Archive for July 12, 2009

Assorted News 22 – Flat Out, Winter Break :)

Assorted News 22 – Flat Out, Winter Break 🙂

Generic News

Winter Break: 23rd July to 3rd August.
Flat Out


How to give your iPod it’s own brain.

Stories & General Banter

Musical Cars?
The Pricing Dilemma.

Not much news this newsletter – just letting you know some trivia and advising of a holiday…

Winter Break: 23rd July to 3rd August

Years ago, when I was young and (more) naïve, I was suckered into a prepaid holiday scheme. I suppose back then it was good value but these days with the likes of QuickBeds, NeedItNow and other discount accommodation sites; it has lost it’s lustre a bit. Anyway; it means a forced holiday at a resort every year or you lose your money.

This year I’m trekking down to Mildura – a medium-sized town on the border between NSW and Victoria where I spent much of my youth but haven’t been since 2001.

I will of course be providing the usual remote control (via the Internet) and telephone assistance so hopefully if you do have an issue over this time it’s not a physical one! I know a couple of reasonably priced Armidale repair shops too and can redirect you there if need be.

Flat Out.

In the last month I’ve been a little preoccupied with developing a program for a customer that had a relatively short deadline. This is now more or less complete bar some likely teething issues; but it has made me a bit ‘unreliable’ for other people’s needs with a number of calls not being returned in the usual time frame. (The joys of being a sole trader!) My apologies to anyone affected – hopefully I’ve contacted all affected customers by now!

How to give your iPod it’s own brain!

I recently repaired, and later purchased, a second hand iPod from a customer. It is an older but fancy 30G model. (Last newsletter you may recall the death of my previous MP3 player and PDA (electronic organiser) through old age and overuse.)

For those who have never owned one before, the iPod is basically a portable music and video player, but unlike most other MP3 players it has a fully dependent relationship with a program called iTunes. The iPod cannot think for itself very well and has a limited set of features.

So, mildly frustrated with it’s limitations I did a quick spot of googling and stumbled upon “Rockbox.” It is a free replacement program you can install in your iPod (and some other MP3 players for that matter) to give it a new brain. The new capabilities include:

– Create your own playlists on the device itself.
– Remember where you were up to in multiple playlists or individual recordings. (Bookmarks – Very useful if you switch from music to podcasts, or have a number of programs on the go at once.)
– Custom Equaliser settings. (Not the limited and poorly designed range the iPod has built in.)
– About 30 games including Tetris, Asteroids and Jewel Quest.
– Ability to play multiple different audio and video formats, not just those blessed by Apple.
– Ability to copy music onto it from anywhere just like a memory stick and play it at will. (Normal iPods won’t work this way without iTunes.)
– Many different colour schemes, wallpapers, fonts and templates.

It does take a little more learning than the built-in iPod software, but comes with a comprehensive manual. Installation is quite easy with just a few button clicks, and it even lets you run both RockBox and the original iPod software in case you want to go back for some reason.

Musical Cars?

The Kingswood is still sick with clutch and / or other issues, and now fuel consumption has jumped from 10 litres per 100km to 13 litres per 100km. There is now occasionally a distinct ‘clack’ when going from acceleration to decelleration, and on rare occasions the sound of marbles in a washing machine. After 750,000+ km I guess it’s not a surprise, but it doesn’t sound cheap to fix!

As a result, I have decided to retire it until I come back from holidays and am in a strong enough financial position to get those issues resolved.

In the mean time, the Nissan also snapped it’s fan belt on me last week so I have had the water pump and timing belt replaced. (I’ve already checked over the alternator, and the timing belt is just a precaution since it sat for 8 years in a shed.) Here’s hoping it was worth it! The motor is near new which is why I justify maintaining it despite it’s age.

If you want to have a laugh, check out to see how it was advertised back in the ’80s. The phrase “Sleek Aerodynamic Body” just wouldn’t cut it these days – not quite the Flying Brick of the Kingswood but fairly close!

The Pricing Dilemma.

The other day, one of my customers protested at the size of his bill. He was upset because I charged $65 for an hour’s work. But, he was upset because he believed I should be charging $95. At the moment, my rates are $50 an hour for tuition and $65 an hour for fancier stuff. The Not For Profits and students / unemployed get 30% off too. if I were to charge $95 an hour, I think I’d alienate much of my customer base as a large percentage of it is home and small business. Apart from the fact I value all clients and client types pretty much equally, I’m also in a relatively small town and can’t really afford to lose customers! But then on the other hand a number of people say I’m cheap.

Prices in Armidale seem to vary between $55 an hour (basic technician) to $75 an hour (moderate technician) and somewhat higher (shonky franchise technician). I welcome your feedback on this issue. Perhaps I should just peg myself to the rate of inflation.