WD Red vs Blue, Seagate Desktop vs NAS

I’ve been looking at hard drives today, because I managed to pickup a Thecus N4130 NAS rather cheap and will need some drives to suit.

I’ve known for some time there are now drives specifically marketed towards use in NAS boxes, but today I was asking why should I pay extra for these drives? What exactly is the difference between a NAS drive and a desktop drive aside from the price? Continue reading

Sun Wolf HID Review

I do quite a bit of night driving so I wanted to upgrade my car headlights. A friend referred me to HID Xenon kits on eBay so I purchased a Sun Wolf 55w HID kit for about $24.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about these kits on the Internet, but in summary they’re absolutely terrible.

Initially I thought I’d start my HID experience with 3000K globes in my fog lamps, as orange is better at cutting through fog than white or blue light. Installing the kit is quite simple, I did have a slight hiccup with the polarity of my Subaru’s connector being different to the HID kit. Reversing the connector solved the issue and the lights powered up.http://i2.wp.com/www.f150ecoboost.net/forum/attachments/22210d1410289510-lumens-lux-candela-optics-kelvin-color-temp-other-techie-stuff-like-kelvinscale.jpg?w=584

To my amazement, the 3000K orange globes ended up being blue/white.

A bit of Googling suggested that cheap HID kits don’t supply sufficient voltage and/or current to the globe, so it never reaches its real performance. So I bought some 35W 3000K globes and still they performed basically the same at the same brightness which makes me wonder if I was supplied with a 35W kit to start with.

I connected a multimeter up to the invertors output. Without load I found it’d sit around 360V AC. Under load it was much less, 120-150V AC. I tried to make a video showing this, but struggled to get the globe to power on, and weirdly noticed sparks emitting from my multimeter when I powered on the globes (probably over voltage). Eventually at the end of the video, the inverter blew up.

I tried opening a dispute with PayPal, only to have them rule that for a refund I should ship it back to China, which was nearly equal to the cost. So I decided to keep it, vowing to blog about my experience, so that others don’t buy this absolutely garbage HID kit that doesn’t operate as advertised.

Tapping the 12v power & mounting a mobile phone & UHF radio without using screws (in a Subaru Forester 2011)

I do a bit of rural driving these days. Because of this I wanted two things in my Subaru Forester 2011 – a mobile phone car kit with an external antenna, and a UHF CB radio.

Both of these came with cigarette lighter connectors. While they’re easy to connect, it means both available sockets near the drivers seat are used, and the centre console is cluttered with cables. So for a more elegant solution I thought I’d wire it into the car. The best option for this appeared to be tapping the wire leading to one of the cigarette lighter sockets.

I also wanted to install mounts in such a way that they can be easily removed, and leave little sign that it was ever installed, so that I do not adversely affect the resale value of the car.

While there are automotive specific UHF radios, I used the Baofeng UV-5R because I already own a number of them, and I only had to purchase a couple accessories to make it suitable for the car.

Continue reading

The future of the computer repair industry

Some 6 months ago I exited the computer repair business I had been operating for over 10 years. The biggest reason for this was the future of the computer repair industry.

The trend in recent years has been a migration from desktop to laptop computers, and more recently from laptop computers to tablets and mobile phones. Sure there are exemptions to this, as many home users feel more comfortable browsing the internet using a laptop, but it seems a growing trend that the majority of computing time people spend today is away from conventional computers.

There are also businesses who still require desktop computers to suit their needs, however their needs are more and more being fulfilled by specialist software companies who provide a complete package of hardware and software, and there are even trends towards using tablet computers like there is in the home setting.

So why not do tablet and mobile phone repairs? Well, that brings the issue of cost of replacement, an issue that applies to the entire computer industry. When I first started my career the average home computer cost several thousand dollars. Today, few spend over a thousand and that price continues to decline. The same trend has occurred with smartphones, which initially cost over a thousand dollars but today very powerful devices can be bought for just a few hundred dollars. So from a consumer point of view, why repair a $500 device potentially at a cost of $300, when you can just buy a new one? Many mobile phone repairs such as screen replacements are very labour intensive, have expensive parts, have significant risks of damage, and often don’t seem worthwhile compared to the cost of replacement.

I thought I should now cover a fairly obvious question: so why not sell computers and tablets? The obvious answer is margins. I’m yet to discover any computer distributor who makes more than 15% margins, nor any that don’t handle a costly stock inventory often valued in the millions of dollars with rapid value declines (essentially they’re perishable goods). I’ve also watched many distributors rise and fall leaving me to believe its a safer and less challenging gamble to invest in the stock markets.

Which leaves me with the conclusion, that I believe a very small number of computer repairers will survive the next 10 years. The market will continue to develop into a state where repairs are not economically viable. Consultants will be more fortunate, but with a growing rise in specialist software, they won’t be much more fortunate.

Despite the strong set of computer skills I have, I’ve moved away from it all, now working for a major retailer and have quickly been promoted to a management role. I’ve now come to realise that the retail industry can earn significantly larger salaries with a much lower skill set. A case example is my 26 year old boss who is earning $250k/pa, and has no university qualifications. A former customer recently asked me, do I miss my old business and was left without words when I answered them “Not in the slightest”

But for me computing will live on, as after many years of begrudgingly treating all computers as another task of work, I now have rediscovered how I enjoy computers as a hobby, and have several projects I now have the motivation and time to invest more focus.

iPhone 4 or 4S – Wi-Fi does not work

I’ve been doing a few iPhone repairs lately and have encountered this problem a few times. The issue is Wi-Fi is set to off and is greyed out in Settings so that it cannot be turned on. Additionally if you view General –> About under Settings, you will see there is no Wi-Fi MAC address shown.

As with most iPhone repairs there is a lot of bad information on the Internet, with suggestions such as suing Apple “because an iOS update did it” (why try anything? Easier to go to court), freezing your iPhone (because water doesn’t condensate), or heating up a large area of your iPhone with a hair dryer (I assume to correct bad solder issues, however you’ll also melt every solder joint and possibly create new problems and/or damage your battery). Morons. Absolute morons.

The problem is actually very simple. Its either software or hardware. You can eliminate a software fault by restoring your firmware. If that fails, you have a hardware issue.

This video shows how to repair a hardware issue. Clearly its beyond the scope of most iNoobs who can afford a thousand dollar phone but can’t afford anything else (such as Apple Care) – and this repair should only be done by a professional. Apple charge around $300 while repair shops can charge half that.

The two causes for a hardware fault I’ve seen are bad solder joints on the Wi-Fi chip or a bad chip that requires replacement.

Windows Update website does not load–0x8024D001

It seems I now experience this error on any new installation of Windows XP. XP has officially been discontinued since April 2013 however many people still use it for systems incompatible with more recent operating systems.

A nice simple fix however is AutoPatcher. After building AutoPatcher with the XP updates, and then running AutoPatcher.exe to install them all, the machine is mostly up to date. Windows Update was replaced with Microsoft Update. The first run of Microsoft Update took a very long time to determine what updates were available (20 min in my case), but it worked fine without throwing error 0x8024D001 again.

Bittorrent Sync

BitTorrent-Sync-logo-256px11I have now totally replaced Dropbox with the new Bittorrent Sync. The main driving factor for me was storage space, however there is the added benefit of having control of all the computers storing data which minimises the potential risk of data being accessed without my permission (such as the NSA).

Dropbox is priced at $100 USD per year for 100GB of disk space. As a comparison, Backupsy offer 250GB for $5 USD per month, or 500GB for $7 USD per month (with a coupon code). A lower cost overall and with the option for monthly payments, and with 5 times the storage.

I found this gem which details an apt repository for Debian Linux variants so that Bittorrent Sync can be installed via apt.

It also seemed an advantage to be able to provide FTP access to selected parts of my sync’ed files with downloads at much faster speeds than my ADSL2+ connections can achieve. It also seemed an advantage to be able to sync specific folders to a web server, without having multiple Dropbox accounts.

The only disadvantages are linux experience is required to maintain a VPS, and the .SyncArchive isn’t as user friendly as the Dropbox website, otherwise they’re virtually the same.

How to obtain a full refund for an item you purchase on eBay

I learnt this little trick today which seems quite alarming. Unfortunately I learnt it the hard way by having to refund a $200 purchase for a customer in the Middle East. A bit of coin to lose but fortunately I only sell items on eBay from my junk bin which incur no cost to me.

eBay Australia offer buyer/seller protection called PayPal Buyer Protection under the PayPal Resolution Centre. However if a seller decides to offer their item worldwide, they’re not just subjected to the Australian rules but the rules of whichever eBay website the buyer chooses to use.

eBay USA offer dispute resolution not just through PayPal but under the eBay branding as well with a Money Back Guarantee, so if you view and purchase an item on ebay.com with your Australian eBay account – the eBay Resolution Center will be made available to you.

The difference in the terms is significant for one small fact – PayPal require a seller to prove only that an item has been shipped. eBay require a seller to prove not only an item was shipped, but it was also delivered. If you buy an item which is shipped without a tracking service, through the eBay Resolution Center the buyer can obtain a full refund by claiming the item never arrived – even if it did, because the seller has no way to prove the item arrived at the buyers address. The US rules can apply even if both the buyer and seller are located in Australia, or the buyer is outside of the USA.

The eBay Money Back Guarantee specifically states:
“We guarantee that you will get the item you ordered or get your money back.

The eBay Money Back Guarantee applies to virtually every item on www.ebay.com.”

The PayPal User Agreement for Australia states:
”S9.9 If the seller presents Proof of Shipment to your address, we may find in their favour even if you did not receive the item.”

Refund also seem to be a common problem for Chinese sellers who typically will refund and ban you from future purchases from their account if you claim an item did not arrive. Alternatively a seller can limit the countries they will ship to, and potentially list the same item in different countries with variations on price and shipping services which unfortunately is a complicated process.

The most alarming detail about all this – if you’re an Australian seller the eBay Seller Centre only refers to PayPal Buyer Protection and make no mention of eBay Buyer Protection or the eBay Money Back Guarantee.

When I spoke to Customer Service about this problem, I was advised I must search their Customer Service portal for “eBay Buyer Protection” and not the “PayPal Buyer Protection” that eBay refers to on their Australian website?! The customer service representative also agreed that this is a significant loophole, and advised that sellers should only ship via services that provide tracking, which eBay fail to mention on their Seller Centre and many sellers do not do.

IMAP vs POP3

imap-pop3A well dated argument this one, when retrieving e-mail from a mail server which protocol is best used?

I’ve been a long standing user of POP3, as many others. The reason this protocol is great is because it allows several devices the ability to download all e-mail messages within a retention period (most e-mail clients call this “Leave messages on the server for x days” in their settings). Storage requirements on the server are kept to a minimum and so is network load.

These reasons made POP3 the protocol of choice, at least in 1996 which is roughly the last time I looked at the issue.

IMAP however stores all messages on the server. Clients either browse the data available on the server, or synchronize with the server so they keep a copy of the same data. As storage is handled by the server, any message sorting on one device applies to all devices and marking of read or unread will also carry across to all devices – as each device is simply viewing data from the IMAP server.

Today computers are readily available and many have a collection of e-mail capable devices (I use 3 myself). Also we live in the era of Internet video so bandwidth and storage in a datacentre is both plentiful and cheap. Processors have probably seen the biggest expansion in cheap availability.

So earlier this year I migrated from POP3 to IMAP. Eventually I uploaded about a decade of old e-mails to my IMAP server. Using ZFS and Courier-IMAP-SSL over two nodes at the server end, I’ve ensured that I have high availability for my e-mail service.

Probably the biggest plus to using IMAP was backups. I already use bacula on my Linux based servers for daily off-site backups and this includes everything in /home. So without any change all my e-mail is backed up and stored off site every day.

Finally using GO Contact Sync Mod and Google Calendar Sync to keep my Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar in sync with my Android phone – there really is no need to backup anything related to my e-mail at the client end on any computer because everything is either stored with the IMAP server or Google.

Windows 7 ISO Image Downloads from Digital River

Thought I’d blog a complete list as an alternative to the many articles on mydigitallife.

Home Premium x86

Home Premium x64

Professional x86

Professional x64

Ultimate x86

Ultimate x64