[ccc-news] Assorted News 9 :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 9 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
Reminder: End of AVG 7.5
HP / Compaq laptop fault (HP DV series, Presario V series)


VoIP Maturing.
The Odd Jobs of the last month.
Petrol Prices
Ubuntu / Unix / Linux

Reminder: End of AVG 7.5 in 6 days.

Just a quick reminder for those of you using the old AVG that you need to upgrade to the new free version in the next few days.

You can get it from http://free.grisoft.com/ww.download?prd=afe

If you want to try a different free virus scanner instead, there is another one called Avast – free from http://www.avast.com/ – but don’t forget to uninstall your current virus scanner before installing one of these since computers with two or more virus scanners often crash.

HP / Compaq Laptop Fault.

HP has made a number of laptops that are suicidal. It appears they have set them up with insufficient cooling and so they barbecue themselves to death. (No fire hazard, just a somewhat diminished lifespan.) I’ve seen a couple of laptops fail from this already in the last two months. The update causes the fan in the laptop to run for a longer time to prevent an early death.

If you have an HP laptop, look for the model number – usually on the top right corner of the screen. If it says dv-2000, dv-6000, dv-9000 or similar, you might be affected. The actual model number is underneath – so check it against the list on http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01087277&lc=en&cc=us to see if you need to update the laptop.

This issue also affects Compaq V series laptops (V3000/V6000)

It’s really hard to know what’s a good laptop these days! Every brand has it’s good and bad runs. Toshiba had a bad run in 2005-06 with some laptops, HP has had issues like this, Dell has had issues. Ironically, the laptop I’ve seen with the least issues of late are the cheapest $600 Acers!

Email2Fax, Fax2Email

Faxes are slowly dying out. There are a number of services on the Internet which offer to replace your fax machine and more importantly your fax line. If you’re an Exetel customer you can get this service already. UTBox is another company that offers a similar service, but quite expensive compared to Exetel. (http://www.utbox.net/)

It works in two ways:

– Email to Fax: In this case you simply email whatever you want to fax to faxnumber@fax.exemail.com.au and put your password in the subject line. It costs 3 cents per fax (up to 10 pages) anywhere in Australia.

– Fax to Email: In this case, you pay $1 per month for a dedicated fax number, and any fax sent to that number is delivered to you via email. The only issue here is that the fax number you get is going to be a Sydney / Brisbane / Adelaide or similar number, not a local regional number.

Of course, if you want to fax something that’s on a sheet of paper, it’s hard to beat an old fashioned fax machine. You can still use it on your main phone line to send such faxes, or use your fax’s ‘scan for email’ function instead.

If you’re a business user, if your accounting software has an option to email accounts, and you can get the subject line to stay the same on emails, then you could use this service to add fax capability to your existing software.

Sorry – this newsletter’s a bit short on content, but I wanted to get the HP notice out to you so those affected can get your laptops fixed before they die on you! The remainder of the newsletter is the ‘rambling’ section 🙂

VoIP Maturing

After much trial and error with different equipment, I’m now reasonably satisfied that I’ve found some reliable combinations of VoIP providers and equipment. A $125 integrated ADSL VoIP modem with Exetel or MyNetFone WhirlPool Saver is the way to go. I am doing discounted exchange / upgrades for some clients with older equipment that is not performing as it should.

The Odd Jobs of the last Month

Super Slow Laptop

I’ve actually had three of these this month. The symptom is that it takes your computer literally 1 minute to do the most basic thing. Click Start. Wait a minute. Start menu appears. Some have reported that it only happens when their internet is connected. Turns out it’s an unexplained occurence of the Windows Update service breaking down. If your computer suddenly develops this issue, try clicking start, choosing run, and typing in ‘net stop wuauserv’ and pressing enter. If your computer is suddenly happy again, you’ve got the glitch – which incidentally is easy to fix but involves deleting a few files so get in touch if you need a hand.

Where’s the Black?

The printers seem to be breeding in the office! I’ve had three printer repairs this month where the black simply stopped working. This usually happens with bad cheap inks – especially pigment inks. Fortunately I have some specialised cleaning equipment that has a moderate success rate. They’re frustrating buggers to fix at times ‘tho – typically you get one colour sorted and another one buggers off!

The Accounting Dilemma.

I know a lot about computers. I know somewhat less about accounting software although I have done a course in both. What I do know is if you have a problem with your MYOB or QuickBooks, they want to charge you through the nose for help. In one job I tried to help a customer move from a very old QuickBooks version to a new one, and after a few hours we had to give up since neither us nor Quicken could work out how to get the old info into the new version. (It didn’t like provisional tax, etc.) Fortunately they didn’t charge us for their time although they did sell us an upgrade we later found we didn’t need.

Later, another customer job took almost 6 hours of experimenting to try to migrate from one system to another while selectively retaining information. It’s always a bit of a dilemma to me when these sort of jobs come around – because you have in your mind that if you knew the system well, the answer might be simple; but finding someone who might know those answers (and might not) is prohibitively expensive and the customer has asked you to see if you can work it out instead. Generally I don’t charge the full time on these, since it’s an involuntary learning experience.

My preferred answer, of course, is to get the customer to deregister from GST and / or use the free tax office software E-Record instead since it doesn’t have all this licensing, closed system rubbish that comes with these unwieldy accounting programs – but of course that doesn’t suit many of these customers because of their requirements.

(I was particularly surprised one time when a customer had a friend get them started with MYOB, setting up the information on her own computer, and later giving it to said customer when they were ready for it – only a few months later to be told by MYOB that they have to pay a fee to get the license of the data file transferred because the data file (not the damn program!) belonged to the customer’s friend and not the customer. It didn’t matter to them that the customer had bought their own copy of the program.)

Schni schna schnappi schnappi schnappi schnapp

I wonder how many of you remember that viral song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izibSMAQhEY – A young girl sang it in the radio in Germany and for a little while there it was one of those worldwide internet / radio phenomena.

I mention it here as a segway to the next story. A customer called to say their kids had snapped their screen half off their laptop. (In this case, an ASUS laptop.) Laptop hinges are quite prone to failure as they get older – either through screws getting loose in the hinge area, or through the hinges tightening to the point that they cause the plastic to break instead. In this case, the kids weren’t entirely to blame even tho it appears they did drop it. Some of the screws had come loose and the remaining screw holding a nut into the plastic casing broke away from the plastic, causing the screen to come away from the laptop. A couple of small modifications later and it was back together albeit not quite a strong as before.

The said kid who dropped it was pleased to have me back up her story that she hadn’t been overly rough with it!

So, if your laptop had developed a wobble in the screen – feels a bit loose – it might be a good idea to either tighten the screws yourself (which are usually hidden under rubber covers) or get someone to do that for you 😉

Petrol Prices

I often read about why Petrol prices keep going up. There seem to be two arguments at this time. Some claim it’s Peak Oil (where they can’t find and extract enough oil to cover the demand, so prices rise) while others are claiming it’s Futures Speculation by Hedge Funds. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JE24Dj02.html is the last item I read to this effect. If it is the latter, then we’re probably going to be happy soon when they over-gamble (or whatever it is that these people do – I’m not knowledgeable about this stuff yet) and their system crashes bringing the price down with it. If it really is Peak Oil instead, then I guess it’s never going to come down. So, I’ve been thinking to myself at what point does this really worry me, and at this stage I think $3 per litre is the point where I’d start to look at alternative means – or at least have to increase the minimum callout rate.

How about an electric car?

If I had the $10,000 to $15,000 to spare I’d be converting either the spare Nissan Bluebird or the Merc 190b to electric. It’s such an easy thing to do once you have the parts – as you can see by watching the New Zealand series at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83_Zig2vZlQ&feature=related – and the 70 mile per charge maximum range would suit most of my days, with about $1 of electricity max to recharge – somewhat less with offpeak. (Besides, it’d just be fun to do.)

Unfortunately my disposable income budget doesn’t stretch that far (yet) so how about…

An electric bike?

I recently bought for $120 a 200 watt electric scooter just for a bit of fun and to see how they’re made – because I can use most of the parts anyway if it turned out to be cr*p. It will run 8km on a charge in the hilly Black Mountain terrain and could easily be upgraded to go further – but it’s not entirely practical for on road use out here, and of course I later found out that they’re illegal in every state except Victoria – so now it’s only used for exercising the dog.

It is, however, legal to put an electric motor on a bicycle, although the Australian laws are somewhat backward in this regard only allowing 200 Watts ass opposed to the UK 300 Watt limit and the US 750 Watt limit. As those of you in Guyra have probably seen, you can get away with putting a petrol motor on a bicycle at higher power levels than that legally – so the disparity is unfair and certainly doesn’t encourage green electric transport on this scale. (I might have to learn how to get political on this one – any tips? The Tory party in the UK is working on changing the laws there since they, like Australia, currently also ban Segways.) Nonetheless there are a few legal low-powered kits available but with a starting retail price of $1,000 they’re not exactly cheap. I don’t mind peddling, and ran my business for a few years on abicycle in Bourke where hills were a novelty; but hills here are a bit of a pain 😉

There are of course other more common options with price tags to match – from Vectrix scooters to the Tesla Roadster. For now the Kingswood’s still the roost ruler, although the scooter may yet be ‘grafted’ onto the bike one weekend!

Ubuntu / Unix / Linux

You might have heard of one of these at some point. They’re usually mentioned by ‘geeks’ as a way of getting rid of Microsoft.

I’ve tried a few out of curiosity, and they are certainly improving. Basically instead of running Windows XP or Windows Vista, you run something else that is free, and does the same things as Windows does without all the licensing costs. The latest Ubuntu can also be installed in Windows without having to wipe your hard disk etc so you can try it without risking stuffing up your computer.

I have it running on my laptop so if you’re curious to see what this third option (as opposed to Windows and Mac) looks like, I can give you a demo.

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