Internet Access, NBN

Looking for NBN fixed wireless in JEPARIT, RAINBOW or DIMBOOLAH?

You’ve come to the right place! I am the town’s only local reseller of internet services, and as a local, I understand the needs of Wimmera-Malley residents. I also have an extensive history in the ISP and IT industry so I understand this technology and I can help you find the best solution for your needs. What’s more, connections to the NBN are available RIGHT NOW! That’s right, there is no more waiting – you can be connected to the NBN really soon, so get your application in before the rush and before the dates blow out!

I am our only authorised reseller for Aussie Broadband Pty Ltd, a company that specialises in proving the best quality and performance regional network to Fixed Wireless NBN users.

The NBN itself is great infrastructure, but don’t compromise it by choosing a second rate ISP. Aussie Broadband don’t offer any unlimited plans because these simply attract the network “leeches” that grind ANY network no matter how good to it’s knees. As appealing as that term may be, with internet it is universally a recipe for slow performance and delays. Aussie Broadband prefer to offer generous data allowances for great prices so that they can maintain a healthy “contention ratio”. That simply means their pipes never get so full that they slow down. You don’t experience those peaks and off peaks that are so obvious with some providers.

We don’t penalise you if you don’t want to take the phone as part of the package, but we offer you a genuine reason why you might want to do so, such as free local and national calls included in the monthly cost!  Check out this link for some plan information: https://www.aussiebroadband.com.au/wireless/plans-and-pricing/

If you want to know more about getting the NBN hooked up quick smart into your home or business, all you have to do is call or email me. My phone number is: 03 5397 2280. My mobile is: John Edmondson – 0412 52 1701 or email me: maximumwarpATgmail.com

Internet Access, NBN

How I found the right NBN service provider for me…

I live in the small country town of Jeparit in North Western Victoria. It’s in a location that until now the technological world forgot. It was a shock when I moved here from Melbourne. I was used to accessing the internet via cable with 100 Mbps down 2 Mbps up, although with cable speeds because that bandwidth was shared across the node, the speed could vary – considerably. But still – it was always considerably faster than what awaited me here in Jeparit. You see, I couldn’t even GET a connection! All that officially existed – were it available – was ADSL1 which offered a trifling 8000 Kbps down and 384 Kbps up! Sadly even that was not on offer as there were 0 ports available and it stayed that way from before that way until now. I have only been able to access the net through the kindness of my dear neighbours who had a much larger plan than they actually used and kindly offered to share it with me via WiFi.

So, believe me when I say that Monday 16 June 2015 can’t come quickly enough for me. That’s the day I get connected to the infamous NBN fixed wireless through Aussie Broadband Pty Ltd, and thanks to them, I’ll have a staggering 1TB to enjoy the huge speed with, thanks to a special Double your Data bonus for the first 6 months! What speed you may ask? 50 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up, once I’m switched over to the NBN trial speeds which Aussie Broadband charge no extra for, unlike many providers. My initial speed will still be a not inconsiderable 25 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up. The upload speed is still far more than anything I have ever had before, but this kind of technology should also produce outstanding ping times.

I have done a huge amount of research on forums such as http://www.whirlpool.com.au finding out what other users think of Aussie Broadband (as well as all their opposition) and they came out on the top of the heap. Even one of the reps for another ISP on Whirlpool recommended Aussie Broadband above and beyond his own company to me! In the end, I was so sold I decided to become a reseller for them. I company that has such high standards of excellence and offers such good value should all but sell itself.  Anyone who knows me would know that I can only sell something I believe in. Then I am an excellent salesman – if I am truly sold on the product and/or service for myself.

Admittedly, my experience of and with Aussie Broadband is restricted to dealing with their sales and management and also from researching other’s reports – in other words, say so. My own direct experience starts next Monday, and I promise to update this blog regularly with performance analysis and my general impressions once I have been connected, but for right now I believe that there is no better network to chose from.

If you wish to be connected to Aussie Broadband too, get in before the rush! Contact me, John Edmondson of Edmondson Services Pty Ltd, Authorised Resellers for Aussie Broadband directly on 0412 52 1701 and I’ll get you connected right away. If you do elect to call Aussie Broadband direct, then ask for Denise and tell her I sent you.

Motoring

Tips for New Car Buyers – Finding The Right Car

Buying a new car in this day an age can be a bewildering experience. We are spoilt for choice. Never before has there been so many cars to chose from from so many manufacturers, and at such keen prices. Globalization has seen a huge increase in the efficiencies of scale.

Manufacturers are now forced to collaborate with other manufacturers to increase the scale and numbers they produce to reduce costs and make their product viable, and this pays off in the end to the consumer. Knowing precisely what you are getting is not so easy anymore though. Who made it and where it came from is not so simple as it once was. It used to be easy.

If you bought a car from a Japanese car company, you were usually getting a car made in Japan, except for certain well known cases, such as the Toyota models Australians all knew were being made locally, for example. Today, it is nowhere near that simple – not even with premium brands like German brands such as Volkswagen or even higher up the tree. That is just the manufacturing of the car.

Design is also being globalized as well. Korean cars are not necessarily all designed completely in Korea as one might assume. They have design studios in many different countries, including the US. Kia and Hyundai for instance have as their chief designer officer Peter Schreyer, formerly of Audi fame. I am sure you have noticed the design changes in the latest generations of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

Seeing I mentioned Audi, many of their vehicles run Volkswagen parts which is hardly surprising seeing they are part of the Volkswagen group. If you are a canny Audi owner you can often buy the identical part for your Audi for much less money (not that it is ever cheap, mind) by buying the part through VW instead.

You pay a loading just for the privilege of the name! Come to think of it, in Australia there is quite a premium to be paid on the VW name more so than elsewhere in the world, and in my opinion, there shouldn’t be. I am talking about things like hourly rates charged by VW mechanics, especially those at franchised dealers.

I am pleased to see that VW have finally addressed some of these concerns with fixed price servicing, but remember that these only cover you for the first few years of car ownership. After that, which is when the services get really expensive, you are back to the normal labour and parts rates!

Given all the negative press Volkswagen have been receiving for reliability and running cost issues of late, it is no surprise that they are addressing these issues with things like the fixed price servicing, but you would still have to be very careful at the moment to be buying one in my opinion, even though they are an excellent drive. Working out the right car for you is always a matter of finding the right compromise. It is all about balance.

Sure, there is always going to be a subjective element. You have to love the way the car looks and feels and smells, but you must never let those things become the primary reason why you buy a car. Choose based on objective criteria and hopefully, the other things will match as well. Only discount the logical choice if your subjective side really has a strong negative reaction to the logical choice.

I have bought some cars in my time that initially I thought were ugly, but they turned out to be such wonderful cars, that my perception of their appearance changed in my mind, and what I initially perceived as ugliness I later perceived as character and personality. A good example of that would be the Peugeot 504 which struck me as ugly at the time I first saw one, but rapidly grew on me as I came to love it.

They had an abundance of character and personality which when combined with ample dynamic ability, which for their day was streets ahead of the competition and was so terribly endearing. When buying a new car, I suggest you be mindful of a few things. Today’s cars are considerably more sophisticated than cars of even a decade ago.

That much should be obvious to all. The highly integrated electronics and modular design give us tremendous features and safety, but beware of when they finally go wrong. Make no mistake – no matter what your car, they won’t be cheap to fix. Even in the case of more reliable cars, you can begin to expect to see more major electrical items needing attention from about the eight years of age mark on average, and it could be much sooner for less reliable or not well maintained or cared for vehicles.

My advice to you is that if you buy new, buy a car with the longest possible manufacturer’s warranty and then rotate the car every 3 years or 60,000 km’s approx, whichever comes first. This is usually considered with most cars to be the sweet spot for resale value. Any sooner or later and you loose too much. This is about the ideal time.

You will have had the peace of mind of being fully covered by warranty, so will only have had to pay for routine servicing and consumables like tyres etc and your gap to a new car with the latest safety equipment and technology will be relatively low. Someone else will take over your car before any risk and major expense can be incurred by you.

That is wise ownership. Instead, what you would have spent on your old car goes back into keeping you in a brand new car, and the cycle continues. It does mean you need to be mindful of resale values when you buy your car, including your colour selection. Try not to hold on to your car long term if at all possible. I know it isn’t always possible, but if you can do this, you will save money in the long run.

Diesel or Petrol? That is a question I often get asked. I used to be a much bigger fan of diesels than I am today. The latest generation of diesels drive far better than they ever have because car manufacturers have managed to extract significantly greater power out of them, but this power comes at a cost – reliability and complexity. Most modern car diesel engines are relatively small capacity with high boost common rail turbo chargers. They are very fuel efficient, but they are highly stressed engines compared to diesel engines of old.

This is also true to some extent to the small petrol turbo “eco” engines that are all the rage now. They have ultra high compression ratios with high boost turbos to help produce the power of a larger engine while still achieving the economy of a small engine. The only question remains is for how long? How long will they last? At least petrol engines are relatively cheap to rebuild, but diesel engines are anything but!

You do not want to own a modern diesel engine that needs a rebuild, believe me! After talking to expert automotive technicians, I have serious reservations about how well many of these smaller turbo diesel engines hold up under Australian conditions with our fuel irregularities (our diesel is not as pure as Europe it seems, despite supposedly being the same specification) and temperature extremes. That is to say nothing of our much harsher road conditions.

Also, many people are buying diesels without an appropriate usage case for them. Unless you are doing extensive country distances, or possibly towing heavy loads they really aren’t justified. There is not a great economy saving to be had especially when you factor in the additional cost you must pay to buy one when it is used around town.

In my next article, I am going to deal with the negotiation for the car now you know (hopefully) what you want to buy. Believe me, there are many tricks to this that dealers employ. You need to be on the look out for them, so if you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter so you know when I publish it. As always, feel free to comment or ask any questions by using the comments field or email me directly from the contact form privately.

Motoring

Who Killed Ford Manufacturing in Australia?

Ford Falcon XR6I just read a fascinating article on a website in which the author, Julian Edgar of website autospeed.com discusses the role of journalists in the demise of Ford manufacturing in Australia.

He suggests that had the motoring reviewers been more critical of the FG Falcon upon release that Ford may have gone back to the drawing board and that the industry may have been saved.

You can check out his article here (http://www.autospeed.com/cms/article.html?&A=113004), and in fact, I recommend you do so as I do believe that journalists did play a role in the demise of Ford manufacturing in Australia, but not for the reasons Julian proposes. I find myself disagreeing with his conclusions about the Falcon completely.

I do agree that the majority of buyers today have bought the perception largely proposed by the motoring press that they should be buying more responsible cars like Mazda3’s and Toyota Prius’s but I question their suitability for Australia for many families and indeed their overall running costs. This comment may raise your eyebrows more than a little as there can be no argument that a Mazda3 or Prius uses less fuel than a Falcon, right?

Actually, the difference in fuel consumption can be much closer than you think, especially if you choose the excellent EcoLPI (Liquid Injected LPG system that Ford released that actually produces more power while reducing emissions considerably) or the EcoBoost 4 cylinder. But the focus on fuel efficiency often overlooks the other significant running costs in operating a car, such as maintenance (servicing costs) which are substantially cheaper on the larger rear wheel drive locally produced cars such as Falcons and Commodores.

Parts are also notably cheaper. This is reflected in insurance costs which are less for Falcons than for most small front wheel drive cars. I find it ironic that at a time when the Falcon and Commodore are among the best driving cars in the world and hold their own against European cars for driving dynamics that we have been abandoning them in droves. When they used to be substantially inferior to many European counterparts, we were so loyal to them that we would not consider anything else even though there were much better options at the time.

What has changed? I think there are a variety of factors. One is that there is there is the green factor and we want to be seen to be doing our part. The other is that we do have a great deal more choice now, thanks to the free trade agreements with Thailand which allow imports into Australia at very cheap prices. Every manufacturer has been taking advantage of this now, no matter where they are based as production is so cheap in that region of the world.

It is almost impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete with that no matter what products they produce. The sad reality is that the demise of Ford manufacturing is also killing a wonderful car that was specifically designed for our market. The days of cars designed that way are long gone in the new age of globalization. The new reality of production means you can no longer make a car that way – it simply isn’t cost effective to produce a car made to suit a local market.

The best you can hope for is to tweak a global platform in small ways to suit a local market but not the type of thing we had in the Falcon and Commodore. In my opinion, this is why there is few cars that hold a candle to them on the open road, especially rough Australian outback roads. Julian Edgar in his article sites the Falcon as meeting its demise partly because of poor fuel economy. I believe that was once true but it is largely a misconception today.

Interestingly, in my experience, a 6 cylinder LPG Falcon with a ZF 6 speed auto cruises so economically and quietly even with a full load of passengers and luggage, I don’t think even a small 4 cylinder hatchback could come close. At 100 km/hr I average around 7 l/100 km and that is in a BF Mk II, not the more recent FG Mk II which is more efficient again. It is only around town, in stop start traffic that the large 6 cylinders use more fuel.

Going back to Julian’s article, his suggestion that all the motoring press got it wrong when they said the FG Falcon was better in every way and was an excellent car was in my opinion, plain wrong. The FG is an excellent car, even by global standards. If you think the press got it wrong, drive one. The interior is starting to show it’s age a little now, but to drive it, it’s wonderful. It is just a car that has lost the marketing war. It is a great car for the wrong time, sadly.

Ford Australia haven’t been helped by the fact that Australians have had a brand perception problem with Ford in comparison with Holden. For many years, nothing Ford has done has worked at any class level to gain much attention. Cars that in any other part of the world sell like hotcakes have not been anything like as successful here.

Some blame poor marketing but it seems to me that many Australians treat car brands like football teams, and the great Holden versus Ford debate is infamous in its history, with Holden being the most popular with street cred by far it seems.

In my opinion, to base a decision on which car you buy on this kind of criteria is ridiculous! I prefer to support the local product if at all possible, but you should reward the company that makes the best possible product that does the job that your money can purchase, and not make the decision on any non objective criteria.

I would not hesitate to buy a Holden if it turns out their car is superior as they will deserve to be rewarded with my business for producing the best, and likewise, if I don’t do so, what incentive is there for the manufacturer to produce the best if I am going to give them my business out of blind loyalty anyway?

Keep blind loyalty to your sporting team, and use your reason when buying cars! When I used to help people buy cars and had my business as a car broker as well as spent years in the car sales industry prior to that, I found much to my surprise that men thought they were the masters with cars and indeed, they did know more technically, but they knew only enough to get themselves into more trouble. Women listened and ultimately were more objective and more able to be helped! Sorry to offend you, fella’s!

If you want to regain the high ground, be prepared to listen and learn from others and don’t let your ego get in the way and close your mind and think you know it all. Be objective. Ask yourself if you are being objective or subjective. Back to the point though – it ultimately is up to us if we have a local car industry. I would not hesitate to buy another locally produced car, including a local Ford, Holden or Toyota. Don’t swallow the line that small always equals cheap to run. It doesn’t. You may not save yourself anything at all in the long run.

What is the cheapest car I have ever had for total running costs? By far and away, it is my current Ford Falcon BBF Mk II EuroSport (LPG). The Falcon is one of the very few cars which takes to LPG so well and does high kays on it without modification and the proof of that is the countless taxis running around with literally millions of kays on them. It doesn’t break down, so it is also my most reliable car ever. It is also a pleasure to drive. So it was with some sadness I saw the announcement and loss of all those jobs at Ford Australia.

I would not hesitate to buy another Falcon, despite the announcement.  I suspect there will be some bargains to be had in the days to come and it will help keep the workers in jobs until 2016. There will be the all new Falcon next year too which has been promised and committed too as well. One more Falcon to go. I hope they send it out with a bang and not a whimper so they can say it was truly the best Aussie car ever produced. Right now, it appears that cap, according to the press belongs to the VF Commodore.

I certainly wouldn’t encourage you to buy a large family car if you don’t need one, but don’t dismiss them out of hand and buy the lie that they are substantially more expensive to run. Look at the big picture, including servicing, parts, insurance, safety and comfort and make the right compromise to suit you.

Try talking to a decent independent mechanic to get your advice before you make your next decision about buying a car. A good independent, highly trained specialist team like the guys at Warragul Automotive (http://www.warragulautomotive.com.au) are the type of people who can give you advice you can rely on.

If you are buying second hand, do what I do and get them or other independent respected specialists to check out the car. You’d be mad if you don’t. Even if you are nowhere near Peter and Lindsay and the team at Warragul Automotive, using any good independent automotive for advice and an inspection is both wise and critical in my opinion on a used car, and seeking their advice on the maintenance issues of new cars is also a great idea.

One word of caution on fixed and capped price servicing. There is a difference between these two and they both have their limitations in the long term. They are designed to keep you loyal to the brand and to keep you coming back to the service department of the vendor. Let’s take Toyota as an example. The Camry comes with “Toyota Service Advantage”.

That means you’ll pay the same low capped price for eligible logbook services. Maximum payable for Camry (post Nov 11 production) for standard scheduled logbook servicing (normal operating conditions) until first of 4 years or 75,000kms (whichever occurs first) (up to the first 5 services).

Using the current Camry Hybrid as an example those 7 services will cost you $130 each – clearly a bargain. Don’t be fooled however into thinking this is the normal servicing cost of this car – it is NOT!  It is a heavily subsidized price by Toyota themselves. The service department charge you $130, but Toyota pay the balance of the real service cost as a warranty claim to the dealer!  This means if you plan to own this car for the long term, you need to factor in the REAL servicing costs, and not the artificial ones.

Of course, if you plan to rotate your car back to a new vehicle within this period, you’ll be fine, but it is something to keep in mind. Also be aware that servicing intervals vary between makes, so it is not just the price but how often you must pay that price that you must consider. It is always distance traveled or time – whichever comes first. Exploding servicing costs are one of the hidden real costs in long term car ownership that must be faced and it is one thing that few reviews ever tell you about when they are extolling the virtues of a car.

For years the press having been singing the praises of Volkswagen’s while I have been cautioning people based on information I gained from both owners and from the guys at Warragul Automotive. Now it has become public knowledge that there are serious issues for VW to address with a global recall with Australia just being added to the list. Indeed, it was so serious, a woman may have lost her life due to the failure of her DSG systems at a critical moment.

I also know that the cost of repair of even the most minor problem of a VW out of warranty can be enough to send a healthy person to a cardiac unit for resuscitation! Yet they have terrific fuel consumption! It isn’t all about simple l/100 km’s folks. Do look at the big picture of car ownership. Next to buying your house, a car is likely to be the next biggest ticket item you will buy.

Buy in haste, repent at leisure! In finishing, it is a little simplistic to blame any one factor on the failure of Ford manufacturing in Australia and to suggest that the motoring journalists were responsible in isolation would be simplistic at best. There is little doubt that we are spoilt for choice. The strengthened Aussie dollar has made imports much cheaper, and conversely has made it much harder for Aussie manufacturers to export.

Combine that with Aussie worker’s pay and conditions being so high, it makes it hard to compete, especially against the scale of these other plants and markets. Also, there is little doubt that ultimately, we the consumer put the final nail in the coffin. It isn’t that the products weren’t good enough, but we had little motivation to buy Australian and put very little value on that, sadly. So many great brands have gone because we have not valued them here and supported them with our business. So, Who killed Ford manufacturing in Australia? We did.

Uncategorized

Logitech S715i Rechargeable iPod Speaker Dock Review

Rechargeable-speaker-s715i

 

Recently, I had the very rare good fortune to win a Logitech S715i iPod/iPhone Speaker Dock in Logitech Australia’s 30th Anniversary competition and I was delighted when the courier brought it to my door yesterday. I thought I’d give a preliminary review of it, even though it is early days with it. Of course, although I am delighted to win it, the fact that I did does not alter my review one little bit. I have reviewed it as if I had spent my own money buying it.

The S715i is a very compact dock, and comes complete with a power adapter to recharge the unit as well as provide power to charge your iPod/iPhone.  The S715i is basic simplicity in actual use. You hardly need a comprehensive manual as there are precious few controls, and what controls are there are very obvious and intuitive. As such it would be fine for use by elderly or non tech literate folks.

It also comes bundles with a cute but tiny remote control which would be very easy to loose so one needs to be careful, but it replicates all the controls on the unit itself such as power, volume, track selection and a play/pause button. In addition, it also gives you two buttons that are not found on the unit itself as these simply activate features on the iPhone/iPod, namely shuffle mode and repeat modes.

I haven’t tested it for long enough on battery power to be able to give any guidance on battery life but I will post an update later on as this becomes clear. Logitech state 8 hours on the box, but usually these figures are optimistic and are under optimal conditions. Still, it is likely that on battery power, the life will be more than enough for the iPhone or iPod’s likely battery life. The S715i only charges the iPhone/iPod when the S715i is connected to mains power, but given that sound quality is also better on power, that would be my preferred option for most use anyway.

The Logitech S715i does not require adapter plates of any kind so it is sure to work with all iPhone and iPod models right out of the box, and to be reasonably future compatible. The only issue I found at first is that I still had to remove my iPhone 4 cover as the dock socket did not go in far enough to make proper connection until I did so, which is unfortunate. I would have liked the socket to sit up another millimetre or so to have allowed for docking without having to remove the cover. 

As for the all important sound quality, which is a field of which I have a great deal of experience as I have a background in music recording production studios, radio and hi-fi sales – in my opinion the sound quality is excellent given this device’s modest price. Volume is also surprisingly powerful, capable of filling a large room with loud and clear sound, with outstanding spatial imaging. So far, I have tested it with a wide range of music types, from dance and pop/rock through to acoustic and classical music. It was pleasant and capable in all these genres. And all that was running on the inbuilt, rechargable battery. 

Then you plug it in to mains power, and it becomes a totally different device insofar as sound quality is concerned! It sounds much better on power as the unit drops volume and bass somewhat on battery to extend the useful battery life. Sound quality is still excellent, even on battery and indeed, it may suit some uses such as listening to talk back radio streams which don’t need as much bass as most music.

The only thing I would like to have seen added would have been compatibility with apple’s AirPlay which allows you to wirelessly stream audio directly from your iDevice without docking it, and would have added compatibility with devices like the iPad through this means. Given that this device was on the market well before Apple released AirPlay its omission is not surprising. Also, the unit does feature a aux input jack, so non dockable devices aren’t entirely forgotten. Another good inclusion is the carry bag which is basic, but does provide protection for the dock when it is being carried around.

To sum up, I don’t think you will find a better all round dockfor the price that can beat the Logitech S715i. I would expect that you would have to spend considerably more to beat this product’s excellent sound performance. In Australia, the S715i which is the top of the range in Logitech’s speaker docks retails for $279.95 AUS but it can be ordered for $175 AUS from Logitechshop including free shipping – http://www.logitechshop.com.au/logitech-s715i-portable-speaker.html

Logitech have extensive experience making excellent computer speakers and this experience has stood them in good stead with this dock. I am a big Logitech fan and with this new acquisition, I am likely to be even more so! Thanks Logitech for the awesome prize and Happy 30th Anniversary!

 

 

Rechargeable-speaker-s715i_1

Highly Recommended!
Uncategorized

Goodbye Steve, and thank you so much!

I know this is old news now, but for those who may have had their head in the sand, IT pioneer and visionary, Steve Jobs passed away after a long battle with cancer recently. I can't help but feel a real sense of loss at his parting. Love or hate apple, no one can argue that we ALL benefit from the vision and contribution made by Steve and apple. I used to be somewhat negative in my feelings and attitude towards apple, but in hindsight, I do wonder why. Truth be known, at that time I did have some good reasons. Apple has always attracted the obsessive fan boys, and sometimes this was when they had less to be proud of. Years ago, many argued that you had to have a Mac as they were so much more user friendly than the PC. 

This was at a time when Macs ran on completely different hardware to PC's and even simple things like floppy drives and ejecting disks took a three finger button push to persuade to eject. That was hardly intuititve or friendly when on a PC you had just one button on the drive itself! Of course, that is the past and today's apple computers are based on identical intel hardware to their Windows based brethren. They also run a customised version of Unix as the modern day apple OS10 which is a large step in the right direction. There is no doubt that today's apple computer really is a PC and as such, it can also run Windows giving apple users a great deal of choice and flexibility. I believe that OS10 Lion and Windows 7 are about equal in terms of user friendliness. There are some things that are better in one, while other things are better in the other and visa versa but there is little to chose from between them.

Of course, Steve Jobs also brought us the iPhone and iPad and it is the latter of these that finally dragged me into the apple space with a truly lust worthy device. There is not a day that goes by that I do not use and benefit greatly from my iPad. It has not replaced my Windows based notebook, merely supplemented it in ways that I am very grateful of and appreciative of. So, I will miss the insight of Steve Jobs and all he brought to us. He was a modern day visionary in the vain of Thomas Edison and others. Amazingly, Steve worked on his vision right up till the end. Such was his love and devotion to apple. Thank you Steve. I mean it when I say the world is poorer for your loss and you will be missed.
Uncategorized

Life Moves on…

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Recently, at the end of July my father finally passed away peacefully in his sleep. Dad was 85 and had alzheimers, but still managed to live out a full and wonderful life, and was an inspiration to all who knew him. He was a remarkable man. His feelings were never far from the surface and it was not hard to move him and bring a tear to his eye. That is a trend he has passed on to me!

My younger sister, JJ remarkably and capably cared for Dad at home until the end and did so in a way that allowed dad some peace and dignity. The entire family will be forever in her debt for the sacrifice she made, motivated purely out of love. That is not the only reason to be proud of my family. Another is on the whole, very current for us issue of wills and estates.

I have seen many, many times including in our own extended family relationships torn apart by greed over estates. It is one of the sadder things about modern society. I have always felt that one should view bequests much like receiving any normal gift, with gratitude. Yet today there is the expectation and more – the belief that one has a right to an inheritence. I am not the largest beneficiary of my father’s estate, but does that mean I was any less loved? Hell no!

I am demonstrably in the greatest need, due to my illness and inability to work. Does that mean I should go for a larger share? My own father asked me if he should make my share larger when he was doing his will. I said no. I wanted to be the same as most of my siblings so I could ensure that they would not feel hard done by, and would continue to accept dad’s wishes and respect his intent. I am well aware that here in Australia, I could easily contest my father’s will and argue for a greater share and have a reasonable prospect of winning based on need.

I would never do so as I believe that it was dad’s choice to make, and my responsibility to accept what he decided to do. The great thing is that I know my youngest sister will continue in her usual loving way to try to care for me and support me as she always has done. So why does it matter that she or anyone else gets a larger share when the love in the family for each other means we do what we can to support those in need?

I am kind of proud of something the whole family did not long after my mother died. Having witnessed the distress and fights many times over wills, I proposed to the family that we all sign an agreement to accept dad’s wishes without contest or complaint. I did not expect it to carry much legal weight especially as it was not drafted by a lawyer, but I hoped it would mean enough to keep everyone on the same page so that we would not go the way of so many families into chaos over money.

Every single member of the family signed that agreement, and so far everyone is fully accepting of dad’s wishes. That’s great as it makes my sister JJ’s and my job of being co-executors that much easier. But more than that, it means we will continue to be there for each other, and not let foolish greed cause us to not be part of each others lives. I recommend all families thing about doing this, and discussing the issues before the day. Don’t let this destroy your family!

Dad’s passing has also meant that big changes are in the air for me too, out of necessity. You see, I have been trying to pay off a mortgage out of my very small disability pension, and that means that there is not enough left to live on. Dad had been helping me with the shortfall for some time, but now he’s gone, I have to find a way to live within my own income. That means I need to get rid of the mortgage and the only way to do that is for us to sell the house and pay it out.

Fortunately, the Melbourne housing market has grown considerably since we bought this property around fifteen years ago. We can now sell this property and pay out the remaining mortgage and have enough left over to buy another property further out in rural Victoria. So, I am going bush! I am very excited by this, even though it means I will be moving away from family and friends and support structures.

It also poses some problems for medical care, but I think it is the best option for me. Just getting rid of this mortgage will remove a considerable source of stress and worry for me, and I am looking forward to the change. I will have to move several hours drive from Melbourne to get anything decent for the small amount of money we’ll have to spend after the mortgage is paid out, but I should end up with a larger country house that is better equipped for folks to come and stay, so I am hopeful that I will have lots of folks, both family and friends regularly come up to stay with me.

So, the big clean up is well underway so I can get this house ready to list on the market. I’m hopeful that despite the downturn, it will sell quickly and for a decent price. There is a lot of clutter to remove and throw out, and a lot of goods that need to be put into storage so my next challlenge is to find a place to temporarily keep my crap until I move out into the new country property.

I’m lucky to have some wonderful friends who are helping me get things done and we’ve made great progress already. It has been a long time since the lounge, dining room and kitchen looked like this!  So look out for upcoming blog posts on this house and my quest to finally get it on the market and sold! It needs to happen ASAP!

 

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WHAT?! You have a iPhone?!

Iphone4_1

Those who know me personally will know that for quite some time, I have not been a great exponent of the iPhone. While I always recognized the appeal of the user friendly interface, to me the iPhone was not a serious communications device, at least not when compared to BlackBerry.

Oh yes, as an all round portable computing device, it always rocked, but to me the compromises it made to basic communications were unacceptable. So, some will look at me now sporting a “new” iPhone 4 and call me a hypocrite or worse, a traitor! lol!

What I would like to do in this post is outline why I have finally gone with an iPhone and my opinions on their suitability for the masses. To start off, the criticisms I have made in the past of the iPhone 4 all remain true IMHO. The transceiver assembly (meaning the phone radio part of the iPhone) is a little deaf by contrast to a BlackBerry.

This is partially antenna design – a flaw so well documented I doubt I need to outline that here. For me, this is no longer a major barrier. I am a Telstra NextG customer which means I am arguably on one of the best networks for coverage not only in Australia, but in global terms. 

That is no mean feat when you consider that Australia is a vast continent but with very low population density. That Telstra’s coverage is so good that iPhone users (even those without cases/bumpers) still enjoy reliable communications without dropouts is kudos purely to Telstra. Still, if you are a rural user or someone who lives or works in poor reception areas, you would do well to reconsider whether an iPhone is the best choice for you.

I guess this is the primary point I want to get across. It is not purely a question of which is the best smart phone, but which compromise best suits your needs. All phones must make compromises in many areas. For example, if security and battery life are your primary concerns, BlackBerry is still the best choice.

For me though, I am now pretty much home bound due to my ongoing health issues, and at my house, Telstra reception is perfect, so there are no reception issues to bother me here. Another issue that would have affected me more if I were still on the road alot would be battery life. 

The iPhone 4 does well for a smartphone with so much versatility, but it still won’t last nearly as long when used as a phone as the average BlackBerry. Also, keep in mind that when it is flat, you can’t just change to a spare battery like you would with a BlackBerry or android handset.

Of course, clever third party accessory makers have all sorts of clever add on accessories to deal with this problem, but they are not nearly as versatile as being able to change your own battery for a freshly charged spare! Again, as someone who is mostly housebound and never far from the power outlet, that is no longer a primary concern for me.

My final primary weakness that I have long railed against has been apple’s lack of memory expansion options. Unlike pretty much every BlackBerry or Android phone ever invented, you can not add a micro SD card to expand your storage choices. What this really means is that would be iPhone buyers must be careful to buy one with sufficient storage for all their current and future needs.

I see this becoming far less of an issue as time moves on, and cloud storage becomes more mainstream. In fact, iCloud – apple’s own yet to be released cloud based storage and sync system shows great potential and was another reason that swayed me more to iOS.

My particular situation was that I had been using various BlackBerry handsets for at least 3 years, and mostly very happily too, except for a very brief experiment with the Pearl 9100 3G which I hated with a passion. That phone was destroyed by a truly dreadful keyboard which killed the one clear advantage BlackBerry had.

Even so, I had been long considering what my next phone choice would be. Unlike the old days when I was able to work, I could no longer choose the best handsets for financial reasons. Actually, if it were not for my sister’s help, I probably would not be able to run a mobile phone in the first place! Trying to pay off a mortgage and pay huge health costs when your only income is a government pension, well let’s just say that is hard!

Also, in my case as I am on a plan that Telstra no longer offers, but is exceptional value to me it meant that buying outright was the best option for me, which forced me to go second hand and cheaply at that. I had two primary options, both thanks to great friends. Option one was to get a friend’s no longer used, but well cared for HTC Desire, an Android handset or to get the iPhone 4 via yet another kind friend. I had the HTC Desire here for several weeks before finally getting the iPhone 4 so that I could check it out and find out how Android suited me. 

I could easily have lived with that phone. It was a tweaker’s delight and performed very well indeed, with comparable battery performance to the iPhone 4. It would also have been the slightly cheaper of the two options. The only real weakness the Desire had was its scarcity of onboard memory for apps which could be largely negated by moving apps and running them from the micro SD card. The combination of the Desire with the rooted alternative rom known as Miui was terrific! So, why did I finally chose the iPhone? This is where we come to the crunch so to speak. 

I have an iPad and have over time bought a lot of apps for it, so I have a lot invested in the iOS app ecosystem. It meant that I would not have to buy many of the same (or similar) apps again for the Android platform. That is part of the marketing brilliance of the apple ecosystem that is so app-centric.

Also, seeing the major update to iOS and iCloud on the near horizon which deals with many of my frustrations with the iOS platform, and I felt it was the right choice, given that I was able to get the iPhone 4 second hand (but in new condition) for only a little more than the Desire. Additionally apple have taken one of BlackBerry’s best products in BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and made a celever copy called iMessenger that offers all but the security of BBM to the iOS platform. It will, no doubt be a huge success for them, and a quiver in the heart of RIM.  

So, the iPhone is the right choice for me right now. What I mean by that is that I will remain objective and open to new and better choices in the future. I will never be a blind fan boy who would never consider another platform. Fan boy-ism for any product is not only illogical, it is plain stupid! The only incentive we give ANY manufacturer to produce better products is to vote with our feet! If you aren’t willing to change based on some misguided sense of loyalty, then you are not helping the company you support to improve their product.

This is the quandry RIM find themselves in right now with BlackBerry. They are rapidly losing the consumer market due to a failure to keep innovating both their handset hardware and even more so, their operating system. They have some great hardware on the horizon, but until they release the QNX based version of their OS they will continue to loose market share. Unlike many pessimists, I believe RIM have the skills to bring this off. 

QNX as running on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is outstanding. Apart from a few missing features it is arguably the best tablet OS to date. The primary thing that hurts the PlayBook is the same one that plagues any would be competitor to the iPad – the app ecosystem. If RIM can get quality apps on the PlayBook in sufficient numbers, then the potential for the PlayBook is still there.

The mobile phone market is a different story, and one that is far more important to the bread and butter of RIM. The clock is ticking. Many think it is too late. I am not one of them, but unless they scramble to get QNX out soon, they could find themselves having to play catch up from the rear of the field! But I digress…

Had I been in the financial position as a worker, I almost certainly would have bought a Samsung Galaxy S 2 which is the current cream of the crop in my opinion. I would not be buying a new iPhone right now, not with the new replacement model mere months away. Hopefully apple will have learn from the iPhone 4 and will change their priorities from being styling above all else to functional performance based.

I mean to say, the iPhone 4 not only has the poor antenna issue, but it must also be the most slippery and easily breakable handset I have ever seen! Fortunately, I do not drop my handsets and keep my iPhone in a grippy, protective case (which neatly hides all that beautiful styling anyway!)

Still, this compromise suits me very well for now. I want to shout out a big thanks to Adam who supplied me with the HTC Desire to check out and offered it to me very cheaply, and also to James who helped me with the iPhone 4. Thanks guys!
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apple App Store – gouging Aussies?

Make no mistake, I think one of the biggest reasons why the iPhone and the iPad have been so successful is clearly the eco system – meaning in apple’s case, the App Store. There is so many wonderful apps to chose from, and most at great prices. Increasingly of late though one thing has been leaving a bitter taste in my mouth regarding pricing for Australians in the local App Store.

Right now, the Aussie dollar is very strong against the US dollar at nearly $1.10 (US) yet the prices in the App Store are still far more expensive to Australians. A 99 cent app in the US App Store costs $1.19 (AU) in the Australian App Store. In truth, at today’s exchange rate as I write this, a 99 cent US app should be $0.902 AU! Personally, I’d settle for parity right now. Australians certainly shouldn’t be paying more than Americans for their apps delivered by the app store.

Obviously, we can’t expect apple to move pricing in the short term to match currency fluctuations or there would be no continuity in pricing (not to mention, a great deal of work), however the current currency situation has been the case for some time now. The Australian dollar broke through $1 US in October, 2010.

Indeed, apple has addressed this issue on some of its hardware products being sold in Australia. They recently dropped the price across the board on the whole iPod range (but we still pay considerably more than in the USA) and when the iPad 2 was released in Australia, it had its retail priced dropped slightly as well. A 16gb WiFi only original iPad sold for $629 herebut the iPad 2 was dropped to $579 for the same specification – a step in the right direction for which apple should be applauded.

Pricing for apps though should not be the same as it is for hardware. Aussies are used to the fact that we pay more for almost everything that is imported due to our smaller population size, and the cost of shipping an item here and distributing it. The case for apps is different. I can’t see any way in which such an argument for higher prices can be applied to the app store for other markets, short of the fact that it appears we are being asked to subsidize our friends in the US.

I’ve sent an email to Steve Jobs about this but we should be putting the pressure on apple. We need a fair deal for Aussies! Given that apple is clearly aware of the fact that the Australian dollar is strong and has altered some of its hardware pricing, why hasn’t the same happened with app prices?

I may be overly cynical, but I suspect that had the Aussie Dollar dropped by a similar amount, it would not have taken apple this long to correct the pricing!

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BlackBerry PlayBook initial previews hit the web

Blackberry-playbook

Well, if you are anything like me and a frequent browser of technology blogs, you will have seen many initial reviews of RIM’s upcoming 7″ tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. What has surprised me is that the reviews have been mixed, with some folks willing to write it off as a fail before it even hits the market whilst others like me share a palpable excitement over this new, innovative tablet.

To be fair most reviewers loved the hardware, with the notable exception of the diminutive and hard to press power button (a problem that RIM have evidently said will be fixed by slightly raising the button on the release versions). In any case, this is hardly a deal breaker. Any iPad owner would tell you that they don’t often have to use the power button.

Also, there is a bezel to bezel swipe gesture that wakes the PlayBook from standby. What is a big deal is that QNX is a truly wonderful OS that shows great potential, not just in the PlayBook but as the future platform for all BlackBerry smart phones. Unlike iOS and Android it supports true multitasking. It also has the best browser implementation of Flash brought to a mobile device thus far, according to a large variety of reviewers. 

The biggest software criticism by some reviewers has been the lack of a native email client, calendar & contacs apps – something RIM has promised will be released as native apps in the near future. Considering just how good the browser is, combined with the fact that many folks use web based services such as Gmail and Google Calendar, I am not sure the average user will be all that crippled by the omission of these apps at launch. 

In addition, if you are one of the folks that still uses a BlackBerry handset like me, you have the option of using BlackBerry Bridge, a Bluetooth protocol that allows you to use the native BlackBerry email and calendar apps as well as full web browsing via your handset. Some folks are even critical of this function but I disagree. It is not that the PlayBook is only aimed at BlackBerry users. It is merely a value added feature for their existing client base. You can still pair an iOS or Android device to the PlayBook, but you will not have the benefit of BlackBerry smart phone’s apps.

Keep in mind that I am an iPad owner, so I know the apple ecosystem well, and I love and use my iPad regularly – but I still want a PlayBook. I am not sure I see these devices as competing directly. Certainly, there is overlap between would be iPad buyers and PlayBook buyers but there are also a lot of differences, starting with form factor. The PlayBook is a 7″ widescreen tablet and it is quite a bit lighter and easier to hold. It’s ideal for eBook reading in bed. Also, being native widescreen, it is ideal for movie playback as you get the maximum out of the screen real estate when compared to the 4:3 ratio 10″ iPad screen. 

Obviously there is a lot more to a tablet than just watching movies, or even reading books and it depends what you really want to do to know which device will suit you better. Clearly, apple has a tremendous head start with the iPad. It is not only a proven device hardware wise as well as operating system wise but it has also had enough time to develop an enviable selection of quality apps – one that is not likely to be rivaled by ANY competitor for some time to come.

Interestingly, I am not sure the PlayBook needs the same degree of dedicated apps as the iPad. The web browser’s excellent support of flash makes it far more like using a normal laptop for browsing – and let’s face it, a lot of the apps needed for the iPad were to get around its lack of flash support. Of course, many more are needed for many other things too, but the device is usable for many things without apps that the iPad could not do without them.

If someone would looking to buy a tablet right now, you could hardly go wrong with an iPad. But make no mistake – the PlayBook is a serious contender with superb multitasking and stability, full & well implemented flash support, similarly excellent battery life, greater portability and lighter weight, excellent HD front and rear cameras and HDMI output with smooth 1080p output. I agree with Tom Merritt (@acedtect) from the TWiT network (Tech News Today) who has a high opinion of them and has ordered one personally. This market is in it’s infancy. 

Sure, the PlayBook is not perfect, and by comparison to the availability and quality of apps for the iPad, there is not a lot of choice just yet for the PlayBook (or any other contender including Android Honeycomb) but that can change quickly. People seem quick to forget that the iPhone and iPad started with some glaring holes and omissions, but then again in the minds of many buyers, apple can do no wrong. I believe the PlayBook is the only serious, well priced contender to the iPad so far and that it deserves to be taken seriously.

Keep in mind that all the reviews you are seeing online now are in point of fact, previews with non final software. I look forward to seeing some real reviews on it very soon, especially on the final shipping version. Here are some of the previews thus far:

What do you think? Is it a device that interests you?