Time for a new OMGWTFBBQ

Our old 3 burner beast is about to give up the ghost after 15 years of faithful service. It’s had some issues in the past which I’ve overlooked, the flame tamers don’t, there’s rust/other gross stuff where there shouldn’t be, it look generally old and tired and the auto lighter thingo hasn’t worked on two of the burners for years.

The other night the middle burner wouldn’t light so I tried doing it with a match..nothing…I could hear gas coming from somewhere so I just left the match there a couple of second and WOOOF, the section near the dial lit up like Christmas and started happily flaming away, nowhere near where the flame actually needed to be to cook anything unfortunately. Then last night Kristie went to do the same thing on another previously working burner and the same thing happened…this time enough gas has built up to give her arms a little scorch so we decided it’s time to put the old thing out to pasture and look around for a new one.

I’m kind of partial to the new Webber kinda-compact ones like this

Webber Q 300

…but Kristie wants one with a cabinet underneath to hide all the usual BBQ junk in….so something like the …

BEEFMASTER 4

 

This is good because it has an awesome name.

So, anyone gone through this same exercise recently and have any advice to offer?

EDIT: I think I found a winner, I like the idea of the enamel hotplates (rather than cast iron):

Cordon Bleu 4

…despite the utterly gay name.

Stuff about printers

Kristie does a lot of printing for the business and our old $50 Samsung laser printer (ML-1740) is about to give up the ghost after several years of faithful service, if I had to guess I’d say it’s output well over 30,000 pages of newsletters, hands out and what-knot. This large number is mostly due to the fact that printing stuff yourself is convenience and if you pick the right printer/toner, most likely cheaper than going to Officeworks. My crude calculations put our cost per page for the old 1740 at about 2c, if we use refills rather than genuine toner carts (double that for genuine carts).

With an eye to replace the 1740 with a similar model I discovered that the 1740 is no longer in production but it’s impossible to find a mono laser with similar specs and toner capacity, the nearest thing being the 1640 which only has a 1,500 page toner for the same price as the 1740’s 3,000 page toner, lame.

So, it becomes apparent as I research that the laser printer market has become more and more aimed at small consumers, there are lots of printers for under $100 with tiny capacity toners which would do the average home user just fine, but if you’re looking for print one to two thousand copies a quarter, forget about them.

I started looking at the mid ranged models, the Brother 5340D stood out as a contender until I realised that it had a changable print drum, and the replacement cost of the drum is almost more than the cost of the original printer, combine that with the cost of the toner cart and you would actually be better off throwing the old printer in the bin and buying a new one when it came around to replacing the drum at 25k pages, not very environmentally friendly.

Which brings me to the SOHO class printers which tend to range in price from $800 to $1200 and have some awesome features like upgradable memory, network connectivity, web based management, automatic duplexing, more RAM and faster processors than your old pentium II and very high yield toners. All features which don’t initially sound like they’re worth the money but in the end they work out to be just icing on the cake. It may seem obvious but it’s not until you do the sums that you realise that the cost per page actually ends up being significantly cheaper when you pay $1000 for a printer with a 20k page yield toner capacity than a $100 printer with a 1,500 yield.

So I knocked up the following charts to help my own understanding, all things equal, the toner and printer prices below are the cheapest I could find (on www.staticice.com.au) for genuine toner carts, the refills/OEM version are usually about 40% cheaper but for an apples to apples comparison I stuck with the genuine versions.

Printing 25,000 pages

image

The reason the Samsung models don’t have a drum replacement cost is that their toner carts incorporate the drum mechanism so when you replace the cart you also replace the drum, strangely this isn’t really reflected in the cost of the toner carts, so kudos to Samsung for further driving the costs and environmental impact down.

As you can see, if you print below 25,000 pages on the printer over the entire lifetime the cheaper units do end up being more economical by 30-50% which makes the decision for low usage home users pretty easy, in fact if you stopped at 24,999 and didn’t bother replacing the drum in the Brother model the gap is even larger.

However, crank up the usage and you can see that the cheaper printers with user replaceable drums are not such a good idea, see below:

Printing 50,000 pages

image

50,000 pages is pretty close to the breakeven point for the larger, more expensive network enabled office printers so if you print 50,000 pages over the life of the printer, keep in mind that both the 4050 and 4551 models are rated to a 200,000 per month so their lifetimes should go in to the millions.

Printing 100,000 pages

image

The more you print beyond the break even point the more sense the higher end printers make on a purely cost per page basis and you’re also benefiting from the added features you get from spending more on the initial printer.

Let’s get a little silly with 1,000,000 pages printed:

image

…and the owner of the Brother model just spend $10,000 on drum replacements, you could have bought yourself an awesome motorbike and driven yourself to Officeworks to get them to do the hard work for you. Your $300 printer doesn’t seem like such a great idea now huh?

So the end result of all this and the fact that the government is still offering small business an additional 50% tax deduction on depreciating assets worth over $1000 the choice is pretty clear, nice one Samsung.

image

Hello world!

Don’t Panic!

I’m in the process of moving the entire blog to another server (actually the Qnap 409 NAS) and it looks like the images have broken along with some other things (the gallery, which may be broken forever, but I have a replacement installed and ready to go)…this could take some time.

Wind meets Trampoline

So Kristie calls me at about noon yesterday saying that the trampoline has been picked up by the wind and deposited about 40m away from it’s original location (paraphrasing), I imagine a mix between the worst possible twisted metal wreck and something easily fixed by a rubber mallet and a little time. The reality I faced when I got home was somewhere in between.

IMG_3883

The weird thing is that there is absolutely no damage to the road base platform it was on, or the garden and driveway between where it lived and where it landed, meaning that the most likely scenario is that a willy willy picked the whole damn thing up and just dumped it in the location you see in the picture. I think we’re damn lucky it’s didn’t land:

1. in the top of the tree
or
2. on (or IN) the house
or
3. in Jindabyne

It looks way worse than it actually is, the poles which hold up the safety netting are mostly salvageable with a few being bent beyond repair, the safety netting is unharmed and the blue safety padding is ripped in a couple of places. The good news is that the actual structure and surface of the trampoline are in-tact (despite them looking pretty much ruined above) and we managed to wrestle the thing out of their last night in the dark and it looks to be in good form, phew.

It could have been much worse.

EDIT: I forgot to add that after taking this picture I put my camera down to start pulling the thing apart so we could move it, it wasn’t until this morning (in the shower?!) that I realised I hadn’t picked it up again and it had spent the night out in the cold/wet…I dried it off and left it in the sun this morning, I’m yet to turn it on/test to see if it’s fucked or not.

Communications with AMWAY

SA8

Ugh, we’ve been using one Amway product for many years now, the oddly named SA8, a super concentrate washing detergent which costs a bomb but last for ages (we usually buy two 3kg boxes so I don’t have to re-order for up to a year or more). Unfortunately this system falls down when Amway feel the need to clean up the user accounts on their web site every 12 months and further frustrates when you’re not allowed to make a new user account without knowing an existing Amway distributor!

So, upon trying to place an order this time I find that my user account is no longer valid and I send Amway support an email.

I have tried to log in using my ID number which I have recorded as XXXXXXX but the logon form tells me that userID does not exist. It’s been a while since I ordered anything, could it have expired or something?

The next day:

I am sorry to advise that on checking our details I am unable to locate any details regarding your membership.  It could have been deleted due to non-renewal as you are required to renew your membership each year.

If you wish to rejoin the Business, you will need to do so from the start and purchase another product pack and be registered into the Business by an existing IBO.

We are happy to put you in touch with a senior Amway IBO who is located close to you.  They will be able to discuss options with you and answer any questions you may have.

Naturally, I’m all WTF, I don’t want to “rejoin the Business” (notice capital B), I just want to buy some shit, so I reply:

I just want to buy some SA8, not sign up to be a member of the pyramid selling system. I think it is ridiculous that I need to know one of your cult members to actually create an account in order to simply buy something and I go through this nightmare every time I need to make a purchase. I suppose this is a by-product of SA8 being so amazing and lasting so long that my account dies between every order, very frustrating!

Can you let me know the number of some random drone which I can use to create an account so I can buy some washing detergent!

No answer yet.

Popcorn hour vs XBMC, battle of the century?

 

vs

 

I know there are a lot of people who are currently running XBMC on an original XBOX and as a recent convert from XBOX+XBMC to Popcorn Hour (PCH) my experience is a bit mixed, here’s a short list of stuff I’ve noticed during the transition which you may find interesting:

Things XBMC does better than PCH (these obviously only apply to SD content where relevant), also note that some of these can be solved by installing and customising your own themes and indexes

  1. SMB Navigation and general menu speed is WAY better in XBMC, the PCH seems to read from a share every time it accesses it so if you hit a share with a lot of files it takes a while to show the contents, scrolling up and down long lists of files is also noticeably slower than XBMC. 
  2. Skipping during play back. The PCH does have the number buttons which skip 10%, 20% etc but the up/down/left/right buttons on XMBC to skip 1/10 minutes is much more responsive. 
  3. Music playback + visualisations, PCH only has a simple album art screen, no shuffle function, no traversal of subdirectories and no ability to create playlists. 
  4. Screensaver – I really miss being able to use photos from a network share as the screensaver. 
  5. Shuffle play – does not exist in a standard PCH, there are themes which you can install which enable a shuffle of sorts, I’ve had mixed results with this on the PCH but will persist until it works because this is an important function for me. 
  6. No limit on SMB share connections – You can only configure a total of six SMB/NFS shares on the PCH, this can be overcome somewhat by install the media streaming app on your home PD (myiHome
  7. Audio configuration – I haven’t yet seen an option in the PCH which lets you offset the audio and video for files which are out of sync, although, I am yet to encounter a file with this problem (perhaps it auto corrects?)

Things PCH does better then XBMC

  1. HD content, of course, the XBOX can’t play any HD content. I’ve had a few issues with skipping and the unit hanging up on certain files but I think it’s entirely to do with heat, I was first testing my unit during a heat wave with 40c + temperatures. 
  2. Very quiet, no fans, minimal HDD noise but does run quite hot with a HDD installed (probably about the same heat output as the XBOX) 
  3. You can turn it on and off with the remote. 
  4. PCH has all the file operations you have with XBMC (delete, rename) with the addition of being able to move files and create folders. 
  5. It’s tiny, about 1/3 the size of an XBOX. 
  6. Very good firmware and community support (so does XMBC, I know). 
  7. With a HDD installed you can use it as a torrent client (which has an associated web gui), web server, NAS or even as a media streamer. 
  8. It has a (slightly flaky) web interface for all config options. 
  9. Easy upgrade to a new/bigger HDD, support for external HDD’s, USB sticks, USB keyboard, Wireless adapter (don’t try streaming HD content over wireless). 
  10. Community created content for browsing movies/music using a jukebox type interface are mature and easy to use and look great. Community created themes and custom indexes are also quite good (XBMC has these too, I know).

There are more but these are the major ones.

My ultimate plan was to replace my SD TV set top box (I’ll play back content which is recorded on my PC), XBOX and DVD player (PCH can play DVD ISO/VIDEO_TS) with the PCH and I’m not quite there yet. I can live without the music playback and photo screensaver and the rest of the problems I can live with or solve with some customisation. If it’s any indicator at all, I’ve had the old XBOX unplugged since the PCH arrived and have only has one occasion when I felt the need to turn it on (admittedly this was when I had the PCH in pieces on my desk while transferring files to the HDD).

Overall I can see the PCH doing everything I want it to and while it has (and continues to) taken a long time to configure and set up thinking back to when I first modded the XBOX, setting up XMBC took just as long to get exactly how I wanted it. So overall the PCH is a winner.

One other thing, this speaks more to the service I’ve received from www.mediaplayersandmore.com.au (where I bought the PCH) than anything else, but the power supply on my PCH died the day after I got it and has been intermittently alternating between working and not working since then, it seems like a dud, shit happens, so I contacted Ross at www.mediaplayersandmore.com.au and he was very responsive and has already sent out a new power supply which should hopefully solve the problem, I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Forester vs Skid Pan

Kristie’s Christmas present last year was a Skid Pan session at Fairburn, because I thought it would be a good idea for her to get familiar with the new car in a safe environment with a trained instructor….err..who am I kidding, what could be more fun that hooning around in a 4WD Turbo on a watered flat slick surface with very little chance of hitting anything.

IMG_2848

So we finally got around to booking in for the course, and Kristie spend four hours on the skid pan (shared with 5-6 other cars, two at a time) alternating between instructor led hooning and solo hooning. The end result was an increased appreciation of how ABS works, how hard it is to 4 wheel drift an All Wheel Drive vehicle and four layers of the most horrible baked on dirt which took an hour to wash off.

A good day!

(I’ll post more pic once I’ve had a chance to go through them all)