Bring Back The Ferries!

Last weekend, a new bridge was constructed across the Tasman Highway near the Cenotaph in Hobart. This construction meant the highway was closed all weekend, making it much harder for Eastern Shore residents to travel into the city (they could, it just took much longer).

The Salamanca Markets were kind enough to sponsor a free ferry across the harbour from Bellerive to Brooke St Pier on the Hobart Waterfront (here’s their page giving details of the ferry service).

We’re pretty excited because WE’RE ON A BOAT!

Given my enthusiasm for public transport, and given I was attending an event in the city in the afternoon, I thought we should check it out.

I also wanted to make sure that any person ‘investigating’ demand for a ferry service would know that it would be used. I need not have worried on that last point. I got chatting to a few people and apparently, there were hundreds of people lined up to cross into the city by 10 am in the morning. So great was demand that for a part of the day they put on two ferries rather than one!

Look at how happy these people are!

I’m well aware that a sunny, calm Saturday afternoon probably results in greater demand than a cold winter morning. To that I say: ferries (at least this one) have a bar – with coffee in the morning and a beer at night, it beats the bus!

All I know is, Hobart has proven that we’re keen for it.

Renting Advice

Here is a random list of advice for one of my friends who is looking for a house.

  • If you can find yourself a house that includes white goods, you will save yourself a lot of bother moving them. In Hobart you won’t find a house without a stove, and the majority will have a fridge and washing machine. You may get a dryer or dishwasher if you’re lucky. Somebody else also takes care of repairs and collects the depreciation on the assets, which is nice too.
  • If you’re a couple, and you can afford a two-bedroom place (even if the second bedroom is tiny), go for it. Having places where you can be separate from each other (one of you in the spare room, one of you in the living room) will preserve your sanity.
  • Make sure you get a place that gets some sunlight in winter. It will vastly reduce your heating bill, and keep you sane if you’re at home during the day. Hobart-specific advice: be careful with being on the southern side of the hills in South Hobart and Lenah Valley.
  • Places with built-in heating will save you money. A reverse-cycle air conditioner (heat pump) runs at a lower price per joule of electricity than a plug-in electric heater, and is more efficient to boot. You’re unlikely to get gas heating or a wood fire (which is expensive but very very pleasant) unless you’re looking at more expensive places.
  • Be realistic about your travel and commute. Carefully consider whether you will save money by living within walking distance of work (expensive house, cheap transportation) or by living further out (cheap house, expensive transportation). Keep in mind it’s hard to change habits – if you already drive everywhere, you’ll keep on driving everywhere unless you make conscious changes.
  • Make a list of things you absolutely won’t put up with before going to look at places, and dismiss them immediately if they don’t meet with your requirements. It’s better to miss out on a place than to be stuck somewhere you can’t stand.
  • You will also have a list of nice-to-haves (for me: fan-forced oven, view of the river). These are not the same as your deal-breakers.
  • Also set a hard limit (or hard limits) on the amount you can afford before you start looking. When I last moved, I set a limit of $125/week for a room with a car or bus commute to the city, a limit of $150/week for a room with a cycle or walk commute to the city, and $200/week if I could rent two bedrooms, one to use as an office (and thus no need to commute). Bonus points if you create a full budget beforehand and can be confident in your numbers.
  • Real estate rental agents will almost always be ‘meh’ to deal with. They will (generally) be unresponsive and unhelpful. Private landlords will either be great, or even worse.
  • In Tasmania, make sure you check out the Consumer Affairs’ site on renting.

Eight Things I Hate About Living In Hobart – Six Years On

Six years ago to the day, I wrote a bit of a rant about Hobart. At the time I thought nothing of it, my blog only has three readers (Hello!). Of course, there’s Google.

Over time, this one post has attracted more visits than any other post on my blog (I haven’t done the hard numbers, but my guess is that it would be more than all other posts combined). Which annoys me, since over the last six years Hobart has become an amazing place to live. So let me address a few points:

  • Hobart is no longer boring. Thanks in a large part to MONA, Hobart has a huge art and events scene. Apart from the dead of winter, Hobart is a live and happening place.
  • The public transport system is largely fixed. It goes where you want to go, and unless you’re trying to get from one satellite suburb to another (Tranmere to Kingston for example) it won’t take forever. It could still have improvement (most public transport systems could) but it’s better than it was.
  • The roads are better too. We’ve had a lot of capital works done recently, and a lot more coming up. Bypasses and on-ramps are being constructed at an amazing speed. Intersections are being improved.
  • We got the NBN, Australia’s fibre to the house/node/something network, before any other states. I have a solid fibre connection to my house, and bandwidth is almost never an issue any more.
  • Thanks to a few by-law modifications in the CBD area, walking through a haze of cigarette smoke while shopping is much reduced. The CBD is a lovely place now.

I won’t comment on TV (apart from the cricket and ABC News 24, I hardly watch it any more). We also still get a few two-headed-Tasmanian jokes from mainlanders, but I think they’re jealous these days. All in all, it’s a pretty good place to be.

As a final note, it seems the ABC agrees with me, writing an in-depth article about how much MONA has changed Hobart over the last five years.

Videos from linux.conf.au 2015

The penguin dinner (the “formal” conference dinner) for linux.conf.au 2015 was held at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. This was pretty cool epic and amazing. Here are the videos I managed to capture of some of the machinery at work:

Unfortunately, I took an amazing 5-minute video of a triple-expansion steam engine being started up, but I’ve lost the footage – I think my phone might not have saved it. 🙁

On the Saturday after the conference, I went on The Northern Explorer, a train trip from Auckland to Wellington with a few friends. Again, I took a number of videos (as well as literally hundreds of photos):

This is actually the first time I’ve bothered capturing videos as well as photos on a trip. My phone (a Google Nexus 5) has proved that it can do 95% of the job of my dSLR in capturing the essence of a scene, and that’s good enough for me. It helps that I carry my phone everywhere, too. I will definitely be considering buying some sort of small tripod device though; as it turns out my hands are very shaky.

linux.conf.au 2014 – December 30

I’m (sporadically and with much delay) blogging my yearly pilgrimage to linux.conf.au 2014, this year being held at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Today was the flight from Hobart (HBA) to Perth (PER) via Melbourne (MEL). After a morning waiting (both my girlfriend and I had both already done most of our packing the night before) we had a fairly uneventful flight from Hobart to Melbourne (737-800, seats 29D and 29E). Bit of turbulence but nothing unexpected from economy class on Virgin.

20131230_165309The flight over to Perth was on one of Virgin’s two older (ex-Emirates apparently) A330-200 aircraft (seats 9J and 9K). This was slightly disappointing as these two aircraft don’t have in-seat power, a nice extra on a 4-hour flight (which is about as long as my laptop battery lasts). The TVs were pretty blurry picture-wise and the sound was choppy (not that I cared, I had my laptop to watch). Chicken-based meal wasn’t too bad, but my girlfriend’s vegetarian meal was… very average. You can tell these planes have been in use for a while. That said, the flight was smooth, fast and safe… so I can’t complain too much! Other than that it was a pretty nice flight.

I have to say I’m really looking forward to this year’s LCA. All the usual great speakers are there, including some of my favourites (Matthew Garrett, Katie Miller and Adam Harvey to name a few). As well as this, it is the first LCA trip I’ve managed to drag my girlfriend along to (which is the real reason we are going a week early, as she has family in Perth). Hopefully there are more of these trips to come!

I imagine we won’t be coming back to Perth for a while (unfortunately trans-continental flights are quite expensive), so there are a few sights we want to see. I really want to visit the Perth Mint and see the minting of gold and silver bullion coins (yeah, I’m weird). My partner wants to go to Nottnest Island and do lots of swimming in some of the marine parks around the Perth/Fremantle area.