Liddell Power Station

Not Liddell power station – ABC News gets it wrong. (Actually Bayswater.)

Liddell power station (near Muswellbrook NSW) has been in the news this week, with a bit of a public stoush between its owners AGL who intend to close the station in 2022, and Malcolm Turnbull who wants to keep it open for five years beyond that date.

One of the frustrating aspects of this has been how frequently the media shows a picture of a power station other than Liddell when reporting on Liddell.

I’m familiar with Liddell power station as I worked there as an electrical engineer from December 1986 to January 1988 in my first job  after graduating from university.  Since the media is incapable of showing pictures of Liddell, I thought I’d scan and post some of the photos I took while I worked there. It was an interesting time, as there was a lot of repair and remediation work going on, and I got to look inside a lot of equipment that would normally be unseen.

Liddell High Voltage Certificate.

How long for a ULL ID confirmation?

After years of waiting, the National Broadband Network is finally available at my home address from today.  I had pre-ordered an NBN deal from a different provider than my current phone/ADSL provider which is Optus. My new soon-to-be provider rang me this afternoon to tell me that they are ready to connect me, but to do so they needed me to confirm my ULL ID with Optus.

What is a ULL ID? It seems that it is a 10 digit number (starting with 161) that uniquely identifies the copper line connected to your house. Given the frustrating and time consuming interactions I’ve had with Optus in the past, I wasn’t too excited or hopeful about extracting this information from them.

So how long does it take to confirm a ULL ID with Optus? The answer turned out to be 44 minutes.

Time Duration (minutes) Activity
18:44 – 18:50 6 Try to find a phone number on the Optus website to ring technical support. It is almost unbelievable how hard it is to find a phone number to ring a phone company!
18:50 – 19:04 14 Give up on ringing Optus and have a go with their Live Chat support. After initiating a request for live chat, wait ….

19:04 – 19:10 6 Live chat with service agent for six minutes before she decides that it would be better to ring me and have a vocal instead of written conversation.
19:10 – 19:12 2 Brief conversation with service agent where she understands what the request is and that she will need to transfer me to the technical support team.
19:12 – 19:24 12 Waiting … listening to horrid hold ‘music’.
19:24 – 19:28 4 Brief conversation with technical support agent who reasonably quickly understands what I’m asking for, confirms my details, puts me on hold for a minute or so while he looks up the ULL ID and then supplies me with the ULL ID.

Yay.

TOTAL 44

Lets see how things go now with my new provider in connecting me to the NBN.

Jack of those notifications

At work I recently had a laptop upgrade to a HP EliteBook 850 G3. This also meant moving to Windows 10 after many years of using Windows 7. The transition has been been mostly positive, but one thing that bugged me for quite a while is that every time I inserted or removed my earphones, about two seconds later I’d get an audible alert and on-screen notification like …

“You just unplugged a device from the audio jack.
Bang & Olufsen.”

I don’t need to be told that a device was unplugged, because I was the one who unplugged it! Age may be wearying me, but my memory retention is still definitely longer than two seconds.

I was sure that there must be a way of turning of these sound device notifications, but couldn’t find anything in the sound settings. Eventually I discovered that it is controlled by the Windows 10 “Notifications & actions” app.


In the “Get notifications from these senders” section, turn off notifications for “Bang & Olufsen”. I don’t know why there are two entries – I just turned them both off.

Now I can plug and unplug as much as I want without Mr Bang or Mr Olufsen trying to impute that I have a brain the size of a goldfish.

HP2101nw wireless print server on 64 bit Windows

I bought a HP2101nw wireless USB print server for a bargain price from an eBay seller, and I had trouble getting it working on my Windows 7 64 bit laptop.When installing the software to configure the print server, there was an error about the driver not installing correctly, and the configuration software wouldn’t recognise the print server and allow it to be configured.

When I checked the system requirements I found that the HP support page only listed 32 bit drivers for Windows XP or Windows Vista. For a while I rued not checking the system requirements more carefully before purchasing, and thought I’d done my dough.

Img_4155But with a little more perseverance I found that a 32 bit Windows operating system was required only for the initial configuration of the device (to set the WiFi network and password) and after that I was able to get connections to the print server working from other Windows based PC’s.  The steps that worked for me were:

  1. Using a Windows 7 32 bit laptop, I installed and ran the configuration software from the supplied CD, and configured the printer server with the WiFi network and password.
  2. I then downloaded the Windows 7 32 bit driver as referenced in a discussion on the HP support forum.
  3. I was then able to install this driver on the following machines and get them connecting to the wireless print server.
    1. Windows 7 64 bit
    2. Windows 7 32 bit
    3. Windows 10 32 bit

Update

A few months after writing this blog post, the print server just stopped working, and nothing I tried would resurrect it. The purchase turned out to be a dud after all.

CNET Newsletter broken

For years I have been receiving a CNET Daily News e-mail newsletter . Despite it’s US-centric view of the world, and slight obsession with reporting on Apple stories, it has been occasionally useful in alerting me to relevant IT and tech stories I might not otherwise have seen.

Recently they updated their newsletter format to a less cluttered layout with more white space and larger images. But in my view the new layout is fundamentally broken, and this is exemplified by the image below where I’m viewing a newsletter in my e-mail client.

CNET's new and worthless newsletter layout.

CNET’s new and worthless newsletter layout.

Assuming that the intent of a newsletter is to convey new, how is CNET doing? My monitor resolution is 1920×1200, giving me 2304000 pixels. And what does CNET do with those 2.3 million pixels? They show masses of empty white space, two meaningless, generic and over-large images, and just six words of actual news content! (Or only five words if you count ‘once-unthinkable’ as a single compound word.)

And those six (five) words don’t even convey what the story is about!

There’s room for improvement here – approximately 2.3 million pixels worth of room.

Unable to download podcast

I manage a podcast feed for my church, and recently had a problem where I was unable to download episodes using the iOS Podcast app on my iPhone.  The podcast would download OK on other Android devices, and it would stream on my iPhone if I tapped the play icon, but if I selected “Download Episode” then the download would appear to happen, but then at the end a message would pop up saying “Unable to download podcast”, with a “Retry” and a “Done” button.

Googling this problem shows that other people have experienced similar issues, but no amount of unsubscribing, deleting, restarting, rebooting, or switching to airplane mode would fix the problem.

In the end I discovered that the problem was due to a misconfiguration in the XML file for the podcast feed. In the <channel> section of the XML file there is an <itunes:image> tag where you can put the URL of an image. I discovered that this tag was pointing to an invalid URL, to a server that I had used several years ago. After setting the tag to a valid URL, and refreshing the feed in the iOS podcast app, I was able to download episodes.