Archive for December 16, 2007

[CCC News] Christmas Bits

[CCC News] Christmas Bits

In this edition:

Christmas Tips
Some last-minute accommodation websites

Christmas Fun
Some websites to entertain

Some last-minute accommodation websites

Here are some very handy websites if your plans suddenly change and you need some quick accommodation.

Some of the discounted rates can be as much as 75% off compared to the normal accommodation rates.

.. and of course to find your way there, you can always use

… but don’t trust them to get the exact street number position correct – they’ll usually send you to the right street, but not necessarily drop you off in the right place! (Last time I used them to find a hotel in Queensland, they sent me a few blocks away from where I was meant to be, in a darkened deserted industrial area!)

… and if you get lost…

If you’re lost, and you have a NextG mobile (or any mobile phone with a web browser for that matter) you can use it to view WhereIs. On most Telstra mobiles you access this by pressing the “Menu” or “Telstra” or “My Place” button and then click move around to you find Whereis listed on it somewhere. (In worst case you can use the browser and send it to )

It will ask you for a start and end point, and then give you maps and directions – and on modern phones it will often work out roughly where you are based on how far you are from the various phone towers – a poor man’s GPS if you like!

Of course, unless you’re on a reasonable data plan, don’t leave it open on the screen for the duration of your journey – it could be a little costly, but not overly so. I wouldn’t expect it to cost more than a few dollars if you’re not on a data plan.

Some websites to entertain

Hopefully you won’t find yourself bored over the holidays! However, just in case, here’s a few sites that might entertain.

On this site you are given a word, and you have four possible definitions, only one is correct. If you get the correct one, the site donates 20 grains of rice to a third world country. There’s no software required, and it might help your scrabble score too 🙂

(Another site)

If you just want to relax and check out some cute, amazing, silly, and occasionally rude photographs, but not pornography, click reply and I’ll send you the address of a site which has around 2000 photographs. I’m not giving out the address here for safety reasons, as a few of the images are anti-any-religion or ‘shocking’ in nature and could offend some people; and there’s no way to filter them since they’re all lumped together. Just in case you already know the site, it’s name is pi?d?us. (You’d probably want Broadband access to enjoy this site, and because each picture’s about 200kb it’s a little risky for anyone on BigPond cheapie 400MB plan.)

Will it rain? This link tells you where the rain is, right now – you might need to customise it to your area of course.

.. and of course you can use this link to find if it will rain or not.

Proving that disability doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t make a name for yourself! (No offense intended.)

What happens when your reflection goes missing?

I’m bound to think of some more after I’ve sent this newsletter, but they might need to wait until the next year.

Have a good one!

Cheers, Mike.

[ccc-news] Assorted News 3 :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 3 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
Christmas Trading Hours
Telstra killing ISDN and One Way Satellite next year!

What’s New on the ‘Net
Picasa Web Albums
Exetel’s Manager’s Blog

Easiest Job since Last Newsletter
First ever parking fine 🙁
VoIP update…
Kingwood Seat Repair
Vodka not good for laptops!
.. and nor are Feet!
.. and two more bite the dust!
Have a great Christmas!

For Sale:
A few old PCs around $100 to $150 each.

Christmas Trading Hours

Work traditionally slows down for CCC around the Christmas / New Years period. I will have some guests from overseas staying here from the 20th to the 27th, but will still be available for work up until around the 24th, then available again from the 27th on, but probably with reduced hours. If you don’t get me directly, leave a message 🙂

Telstra killing ISDN and One Way Satellite Next Year!

ISDN Probably doesn’t mean much to most of you – basically it is like a broadband connection, but only half the speed. However it can go out as far as about 14km whereas the new broadband that most people use (ADSL) dies at around 6km from the exchange. (In fact, some people in the far reaches of Guyra, such as near the end of Prisk street and beyond, can’t even get that!) With it, you could pay about $80 to $90 a month for unlimited internet plus two phone lines, CallerID, and all the usual HomeLine options. In short – it was pretty reasonable value for money for what it offered.

Telstra has sent out letters to anyone with ISDN Home to advise that at the end of next year, they’re killing off the home plans. Technically they’re not killing off ISDN alltogether, but for anyone who uses it for high speed Internet, it’ll suddenly become a lot more expensive. Clearly their trying to get people to use their new NextG internet, but with the ridiculously high pricing on it it’s hardly a great alternative at this stage; and because we live in a place where you sometimes have to change down gears even on the straight bits, it hasn’t got the coverage that people would need. So, for a few of my customers – one in particular who lives on it for his business (and no it’s not me!) – it’s going to be a real pain.

Telstra seems to be advising that by the end of next year, pricing will likely be quite different for their wireless stuff – but on that point I guess we’ll have to wait and see. (My rule of thumb is if it’s a Telstra product, expect to pay three times what you’d think it should be.) If you want to read up on the debate, whirlpool has a lively thread at

Picasa Web Albums

Every customer I have introduced to Picasa so far appears to love it! Picasa’s a free program from Google, which you can get from – smallish at around 6MB… It allows you to see all the photos on your computer in a nice clean layout, and has simple buttons for doing things like fixing colours, cropping, lightening up the dark bits, printing, and emailing. It also works with every scanner I know and almost all cameras too, and makes a great replacement for that horrible unstable Kodak program. It doesn’t interfere with the other programs on your computer and will usually track down all your photos, even if you have some in one program and some in another.

Just thought while I’m at it I’d mention the Web Albums feature. This allows you to click on any photo or collection of photos, and by clicking the Web Albums button it automatically makes a page on the Internet with those photos on it! This is particularly useful for people who have a traditional website with some sort of gallery feature, and want to be able to do the work of updating it themselves rather than relying on some web host. (heh I’m putting myself out of a job here in a small way, but never mind!) Or you could just be doing it for fun – to show off to the family, etc. As an example, here’s one I made earlier –

Exetel’s Manager’s Blog

For those of you who don’t know what Blog means, it’s short for Web Log, and in simple terms, it means a diary. A public diary that anyone can add comments to in most cases. I have one on the CCC website, but I don’t post to it much, and what I do post is techy stuff anyway. However, I’ve recently found the (manager of Exetel)’s blog, and for anyone interested in the telecommunications industry or just wants to know what Exetel’s directions are, it makes for an interesting read. It’s interesting to read the thoughts of a small fish – yet with 60,000 customers compared to my 200 or so on Auzzie, it makes me but a krill! The address is

Mind you I don’t mind being a krill – I could be a Yellow Belly if I was living in Sydney, but I prefer the Black Mountain lifestyle!

Easiest job since Last Newsletter?

One fella called up because his Internet wasn’t working. He’d unplugged everything before a storm. He’d missed one power cord when plugging it back in…

VoIP Update

I’ve had a rush on ADSL and VoIP connections in this last few weeks – mainly in Armidale. Two businesses, two home users. I’m now getting the equipment at wholesale prices of around $150 per VoIP ADSL modem. I also have eight people using the equipmentless VoIP, without advertising it. Exetel’s still working on the marketing side of that particular product. It is pleasing that after a year and a bit of intermittent nightmares with VoIP providers, it at last seems stable enough that it can be used daily without complaints. (Although with the storm damage in the US, some international calls are a little funny at the moment.)

Kingswood Seat Repair

Some of you may have noticed the Kingswood’s absence from the streets. I’ve taken the front seat out since it’s showing it’s age, and dropped it off in Armidale for re-upholstering. Getting it out was fun, and it’s amazing just how much space there is in a car when the chairs are gone. It should be back in the next week or so. In the mean time you might notice me in a different car… speaking of which…

First ever parking fine 🙁

The Commodore I’m driving at the moment has one difference to the Kingswood. (Well, actually it has hundreds, but…) That is that the cigarette lighter socket is only powered when the ignition is on or in accessories. Now, how could that possibly lead to a parking fine??

Here’s how.

I have a fan that normally lives in the Kingswood window, which pushes air through the car when it’s parked so that Heppie (the CCC Kelpie Cross) doesn’t get too hot. It was transferred to the Commodore while the Kingswood was off the road. (It’s surprisingly hard to drive a Kingswood without a seat – you need something to push back against so you can press the clutch in!) Along with it went a UPS battery – a bit like a small motorcycle battery. Of course, mid week I figured I better recharge it, then come Wednesday morning I forgot to put it in the car again. And of course, the weather forecast said 22, but the sun decided to come out – so I figured best bet was to park under Coles while I did the next job. Well, the next job went 2.5 hours, and by the end I was late for the next job, which ended up being 3 hours by itself! So, at the end of all that, I get back to a happy dog, and a curious yellow envelope wedged under the wiper, which amused the RetraVision staff when I got there to buy some RAM having not yet removed it. Oh well, $79 later… Heppie is staying home now while the weather’s warm – for some reason modern cars seem to get hotter than old ones – maybe it’s all the tinted glass, or the carpet, the thin tin…

Vodka not good for Laptops!

I had a rare weekend job from a newish customer. (On weekends, I don’t normally leave for work, but I don’t mind if it comes to me!) It was a laptop that was beepbeepbeepbeeping when turned on, and when he went to put his password in it was already full of little dots, and he couldn’t get rid of them. This usually happens if a key is stuck down.

Only when he arrived with the laptop did he explain that it was a shot-glass of Vodka that had got into it the night before that could be anything out of the ordinary. I took the laptop apart, and removed the keyboard – which the manufacturer had sensibly put a clear plastic backing on so such an event wouldn’t leak straight into the machine. However, a few hours of cleaning and drying using specialised materials didn’t resolve the problem, so I send him home with the keyboard disconnected, and a spare USB keyboard to work with. Four days later, I reconnected the keyboard, and it had recovered fully! (Modern laptop keyboards are usually made with two sheets of plastic with conducting pads on them, separated by a small gap, so it seems likely in this case that some booze was able to get between the sandwiched pieces and sit for a while.

By the way, if you’re ever in the situation where you’ve given anything electronic a bath (for me it’s been a cordless phone and a walkman, both fallen into the toilet and both still working today) you can almost always get them going again provided you immediately remove the battery from them. It’s not the water itself that does the damage, but the electricity flowing through the water that causes electrolysis, making the device rapidly rust away inside.

.. and nor are Feet!

Another customer had managed to kick his laptop in the face while running through the house – resulting in a pretty, but broken screen. Fortunately there are people on eBay selling replacement screens, so about $300 later it’s back in business. (If you’re curious to see what a broken laptop screen looks like, here it is –

.. and two more bite the dust!

In what has been a bad month for laptops, I’ve had two more bite the dust! One HP laptop seemed to have overheating problems – a diagnostic program saying it was running at 75 degrees C. After fixing the overheating problem with some new thermal paste, it ran well. Well, for about 30 minutes, then it died again. This time permanently. It appears to be a known faulty model however – a bit of a lemon on all counts. I suspect it might be related to the ever-present Bad Capacitors debacle that has brought an early end to many, many household appliances and computers in the last decade. Interesting reading about it at – “the tale behind why the capacitor problem exists in the first place is because of a large-scale industrial espionage foul-up.”

.. and another customer bought in her not very old Toshiba laptop – which had a small but conspicuous crack in the front left corner. (Not a big deal, mine’s got cracks on every corner and the paint’s coming off!) However, this one just wouldn’t turn on. Even after stripping it to it’s bare bones, there was no clear reason why it should have died. It was wireless, not connected to any phone line, so it’s unlikely to have been storm damaged. If it had been dropped, there was no internal injury. Now it’s fate rests in her finding the receipt for warranty. Failing that, I’ll sell it in parts on eBay for her.

Have a Great Christmas!

Well, I wish you all a pleasant Christmas break, with plentiful treats and relaxation. You might have trouble buying those fly guns from Jaycar however – one customer emailed me this morning to say she bought seven of them! She said she was giving them to all her friends – although I guess it would also be possible to make a ‘blind man’s fly gun’ by joining a large quantity together!

I look forward to working with you all in the new year – this might be the last newsletter before then