My Notes and Rants


Hanlons Razor

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Basically : stupid people over estimate their abilities and don’t know they are stupid

Introduction

This page is just a place for me to rant and comment.  Please let me know if you agree or disagree.  These comments are just my opinion and yours may differ.  Opinions and circumstances change, so I will occasionally add updates.

My Won’t Buy List

These are companies I will never buy from again or if possible use their product.  These companies are either just evil or are using bad law to screw their customers.

  • Microsoft – just evil in general, years of Windows problems, forced updates, spying
  • HP – deliberately faulted printers running after-market ink
  • Lexmark – sued printer cartridge re-filler claiming copyright infringement
  • Plastikote – for a long time sold paint spray cans that easily blocked wasting most of the paint

Mercury Energy Web Site – Faulty ???

I have been having a bit of a discussion with Mercury Energy.  Not that I really expect to achieve anything talking to a help desk operator with a set of form letter replies.  My original complaint was that logging in to “MY Account” to view or download our power bill did not work correctly using my web browser (Firefox).

Clicking “view latest bill” causes a pdf file download.  This would be fine if it was actually the my latest bill.  But it’s not, it’s apparently a 8 page pdf file containing a bunch of text html – some web page turned into a pdf file.

Having explained this a couple of times I received a email thanking me for my business and telling me “view a copy of your bill by logging into My Account”.  A bit disappointing, but not really unexpected.  These big companies are like ant colonies; activity all over the place and nobody really gives a shit as long as enough people pay up on time 🙂

On the rare occasion that I visit a web site that does not work correctly, I just leave, considering it to be not worth the effort.  Most web sites that are that complex seem to have weird things going on underneath, link to tons of other crap, are created using some weird development tools or the developers should be looking for other careers.

I have been using Firefox for years, latest version all patched and up to date.  There have been a couple of minor annoyances, but generally I like it, know how to use it and consider it provides better security and privacy than the other popular browsers.  It is currently my only browser and I’m not changing because of some broken web site.

To view the Mercury web site I turned off advert and script blocking, but the site still does not render correctly and does not provide access to my power bills.

As it is very unusual to find a web site not work like this, I conclude that it is a fault with the site.  Something is non-standard or incompatible.  I think it’s time to look for another power provider.

BTW: as a quick test I tried two other older browsers.  One rendered the site much worse than Firefox did, and the second one crashed after scrolling the page up and down a bit 🙂

Scare Tactics to Sell Product

I don’t like companies that suggest that if you buy anything cheaper than their product your world will go up in flames.  These companies usually more expensive and do not have a better way to market their product.  They are likely selling a standard product at a higher price and don’t have a legitimate reason that you should not buy cheaper.

These days, cost is more a function of supply and demand, and marketing than a true indication of quality.

I noticed a solar installer recently stating  “If you ask a professional to do the job you will get a professional job done“.  These days, professional just means you paid to have it done; it does not mean the job was done correctly, to a high standard or with acceptable quality materials.  This applies to all fields –  solar, automotive, building and related trades – anything you can pay to have done.

They also suggested that buying cheaper could produce a dangerous installation.  I disagree that cheaper is inherently more dangerous,  but their main point was that lack of knowledge was dangerous – and I agree with this.

It’s not just the solar installation field that is a problem, but it is electrical in general.  It is now much more complex than it was 30 years ago and electricians need to stay technically capable to be able to correctly and safely handle the increasing array of equipment and applications.

As they point out DC is potentially more dangerous than AC and must be managed with appropriate equipment and forethought. I think few general electricians have this knowledge or experience.

Note: They demonstrate a 32A AC breaker failing and burning when interrupting 6A from solar panels.  They do not mention the voltage used in the test.  Basically – AC reverses the current flow as part of it’s normal operation – AC means “Alternating Current”.  DC does not reverse and therefore does not self extinguish the arc that is drawn out when breaking the circuit.  If the gap is not large enough, current will continue to flow through the arc, generating a lot of heat and as seen, burning the switch or circuit breaker.  DC switches and breakers are designed to handle this problem.  This is why DC beat out AC for general household electrical.

Mega.NZ – November 2016

I was just looking at assembling a laser engraver kit I bought from Banggood a few months back. So I tried to download the instructions and software that Banggood have made available on mega.nz …. or rather unavailable.

Mega is a horrible site with epilepsy inducing animations on each side of the download screen and a browser download option that goes through downloading and decrypting only to fail on saving.

I’m not interested in signing up for an account or installing sync or file managers or special browser plugins. I just want two files.

I tried a couple of other browsers that I use on the infrequent occasions that Firefox fails. Mega went through the download process then popped up a message saying one was not compatible with Mega, and wouldn’t even try with the other.

No I don’t and won’t use Chrome or any other browser because some idiot non-standard web site requires it.

Any sympathy I had for Kim.com has now gone and he owes me at least 45 minutes 🙁

Update November-2016

A friend managed to download the 170MB file from Mega for me.  I also advised Banggood that I thought Mega was a bad choice for distributing these files and why.  The laser engraver is now working.

NZ Couriers – September 2016

Service is declining and prices are always increasing.

We are now told by Post Haste Couriers that to be sure of a pick-up and therefore overnight delivery we should book pick-up before 2:30 in the afternoon, and phone them to make sure.  Because most of what we send within New Zealand is manufactured or prepared and packed on the day of shipping, this means that we have to have the days work done by 2:30 PM to be sure of a courier Pick-up.

The only solution for us is to send urgent packages using the NZ Post Courier by taking them to the local NZ Post Shop, where they have a later cut-off time.

The negatives are that I have to make a trip out and have to relabel a bag.  A positive could be that by switching all shipping to NZ Post I wouldn’t have to buy books of courier tickets in advance.  A second positive could be the exercise gained by walking the 2KM round trip.

Update September-2016

Post Haste have advised that failed pickups were due to a problem with on-line bookings being delayed by Spark.  Spark are that telecom provider formerly known as Telecom, who changed their name to escape a well earned bad reputation.

Well Post Haste, that’s what happens when you put everything out to contract.

Update November-2016

Since talking to Post Haste, their pickup reliability has improved.  I am still taking last-minute, urgent and South Island packages to the local Post Shop.

HP – never buy list – Sept-2016

I have added HP to my short list of manufacturers to never buy from.

It looks like HP have a little problem brewing.  In September 2016 it was reported that 13 thousands  HP printers started showing error messages and stopped working.  Either it’s a firmware bug or it seems more likely the printers know when you use non-HP ink and have a end-of-life date built in.  Even printers that are not connected to the internet are failing, suggesting it is a planned inbuilt feature rather than an accident.

Effectively HP is sabotaging printers when you don’t use their ink.

They have now released a optional firmware update that allows 3rd party ink.  I’m sure they are sorry about this and it was a actually the work of a rogue agent planted in the factory by a competitor.  But seriously, you’d have to be a moron to trust a company that would do this sort of thing.

We all know that printer manufacturers are ripping us off on consumables, but to sell a product that is designed to fail if you don’t use their over-priced ink is too dishonest.

Add-Blocking

We are beginning to hear a lot of whining about ad-blockers. I run all the ad-blocking I can.

It’s not advertising that’s a problem it’s the business of advert delivery.

I like to see relevant adverts. When occasionally I buy a magazine, Silicon Chip or The Shed, it is partly for the adverts, they increase the value of that type of publication.

But on-line I will not accept adverts that pop-up, are animated, flash or make noises, affect my computer or browser or persist longer than the page they arrived with.  I will accept adverts that mimic newspaper or magazine ads.

The Problem

IMO, is that media and low-value web sites (now a large portion of the web) sell space on their pages to advert delivery specialists who have been growing more intrusive and less relevant.

Visiting a main-stream web site now usually has your browser drawing in adverts, trackers and cheats that you don’t see from many specialist tracking and advertising servers. There is more data bandwidth consumed in this than in the actual web site content, and most of the loading delays are waiting for these servers. They want to store more cookies and info on my computer, and a faster computer is needed.

I use script and ad blockers to block trackers, bulk rubbish adverts, social media connections, analytics and any malicious crap that may come with these. If I could block the bad but allow the good, I would. It would only take one malicious attack to get through to completely ruin a huge amount of work. And if I have to block every advert on the web because of the slightest chance, I will.

My ad-blockers can’t tell the good from the bad, and I don’t trust them to make that decision. A web site that won’t let me visit without allowing all the adds and “extras” is probably not worth the visit and possibly up to no good. The legit advert industry is crying no-fair, but they have shot themselves in the foot; no sympathy here.

The solution

Is for web sites to server their own adverts, the way it used to be. Adverts would be an image and/or block of text that was part of a page from the same server, specifically approved by the site manager. IMO, this maintains relevance and there is a much better chance that the advert is not malicious. It also means that add-blockers have no effect.

This would be the end of the huge specialist advert delivery industry. It will clean up the web and remove sites that live off crappy advertising. I see it as a major step forward. A cleaner web will be much more useful.

Update March-2016

UK culture secretary John Whittingdale has announced a “round-table” to discuss add-blocking, suggesting that white-lists are a modern day protection racket and that if people don’t pay for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist.

I agree that white-lists are bad. But I also think that if content ceases to exist, then it was not worth having in the first place.

Forbes.com – October 2016

A site I visit often referred to an article on forbes.com, so I went to have a look.  Up came a page with quote of the day and a complaint about my ad-blocking.  Because I was interested, I restarted Firefox and disabled script and advert blocking. But it just kept complaining.

So I tried another browser, one that I use only occasionally which has nothing blocked.  This time the page loaded, two side columns and the article in the centre.  But that’s not all; the side columns kept changing, the article kept vanishing and reloading and some broken audio was trying to get through – aliens I think.  Then the browser completely disappeared being replaced by a message – “oops it crashed, would you like to restart the browser” – hell no.

So I didn’t get to read the article and lost interest after 15 minutes of trying.  My conclusion is that my script and advert blocking is well worthwhile, and as a bonus keeps me away from these poorly presented web sites that wrap little bits of information in tons of shit.

Cellphones and Service Providers SUCK

I’m getting fed up with my Android phone. I want a phone that is simple to use, functional and lasts a long time on one charge.

To all you people who say it’s easy and I should just learn how to use it, I say, not interested, forget it. I don’t spend hours every week playing with my phone and I’m not going to dedicate a significant time to learning about and maintaining a poorly designed system that has been forced on us by marketing and advertising dicks.

It does run a few Apps that are quite useful:

  • one or two multirotor support apps
  • a gps tracker/recorder for when we go walking
  • wifi analyser
  • GPS monitor

As a phone it has too many features and is too difficult to use. The contacts list could be quite useful, but having migrated from earlier phones, it is a mess, with missing information and duplicate entries. The contacts manager is an App; overly complicated and poor for such a basic task.

Service Providers Suck

They are not really service providers any more. They cannot be easily contacted (unless you want to pay them more) and their service is crap. Their web sites are overly complex adverts, difficult to use and don’t provide useful information. The product plans are aimed at kids wanting Facebook data and 50,000 texts per month.

I wonder if in the future these service providers will be held responsible for dumbing down society as cigarette companies have been blamed for health problems. We can only hope.

Android Sucks

I’m sure it’s up to no good. Between Android and the Apps it is collecting and reporting far more information that it should be. The vast majority of my data traffic is not MY data traffic. This costs me data and is probably the main reason battery life is short.

Some times after charging overnight, the battery will last several days, other times it doesn’t last a day. I suspect this is due to bad Android hidden activity and bad app behaviour. When you have finished with an app, it doesn’t shut down, but just hovers around in the background.

I like the basic concept behind Android, a open-source (well almost) operating system based on Linux that standardizes across a lot of manufacturers and phones. In practise, I suspect there are many variations between manufacturers that complicate things; ie. cameras and other peripherals. This makes Android updates difficult and many manufacturers don’t bother.

Android on anything other than a cell phone is just a stupid idea. A device connected to a 40″ screen with keyboard and mouse still thinks it’s a cell phone with 3″ touch screen. But that’s another rant.

What are the alternatives ?

At the moment there are no good alternatives. I could use a tablet to run the Apps I like, but tablets are large, inconvenient and still crippled by Android and short battery life.

It’s not even possible to get a basic “just a phone” now. The smallest and cheapest phones still have colour graphic screens and built in Apps. They are simply a more proprietary version of a slightly stripped out smart-phone.

What would be ideal

I’d quite like to see a pure Linux phone. Something that runs a Debian distro, entirely open source and able to replace the Android install on low-cost Chinese phone hardware. This would make a great App platform, but not a good phone. It would have wifi and could connect to a simpler phone providing a data connection.

The small simple phone would be functionally similar to a phone of 15-20 years ago, but built using current technology and a good battery. This should provide a good basic phone with a 2 month battery life.

Useful features would be:

  • large battery capacity
  • simple mono (black and white) LCD
  • simple push-button keyboard
  • standard micro USB connector for charging and data connect
  • contacts import/export in a simple delimited file format
  • hot-spot capability for internet connecting other devices occasionally
  • connection only as authorized for data or updates (cell/wifi)

What it must not have or do:

  • no additional apps or games
  • no colour and no graphics
  • no touch screen

Telecom name change to Spark – Cost ?

  • Why have they changed their name?
  • What’s it costing to change their name to Spark?
  • Rather – what’s it costing their customers?
  • Think of all the product, shops, advertising, paperwork, etc. that must be changed.

About the time Telecom changed their name, our contract period with Telecom ended. Rather than carry on or renew, I decided that I wasn’t going to be paying for the name change and we switched back to Vodafone for internet and phone. This actually gave us a speed upgrade and unlimited data for slightly less per month than we were paying Telecom.

Vodafone Internet Home-Phone and Cell-Phone

Vodafone is still not ideal: I have a contract cell phone plan with Vodafone and they are supposed to give us $10/month off the home internet/phone connection. But after trying twice to get this implemented, I still don’t know if it has been. I suspect the paperwork they provide is deliberately complex and confusing so that people just assume it’s correct and over-pay.  If I could get a fixed IP included in the standard price, I would seriously consider connecting to the new UFB (ultra fast broadband) fibre and dropping Vodafone entirely. Vodafone FYI 021-440-208.

Update November-2016

I needed a smaller SIM for a new cellphone, and as we don’t have a Vodafone shop nearby I looked at their web site.  A bit of mess of advertising and little easy to find info. so I left them a message.  They phoned offering a new SIM and since I mentioned it a plan review.  It seems I was on a older plan and getting about 1/3 of the minutes and data I should have been getting for the price paid.

The problem is that service providers do not automatically offer or update your plan to their latest best deals.  The moral of this story is that you need to regularly review it yourself and ask for the new deal.  If you don’t like waiting on hold to speak to someone, just send them a email or written contact through their web site and they will call you; especially if you point out that their competition is also offering the better deal.

Smart Power Meters

1. What does this mean?

From this web site of thelinescompany.co.nz : Here.

HOW WILL MY LOAD CHARGE BE CALCULATED?

For the first two years after your meter is installed you will be charged at the lower of your ‘profile’ load or your actual load, provided your load is less than 100 KVA.  Your next year’s load is calculated as the average of your load across the six highest two hour blocks this year.  The new meters can perform these calculations automatically within the meter.

2. Some of the screens on the smart meter

  • 24H – is total power consumption (should equal day plus nite)
  • Day is the number of units used from 6am to midnight
  • Nite is the number of units used between midnight and 6am
  • Time and Date – should be the current date and time
  • LDAV – this is the load level you have earned so far this year. If it does not change, this will be the load level we will use when we reset your charges the next April.
  • LDNU – this is your load level at the moment.

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