Brickbats & Bouquets
I’ve just been reminded that it’s three years since we made the move from Vodafone and Telecom mobiles respectively. At the time we thought it was a bit of a chance to go to 2Degrees but the deal was better than we were on with the ability to carry over unused minutes and data one month to the next.
So how’s it worked out? Actually very well. The service has been fine, the coverage has been, if anything, better than previously and we have carried over large numbers of minutes and data each month. So much so that
I have just been through the process to get one of the new Gold AT HOP Cards for seniors. It's hard to imagine how it could have been more complicated than it has been. Here in remote South Auckland you can go to Pukekohe rail station to get the card (and pay the $15) but unless you are able to register online then the nearest place is Papakura!
Now for the online bit. I have been developing web sites for 25 years and the AT website is one of the worst that I have seen. Non intuitive to a fault and worse yet it did not work for me. I had to call
Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot Champs
This has to be one of the best organised and most fun aviation events in New Zealand. 65 competitors, good commentary and a fun day out for the family.
I've just attended the second "Healthy Bastards" and it was even more fun than the first. (My enthusiasm may be biased by being second in the precision landing comps)
Very well done to the Marlborough Aero Club.
See some of the action here
Time to Go
Surely it must have dawned on the Mayor of Auckland that it is time to resign?
The on going scandel that is our first citizens private life makes for interesting reading in a salacious sort of way but is a diversion from the serious problems that confront our city.
This man is not fit to hold the post and nothing demonstrates that more than his insistance that he remain.
Ultra Fast Broadband Rort
What should have been a great investment in New Zealand infrastructure has turned in to a rort where the taxpayer is funding one of the coutries biggest companies to maintain and enhance their monopoly.
Here in Pukekohe, Chorus are being paid to duplicate Counties Power's existing fibre network which has been in place for the past 10 years. This duplication (called "overbuilding") involves laying new, Government paid for, fibre alongside the Counties Fibre.
Google's New Compose Feature
I've been a great advocate of the Cloud Computing model over a number of years. I've advocated it and Google Apps in particular at a number of companies I have been associated. I certainly pooh poohed concerns about privacy and stability.
The events of the past months have rather shaken my position.
Draytek Vigor 2760
I am always keen that things should do what they say on the box.
Today's rant is about the Draytek Vigor 2760 router that has a nice little "IPv6 Ready" logo on the front and claims IPv4 and IPv6 dual stack on the side.
Unfortunately I bought this router and it turns out that it is not in fact "IPv6 Ready". Even if you load the latest beta software it still doesn't work.
CAA See Sense
The CAA have finally seen sense over the Recreational Pilots License (RPL) and have now delegated management of the medicals to the pilots own doctor.
A vote of thanks must go to all those involved in getting this achieved.
I've just heard a fascinating piece on the radio, an interview with Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at Stanford Centers for Automotive Research and Internet and Society, looking at developments in driverless car technology.
It seems that driverless cars are "just around the corner" and are set to make as big a change to our roads as automation has already done for air transport. Imagine your car drops you off at the shops or office then goes away and parks itself until you are ready. Or even public cars that you hail when you need them.
Perhaps the best thing about the automation is that the cars could make much better use of our existing roads, narrower lanes, less distance between cars, no rubbernecking, automatic diversions, the list just goes on. That's apart from the driver being able to do something useful rather than drive.
I've been waiting for this for a long time. At last the vastly overpriced Telecom land line has gone.
We've been paying over $60 per month for years for this antique service but could not replace it with anything more modern due to the sad state of the Internet delivery in our remote part of the world (50km from the centre of New Zealands largest city, Auckland).
Now with the introduction of ADSL2 and some work on our part we have replaced the $60 telephone service with a $65 Naked Broadband service that includes a telephone line and of course broadband. Effectively paying $5 per month for broadband (plus $1 per GB for data over 5GB per month).
Seems that the latest to bung up their charges are the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) here in God's own.
Stunningly one of the charges if quite new - $313 to file a medical certificate. Note that said certificate is prepared and printed by a doctor, who charges less than the CAA ($250 typically) and actually has to do some work, not just push some paper across his/her desk.
The Recreational Aircraft Association of NZ can do the whole thing for $70pa and the Sport Aviation Corp Ltd for $60pa all following the CAA's own rules. What other justification can there be for a charge of $313 except gross inefficiency at the department?
Gareth Morgan Investments
We have been GMI customers for several years but became disillusioned with them after several years of poor performance.
Fair enough we joined right at the start of the Global Financial Crisis which was pretty poor timing on our part and forunatly GMI held losses to less than they might otherwise have been.
Since then however the performance has been pretty much along the same lines as the market benchmark (see the second graph where the lines have been overlaid).
Annoyingly InternetNZ have decided to release a new domain name (the first in many years) of .kiwi.nz
I say annoyingly as there is already an initiative to have a .kiwi top level domain to help the Christchurch city rebuild and .kiwi.nz will only divert and confuse. Details can be found here
Rates climb (20% for us in the new Supersize Me Auckland City) and the general discontent with Council services grows despite ever more 'consultation'. We seem stuck in a vicious circle of diminishing performance.
Worse yet our Councils (here in New Zealand) are obsessed with deploying 19th Century solutions to 21st Century problems. Our great-great-grandparents would have been quite at home with the public transport options being proposed but these seem quaint to the iPad generation. People don't want these solutions and vote with their feet (and cars and checkbooks)
Internet Explorer 9
I've worked with the world wide web since the early 90's starting with the first browser, Mosaic and each new iteration of this technology just seems to get better.
That is until the latest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Incomprehensibly Microsoft have changed the interface and made it garble simple web sites. Other popular sites like Google Mail don't work 'out of the box' either.
Most impressed by the guys drilling our new well. Check out the time lapse video.
The European Debt Crisis
I have been left stunned by David Cameron’s exercise of the EU Veto last week and even more stunned by the reaction of the UK press that it’s a good thing. For me this is a real ‘WTF’ moment.
The British get no concessions and are excluded from further negotiations. Moreover they will almost certainly be punished commercially by other EU members for their intransigence. Worst of all they relegate themselves to irrelevance on the global scene and get the blame if the EU fail to contain the debt crisis. Where’s the win in that?
Love Never Dies
We just had to see this, despite the negative reviews. Phantom is just so good, how could the sequel be ruined?
Well the sad thing is that Love Never Dies is dreadful. Worse yet it doesn’t need to be but the music lacks cohesion and links to the original score. Too much time is spent with telling the plot and it really only starts to have a life of it’s own in the second act. Overall it’s a great disappointment and needs an appointment with a really sharp editor.
Schuberth Helmet Bluetooth kit
We've had this for a few days now and finally seem to have mastered getting the rider to rider communications to work properly. It has to be said that once set up it's very good with some limitations but the set up is picky.
The bigest problem has been to get the rider to rider to play nicely with the Zumo GPS, I'm not sure if that's completely solved yet. I tried yesterday without listening to music and that was a big help.
Maxtor now Seagate
Once these were two great companies but now......
I have a Maxtor Shared Storage II unit which is an external, network connected backup. Great idea and everyone should have something like this - the disk in your computer will fail.
The Maxtor can be configured as a RAID device so that, you might think, if one disk fails your data will be safe. Sadly and incomprehensibly, this is not true. If one disk fails you have to go to remarkable steps to get the other one out and onto a Linux machine to get the data off it
When talking about raising the Accident Compensation Commission levies the Minister, Nick Smith, asks the question "If we want to preserve ACC, they are the sort of levies needed."
It's a good question which he, and others, have avoided answering. Do we really want to preserve the ACC? If there is a rational explanation for singling out one group of medically disadvantaged for special treatment then it's time we all found out what it is. Many New Zealanders take part in 'unsafe' activities; skiing, hang gliding, mountaineering, diving and to name but a few. What possible reason can there be for motorcycles to be singled out as a special case to have to pay for their 'insurance'?
Kevans Curtains, Pukekohe
Curtain material is something out of the ordinary for me but on this occasion I can see why a brickbat is well deserved.
The new curtain material for our bedroom was very expensive and had to be specially ordered in from Irvine Merchant in Christchurch. The fabric is from Vriesoc International Fabrics who claim to be "a House of Happyness". My wife had carefully measured how much would be required allowing for the long pattern repeat so imagine her surprise, and very bad language on discovering that it had been pre-cut into the three pieces required.
Well actually it had not been precut as the pieces were from separate batches. These were tails of separate rolls in defferent colour batches.
Worse yet the print was skewed to the fabric, areas of print missing and generally even I could see that this is a rubbish fabric.
Now clearly this is not strictly the retailers (Kevans Curtains, Pukekohe) fault but they should surely be looking out for their customers, who with the best will cannot be as experienced as they are? Making sure that customers get good value for their dollar is a vitally important customer service, sadly Kevans Curtains don't seem to get it. If retailers fail to do this they will lose out to those (like L V Martin & Sons) who understand this things.
Apparently we won't be going back and strenuously recommed that you avoid the "House of Happyness"
Sadly I have to write about this shower again.
Mary unwisely thought that she should give Kevans another chance and has just finished an unpleasant visit to the Disputes Tribunal trying, unsuccessfully, to get her deposit back.
Kevens made a number if promises about when our new curtains would be delivered and in the end tried to cancel them. The upshot was the Disputes Tribunal who effected an unhappy compromise.
What was particularly irritating was that some of the 'evidence' was clearly constructed by Kevans after the event.
Overall these remain people to avoid.
L V Martin & Sons
Our vacuum cleaner broke and after a bit of research on the excellent Consumer website we selected a new machine based on their tests and recommendations.
Placing an online order with L V Martin & Son was a snap and they had dispatched the machine within a couple of hours. It may have been a quiet day in Johnsonville (near Wellington) but it's still quick. Even more surprising it was delivered on Waiheke Island the next morning.
Perhaps best of all the machine was $100 cheaper than Consumers target price. 10/10.
Vodafone contracts and their shop get a big thumbs down.
If you are going to invite customers to take advantage of special offers on new products (the iPhone 3GS in this instance) then you need to be sure that said customers are eligible for the offer.
Waiting until the customer (me) has gone through the entire online purchase process and then having an Indian call centre call a few day later to 'decline to accept' the order is just plain stupid. Let's face it, they have all the information in their database so how hard can it be? Saying terms and conditions apply just doesn't cut it. Do a bit more work on the web site (which is worth another brickbat all on it's own).
Instead of being a positive experience the combination of poor customer servicing from an Indian call centre and disappointment at not being able to get the deal I was offered, make a change to another service provider a gimme at the end of the contract. Had they said nothing then I'd probably have been quite happy to let it roll over.
In some ways this is not quite as good as the top line Nokia's, probably revealing the lack of time that Apple have been in this market.
I've waited until the third version of the iPhone (the 3GS), mostly because I was not willing to compromise on the lack of 'cut and paste'. Certainly I miss things like the voice dialing and voice caller announcement on the Nokia.
Battery life is certainly an issue (recharge each night) but overall the experience is very positive and I wouldn't go back.
The iPhone 4 really does change things again. Basically a huge improvement in reception over the 3GS, it works throughout our house, something the 3GS could never achieve. Don't believe the antenna stuff you may have read.
This is a very worthwhile service allowing households or businesses to limit access to 'inappropriate' web sites. You get to make your own definition of inappropriate by creating an account.
Checkout opendns.com. Best of all it's free
I have noted though that some downloads can be dramatically slowed down if the service uses the DNS provider to work out where in the world you are to provide the closest server. iTunes was a problem for me
Hotel & Spa Du Vin (RIP)
This was an excellent venue for a party of 30-40. The staff were attentive, the team building exercise,billed as the 'Amazing Race', while slightly long, went off extremely well with all the participants having a really good time.
In the evening the food and service were first rate and Charlie the DJ got right into the swing of it. It would be hard to fault.
The hotel itself is suffering from a bit of deferred maintenance (it's gone into receivership) but it's not too bad. It will take some little money to get on top of.
The only drawback to the whole affair was the cost which seemed high for the booze but it was well worth the overall price to have the event go smoothly.
Sadly the resort has not been economically viable and the receivers have sold it to Dillworth School. I bet the pupils just love it.