Response to my Auckland Train Signage rant

Well, I received a response from Auckland Transport about my Auckland Train Signage FAIL post. Unfortunately it wasn’t very helpful as they merely (and carefully) explained how the signs are going to work and why they removed the scrolling list of stations:

Thank you for contacting Auckland Transport regarding the new Real Time boards to be installed across the Auckland public transport network.

Your comments were forwarded to the Customer Information team who have provided the following feedback.

The decision to remove the scrolling message underneath the destination information as seen on the current Real Time boards, was made to allow enough room for the next two services to be displayed (rather than just the next one) and moves closer towards emulating a ‘metro’ or ‘national’ style service.

If you look at the bottom of the board, you will see information to explain the abbreviations that may appear on the screen.  These abbreviations will appear next to the destination name to advise the customer which key station the service is travelling via which will also allow customers to identify the line.

For example Papatoetoe/ GI would indicate that this service is travelling to Papatoetoe via Glen Innes on the Eastern Line, or Papatoetoe/ N would indicate that the service is travelling on the Southern line via Newmarket.

I trust his information is of use.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us and for your support of Auckland Transport.

Clearly they missed the point of my post which was: JUST PUT THE FRIGGING NAME OF THE LINE IN THE DISPLAY. The signs will be a million times better and you won’t need to add cryptic abbreviations nor require a traveller to have area and train network knowledge to figure out which train to catch.

My response to AT:

Thanks for the response,

Whilst I appreciate that the removal of the scrolling message frees up an additional line for information, I believe that adding /GI or /N, to the name of the terminating station, to indicate the line is counter intuitive and is certainly not in keeping with a ‘metro’ style service.

Surely it would be far better for the signs to read EAST – Papatoetoe or  _SOUTH – Papatoetoe_  (or perhaps EST Papatoetoe or STH Papatoetoe if space is an issue) ?

Using /GI or /N:

a) requires a key so that the user can figure out what the abbreviations mean

b) area knowledge to understand what/where Glenn Innes & Newmarket is

c) knowledge of the rail network to know that you need to take the train that goes via GI if you want the Eastern line and the train that goes via Newmarket if you want the Southern line.

Which is pretty useless for first time travellers and tourists.



Auckland Train Signage FAIL

I’m an avid user of the trains in Auckland. It takes me 20 minutes to get from my house to downtown (and that includes a 8 minute walk) which sure beats getting stuck in rush hour traffic.

But one thing that has been driving me crazy for a long, long time now is the poor quality of digital signage. In it’s current state it is awfully confusing for first time travellers which why (with the RWC looming) I was pleased to hear that MAXX was investing in some new real-time signs.

Alas it appears seems that the new signs will actually be a gigantic step backwards :(

First some context. The Auckland rail network currently has 4 main lines, as shown in this very nice network map (click to enlarge it):

Each line is assigned a name (Eastern, Southern, Western, Onehunga) and nice distinct colour (yellow, red, green and blue). All very straightforward and very familiar to anyone who has seen the London underground or NYC subway maps.

Now a peculiarity of the Auckland network is that a number of lines have stations in common, in particular the Eastern and Southern lines, which share 12 stations. This is where things start to unravel…

The current platform signs at Britomart look like this (apologize for the poor image quality):

Now if you look closely you will notice that NOWHERE on the board does it mention the train line! In fact since both the Eastern and Southern lines can terminate at Papakura the only way to tell which line you are on, is to watching the scrolling list of stops to see if the train is going via Glen Innes (Eastern Line) or via Newmarket (Southern Line). The problem is further compounded by the fact that trains on these lines may terminate at Otahuhu, Papakura or Pukekohe…

Imagine how confusing this is for first time travellers and tourists! They look at the nice network map figure out that they want the Eastern line and then when they get to the platform there is no mention of the line anywhere. Instead they need some area knowledge to figure out they want the train that is going via Glenn Innes, this is just awful.

The fix of course if pretty simple; just display the name of the line on the sign; Duh.

So you could have:

  • STH – Papakura
  • EAST – Papakura
  • STH – Otahuhu
  • WEST – Swanson
  • ONE – Onehunga

In fact this is what they do on the MAXX website when you search the train timetables and this is what I was hoping to see on the new signs….

This morning I was handed the MAXX/Auckland Transport’s On Board leaflet which, on pages 4 and 5, raves about the new real time information boards that are getting put in place. Here is the mock-up of the board from the leaflet:


Words cannot explain how crap the new sign’s design is.

First off the line name is still not displayed but worse the scrolling list of stations has now been dropped. Instead you have now have abbreviations (/GI, /N /LS) and you need a frigging key to explain them… seriously ? Clearly they let some of us techies loose on solving the “real-time” problem and gave no thought on making the sign actually useful.

Hopefully someone from AT or MAXX will see this post and come to their senses (or better yet if you know someone working on this project, pass them this link).

/RANT DONE – that feels much better

_UPDATE: I got a response from AT about this post_



Section 92a scrapped !

Looks like section 92a is going to get scrapped or at least get a rework.

Woohoo ! The government actually paid attention to “the people” for once ;)

Thumbs up to the Creative Feedom team for drawing attention to the issues with the proposed law.

In case you missed it all (where have you been?) here are the top-ten issues that the CFF identified:

  1. No Independent Qualified Adjudicator: There’s no currently qualified or trusted independent 3rd party to judge (1) data forensics and (2) copyright law, so decisions must be based either on allegation or prosecution. Our positive solution to this is an extension in jurisdiction to the underutilised Copyright Tribunal (who currently handle only licensing disputes, of approximately one per year).
  2. Unclear Legislation: People don’t know how to obey the law because it’s poorly drafted and vague. The heavyweight TCF policy was written by and for conventional ISPs and it is inappropriate for the majority of “ISPs” under the new broad definition that includes libraries, schools, businesses, many homes, hotels, etc.
  3. Innocent People Framed: People can be easily framed for copyright infringement online, see . There are hundreds of Data Forensics experts in NZ that can tell the difference but expecting thousands of untrained businesses to do the same is impractical and ridiculous.
  4. Impractical and Technically Unrealistic Demands: Tens of thousands of internet devices in New Zealand are incapable of storing who accessed what, at what time, making corroborating accusations impossible. It would be like expecting, come March 27th, for all New Zealanders to be able to track who used a phone within a household or a business. Most phones just don’t have that capability, and most network devices don’t have that capability. Accurately tracking copyright infringement is a noble goal to head towards but we’re not there yet and therefore S92A is unrealistic and impractical. Government could amend the definition of an “ISP” to be instead a “CSP” (commercial service provider) which would reduce the scope to conventional ISPs like Xtra and Vodafone who are capable of tracking. They could then increase the scope of an “ISP” as internet hardware improves. In the meantime people can still be taken to court as they always could to resolve disputes (or possibly a Copyright Tribunal if that’s established).
  5. Business Compliance Costs: The business compliance costs of tracking (a practical necessity to corroborate future accusations) both in terms of buying tens of thousands of new hardware devices for the businesses now deemed “ISPs” have not been factored. Consumer-grade internet hardware devices capable of doing this cost approximately 0. We have been doing research on this and we may have some results early next week. It’ll certainly be tens of thousands of “ISPs” who need to spend that kind of money… and then you need data forensics and copyright law knowledge to use that tracked information.
  6. A Disproportionate Punishment: Internet disconnection is a disproportionate punishment that hasn’t been enforced by the courts in the past, even in extreme cases of copyright infringement (repeat commercial infringers as judged in a court didn’t get this punishment). Fines would be more appropriate and would protect businesses and home users. Music Industry studies suggesting people prefer internet disconnection to fines did not consult businesses or organisations (many of whom depend on the internet as much as a phone line). Further, the law doesn’t distinguish between a copyright infringement such as a thirteen year old’s self-written Harry Potter story (which if it uses the Harry Potter characters is copyright infringement) Vs. distributing thousands of movies illegally. Allowing fines would allow appropriate punishment.
  7. Harms Respect For Copyright And Artists: Although perhaps noble in it’s intent this law is corrosive to the public trust in copyright education that artists benefit from, and it risks undoing the social contract that underlies copyright; encouraging illegal downloads and taking money away from the creative sector. As artists we’re being very clear to distance ourselves from those companies pushing for this law so that the public know who is responsible for future injustices. On the issue of S92A we represent 9037 artists, out of 18,146 people (and 90% of these are New Zealanders).
  8. Business Risk: ISPs choose disconnection or connection under threat of being secondary copyright infringers themselves, or wrongfully terminating a customers contract. This is an unreasonable burden to place on thousands of businesses who are now deemed “ISPs”. Thousands of untrained people cannot be experts at data forensics and copyright law.
  9. Business Risk From Employees: For many businesses disconnecting a staff members internet may be like removing their phone line, effectively firing the employee. While inappropriate use of company services should result in dismissal there are obvious problems if the employer is unsure of the evidence, and associated risks in employment law.
  10. Reverses the presumption of Innocence: S92A calls for punishment with internet disconnect without due process and without evidence judged by experts. The “courts” under S92A policies are thousands of untrained “ISPs” and they operate under the threat of either 1) being secondary copyright infringers themselves if they make a wrong decision on copyright or data forensics, or 2) contract or employment problems of disconnecting people without really knowing if anything wrong was actually done. Businesses are risk averse, and untrained people may decide on who is the bigger risk to them — the accuser or the accused. In practice the accused doesn’t get anything resembling due process and it’s our opinion that most people will be considered guilty upon accusation.

Whoosh goes 2009 DD45

Apparently a smallish asteroid just had a near miss with Earth. 2009 DD45 passed by at 63000km which is well inside the Moons orbit.

It was realitively small, so if it hit, it would have only (only!) done the same amount of damage as a single nuke.

I suppose the worrying thing for me is that it was only found 3 days ago ! If it was going to hit us, 3 days isn’t really much time to do anything. What happened to all that near earth tracking stuff that everyone was working on a few years ago ?

One can only hope that it wasn’t noticed earlier because it was so tiny and that a bigger one would be found earlier.

We really really need to get off this planet ASAP !

How we landed up with Section 92a

In the parliament debate, National’s Christopher Finlayson explains their reasoning for reinstating Section 92A:

Christopher Finlayson: … The Minister [Judith Tizard] knows, and I certainly know, that we have all had approaches from various commercial entities, as a result of which the Minister has come up with a number of amendments. We will support those. The first makes some changes to new section 92A, and I need not go into that in any great detail. We support what is being done there. Essentially, it is putting back into place what had been there before the bill went to the select committee.

So basically MONEY, MONEY, MONEY…Read more on this sad and sordid tale here.

What you need to know about the new copyright laws

As I type this, there are 19 days left until section 92 of the copyright law comes into effect. Last week Wednesday the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) published the draft copyright code of practice for Internet service providers. This code will be what the bulk of ISPs will be following when dealing with section 92.

I thought I’d take a quick look to see how this is all going to work (or not work as the case may well be).

First off the code of practice is just over 30 pages long, considering that section 92 is just shy of 850 words you kind of get the feeling an awful lot of detail was left out of the law, which is of course what everyone has been complaining about.

From a end-user’s point of view, the nub of the process is as follows:

  1. A copyright holder sends a notice to your ISP claiming you have infringed on their copyright i.e. illegally downloaded some music or a movie or perhaps used one of their songs in your kids birthday video etc…
  2. If the ISP feels the copyright holder has supplied enough evidence, your ISP sends you a Education notice (how very soviet)
  3. At the end of every month, your ISP will send you an email detailing how many notices you have.
  4. Once you have accumulated 3 undisputed notices, each in different calender months and they haven’t expired then you get a Final Warning (notices expire in 18 months).
  5. If a copyright holder then sends another claim to your ISP, you are notified and your Internet account is terminated in 48 hours.

Seems pretty straight forward and even reasonable but as with all things there are some interesting twists.

Perhaps the most interesting is that there are two types of groups that can receive a Education Notice. The first is called a User by the code, which is basically you and me.

The second group is called Downstream ISPs by the code. This group obviously covers resellers of bandwidth but more importantly: “may be a business or other organisation that supplies telecommunication services, membership or subscription services or otherwise directly provides Internet Accounts to Users. In turn, Users who are individuals may be students, employees, contractors or customers for example”

Yep that’s right any business that gives their staff Internet access or schools, libraries, hotels with Internet access, even coffee shops with wi-fi hotspots are all Downstream ISPs. Furthermore the code states that when an ISP passes on a notice to a Downstream ISP it does so relying on the fact that as an “ISP” the Downstream ISP has implemented a termination policy that complies with section 92A !

Wow, I wonder if businesses out there know what they are in for and how much is it going to cost them to come up with policies and procedures to deal with this? Of course if they don’t then they are breach of the law. Did I mention this law comes into effect in 19 days time :)

Of course the code has a mechanism for you to dispute a notice and disputed notices don’t count towards termination until they are resolved. The code makes it fairly clear that to dispute a notice you have to have strong evidence to prove your innocence so you won’t just be able to disputed every notice sent your way.

This is where another wrinkle turns up.

As written the code uses the ISP as a middle man for the dispute process when it is a User countering the claim but tacked onto the back of the draft code is a “reworded strawman counter-notice procedure” which has been drawn up to “address concerns expressed by certain Copyright Holders” . In this reworded procedure a Copyright holder is passed the contact details of a User who is disputing the claim!

This of course opens up some interesting issues. If you don’t dispute a notice then you remain anonymous but if you try to fight “they” find out who you are. I suppose this means that they could file legal proceedings against you and it of course would allow the copyright holders to build up a database of trouble makers. It all seems a bit fishy that the copyright holders would be pushing for this change.

[Update]: Actually as the Creative Freedom guys point out the reword is actually far more insidious. It would in effect make the Copyright holders not only the accusers but also the judges on any counter claims and disputes ! This is just nuts, it would make the entire code of practice a farce.

I’d suggest you have a read of the code to see for yourself what we are in for. The draft is now open for public submissions which close on Friday the 6th March 2009, but since the law goes into effect on the 29 February 2009 you have to wonder what processes will be followed before the code is ratified.

Perhaps another sign that this law just hasn’t been thought out.

More on section 92

This is a bit of a WTF. TV3 news has quoted someone from the Ministry of Economic Development saying that the reason for section 92 is that it is too difficult to identify any particular user and that given the number of users it is too expensive and time consuming to take them to court.

WTF? If it is too difficult to identify a particular user how on earth is section 92 going to actually work? Someone obviously has no clue.

Here is the full quote:

_“While copyright owners can take legal action against those Internet users engaging in infringing peer to peer file-sharing, it is difficult for them to identify any particular user. In addition, they would then have to take the users to court.”

“Given the number of users, this would be time consuming and expensive. Section 92A is intended to provide a framework for dealing with infringing P2P file-sharing that has sufficient flexibility to allow ISPs to develop policies that take account of their particular circumstances,” said Emilia Mazur of the MED.

Stop section 92

The Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 is not a bad bit of legislation EXCEPT for section 92 which allows a copyright holder to ask your ISP to terminate your Internet access if you infringe on their copyright. The problem with this is they do not have to provide any evidence to the ISP, nor are there any penalties if it is a false accusation !

This is just crazy. If you agree then click on the banner below and voice your concern.

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. is against this unjust law - help us

Some more reading for you:

Section 92 reads as follows:

92A Internet service provider must have policy for terminating accounts of repeat infringers

(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.

(2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.

_92B Internet service provider liability if user infringes copyright

(1) This section applies if a person (A) infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of an Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner._

_(2) Merely because A uses the Internet services of the Internet service provider in infringing the copyright, the Internet service provider, without more,—

(a) does not infringe the copyright in the work:

(b) must not be taken to have authorised A’s infringement of copyright in the work:

© subject to subsection (3), must not be subject to any civil remedy or criminal sanction._

(3) However, nothing in this section limits the right of the copyright owner to injunctive relief in relation to A’s infringement or any infringement by the Internet service provider.

(4) In subsections (1) and (2), Internet services means the services referred to in the definition of Internet service provider in section 2(1).

_92C Internet service provider liability for storing infringing material

(1) This section applies if—

(a) an Internet service provider stores material provided by a user of the service; and

(b) the material infringes copyright in a work (other than as a result of any modification by the Internet service provider)._

_(2) The Internet service provider does not infringe copyright in the work by storing the material unless—

(a) the Internet service provider—

(i) knows or has reason to believe that the material infringes copyright in the work; and

(ii) does not, as soon as possible after becoming aware of the infringing material, delete the material or prevent access to it; or

(b) the user of the service who provided the material is acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, the Internet service provider._

(3) A court, in determining whether, for the purposes of subsection (2), an Internet service provider knows or has reason to believe that material infringes copyright in a work, must take account of all relevant matters, including whether the Internet service provider has received a notice of infringement in relation to the infringement.

(4) An Internet service provider who deletes a user’s material or prevents access to it because the Internet service provider knows or has reason to believe that it infringes copyright in a work must, as soon as possible, give notice to the user that the material has been deleted or access to it prevented.

(5) Nothing in this section limits the right of the copyright owner to injunctive relief in relation to a user’s infringement or any infringement by the Internet service provider.

_92D Requirements for notice of infringement

A notice referred to in section 92C(3) must—

(a) contain the information prescribed by regulations made under this Act; and

(b) be signed by the copyright owner or the copyright owner’s duly authorised agent._

_92E Internet service provider does not infringe copyright by caching infringing material

(1) An Internet service provider does not infringe copyright in a work by caching material if the Internet service provider—

(a) does not modify the material; and

(b) complies with any conditions imposed by the copyright owner of the material for access to that material; and

© does not interfere with the lawful use of technology to obtain data on the use of the material; and

(d) updates the material in accordance with reasonable industry practice._

_(2) However, an Internet service provider does infringe copyright in a work by caching material if the Internet service provider does not delete the material or prevent access to it by users as soon as possible after the Internet service provider became aware that—

(a) the material has been deleted from its original source; or

(b) access to the material at its original source has been prevented; or

© a court has ordered that the material be deleted from its original source or that access to the material at its original source be prevented._

(3) Nothing in this section limits the right of the copyright owner to injunctive relief in relation to a user’s infringement or any infringement by the Internet service provider.

_(4) In this section,—

cache means the storage of material by an Internet service provider that is—

(a) controlled through an automated process; and

(b) temporary; and

© for the sole purpose of enabling the Internet service provider to transmit the material more efficiently to other users of the service on their request_

original source means the source from which the Internet service provider copied the material that is cached.

Broken daylight savings on Nokia phones

Urrggh, its that time of the year again when daylight savings kicks in. Unfortunately my very clever N73 has the wrong change over dates so for the next few weeks it will think that New Zealand is at GMT+12 instead of GMT+13 !

For most people this will not be a problem, you just set clock an hour early, but if you synchronise your phone with PC (for instance with Outlook) then all your appointments will be an hour out.

Nokia did put out a patch at the start of last year but unfortunately it still gets the NZ switch over wrong :(

I tried taking the installer for the patch apart and it seems to just copy a new timzone database (a .dbz) file onto the phone but try as I might I cannot find any documentation on this file, so a quick hack looks to be out of the question.

In the mean time I have found that the best way to solve the problem is set the timezone for the phone to be Tonga which is GMT+13. This solves any synchronisation issues and in a few weeks you can set the timezone back to Auckland.

Its really annoying that Nokia doesn’t just issue a new patch, I suppose they just don’t care about us in little ol New Zealand (sniff) but since this issue will affect all their high-end phones (N70, N73, N95 etc) which are used a lot by business users you would think they would get off their butts and do something. Sigh.