[CCC News] Assorted News 6 :)

[CCC News] Assorted News 6 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
Busy Busy Busy!
Equipment-Free VoIP pricing.
Telstra won’t like this!

What’s new on the ‘Net

Scrolling on a Laptop
What are Podcasts?

Flashing and Hitting?
Merc Madness
Old Editions

Busy Busy Busy!

Some of you might have been just a little disappointed with my response times in the last month or so. There’s a few reasons for this!

Black Mountain Taxi?

While my other half’s recovering from an arm operation, I am taking her to work in Armidale and back every weekday. This should finish at the end of this week all being well, but has meant a shortage of free time.

A Dying Friend.

We have a friend in Coffs Harbour who is 87 years old and suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. As a result, I’m traveling to Coffs Harbour each Friday night, returning Sunday night, which knocks out most weekend office repairs, etc. Friends are important!

A Dying Laptop.

My two year old Clevo laptop died 10 days ago. Well, it didn’t actually die, but it has developed a fault where if you pick it up or move it, it freezes. I’ve stripped it down twice in an attempt to resolve the problem, but it appears to be a hairline fracture somewhere on the mainboard. I was always a bit concerned about the Clevo laptop because it lacks a reinforced internal chassis, making it vulnerable to damage through flexing.

I have now purchased a new Toshiba laptop to replace the old Clevo. I did consider a Dell laptop since you get a bigger screen, etc, for the same price; but after some research I found this report ( http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,1186140,00.asp ) from PC Mag US which stated, among other things, only Dell and Compaq have worse-than-average scores in this category; in both cases, about one in four notebooks needed work. Those odds are too high for my liking.

From XP to Vista and Back

Of course, the new laptop came with Vista. I’ve used Vista quite a few times now and it does work OK most of the time. However, it gave me some grief with TrueCrypt, so I ended up reverting to XP. This is a bit of a challenge because XP doesn’t know about new Hard Disk drives, so to install it you have to either find a floppy drive, or make your own XP installation disk with extra drivers built in to it to install it. I may return to Vista later, once the mysterious problems with file transferring, etc, have been resolved.

There’s still a few bugs in the new laptop that need ironing out, but after about 8 hours of working on it, I’ve got it working well enough – well enough to carry on business as usual rather than having to use an old one to remotely access the sick Clevo.

Equipment Free VoIP Pricing

The trial of no-equipment-needed VoIP has gone very well. However, there’s no way for me to directly monetise the service, so from here on I’m introducing a $5 administration fee for each recharge, to help cover the costs in time and paperwork required to proxy the payments. The rates are as follows:

Call any Landline in Australia: 20 cents untimed.
Call any Mobile in Australia: 22 cents per minute, plus 10c connection fee.
Many overseas calls are only 3 cents a minute.

Note: You do not need Internet access to use this prepaid VoIP service. You also incur no cost on your telephone line. Here’s how it works.

It’s a bit like the early days of the telephone, where you picked up the phone and spoke to the operator, and then she called you back when she had found the other line and was ready to connect you! (Funny how old things come back!) Except, instead you dial 82078900 (which comes up engaged) and just hang up. Shortly thereafter your phone rings, and you pick it up. It says ‘You have 9 dollars and 90 cents. Enter the number you want followed by hash key.” Put the number in and it rings the other person.

To simplify the process, simply program 82078900 into a speed dial button.

Telstra won’t like this!

And here’s another handy tip! If you have a NextG or other prepaid mobile phone where the rates are around $1 per minute, you can use the same process, and instead you’ll be paying 22 cents per minute plus either 20c untimed for landlines or 22c per minute to call another mobile. That’s at least half price on your expensive to use mobile! (And Telstra gets none of it, because the exchange called you – – you called the exchange but it was engaged.)

Disclaimer: I am pretty sure that’s how it works, but have not verified 100% as I don’t have access to the last bill here.


DoubleTwist is a new program from DVD John. I’ve not had enough time to play with it, but what it’s meant to do is remove any copy protection (DRM) from any of your music and videos so that you can transfer them from one computer to another, or onto your iPod, MP3 player, etc. (DRM, for example, prevents you from copying your music from one computer to another, etc.) If you’re in a situation where you want to be able to transfer music from one computer or device to another, it might be worth checking out.


Scrolling on a Laptop

Most of you would by now have used a mouse that has a wheel on the top – otherwise known as a scroll mouse. The wheel on the top of the mouse allows you to move long pages (such as this email) up and down on the screen simply by turning the wheel. You soon get quite used to them, and then miss them when they’re not around! Most new laptops allow you to do the same using that trackpad thing which you probably hate. To see if yours can do it, put your finger in the top right corner of the track pad, and then slide your finger towards you. There’s a fair chance the page will move up and down as you move your finger in this area. Some can do left and right as well in a similar fashion.

What are Podcasts?

Podcasts are basically recorded radio shows that you can listen to. The key difference is that you can set your computer to fetch them automatically as they are released. This can be quite handy if you’re a person who has an MP3 player and would like to have your favourite shows put on there automatically. At this stage, unless you have iTunes, you’ll need some software to handle podcasts – for which I recommend Juice. http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/

Here’s a few of my favourite places to find podcasts.

ABC’s shows – http://www.abc.net.au/services/podcasting/

Tech Shows – http://twit.tv/

Merrick and Rosso – http://www.nova969.com.au/music/podcast_BRK.xml

Free Audio Books – http://podiobooks.com/

Unfortunately Podcasts are not quite as straight-forward as they should be, but once set up they are reliable. I am happy to help you set up your computer to automatically copy the podcasts onto your player where it’s possible 🙂 Some of my oldest customers use them! Side note: Not recommended for people on very restrictive download plans.

Reminder: These newsletters have both useful information, and almost pointless banter as well! The useful information is usually placed at the top of the newsletter, and at some point, usually about half way down, it turns into generic chatter. Guess where you are now! 😉

Flashing and Hitting?

Perhaps it’s just because I’m doing more Armidale time than normal, and perhaps it’s because the world is getting faster than the Kingswood, but I’ve noticed two trends in the last month. Once is the number of people who flash their lights at me. Sometimes I actually get to see who it was, and smile and wave back; but often it’s just a friendly hello; or a warning that the police are coming! (Something which doesn’t worry me for reasons you can probably guess!)

The other, slightly more concerning trend, is the number of people who almost end up wearing my tow bar at traffic lights! The Kingswood is a three speed column shift manual, which means two things. 1 – You get up to about 15-20kph in first. 2 – The shift from first to second takes approx. 1.5 to 2 seconds, during which time the car is ‘coasting.’ This surprises people in Automatics who don’t realise that there’ll be this moment of deceleration. I’d put a warning sticker on it, but by the time that was explained on a bumper sticker it’d be too late anyway! Oh well, just hope I’m not classed as at fault if someone does end up with a surprise indent in their plastic grille!

Merc Madness

Have you ever had a “Herbie” moment? I’m referring to the scene in the most recent Herbie movie where “Herbie” is being hoisted in the air, doors flapping, on it’s way to a crusher. Well, here in Coffs where I’m staying at the moment, I envisaged such a scene as the 1961 Merc that has for eight years adorned the outside of the shed here, had been scheduled to be sold for scrap metal. To me it was a bit of a waste for what is a rather unique looking car, looking posh from the front, boring from the side and beetle-like at the back. So, I’ve picked it up for the cost of transportation, and will attempt to stop it from deteriorating further. It’s not a car of great value to restore, but for some reason cleaning up old cars is for me an enjoyable passtime when not hands-deep into computer repairs. For those curious – it’s a 190b, and I’ll document the process at http://picasaweb.google.com.au/CCCMikey/Merc

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