Friday, October 02, 2009

Launceston Tasmania

Australian Technical College LauncestonAfter a night at Cradle Mountain, it was time to drive north east across Tasmania to Launceston. This was a convenient place to fly out of Tasmania, without having to return to Hobart. Also the Launceston Chapter of the Australian Computer Society invited me to give a talk.

In 2007 I talked in Tasmania about "Demystifying Broadband options for Tasmania". This cast doubt on the feasibility of the then national government's broadband strategy. That strategy was replaced by the new government with its NBN strategy. I suggested Tasmania be the place to prototype the NBN and this is now happening. So it seemed opportune to return and as the question as to what the new network could be used for in a talk on"Green Broadband Jobs".

Interior of the Australian Technical CollegeDesks in the Australian Technical CollegeIt seemed a good ome that the talk was held at the Australian Technical College (ATC), which is located in the arts and education precinct in the old Inveresk railway workshops. The college is part of federally funded initiative for vocational education. It is located in a very interesting new building. The top floor of the building has an open plan flexible learning centre with curved desks for students with laptops and plasma screens for group instruction. The front wall of the building opens to provide ventilation and access. Just inside is stepped seating. The wall can be closed and a screen lowered, turning the foyer into a lecture theatre.

Launceston Tramway MuseumTram test at Launceston Tramway Museum There is a tram track between the buildings, which not just a remnant of the area's history as a railway workshop. The Launceston Tramway Museum is located beside the ATC and run a restored tram on the tracks around the complex. I was delighed to see Launceston tram Number 29 (Launceston's last tram built) on a test run outside the ATC. There are no overhead wires to power the trams and a generator on a trailer is hitched to the tram.

Tram track under the  School of Architecture,On one side of the ATC is the University of Tasmania Architecture School, which I visited last time I was in Launceston. This is a refurbished railway building and like the Blue Cafe has been refurbished with black metal frame windows in the style of the powerhouse at the Fagus Factory (Fagus Werk).

I found that there was not realy much I could tell the IT professionals of Tasmania they did not already know about broadband. The ACS already does it bit for the Tasmania economy by exporting green education online using tutors located in Tasmania.

Arthouse Backpacker Hostel There is no YHA in Launceston, but the Arthouse Backpacker Hostel roved very comfortable (it is a block from the art precinct). This is an old wooden building, looking like the set from the Adams Family. The building is being refurbished and the views from the new top floor will be good when it opens.

Taste of the TamarLaunceston is on the Tamar river and there are several dozen wineries in the region. There is a well established tourist wine tour route, but on this occasoion all the wineries had brought their goods to Launceston for the "Taste of the Tamar". I found details of this on Tourism Tasmania's calendar of events. Bizarrely, this government agency seems to delete the details of the events after they are over, preventing potential tourists seeing what they missed.

Alexandra Suspension bridge LauncestonPeacock at the Launceston Cataract GorgeLaunceston's largest tourist attraction (because the Boag's Brewery is not open on weekends) is the Cataract Gorge on the northern edge of the city centre. There is a walk up the George, with a Victorian era tea house, complete with peacocks, a chairlift across the river and the Alexandra Suspension bridge.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Booking Rental Cars in Tasmania via the Web

After my difficulties with booking accommodation online a short trip around Tasmania, car hire was very easy. Europcar offer a discount for YHA members, so I just had to click on the bottom of my room booking to go to the car rental site. This already recorded that I was a referred and gave me a discount. I still had to enter my name and address details, but this was reasonably easy. Selecting a car is complex and the small, enviornmentally friendly car I wanted was not avilable, so I had to settle for a larger less fuel efficient one.

What is still a problem with Tasmanian bookings is the YHA accommodation. While YHA offer a central online booking service, the smaller hostels do not appear to be covered. I emailed Strahan Backpackers YHA and Cradle Mountain Backpackers YHA getting very prompt, useful and friendly replies.

I wrote to YHA's travel service to ask if it was possible to book the smaller hostels online and was told: "I would suggest that if the web does not work, I would try to call them ...". YHA seem to have a problem with their web site and a more serious problem with their customer relations. This will be harming Australian tourism.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking accommodation in Tasmania via the Web

After my difficulties with booking airline flights via airline web sites for Jetstar and Virgin Blue in the end I gave up using the airlines web sites and use and using the WebJet airline booking website. Now I have started booking accommodation online for the same short trip around Tasmania.

After a pleasant stay at the Newcastle Beach Youth Hostel I thought I would try Tasmanian hostels in the system. YHA have a very good online booking system. This worked well for the central Hobart based Montgomery's. One catch with the system is that YHA members get a discount when they book a room, even if it is a shared room with non-members. But you have to separately account for the members and non-members on the booking web page.

One point of confusion is the smaller hostels, such as Strahan Backpackers YHA. There does not seem to be any way to book this via the web site. The hostel has a "Rapid Room Number" (0245) which is supposed to be used to identify the hostels to the system. But this number doesn't seem to be listed in the system.

There are no YHAs in Launceston. The Arthouse
in Launceston taks a minimalist approach to booking, having an e-mail address to send a query. What they do have on their web site which is useful are google maps to places, such as the city Transit Centre. These links are more useful than the maps usually found on hotel web sites. You are able to customise the map, for example, to see how long it will take to walk, rather than drive.

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