Sunday, 30 May 2010

phone bills: relief from Australian overcharging

back when we were in Finland one of the things we were definitely not looking forward to when we came back to Australia was the "rapes" (you can not call these charges rates) that mobile phone providers stick you with.

After being DNA customers in Finland where our mobile calls were between 3c and 7c per minute (my wife and I were using different plans) with per second billing and no additional "get-into-my-wallet" farcical charges like "call connection fees" we were definitely not welcoming a return to 38c call connection + 38c per 30 seconds (yes, that's right 78c per minute) and so called "caps" which defy all the reasonable and linguistic definition of a cap.
a brief aside: in 2006, when I was on Telstra prepaidpus I was able to call Finland from Australia for 66c per minute while the call costs within Australia were 76c per minute. I found it absurd that international GSM calls were cheaper by 10c per minute than local calls. In fact as at today its cheaper to call the UK from Australia on your Telstra Prepaid than to call locally within Australia ...

As a VOIP user back in Australia (for my landline) I was suggested to look at PennyTel by a friend (I normally use WorldDialPoint for my home voip) who noticed that they have a SIM mobile phone service which is carried by Optus.

This SIM for my phone (has to be an unlocked phone) is 16c per minute with a 8c call connect. So far its been quite good with the only possible gripe being that the billing takes about 5 working days to appear on my web portal.

This means that a 1 minute call is 24c vs $1.14

Simple, no cunning advertising speak such as "caps" (which aren't) "my time" or other wank to distract you. Just good prices.

But it gets better ... the company offers accessing their internal VOIP system, meaning that I can get at VOIP phone call rates from my mobile ... for instance:


yes, that's a 2 minute 51 second call to an Australian land line costing 4.5 cents and a 40 minute call to a colleague in China's mobile for 58 cents

Since GSM phones (and even 3G) digitize the voice anyway (at the handset) the data stream goes nicely onto Optus's backbone it fits nicely to be shunted off to the VOIP providers existing infrastructure. Better yet, you (or in this case I) did not need to invest in anything more than I already had ... my GSM (Nokia) handset! No Netgear SIP to configure!


So far I've only mucked with the entry plans (because they cost less for a low volume user ;-) and have found that in the Free Access (no monthly fee, nothing included pay as you go) has two type:
*per second billing
*fixed fee 8c to Australian landlines per second billing to other destinations

Having tried both, I've gone with the per second billing one as I found that the call quality is slightly better than the 8c flat fee (after all, you are paying per second). As you can see above its working out cheaper for me too, as I don't normally make long calls anyway. So a 4.5 cent fee for a nearly 3 minute call from my mobile is pretty darn good if you ask me.

To get at these really cheap rates one has to use a WWW interface (or your iPhone) to pre-configure some "smart dial" numbers ... these are essentially an internal PennyTel number which connects to a "normal" phone number. You go to the WWW site, click on make a new smart dial number; it gives me a number to use and I give it the number to call. I put that number into my phone's memory and dial that when I want to call my friend / associate.

I only use this for my frequently dialed numbers (like my Dad, a few friends) and also only for land lines or international numbers. All the rest I just call them ... it is diminishing returns to go to the hassle of the WWW interface for a number I will only call once or twice ... I'd rather just call it. After all I want this service to continue, so I'm happy to pay something to keep it going.

Good one PennyTel.

So, in my personal spirit of working with assisting the "invisible hand" of the free market I'm mentioning what I think is a good deal. I do not onsell this product, so don't call me, contact them!


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

magnetic fields

back on the 15th I was up "north" visiting a friend for a wedding (naturally I seemed to be sucked into that as photographer). I took some with digital and some with 35mm film. I had the 35mm film scanned by Photocontinental who uses a Noritsu scanner (expect to see comparisons and details on that soon).

However in the evening while I was downloading the digital images of the day onto my laptop my computer started reporting all manner of errors; Adobe can't find this font, C:\blah\blah is missing ... the list goes on

Quickly I realised that my computer had been sat inadvertently on the subwoofer of a logitec 5.1 system and went "oh shit"

On shutting down and restarting I was presented with the black screen of no motion and a disk that would not boot.

I restored a "snapshot" (quick plug for driveSnapshot which has saved my bacon on many occasions) and all seemed well ... for a few days, then errors started to creep back in and the computer would not boot properly.

I tried re-partitioning the drive; formatting running Chkdsk and then restoring a snapshot ... but still no go after a short while (few days) the error returned.

I have no way of knowing how to do a "low level format" as we once did with the tools available to us such as "Norton Utilities" or "PC Tools" so with the underlying format seemingly somehow compromised I have decided to cough up for a new drive ... this one was only 4 months old!

I am unable to find reliable information on the WWW about the effects of magnetic fields on hard disks, but if this situation is not a coincidence then it does suggest that the platter has been degaussed by the operation of the drive in close proximity to the strong magnet of the subwoofer.

I've no way to test the drive (say, check for analog signal to noise ratio on the sector reads) but if anyone knows I'd love to re-establish that disk as usable.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Greece and the EU

Read this morning that Greece is protesting about their fuck up of their affairs and that they are somehow expected to be responsible for their own mismanagement.

The article suggests that they are now hoarding gold coins amid "... fears that Greece may leave the euro zone. "

I'm guessing that the fears are amid the Greek citizens.

Protests are including burning the EU flag.

Source AFP

Well if Greeks are protesting that the EU has done them harm I'd suggest they look carefully at the balance sheets of money in vs money out of their country from the EU.

... but then that probably wouldn't work, they don't seem to be good with finance anyway.

I guess that very few of the the EU nations will be weeping about them pulling out.

Monday, 24 May 2010

blatant sexism?

One of the things I don't like in the IT industry is the sexism which exists. Strangely however it seems to be inverse sexism in my experience. Without doubt there is a pro-female gender bias in the Govt and big business arena within Australia. They want to get "equality" of workforce when there is not an equal number of men VS women graduating from uni / applying for jobs in IT.

Looking for work recently on a major Australian employment site I came across this gem example ...


Hmmm ... FEMALE PIONEERS ... start being one? So, should I go for a gender change?

What if I don't want to be a female pioneer, but a male one?

According to the text IBM says they don't focus on gender ... perhaps it was just the ad agency and noone read the ad copy ...


Backyard spiders

One of the things I find interesting about my home is the amount of neat garden spiders we have. This one seems to love living in my frangipanni tree.

Just for some sense of scale to this image the ends of the branch there are about 3cm thick, so its a fat blobby spider.

I've had a similar species of spider living in my garden in the bougainvillea for some time. That spider looks very very similar but has different markings, so I don't know if this means that the spider is a sub-species or simply changes its exterior colourings and hairs to match.

btw ... never plant bougainvillea if you can avoid it ... nasty climbing weed with horrible thorns.

Back to the spider, the web stretches a few meters across my back garden.

if you don't see it there, then in the zoom in on that image below it should appear a little clearer (use the background to place the location).

Sunday, 9 May 2010

fiddler in the post: a serious violation of trust

In the developed world we entrust much to others. Over centuries we have built up a system of agencies which provide services and act for us which works only because they are trusted by the community.

The postal system is exactly one such thing. In this blog article I examine how what appears to be just rough postal handling is perhaps a disguise for the opening and pilfering of contents of my packages. The evidence is quite compelling. Naturally I am also taking this up with Australia Post and I will post updates of this as they come to hand. This blog post also serves for me to document my experiences while the memory is fresh and I am certain of what I found.

When I left Finland I posted back to my home many boxes of stuff, as a quick cost analysis showed that without "connections" in shipping it was economic (if still expensive) to use the postal system.

I packed all items well, wrapping most extensively in bubble wrap and some in camping mattress foam then bubble wrap.

When the first of my boxes arrived I was quite shocked to see how badly they had traveled. For example:


I was quite saddened that my boxes were carried so badly and at the same time worried about what else (more fragile) would be destroyed (such as our wedding champagne flutes, which were indeed destroyed).

Of course these boxes have come an uncertain route from Finland to Australia, so I could not have been certain as to exactly where the rough handling happened, but clearly this box was patched up by Australia Post.

I was at first thinking that some Aust Post worker had found the box gaping or torn and had patched it for me ... for which I was grateful.

However as I unpacked one of the more beaten examples I discovered this:

If you can't for some reason watch that video, I have found another postal item packed inside my item.

and here is that postal item in a little more detail.


Exactly how does an item posted from Finland back in early April end up containing an item that was posted in Ipswich Auatralia in late April?

Its also interesting that the other persons package was also opened and did not contain his contents (it contained some other items).

So at this point we have:
  • at least this package of mine opened unofficially and searched as well as having items it contained destroyed (and perhaps something missing, we are still assessing this)
  • another party's postal item, from Ipswich, opened unofficially and his items stolen
  • the items of yet another (third) persons materials poked into the tube of the above mentioned party from Ipswich.
Its interesting to note that the postal date on that item would seem to be the 28th of April and this box was made available to me at my post box on the 8th of May. So clearly at least that item (if not the box) had been sitting around in a postal center (while the fiddler got a chance to fiddle in private) since around then.

The sender of the postal tube tells me he sent this from Ipswich and the destination was Nerang.

So now I'm quite confident that the damage occurred in Australia. In fact some of the barcodes placed on the item for tracking in Australia (at point of entry in Melbourne) were so scuffed and abraded that the postal worker at my post office was unable to read them with his bar code scanner. As all of the boxes are like this its further evidence that the bashing took place in Australia.

However I suspect strongly that the damage was deliberate, done to mask what would be obvious signs of intrusion and searching on otherwise well presented boxes. I know that I packed things in these boxes carefully and used the shapes of objects to make a nice tight jigsaw puzzle holding the interior together.

This also allows a bit of cross referencing of the likely points of meeting of the two items and as I'm in Brisbane, it must be around this area where the fiddler is.

After the shock of this revaluation I began examining my other boxes more carefully. This box (which I had re-sealed to allow me to carry it)


With the light of the above revelations I noticed that this box shows a very tidy hand hole in the box to allow someone to grope around inside the box.

There is an interesting "fold" in the box there, indicating its been dropped heavily on that end. I don't believe this hole is anything other than man made.

Now sadly since this occurrence I've been doing some Google searching and I find that this is not a rare or unique occurrence.

Further (unlike one cockheads reply to this youtube post) this is neither something we should learn to live with or something we should tolerate. It is infact a criminal offense with a 5 year jail term.

Compared to the postal service of Finland the Australia post service is pathetic. In Finland any damage or resealing is identified on the post item and even where it happened is notice. They seem to offer a trustworthy and honest service.

Now Australians would be quick to ridicule third world ex-soviet and developing countries as being exactly the sort of places you would not want to send anything by post which was valuable or delicate because "you could be sure it will be pilfered" along the way.

Well it is seeming to me that Australia is now falling into that category. A quick Google on this topic will show many many more issues.

Folks, this is rapidly heading to be something which I feel warrants as much of an enquiry as the corruption in the Police has warranted.

More to follow...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

in visible silence

just thought I'd post something to say that due to me being in the midst of house renovations / just having moved back into the country and having all or most of my gear still enroute to here from OS posting to the blog is on the scant side at the moment

So, we've gone from this:

to this

which includes walks on the beach, BBQ's and generally good weather ... which makes up for the renovations and hard work around the house. For me at least life is good.

So, when I get more time, expect to see some more stuff taken with this