Archive for September 5, 2010

Assorted News 31 – Lots of stuff :)

Assorted News 31 – Lots of stuff 🙂

In this edition:

I take a serious pay cut, try to get a pay rise, make a silly ‘blog and try to peddle some wares…

Assorted News:
The $550 a month pay cut…
Small price rise for CCC…
Bright Side to Exetel plan changes…

General Ramblings:
Cheaper Outbound-only VoIP options
Important Notice for BigPond Customers

A New Blog for your amusement.
Cheezburger Network
ABC iView coming to DVD players…

New and Existing Services
Web Hosting
Offsite Backups
VHS / DVD / Cassette / CD / MP3 / DivX conversions

Stuff to Buy
Simple Universal Learning Remote Control – stops you pushing the ‘wrong’ buttons. $40
Cordless Stereo Headphones – $65.
Baby Cordless Keyboard – $45ish

.. and unrelated banter at the end.

The $550 a month pay cut.

With competition in the Internet Supply market becoming ever tighter, Exetel has decided that they need to cut back on how much they give their agents. (And to be fair, it’s probably true for ADSL, but I’m not so sure for the other services.)

July’s income from Exetel was a near-record $950, from about 250 services.

Some of this was from temporary one-off bonuses from selling nine wireless broadband services ($225) and losing those would not have been a shock since it was always a temporary setup.

However, they decided that they will also stop paying commission on VoIP services and Mobile Broadband PAYG services, and for the remainder they’re dropping it from 10% back to 7.5%

After all these adjustments, I’m down to $383 per month as a rough estimate.

Now, admittedly they were paying us too much for some things. However, their choice to cut us out on profitable VoIP and HSPA PAYG doesn’t sit that well with me as these are the hardest services to maintain.

This $950 isn’t all cream of course – for that money I proxy payments for about 80 customers, over $2,400 a month; and I carry the associated risk. I have also done many installations for free, and tried out non-profit ventures such as HSPA field antenna trials and the like. I also used it to subsidise the price of hardware (such as modems, etc) which I’ve often sold slightly below cost.

So, what will change now? Well, I won’t be doing free installs on anything other than ADSL from now on, and I won’t be actively advertising VoIP products. HSPA support might be more likely to incur costs if the query exceeds 5 minutes, etc, and hardware costs will now be their normal wholesale+postage prices, and for the very few VoIP only customers I’ll be contacting you soon to advise of possible solutions to make providing the service still viable.

Their services are still good however, so where appropriate I will still suggest their services 🙂

A small price rise for CCC…

OK, so I’m about to become $550 a month worse off? Well, probably not that bad really since I will just ramp up other normally paid work instead; but I’ve been on about the same rate of $65 an hour since 2003. (I deregistered for GST in 2007 yielding a small pay rise as a result.) Since then, things which used to cost $141 now cost $171 – or in other words about 20% more based on CPI. So, unless there’s a rebellion, I’m planning to increase my rates a small amount:

New rates starting October 2010:
General and Telephone Consulting: $70 per hour, charged by the minute.
Non-Profit and Low Income customers: $50 per hour, charged by the minute.
Callout: $10 for sites within 10km of Armidale, Guyra or Black Mountain.
Travel: $1 per km one way if more than 10km from Armidale, Guyra, Black Mountain.
Glen Innes: Travel to Glen Innes now $40

Cool Country Consulting is not registered for GST, so these amounts do not include a claimable GST amount. This is good for residential customers, slightly less so for businesses. It certainly helps keep paperwork down however, so if you run a business and turn over less than $75,000 a year, it can be a nice thing to be rid of the GST burden 🙂

Please let me know if you’re unhappy with these new prices 🙂 They’re still cheaper than most other providers.

The Bright Side to Exetel Plan Changes…

If you haven’t recently checked what plan you’re on with Exetel, it’d be a good idea!

Most of their plans have come down by up to $15 a month for the same or better speeds in the last few weeks. For example…
$35 a month will now get you 10GB at 1500 speed. (Used to be 256 speed or 512 speed.)
$45 a month will now get you 10GB at up to 8,000 speed. (Used to be 1500 speed)
$65 a month will now get you 50GB a month at up to 20,000 speed on ADSL2 via Telstra infrastructure.

The down side of course is I’ll earn less, but meh. It’s more important to have happy customers than to pad my nest with guilt money 🙂 Oh, and they will hit you up for a plan change fee too, the cheeky buggers.

Plan changes take effect at the end of the month, so you have plenty of time to research.

Cheaper Out-Bound VoIP?

A few months ago, Exetel stuffed something up with an upgrade rendering their VoIP service problematic for anyone using a Billion or Open branded ADSL modem. They eventually fixed it three weeks later; but this gave me incentive to try some other providers again – namely MyNetFone and PennyTel.

MyNetFone was as good as Exetel – pretty reliable, and a good service. PennyTel was also surprisingly pretty reliable – not as reliable as MyNetFone and Exetel, with the occasional call going nowhere, but certainly useable, and better than last time I tried their service.

There’s three reasons why you might be interested in PennyTel.

1 – Cheaper calls than Exetel and MyNetFone – just 10.5 cents per minute to mobiles instead of Exetel’s 15 or 22 cents a minute.
2 – You can use your own landline number for CallerID on outgoing calls. (No more confusing “Sydney” numbers.)
3 – Seems less echo-prone than Exetel on Billion routers.

.. and of course there’s a few reasons you might not be interested.

1 – They’re prepaid only.
2 – Call quality not quite as reliable.
3 – Getting started is a bit of a hassle.
4 – No incoming call capability by default.

Since I have no financial relationship with PennyTel – they don’t offer reseller / agent options – I’m unable to earn any residual income from supporting them. As a result, if you want to sign up with them, and need a hand changing settings in your modem, etc; this time will be chargeable. (Usually it takes about 20 minutes to get signed up, but since they need to verify your identity it can’t be completed on the spot.)

Important Notice for BigPond customers.

Bigpond has, in the last few months, drastically increased the value of their ADSL plans. If you’re on BigPond and don’t want to change to another provider, it’s a good idea to log in to the BigPond website and check what plan you’re on. (Click the My BigPond link.) If you’ve forgotten your password I have a program that can sometimes reveal it, or ring 133933 for a new one.) Every week I still come across people paying $30 a month for 400MB and getting whacked for big excess fees when all they need to do is log in, click change plan, and for the same $30 a month they can get 2,000MB, six times the speed and no more excess fees.

A New Blog for your amusement…

Introducing Inside The Ice Box!

I know some of you read these newsletters for the stories 🙂 However, there are usually more stories out there than those which make it into the newsletter. So; to add to your amusement I’ve created the “Inside the Ice Box” blog.

Every few days I log in to it and post some stories about those day’s events. Some recent stories you might enjoy from there are:

A Job On The Side: (Turning a laptop onto it’s side fixes a problem.)
Some Wiredo Hangs Up: (Customer gets blacklisted for a while.)
“Boob Country:” (The perils of old fashioned Hand Writing.)

The Ice Box is still an experimental site finding a purpose. You can find it


Do you like the sound of rain? Well, you might enjoy

Cheezburger Network

I can’t resist and many of the other sites at the end of that page. Great for a laugh.

iView and the like.

ABC’s iView (TV on demand over the internet service) is starting to make its way into new TVs and DVD players. Soon the new DVD player or TV you buy may be able to get TV over your Broadband internet connection. In the mean time you can check it out at – at least half my TV viewing is now done via iView. (As usual, be careful of your download limts.)

Example new player at

Web Hosting

Looking to get a website, or want to move a website to a new home? Maybe I can help. Hosting costs start from $4 a month, and domain names (the name for your website) start from about $15 for two years. Pricing at

Basic website building in Joomla (which you can easily update yourself later) starting from around $120.

Existing customers still waiting for a hosting bill? I’ve written a new accounting system for web hosting invoices, and it will be live soon.

Off-Site Backups

Too busy to remember to back up your computer? Taking the 8% chance a year that your hard drive might die? Well starting at $10 a month (plus initial setup) I can provide an automated off-site backup for you. Backups happen over the Internet via a secure VPN connection and are stored on an encrypted drive on a firewalled server. Information at

VHS / Cassette / LP to CD / DVD / MP3 / DivX

Need to shift to a new medium? Contact me for a quote 🙂

Stuff to Buy:

One of my wholesalers has a few great products that can be quite handy. These are:

A Programmable Universal Remote Control – ideal for seniors!

Priced at a reasonable $40 each, these are a simple, old-fashioned, solid remote control. Do you have trouble with the buttons on your set top box being too small, or pressing the wrong button now and then and having to get someone to come and fix it? With one of these, you can program just the buttons you want to use so there’s no risk of pressing the wrong button. You can also program one button to turn on the TV, one for the video, one for the set top box for example so you don’t have to have so many remote controls on the table.

You can get really smart remotes for not much more, but those ones need a computer to set them up. This does not. And it’s probably strong enough to use as a weapon too! Picture at

Note: Price does not include installation / configuration. It’s quite simple to set up however. I try to keep one unit in stock.

Cordless Rechargeable Headphones

Hard of hearing? I’ve sold three of these in the last month. (Two to the same customer – his son nicked his first pair!) They sound great, use wireless so you can move around the house with them on, and are rechargeable. A little pricey at $65 each, but worth it for the stereo sound quality. Picture at

Note: Price does not include installation / configuration. In most cases it’s straight forward – just connect these to the “Audio Out” on the back of your TV set. I try to keep one unit in stock.

Mini Wireless Keyboard.

Perhaps you’re a modern person who has figured out how to connect your computer to your TV, and now you like to watch your movies, iView, etc on it. Well, here’s a great little cordless keyboard / mouse about the size of your hand that will let you operate your computer (or PS3, and possibly XBOX too) from the comfort of the lounge chair. I don’t sell this item since it’s low demand – it’s at for about $45-$50. Will take a week or so to arrive however.

Other reminders:
Don’t forget TPG’s $1 per month, 10c per minute mobile plan. It leaves practically everyone else for dead. Still in contract? Consider carrying a second phone for outgoing. It’s no wonder people dump their landlines. (TPG uses Optus network, so consider this before ordering at I have no relationship with TPG.

Unrelated News:
Car: Yes, I’m still in the Bluebird. It’s still working, mostly. Except for the incident at (1 hr from Wandsworth to home.) The drivers door won’t open from the inside unless I pull it towards me first. I’ve lost 1 & 2 fan speeds and haven’t fixed that yet. Apart from that, it’s still working well. Nice to be coming into warmer weather so the auto choke doesn’t stay on for so long… Kingswood still working, but semi-retired for preservation. Merc might be finding a new home soon – someone wants to buy it. Kitchen renovation nearly finished – see Carpentry’s fun 🙂 Tools are amazingly cheap too – Circular saw 3 year warranty $48, Cordless drill 3 year warranty $39.

Well that’s it for another newsletter. Sorry it’s taken so long to get this one out. Kitchen building took up the remaining spare time on weekends, along with two sizeable programming tasks. Hope you’re all enjoying the new Spring weather!

Cheers, Mike.

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