Archive for March 5, 2010

Assorted News 28 – The only certain thing in life is Change? :)

Assorted News 28 – The only certain thing in life is Change? 🙂

In this edition:

Good News Week 2
The mobile plan to end all mobile plans? $1 a month, 10c/min…

Assorted News:
More Exetel Strangeness. (Ups some rates, kills PAYG on ADSL.)
Busy again…

General Ramblings:
Three people drop their landlines for Wireless VoIP…
Internet TV in the future?
Your New TV is a computer screen too 🙂

The Varnishing Act.
The Kingswood Lives…
Amusing Exam Cheating Stories
Gruesome Shark Game.

The Mobile Plan to end all mobile plans?

A company called TPG has released a new mobile plan. It is just $1 per month and 10 cents per minute to landlines and mobiles, with a 10 cent flagfall. No contract. No caps.

They use the Optus towers, so of course this may be an issue for some of you. I do have outdoor aerials that will fix this for some handsets and locations.

This is enough to make you wonder why you still have a landline. You’d have to spend at least four hours on the mobile phone a month before you’d even reach what you’re paying just for basic line rental to Telstra.

Oh, and as I’ve said before – if you need Telstra’s superior mobile coverage, why not have a Telstra mobile on a $15 or $20 a month plan, use them for incoming calls, and carry a second mobile for making calls on. The savings would surely be worth the extra hassle of carrying two phones 🙂

I am too small to be an agent for TPG unfortunately, so if you need help with signing up or setting up your phone, this would be at standard consulting rates.

More details are at – scroll down to find the $1 plan.

Busy again…

Work is back to being pretty busy. This has meant some delays in getting back to some people. My apologies for those affected.

More Exetel Strangeness…

As most of you know, I’m an agent for Exetel. This is because they’re normally the best value ISP.

Unfortunately this appears to be changing a little…

They put a number of people’s plans up by $5 a month this week, explaining that this was necessary because on average, people are downloading more now than they were a few years ago. This mainly affected long-time customers on older plans, and this was probably a legitimate need.

They also went and changed their plan offerings two days after this announcement, along with introducing a $10 plan change fee – without warning.

Charging $10 to change a plan is a simple money grab. Exetel brags about having an automated system so changing a plan should have no cost to them if it doesn’t involve changing line speeds, etc. They don’t see it this way. They did a similar thing a couple of years ago when they introduced an ‘administrative fee’ of $3 so they seem to be starting to want to make money just because they can rather than by providing a service to match that expense.

The plans they have introduced are aimed at moderate to heavy downloaders; so the ‘pay for what you use’ type plans are now history. This is a shame because it wipes out the most popular plan I was selling, making the nearest equivalent $10 a month higher, making them equivalent to pretty much every other reasonably-priced reasonably-reliable ISP out there for light to moderate users.

Fortunately, Wireless Broadband plans remain unchanged and are still good value within their own limits of usage.

Since most plans these days have no contract requirement, the good news is that if something really unexpected and catastrophic happened at Exetel, the time to recover would be quite short 🙂 I am confused by what’s going on there at the moment. I think it’s related to growing pains as they have grown bigger than they had planned to in a relatively short time; but there’s a sort of schizophrenic feel to it all.

Three customers ditch their landlines…

I have three customers in Guyra who have ditched their landlines since moving to an Exetel wireless broadband with VoIP setup, saving themselves about $40 to $60 a month plus an estimated $50 in calls per month in the process. (You could do similar without using Exetel.)

This isn’t for everyone, but it works well for some.

The good bits:
– no landline rental any more – bye bye Telstra
– still use a standard landline phone
– call costs 10c untimed to landlines, 15c/min to mobiles
– still have a landline number of sorts*
– Internet costs between $20 and $37.50 per month roughly.

The bad bits
– requires strong coverage.
– requires $175 router plus $90 modem
– might require outdoor antenna $45 to $250
– will cost about $75 to have installed – quoted first.
– not guaranteed to always work
– *the landline number is not a Guyra / Armidale number,
– calling 000 won’t tell them where you are, so not great for emergencies.
– doesn’t work without power unless you hook it to a car battery or UPS 🙂
– fax machines don’t particularly like it, but will usually work.
– sometimes has echoes when calling mobiles, partially fixable.
– Limited to 5GB per month.

The single biggest problem with doing this is that the wireless broadband system is not designed to do phone calls over the Internet. It will work, mostly, but if the tower is busy or the reception wavers, it will give you some rather weird results. However, if you’re saving $60 or more a month then maybe you wouldn’t care about the occasional problem.

Of course, combine it with the $1 per month TPG mobile and it hardly matters anyway since the mobile phone calls always have priority over internet users, and it’s even cheaper than VoIP for calling other mobiles.

I can’t really recommend it for Armidale as the Armidale towers are overloaded. Generally speaking, if Skype works well on your connection, then VoIP will probably work too.

Internet TV in the future?

Despite being way behind the US in what we have in the way of Internet TV services; I have a suspicion that they will become somewhat more important to people over time. For example, if there’s “nothing on” on TV, it’s quite convenient to go to and watch something. All the shows are categorised so documentary-fans for example can find something to watch quickly.

Why am I bringing this up again? Well, because it’s the one thing that makes me feel a little uncertain about recommending wireless broadband to people. Each show is about 250 megabytes on average, so they can chew through even the biggest 5000MB plan appreciably over a month. (Of course, many people don’t want to do this, ..yet…)

This means it’s largely out of reach of people who can only get Satellite. It’s doable on wireless but risky if you don’t know your limits; and it’s of no consequence at all to people who can get ADSL. It should soon get to the point where it is better to spend your money on a decent Internet connection rather than paying for Austar, etc.

In the US, it is apparently becoming common for people to not even have a TV, as they watch instead. To watch Hulu in Australia requires some creative cheating that I have not yet felt the need to work out – there are other ways to get what you want 🙂

Your New TV is a Computer Screen Too 🙂

Many people still don’t know this.

Pretty much all flat screen TVs these days have one or two different connectors on the back that let you use them as a huge computer screen.

Just yesterday I helped a customer to hook her laptop to her TV after she had been decidedly hard on her laptop by dropping it, breaking off a corner, smashing the screen by mistake and melting some of the keys somehow. (Fortunately the TV has not yet been melted, smashed, or dropped, but I fear for the remote!)

If your computer and TV both have a socket labeled HDMI, then all you need is one cable to connect the two.

If instead your TV has something labeled VGA or D-SUB, then you’ll need two cables if you want both picture and sound.

Someone has written a more comprehensive guide at

For both options, I usually have the required cables.

This will of course let you watch anything from the Internet or on a hard drive on your TV set. That’s things like iView, YouTube, etc; and those hard drives full of movies that kids have these days – much to the chagrin of traditional media companies! Oh, and of course if you have Skype and a webcam, you can have a live wall into someone elses house! (With a decent broadband connection, you could actually do this 24/7 so you’d never be separated from your loved ones – SciFi becoming reality…)

The Varnishing Act.

OK, you all know I’m a bit mad. This won’t help you with that assessment!

The ’86 Bluebird had developed a problem. It was starting to go grey – like an old man’s beard. Worse, the paint on the bonnet was turning white and spotty, and has been disappearing little by little, tiny flake by tiny flake. No amount of waxing would satiate its thirst.

An ’86 Bluebird is not a particularly valuable car; so paying $2,000 or so to respray it would be hard to justify.

.. I bet you can see where this is going can’t you 😉

Some years ago I stumbled on a can of Marine Varnish hiding in the laundry. A year ago a small amount of this went on the roof to fix a small spot of clearcoat cancer. Now, a good deal more of it covers the entire bonnet and one of the mirrors too.

It will be interesting to see how this product ages. Certainly the bit that’s been on the roof for a year hasn’t deteriorated at all… It was particularly surprising how it turned the whitish plastic mirrors back to black.

Pictures are at

One customer said I should have seen an Armidale business who can match colours etc, and sells a clearcoat product. Perhaps later I will. For now, at least the deterioration has been halted.

The Kingswood Lives…

It’s back from its brake, engine mount and gearbox seal repair. So far I am sticking with the Nissan because of the cheaper running costs, steering that doesn’t wander around with tiny camber changes, likely increased safety and the ability to speed through a roundabout if something doesn’t go to plan. (Not that it’s perfect – it has its own cold weather quirks.) The Kingswood is now 39 years old, so perhaps it’s time to give it lighter duties, and hope its value appreciates. (No I won’t be varnishing it 😉 )

Amusing Exam Cheating Stories…

Another page that will take a few hours of life 🙂 Find out all the ingenious ways people cheated in exams. A couple of favourites…

It is funny that this should come up, only last week, on the radio, a guy was on saying how when he was at college doing a marine engineering course (or something in that field) part of the course was Morse Code.

When they had external examiners in for exams on non morse parts of the course, he and his class mates would of course tap out not just the answers but have whole conversations.

A few times the whole exam room would erupt in laughter and leave the examiner clueless.

I went to a Catholic high school, and one of the nuns that taught there was pretty far toward senility. She’d always walk up and down the aisles during tests to make sure people weren’t cheating, so a couple of kids started putting post-it notes on her as she walked by. Kid in the front corner would ask “What did you get for number 7?” Kid in the back corner would snag the note, write an answer, and put it back when she came by next. It went on like that all semester.

Gruesome but Simple Shark Game.

A ridiculous game that you play in your browser. (Nothing to install.)

Well that’s it for another newsletter. I guess I better get back to work! I have some more time consuming projects on the boil, which explains why the December and January invoices were only sent last week!

Cheers, Mike

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