Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who hacked the PDP-11s?

At 21:55 yesterday I received the following from the Connex SMS system...

ALLAHU AKBR FROM CONNEX! our inspectorS Love Killing people - If you see one coming, run. Want to bomb a train? they will gladly help! See you in hell!

And at 23:28 the apology...

A hoax message was sent tonight to some users. Connex apologises and is investigating with the police.

So it looks like somebody's hacked the Connex systems last night. Does that bother anybody else? If they can get into the customer database with our mobile numbers and other details, as well as the SMS gateway, what else could they access?

Let's hope they don't figure out how to control the train set...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nearly there...

On Monday morning I pulled a muscle while running, which meant no bike again for a day or two. Except I exacerbated it on Tuesday and consigned myself to a few days of the train both ways. Having been completely free of the frustrations of getting home with Connex for a while now, I have not enjoyed this. Even when they run on time©®™ there's always that few minutes approaching the departure time when there's no sign of your train and you're wondering whether it'll show or not.

So yesterday I've dropped the kids at school and sauntered down to the station with a few minutes to spare to catch the 09:11. I'm just passing the synagogue and a city-bound train pulls in, check my watch and it's 09:06. My instinct is to run for it - a bird in the hand and all that - but even if I weren't hobbling a bit, there's no way I'd get there in time to catch it. OK, no dramas, there's no way that's the 09:11 running early, so it must be the 08:58 running not on time©®™. No, turns out that's the 08:49 running very much not on time©®™ and the 08:58 is on its way. Sure enough it pulls in at 09:09, so it's not on time©®™ either. So I'm in the unusual situation of being on a peak hour train that's running 11 minutes late but almost empty. I can deal with that! No SMS alerts for either of these delayed trains by the way.

Homeward bound is a different matter however. As is often the case, I'm ready to leave and if I make an effort I can catch one train, if I relax and take my time I'll let that go and catch the next one. As my leg's still not 100% there's no point racing for the 17:49 so I let it go and aim for the 18:01. When will I learn...?

Sure enough I've just crossed Collins Street, it's 17:49 and the SMS comes through to say the 18:01 is cancelled! Stuff it, might as well go straight to the tram. Get to Swanston Street and there's a number 3 - perfect! Except of course they don't stop at the lights any more (OK, they stop, but not for passengers to get on or off). So with a busy junction to cross and two sets of lights to get to the "superstop" I can wave the number 3 goodbye. Eight minutes till the next one, according to the display. You can usually add 25-50% to that, so that's not much chop. Might as well get a number 16 that's just pulling in. FORTY MINUTES!!! That's how long it takes to get to Balaclava from Flinders Street. 40 minutes for a tram journey that takes 11 or 12 minutes on the train. 40 minutes to travel less than 10km. It doesn't take me that much longer to do the journey on foot!

So the smartest plan would've been to accept the 18:01 is dead, forget the 18:12 as that'll be jam packed, and get the 18:24 and still get home ahead of the number 16 tram. Except that there was no guarantee that the 18:24 would be on time or even run at all! And that's what annoys me more than anything else about the Connex delays and cancellations, the fact that you don't have enough confidence in the system to make decisions like that.

Have I mentioned lately that I hate Connex?