Archive for November 6, 2008

Don’t Buy a Navman

Don’t Buy a Navman

G’day all 🙂

I bought a NavMan a year and a bit ago, for a fairly significant sum of money – $459 I think or thereabouts.

I recently checked out the website to get a pricing on a new set of maps as the 2005 maps that come with it are a little dated now. The price? $179!

For that money you can almost buy a new GPS these days.

Mind you I’m not sure what you should buy. Around the same time a customer bought a Garmin GPS, and their map update was free last month. Unfortunately they’ll only post the maps to you, and the delay time is six weeks!

Hopefully Google and the Mobile Phone companies will put these greedy inefficient companies out of business with their own GPS services over time.

End of Rant 🙂

[ccc-news] Assorted News 15a :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 15a 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
No on-site repairs after Christmas for two weeks.

Wireless Landlines.
Economy woes?
How to copy any photo on the ‘net

Slinkies of Doom
Bag with that?
What watt?
How to beat Mobile MessageBank Fees.
The Day The Salad Died
Power Aerial
Molly Update
Imaginative Credit Card Fraud

No on-site repairs after Christmas for two weeks.

I’ll be unavailable for house calls during the two weeks after Christmas (from 26/12 to 7/1). However, I’m still available much of that time for telephone and remote assistance calls.

Wireless Landlines.

Last newsletter I wrote about wireless broadband. Today I’ll introduce you to something new that will probably make Telstra a little nervous. It’s called a ‘wireless telephone.’

Basically, it’s a box that you plug into a power point, and plug your ordinary telephone into. It then gives you a ‘landline’ but without the landline. The phone operates as if it was connected to an ordinary Telstra line, but it is actually connected via the mobile phone network.

At present, only Optus and Virgin are offering them (although Telstra will do something similar if they have no other choice) , but there’s lots of complaints about the Virgin one so it might pay to avoid them. The Optus ones, which seem more reliable, start at $30 a month with rates similar to most other landline phone companies. Info on this is available at (Of course, VoIP is much cheaper, but the hardware to do this wirelessly is still a bit pricey.)

For it to work, you need to have reasonable Optus mobile phone coverage where you live. The fact that there’s no connection fee makes it quite attractive if you need a new landline. Of course, you need to be aware that faxes won’t work with it, and that it will not work if the power goes off.

I personally look forward to seeing these new technologies evolve!

Economy Woes?

So far, the economic turbulence hasn’t had any big impact on me. I’m still kept pretty busy. However, I hear the odd story from people affected – mostly people who’s investments and super have dropped significantly in current value. Hopefully the stock market will turn around in a few years like it always has in the past, and for those who have not had to crystallize their debts, they should be OK 🙂 The biggest change I’ve heard of was for Volvo in the UK who sold 115 trucks in the last three months compared to 41,970 last quarter of 2007. But that’s the UK, not Australia. So, for the moment I’m reasonably confident that work will continue for CCC for a while yet. People seem nervous about it all, but I’m yet to see any big changes.

If any of you get into big difficulties, Australia has a thing called the Part IX debt agreement, which allows you to freeze the interest on your debts without going bankrupt. Could be useful if you lose your job and have too many credit cards! (I’m lucky being self employed that I can’t really lose my job overnight – at least not unless I did something spectacularly wrong next time I build something like those Slinkies of Doom! (Read on for details about the Slinkies of Doom.) Others I know haven’t been so lucky job-wise in the past.)

How to copy any photo on the ‘net.

If you encounter a picture on the Internet and you want to copy it, but you find that the right-click and copy doesn’t work, then there’s always the PrintScreen button on your keyboard. Simply press it to take a photo of your computer screen. You can then paste that picture of the screen into any program that takes pictures. If you only wanted part of the screenshot, open the “Paint” program built into windows in the Start menu under “Accessories”, and paste the screenshot there. Then, trace around the part you wanted, copy it, and paste it where you wanted it to go 🙂

The general rule of computers is ‘If you can hear it you can copy it. If you can see it you can copy it.” The methods vary but there’s no absolute way to protect AV content from copying on computers.

Slinkies of Doom

Well, it’s taken me nearly two years to get the very few requisite parts together, but I now have them. Two matching slinkies. What can you do with two matching slinkies? Kill lots of bugs, that’s what 🙂

Warning: This item is dangerous. Don’t do it yourself unless you’re willing to get electrocuted!

All you need to do is interleave two slinkies over a fluorescent tube, ensuring that for their entire length they are not less than about 3mm apart. You can then attach some form of high voltage low current generator. You have now created your own rather large bug zapper!

I built this because we get so many flies on the farm in Summer, and as you probably know they have a partial attraction to fluorescent lights. They will go for the blue ones in bug zappers, but don’t have much greater attraction to them compared to ordinary white ones – which is quite annoying when the lights are on! So now I’ve got a greater chance against the little beggars in all hours 🙂

The high voltage generator on this model is out of an el-cheapo bug zapper from Coles that didn’t last a month before the bulb went. If you touched it it wouldn’t kill you because the current is far too low, but it would make you jump for sure!

Picture at

Bag with that?

On Friday I ran out of chewing gum in the Kingswood. (I use it after sweet food, especially with bits of coconut, to get rid of leftovers.) I went to one of the Guyra supermarkets and bought a 14-slither pack, and was rather surprised to be asked “do you want a bag?” She then admitted she has to ask as it’s store policy. I found my pocket was big enough 🙂

What Watt?

Every now and then, usually not long after the power bill arrives, I think about how to save power. So, recently I invested $30 in a power usage meter so I could check out the usage of some gadgets safely. There were a few surprises, but the biggest surprise was a Compaq PC I use as a TV set. When on, it used between 60 and 80 watts depending on what it was doing. However, I then put it on standby and was surprised that it was still using 50 watts. That’s not much of a saving, and for the hassle of occasionally not having it wake up properly I’ve actually stopped putting it to sleep now. But that wasn’t the end of it. I turned it off, and it was still using 20 watts! (That was the computer by itself, not with a screen.) Sometimes the power point is the only way to kill things! (Although there are a number of other products on the market which can turn off all devices when one master device is turned off – ie turn off the TV and the power is killed to everything else as well..)

How to beat Mobile MessageBank Fees.

One of my biggest bugbears is paying more for something than it’s worth – which is especially true when it comes to phones. Thus, in an era where most landline calls cost me 10 cents untimed, and mobiles 15 cents a minute, I have often grumbled at paying 60c a minute to Telstra for listening to messages.

After some research (and a few arguments with others who probably live more lavish lifestlyes than my own) I’ve finally settled on a new solution. A program called “Advanced Call Manager” which will run on most Nokia Symbian mobile phones. This program allows your phone to work as an answering machine, thereby virtually eliminating Telstra MessageBank retrieval fees.

It has in my case meant having to buy a new phone, but at $20+ per month saving it will pay itself off over the next 18 to 24 months. It’s ability to also act as a VoIP phone making all landline calls from it 10c untimed will also help. If you want to have a laugh at my discussion, you can read the discussion at (One of them said “Sweet Jesus” when he found out what my current phone was – a ZTE is not highly regarded by some.)

The new phone, a Nokia E51, hasn’t arrived yet so there’s a chance it might not work as advertised; but so far it seems there should be no problems with this plan. I’ll confirm in the next newsletter. It’s not the best phone available, but it’s not overpriced and has NextG coverage, which is the only one I can use at home.

As a side note: Some of you may now be getting new phone bills from Telstra which are ‘easy to read.’ When I read my last one it looked like they weren’t giving the included call discounts, but after calling them it turned out that they were – they just don’t show you the credit line like they used to. (ie instead of saying messagebank $29, call credit $15 cr, they just show messagebank $14. To view full details you have to go online – which for many people might be a worry as it’s now somewhat harder to make sure you’re getting all your discounts.)

The Day The Salad Died.

It is with some sadness that I announce the passing of our friend, the salad bar, at the Armidale Ex-Services club. Sadly they’ve decided to privatise the restaurant component (The Old Mill) and this has lead to a few small changes. Fortunately the $10 roasts and $7 meal specials still exist, albeit sans salad, and still make it more economical to eat out than to spend all that time preparing, cooking, washing up if already in Armidale 🙂

The only other gripe I have is that their signage advertises milkshakes as $3 but they charge $4 claiming they’re waiting for new signs. It’s been over a week since they took over, so I consider that to be a breach of some sort of trading standard. (Haven’t they heard of sticky tape?) Oh well, I’ll stop being a food critic now 🙂

Power Aerial

Yes, the Kingswood has one now. It was only $10 at Vinnies in Forster. Next addition on the queue is a paging alarm of some sort – probably a re-use of the GSM ‘too-hot-for-the-dog’ alarm because…

Molly Upate

I get a few people a week asking about Molly. Well, here’s the story. She will travel if I put her in the car on the lead, and seems OK about getting into the car if I put her on the lead. But if I don’t put her on the lead and take her to the car, and open the door for her, she shoots through the garden gate and under the house – so I think that means that she’d rather be at home. Perhaps having been a dumped dog she prefers to stay in familiar ground. That’s OK with me. Heppie loved the car, Molly doesn’t seem to. Oh well, she’s a nice dog anyway and enjoys her runs with the scooter and bike. She’s settled in well, although not too fond of the slinkies of doom. On the plus side, I get to turn the radio up now without worrying about a dog’s taste in music!

Imaginative Credit Card Fraud

One of the Security podcasts I listen to talked about a recent discovery. Apparently hundreds of overseas grocery store credit card swiping machines (like the ones you use with your card at checkout at Coles, etc) had been modified with an extra part that would collect card numbers and PINs, and would phone up some place in Pakistan once a day via the mobile phone network to hand on the goodies.

The scheme uses untraceable devices inserted into credit card readers that were made in China.
The devices selectively send account data by a wireless cell connection to computer servers in Lahore, Pakistan, and constantly change the pattern of theft so it is hard to detect, the officials said.

At time of writing, the only way to detect it other than taking the reader to pieces was to weigh it! There’s no reports of this happening in Australia yet, but just goes to show what can happen! And they apparently were only found out because of the same noises that you might sometimes hear when you hold your mobile phone near a radio or a set of el-cheapo computer speakers.

In one of the stories that I read about this, apparently a guard noted that there was some interference on his cell phone at certain times of day.

The full transcript is at – use the Ctrl + F feature of your browser to find where the relevant conversation starts. (Search for “credit card” – it’s about 1/3rd of the way through the document.)

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