Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some more money savers that I conjured up... :)

I posted this article a short while ago, outlining a few simple tips to save a few bucks each day.
For any international visitors who are perhaps a trifle confused at this point, I am not talking about wildlife conservation here. Bucks = South African Rands. :)

Since then, I have picked up on a few more ways that may help you out somewhere along the line - I know I sure as hell keep trying :)

- Make your own lunch for work:
Making cheese and cucumber sandwichesImage via Wikipedia
This may or may not apply to you, depending on your personal work context...

However, if you are someone who regularly (perhaps daily?) heads over to KFC, Steers, Macdonalds (Burger King if you are in the USA :) etc... to pick up a quick lunch, then this is a total no-brainer:

1. Before the week begins, buy a loaf of bread and something to put on it, some fruit maybe and a selection of snacks;
2. Come Monday morning, take 10 minutes before work to pack yourself a homemade lunch;
3. Enjoy your lunch a great deal more than you normally would;
4. Marvel at the amount of money that you suddenly save daily;
5. Marvel at the decreased indigestion post-lunch... ;)

Sure, it is going to cost you initially to buy the ingredients required for lunch, but trust me, it will be nowhere near what you would normally be spending on fast food (which probably leaves you feeling shoddy anyway)...

- Delay the take-away... :)
This kinda follows on from the previous tip - if you are someone who frequently gets take aways to avoid having to cook at home, then this is for you.
It's pretty simple - make those take-away pizzas / ribs / burgers that you love so much, a weekly / monthly treat, rather than a regular occurrence.
It is all too easy to pop out and pick up take-aways, and don't they always just taste so damn good?!

Give it a try it though - next time you habitually find yourself heading for take-aways, stop for a second and think: "What do I have to eat at home...?".
Something quick out of the freezer? Perhaps whip up some pasta?
This doesn't mean that you need to cook a complicated dish in place of take-aways - the point is to save money by eating food that you already have.

The other benefit of this, is that take-aways will once again re-establish themselves as a novelty in your life - a treat that you look forward to - and when take-away time does come around, you will just enjoy it that much more :)

- Resist the urge to check your email on your cellphone...
Nokia n95 SmartphoneImage by KhE 龙 via Flickr
I confess. Guilty as charged.

This is one that I struggle with daily, sometimes hourly... :)

Having email on hand at all hours is a fantastic new way to work, what with Smartphones now being able to deliver our email no matter where we are or what the time.
The flip side though, is the trap of becoming obsessive about this.
By obsessive, I mean checking your email on your phone all the time - something which as I said before, I have struggled with personally.

Now unless you own a Blackberry, repetitive checking of your email can soon add up to a decent chunk of cash being spent on your data bill... sometimes a few hundred bucks... and for what?
Added stress. Yup - that's all that you are getting for your money.

Try and get into the habit of checking your email on your phone slightly less frequently - start out small if you are a hardcore email checking machine... :)
It is tough - trust me I know, but just equate this to how much hard cash you are spending (wasting...?).

It's that simple.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cell C has upgraded JHB... finally!

I never thought I would see this day...

A bit earlier today, my phone started showing a small 3G icon just below the network signal.
"Could it be?"... I wondered in a cautious, yet ever so slightly hopeful manner...

So I quickly located a 3MB song online on my phone, and downloaded it... in 10 seconds flat!
That equates to roughly 300 Kilobytes (or 3 Megabits) per second, and that means that Cell C have finally delivered on their promise of a JHB rollout of their HPSA+ network.

At last my previously stunted Nokia N97 can now download data at full speed - and from the first impression it is pretty darn quick!

Oh and in case you are wondering why I only got 3Mbps in download speeds (Cell C have boasted about speeds up to 21Mbps), it is because the Nokia N97 only supports data speeds up to 3.6Mbps.
If I wanted to test out the maximum speed of the Cell C data network, I would need to get myself one of those new USB data modems that Cell C is offering on their new data bundles...

So unless Cell C maybe decide to offer me the opportunity to try one of those out (hint, hint), I will have to just make do with what I have for now :)

In any case, well done and "big up" (as they say in the States) to Cell C - this has been a long time in the making and I hope that it pushes you guys way ahead of the competition!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cell C update - latest cities just upgraded to HSPA+ data network...

Cell C are in the process of upgrading their data network locally in a big way - to the point that a new city is being added every 2 days in some cases.
This is the current situation as regards their rollout - for some obscure reason, JHB and Pretoria are not yet featured as red dots on this map... and so we patiently wait...

The newest additions are Nelspruit and Polokwane:

Come on Cell C - has my loyalty and persistence not yet proved to you what a dedicated customer I am?
So dedicated, in fact, that a free data modem + some data would be a great way to show your appreciation of my continued support... :)
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

It must have rained glue last night in JHB...

Were the roads in JHB coated in a thick layer of glue this morning? No?
Strange then, that every possible road in existence here was a traffic nightmare this morning... and I didn't see a single prang or broken down vehicle anywhere - nothing to indicate what was actually causing the congestion.

- Perhaps people wake up, see that it rained, and all decide to drive at an average speed of 2km/h?

- Or maybe it is in fact the case that there is some kind of glue in our rain, resulting in vehicles not being able to drive faster than 2km/h because their wheels are getting sticky?

- Maybe it's just a mindset that people snap into when they see that it rained, and they think "OMG it rained last night, so traffic is going to be terrible...!!!"... and voila, so shall it be.

Thoughts are powerful things, you know...!
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I thought Pretoria was supposed to be "the Jacaranda City"...

Indeed, I have always associated Pretoria with the purple wave of Jacaranda trees that inundate the city in springtime - a truly beautiful sight!

These photos, however were snapped this weekend in Houghton, Johannesburg - and this was just the tip of one truly gargantuan floral iceberg...

In areas with lots of wind, the purple flowers are literally blanketing the roads - it's as if some art student came along and gave our roads a purple makeover - it certainly adds some beautiful colour to what would otherwise be a drab tar road surface :)

So when you hit the road tomorrow (not literally of course, unless you are a road construction worker maybe :), take the time to notice how prolific the Jacaranda trees are right now in Jo'burg - they are all over the place!

People of Pretoria - watch out!
You had all better be on your guard - Johannesburg is hot on your heels and might soon snatch your "Jacaranda City" status from under your noses...

...and when that happens, I think that the Jacaranda FM offices will need to relocate somewhere a little closer to JHB... ;)

Alex and Twitch on SYTYCD - a hip-hop routine you will want to watch over and over again...!

If you watch So You Think You Can Dance (the American series), then you would no doubt have been blown away last night, by this gem of a routine by Alex Wong (a trained ballet dancer) and Twitch (SYTYCD Hip-Hop All Star from a previous season).

The routine was choreographed by "Nappytabs" - Napoleon and Tabitha, who are regular hip-hop choreographers for the show - truly amazing work guys :)

In case you missed it, do yourself a huge favour and take a few minutes to watch this incredible piece of work:

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I wonder if Cell C thought of this...

A Cell C riddle to start the day :)

If Cell C's new broadband offering is running at full speed, i.e. 21Mbps, how long would it take for a user to max out their monthly 5GB cap if they are on the 60GB data bundle?
Let's also assume that we are talking about someone who likes to download a lot of stuff - music, videos, games and all that good stuff.

Well the calculation would go something like this:

21Mbps = approx. 2 Megabytes per second.
= approx. 120 Megabytes per minute
= approx. 7200 Megabytes (7.2GB) per hour...

Bear in mind that this only accounts for data downloaded - it would add up to more if I included data uploads and downloads...

So in summary, if you are someone who is thinking of using Cell C's new 60GB data bundle to download massive amounts of data, bear this little tidbit in mind - if you actually get the full speed that Cell C promise to deliver, you would use your entire 5GB monthly allowance up in less than 1 hour...

Which would leave you waiting until the 1st day of next month to resume your prized downloads... :)

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mid-November is the ETA for Cell C to upgrade JHB and Pretoria broadband speeds...

I must be one of the most ardent followers of this one - for years now South Africans have been sitting on Cell C to upgrade their outdated EDGE data network, to one that can compete with the likes of Vodacom and MTN.

While some South African cities have already been upgraded to the HSPA+ 900/2100 network in recent weeks, users inland in JHB and Pretoria have been left waiting...

Finally, though it seems that the moment we have been waiting for so patiently, is almost upon us.
The News section of the Cell C website, today reports that Cell C have won the 2010 Mobile Broadband Service of the Year award (congrats Cell C!), at the Annual MyBroadband Conference held at Vodaworld yesterday.

In there somewhere it mentions that the JHB and Pretoria upgrade is scheduled for mid-November... I hope that means November 2010... :)

Watch this space... the second that my Nokia N97 indicates anything even hinting at a quicker data connection, I will be jumping on here to post about it.
On the other hand, Cell C could maybe just give me a call beforehand, offering a free tryout of their new "4Gs" data network? ;)

Come on Cell C - you know you wanna!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can you be TOO secure when it comes to internet banking and viruses?

Of late, South African banks have stepped up their efforts to stop internet banking fraud, by introducing a number of 3rd-Party applications that are supposed to protect the end-user from potential threats.

The ones that I have encountered include Prevx (FNB) and Rapport (Nedbank), and they add an additional layer of protection onto your web browser, specifically targeted at protecting internet banking sessions.
End-users will happily install whatever the bank recommends, because in doing so, the end-user then has grounds to claim, should their account be hacked or breached in any way.
If an end-user has done everything that their bank has advised in order to stay safe online, then it minimizes any responsibility placed upon them, should the proverbial sh1t ever collide with the proverbial fan...

Now this is all fine and well, one might say. Anything in the name of security!
Then I inevitably get a call, and it goes something like this:

Caller: My PC is running really slowly lately...

Me: What has changed on your PC recently that may have caused it? Have you installed anything new? Changed anything?

Caller: Nope, just installed this banking software thing to protect me when I am online...

Me: Ah. Ok, and what other antivirus protection etc. is running?

Caller: ....dunno.

The call out that follows, invariably involves the discovery of one or more of the following software packages installed:

- Prevx
- Rapport
- Some antivirus (Avast, Norton's, BitDefender...)
- Windows Defender

The important thing to remember here is that each new antivirus / anti-spam / security package that gets installed on a PC, does 2 main things:

- It tries to protect you, and in doing so it scans opened files, web pages, RAM, folders on your hard drives, flash drives that you may plug in etc.
- In the process of trying to protect you, it uses system resources - i.e. RAM and CPU mainly.

Ultimately, trying to be as secure as possible on the internet is a delicate balancing act between safety and speed.
It is also not necessarily true that more is better - I have seen antivirus software identifying banking protection software as a virus... go figure...?!
So, in addition to speed concerns, you could end up with an arm-wrestling match between different software packages. It can become quite confusing!

As a guideline, I would say that one antivirus package, coupled to a single internet banking protection package should be sufficient.
If you happen to bank with different institutions who each want you to install THEIR preferred software, then you have a dilemma on your hands, because you are likely to end up with an antivirus package (assuming you already have one), and 2 or more packages aimed at protecting your online banking experience = potentially slow PC... :)
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Cell C - is Johannesburg one of South Africa's less important cities?

Here comes some more Cell C ranting from my corner of the world...
Every few days now I am hearing news of another South African city being upgraded to Cell C's new "4Gs" network.

The order in which they are rolling out though, seems rather odd I have to say.
One would reasonably expect that Cell C would want to address the bigger centres in the country first - unless they were just scared that their network may not take that kind of strain as they launched their "4Gs" data offering...

So as I continue my rant, let me first tip my virtual hat to the fine folk in Port Elizabeth.
Lovely as it is though, why was P.E. chosen as the launch city for Cell C's 4Gs network?
I don't really get it at all - maybe somebody with knowledge of the inner workings of Cell C would like to comment here and fill me in...?
Surely a launch of such huge importance for Cell C would have been better suited to one of our larger cities?
Some justification of the launch city choice is offered here, but I am still not convinced...

So far these are the South African cities that Cell C has upgraded to the "4Gs" standard:

- Port Elizabeth
- Bloemfontein
- East London
- Cape Town
- Durban & Pietermaritzburg
- George (announced today)

That's great for them, but how about coming inland a bit guys?
JHB is only the commercial hub of the country you know, and your loyal fanbase here is crawling along at painful speeds.
I bet that if I go onto and "Tell Trevor", my comment will just get ignored anyway...
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Got a Flash Animation that mysteriously shrinks in Firefox? This might help...

This one plagued me for months, literally.

I was tasked with fixing a website that contains Flash - the problem is that the Flash displays 100% correctly in Internet Explorer and in Google Chrome.
Throw Firefox into the mix and the Flash suddenly shrinks to about 20% of it's full size, tucked up against the top margin of the browser.

Very odd - especially considering that I had checked and double checked all my scaling settings etc. etc.
After much Googling and research though, The Daily Reviewer came to my rescue, with a magical little piece of code which you can find here.

Just insert the code into your page, substitute the values "Untitled-1.swf" with the name of your own SWF file, and VOILA!

Overheard at the site of the Chilean miner rescue: "Oh crap, I forgot my wedding ring down there..."

After watching the Chilean miners bringing up rocks and other such terrestrial memorabilia from their deep dark home of 69 days, one would hope that they remembered to bring up some of their more important belongings as well...

It's not like they can just pop back down there if they forget something: "Um sorry Mr Foreman, could I quickly hop back in the capsule and have another go? That was one fun ride man...!"

So - to the trapped miners, if you are by some impossible chance catching up on my blog while you wait to be rescued (it's not like you have anything else important to do :) - remember to take all your stuff up with you! :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spare a thought for the Chilean miners as they prepare to be rescued...

This topic has already generated so much buzz and media attention, and now here we are - apparently mere hours away from the first miner being rescued.
According to news sources all over the web, rescuers will begin pulling up the first of the trapped miners anytime within the next 24 hours.

Now I can't speak for everybody, but being confined in a really small space has to rank pretty high up there on the "Oh crap no" list...
Just check out the size of the rescue capsule...:
via Associated Press
There is barely enough room in there to even scratch an itch... depending on the location of the itch that is :)
Don't get me wrong - the rescuers are doing a sterling job of getting these guys out - and I have no doubt that every last miner will get out and be reunited with their families.

I just shudder if I try to imagine myself in the same situation.
Imagine spending 68 days trapped in a tiny pitch black room (or tomb, if you prefer :) approx. 700m below what is arguably the driest place on Earth - the Atacama Desert, along with 32 other men in exactly the same situation.
Check out this infographic to get an idea of how the miners have stayed alive until now - click on the image to view it full size:

It is scary stuff - and I do not think that any human being can come away from an experience like this, without being changed in some huge and fundamental way... could you?

So with that in mind, spare a thought for these 33 miners, who have already braved what must truly be an unbearable ordeal...

...Hey that gives me an idea - they should base the next Survivor season on this - "Survivor Chile - 20 Strangers stranded beneath the Atacama Desert - One Survivor"... now that would have to rank as the toughest Survivor yet!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nybbles and Bytes becomes an Authorised Netgear Reseller

If you ever need anything network-related, be it a router, switch, ADSL modem, 3G Router, Wireless Access point, Wireless Extender... (you get the idea!), drop me a mail for a quote, because Nybbles and Bytes cc is now an Authorised Netgear Reseller.
Over the years I have used a lot of different brands when it comes to networking - Netgear, Linksys, Billion, SMC, 3Com, Fujitsu Siemens, Tenda, to name only a few.
Out of all of these I have found that Netgear consistently comes up tops in most areas, and their warranty and backup is unparalleled.

So go on - let me know what you need!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Could that be the sound and smell of rain in JHB?

Wow - a 5 minute drizzle just got me all excited and hoping that more is to follow here in JHB.

Alas, though, it seems that the drizzle is already over.
Seriously now - we are in dire need of some good soaking showers up on the Highveld.

Now I don't know if there is any truth in this, but someone told me this week, that the longer our first rains are delayed, the more likely it is that their arrival will be a rather aggressive one...

That means hectic thunderstorms, hail and other such pleasant things.
So with that in mind, head for the nearest tree if you get caught driving in a hailstorm anytime soon!

That, and hope like all hell that any hail we do get, is too small to cause any damage to anything...!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Got an old Fujitsu Siemens Amilo V2010 that keeps on shutting down? This might help...

Fujitsu Siemens generally make good solid laptops - one model that I have dealt with a fair amount, was the Amilo V2010.
This is what solid looks like...

Although it is now totally obsolete, I still see clients who use them as trusty workhorses - they just keep going  it seems... until all of a sudden, they shut down for no apparent reason... which is when they call me :)

Generally, PC's and laptops will shutdown randomly for any one of the following reasons:

- Overheating (Most common - the CPU gets too hot, so it shuts down to protect itself and other components)
- Erratic power (Less common, but can happen if the PSU is faulty or if the mains supply is unstable)
- Loose connection / short circuit (Not very common, but can happen)

Being that overheating is the most common one here, it makes sense to head in that direction when diagnosing this particular problem.
I won't go heavily into the laptop dissection process here (because you can just Google that), but the first step to solving this mystery is to get the keyboard off:

1. Using a flat screwdriver, carefully clip off the panel directly under the monitor, as this exposes the screws to remove the keyboard.
2. Remove the keyboard and carefully release the ribbon cable that joins it to the motherboard.
3. Unscrew the metal plate on the left, to reveal the RAM.
4. Just above the RAM you will see a black fan - lift it out and unclip the power cable from the board.
5. The copper ventilation grills should now be exposed, and with a bit of luck, they will be encased in black dust, fluff and a variety of other pollutants which will most likely cause instant death if inhaled...
6. Using a fine brush and compressed air (or just blow on the damn thing!), remove all the dust so that air can once again flow between the grills. Make sure you get it all - you want there to be gaps between all of the grills that will allow hot air to escape from inside the unit.
7. When you are suitably satisfied that the grills are free from anything dodgy, plug the fan back in and replace it carefully.
8. Replace the metal plate and screw it back into place.
9. Plug the ribbon cable for the keyboard back in, and place the keyboard back into position. Secure the keyboard screws.
10. Finally, clip the plastic panel back into place just above the keyboard.
11. Boot up, hold thumbs and wait...

With a bit of luck, your random reboots will now be a thing of the past, because your laptop can breathe again!
I have managed to fix several of these machines using this simple cleanup, and I hope you can too.
Hey - at the very least it will save you having to fork out a few grand on a new machine!
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Do you toss your garbage on the ground...?

We all do things everyday that we may not be proud of - be it swearing at someone in traffic, or talking behind someone's back... whatever it is, there are little vices that try to catch each and every one of us out at some point in our lives.

Most of these, though, are excusable and we will generally feel bad about it afterwards, wanting to make amends in some way hopefully.
The one thing I do see though, that I cannot grasp, fathom or justify in any way, is the casual tossing of trash on the ground by people of all shapes, sizes and colours.
Don't you just love litter?

Driving behind a middle-class lady in a RAV4 the other day (with her kids in the back), I was interested to notice how she casually dropped pieces of banana peel out of the window as she drove.
In between her random acts of stupidity, her kids in the back did exactly the same. Great example Mom.

A few days later I was driving past a coffee shop in Norwood, and I saw 3 elderly men sitting at a table having coffee and what I would guess was probably a political rant... as is normally the case :)
One of them then proceeded to casually lean back and toss his paper / serviette onto the road behind him.

Now is it just me being pedantic and generally odd, or is this kind of "who gives a s**t" attitude just not acceptable in our community or our country?
Do people who litter have no sense of pride, or any kind of will to make this country a better place?
Over and above the old question "who will pick that up?", do these people just not care?

What's your take - when you see someone tossing litter in the street, or throwing an empty bottle out of a car, how does it make you feel?

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