Archive for December 26, 2009

Gator ABT300 Review

Gator ABT300 Review

Also Gator ABT-300 review, Gator Bluetooth FM adapter review. (Manual lists product as a BS300B or BS300A)

The ABT300 is a small box that receives bluetooth audio, transmits FM audio in stereo, has a hands free microphone built in, along with line output and line inputs. A great little gadget; but it has two serious flaws if you want to use it a lot…

I bought one of these for my other half for Christmas from WES Components. It is a mostly good design but has two serious design flaws that may make it unsuitable for it’s intended purpose.

1 – You cannot use the FM transmitter while it’s connected to a charger. (It does still function as a bluetooth hands free but only to a wired output.)

2 – The charging socket and external line input share the same socket. Thus you can’t charge the device and use it as a transmitter for a non-bluetooth audio source at the same time.

This basically renders the device an annoying addition because to use it fully you’ll have to remember to recharge it at least once a week, and you can’t use it for the two hours that it’s recharging.

You can partly work around it’s limitations by connecting it to an always on 12V source and hard wiring its output to your audio system; but what a disappointment to have such a nifty device rendered with such a flaw 🙁

Cheers, Mike.

Edit: Here’s another problem.

Walk away from your car for a little while, the bastard turns itself off. You have to hold the power button for 3+ seconds to turn it back on. Three seconds is a long time if you’re going to be doing it every time you get in the car. Sometimes the power button gets stuck down too. Hold it a little too long and you’re in pairing mode.

FM Output is really weak – if you place it in the middle of your dashboard, you’ll get audible FM Hiss if your antenna is an above-the-drivers-door type.

Assorted News 26 – Holiday Special :)

Assorted News 26 – Holiday Special 🙂

In this edition:

Holiday Special

Podcasts for your Travels.
Websites for a laugh.
Smoker? No warranty for you.
Lick It!
Statement Fun.
Google Desktop
Watching TV Online
Gmail Saves The Day
Inkjet becomes one pin dot matrix
Vitamin D
Rant on Greed V2
Any web designers out there?
Computer Table wants a home…
E-Bike review.
A week off…

Podcasts for your Travels

Chances are some of you will be embarking on some long trips this holiday season. Taking some podcasts with you will help make the journey more enjoyable.

Podcasts are basically radio shows that you can download and listen to; with the exception that you can tell your computer to get them automatically if you have iTunes or other podcasting software.

Here’s a few of my faves:


Two funny American guys who spend at least half of the show laughing constantly. Whether or not you’re mechanically inclined; you’ll probably enjoy this weekly one hour show . They’ll try all sorts of tricks to get you out of trouble with your car, or to pass the blame onto someone else; or simply tell you that your car is going to blow up any minute…


Warning: Not entirely safe for kids – uses bad language now and then.

Three crazy British people (two guys one gal) answer some of the craziest questions that people submit to them online and by phone.

The Moth.

Warning: May use bad language or discuss themes that may offend.

OK so that’s a weird name for a podcast. It is “Real Life Stories told Live, Without Notes, in under 20 mins.” There is an amazing variety of stories here, from accountants, to strippers, to prisoners with dying rellies on the other side; and more. Some excellent listening here. Experience the full variety of people that exist on this earth.

TED Talks.

No, it’s not “Big Ted” from Sesame Street 🙂 TED Talks are described as “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” Most of them are pretty good; although since they cover a huge spectrum of ideas, some are bound to be of more interest to you than others.

Note: Most podcasts tend to be between 20 and 50MB to download, so for those of you on limited download plans; you might need to keep an eye on your usage while downloading these gems.

Websites for a laugh.

Here’s a couple of gems I’ve run across in the last month that you might enjoy:

“What’s the Funniest thing you’ve done / seen someone do in a classroom?”
Warning: Some of these posts are likely to offend. (Bad language, politically incorrect.)
Another Warning: You might get nothing done for 5 hours reading all these!

Find out about the Cow Button, the 8.5 by 11 foot sheet of notes, the fake suicide out the window – with the chair, the “Thank you for last night” comment, Spontaneous Spiderman, the teacher with the Bull Whip, DENdoodahBAHdoo and more 🙂

“What is Love”

This chicken thinks he knows 🙂

“One Man Band”

Well, if your low on income, and have musical skill, you could copy this guy:

Hmm – I’m sure there are more, but I’m short of time. The phone keeps ringing. And I want to get this out by 1:45pm.

Smoker? No warranty for you…

.. or your Apple computer.

First, let me congratulate those few of you who actually did quit smoking this year. I’m proud of you! (It also makes working with you more of a pleasure, as second hand smoke is one thing that I’m not fond of.)

Anyway, earlier this year Apple made the decision that it would not do warranty repairs on laptops belonging to smokers. This was because they were classed as hazardous materials; and also because the residue gums up the cooling systems. It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve repaired a heavy smoker’s computer – the worst I remember was a Gateway 2000 machine that was yellow inside from the front-mounted fan dragging the smoke into the computer’s innards.

Lick It!

OK a slightly less hygienic computer tip for you. Many computers now have finger print readers. For most people these work OK but sometimes you may find it just refuses to acknowledge you giving it the finger. If this happens to you, try this simple step. 1 – lick your finger. 2 – wipe your finger on a nearby fabric. 3 – swipe your finger on the reader.

If your skin is dry, it makes it harder for the computer to see it.

Statement Fun.

You know the old saying about the plumber’s house having leaking taps. Well, my accounting is a bit like that sometimes. I’m pretty good at entering the information in as it comes in, but chasing up old accounts is not something I give much priority to. I knew for the last few months that something was up with my system not sending accounts under certain circumstances; and it turned out that through a logic error I introduced to it, anyone who had an unpaid account less than one month old would never get a statement.

As a result, a few got away from me. The worst ones being an ex Internet customer who racked up $700 before shooting through, and another guy who has $600 worth of wireless internet gear. (Another guy appears to have stolen a $145 modem from me too.) Fortunately such occurrences are quite rare as most people are pretty good about keeping up to date with things. The challenging counter to this is that each 6 months I receive about $1,000 in electronic payments to my bank account that have no payee reference – so I have no idea where that money came from or who it’s for. Since quite often people pay multiple invoices in one transaction, it’s very difficult to reconcile those amounts to a customer.

Google Desktop.

I think I’ve covered Google Desktop before. It allows you to search all your files for key words in a matter of seconds. This can be quite handy when trying to find information in documents that you no longer remember the name or location of; or emails.

One other useful feature is the ability to view your ‘timeline’ which will show you all the things you did on your computer on any given day. This has proven to be quite useful recently where a customer had many different web pages on the boil, but wanted to bill each to a separate entity and I had not recorded accurately which web site was worked on when. (Accounts are entered into a calendar daily, but transcribed into the accounting system monthly.) The history button gives me a minute by minute rundown of what page was worked on when 🙂

Google Desktop is not for everybody as it can slow down the computer a bit with it’s constant indexing; but for some of you in office environments it might be quite handy. (Microsoft has similar features built in which I’ve not fully tested as they do not work with my email program, Thunderbird.)


You might see this written – typically at the end of a long article. It stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read” and is usually followed by a one or two sentence summary of the article it accompanies.

Watching TV Onlne

Some of the TV channels are starting to get with the times and allow you to watch shows you’ve missed via the Internet. ABC is probably the most well known of these with their iView service.

Channel 10 has a similar feature at

NBN does not have it on their main site, but you might be lucky with some of the individual show websites.

Prime doesn’t seem to have it at all yet.

SBS has done a good job with theirs at

With all of these sites, they use quite a lot of downloads – around 400MB an hour as an estimate – so be careful if you’re on an expensive low usage plan. (If you’re on slow ADSL, you might not be able to see them in real time – you can always call me for a better deal 😉 )

Of course, for the ‘naughty’ ones among you there’s always channel BT. Oh, and YouTube is legal and handy too once you work out how playlists work.

Gmail Saves The Day.

A few days ago, a customer called because some of his email had disappeared. A number of possibly zero day viruses had conspired to somehow nuke the outlook data file and it wasn’t readily retrievable. (A rare occurrence, possible question as to whether Avast contributed to it.) Fortunately some time earlier I had set up gmail to poll his address and capture a copy of his email to their server; so a copy of all received email was still there available to be re-downloaded.

So, if your email is important to you and you want a free backup – register an address at and then under Settings, click Accounts and Import and give it the details for your current email address. (If you don’t know your password, I have a program that can usually retrieve them.) You may need to set your PC to leave a copy on the server for one day too.

Inkjet becomes one pin Dot Matrix?

A customer called last week with a problem. A single drawing pin had fallen into their fancy Canon printer / copier unit and was not retrievable since it had been swallowed along with some paper.

Usually retrieving foreign objects from a printer is relatively simple – with other recent occurrences being a crayon in a laser printer, and dried flowers in an inkjet. However, this one was quite a challenge, taking over an hour to get out. The pin was slightly wider than the gap it had fallen into so it wasn’t as simple as ‘turn over and shake’. It had also cleverly wedged itself near the flap that is used to determine whether the paper comes from the upper tray or below; and also serves as a duplexing chute.

In the end, we got it back together, and then it refused to print saying error 5010. Turned out that the scanner ribbon was the wrong way around. (It came out of it’s socket before I had a chance to see its orientation.) Customer was happy.

Vitamin D?

This item missed last newsletter. The host of one of my regular podcasts – Security Now! – decided that he was so convinced of the benefits of Vitamin D after doing some research that he devoted an entire show to it. (This was out of character since all previous 203 shows were about computers.) It seemed to have some reasonable evidence behind it so I’ve listed it here. (Mainly as an anti-cancer product.) Listen or read at

Rant on Greed V2

Another item that missed the last newsletter.

One of our two cats disappeared for a few days and came home covered in fleas. This of course meant it was time to buy more Frontline. However, while Frontline is quite effective it’s also hideously expensive; so I did a little research to find out if there were any ways around it.

The primary discovery was that the formula for dogs and cats are pretty close matches. (a 25% difference in one of the active ingredients.) Thus with some careful mathematics it was apparent that you’d get almost as good a result by using 0.5ml of Frontline Plus for extra large dog to treat a cat – meaning roughly 24 doses for the price of three. So, one in the eye for Merial then; trying to charge almost the same for a tiny packet as for a large one.

Any web designers out there?

My web design skills are fair, but not excellent. In particular I’m a little lacking in graphic design aesthetics. So, if any of you are into web design work and are looking for work; let me know. You’d need to be familiar with Joomla, Drupal, CSS and HTML.

Computer Table Wants a Home.

A new Guyra resident has found she has one too many computer desks. If you’re after one, let me know and I’ll put you in touch. Pretty sure it’s going cheap.

E-Bike Review.

Just a quick note that the bike will get me from home to the roadhouse and back without going flat. If I get it to do most of the work, it takes 17 minutes to get there, covering 8.5km at average 25kph and peak 50kph down the hills. I’m quite happy with it 🙂 I haven’t tried a return trip to Guyra yet.

$429 reasonably well spent; although of course it would be more useful if I lived in town. If I worked at the tomato farm for example it’d be a huge saving compared to buying a car and paying rego.

By the way the Kingswood’s still in at the doctor’s. It’s leaking oil out of the shifters for the gearbox, etc; and turns right when you put on the brakes. And speaking of rego, I don’t think we’ll see people adopting electric cars in Australia until they change rego laws. Why should I pay full price to rego two cars when I can only physically drive one at a time. (Most electric vehicles don’t have enough range for holiday commutes, etc.)

A Week Off.

I’m having a week off from on-the-road repairs in the first week of 2010. This will give me some time to fix some issues around the house and car, such as fixing the gauges on the car, upgrading the service desk computers, etc. I’ll still be available for remote assistance calls during this time 🙂

Have a great Christmas / Holiday season all 🙂

Cheers, Mike

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