In this edition:
A long delay between newsletters! Life has been busy.
NBN Connections available.
Mobile phone and Tablet Manufacturer Sue-Fest wars…
Virus activity drops.
Fix It. Fix it with FIRE!
Why there are no leaves. (Leafs?)
Popular Internet and Phone Prices.
Cheap mobile plan for Exetel customers.
Google Plus! A Facebook alternative.
I’m not a fan of Facebook. I find it so infuriating getting emails from facebook saying “You have notifications pending.” They could just as easily email me whatever they’re trying to tell me, rather than trying to get me into their walled garden to see what’s going on. So, I was naturally quite pleased to see Google introduce a new thing called “Google Plus.”
Google Plus is sort of like facebook, but has a few features that make it somewhat more useful and easy to understand.
On Facebook, most people generally have ‘friends.’ (There are non-obvious ways of grouping them.) However, in real life most of us have groups of people we chat with. Friends, Family, Work colleagues, confidants, etc; When adding your ‘friends’ to Google Plus, you’re asked to put them into groups. What this means is that when you write or share something, you can easily choose which groups get to see it.
What I personally think is the best feature of Google Plus is that it allows you to add friends to your circles who you know will probably never bother to sign up for Google Plus, and yet you’d still like to keep them up to date. When you post a message to a group that has people that are not signed up to Google Plus, it will also email the same message to those people – unlike Facebook.
Multi-People Video Conferencing.
Another great feature is the “Hangout” feature – which allows you to have an online video chat with multiple people at once – kinda like Skype but without having to install anything. This feature could be very handy for businesses and families.
Mind you, I’m not really into social networking as such – perhaps because I don’t have a gregarious social life! So, I’m not really in a position to give a full run-down on it, but if you’re curious about it, find out more at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiqDr7CFmZQ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC_M6PzXS9g
.. and if you want an invite, let me know. 🙂
NBN Connections Available.
People regularly ask me what I think about the NBN. I’m of two minds about it. At present, most people in towns can already get what I consider ‘enough’ speed on the Internet – that is, enough to watch simple Internet TV services, or 1.5mpbs. Some can get as high as 16mbps. However, traditional broadband can only go up to about 6km from a phone exchange before dying. In theory NBN connections should not be affected by distance, and so should be able to go much faster.
On the positive side, it’s a bit like when the original phone system was put in. It probably cost a lot of money to do, but has been useful in ways that weren’t even considered back then. When you still had the rotary dial telephone you probably never thought that it would soon be able to show you high definition movies on demand! Installing the NBN should provide a similar scope for technological improvement. It’d be hard to justify it as a short-term project given it largely duplicates what we have now with ADSL, but in the medium term the benefits should outweigh the costs, assuming it’s rolled out efficiently.
On the negative side, when properly provisioned, mobile / wireless broadband can provide quite reasonable speeds without the cost of digging up the streets. It is probably the more financially viable and practical option for rural areas, and wireless technology continues to improve speed-wise. Similarly, there are of course people stating that they can’t get fast enough Internet to run their businesses; but generally I disagree. It’d just cost more to get multiple links and spread the load. (A decent NextG service can get upload speeds faster than ADSL at distances further than ADSL for example, but at potentially higher cost.)
The most likely benefit to home users will be movies and TV on demand. Not great news for the Pay TV companies mind you!
Anyway, with that said I am pleased to advise that I can provide NBN Internet Connections via Exetel at reasonable prices – something I didn’t think would ever happen. See the prices at http://www.exetel.com.au/residential-fibre-pricing-mainland.php
Mobile Phone and Tablet Sue-Fest wars…
Last newsletter I mentioned I had purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Last week, Apple decided they were so annoyed by the success of these Android tablets that they went to court to get an injunction preventing Samsung from selling their latest 10 inch version in Australia, claiming it looked too similar to their golden child – the iPad. Then a few days later they did the same for the whole of Europe. .. and then a few days later again they did the same with Motorola.
In an unexpected twist, Google then purchased Motorola’s Mobility division.
The whole drama is largely due to America’s relatively out-of-control patent system – Google initially wanted to keep out of the wars, but being attacked so viciously by Apple presumably gave them no other option than to play the same game. (Google owns the Android operating system that is used by Motorola, Samsung and many other companies – it competes directly against Apple’s products with over 500,000 new customers per day.) It’s ironic that Samsung makes many parts for the iPad, and Motorola owns many patents pertaining to mobile phone radio technologies.
The latest bit of excitement is that it appears the evidence Apple provided was rather misleading. Unless it was an old stock photo, they appear to have resized a photo of a Galaxy Tablet (which is somewhat longer and narrower than the iPad) in order to make it appear to be identical. They also brought up a sub-screen with icons rather than the default screen to make it look identical to the iPad’s antiquated appearance. See http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/15/apples-evidence-in-european-galaxy-tab-injunction-was-seriously-misleading-as-in-false/ for the juicy bits – or Google for more.
These tablets are likely to be the hot Christmas item this year; so the race is on! Hopefully the prices come down a bit by then too.
Virus activity drops…
Last newsletter I mentioned that there were lots of bugs getting around. So far in August I’ve seen almost no viruses at all. Nice to see a bit of peace again! Microsoft has also released a handy ‘run from a stick’ virus scanner that gets rid of some of the hard-to-kill rootkits. See http://connect.microsoft.com/systemsweeper
Fix it. Fix it with FIRE!
Either this weekend, or some time soon, I am going to attempt to repair a laptop by cooking it.
.. more specifically, by cooking one faulty part to see if I can repair it.
Many newsletters ago I wrote about the nVidia flaw that meant many HP, Apple and other laptops met with untimely deaths. I now have a small collection of these – some really nice ones; and one still belonging to a customer who has given me permission to try out this radical method of repair.
Basically, it involves figuring out how long it takes solder to melt on a coin using a hot air gun, and then to repeat the process by aiming the gun at part of the laptop. Reports are that it works sometimes, and other times destroys the machine. See more about it here: http://hackaday.com/2011/02/24/heat-gun-gpu-reflow-fixes-laptop/ – Hopefully I don’t have an “IT Crowd” moment like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWUmrqVHdaQ&NR=1
Why there are no leaves. (Leafs?)
You might also recall in a previous newsletter, I was surprised when a Hardman Nissan worker said “No Leafs here in 100,000 years” or something like that. Recently the Bluebird took me back there due to a new ailment – see below – and while chatting I asked what was happening with the Nissan Leaf. (An all-electric car with 150km+ range.) Apparently they require three phase power to charge – and as many of you will know; getting the power connected to a new property can be hideously expensive – and getting three phase power connected is often a similar cost – sometimes approaching that of the car itself. Hence, we don’t really see any in Australia sadly. Technically, the batteries are presumably wired in series so the total voltage is over 300 volts, and as a result 240 volts is not enough to charge them directly. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep the ‘bird alive a little longer then…
Popular Internet and Phone Prices.
Here’s a listing of the most likely popular Internet and Mobile plans currently known by myself. All figures are approximate, and town availability is based on likely service quality as well as availability. No guarantee is made to the accuracy of this data, as it is a rough guide only. Install / setup fees may apply. Figures are monthly.
ADSL1 ADSL2 Guyra Armidale
Exetel $34.50/100G $39.50/50GB Yes Yes (Mostly)
6/12 month contract, no excess fees.
$30/50GB No Yes (Mostly)
18 month contract, no excess fees.
Mobile Internet Guyra Armidale
Exetel $25/5GB Yes Not recommended
12 month contract, Massive excess fees. No warning on usage.
TPG $1 + $27.50/GB Yes Not recommended
Telstra $10/1GB Yes Yes No Contract, Massive excess fees. Requires existing phone plan. Warning on Usage.
Mobile Phone (optional internet.)
Mobile Phone Guyra Armidale
TPG $1 + 10c/min Yes Yes Internet $27.50/GB, No Contract
Telstra $50 for 6 hrs Yes Yes Includes 1GB Internet, No Contract, Massive excess fees. No warning on usage.
TPG $20 for 5 hours Yes Yes Or ratio up to 1.5GB offsetting calls, No Contract, Massive excess fees. Warns on usage.
Cheap mobile plan for Exetel ADSL customers.
If you’re an Exetel ADSL customer (and possibly a wireless customer, not confirmed) there are some new mobile phone plans out. In summary, $15 a month for approx. 6 hours talk time + 1.5GB internet, $29 for double that, or $39 for 33 HOURS on the phone plus 5GB. These have to be the cheapest plans around. These use the Optus network. Apparently this offer only lasts until the end of August – although they did say the same thing in July.
The poor thing gets a hammering. 400k a week, stop and start driving, doors opened ten times a day at least. It’s no wonder then that the poor 26 year old gets a few quirks. Not that it doesn’t get pampered with new parts – radiator, carbie, brake cylinders, batteries, bearings, plugs, leads, distributor etc in the last few years 🙂
The most exciting recent quirk was the Magic Roundabout trick. One day driving in the rain at night, I came up to the roundabout at the top of North Hill on the highway – and since I was planning to go straight, I didn’t bother brakeing much. I was then somewhat surprised half way through when the car decided to dart off to the right of its own free will! Naturally I steered out of it, thought “WTF” and carried on. (Cars don’t normally steer harder than you ask – they usually do the opposite.) Anyway, it turned out later that the front left wheel was apparently capable of turning inwards by about 15-20 degrees of its own volition, but in normal driving conditions this wouldn’t happen.
This issue I had resolved by Hardman Nissan replacing some part in the steering rack – although since then she likes to walk from side to side a bit on the gravel so I guess an alignment is in order now.
Of course, not to be outdone it developed another party trick – a gutteral rumble in the back of the vehicle at 50kph. Rather annoying since almost every town has a 50kph limit! Aah well – took it to Ian Inman who replaced three uni joints. The surprising result? No more rumble at 50. Damn thing moved up to 90 instead! (and 70 down hills just for amusement.) To make it even more amusing, the rumble at 90 is close to the resonant frequency of the car and perhaps more surprisingly, the resonant frequency of my digestive system! Hardmans replaced a wheel bearing in an attempt to fix it, but I think they were fooled by the ever-present midget slapping at the axle with a thong sound that lives on the left rear wheel. I’m not sure if I’m proud to say the midget survived the swap.
It was already booked in with Inman again at this time anyway, so I took it back for another go – possibly surprising them by setting up shop in their waiting room with my laptop and tablet catching up on some web design work. (Previous time I kicked back watching Knight Rider episodes on the tablet.) Unfortunately he advised that he couldn’t fix it – at least not without some expense; and he kindly took me out to show me what he believes to be the problem. I must say it’s a strange feeling to be standing under your own car while the wheels go around above your head! It appeared that there was 1 to 2 mm of left-right motion on the rear tail shaft (damn thing has two) as it turned – or in other words it’s no longer balanced.
Now, I’m not sure if I unbalanced it. There was a time about a month ago where I was in a hurry to get to a property on dusk, and while entering the property I didn’t notice one of their home-made speed humps… but I think that was after the rumble had begun anyway – so it remains a mystery. Suffice to say that for the time being I am living with it and considering my options. These include the mythical Hose Clamp trick: http://www.fordmuscleforums.com/galaxie-pages/485681-hose-clamp-method-balancing-driveshaft.html , trying to find a place that balances them, or finding a second hand tail shaft somewhere. Being an ’85 model, that might be a challenge. In the mean time, I just have to avoid doing 90. 100 is fine – but hills get their revenge! The biggest fear is that it could be in the diff. Another midget perhaps???
I’ve been asked by Guyra Rotary to do a 20 minute presentation roughly along the lines of “Technology and The Future” on Wednesday 31st around 7pm at the Guyra Bowling club. I plan to cover in brief topics including Internet TV (iView), 3D printing and Health, tablets and smartphones (hopefully with projector demo), changing face of News, and stuff like that. I think visitors are welcome, but not sure as I’ve never been involved in such a meetup before. If you want to know, let me know and I’ll find out. I’m not affiliated with any charity or religious organisations, but do provide discounts to NFPs.
Well, that’s it for another newsletter. Sorry it’s a bit late! Lots of programming work this last month.
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