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English (US)
04/04/08 @ 12:34 by mccmikey
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Categories: Assorted

How to make any printer work over Remote Desktop

OK here's a solution that should be able to get any windows printer to work over Remote Desktop. It cures the following problems.

DOT4 printer doesn't show up in remote desktop
Network printer doesn't show up in remote desktop
Printer not sharing in remote desktop
Cannot share printer in remote desktop
Remote Desktop Printer Sharing doesn't work.
rdc printer doesn't work. rdp printer doesn't show up.

(phew - hopefully that will find most google searches.)

OK - the solution for this I am using is the same as the one that works for sharing a Windows Printer to a mac...

I'm using the solution at

To summarise, you set up a HP Color LaserJet 4550 PS on LPT1 on your guest PC. It should appear in the RDP session OK because it's a well known printer.

You then use the Port Redirector and a PostScript to GDI converter on the guest machine that takes jobs printed to that LaserJet and spits it out instead on another printer that the guest PC knows about.

There may be some issues with paper sizes, formats, etc, but it might be enough to get you out of trouble, or even be good enough :)

I can't seem to find a contact for the site quoted above. If it disappears, please let me know and I'll re-post it elsewhere.

If you find it useful, but confusing, please let me know and I'll make clearer instructions that work for the more recent versions of GhostScript, etc.

Another aside - there are some other tips on the Internet on how to make the printers show up correctly in RDP, but in my case the first two tips I tried didn't work - sharing some weird canon network printer copier fax.

English (US)
03/31/08 @ 11:07 by mccmikey
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Categories: Assorted

[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 (,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.

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

ABC's shows -

Tech Shows -

Merrick and Rosso -

Free Audio Books -

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

English (US)
03/31/08 @ 11:07 by mccmikey
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Categories: Assorted

[CCC News] Assorted News 5 :)

In this edition:

Important News
I don't have any!

Security News

What's New on the 'Net

Zoom in on webpages
Clean those Fans!
Easy way to manage passwords

CCC and Charity
The Quiet and Loud Mouse story
Exetel Pricing going up?
Quiet Kingswood
How to make the computer read to you
Old Editions

For Sale / Donation:
Ancient Pcs $50
15" screens $10

Important News

Nothing in particular jumps out and deserves the title of Important News at the moment. Perhaps that's Good News? :)


Every now and then you hear some horror story of some government laptop going missing, taking with it the personal and financial details of thousands of people. This can so easily be avoided if those corporations would encrypt the information.

Chances are some of you are, like myself, also responsible for holding 'sensitive' information. Have you thought about what would happen if someone took off with your computer? Or how about those memory sticks that love to go AWOL :) You might like to consider having a play with TrueCrypt - a free program that can make encrypted virtual hard disks.

In my case, I use it to encrypt part of the laptop. All emails, documents, and Instant Messages are stored in the encrypted area; so should someone manage (or bother!) to nick it, they'd have nearly no hope of getting that information. (A password alone is not enough to get the information in my case as you can have secret 'key files' which if they're not present, will not let you get the information out.

It's a little challenging to set up at first, of course, but offers the best security.

An alternative exists and is built into Windows XP and Vista, where you can right click a file or folder, choose Properties, and then tick the "Encrypt Contents to Secure Data" box. This works pretty well, but only uses your logon password for security. Another downside is that it also prevents those files from being defragmented, so if you have a lot of encrypted files, the computer can get slow.


YouTorrent is a new Torrent File search website. If you're a BitTorrent user, you might find it useful to find well seeded downloads.

Torrents are a way for people to distribute large files without needing to have a central server. This system has become popular in recent years as a means for distributing movies and TV shows on the Internet - albeit often of questionable legality. See for the whole story :)

If you are looking for a BitTorrent program, I recommend uTorrent as it does not carry any advertising, etc. Of course, be careful as most BitTorrent downloads are big - don't even think about it if you're on Telstra's 200MB or 400MB plans!.

Zoom in on webpages

Here's a feature I really find hard to live without! It's been in Firefox for years, and now Internet Explorer 7 has it too.

Simply hold down the Ctrl key and press the + or - buttons. It makes the writing bigger or smaller.

Many webpages use quite small writing in order to fit more stuff on the screen, but particularly in the case of laptops it can make the writing too small to read comfortably.

Sometimes pages go a bit screwy when you do this, but reducing the size restores the problem. (Writing overlaps, etc.)

Clean Those Fans :)

The recent warm weather has seen an increase in computers failing due to having too much dust in their CPU fans. Computers are a bit like vacuum cleaners when they're running, often constantly drawing air in from the front and blowing it out the back - but since there's no 'bag' the dust gets stuck in the metal cooling fins instead.

Most computers will simply shut down if they get too hot, but not all are set to do this, and they can cook themselves and simply stop working after a while - or get erratic.

So, perhaps once a year (or more regularly if you're in a dusty place) take the side panel off and flick the dust out with a paint brush. If you have an air compressor, you can use that as well. Portable spa bath air pumps also work.

Laptops also have fans, and you can usually see and feel where the hot air comes out. They're not so easy to take apart however, so instead you can often get away with simply blowing hard into the outlet and then plucking the muck out of the fan inlet.

Of course, if you're concerned about breaking something, I can do this work for you :)

Easy Way to Manage Passwords

A common complaint from people these days is how many passwords they have to remember. So, here's a tip that might help you.

1 - Create a Microsoft Word document.

2 - Enter all the passwords you want to remember into it.

3 - Click File --> Save As ...

... and while the Save As box is open, look for and click on the "Tools" button, choose General Options

4 - Click in the "Password to Open" box, and choose your most secure but memorable password. Enter it here, then save the file with whatever name you want.

That's it.

Now you can store that file on a memory stick so that you have access to all your passwords wherever you are, provided you remember the one to open the Word document

A word of warning of course! Computers are so good at working out passwords now (because they can try millions of combinations a minute) that it is better to have a longer password than a short one. Perhaps a phrase is a better option - like "The dog was born on a Tuesday" etc. There may potentially be software out there to bypass the Microsoft Word password too, but it's still safer than having them on a piece of paper!

CCC and Charity?

I'll admit to often deliberately walking around the back of the Guyra Bus Shelter charity stand when it's operational, and avoiding charity stalls in general. Some might view this as 'snobbery' or lack of charity - but really it's just because I don't want to donate in that manner. (Plus, I'm often a busy fella!) Instead, I contribute to charity and other NonProfits by the 30% reduction in hourly rates that I offer them on any work carried out. That's fair I reckon?


One of the easy recent jobs was a complaint of a broken keyboard on a laptop. The owner usually uses a separate cordless keyboard on the laptop since that's more comfortable. The symptoms were recognisable as a stuck "Shift" key, and there was a satisfying crunch as the crumb under the shift key was crushed by a keystroke, thereby restoring the laptop to health!

The 'Quiet and Loud' Mouse Story.

Since Armidale and Guyra are small towns, and there's much competition in my arena, I am pretty diverse in the repairs I'll carry out. This story is from a customer who had a broken stereo. The volume control knob was broken, and it was blind, so it could no longer see the remote control - sure signs that senility was kicking in on this cheap Asian stereo. (The remote control tested fine.) Taking the cover off, I was able to operate the volume by shorting various connectors together - which surprised them, but of course was not the most practical way to turn the music up! So, I used the same solution for them that I used on the $50 dishwasher @ home - an old Mouse! Right button is now Louder, Left button is Quieter.

A picture is at

Exetel Pricing going up?

Exetel is unusual in that it's manager has his own Blog in which he posts his thoughts. One thing that's troubled him for a while is that they are reselling ADSL via Telstra's network. Indeed, anyone in Armidale and Guyra using Broadband is actually using Telstra resold connections. He's a bit spooked by the change of government as well as changes in global financial markets, and Telstra's retailing cheaper than wholesaling strategies, and appears to be planning to up the activation fees on Exetel plans to slow growth.

I'm not really sure where this is headed for us out here in the sticks. I believe they're looking at moving people over to wireless broadband where possible, but until we get 3G carriers other than Telstra out here, that's not an option for us. I don't believe they're going to try to disconnect existing customers, but it means that for me as an agent, I might have to look for alternatives for new customers looking for reasonably-priced Broadband. (The 3G stuff is rumored to be coming soon!)

Since I'm not in Big Business, I don't see what's going on clearly in the financial markets, etc; but can understand the need to reduce the rate of growth if that is deemed necessary as conditions change. I think in this case he's concerned about future pending changes rather than current ones :)

You can read his post at,-I-Couldnt-take-One-More-Step...html

I act as an agent for Exetel because they have among the best pricing of any provider, and of course there is a small income for CCC from it as well. It was the best way I could find to migrate from Dialup to Broadband since the market for tiny ISPs like myself has shrunk dramatically over the last 10 years.

Quiet Kingswood

The noisy exhaust is fixed at last, after bartering a computer repair for a bit of assistance. It's tricky when you rely on a vehicle so much as it's hard to live without it! I can understand how Taxi drivers feel! Speaking of taxis....

How to make the computer read to you. - one of the first ever e-Books. Have trouble reading from a screen? Try and have the computer read it to you instead.

Old Editions

The Mailing List software did something I didn't expect, and squashed all 2007's editions. So instead, for the time being I'm posting them onto the CCC Blog.

For Sale: Old Computers & Screens.

If you know anyone who needs a cheap computer, I have some 400MHz PCs here with XP on them. Only $50. Good enough for general letter writing, but a bit slow for modern Internet.

Also for sale is a garage wall of 15" CRT screens - only $10 each. Their 14" bretheren are being used as anchors for tarps.

If I cannot find a buyer for these old PCs, some may go to Charities.

Next Newsletter: Podcasts Explained.

English (US)
03/21/08 @ 01:20 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

Word Stops Responding opening network files vista

How to fix the following:

How to fix Word Not Responding opening network files Vista
How to fix Excel Not Reponding opening network files Vista
How to fix 30 second delay opening files vista
How to fix 20 second delay opening files vista
How to fix 40 second delay opening files vista
How to fix long delay opening files vista
How to fix one minute delay opening files vista

OK - This solution might not work for all, but after many tests, it did for me with Vista and Norton 360

The solution: Remove Norton 360

The problem: Opening files shared from a PC running norton 360 on Vista Home (and possibly other versions) results in a long delay of up to 60 seconds when opening the files in Office applications on other Vista Home series PCs. Interestingly, Vista Ultimate (and possibly business, not tested) were not affected by the problem.

Other tried solutions that made no difference:
- upgrading to SP1 of Vista
- Turning off differential copying in Windows Features control panel
- Turning off CA Antivirus on a client PC
- Disabling Norton 360 as much as possible.

As usual, the warning is to never by a Norton product.

Cheers, Mike.

English (US)
01/20/08 @ 08:29 by mccmikey
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Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

Philips shaver won't charge? Fix it :) (Philishave)

OK, so my shaver decided to make weird noises and weird smells when connected to the mains - indicating that death was not far away.

So, here's how to fix it.

You need 1 * 50 ohm resistor, 1 * USB cable, 1 * soldering iron.

50 ohms will give max 100mA charge rate.

Disassemble the shaver, cut off the now useless mains pins. (You'll need a weird star-shaped screwdriver.)

Cut the female plug from the USB cable, strip back about 5cm of wire, and cut off the white and green wires - you only need the red and black wires. (That's unless you want to build in a memory stick too!)

Attach the 50 ohm resistor in series with the red wire and the battery, and attach the black wire to the negative battery terminal. (I didn't have any 50 ohm resistors handy, so this picture has two 80 ohm resistors in parallel to give 40 ohms.)

Charging time will be around 10-15 hours.

English (US)
01/18/08 @ 09:01 by mccmikey
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Categories: Assorted

[ccc-news] 30 Hour Outage Special

This is a special edition of CCC-News with information about why there was a 30 hour outage on email and web hosting.

In this edition:

Important news
30 hour server outage - what happened...
Mobiles please?

LG phone not so good on NextG?
The Computer of Doom!

30 hour server outage - what happened...

On Wednesday evening, the server that handles's email, websites, and about 30 other websites hosted by CCC, went off the air.

I had received an email shortly before advising that a security upgrade was to be performed, so was not concerned, as this is usually a quick process. Not this time!

It turned out that the server had been infected by a special kind of virus known as a root kit. This makes the virus virtually invisible.

Additionally, this bug appears to be related to a new virus or worm that is doing the rounds, and even has the experts of the world baffled about where it came from and what it does!

The good news for now is that the server has been completely rebuilt, and upgraded to protect itself as best as the admins know how, from this bug.

Here is the explanation we received from WebHostsAustralia who manage the higher-level administration of the server. We're on the Sydney server mentioned here...


Now that we have been pretty well been able to return normal services I would like to give a run down on what has been causing the problems on the server

Just prior to xmas we noticed that the server had ceased to be able to create files or directories that were all numerical and 2 clients reported they were getting alerts from their anti virus programs when visiting their sites

These alerts however were not showing up for all people viewing the sites in fact none of us could see them and I for example had just upgraded to norton 2008 a few days before on this machine

At the same time one of the clients running norton 2005 was getting the alerts

After further investigation we established that the alerts were only showing up for some people using Internet Explorer and not Firefox or other browsers

We ran a full virus scan using a couple of different systems on the server and they showed no problems so we started searching google for anything related

While we did find the odd report of others having the same problem there was no indication of anyone knowing exactly what was causing the problems or of any solution

We therefore decided to to instigate the server move in order to have a completely fresh install of all software on new hardware in a different data centre

This was the move at xmas and for 3 days everything ran fine before the problem re appeared

We then contact Centos (the operating system which runs on the server) cPanel and a server security company. None of them could identify the problem or suggest a solution

4 days ago we finally found some information as to what was causing the problem

>From the links below you will see that even today no one including the top Internet security companies knows how it is getting in to servers or how it can effectively be stopped

and that only 3 out of the top 33 anti virus programmes can even pick it up

As you may know we have our own hardware and racks in Brisbane along with servers we lease in 4 data centres in the US while this server in Sydney is leased from a company down there

Overnight on Tuesday we discovered one of the servers in Brisbane and one in the US had been attacked in the same way

By now we had been able to identify a company in Scotland with the ability to remove the infection from the server and we commissioned them to clean the 3 servers

As you may know we have our own hardware and racks in Brisbane and have complete access to them and the data centres in the US are fully and permanently staffed however this server in Sydney is leased from a company down there who do not have personnel in the actual data centre

In order for the Scots to access the server we needed a centos disk installed in the server and access set up for external log in by the techs

With the US and Brisbane servers we were able to set this up right away and the necessary work was completed in under an hour per server with no interruption to service

We submitted a request to our server provider in Sydney at 6am on Wednesday for this access to be set up

For some reason they did not treat this as a priority despite repeated communications to that effect from us and it was only in the late afternoon it was finally actioned

The security company then accessed the server and performed the fix however when they went to restart the server to complete everything it would not come back up

Apparently when the person was setting up the access for them they had somehow managed to delete the contents of the /boot partition on the server

This left us with a dead server and noone in Sydney who could physically go in and reinstall the necessary software

Because remote access was still set up we sourced a company in India (due to the time difference) who swore they could fix it "no problems"

Well they clearly couldn't and as a result we wasted 15 hours as a result

Our options at this point were to try and find someone else who could access the server and add the software to get it back up or wipe the server completely and reinstall everything from scratch

Because such a re install would take 12 - 18 hours I was still holding out that we could get it fixed and avoid this

We got the Scottish techs to have a look and they thought they could get it back up but in order to do so the process involves the disk in the server to be removed and inserted at various intervals which proved to be very time consuming as someone had to be organised each time to do this

In the end I had to make the decision to cut our losses and re install everything

Steve has now worked overnight to do this and by now all sites should be back up and running although a few may still require some final tweaking to be at 100%


We originally obtained the server in Sydney as a one off to run our server monitoring system for our US and Brisbane servers from a remote location and as there was a lot of space free on the server we decided to offer Sydney based hosting on it

As a result of this incident I am set to terminate the hosting from this server and move all sites to a new server I am setting up in Brisbane today

The main reason for this is our necessity to rely on third parties should a problem arise with the server in Sydney as opposed to here in Brisbane where we can have one of our own staff in the Data Centre in approximately 15 minutes and logged into a server with a console

We will still be maintaining a server in Sydney to run our monitoring and these forums from but we would like to move all client sites to Brisbane as soon as people are ready

Given the level of connections within Australia there should be absolutely no noticeable difference in performance but there will be the security of greatly increased service in the event of any future issues

However should anyone wish to remain on this server they can do

Once Steve and Michael have completed the remaining work on the server restore they will be contacting all clients on the server however should anyone not wish to wait please just pop a ticket in the help desk and we will start things rolling

If you have not done so already please have a read of the links I posted above as it is well worth seeing what we were up against



Note: No financial or physical contact information is stored on this server.

Mobiles please?

During this outage I sent updates to affected customers via Windows Messenger and SMS. If you'd like to be on the list for any future issues, please write back with a mobile number or Messenger address that you would like to have used for this purpose.


In a future Newsletter I'll talk about Gmail - and how you can use it to kill junk mail from other addresses. For now I'll just mention that it's a good idea to set up a gmail address as a backup that you can use if you're ever in need of one. It's free from - It's a bit like hotmail, but without the ads, etc.

LG phone not so good on NextG?

Unpleasant surprise number two for this week was the LG TU500 mobile puchased on eBay, in an attempt to get hands free working better n the car. It was not good - no buggger could hear me for a start, and the phonebook could not be transferred either; but that was not the worst of it...

I kept getting missed call messages - you know, the ones you have to pay through the nose to retrieve. I did some 'scientific' tests at home using two NextG phones in my pocket at the same time, calling both from a landline. The cheaper ZTE F252 phone worked each time, but the LG didn't. Yet when on a desk they both showed equivalent coverage.

So, while the LG is maybe the better phone featurewise and possibly for outright coverage strength, the cheaper ZTE is more reliable when you're teetering on the edge! The ZTE doesn't wander off as much, or if it does, it is faster to re-register.

Notes: this was only a test with two handsets, so may not be scientifically accurate. Also, the TU500 was superseded by the TU550 recently. Both tested phones were in auto 2g/3g mode.

The Computer of Doom!

One of the newer capabilities of the upgraded Kingswood wiring is the ability to run a desktop computer direct from the battery. This rarely used feature is occasionally useful when some small task needs to be done, but I have no office available and don't want to drive 15-30km to the home office.

It had it's first official use Wednesday when a Glen Innes customer arranged to have a new modem installed after lightning blew up their existing one. (We met up in Guyra.)

So I plugged it in, turned it on and ... nothing happened. No power light. Nothing. (Unpleasant surprise number three - they hadn't at this point told me that it wouldn't turn on - only that the phone line was dead if they connected the computer.) They'd wandered off for lunch, so I couldn't reach them; so I left a note on their car that I'd be an hour, and headed back to the home office.

Theirs was an ancient computer bought second hand two years ago when I was still teaching at GALA, so worth 'bugger all' - and I have a shed wall of similar machines; but strangely each one I put their hard drive in - the part of a computer that holds all the information - it would not turn on. By the time I was on the third ancient (and a bit dusty) computer it finally dawned on me...

... The lightning had done so much damage that it had shorted out the hard drive! ..and the CD drive too.

That drive had almost killed three computers, but fortunately after a break of a few minutes they all recovered.

So, in this case all their stuff is probably gone. They haven't asked for it to be recovered, which may be possible by swapping parts of the drive, for which purpose I hold a stash of old drives. The in-car power was useful however in setting up their email account on the $15 replacement.

English (US)
01/13/08 @ 08:57 by mccmikey
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Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

[ccc-news] Assorted News 4 :)

In this edition:

Important News
Reminder on Trading Hours

Security News
Safest ways to browse.

What's New on the 'Net
Stage 6
New Wireless Internet and Mobile Phone coverage on the horizon.

Warehouse Specials
Wireless Keyboard & Mouse $30
Digital Tire Pressure Gauge $20

The Kingswood's Back!
GPS Thoughts.

Reminder on Trading Hours

G'day to you all, and welcome to 2008! Hope it's going well for you! Here at CCC the year has started off surprisingly busy - where traditionally Dec - Jan were the slow months.

Just a quick reminder on the trading hours - they are officially 9am to 8pm. There are two reasons for these slightly unusual hours.
1 - It allows me to help people who work traditional 9-5 jobs and don't get home until 6 or 7
2 - I'm a 'night person'

As a result, if you try to call CCC before 9am you'll very likely get the answering service. The office phones are on a timer which turns them off between 4am and 9am. In case of emergencies, there is a special hotline number available for anyone who requests it, but it is not publicised.

Safest Ways to Browse.

In the last few months there's been an increase in popular websites becoming laced with nasty bugs - particularly sites popular with younger people such as MySpace, FaceBook, etc, and I read in the news this morning that there's some new bugs doing the rounds on some e-commerce sites that have the experts a bit baffled too! So, if you're particularly keen on keeping safe on the 'net, here's a few tips that might help :) (Apart from the usual 'have a virus scanner', etc.)

There are five possible steps below - for most people step 1 and 2 are enough, step 3 optional, step 4 useful but occasionally mildly frustrating, and step 5 is only if you think you're going to be going exploring off the beaten track.

Easiest Step: Upgrade to Firefox.

There are many reasons why I recommend this step.
- It loads pages faster than Internet Explorer
- If is open source, which means it is updated quickly when a glitch is found.
- It supports 'extensions' which allow you to customise it to be even safer
- It doesn't natively support the technology Microsoft made many years ago that allowed websites to add programs to your computer without asking.

While Firefox alone won't make you completely safe, it is a good first step, and is required for the next few tips.

You can get it free by going to

Step 2: Get AdBlock Plus

A good number of bugs get onto people's computers through advertisements. These can be messages like "Your computer is vulnerable - click here to scan" etc - when really it's just a picture, not a real message but might fool you into downloading something. Additionally, the reason some big sites have been hit is because what usually happens when you visit those sites is that they then call up a third party site that has the ads on it, and you see them. Those third parties don't always spot a malicious ad given to them by a fourth party, and so they slip through onto the web page you're looking at, and in some cases can do damage to your computer wihout you even clicking on them.

So, you can largely avoid much of this by installing the AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox. It will remove most pesky banner ads from most websites. You can get it by clicking here:

This also has the advantage that pages load faster - sometimes much faster if the advertising page is slow but the real site is fast.

Of course, this does deprive some websites of some of their income, but in my view if the industry can't keep itself clean, why take the risk.

Step 3: Get FlashBlock

OK this step is not quite as necessary, but can still prevent some more recent bugs; and also save you a fair bit on your downloads; which can be useful if you're on a restrictive plan. Many websites use Flash to do fancy ads that love to get in the way, play fancy animations or movies, quite often without you asking for them.

FlashBlock prevents them from downloading and running straight away - it leaves their outline and a round 'play' button you can click if you want to see whatever's hidden. You can get it at

Step 4: For the mildly paranoid? NoScript

Some bugs can be in the form of hidden 'scripts' that make your computer do things that the webpage wants it to do. Usually these are pretty benign things like 'add up the total of a shopping cart' or 'make that menu turn blue when the mouse is on it' etc. However, they are also able to be abused to do nasty things. NoScript will prevent any script from running unless you give it permission. You only have to give permission once per website if you find the site isn't working right while blocked. Perhaps this one's a bit 'geeky' for many people, but if you're wanting to be particularly safe, it could be worthwhile to have as well. Download NoScript here :)

Step 5: For the completely paranoid, or if you like 'going off the beaten track'

If you're a bit geeky, want to be able to surf the Internet and not have to worry about bugs at all, you can make a Virtual Computer using "Microsoft Virtual PC" from - you'd then have to install a copy of Windows or unix in it and use that for looking around on the Internet. You can then either set it to 'undo' it's changes after closing, or just reinstall it when it gets too bad. A Virtual PC generally can't interact with the real one, so any virus you get can only damage what's on the virtual PC.

Stage 6 - Kinda like "YouTube", but better content?

A customer just recently introduced me to Stage 6. It's another video sharing site, a bit like YouTube, but with higher quality video, and in some cases some more contemporary video too. It has an option once a video has finished playing for you to save it on your computer to watch again later. Of course, be careful if you're on a low downloads plan! You can find it at

New Wireless Internet and Mobile Phone coverage on the horizon?

As you know, NextG is able to be used for Internet connection, but is ridiculously expensive. (Comparison: NextG: 200MB for $59 vs. Vodafone 5,000MB for $50, or in other words, 29 times as expensive as their best competitor.) Both VodaFone and Optus have made noises about introducing high speed Internet coverage to many more towers in Australia, which could possibly include us! This could be particularly good news for people who cannot get ADSL broadband because they live more than 6km from an exchange.

I'm not sure yet whether I'll be able to resell, or act as an agent for any of these services, but will of course keep you informed. The key thing for now is to avoid getting caught in a long-term contract with NextG if possible.

Oh, by the way I think Vodafone was looking at possibly using a new frequency for their regional towers so they'd have a similar coverage to NextG's - here's hoping!

Wireless Keyboard & Mouse set for $30

They still have some "Laser" Wireless Keyboard and Mouse sets for $30. I've sold four sets now, and only had a slight issue with one which was corrected by pressing the 'connect' button to get a new frequency. They're at the front of the store - turn left as you go in.

Digital Tire Pressure Gauge for $20

A new bargain item - usually these gauges are more expensive. I compared results with a $50 model - exactly the same result. They're at the back of the store. A bit weird looking since the integrate a knife (for cutting seat belts apparently) and a torch (what doesn't these days) and a hammer (for breaking windows) as well as the gauge.

I have no relationship with The Warehouse - other than occasionally picking out the good stuff from the rubbish :) I think the $4 USB hubs are back in stock too.

The Kingswood's Back!

Well, it took a little longer than planned, but the Kingswood's back on the road again, with a new front seat, and some additional wiring to tidy things up a bit. (The fuse box was getting a little hot when running the laptop and the evaporative airconditioner at the same time through the inverter.) I do apologise for the noise from the front - I have a replacement flange gasket that should shut it up, but it's a bugger to get under and fix; so I'm waiting for a suitable time to find a mechanic to do that for me. Oh, and with the new GPS I can now see why I get overtaken regularly - 60MPH is only 92KPH on my speedo. Well, of course there's the issue that it's a 161 motor (the smallest motor available for that model) so it's not powerful - but I'd rather that than be paying more for fuel.

GPS thoughts.

One new addition to the Kingswood this year is a GPS unit. A little hard to justify spending $460 on one, but it was a Christmas gift from a relative so I no complain ;-) They are interesting to work with, and generally are a time saver. However, this one's plagued by a few issues which I believe affects many others too.

Old Maps: On this one, the pinch is still the old pinch, so I find myself driving through a fields and trees according to it's screen
No Dirt: It knows Urandangie Street is dirt, but it doesn't know that parts of Old Armidale Road and Bushy Creek Road are dirt, so it'll send you that way in preference.
No Numbers: In some cases it knows no street numbers at all - or very few. For example, Toms Gully Road it only knows 193 and 880, blissfully unaware of all the others. Not a big deal 'tho, just a frustration.

Those issues aside, they are quite useful. It's good to finally be able to just plug in some address down the Ebor road or Wards Mistake road for example, and then listen to the radio / podcasts, etc, without having to continually watch for elusive turn-offs. At least 4 times last year I passed turnoffs on the aptly-named Wards Mistake road!

I'm not yet in a position to give a comparison of different models. The one I purchased, a Navman S50, was largely purchased because of it's Bluetooth hands free option, meaning I could see who was calling (by name) and talk to them while driving, instead of using that silly 'cyborg' ear piece thing that seems to prefer life down the side of the chair rather than in my ear, and is often flat when needed. Of course, it turned out not to be compatible with my Telstra NextG mobile, so eBay has solved that problem with a secondhand LG mobile to replace it. If it weren't for that killer feature, I'd have done more research ;-)

I'm a little ambivalent about the windscreen mounting since it takes away a small viewable area, but it's well off to the side. Finding other mounting points on a 1971 car isn't so easy - the steering wheel was the next likely contender, but it's a bit hard on the eyes changing focal range from wheel to road repeatedly. I have at last filled one of the ironies that my workmates from Bourke RetraVision used to say about putting a GPS in such an old car - now all I need is one speeding ticket and all their ridicules will be null and void!

I wish you all the best for 2008 :) Feel free to write back with feedback or comments on these newsletters - if there's something you want to know about or share, let me know!

Cheers, Mike.

English (US)
12/16/07 @ 09:05 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

[CCC News] Christmas Bits

In this edition:

Christmas Tips
Some last-minute accommodation websites

Christmas Fun
Some websites to entertain

Some last-minute accommodation websites

Here are some very handy websites if your plans suddenly change and you need some quick accommodation.

Some of the discounted rates can be as much as 75% off compared to the normal accommodation rates.

.. and of course to find your way there, you can always use

... but don't trust them to get the exact street number position correct - they'll usually send you to the right street, but not necessarily drop you off in the right place! (Last time I used them to find a hotel in Queensland, they sent me a few blocks away from where I was meant to be, in a darkened deserted industrial area!)

... and if you get lost...

If you're lost, and you have a NextG mobile (or any mobile phone with a web browser for that matter) you can use it to view WhereIs. On most Telstra mobiles you access this by pressing the "Menu" or "Telstra" or "My Place" button and then click move around to you find Whereis listed on it somewhere. (In worst case you can use the browser and send it to )

It will ask you for a start and end point, and then give you maps and directions - and on modern phones it will often work out roughly where you are based on how far you are from the various phone towers - a poor man's GPS if you like!

Of course, unless you're on a reasonable data plan, don't leave it open on the screen for the duration of your journey - it could be a little costly, but not overly so. I wouldn't expect it to cost more than a few dollars if you're not on a data plan.

Some websites to entertain

Hopefully you won't find yourself bored over the holidays! However, just in case, here's a few sites that might entertain.

On this site you are given a word, and you have four possible definitions, only one is correct. If you get the correct one, the site donates 20 grains of rice to a third world country. There's no software required, and it might help your scrabble score too :)

(Another site)

If you just want to relax and check out some cute, amazing, silly, and occasionally rude photographs, but not pornography, click reply and I'll send you the address of a site which has around 2000 photographs. I'm not giving out the address here for safety reasons, as a few of the images are anti-any-religion or 'shocking' in nature and could offend some people; and there's no way to filter them since they're all lumped together. Just in case you already know the site, it's name is pi?d?us. (You'd probably want Broadband access to enjoy this site, and because each picture's about 200kb it's a little risky for anyone on BigPond cheapie 400MB plan.)

Will it rain? This link tells you where the rain is, right now - you might need to customise it to your area of course.

.. and of course you can use this link to find if it will rain or not.

Proving that disability doesn't necessarily mean you can't make a name for yourself! (No offense intended.)

What happens when your reflection goes missing?

I'm bound to think of some more after I've sent this newsletter, but they might need to wait until the next year.

Have a good one!

Cheers, Mike.

English (US)
12/09/07 @ 08:55 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

[ccc-news] Assorted News 3 :)

In this edition:

Important News
Christmas Trading Hours
Telstra killing ISDN and One Way Satellite next year!

What's New on the 'Net
Picasa Web Albums
Exetel's Manager's Blog

Easiest Job since Last Newsletter
First ever parking fine :(
VoIP update...
Kingwood Seat Repair
Vodka not good for laptops!
.. and nor are Feet!
.. and two more bite the dust!
Have a great Christmas!

For Sale:
A few old PCs around $100 to $150 each.

Christmas Trading Hours

Work traditionally slows down for CCC around the Christmas / New Years period. I will have some guests from overseas staying here from the 20th to the 27th, but will still be available for work up until around the 24th, then available again from the 27th on, but probably with reduced hours. If you don't get me directly, leave a message :)

Telstra killing ISDN and One Way Satellite Next Year!

ISDN Probably doesn't mean much to most of you - basically it is like a broadband connection, but only half the speed. However it can go out as far as about 14km whereas the new broadband that most people use (ADSL) dies at around 6km from the exchange. (In fact, some people in the far reaches of Guyra, such as near the end of Prisk street and beyond, can't even get that!) With it, you could pay about $80 to $90 a month for unlimited internet plus two phone lines, CallerID, and all the usual HomeLine options. In short - it was pretty reasonable value for money for what it offered.

Telstra has sent out letters to anyone with ISDN Home to advise that at the end of next year, they're killing off the home plans. Technically they're not killing off ISDN alltogether, but for anyone who uses it for high speed Internet, it'll suddenly become a lot more expensive. Clearly their trying to get people to use their new NextG internet, but with the ridiculously high pricing on it it's hardly a great alternative at this stage; and because we live in a place where you sometimes have to change down gears even on the straight bits, it hasn't got the coverage that people would need. So, for a few of my customers - one in particular who lives on it for his business (and no it's not me!) - it's going to be a real pain.

Telstra seems to be advising that by the end of next year, pricing will likely be quite different for their wireless stuff - but on that point I guess we'll have to wait and see. (My rule of thumb is if it's a Telstra product, expect to pay three times what you'd think it should be.) If you want to read up on the debate, whirlpool has a lively thread at

Picasa Web Albums

Every customer I have introduced to Picasa so far appears to love it! Picasa's a free program from Google, which you can get from - smallish at around 6MB... It allows you to see all the photos on your computer in a nice clean layout, and has simple buttons for doing things like fixing colours, cropping, lightening up the dark bits, printing, and emailing. It also works with every scanner I know and almost all cameras too, and makes a great replacement for that horrible unstable Kodak program. It doesn't interfere with the other programs on your computer and will usually track down all your photos, even if you have some in one program and some in another.

Just thought while I'm at it I'd mention the Web Albums feature. This allows you to click on any photo or collection of photos, and by clicking the Web Albums button it automatically makes a page on the Internet with those photos on it! This is particularly useful for people who have a traditional website with some sort of gallery feature, and want to be able to do the work of updating it themselves rather than relying on some web host. (heh I'm putting myself out of a job here in a small way, but never mind!) Or you could just be doing it for fun - to show off to the family, etc. As an example, here's one I made earlier -

Exetel's Manager's Blog

For those of you who don't know what Blog means, it's short for Web Log, and in simple terms, it means a diary. A public diary that anyone can add comments to in most cases. I have one on the CCC website, but I don't post to it much, and what I do post is techy stuff anyway. However, I've recently found the (manager of Exetel)'s blog, and for anyone interested in the telecommunications industry or just wants to know what Exetel's directions are, it makes for an interesting read. It's interesting to read the thoughts of a small fish - yet with 60,000 customers compared to my 200 or so on Auzzie, it makes me but a krill! The address is

Mind you I don't mind being a krill - I could be a Yellow Belly if I was living in Sydney, but I prefer the Black Mountain lifestyle!

Easiest job since Last Newsletter?

One fella called up because his Internet wasn't working. He'd unplugged everything before a storm. He'd missed one power cord when plugging it back in...

VoIP Update

I've had a rush on ADSL and VoIP connections in this last few weeks - mainly in Armidale. Two businesses, two home users. I'm now getting the equipment at wholesale prices of around $150 per VoIP ADSL modem. I also have eight people using the equipmentless VoIP, without advertising it. Exetel's still working on the marketing side of that particular product. It is pleasing that after a year and a bit of intermittent nightmares with VoIP providers, it at last seems stable enough that it can be used daily without complaints. (Although with the storm damage in the US, some international calls are a little funny at the moment.)

Kingswood Seat Repair

Some of you may have noticed the Kingswood's absence from the streets. I've taken the front seat out since it's showing it's age, and dropped it off in Armidale for re-upholstering. Getting it out was fun, and it's amazing just how much space there is in a car when the chairs are gone. It should be back in the next week or so. In the mean time you might notice me in a different car... speaking of which...

First ever parking fine :(

The Commodore I'm driving at the moment has one difference to the Kingswood. (Well, actually it has hundreds, but...) That is that the cigarette lighter socket is only powered when the ignition is on or in accessories. Now, how could that possibly lead to a parking fine??

Here's how.

I have a fan that normally lives in the Kingswood window, which pushes air through the car when it's parked so that Heppie (the CCC Kelpie Cross) doesn't get too hot. It was transferred to the Commodore while the Kingswood was off the road. (It's surprisingly hard to drive a Kingswood without a seat - you need something to push back against so you can press the clutch in!) Along with it went a UPS battery - a bit like a small motorcycle battery. Of course, mid week I figured I better recharge it, then come Wednesday morning I forgot to put it in the car again. And of course, the weather forecast said 22, but the sun decided to come out - so I figured best bet was to park under Coles while I did the next job. Well, the next job went 2.5 hours, and by the end I was late for the next job, which ended up being 3 hours by itself! So, at the end of all that, I get back to a happy dog, and a curious yellow envelope wedged under the wiper, which amused the RetraVision staff when I got there to buy some RAM having not yet removed it. Oh well, $79 later... Heppie is staying home now while the weather's warm - for some reason modern cars seem to get hotter than old ones - maybe it's all the tinted glass, or the carpet, the thin tin...

Vodka not good for Laptops!

I had a rare weekend job from a newish customer. (On weekends, I don't normally leave for work, but I don't mind if it comes to me!) It was a laptop that was beepbeepbeepbeeping when turned on, and when he went to put his password in it was already full of little dots, and he couldn't get rid of them. This usually happens if a key is stuck down.

Only when he arrived with the laptop did he explain that it was a shot-glass of Vodka that had got into it the night before that could be anything out of the ordinary. I took the laptop apart, and removed the keyboard - which the manufacturer had sensibly put a clear plastic backing on so such an event wouldn't leak straight into the machine. However, a few hours of cleaning and drying using specialised materials didn't resolve the problem, so I send him home with the keyboard disconnected, and a spare USB keyboard to work with. Four days later, I reconnected the keyboard, and it had recovered fully! (Modern laptop keyboards are usually made with two sheets of plastic with conducting pads on them, separated by a small gap, so it seems likely in this case that some booze was able to get between the sandwiched pieces and sit for a while.

By the way, if you're ever in the situation where you've given anything electronic a bath (for me it's been a cordless phone and a walkman, both fallen into the toilet and both still working today) you can almost always get them going again provided you immediately remove the battery from them. It's not the water itself that does the damage, but the electricity flowing through the water that causes electrolysis, making the device rapidly rust away inside.

.. and nor are Feet!

Another customer had managed to kick his laptop in the face while running through the house - resulting in a pretty, but broken screen. Fortunately there are people on eBay selling replacement screens, so about $300 later it's back in business. (If you're curious to see what a broken laptop screen looks like, here it is -

.. and two more bite the dust!

In what has been a bad month for laptops, I've had two more bite the dust! One HP laptop seemed to have overheating problems - a diagnostic program saying it was running at 75 degrees C. After fixing the overheating problem with some new thermal paste, it ran well. Well, for about 30 minutes, then it died again. This time permanently. It appears to be a known faulty model however - a bit of a lemon on all counts. I suspect it might be related to the ever-present Bad Capacitors debacle that has brought an early end to many, many household appliances and computers in the last decade. Interesting reading about it at - "the tale behind why the capacitor problem exists in the first place is because of a large-scale industrial espionage foul-up."

.. and another customer bought in her not very old Toshiba laptop - which had a small but conspicuous crack in the front left corner. (Not a big deal, mine's got cracks on every corner and the paint's coming off!) However, this one just wouldn't turn on. Even after stripping it to it's bare bones, there was no clear reason why it should have died. It was wireless, not connected to any phone line, so it's unlikely to have been storm damaged. If it had been dropped, there was no internal injury. Now it's fate rests in her finding the receipt for warranty. Failing that, I'll sell it in parts on eBay for her.

Have a Great Christmas!

Well, I wish you all a pleasant Christmas break, with plentiful treats and relaxation. You might have trouble buying those fly guns from Jaycar however - one customer emailed me this morning to say she bought seven of them! She said she was giving them to all her friends - although I guess it would also be possible to make a 'blind man's fly gun' by joining a large quantity together!

I look forward to working with you all in the new year - this might be the last newsletter before then!

English (US)
11/21/07 @ 11:36 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

Case Sensitive solution for Chatzilla Stalk list.

Hi all :)

ChatZilla version 0.9.79 has a small bug in that it is not currently case sensitive for the Stalk list, meaning the word Help and the word help will both trigger the stalk mechanism.

A member on #ChatZilla on (Toast) created a script that works around this problem. Many thanks to that person!

Here's where you can download the script. You may need to do a right click - save Link as... File Download HERE.

Once downloaded, go to ChatZilla, click ChatZilla --> Preferences --> Global Settings --> Startup --> Add, and browse for the file you saved. Reboot and hopefully it will work!

Cheers, Mike.

English (US)
11/19/07 @ 08:54 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

[ccc-news] Assorted News 2 :)

In this edition:

Important News
GST Free status confirmed.
10% drop in Auzzie Dialup costs
Significant reduction in hosting costs.
New! 20c untimed STD calls with no internet or special equipment needed...

What's New on the 'Net
Credit Card Alternatives
Under $10 Gadget Gift Ideas

Kids can kill computers!
No Joost for You :(
Old Printers wanted.
CCC appears on Australia's Funniest Home Videos
Easiest Job since Last Newsletter
A few more addresses added.
Warehouse Bargains
Answering machine on the blink?

For Sale:
Two pairs of Panasonic cordless phones for sale

GST Free Status Confirmed

After 7 weeks of waiting, the ATO has confirmed in writing that Cool Country Consulting is now deregistered from GST.

10% Reduction in Auzzie Dialup costs.

The full 10% discount has been applied to Auzzie Internet Dialup connections. This means dialup internet through Auzzie / CCC is now $1 per hour instead of $1.10 per hour, and is capped monthly to a maximum of $25 per hour instead of $27.50.

Significant reduction in Hosting Costs.

I've cut the cost of web hosting plans, some by more than 30% - see for new prices.

New! 20c untimed STD calls with no internet needed.

I am investigating a new type of VoIP service which does not require any special equipment or telephone connection! This means Anyone who has a telephone line will be able to make VoIP calls. The call costs will likely be:

* 20c untimed per call to any landline in Australia
* 22c per minute (+10c connection fee) to mobile phones in Australia.
* Free account creation
* $5 accounting fee for recharges irrespective of recharge amount. (I have to recharge manually which takes time, hence the cost.)

The service itself is still under development so while I am accepting new connections, I cannot guarantee that it will remain in it's current state. I have four people already using the service and have not heard any complaints yet. If the service is withdrawn, I'll refund the balances of prepaid accounts.

How it works:
Step 1 Press a memory button on your phone.

(Your phone will dial 1832 02 8207 8900, I will help you program this number into a memory button on your phone!)

Step 2 Once you hear the engaged tone - hang up - there will be no charge for this call from Telstra

Step 3 After around ten seconds your telephone will then ring and when you pick it up you will be told how much credit you have and then asked to dial the number of the person you wanted to call.

Credit Card Alternatives

There's a few web sites offering debit cards that operate like credit cards. While you can get a Visa Debit card from ANZ or NECU (and probably the other banks too) you have to endure a credit history check, and be of a certain age. A recent discussion on Whirlpool's "What's new on the 'net" forum mentioned a site called "Bopo" at which allows you to buy a no-credit 'credit card' that you can use for shopping online, etc. Another site called Virtual Visa offers a similar service, but based on their fine print I can't recommend it. (No recharge possible, loss of credit on expiry, etc.)

Gadget Gift Guide

If you need to buy someone a present for under $10, as seems to be quite common for Christmas parties, here's a couple of suggestions:
1 - The Amazing Fly Gun - $7.95 at Jaycar Electronics (which is next door to The Warehouse in Armidale) or online at - it shoots a small round transparent fly swat directly at the fly. Flies apparently have bad eyesight but any motion within about 60cm alarms them. Good cheap fun! (Better than my previous technique which was blind them with a torch, and whack!)
2 - Pen holder with clock and three colour LED display from The Warehouse. A colourful cube that continuously changes colour. $7.90, but you have to buy 4 AAA batteries for it..

I was going to recommend a great site at but sadly they're US only. Still, amusing nonetheless!

Kids can kill Computers!

About two weeks ago, a customer called to ask if I could install a new PC for her. This was a bit puzzling since I knew her computer wasn't that old. Turned out a small human whose days on earth probably numbered less than a thousand, had somehow managed to get behind the computer and flip the small switch that tells it it's in America running on 110V. It predictably went bang. (The computer, not the kid!) They'd already ordered another one (computer, not kid) after another IT organisation had claimed it would cost over $900 to repair. (My quote after the purchase was somewhat better, at around $350 or so - some IT businesses really know how to guild the lilly.) After setting up their new one, and adding the parts they wanted from the old one, they opted not to repair the old one and donated it to CCC where after some interesting and potentially dangerous experiments, I was able to revive it.

Kids can kill VCRs too - one came in with 10 grapes inside! They eventually conducted too much power, causing a part to 'go troppo' and vaporise the fuse.

No Joost for You :(

One of my long-term clients who lives too far out of town to get broadband rang, having trouble getting Joost going. (I mentioned Joost last newsletter, free from - a program that turns your computer into a TV with 15,000 shows you can watch on demand.) Sadly, she could only get ISDN where she lives. ISDN runs at half the slowest speed of broadband, which is a speed of 128K. Since Joost requires 600K, she was not having any joy. It is quite frustrating how many people out here live in great properties, but suffer as a result of living just a bit too far away from a telephone exchange! While wireless technologies do exist that might be fast enough, none of them give enough download allowance to be able to use this new technology.

Some keen-eared ABC radio listeners may have heard me talking about Joost on Friday afternoon.

Old Printers wanted.

If you have an old inkjet printer that is refusing to print - that is it only prints white - I'd be happy to relieve you of it for some home-made experiments in new techniques to repair them. Success has been moderate so far with the small stock of retirees in the shed. If I fix yours you can have it back for very little cost. If not, it might end up in a tree.

CCC appears on Australia's Funniest Home Videos

AFHVS was running a competition for crazy inventions. I decided to submit seven of my inventions (if you can call them that) just for a laugh and to try out the new digital camera. Turns out two of them were deemed good enough to show, which was nice as it more than paid for the camera! If you missed it, you can watch it (45 seconds) on Youtube by clicking here -

Easiest Job since Last Newsletter

An Armidale client called complaining of a fax machine that would not receive faxes any more. Easily fixed! One press of the Auto Answer button on the fax machine ....

A few more addresses added.

The first edition of this newsletter was sent to a limited number of addresses, since I wrote a rule that the postal address postcode needed to begin with 23. Turned out many customers don't have an address in my accounting system since I use email only for these people :)

Warehouse Bargains

People generally equate "The Warehouse / Crazy Clarke's" with cheap rubbish. However, sometimes they get genuinely good gear in at ridiculously low prices. The Warehouse in Armidale currently has $30 Cordless Keyboard and Optical Mouse sets, which includes rechargeable batteries and has an exceptionally long range. There's only four left on the shelves, with the brand "Laser".

Answering machine on the blink?

I've had one client say she's called me repeatedly, and left a message; yet I've never received it. I recently upgraded the computer that runs the answering machine software and may have had it set to be too 'deaf' - so if you've left a message and I haven't called you back, the answering machine may be to blame! I've adjusted it this evening to it's maximum sensitivity.

Two pairs of Panasonic Cordless Phones for sale

A client has two pairs of 1.8GHz Cordless Phones for sale. They are about 6 months old. Asking $50 per pair. Product image:

English (US)
10/26/07 @ 02:44 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

Dell Flashing Amber Power light, possible workaround.

G'day all :)

I have a Dell 5150 that has come in with a flashing amber power light error. The Power Supply unit was stuffed, so replaced it with another, but the problem remained, so I assume the motherboard is also stuffed.

Out of curiosity, before writing it off completely and after having done all the usual things us IT people do before declaring a motherboard dead, I tried forcing it to power up using the power on link in the ATX connector. The fan spun, etc, but there was no other sign of life. I then removed the jump lead and the fans, etc, stopped. However, the flashing had stopped too, and pressing the power button again caused the machine to start normally, and it appears to be fine.. until you turn it off, at which point the orange flash comes back.

So, if you have one of these machines, it might be worth trying to force it to turn on - but first be aware that just because it worked for me doesn't mean it will work for you - there's a risk that there could be a big bang! Disconnect any drives before you dare try, and if worried, rig it up to happen outside on a bench by remote control Mythbusters style!

So, here's how.

1 - Connect the power supply to power.
2 - Using a short piece of wire (or in the Mythbusters style, two long pieces of wire) create a short between the green wire in the ATX connector with an adjacent black wire. (Pins 14 and 15 as shown on
You should hear the fan spin up and maybe see some diagnostic LEDs flashing on the front panel.
3 - Disconnect the temporary short you made.
4 - Press the power button on the front of the computer. If it starts, yay. If not, try again a few times. If it still doesn't work, and you've tried a new power supply, then I guess it's time to add the motherboard to your 'soon to be a new pot plant pot' collection. (You need at least three motherboard to join together to make a pot plant pot.)

Hope it works! If it does, you might need to add a second power button to your computer by patching in to the appropriate power supply wires, and labelling it "pre-launch prime" or something!

Edit: A few hours later...

I've found a mangled USB port on the front panel of the computer after installing XP and getting a Power Surge on USB Port error. After bending the pins therein to stop them shorting to ground, it appears that the orange flash has gone away! Check your USB ports!

Edit 2: A couple of days later...

Client said USB port was mangled prior to this failure, so it's not a conclusive cause in this case.

English (US)
10/24/07 @ 12:53 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

How to keep or reset the File Created date when copying files.

I just discovered something interesting. I had a stack of photos copied from one computer to another, and the creation dates all became the date and time I copied them, which made a mess in Picasa.

However, the modification dates were correct - that is they were the date the original photo was taken. (My camera didn't have EXIF then.)

If you Zip the photos, then Unzip them again (using Windows XP's Built in Zip thing) it changes the creation date to be the same as the modified date, thereby resetting the date of the file!

In my case it doesn't quite fix the Picasa problem in that it turns out I'll have to sync the db folder on multiple PCs and to do this I first have to change the location of the photos to be the same on all computers. (Probably a P drive in TrueCrypt - advantage: Photos encrypted for privacy in case of theft, and stored in one file that can be easily backed up to DVD without fear of losing dates, etc.)

English (US)
10/23/07 @ 08:51 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Type: Post   Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

[ccc-news] Assorted News :)

In this edition:

Important News
Pricing Changes: CCC going GST Free

What's New on the 'Net
"Free" Legal Pay TV via the Internet - 15,000 shows on 250 channels.
5 cent SMS through the Internet
Security Key for Paypal / Ebay

Keeping the Kingswood, and other Survey Results
2ndhand PCs for sale
VoIP settles down, demo VoIP units available.
New Mailing List
Web site update

CCC going GST Free

CCC has applied to deregister for GST as of 1 Oct 2007. I'm able to do so as my turnover is consistently under $75,000 per year.

Why? It makes Auzzie's Dialup service cheaper, it makes residential computer repairs cheaper, and it removes the administrative headache of accounting for GST, saving both time and money.

This is an experimental change, and may be reversed at a future date if it turns out to be a problem :) At present, the only problem I can see with it is that for some businesses, it makes the cost of using CCC a little higher as they will not be able to claim GST on any invoice issued by CCC. However, as you know CCC is pretty well priced, so I suspect it won't be a big deal :) .. which leads to ...

A modest price rise.

The current pricing for CCC Repairs hasn't changed in 5 years, so I think it's time. The new pricing will be:
Computer repairs / Consulting (Labour) : $65 per hour (charged per minute, up by $5 on old prices)
Web Development and one-on-one tuition: $50 per hour (charged per minute, up by $5 on old prices)
Travel: $1 per kilometre, $10 minimum (now 10c/km cheaper for some people, as there's no GST.)

The request to deregister was send to the ATO about 28 days ago, but is yet to be officially confirmed. If for some reason the change does not take effect, I will let you all know :) (I didn't anticipate that it would take so long to get a response, telephoned, and was advised that it usually takes a month...)

"Free" Legal Pay TV via the Internet - 15,000 shows on 250 channels.

Many of you know about Skype - that free internet phone program that lets you talk from computer to computer. Well, now they've built something new, and it's pretty darn good :) It's a program called Joost.

When you run Joost, it turns your computer into something similar to a Pay TV setup - you can choose a channel and watch the shows on that channel, but the difference is that you can pick what show you want to watch, and watch it immediately! It's a high quality picture, better than most TVs,

Of course, many of you will find the concept of watching TV on your computer to be a strange thing, but that can be overcome fairly easily by adding a couple of bits to your computer that connect your computer to your TV. I can help you with this :)

It's a free program, sponsored by adverts that pop up every 15 minutes during your show. (Although amusingly they seem to only have one advert, always the same advert, for Nokia.) It's still in development (what is known as Beta) but seems to work well enough to be worth a look :) .. and that might be why there's only one ad playing!

There is one important thing to consider first 'tho! it requires a fast ADSL connection (1.5Mb/sec of which it uses 650k/sec on my system) which for CCC ADSL customers starts from $40 a month, or for BigPond ADSL customers, starts at $70 a month.) It chews through about 350MB per hour when it's running, so if you're not on a high download plan you need to be careful, and be sure to close it when not using it..

Anyway, if you want to give it a go, grab it from and if you've got any questions, just ask :)

If I owned a TV station, I'd be a bit worried about now... ;-)

5 cent SMS via the Web.

Those of you using Exetel ADSL can now avail yourselves of a service where you can send text messages via a small window on your computer, and each text message (up to 160 letters) costs just 5 cents, with 20 free texts per month as well.

It takes about 3 minutes to set up on your computer, and I can do that for you by remote control using the Remote Support program that I have loaded onto some of your computers. (Those who haven't got it can get it here - - click Remote Assistance.) Or you can do it yourself by going to logging in with your phone number and password (if you know them) Click SMS, click Set Up API Access, set a name and password, then lastly click the Download exeSMS Application.

Security Key for PayPal / eBay

If you have a PayPal account, there's a fair chance you've linked it to a savings account or credit card. If you buy and sell on eBay frequently, you might also have a nice feedback score. Both of these can be a target for hackers or identity theft. For $7.50 Australian, you can buy from either of them a Security Key, which is a small thing about the size of a USB drive which has a button and a display. When you log in to eBay or PayPal you press the button and type in the number you see onto the computer, and this confirms that it is you using the account and not someone else, because only you have the unique security key thing. It's well worth the money, as it virtually eliminates theft of your accounts. You can order one from - the same one works for both PayPal and eBay.

Keeping the Kingswood, and other Survey Results.
Well, the surprise result of the recent Survey,%202007.doc was that 90% of you prefer the moderately battered Kingswood over a newer Bluebird! So, it looks like I'll be in the Kingswood for some time yet unless something breaks. (At the moment, the exhaust flange gasket is the only significant problem that needs to be fixed.) The Nissan needs rego and possibly some new shock absorbers before it's fully ready to go. I have replaced all vacuum hoses, extensively cleaned the emissions control components, and replaced the mechanical fan with an electric one, removed a failed alarm and associated dodgy wiring, and cleaned back and converted some surprise rust in the boot. The Kingswood has been recently cleaned, serviced, and the air conditioner re-fitted for the coming hot weather. I have also purchased a flat screen monitor to enable in-car repairs of desktop PCs as well as laptops - an infrequent but useful facility to have, as it's a pain driving 30km just to replace a modem then take it back to a drop-off point - even if it is cheaper than renting an office!

Other survey results showed that almost everybody likes Heppie (the dog), thinks an office would not be useful, and that there should be a little more advertising.

Every one of you asked for an answering machine on the Telstra NextG mobile, so I've added it. (I hate the cost of it, and will one day invent an answering machine to connect to the mobile phone, but I recognise it as a valuable service so will put up with it's overpriced nature! :) )

2ndhand PCs for sale.

I have a number of second hand PCs in stock that will soon be put up for sale, likely ranging in price from $50 for a games box up to around $250 for a decent one. Most of them are just waiting for more memory off eBay before being organised and advertised. I'll send another message to this list when they are ready.

I've had a couple of queries in the last week for laptops as well. I can get these for you from eBay, using my skills at researching sellers to minimise the risk. (The last one I bought for a customer last week, for $410, was faster than my office laptop!)

VoIP Settles Down, two demo loan units available.

After some serious misadventures with VoIP in the last few months, I've found a stable solution that is working well for many people now. If you're curious about VoIP and have broadband, feel free to contact me for a trial unit to be set up. VoIP call costs are usuallly 10 cents untimed to any landline in Australia, and between 20 and 27 cents per minute to mobiles depending on the company you get it through. They are made using an ordinary phone and no computer is required. (You do need ADSL broadband or ISDN however.) At present, Exetel is now running the best value for quality VoIP service, with MyNetFone a close second. SIPme is in between them in pricing, but has had some issues in the past that prevents me from recommending them at the moment. Pricing at and - it's still cheaper to call a mobile from a mobile tho - 15c/min on the CCC Mobile plan at - because you're not going from one technology to another.

New Mailing List

After reading an overview of the Spam Act, it more or less confirmed that I can contact existing customers through this type of communication provided there was always an unsubscribe option - so here it is :) I'm not sure at this stage if it will replace newsletters (The CCC Update) but one things for sure - it's a darn site easier to click "Send" than it is to print 130+ pages, fold them, print 130+ envelopes, stuff them, seal them, stamp them, pay for them. If you have an opinion either way let me know :)

Web Site Update

The CCC Website ( is still a bit of a dog's breakfast, but has been updated to include more information on my services. I also bought the name ccmobile and set up a site for the 15 cent a minute mobile phone plan, which is at - right before I found the new bond requirement for non-exetel users! Aah well, gotta earn my entrepeneur's offset from the ATO somehow!

English (US)
09/17/07 @ 10:45 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published

Priority: 3  

Categories: Assorted

A New Gamble

Traditionally, I find advertising any sort of telephone product nearly impossible. However, every now and then I decide to have another go, convinced that most people would save money on the plans.

This time I've spent (hopefully not wasted) a day building a site for the $15 a month plan with 15c/min calls. The site's at

I'm also thinking of having a break from the norm and advertising this one on the local radio stations 2AD and FM100.3 - but the pricing's quite steep for something like this which won't earn much. Still, I'll try anyway - isn't that what being an entrepeneur is all about - having a go?

I also notice the CCC website is pretty old now, funny how things go out of date so fast. It needs a face lift, but that'll have to wait for a bit - there's GST to do...

English (US)
02/26/07 @ 06:29 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published


Categories: Assorted

virtual PC change date (Microsoft Virtual PC 2007)

If you're reading this it's probably because you've discovered you can't override the date and time on a virtual machine running in Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007

You can't disable this feature at boot, but you can temporarily work around it by stopping the virtual machine addon services and then changing the date. Of course, once you start these services again the date will revert back, but this might help you with your diagnostics!

Here's an example batch file to stop the services.

echo Stopping the VM services
net stop 1-vmsrvc
net stop VPCMap

Cheers, Mike.

English (US)
10/11/06 @ 23:37 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published


Categories: Assorted

MEW-AM Pavilion 6609 Video Sound Drivers

Hi there :)

If you come across one of these old beasties and you're trying to load '98 on it, you'll find bugger all information about the onboard video and sound card.

If you grab the free Unknown Device Identifier, it will help you heaps to sort this one out...

Turns out the video driver is an 810 Intel - easy to find on Google.

.. and the sound driver an Aureal 8810 sound card, which will turn up on Google, and take you to that damn Driverguide site.

By the way, after a while they say you have to pay. Just use another email address to re-register and all's well. I've contributed drivers to them in the past so it's rude of them to say I have to pay now!

English (US)
09/18/06 @ 21:15 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published


Categories: Assorted

VersaMail leaving mail on the POP3 server

(or VersaMail will not remove mail from the POP3 server)

In my continuing interesting experience with the Palm TX (or palm T|X) I am now having some fun with VersaMail sometimes not removing mail from the server after checking.

The last current solution to this problem that seems to have worked was to go into the hotsync utility, choose custom, VersaMail, Advanced, and untick a few boxes there.

My setup is unique - I have a main mailbox which is checked by Thunderbird - but which is also set at the server to redirect a copy to an Australian host. (The address is US hosted so POP3 latency can be frustrating when borrowing a web connection.) Since SpamAssassin flags the SPAM (which is probably 70-90% of my mail) it's not convenient to download the SPAM onto the Palm and then filter it - more time, more RAM, more latency, more risk of a bus passing and dropping the borrowed wireless connection when down the street...)

...So the solution is to use MailMon Free (A real bugger to download - eventually found it at - what's the go with - is it just an advertising site with no content or something??) It can be set to repeatedly poll a mailbox and remove messages meeting certain criteria. For me it was anything over 1MB and anything with *****SPAM***** in the subject line.

So now if I'm travelling, the Palm can get the sanitised mail where I can find 802.11 coverage. In other cases, the pricey GPRS mobile (LG U8120) can fetch the summaries. (Those two products won't communicate.)

Will post an update if it happens again and I find another solution.

Later edit: This program still gave me problems. In the end, VersaMail was dumped and SnapperMail was used instead. Gmail is used to filter the junk and then forward to a normal POP3 account.

English (AU)
09/18/06 @ 20:59 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published


Categories: Assorted

Thunderbird False New Mail Notifiaction alarms

After the latest update, Thunderbird now is adament that I have new email, even when it's just Junk. Different to my last problem where I was getting new mail notification for SpamAssassin tagged messages. So, after a bit of research, managed to find a new extension for Thunderbird that works around this issue...

Check out

Mailbox Alert 0.9, by Jelte, released on Aug 6, 2006

Mailbox Alert allows you to specify, for each seperate mail folder, a message, sound and/or a system command that will be executed when new mail is found there.

This way, you specify different actions for less important folders, or no action at all.

Works with: Thunderbird 1.0 - 2.0.0.* ALL

Well worth the download if just for a bit of fun. Sadly it doesn't give you a semi-permanent new mail flag in the task bar, but it can make any noise you like to alert you :)

Curiously, the built in New Mail tray icon refuses to go away even when it's turned off in ThunderBird.

English (AU)
09/15/06 @ 23:52 by mccmikey
Visibility: Published


Categories: Assorted

Mozilla Thunderbird New Mail Notification Extension

Mozilla Thunderbird New Mail Notification Extension

I have been looking for an extension that would control the New Mail Notification icon for Thunderbird, but there isn't one that I can find.

However, I did discover a reason why it was misbehaving, and perhaps if you have found this post, it will help you too...

I had a mail filtering rule set to move *SPAM* messages to the Trash folder - but Thunderbird was still counting them as messages that deserved the flag. However, changing this filtering rule to "Delete the message" gives the same effect of moving the message to the Trash folder, but doesn't cause the New Mail Notification flag to appear.

Tech note: Another way you *could* make the computer do what you want is to monitor the size of the file that contains your messages. (ie inbox.) How you do that is up to you. There's a program called FCMon.exe, (Folder Change Monitor) but the site it lives on is one of those useless sites on the 'net where you click to download, only to find it's not there any more. (It is, but it's behind an FTP url that won't accept a login.)

NewNew post...

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