Monthly Archives: July 2005

Free Quicken

In early-mid July, Quicken Australia was offering their EasyStart package for sale with a 100% cashback. $99 on the counter to Mr Shop Keeper Man, $99 back to you in the mail a few days later.

Why would they do this? To increase market share, and to get more punters using Quicken who may renew their products next financial year. (Remember, this is one of the mobs who try and sting you for a new version when the tax rates change.) But hey, it’s software for free! Go for it!!!

There’s a catch, of course. There always is, right? To get your money back you have to go to their web site and enter your Customer ID and PIN number. But even after I’d installed and registered the software, there is no Customer ID and PIN number shown on the Licence screen. And I’m not alone — Tony had the same experience.

Turns out you have to ring up (me emailing support got no response) and wait on hold to eventually talk to someone in customer service to get the vital details. And it has to be done and the form sent in by 9th August. Thankfully it only took about 5 minutes on hold (via the Customer Service option), and the operator gave me the numbers straight away. You’ll also need the codes on the CD sleeve and on the promotional sticker on the box.

If I were a more cynical person, I’d think they might have done it this way deliberately, to avoid having to send out too many cashbacks.

The software itself seems to be fairly good, easy to use, and should do nicely for my basic accounting requirements. Well, better than handcrafted Excel spreadsheets and constant bitching about Activity Statements, anyway.

More from George

More goodness from George Skarbek’s column in The Age (19-Jul-2005).

A punter asks George about sending large files across the net. One suggestion is to set up a web host, and the reader is sent off to GoDaddy to find out about domain names and hosting fees, and even ponders if a web server should be set up on their own computer. Uhh, but these days but most ISPs provide a basic web hosting facility, good enough as a drop point for leaving big files… surely it’s better to look at this first? Not to mention the many online storage services, such as Yahoo Briefcase.

A question about whether one should turn on IE’s “Do not save encrypted pages to disk” option comes up with some gibberish about “static web pages and dynamic data”. Eh? The point of this option is explained in IE’s help: it avoids the browser saving the pages onto the hard disk where they might be snooped upon by other users on the same computer. Since an HTML page is plain text, and depending on the site used, user or session IDs or even passwords could be embedded in the HTML, in some environments it might be desirable to not save this in the cache.

(Don’t get me wrong; most of George’s answers are spot on. Just a few that haven’t quite lived up to expectations, and it’s been bugging me a bit…)

Slow SSL on Fedora

So, I’ve been using Fedora Core 3 (I really must upgrade to 4) and I’ve noticed that SSL – ie HTTPS – is really slow. Logging into eBay took something like a half hour. I consulted someone who uses FC3 as their primary operating system and his suggestion was to disable the firewall. “but…” I protested. The response was simple: “Stop being such a pussy. You’ve got a firewall in your modem.” And I do.

So I did – Applications | System Settings | Security Level got me to firewall configuration, one option of which was “forgetaboudit”. A reboot of the iptables (iptables is the linux firewall: very sophisticated, very powerful, very fragile, requires a detailed understanding of IP protocols to use correctly) later – either by a command line entry (simple – just enter service iptables restart) or a system reboot (easy to remember, but takes a fair old time – FC boot time is longer than XP’s) and the firewall’s behaviour was changed. Then secure logins went just as fast as straight HTTP, and it was clear that the Red Hat Firewall was the culprit.

Hours of searching the web revealed a suggestion for a change to the configuration file, which I went to implement in a restarted firewall – and it was already there. So, to make Firefox – or any other web browser – do fast SSL when it was going slow – you need to disable, then re-enable the firewall. You can do that by picking Applications | System Settings | Security Level from the menu, disabling the firewall, opening a terminal window and entering service iptables restart, and repeating the process but enabling the firewall this time (ensure you have web turned on).

In FC3 the default firewall install doesn’t like HTTPS. And I thought Windows was freaky. I understand the FC4 doesn’t do this crazy shit.

Moving My Documents

My Documents propertiesGeorge Skarbek’s column in The Age today features a question from someone pondering moving My Documents. George replies that it involves a bunch of registry fiddling, and that it’s so complicated you can’t do it.

Ummm actually, just right-click on it, go to Properties, and you’ll see a Move button. Click, choose the directory, and it does it. Easy.

Note that it doesn’t shift the other user settings (which are in the parent directory of My Documents).

Cleaning up HTML out of Office

I found a good guide to cleaning out the gunk that’s in Word’s HTML documents. For the smallest most efficient files it seems to conclude that the Textism Wordcleaner — free for files under 20Kb; for bigger files subscription options are available. This issue has been causing me some angst for some time, and one of these days I’m going to bash out a tool for this myself. (Don’t hold your breath.)

What’s wrong with MSN weather

MSN Weather: MelbourneScoble pointed to He reckons the only problem with it is lack of RSS.

There’s a bigger problem. It’s Fahrenheit-centric. You know Fahrenheit, that antiquated temperature system used exclusively in the USA, that the rest of the world has abandoned?

Okay, so you can get some stuff in Celsius. The current conditions and brief forecast — that’s all good. Okay so it defaults into F, even for non-US cities, but you can change it to C very easily. It even automatically gives me time local to that city — very nice.

But scroll down a little way, and you’ll find a map, with Fahrenheit all over it. Yeah, they mention it’s only in Fahrenheit, okay, and that seems to be how they got it from the Weather Channel.

So while MSN are hassling the Weather Channel for maps in C or F depending on user preference, maybe they can ask them what the hell happened with the map of Australia and friends? It’s got Hobart, Sydney, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide. Wait a sec, no Melbourne (Australia’s second-biggest city), no Brisbane (Australia’s third-biggest city), no Canberra (Australia’s capital city). They’ve highlighted what might be Cairns, Broome, perhaps Mackay and … oh, somewhere near the Gulf of Carpentaria; perhaps Mt Isa.

Worse, the detailed forecast has half C and half F, and wind speeds in mph. That is not very helpful. To most of us, it might as well be in Swahili.

I might also point out that in the smallprint of the Melbourne current conditions, it mentions the observations are from the Coldstream AWS. That explains why there are currently 37kmh winds outside. Coldstream is not actually in Melbourne, but beyond the urban fringe. Of all the Melbourne AWS locations, it’s probably the worst to try and measure Melbourne’s weather conditions. The one in the city centre probably would have been the best.

I can only hope MSN weather is at least accurate and useful for US users, because it would appear to be next to useless for anybody elsewhere.

Longhorn == Windows Vista

Just interrupting my lunchtime to mention that the hot rumour around the place is that the next version of Windows (Longhorn) will be called Windows Vista. Apparently this will be announced on Friday morning US time. Until then, Scoble’s keeping shtum.

Microsoft has registered, and someone anonymous registered and .net on the same day.

So, maybe they’re switching from acronyms (ME, XP) and numbers (98, 2000) to more Apple-esque words (Tiger)?

What’s less known is the shipping date and feature set. Not to mention whether or not it’ll be a compelling upgrade. (Hey, it took me until two months ago to get onto Windows XP.)

Why I both love and hate my iPod

iPodI have a love/hate relationship with my iPod. (It’s a 40Gb 4th generation model.)

Why I love my iPod

The design is exquisite. The whole thing is beautiful. Even the power adapter is beautiful.

I’ve never had an MP3 player before, and I love using it.

Lock button: brilliant. Click wheel menu system: easy.

Bung a CD into the PC, it gets the track names from CDDB, rips it easily.

Syncing music is fast and easy via USB 2.

There’s some very nifty addons available for it.

Get a good tune on it, pump up the volume, and I’m in heaven. You should have seen me dancing around the kitchen last night.

Why I hate my iPod

Can’t use it with more than one PC. 40Gb of portable storage in my pocket, and I can’t use it for moving files. (There are shareware tools to do this.)

It has no radio.

Yesterday Windows was recognising it as a drive, not an iPod. iTunes then complained another user was using it. I had to reboot to fix it. Maybe it works better with Macs, but I shouldn’t have to buy one to find out.

It didn’t come with a belt-clip. Okay, so maybe that would spoil the design. So I put it in a skin. The skin is pretty cool, but it doesn’t look as nice as it does out of the skin.

Maybe I haven’t been careful enough with the headphones, but the wire got pulled obviously a bit too hard on one earpiece, and now there’s a little interference from it. My cheapie Sony earphones are tougher, if not as visually appealing.

It doesn’t play WMA. I’m not totally enamoured of WMA, but it’s the only thing offered by online music stores in Australia, since there are continual delays with the iTunes Music Store AU.

There are almost constant horror stories of people having their iPods freeze up, batteries die, or other hassles.

All of these hassles seem to result in the iPod going off to the iPod hospital and coming back empty.

iTunes can’t work through the firewall at work, at least for CDDB lookups.

iTunes on Windows follows the Quicktime example of Apple trying to make their software look like Mac. If I wanted a metallic grey window title bar (which slightly changes shades of grey when it has focus), I’d have changed it to be that way in my Windows settings.


This is my first MP3 player. It works, and I’m not even considering of replacing it while it works. But if I had the choice over again, I’d buy another brand. I don’t know which, but it wouldn’t be Apple. In line with my movie reviews getting a thumbs up or thumbs down, I give the iPod a thumbs down.Thumbs down

Update Thursday 8am. Great feedback about some of these issues in the comments. Thank you all, I’ll be investigating further.

What I Want

After watching Sin City the other day I decided I didn’t want to wait.

What I want is a directors commentary that I can take to the cinema with me. I’d download it, throw it on the pod and listen to it in the cinema. I’m sure it would be great for repeat business; go once to watch the film, then again to listen to the commentary. It would be spoken word, you could play it soft and no one would hear it.

Maybe Cameron‘s The Podcast Network could try and flex their muscles?

Looking for Quicktime Pro

I really don’t appreciate nag screens. Quicktime nags me to buy Quicktime Pro, but when I click the Why Go Pro button to let Apple put their case for handing over the readies, all they’ll tell me is that it’s available for Mac, when I’m using Windows.

I also like the bit where they ask me not to steal movies, or “in ten years, it will cost $50(2) to see a movie in the theater”, with (2) being a footnote saying “(2) Exaggerated estimate.” Oh, very helpful. Not much of an estimate then, if it’s exaggerated, surely.

Apple storeSo anyway I found the link to buy Quicktime Pro for Windows, even though version 7 is still in beta. It then asks me which country I’m in, and when I choose Australia, throws me onto an Australian Apple shop page, with no hint of where to find Quicktime to buy it. I eventually had to use a search box within the shop site to find it again.


(Not that I’m buying it at the moment, you understand. Just looking for ranting ammunition.)

Pre-emptive, my arse

Ten years after Windows 95 supposedly (but not really) introduced multitasking to the Windows world, it still doesn’t live up to the expectations of users. Even my new WinXP 3Ghz machine takes time out every so often to… well, I don’t know what it’s doing to be honest. I’m clicking on the window I want to use, and it’s gone out to lunch.

What the OS should be doing is paying more attention to what the user’s trying to do. If I’ve finished editing my document, close Word and click back to my email to read what the latest is, I don’t care that Word is still churning up CPU and disk trying to save and shut down. If I’m writing out my movie file after some editing, I don’t want to sit watching the progress bar for it, I want to read the damn email.

You hear that, Windows? I’m the user. I’m in charge. Do what I want. Listen to me.