Archive for April 30, 2008

[ccc-news] Assorted News 7 :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 7 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
New Statement System
Small Business Tax Tips?

A Samsung Laser Printer, only $74

Turn XP or Vista into a multi-user remote desktop server.

Documentaries on Joost
The Odd Jobs of the last month.

New Statement System

One of the challenges of being self-employed and small-scale like myself is that you often have to do everything yourself – including accounting and paperwork. Back in ’97 when I was starting out, I built a basic accounting system to produce invoices for computer repairs, as well as my dial-up ISP business. Over the years, it’s been added to, changed, modified, had GST integrated, then removed again, handling for VoIP accounts, etc.

One thing it didn’t do was any sort of automation regarding old accounts, which meant every few months I would have to go through by hand, reprint any unpaid accounts, and resend them. So, this easter, I took some time out to build in a statements feature, which at the beginning of each month, after EFTs and cheques have been entered, will generate printed statements and envelopes. I made a rule that statements will only be sent if an invoice has not been paid 30 days after it was sent, and that statements will only be sent by mail as I have a suspicion that emailed accounts are increasingly getting lost in inboxes or junk folders.

Hopefully, by sending accurate statements to people in a timely matter, it will help with tracking down missing payments for both parties 🙂

Some Small Business Tax tips:

Last year, tax time, I changed from a tax agent to an accountant, and learnt a few new things that saved me a bit of money…

Note: I’m not a qualified accountant, so this is general information only, and there’s a fair chance I might be wrong or it might have changed! Like the ABC says, the information in this email is general in nature and should not be taken as personal professional financial advice.

Turnover less than $75,000 per year? If so, you may be able to deregister for GST. The positives: Less paperwork, Cheaper rates for residential customers. The negatives: you cannot claim GST for Items you purchase for the business. So far, since I deregistered from GST, I have had very few problems. (This used to be $50,000 up to a few years ago.)

Sole Trader: If you can keep your turnover below $50,000 per year, you may be able to claim for the “Entrepreneur’s Offset” which can drop your end of year tax by 25%. Note that this benefit is available at higher turnover, but reduces as your turnover increases. Opinion: Testing this against turnover rather than profit is a silly thing in my opinion as having a high turnover does not necessarily mean a high profit. Example: I buy a DVD Burner, then sell it to a customer. My turnover is $60 higher, but the profit is $0 for the sale, yet I lose out in tax. This encourages a cash economy.


This week’s biggest bargain is from Dick Smith Electronics. For just $74 you can buy a Samsung Laser Printer. It’s only a black and white printer, but it does 22 pages a minute, and gives about 1000 pages on the provided toner cartridge, with replacements having a higher capacity. This compares favourably with ink printers that often only give you a couple of hundred pages per cartridge.

The only caveat I’ve found with this printer is that it has only one tray – so if you want to print on envelopes you have to remove the envelopes when you want to print on ordinary paper again.

Turn XP or Vista into a multi-user remote desktop server.

If you’ve ever worked in a fair size office, you might be familiar with remote desktop connections – where you operate a work computer from a remote location. Normally, if you do this with XP, you can not use the computer at the same time as someone else. However, there’s a little trick you can play on XP that will allow you to have up to three people using it at once simultaneously. It involves replacing one file on the computer with an older version that predates Microsoft’s decision to force people to buy server versions. (And it works on Vista too by the way.) This can also have unusual uses – for example, say you have a nice new computer at home, and one or more old computers, laptops, whatever. You can use these old computers to remotely drive the new computer even while someone else is sitting in front of it and using it. (I did this recently when my main laptop died – I had an old Pentium 1 laptop running XP, Office 2007, Firefox, etc, at full speed.) The old computers will behave like the new computer since they’re just acting as terminals while the new computer does all the work.

If you want more information about this, write back, or do some research for concurrent users in xp.

Documentaries on Joost.

You might remember Joost from a previous newsletter – an internet-based TV replacement. Lately some nights there hasn’t been anything much worth watching on TV, so if you’ve got a decent unlimited broadband connection (1.5M or faster) you might like to check out some of the nature doco’s on Joost. – I can also help with getting your TV and computer talking to eachother.

The Odd Jobs of Last Month…

Don’t Move:

Perhaps one of the most bizarre jobs of recent times – a customer complaining of a computer that would restart itself whenever it was left alone for a few minutes – but would be just fine while it was being used. This would normally indicate a dodgy screensaver, but in this case it wasn’t. I eventually witnessed that the fault only ever happened when she got up from her chair! In the end, it appears that the fault was due to new carpet, and possibly a USB extension cable that was resting on it. That is one temperamental computer!

Missing the Obvious:

Another customer has an office with two computers, both Vista, with one sharing files with the other. After repeated problems with files taking up to a minute to open over the network and trying Vista SP1 on both PCs which was rumoured to fix other issues, I brought in two extra Vista laptops to join the network and help pinpoint the fault. As testing began, one of the customers told the other, jokingly, that it was the other guy’s Norton 360 causing it, even though up to that point in the testing process it didn’t seem to be the case. However, about 10 minutes later, it turned out he was right! The fault, it turned out, only affected Vista Home Editions talking to eachother when Norton 360 was installed. Vista Business / Ultimate editions weren’t similarly affected. So it was bye bye Norton, hello AVG. (Note – I did disable Norton during testing but even when disabled it would still break things.)

Beating the Gouge.

Another customer had an old stock tracking program that he’d been using for 7 years on a Windows 98 PC. However, when we tried to put it on Vista, there was a glitch in the program that prevented it from being activated by the authors. He was looking at upgrading, at a cost of $1,500 – not cheap! The problem was solved by using Microsoft Virtual PC to make a clone of his old PC onto his Vista laptop. Now, he can carry on as usual. (This trick doesn’t always work as it depends on how the particular softwares registration process works – in this case the program he had was oblivious to the apparent hardware upgrade.)

It’s All Gone 🙁

One customer lost a fair bit of information when his Western Digital hard drive in his computer died without warning. Another customer’s PC did the same thing a week later. Western Digital drives like to die this way, giving no warning. Fortunately in both cases, they had a backup.

Aah well, that’s it for this newsletter – hope you all had a good Easter break!

Sadly, the old friend of ours died a few hours ago, peacefully, aged 87.

Cheers, Mike.

Old Editions
You can find old editons of this newsletter on the CCC Blog.

Cool Country Consulting & Auzzie Internet
Tel: 02 6775 0239
Mob: 0427 644 825
Skype: cccons
Yahoo: lispbourke

[ccc-news] Assorted News 8 :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 8 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
AVG update information
Some problems with Equipmentless VoIP

Halogen Heaters

Learn to Touch Type the fun way.
A Thing that goes Bing?

Entertaining Websites.
Big Brother fans.
Exetel activation down to $88
The Odd Jobs of the last month.

AVG Update Information

About 70% of you use AVG Free Edition. As a result, most of you will by now have received a message from AVG recommending that you get AVG version 8. Just like two or three years ago when this last happened, the message largely entices you to go and buy a high-fallutin’ version which is overkill for most people – to the extent that it’s not clear that there’s still a free version.

There is a free version still, and you can get it from

I am not sure how long version 7.5 will continue to work for – at a guess probably a month or two. It may magically turn itself into version 8, but that’s not known at this time.

It appears that part of their reason for this upgrade is to offer you a new yahoo toolbar and AVG security toolbar – so they’re hoping you’ll use these to search for things and thereby earn Grisoft (AVG’s authors) a commission along with some useful internet usage tracking. (It seems every program you install these days wants to install a toolbar so they can earn revenue from a search engine!) These components are optional of course. If you’re on dialup or a low download account I’d suggest you don’t install the toolbars as they will add some traffic to your connection when you’re on the ‘net. For all people I’d also recommend you don’t ask for a daily scan when setting up despite it asking for one – it’s always scanning in the background anyway and a computer doing a full scan is usually a bit slow and annoying!

The free version download is just under 47 MB in size, so it will be very difficult to download if you’re on dialup – approximately 5 – 10 hours to download if you don’t get disconnected. So, if you’re on dialup and you do want to download it, you might first want to download “Free Download Manager Lite” from which will allow you to continue downloads even if your line drops out and you have to reconnect because it continues from where it left off rather than starting again. (It’s about 2MB.)

If you don’t want to download the new AVG, email me with your postal address, and I’ll post you a copy on CD for $10 – to cover the cost of CD, Burning, Postage, time 🙂

Some problems with Equipmentless VoIP

A few of you who are using the 20c untimed equipmentless VoIP thing have had trouble with the exchange not calling you back. I am keeping an eye on this situation. Exetel has made some noises on a private forum about introducing it as a product in it’s own right – so with a bit of luck that will happen in the next month or two, bringing greater reliability with it. If you do have a problem with the service, please email or WLM/MSN me and I’ll pass the problem on to Exetel for investigation.

Halogen Heaters

This newsletter’s biggest bargain is not high tech. It’s the Halogen heater – usually to be found for about $20 in supermarkets and cheap shops like The Warehouse and The Reject shop. There are two advantages these heaters have over other heaters.

1 – They’re cheapish to run. At only 1200 watts when on high, they use half the power of most fan heaters.
2 – They radiate some of their heat directionally. This means you can be in a big cold room, have one near you and keep warm despite the cold room. (They also work well in bathrooms – much better than those silly in-roof heaters that heat the top of your head while you shiver! The manufacturer doesn’t recommend use near water however so use common sense!)

The two downsides. 1 – About a 50% chance of one of the three bars failing within one year of use, and 2 – Dogs and cats – especially black ones – can singe their fur if they lie too close.

Not sure what they look like? (The heater, not the burnt pet) Click for a picture 🙂


One of the nice features in Vista that is not in XP is the ability to type in the first few letters of the program you want, and it comes up for you. (Start Menu Searching.) There is a handy free program called “VistaStartMenu” which gives you that feature in Windows XP. It’s free from

Learn to touch type the fun way!

The best thing about touch typing is that you can type without having to look at what you’re doing – which makes you more efficient. It also gets you envious stares from the typing-challenged 😉 Chatting online is one way to get a fast typing speed, as you eventually get the feel of where the letters are – but if you want to be a true touch typer you need to know a couple of little tips.

The first tip – and this might be all you need to start learning – is to look at your keyboard’s F and J keys. You’ll find there’s a little notch sticking up from them. Those are the keys that the fingers directly next to your thumbs go on. If you stick your hands on the keyboard and ensure that those two fingers stay near or on those two keys, and just use whatever finger is closest to the key you are after, you could probably adapt from a medium speed two finger peck to a low speed touch typer – and of course the more you do the better you’ll get. (I started out as a three finger typist initially – one finger for shift and two for everything else.

Now, that’s all well and good – but perhaps you want something a little better? There’s a great free program called Stamina Typing Tutor at – it will teach you the basics initially and gives you a picture of the keyboard on the screen so you can see where the keys are without looking down – but the best part is that you can change it over to ‘phrases’ mode and get to type in some occasionally rude phrases. It makes rude noises if you make a mistake, and has some background music as well.

A Thing that goes Bing.

Every few years I decide that I want a clock that chimes on the hour. I go and look for one, try it, and it works for a bit then crashes and gets forgotten about. My latest find at has so far been faultless. I’m using the ‘Elegance’ sound setting which basically just sounds like a triangle hit per hour for the number of hours. It does have more raucous settings of course if you want them.

Entertaining SItes

Here’s a couple of recent entertaining sites.

Misheard Lyrics – here’s a quote from there. (May have some rude words.)

I definitely thought for the longest time that in “You Oughta Know”, Alanis was singing “It’s not fair to remind me of the cross-eyed bear that you gave to me”. Cross-eyed bear? Whatever, I was like 10. (Editor’s note: The correct lyric was “It’s not fair to remind me of the cross I(‘d) bear that you gave to me.)

Rules of Thumb – Take these with a pinch of salt, but some are curious 🙂 Here’s a couple…

If you don’t want a cat to jump into your lap, don’t make eye contact with it.
A farting horse will never tire; a farting man is one to hire. (?? – Ed.)
If you are using a rope with a knot or a sharp bend, you should assume that its strength is reduced by 50 percent.

Big Brother Fans?

Like it or hate it, it’s back. If this year is like last year, there’s a strong chance that Big Brother episodes will appear on many torrent sites such as (caution – lots of annoying ads on this site) – so if you miss an episode you may be able to download it to watch later. (You might need to search for Big Brother AU 08 or something similar as there are a tonne of US episodes on there.) This is true of most major TV series – but as usual the legality of this is murky. Also, since the downloads will probably be a few hundred megabytes, this won’t be an option for those of you on low download plans.

Exetel Activation down to $88

Exetel’s having a bit of an “ADSL Drive” it seems and has lowered their new ADSL activation fee to $88. (It was $145) The rates can be viewed at

They have also introduced a new optional feature where they can slow your line down rather than charge you $3 per 1000MB over your plan’s allowance if you exceed your plan’s download limit.

The Odd Jobs of the last Month

Turn it off an on again?

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this one? Probably about 5-10% of jobs are cured simply by turning the problem bit of equipment off and on again! (At the power point that it – this actually makes a difference for computers!) This is particularly true of networking equipment and modems, as small dips in the power can be enough to confuse them.

Coffee Break?

This week saw the repair of a laptop that had a drink of coffee. Fortunately because of the design, the coffee was contained within the keyboard and did not leak through to the rest of the computer. The machine was repaired successfully 🙂

Old Editions
You can find old editons of this newsletter on the CCC Blog.

Cool Country Consulting & Auzzie Internet
Tel: 02 6775 0239
Mob: 0427 644 825
Skype: cccons
Yahoo: lispbourke

Samsung SyncMaster 710n won’t turn on.

Samsung SyncMaster 710n won’t turn on.

This may be a solution to the following ailments:

710n Won’t turn on after standby
710n Cuts out when warm
710n Won’t turn on after switching user
Samsung 710n Broken

I have one of these which has come in for repair. The fault appears to be heat related – there’s no obvious fault within the unit.

If you have one of these and it is starting to fail after it’s been on for a while, you might be able to eek a bit more life out of it by sticking a computer fan to the back of it, and if that works well perhaps fitting it permanently. A number of flat screens don’t really provide enough ventilation and thus die an early death through running too hot internally.

How to stop your ZZ Cruiser overheating (cuts out)

How to stop your ZZ Cruiser overheating (cuts out)

The ZZ Cruiser is an electric scooter. I recently purchased one via Deals Direct for just $120 when they were selling them off. (That would be close to being below cost.)

Living out in Black Mountain is not the ideal home for one of these – rough bitumen, not smooth pavement. So, on it’s first trip it rattled and clanked alarmingly! Turned out it was the speed controller rattling around in the case, plus the two batteries bouncing around vertically. This is easily fixed with new double sided tape, and adding a foam base to the battery compartment area.

Next problem was that on long uphill runs, after about 1km or so it’d cut out. Turned out to be the speed controller overheating and cutting out. So, here’s how to resolve that issue.

1 – Find or buy an 8cm computer / power supply fan.
2 – Slide it in above the speed controller – should be a nice snug fit so no extra mounting required!

Your computer fan is 12V, not 24V, so it needs to be wired in in a special way. Here’s how

3 – Strip back about 1cm off the black and red wires on the fan.
4 – Disconnect the black and red wire that goes from the speed controller to the battery gauge.
5 – Place the stripped length of the red wire into the red female socket on this connector, and bend the remainder over 180 degrees. Align it with the centre of the plug so that the hollow section of the connector will fit over it. (It’s a bit tricky at first – but basically the wire runs directly underneath the plastic clip that holds the joiner together.
6 – Remove the negative to positive jumper wire from between the two batteries, and jam the 1cm of stripped black wire underneath one of these terminals as you reconnect it.

That done you should now find that the fan runs when you turn on the master switch. The fan draws only .18 amps or so so will be less than a 1% drop in capacity – the scooter itself probably drawing up to 15A at stall.


My practical range in this hilly area is around 8km per charge, somewhat lower than you’d get in a flat area. However, at some stage I plan to modify the design slightly to support regenerative braking.

The Background Intelligent Transfer Service failed to start – possible fix

The Background Intelligent Transfer Service failed to start – possible fix

As an IT consultant, I occasionally run into a problem that takes ages to fix. In a recent case, a computer could not start BITS. (Sadly I didn’t catch the exact error wording.)

After trying the usual tricks (that usually fix Automatic Updates) I got nowhere and had to resort to multi-page Googling. Here’s the one link that did end up fixing the problem comprehensively – although at this stage I’m still not sure exactly which step fixed it.

If this link ever 404’s let me know, I’ve saved a copy.

EDIT: CastleCops ceased trading. I’ve mirrored their page at

(/me ponders whether 404’s should have an apostrophe.)

How to make any printer work over Remote Desktop

How to make any printer work over Remote Desktop

OK here’s a solution that should be able to get any windows printer to work over Remote Desktop. It cures the following problems.

DOT4 printer doesn’t show up in remote desktop
Network printer doesn’t show up in remote desktop
Printer not sharing in remote desktop
Cannot share printer in remote desktop
Remote Desktop Printer Sharing doesn’t work.
rdc printer doesn’t work. rdp printer doesn’t show up.

(phew – hopefully that will find most google searches.)

OK – the solution for this I am using is the same as the one that works for sharing a Windows Printer to a mac…

I’m using the solution at

To summarise, you set up a HP Color LaserJet 4550 PS on LPT1 on your guest PC. It should appear in the RDP session OK because it’s a well known printer.

You then use the Port Redirector and a PostScript to GDI converter on the guest machine that takes jobs printed to that LaserJet and spits it out instead on another printer that the guest PC knows about.

There may be some issues with paper sizes, formats, etc, but it might be enough to get you out of trouble, or even be good enough 🙂

I can’t seem to find a contact for the site quoted above. If it disappears, please let me know and I’ll re-post it elsewhere.

If you find it useful, but confusing, please let me know and I’ll make clearer instructions that work for the more recent versions of GhostScript, etc.

Another aside – there are some other tips on the Internet on how to make the printers show up correctly in RDP, but in my case the first two tips I tried didn’t work – sharing some weird canon network printer copier fax.