Monday, December 28, 2009

give a chicken for Christmas

there are a still a few days left to act on the ‘Old Phones for Chickens’ campaign being run by mobile muster (the official recycling program of the mobile phone industry) in support of the work of oxfam. nice way to clear out three old phones sitting around in my home.

to take part, gather your old mobile phones (and any accessories like batteries, chargers and hands free units), put them in a box/envelope, send it off using the mailing label you can download and print off (postage is free), and mobile muster will donate one chicken for every mobile phone that is posted by 31/12/2009. too easy yeah?

looks like they've been doing this for a few years now, so if you miss out this year (or have more old phones by next Christmas) maybe there'll be another opportunity to give in this way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

union shopper - united we save (money)

i've mentioned the union shopper in passing in a few (much) older posts, but never blogged about it. it's a shopping service for members of (most) unions which
strive[s] to save members as much as [they] can through sheer buying power. That's either through direct dollar savings or matching up members to our preferred suppliers so you get what you want, with great value and without the hassles or headache.
it's pretty easy:
  1. shop around for the product you wish to purchase and be ready to buy.
  2. call them with your Union membership details, product brand name, model number and description of the item, and your best price including delivery and extended warranty details, if required. There is also the option of doing this online (once you register).
  3. Union Shopper will respond with a price in approximately 2-3 business hours.If they can better the best price
if they can give you a better price (and they usually can), you place your order with Union Shopper, and their preferred supplier will contact you to arrange payment and pick-up or delivery terms.

the service is great for bigger ticket electrical items, and can also be used for a whole range of other products like motor vehicles, theme park discounts, accommodation and travel etc. i've only really used them to buy whitegoods and other electrical goods myself.

so what sort of savings can you get? well here's an example of some items i helped a friend to buy for his new home.
  • FRIDGE - fisher & paykel E522BRX stainless steel. the best price he found was $18xx from a Good Guys store. union shopper got it for $176 less.
  • WASHING MACHINE - fisher & paykel GW712. the best price he found was $8xx from Good Guys. union shopper got it for $146 less.
  • MICROWAVE - samsung ME6124ST stainless steel. the best price he found was $2xx from Good Guys. union shopper got it for $53 less.
total saving $375. not something to be sneezed at, huh? not for the likes of me anyway. and pretty good return for a few minutes' work to submit the enquiry.

if you're not a union member and would be interested in potentially saving some money on a purchase, drop me a line. members can use the service to buy stuff for family & friends, but the order needs to be placed by the member and in come cases the paperwork needs to be in the member's name.

christmas lights videos

and speaking of christmas light, here are some nice setups you can enjoy without needing to go for a drive. these are houses rigged with a variety of lights that are set to music. enjoy :) you might want to watch them on youtube rather than the via the embedded link - my blog layout is a bit narrow for the clips.

this is from a house not too far from my place... maybe i should go see this live.

another one from the same house.

this is a place in perth. i think it's the best of the lot (at least within this post :p)

and the one that started it all for me, which i first came across in this gizmodo post.

and a PS if you're interested: another gizmodo post on Christmas Lights, The Brief and Strangely Interesting History Of

- - - - -
related posts: christmas lights tour

google maps fail

for the past few years, i've made some effort to see displays in the 4KQ Christmas Lights competition. last night i thought i'd hit up google maps to navigate my way around some eastern suburb displays, as i was going to be in the area but didn't know the streets well.

this is where the map tried to get me to go - down castlerea st, left to marwood st, and right to dairy swamp rd)
and this is how the satellite view of the area actually looks like. see the bunch of green stuff (ie trees) in the middle? no road there...
having found myself at an unexpected dead end, i turned to my street directory which showed me something along the lines of what whereis shows - quite a few stretches of road that don't actually exist.
that's a big fail for google maps in my books!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


i've known for more than a year that this day would have to come. now the deadline is mere days (perhaps only hours) away, and i still haven't quite prepared myself as fully as i ought...

today i mourn the passing of a part of me - the email address that has accompanied me in my digital travels for the past almost 12 years.

you see, early on in my explorations of the world wide web, i discovered that the free student account given to all UQ students wasn't going to be enough for me. how convenient that UQ also operated an external ISP. after some signing of forms and handing over of money, i became the owner of a email account.

as the years rolled on, i graduated from uni, and my internet needs outgrew what UQ's ISP (later known as uqconnect) was able to provide. i changed ISPs, but kept paying UQ $15/year to keep my address because
  • i had already been using the address for years and i kinda liked it - it was shortish, fairly easy to remember, and attracted lots of spam.
  • ok the spam wasn't a selling point, but the idea of not having to get all my contacts to update their address books, and me not having to update my subscriptions and accounts on all the mailing lists and websites i've signed up for over the years - that was worth $15 a year for me.
  • plus uqconnect told me they would offer this mail forwarding indefinitely, as long as i kept paying the annual fee.
my world was at peace.

until one day i received the fateful news that "UQconnect recently reviewed its products and services. As part of this review, it was decided that UQconnect would no longer offer a Mail Forwarding service."

i had 2 months before they were going to cut me off.

i kicked up a stink. actually it was more like a please please please appeal to get an extension.

they gave me another year. that extra year expires imminently, and i shall soon be permanently disconnected from uqconnect. don't go looking for me there, cos i don't live there anymore. let's hope gmail doesn't ever decide to stop providing a (free) email service. i don't really fancy another change of email address during my remaining time on earth.

Monday, November 02, 2009

taro cash

just saw this offer from tarocash -

fill in your details to be in the draw for $100, and provide your date of birth to receive a $50 voucher to spend in store as a birthday pressie from tarocash! my excitement at the offer was scaled back a few levels when i took a look at their current catalogue and realised that $50 will get you a tee or a belt, anything else will be over $50 ie. involves some out of pocket expense. oh well, i could probably do with a new belt by the time my next birthday rolls around...

Friday, September 11, 2009

becoming a solar home

it was march 2008 when i registered my interest for the queensland solar homes program, a ClimateSmart 2050 initiative designed to develop the photovoltaic industry in Queensland and make solar power systems more accessible and affordable to the home owner. essentially this meant i could get a 1kW photovoltaic system (solar panels, inverter etc) installed for the grand total of $185 after accounting for applicable federal government rebates and RECS (renewable energy certificates).

a year and a bit later, the system was finally installed in april 2009. here are my panels in all their solar-radiation-collecting glory:
(i've never been up on my roof; wifey got the installers to help take this photo)

that was part 1. the system would now be able to save me money with free electricity - whenever it's generating energy, my home's energy needs would be met first via the PV system (the "free" bit) before looking to be fed by the electricity grid.

it would be another few months of to-ing and fro-ing (all rather unnecessary, i'd say) before part 2 got up and running. once i eventually had my old meter replaced by a bi-directional one, i could start making money out of the system by selling any excess energy produced during sunlight hours (ie if the PV system is producing more energy than what my home is using) back to the grid, at a rate that is three times what one pays when using electricity. in reality it's still a saving because whatever i produce is given to me as a credit to offset my usage charges. here is my new meter in action, showing the two readings a fortnight after installation (energy used, energy generated):

the part 1 savings i'd estimate at roughly 30c/day, and so far my part 2 savings have been $24.20 in my latest bill - that's based on 18 days of having the new meter, so about $1.30/day. this means after another 3 months or so, i would have made back my $185 investment. not a bad return, i'd say - thank you australia, thank you queensland, and thank you sunshine :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HTC =/= help the customer

i decided to upgrade the operating system on my htc touch some time back, giving it a new lease of life by installing the official windows mobile 6.1 rom from i dutifully followed the instructions, waited with anticipation as the progress bar came up, and held my breath as the seconds ticked by while the progress indicator sat on 0%.

then the screen showed "error [266]: update error". ok not to worry, let's check the documentation. no mention of error code 266. hmm... try running the update again, same error, and i seem to well and truly stuck in the boot loader screen, rendering my pda phone useless. it's midnight and i'm starting to feel pretty panicky at the thought of losing my touch. i tried googling and found some references to checking the usb connection, which i have already confirmed is working fine. i send off a query to htc support via their website asking for help.

the response i got the next day said:
The multi color screen is called the boot loader screen. The white bar on the bottom should say "Serial" if its not connected to the computer. On Active Sync on the PC go to File > Connection Settings and untick the box that has "Allow USB". Click OK and try to run the ROM upgrade again as per normal. If it is unsuccessful, your device has become bricked and you will need to send this off to the repair center. Our repair centers contact number is ....
so, besides telling me what i already knew / had tried (and indicated as much in my original query), this response also failed to mention one little detail which i found after doing some more googling - giving the suggested solution for error 266 (Update Error - Not able to detect the USB connection) being to remove the memory card before flashing again. what this has to do with the usb connection i don't know, but it certainly worked.

i replied to htc with the feedback that "it might even be helpful to include this information in the documentation that comes with the ROM downloads, given that the use of memory cards would be fairly commonplace." makes sense, don't you think?

one day, when i'm feeling game / foolhardy, i might contemplate installing an unofficial WM6.5 ROM if i can find a suitable one for my model.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cine Asia - will it reel in Asians?

saw this in the local newspaper last week:
at first i thought it about AMC rehashing what it was meant to have done years ago when it first opened in sunnybank plaza, but then noticed that this is with the birch carroll & coyle cinema at garden city (as well as other selected cinemas around the country). it sounds like a good and smart tactical move - catering to the large asian population (and those non-asians with an interest in asian cinema) in the area, filling a niche in the market (previously you'd have to wait for film festivals and similar special events to see decent asian movies in your local cinema) - but part of me wonders if this move comes a few years too late. i can't remember why AMC reneged on their pledge to showcase asian films - from memory they lasted a few movies before the menu went to 100% standard hollywood blockbuster fare. perhaps the market wasn't really there - yes there will be people wanting to watch such movies, but between the flourishing piracy market in the orient and the propensity of people to travel (or have family / friends who do), the how-can-it-be-legal video hire shops smack bang in the middle of the asian centre that is sunnybank, and in more recent years the rise of torrents and youtube clones on the internet (though the latter is more widespread for tv series), people have worked out how to get their fix of asian screen goodness without having to fork out much (if any) money.

cine asia's mission is "to bring big screen, big budget Asian movies to Australian cinema goers on the same day and date as they are released in Hong Kong and China". time will tell whether this is a successful formula - the same day release bit should help their cause. i'd love to support it more myself, but trips to the cinemas aren't cheap these days. that's why i wished it was AMC who had run with the idea first - their prices are at least a tad kinder to the old hip pocket. i haven't been to the cinemas for a while now... maybe i can make an exception for a birthday treat? hmm...

Monday, March 02, 2009

i heard "tax bonus", is that right?

now that the politicians have finalised their bargaining and deal broking, and the australian government has given the green light to the tax bonus payment, i thought i'd get my act together and ensure that my bank account details were up to date so that i can get my share of the pie as soon as it's served.

and so i rang the automated service number (1300 686 636) and was left slightly unimpressed - the bulk of my 5 minutes 48 seconds on the phone was spent in repetition:
  1. me repeating myself to the voice recognition system. it handled numbers ok (had no problem with my tax file number and bank details), but couldn't (despite 3 attempts at it) understand my date of birth nor my name. granted my name might not top the list of most common names, but it wasn't exactly a name out of 'the gods must be crazy' or anything like that...
  2. the system repeating everything back and asking for confirmation. which i suppose you need in an automated voice recognition system, but it does get a bit grating after a while.
  3. me having to get the system to repeat the receipt number, because after about the 10th digit i stopped writing, thinking 'surely this is the end of it', thus missing the remaining 5 digits... and of course you'd need a 15 digit number to record receipts because every man and his dog in australia is going to each call 50 million times...
the ironic thing was, after thinking about the whole process and how it could be better (eg. offering the option of keying numbers via the telephone keypad as a standard option rather than a backup after the voice recognition fails), i realised that i had confused myself about my details and they didn't need updating after all.

oh well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

new beginnings

within the last few weeks, i have:
  • begun a new (chinese/lunar) new year, which in itself isn't very significant, but it kinda fits the theme of this post!
  • graduated from the development program that i've been undertaking at work for the last 20 months
  • along with the above, received my certificate IV in government (statutory compliance), which, just like my university degree, is a piece of paper that proves i've been able to pass some assessments
  • started a new job in a team where i'm the first newbie for ages, and where i don't know anyone and everybody else has known/worked with each other for years
  • moved to a new church (come check it out!), and
  • made a tentative return to blogging... maybe?