going to get colder and wetter.

The Pakenham Under 13 boys were going into this match against Koo Wee Rup undefeated, but this game was different, everyone was fighting the cold and rain, as well as the opposition.

At every quarter break we had buckets of warm water for the boys to thaw out their frozen fingers, as well as towels and blankets.  As for the parent helpers, our team Runner and Goal Umpire volunteers had to endure the freezing conditions the most, but there was no complaints.

When the final siren sounded, Pakenham had suffered their first loss of the season, but the boys beat the cold and had a lot of fun. Running back into the change rooms, there was hot Milo drinks waiting for all the boys, courtesy of the Koo Wee Rup Junior Football Club.

You’ve got to love junior sports!

Pakenham Under 13 boys try to keep warm and dry at the Quarter Time break against Koo Wee Rup on a cold and wet Friday night.

NBN Connection Kit (FTTN)

Telstra NBN Connection Kit, new modem and phone
Telstra NBN Connection Kit (modem & wifi phone)
NBN street node, Pakenham

NBN “node”

The National Broadband Network (NBN) has arrived in Pakenham, it may not be the fibre to the home (FTTH) concept of the former Labor government (which we weren’t going to see until closer to 2020) but it is here, in “nodes”.  The NBN model the Liberal government is giving us only takes the fibre internet connection to boxes, known as a “node” strategically placed around the neighborhood.  The connection from the node to everyone’s homes uses last century tech (that was only ever meant to carry phone calls), yep, good old fashion copper wires.  This broadband model is known as Fibre to the Node (FTTN), it’s inferior to FTTH, but quicker and cheaper to roll out across the country. For the end user it means your front yard doesn’t need to be dug up and there’s no box to be installed in your garage, but your internet connection wont be as fast.

Telstra wrote to me a few weeks ago to say it was coming and then emailed last week to say they had sent me a connection kit.  The correspondence from Telstra said all we had to do, was disconnect our existing ADSL modem and unplug any existing landline phones, then simply plug in the new “Gateway Max” wi-fi modem.  The new “T-Voice” phone only needs power, and connects via wi-fi.

Label on rear of Telstra NBN modem
Warning sticker on the back of the Telstra Gateway NBN router

All the documentation from Telstra made it very clear that connecting the new “Gateway” modem would “…trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN.”  I’m more than happy to get a better and faster internet (and so are my YouTube watching kids), so I hooked everything up last Friday.  While waiting to be switched over to the NBN, the Gateway modem will use ADSL to provide internet access, however it’s noticeably slower than the ADSL of my old Netgear modem, but I can handle that for a few days before being connected to the faster network.

Telstra NBN blurb

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen over the weekend, so this week I reached out to Telstra via Twitter to ask how long I’d be waiting to be switched over from ADSL to NBN.  The social media team asked me to connect to their chat-help service, who intern connected me to someone from the NBN team.

After confirming my account details, address, date-of-birth, etc, etc… this Telstra NBN expert said there was no NBN connection order on my account, no record of any letter or email sent to me and no record of a modem and phone connection kit being sent out.  This guy didn’t believe me, even after reading the documentation, word for word to him, he asked me to take the letter to a Telstra store for them to look at.  I told him that was ridiculous and offered to email him a copy, but he then tried to tell me he didn’t have an email address, yeah right!

Mr Telstra did say he could raise an NBN connection order for my account if I choose a new broadband plan.  I said no and read to him again the correspondence that said “…there’ll be no change to your monthly bill, plan type or contract period…”

At that point I found a sentence in the letter saying it would take between one to three weeks to be switched over to the NBN after setting up the connection kit.  Now I’ve found the answer to my “how long” question I told they guy on the phone how disappointed I was that Telstra could not find anything related to NBN associated with my account, and then wished him a good night.

With my area of Pakenham only going “live” on the NBN this week, I cant help but wonder how many families around here have hooked up their connection kit and are now wondering when things will speed up.  It will be interesting to see what happens over the next one to three weeks.

 

Update: Sat 28 May

Going by the Facebook post started by Berwick-Packenham Gazette newspaper, Pakenham residents aren’t overly impressed with Telstra or the NBN.  Despite Telstra promoting that NBN is available in the area, nobody is saying they’ve been connected yet.

I called into the Pakenham Telstra store today, just to see if they could shed any light on when I could be expected to be switched over from ADSL to NBN FTTN.  I spoke to a nice guy in the store who said nothing will happen until there’s an order placed on my account. Even when I told him the information sent to us said all we needed to do was plug in the new modem, he said “no, that wouldn’t happen” and that he would need to place an order for us.  However, when he looked up my account he saw the NBN switch over order was already on my account, so apparently plugging in the new modem had worked, scheduling my broadband to be switched over to NBN on 7th June at 2PM.  As he was looking up my account I brought up the picture on my phone of the label on the back of the new modem which warns;

Connecting this modem to your telephone wall socket will trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN...

Connecting this modem to your telephone wall socket will trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN

He asked for a copy so he could chase up with his boss why store staff don’t know about this. As we chatted more, he explained that this automatic switch over is another example of a growing trend of cutting out the retail franchises and their ability to earn a commission from new contract sales.

It seems Telstra may be dealing with some internal politics and communication issues, but at least I now have a NBN switch over date; 7th June at 2PM.

 

Update: Tuesday June 7th

A week and a half later we’ve been switched over to the NBN.  There’s been a modest improvement to our internet download speed, and a huge increase to upload speeds.  Our home “landline” phone is a lot clearer now too!

See this blog post for more… simonyeo.id.au/nbn-switched-over

 

Update June 12;

I was able to negotiate a better deal with Telsta to get faster NBN speeds.
Read more on this blog post… simonyeo.id.au/faster-nbn-fttn 

Train hassles

12 Year old Brad and I decided to take the train into Melbourne today to see the Grand Final parade, and other festivities at the MCG and Yarra Park.  Brad is excited about football, and it’s a great way to soak up some finals atmosphere without actually going to the big game tomorrow.  We took the train, rather than drive, to avoid having to find a car-park and because Public Transport Victoria (PTV) had promoted a hassle free way to “Get from A to the G” (‘G’ is an abbreviation of MCG – Melbourne Cricket Ground).

We live walking distance to Pakenham train station, so the car stayed at home and Brad and I set off on foot.  I wasn’t too concerned about waiting 20 minutes for a train to the city, as today is a public holiday, so I assume there were less services than normal.  Our train departed Pakenham station on time, crossed Main Street, but the acceleration turned to sudden braking and the train stopped before we made it to the next level crossing at McGregor Road.  A couple of minutes later the train driver walked passed our window, passengers were wondering if there had been an accident.  After a few more minutes the driver walked passed again, in the same direction, I assume he was walking around the train looking for something.  We finally started moving again after around 15 minutes, there was no explanation.  (I’ve been on trains before when the driver would announce over the speakers that there had been a delay due to a signal fault.)

The rest of our journey was unevenetful, until we passed Richmond Station.  We were planning on going through the City Loop (subway) to Parliament Station, which is close to where the parade was starting from.  The sign inside the train said “Next station is Parliament” and I was expecting the train to start descending onto the underground tracks, but it instead stayed above ground and headed towards Flinders Street Station.  That sign in the train changed to “Arriving at Flinders Street”, which was followed by cursing by other passengers and some people saying “we’ll just have to walk from here”.  I was hopeful the train would go around the loop after Flinders Street, but when we pulled up at the platform the screens said that train was heading to Cranbourne without going via the underground stations.  (I wonder if skipping the City Loop was to make up time for the delay at Pakenham and arrive at Flinders Street “on-time”?)  Thankfully the screens also gave information on which lines were the next to travel through the City Loop, so we went a couple of platforms over to the Glen Waverley line and hopped on a train to Parliament Station.

A few hours later, after watching the Grand Final Parade and walking down to Yarra Park for the MCG festivities, we made our way to Richmond Station to catch a train back home to Pakenham.  Everything was normal on the way home until we were approaching Dandenong station.  The in-carriage announcement said “Arriving Dandenong, this train will be terminating at Dandenong”.  Terminating means the train wont be going any further, so most passengers got off the train to then watch it depart towards Pakenham.  I’m not sure whether it actually kept going to Pakenham, or just went up the line a little way to change tracks, but regardless there was no explanation why we were told the service was terminating when it was scheduled to go all the way to Paky.

Once on the platform at Dandenong there was no information to say when the next Pakenham train would arrive, another passenger went to find out and came back to say there wasn’t another metro train to Pakenham for at least 20 minutes.  However there was a Vline (regional service) arriving in one minute, the platform sign said it would run express to Nar Nar Goon, which is the next station after Pakenham, but classed as a regional station because the electrification ends at Pakenham.  I called my wife and asked her to pick us up from Nar Nar Goon, but when we boarded the Vline train the in carriage sign said “Next station is Pakenham”.  I texted my wife back about the conflicting information and said I will let her know whether we were able to get off at Pakenham or whether we’d need a ride from Nar Nar Goon.  The Vline train did stop at Pakenham and we walked home from there.

Yes the public transport system got us around today, but thanks to conflicting or insufficient information we had a frustrating and disappointing experience.  As you can see, I tried to interact with PTV through social media, but there was no response to my tweets.  Knowing my way around Melbourne and surrounds helped us get to where we wanted to go when the train schedules unexpectedly changed.  Who knows how a tourist, or young teenagers travelling alone, would be affected by similar disruptions.

PTV promo A to G

Screenshot of my tweets to PTV

My tweets to PTV

 

UPDATE:
Thanks to the power of Twitter, it turns out possibly an unauthorized person in the rear driver’s cab caused the delay just after leaving Pakenham this morning.

Twitter screenshot re unauthorised person in rear drivers cab at Pakenham

Twitter screenshot

 

UPDATE FROM METRO TRAINS;
I’ve received the following correspondence from Metro regarding my travelling experience.

Dear Simon

Thanks for your email received on 2 October 2015.

I’m sorry you were affected by delays and alterations to your Pakenham line trains on both the morning and afternoon of the same day.

I have checked our train performance records and the 9:53am Pakenham to Flinders Street train was delayed by approximately 15 minutes between Pakenham and Cardinia Road stations after an unauthorised person accessed the rear driver’s cabin.

The 2:35pm Flinders Street to Pakenham train (scheduled to depart Richmond at 2:48pm) was delayed by approximately ten minutes before being altered to terminate at Dandenong station due to a trespasser near the tracks at Dandenong.

When trespassers are reported on or near trains or tracks, we have to either suspend or run trains at a reduced speed while Victoria Police attend and investigate the scene. This can result in trains and drivers being out of position to operate services, causing further delays.

Following service delays, our train controllers must sometimes alter the scheduled stops or terminating points of trains to prevent ‘knock on’ effects on other services. We regularly review these decisions, with reports brought to the attention of Executive Management.

During disruptions of this nature, announcements are made by our staff based on the information made available to them, as guided by Victoria Police.

All our staff have been asked to keep you informed of service delays and alterations as soon as possible, and I’m sorry this was not your experience. We are continuing to monitor this aspect of their performance.

As regional services are outside of our responsibility, your feedback regarding the V/Line train you boarded at Dandenong station has been referred to V/Line under case reference 2015/xxxxxx.

Thank you again for your feedback. If you wish to discuss further, or would like more information, please call Public Transport Victoria: 1800 800 007, quoting reference number LC/xxxxxx, or send an email to customer.feedback@metrotrains.com.au.

Yours sincerely

Laura Crofts
Customer Relations Coordinator