How to maintain your car and keep the costs down

 

Advice to first time car owners

Owning a car is expensive- here’s how to keep the costs down

1 Check the Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month.

For an old car this may need to be done before every drive,

for a 3+ year old car, once a week.

For a brand new car, it’s still a good habit to check these things.

Always do it before a long drive.

 

AIR: In the frame of the drivers door there are recommended air pressures for the tyres.

Always run the tyres at or slightly above the recommended levels. Eg recommended 34psi, keep them at 34- 37psi.

 

Oil:  Keep the engine oil at the recommended maximum.

The engine has a dipstick. With engine off, remove dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert fully and take it out. The oil level can be seen between two notches. Keep the oil level at the full notch. Buy 4 litres of oil from Repco/Supercheap/Autozone etc so you can top it up cheaply. Be careful NOT to overfill. The difference between low and full may only be half a litre.

Auto transmissions need checking too, read the manual for how to.

 

Brake Fluid: The brakes work by hydraulic pressure. There are one or two master cylinders at the rear of the engine bay, on the drivers side. There will be marks to show the level. Keep them topped up but not overfull. Be aware that brake fluid destroys paintwork, if you spill any, wipe and wash with detergent instantly. Buy a small container of brake fluid when you need it, it doesn’t keep because brake fluid is hygroscopic (water absorbing).

 

Water Times 3

Water 1: Check the level of coolant in the radiator. NEVER try to remove the radiator cap when hot because steam is under pressure and you will be scalded. Most cars have a small overflow tank and you can see the level, or there is a dipstick built into the lid, which is safe to remove at any time. If so, you never need to remove the radiator cap. You can buy concentrated or premixed coolant when you buy the oil.

 

Water 2: Keep the windscreen washer fluid tank full with tap water. A few drops of morning fresh detergent helps cut through the grime.

 

Water 3: When you buy a new battery get a sealed one and you won’t have to check the level of the battery acid every week. If not sealed then you have to remove the cap or caps from each cell. The liquid should be 20-30mms above the plates. You can top up with cool boiled water although distilled water is best. Don’t over fill. Batteries tend to die in the winter and last 3 years.

 

2. Look & Listen to your car – you can save a lot of money by getting things fixed early.

Tyres: Look at the tread and see if there is any unusual wear. Wear on inside AND outside means tire pressure too low. Wear on the center, tyre pressure too high

Wear on one edge means wheels are out of alignement. Get that axle aligned, tyre shops/workshops do that. They will advise you to get all four wheels aligned, but if you have taken notice of the wear you will save yourself some money by only getting the front or the rear wheels aligned. If you have caught it quick enough you won’t have to replace the tyre and can use it for longer. Saves money.

 

Brakes: Disc pads wear out and when they do, you hear metal on metal when you brake. They are built so that a little bit of metal shows first and makes the slight noise. Get the pads replaced at a workshop pronto and you won’t need to have the rotors skimmed or replaced.

 

Get to know what your car sounds like. If you hear a new noise, track it down. It could be nothing, it could be life threatening or worse, expensive. Sometimes it’s not a noise but a smell, which could mean an electrical problem (with potential fire or maybe oil leaking.

Early prevention saves money and lives!

 

Don’t drive with the handbrake on, it wears the rear brakes

Don’t drive with your foot resting on the clutch, it wears out the clutch and they have to remove the engine to replace the clutch, you can guess that one is expensive.

Don’t sit at the Traffic lights with the clutch depressed, you are wearing out the thrust bearing.

Disc brakes should last 3-6 years depending on how you brake

Tyres should last 3-6 years depending on how hard you brake, accelerate and go around corners – providing you keep an eye out for uneven wear. Front wheel drive cars wear out the front tyres much quicker than the rears.

 

Signs of a car in good condition:

The air stays in the tyres for 6-18 months

Uses no engine or automatic oil

Never uses brake fluid.

Never needs the radiator topping up.

Battery level shouldn’t change too much but will lower more in hot conditions

If any of the above changes then you know there is something that needs attention.

Remember – check the  Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month

 

Keep your car undercover – Cars that are stored in weatherproof garages stay in much better condition and generally have better resale value.

As cars age they begin to rust. Leaving a car exposed to the weather 24 hours a day will encourage the rust, which often makes its first appearance as tiny bubbles under the paint. Electronic components can also be damaged by the constant temperature extremes and damp conditions.

 

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facebook how to search my comments

 

Sometimes I want to find an old comment I made on Facebook

It’s quite simple really.

Login to your Facebook profile page.

Click on ‘Activity Log’ which is on the bottom right of your header image, beside ‘Update info’ and the Settings Icon

Activity Log

Click on ‘Comments’ in the leftsidebar

Comments

Use the year and date on the right hand side to go back further than your comments date.

Timeline Dates

Launch the windows ‘Find’ function (Ctrl+F)

At the bottom left of the browser, there will be a search Box with Up/down arrows

Search Box

 

Type in some words you know you used.

Use the scroll arrows beside the search box to locate your comments.

If you find this info useful, please post a comment to let me know

 

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Why Solar Panels connected to the grid is wrong

 

Having solar panels on every house roof, pouring  electricity into the grid is wrong.

In theory it sounds good.

However for it to create a saving for the grid, the power station has to be able to shut a whole generator down, probably at least 20Mw.

That takes a while to do and the power station has to know that the power coming in is not going to fade away because it becomes cloudy in some areas of the state, or other disasters.

Instead the power station will over produce power so that it won’t get caught short.

The biggest problems with electricity are that it can’t be stored easily and that peak demand is not at peak solar producing time.

For the electricity company there is the problem that during peak evening usage the panels are no use.

So they are paying out to people with solar panels connected to the grid for electricity they supplied during the daylight hours that wasn’t used, and passing the charges on to non panel clients.

I don’t think they thought it through properly.

For clients that signed up for 44 – 60 cents per kilowatt, it’s a brilliant saving.  At the expense of those non solar panel clients.

The rate at which electricity is bought for the grid is called the ‘Feed In Tariff’. It began with spectacular rates of between 44 and 60 cents per kilowatt. These deals are now closed and depending on which state, the Feed In Tariff’s are between 6 and 14 cents per kilowatt. A large difference which means regaining the installation costs will take much longer.

Full details of feed in Tariffs for each state here http://www.originenergy.com.au/feed-in-tariffs

The one good thing about having solar panels is that during daylight hours they produce some of the panel client’s electricity needs. This is done via the Net meter which measures the generated power and consumption.

Depending on which state you are in, the Net meter works under one of two tariff structures. ‘Net feed-in’ tariff or a ‘Gross feed-in’ tariff. Most states offer a ‘Net feed-in’ tariff.

1 A Net feed-in tariff, pays for any solar energy that goes back into the grid after the house has used whatever it needs from the panels.

2. Clients  under a Gross feed-in tariff, get paid for every unit of electricity generated by their solar panels, regardless of whether it goes into the grid or is used by the household. This is a better deal for those being paid for more than they are charged per kilowatt.

 

The longevity of the system will always be a concern, despite the ‘Lifetime Guarantees’.

1. The panels can lose their capacity to produce electricity.

2. The inverters are electronic and in time may fail.

3. The company making the guarantee may close down.

4. The Feed In Tariff may be reduced, despite government guarantees.

 

A better way to use Solar Panels

The solar panels should be near a power station, out west where sunlight is more predictable. They should be administered by a single entity. That would be more efficient and the power station would be able to rely on the supply, knowing in advance what cloud cover was expected.

A unified system would be better suited to change, for instance if other ways are discovered to produce and store electricity. It would be far more cost effective to convert one large area of solar panels than on each single house that currently has panels. There is much research into fuel cells and other ways to create and store electricity, the ‘next big thing’ may be just around the corner.

That is what China is doing – “Suntech Power predicts that the cost of building large scale solar PV plants could match the cost of coal-fired generation in China by 2016, a development that will “completely transform” the energy market in the world’s second biggest economy.”

Chinese Solar

Creative Commons photo by International Rivers from Flickr

In California, where state law requires utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the electricity they sell by 2020, there is a new $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

Currently we have this system where Government has paid large installation rebates, and pays people to produce power, but because the supply can’t be guaranteed, and because it isn’t generated at peak times, it doesn’t save generating costs.

The result is that electricity costs have to be increased.

So the person without solar panels, including the pensioner down the street who cannot afford solar, has to pay for it.

Surely the idea was to reduce power costs?

It’s just plain stupidity.

 

 

 

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Bridge Cameras, a better alternative to an entry level DSLR

 

I’m often asked for advice by camera buying friends. They’ve just seen an inexpensive DSLR, under $1000, and they’re hooked, because ‘DSLR’ is like some magic word promising high quality photographs.

My advice is that a good bridge camera, also called ‘Super Zooms’, like the Panasonic FZ200, with up to 30x zoom, is a far better buy than a cheap entry level DSLR camera.

This is aimed at camera novices, people who’ve never owned anything but a point and shoot camera. Unless they can spend a few thousand dollars and are prepared to lug around 2 or more lenses and camera, an entry level DSLR is not the best buy.

In Short

An entry level DSLR lacks features available in bridge cameras
The kit lenses they come with are poor quality
An 80mm lens is less than 2.5x telephoto/zoom, very limiting.
Video may have mono sound and less features, compared to a bridge camera.
Nett Result: You will need to buy a more expensive DSLR and expensive lens to get better results.

 

Ask yourself what you want the camera for?

Phone cameras take very good photo’s, why do you need a separate camera?

We all dream that we’ll take that one amazing photo, which will be printed on large canvas and hung in a gallery, or used on a magazine cover or..??

Let’s get realistic. For a movie sized poster, there is a lot more than just the camera involved.

Light, camera on a tripod fired by remote, the lens, the colours in the scene and whether the scene is still or moving, are all important factors. Most important of all is you must have your camera with you !

Will we ever be fortunate to get everything right when that chance in a million comes along, to take that perfect photo?

Will we even have the camera with us if, like good DSLR’s, it’s heavy and requires 2 or more lens to be carried with it?

The majority of photos that people take get sent compressed to 25% of their size or less, in emails or on Facebook.

What is the point in having a heavy DSLR and lugging around various lenses, when all we are going to do is take snapshots and post them on the net, or make slideshows and put them in slideshow frames or to watch on TV?  A phone camera is good enough for that.

If you want to take better photos and are prepared to learn, then that is the justification for buying a good camera.

The question is, “what type of camera will suit my needs?”

An Alternative to DSLR Cameras

The name DSLR is associated with ‘professional standard’ cameras. In the past this was correct, but is it correct for cheap DSLRs ?

Now there is a bridge between Compact Cameras and DSLR cameras. The Bridge Cameras are lighter, they take very good images and have more features than a cheap DSLR. They have all or most of the features a good DSLR has. Some features like super fast auto focus and F2.8 at 600mm are better than many DSLR’s.

As one expert with over 40 years experience told me, “P from NZ asked my opinion on the FZ200 Bridge Camera for travel. He’s just back from the Himalayas with some breathtaking shots, so much so I’ve got his permission to use 3 of them in my next book.

I challenge anyone with a ‘money no problem’ DSLR to get as good a set of pictures as he has there, with the Fz200 Bridge Camera.”

FZ200 CockatooAbove is the ‘best in class’ Pansonic Lumix FZ200 bridge camera. Replaced in 2015 by the new model FZ300. It has more features than you’ll ever use and takes high quality Photo’s and Video. The screen in the image is rotatable through 360 degrees. Until the FZ I have always preferred using the viewfinder, but this screen is so much better and can be turned to any angle, even in front of the camera.

For me Zoom is the most important camera feature.

I want to get up close and personal with the subject, frame the image using a telephoto lens so the subject almost fills the frame. Without enough telephoto power you can’t get close enough and the result is a tiny subject filling perhaps 1/6th of the frame.

The Panasonic FZ200 & FZ300 have 24 time zoom, but effectively go to 30 times zoom with an ‘Extra Optical Zoom’ setting with no deterioration in image quality. That amount of Telephoto is amazing. Even with image stabilisation it’s difficult to hold the camera steady at this huge magnification. A steady hand, rest the camera on something and a fast shutter help to snap what may be an award winning image. I always use a tripod or monopod when I can.

I consider 10x telephoto is a minimum, less than that is rather poor. Most of the time a telephoto power to zoom between 15x and 20x is enough to frame the shot or get a fantastic close up. Having 30x available means the FZ is not limiting the shot.

Imagine seeing a rare bird in a tree, close by. It will make a fantastic photo but not if it’s a speck of brown and you can’t zoom in to see the detail. This situation often happens and a photographer needs that zoom to get a good photo.

That’s why I think plenty of telephoto, to zoom in on the subject, is essential.

Check out these photo’s from Africa, some great telephoto shots from the FZ200. I think the 30x zoom was life saving for some of his shots, I wouldn’t want to get too close to the Lions or the Buffalo!

http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/gallery/fz200/Bence_Mate/africa/index.html

DSLR camera lenses are marked in millimeters, and there’s some confusion about how much telephoto power they have. In fact with the usual lens they come with, DSLR cameras hardly have any telephoto capacity at all.

It’s not easy to find the telephoto power for millimeter lenses. Here’s some information assuming the camera is a DSLR 35mm format with a cropped sensor of 1.6

A 50mm lens is considered 1 to 1, ie what our eyes see.

Any measurement below 50mm begins to be wide angle.

With DSLR camera’s the short lens 35-80mm, that comes with the camera is probably less than 2.5x zoom at 80mm – very poor.

The 55-250mm long lens will telephoto to about 8x zoom at 250mm.

50-300mm lens are about 10x zoom at 300mm – the minimum I consider acceptable.

Note that it also needs to be a quality lens, to allow enough light through.  Expensive and large. The ‘kit’ lenses that entry level cameras come with are low quality

The bridge cameras lenses are not detachable. They go from Macro close up for insects to 30 times zoom in half a second and they’re ready to take the photo.

The Panasonic FZ200, is at the very top of its range. It’s not a DSLR, it’s a ‘Bridge camera’. It costs around Aus $700 (2013), has a quality Leica lens permanently attached.

I began my interests in bridge cameras with the FZ100, then the FZ150, FZ200 and now the FZ300.

I spent many months researching. I was looking for a camera that took good photo’s and importantly, high quality video. I was surprised to find that Panasonic were making the best bridge camera, not Canon, Nikon etc. The FZ was far better than I had hoped. It takes high definition 1920×1080 Progressive video at 25fps, which gives the film a cinematic quality, and has a microphone socket which is very important for good audio in a video.

The images are high quality. The Panasonic FZ200 can also take a super fast 12 images per second and has an incredibly fast auto focus. It can take HDR and Panorama photo’s and has pages of other features.

As well as the usual jpeg format, it can shoot in RAW which means the image bypasses the camera processor and you can do all your own processing on the computer. The camera processor does a very good job, it can take some time to process a RAW image to the same quality, but the option is there.

One amazing feature of the FZ200 & 300, which no other bridge camera has managed to do at time of writing, is that it has a wide f2.8 lens throughout its telephoto range. No DSLR lens can shoot with as wide an aperture, letting in more light, at F2.8 at 600mm.

Every review over the last 4 years has put the FZ at the top of the Bridge cameras; it’s the model other cameras can’t equal.

After 4+ years I am still sure I bought the best camera.

Everyone wants a DSLR. It’s the name. I’m not faulting DSLR cameras, I’m pointing out that cheap entry level ones don’t have all the features, that they lack any kind of useful telephoto power, may be inconvenient to carry and not the best buy for many camera newbies.

On camera forums I’ve read favourable comments by experienced DSLR owners comparing the FZ with their expensive DSLRs. Of course a good DSLR camera can produce a better resolution image, but they need the right lens, and at 3 or perhaps 6 times the expense of a bridge camera.

Some stunning images have been produced by the FZ200. Click this image to see many FZ200 Amateur Photos at Flickr

FZ200 Image by Rob

Several times I’ve read of a DSLR owner buying the Panasonic FZ200 to take on holiday because they don’t want to carry all the DSLR gear around with them or haven’t the room in their luggage. I rarely read anything but praise for the FZ200, it’s an amazing camera.

I believe the popularity of inexpensive DSLRS will decline as more people become aware of the better alternative of Bridge Cameras. DSLR Cameras are of course first choice for professionals. The larger physical size sensor, with the right lens, can take the best images, but owners must be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars for the camera body and perhaps twice that for good quality lens. Did I mention lugging camera and lenses around?

DSLR’s have a larger physical size sensor than bridge cameras and this gives them the possibility of higher quality photos. The thing to consider is that without much telephoto, the object is smaller in the photo and has to be enlarged, reducing the quality.

For example, a while ago a friend with a $3000 DSLR with a 80mm lens took a photo of the full moon the same night that I did. We both used tripods and remotes. On comparing the photo’s we couldn’t decide which was the better quality. At full 30x telephoto the moon more than filled the frame. I pulled the zoom back until the moon was framed at around 26x. My friends moon was perhaps a 1/6th of the frame and he enlarged it to the same size as my untouched image, which reduced the quality and brought out some noise. He would have needed an expensive 600mm lens to have the moon fill the frame the same as my bridge camera and THEN it would have been a high quality photo, such as you see in magazines.

A 450mm lens is nearly half a metre long, not easy to carry around and high quality lenses like this can cost $9,999.00 to $14,999.00

Big Lens

 

While the telephoto zoom powers are a huge plus for bridge cameras, they do have a smaller physical size sensor. There are good and bad points in this. The smaller physical size sensor means that it keeps more of the field in sharp focus which is a good thing. It also means that getting ‘depth of field’ photo’s has to be worked at more than with a larger sensor. The FZ takes good depth of field pics, there are many examples on the net. The smaller size sensor is what allows the amazing telephoto range.

There are two things to know about sensors.

1. They have different physical sizes, depending on the type of camera.

2. How many megapixels they use to take an image.

For many years there has been a fascination with megapixels, with each new camera having more of them. This trend is vanishing as people realise that more mega pixels isn’t always better.

 

Telephoto, a Still Camera and Good Light in the right place.

If telephoto is the most important feature, then holding the camera still is the second.

This applies to all cameras, from Phones to DSLR’s.

The FZ has 2 types of image stability that work very well. Whatever the type of camera nothing beats the clarity of an image from a fixed camera

Good light in the right place is #3 on the list and that isn’t totally camera dependent, but the FZ200 & 300 have an amazing f2.8 right through its range – even at 30X telephoto. This lets in more light. Good light is a strong factor in producing a good image. Traditional long zoom lenses drop to f6.3 and it takes a lot of light to recover that loss. Nature photographers who buy a DSLR and an expensive zoom lens then try to shoot in less than bright light will quickly realise they have made a very expensive, bad purchase. They also don’t appreciate the amount of thermal and water haze that a long lens will pick up. It destroys image quality far faster than jpeg compression!

There is another genre called Micro 4/3rds.

They have detachable lens and unlike DSLR’s are mirror less. This means they take better video and are lighter than a DSLR.

The Panasonic GH3 is a Micro4/3rds camera that many pro’s are using to film documentaries etc – it’s that good. I’ve often considered buying one, but having detachable lens holds me back. I don’t know if I want to spend so much on some lenses and then have to carry them around.
The FZ does such a good job for me.

I believe that the inexpensive DSLR market is only maintained by the power that the name ‘DSLR’ has. A good bridge camera is a better purchase and I expect the ratio of buyers between DLSR and Bridge cameras will change as people realise how much more useful a bridge camera is for most photography .

Another market that I expect to shrink is compact cameras. Smartphones are now taking such good images and it saves having to carry camera and phone around.

Once you go down the DSLR route, buying an enticingly ‘cheap’ DSLR, you may become stuck, needing to buy better lens to get closer to the subject, then needing features not available on the cheap DSLR, so you buy a better camera. Also each brand has its own lenses and moving cross brand may make your existing lenses obsolete, then you have to buy lenses from the new brand. That’s a frustrating and expensive journey.

My advice to newbies looking to buy something better than a compact point and shoot camera is to get a Panasonic FZ200 and save yourself money. You’ll have more features, great telephoto range and avoid all the hassles I’ve mentioned. The FZ200 will do the job!

Our world is always in change, and just as when digital cameras first arrived, I think there are changes ahead while we work out what we really need from a camera.

I find the DP Review website gives the best, in depth reviews – use the search to find the model camera you’re interested in and then compare it to the FZ200 review which is in this link – http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonic-lumix-dmc-fz200

I’ll let camera expert Graham H have the last say – “If you want to take photographs worthy of a place in National Geographic or on Times Square advertising board, then I don’t recommend the FZ200 but I guess that 99% of users who buy this camera for holidays and travel are going to be blown away with it.

Here is a link to one of many information videos that Graham has produced on the FZ200. The first 45 seconds are photo’s he’s taken with the camera and I think they show better than anything else, how good the camera is.

This is the first of many tutorials covering every feature of the FZ. In this video he covers the totally automatic mode, which like the rest of the camera is very good.

 

 

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Renumber Audio Book Files for mp3 players

 

Solutions for Audio Books and CD’s not playing in order.

Sometimes audio book files won’t play in order on an MP3 player because they are not numbered at the front of each mp3 filename,

OR

Audio files have embedded information that we can’t easily see and the MP3 player may be using one of these tags to incorrectly choose the order.

 

There are two free programs that will show these tags and allow you to edit them. Once installed they are accessed from the right click menu (Windows) – more on that below.

Tip 1. The first and easiest thing to try is paste the folder with your Audio files into ‘Music’, then under ‘Music, see if you can scroll down to ‘Folders’. Usually this will show your folders and many times have the correct order of chapters.

Tip 2. Putting audiobooks into the ‘Podcast’ folder on Sansa Fuze and Sansa Clip often solves the problem – and they’re still treated like books.

Tip 3. Another fix can be to save each file, one at a time, in order. This worked for me when I wanted several CD’s to play in order from a USB memory stick.

 

I mainly use MP3 Tag.

http://download.cnet.com/3055-2141_4-10313616.html?&tag=pdl-redir to remove unwanted tags, rename Album and Title, add a genre and to change the date the files were created

Here’s some info on the software.

Instructions for MP3 Tag (Windows 7) – after installing the software, right click on the folder and choose ‘MP3 Tag’. The software will launch and you can see all the files in the window.

Select ALL the files- click in the window, press ctrl+a. Go to Tools on the top menu and click on Auto Numbering Wizard. Tick the box to add an extra zero. That should renumber the files and often is all that needs doing.

‘Album’ is the Tag that gives the folder its name. ‘Title’ gives the name of the Chapter. By clicking twice over any Title or Album name you can type in new names.

I make all names under ‘Album’ identical by pasting on each line. Under title I make sure each name has a 3 digit number followed by name of chapter ie 001 The Beginning, 002 Stormy Seas etc. It’s slow but it’s simple.Or you can do it all at once –

You can copy all the Filenames to the Title column in one go by using the Quick Actions, select ‘FORMAT VALUE’ then enter the following –
Field: TITLE
Format String: %_filename%

To SAVE – select all the chapters (Ctrl+a in Windows) and click the save icon top left.

 

To put a name in all fields of a column with MP3tag

I do this to add ‘Audiobook’ to the Genre column, or to add the name to the Artist or Album Artist column.

Ctrl + A to select all.

Write down whatever is in the Title field on the left hand side panel.

Type the new words into ‘Title’ on the Left hand side and click the save icon.

This will rename every field in the Title column to whatever words typed.

Go to Actions>Quick Actions>Format Value>OK

In the Field, type or choose whichever column you want the words to go to, with % each end.

Example  %Album%

In Format String, type or choose the Title field- %Title%

Click OK and the words you typed are now added to the column you choose.

Once you have new words in the Title column, they can easily be moved to ANY other column by using  the Quick Actions, select ‘FORMAT VALUE’ then enter the following –
Field: whichever column you want to tyransfer the words to
Format String: %Title%

Remember to Go back and change Title in the left hand panel back to whatever was there before.

DON’T FORGET TO SAVE!!!!

I’m sure there is a simpler way but after hours of searching, this one works.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Bulk rename Utility, is very useful and not as complicated as it looks.

http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php

Instructions on how to change or add a number to the front of the file name using ‘Bulk Rename Utility”

Typical list of Audio Book files –

nameofthebook-01-1mp3

nameofthebook-01-2mp3

nameofthebook-01-3mp3

nameofthebook-02-1mp3

nameofthebook-02-2mp3

nameofthebook-02-3mp3

etc

These files often play completely out of order on my Sansa Fuze and Sansa Clip, simply because they need the number at the beginning, as a Prefix.

This is a brilliant renaming utility and it’s free!!

http://www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk/Main_Intro.php

I have used it for about 3 years and it is excellent. It can rename and renumber files in an instant.

Afterwards those files will look like this, and will play in order in any mp3 player –

001nameofthebook-01-1mp3

002nameofthebook-01-2mp3

003nameofthebook-01-3mp3

004nameofthebook-02-1mp3

005nameofthebook-02-2mp3

006nameofthebook-02-3mp3

etc

When the program is opened it looks very complicated, but the steps to renumber audiobook files is simple.
ALL THE SETTINGS ARE IN THE ‘NUMBERING’ BOX which I have outlined in red.

This software will do far more than just renumber audio book files and that’s the reason it looks so complicated.

Here’s a screenshot, and some instructions below.

Bulk Rename Utility

Instructions to renumber the audiobook files.

For safety I make a copy of the audiobook folder first and rename that, so if anything goes wrong I still have the original.

I set the numbers to be prefixed with two zero’s. This means that up to 999 files can be renumbered.

1. Find the folder on your computer

2. Select All (CTRL+A on a PC)

3. Setup as shown in the red box. Mode:Prefix, Start:1, Pad:3  (Pad is the number of digits so this makes the numbers start at oo1.

4. Check that the new names have the number in front (prefix), that the numbers are in order.

5. If all good, press ‘Rename’

It’s really simple and incredibly fast.

Please leave a comment if you found this post useful 🙂

 

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Beer Review

 

I am a beer drinker rather than a connoisseur, but drinking 24 different beers every December in my Advent Beer Calendar has developed my palate and helped me appreciate beers and how they’re brewed.

Everyone has their individual tastes, here’s mine – My favourite beer would be a pint of English Bitter/Pale Ale poured from a tap. I prefer Dutch style Pilsners to German ones, which are too bitter for me. My daily beer of choice is VB. I dislike the taste of Fourex Bitter which I put down to the use of Golden Cluster Hops.

THE 4 MAIN INGREDIENTS OF BEER: MALT, HOPS, YEAST & WATER

Malt

I look on Malt as the guts of a beer. Malt is produced by germinating cereal grains by soaking in water, then drying with hot air. This is called “malting”.  Malt produces the base flavour and mouthfeel of beer. Different Malts are used to produce each beer style, from Lager, Pale Ale, through Caramel to Dark Chocolate malt, which are descriptions rather than tastes of Caramel or Chocolate, and used in Porters and Stouts.

 

Hops

My 2011 Advent Beer Calendar  focused on which hops were used in each beer.  Hops are the seed cones of the female flowers of the many varieties of hop plants.They contain an essential oil with a very bitter flavor. This bitterness balances the sweetness of the Malt, it acts as a preservative and contributes to the aroma and high note flavour of the beer.

 

Yeast

The Yeast is the catalyst which affects both the Malt and the Hops. It is highly important to the flavour of beer. Yeast turns the sugars into alcohol and at the same time produces up to 600 flavours and aromas. Yeast is the most difficult part of the flavouring process. The flavours it produces are all on the edge of perceptability. Changes in the brewing process, such as temperatures, filtration etc all change the way the yeast will react, which changes the flavours it imparts. Home brewers know well that Yeasty taste which is so difficult to remove. Even Micro Brewerys often produce beer with a faint ‘homebrew’ tang of yeast, but that’s just the obvious Yeast taste, not the subtle but important flavours that Yeast produces.

 

Water

The three main ingredients of Beer, Malt, Hops and Yeast are joined by a fourth variable – water. Water has a subtle but different taste, depending on location. It’s often said that it is the local water which makes it hard to reproduce a beer in another place. For instance many fans of Guinness say that it tastes differently brewed in Dublin, Ireland, to brewed in the UK or even Australia.

You don’t need to know how an engine works to drive a car and knowing about these brewing basics is not essential to the pleasure of drinking beer, but it has added to my enjoyment.  🙂

The variations of each of the ingredients and the way they are combined and brewed produces an amazing variety of beer for us to drink. With so many factors affecting the brewing process, it’s really amazing that the master brewers guarantee the same taste, year after year.

For me, assuming there is no obvious yeasty taste, the Hops make or break a beer.

While sampling a Japanese Beer, Kirin, I realised that the flavour of the beer was hanging mainly on the taste of hops. I recognised that taste without being connoisseur enough to name it. My guess was Saaz and i was pleased to read on the Kirin website that they buy Saaz from the Cezch Republic, so my guess was correct – I’m learning.

Hops can be divided into two kinds – Aroma Hops and Bitter Hops. Aroma hops are usually added during the finishing/conditioning process, Bitter hops are used  during boiling.

The ‘Noble’ hops Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt,  and Saaz are high in Aroma and low in bitterness, and my favourites, but of course that also depends on the quantity used and when the hops are added to the brewing process.

Here’s a list of hops and their flavours.

What’s your favourite brew?

 

 

 

 

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Highway Speed Limits are Too Low for safety

 

Does Speed Kill or does Speed Damage your Wallet?

The news stories of ‘stupidity fueled crashes’  brand regular drivers that break the speed limit as deviant criminals. That’s unfair and crazy.
Motorists are being fined on safe sections of roads, often straight, sometimes without another car in sight.

It’s all wrong.

If you hear on the news that someone was booked in the 100kph zone for doing 120kph, do you think they were crazy and should be locked up? Years ago when the open highway was not speed restricted, 120kph often felt like a safe cruising speed. With modern cars and highways it feels even safer but our speed is locked into a nice round number. 100kph.

There are statistics around the world to show that RAISING the speed limit has increased driver concentration and REDUCED the accident rate.

“After multi-year studies, Utah has raised a number of its highway speed limits to 80 miles an hour (128.7kph). They cited the same reasons of safety as the now-famous ‘Speed Kills Your Pocketbook’ documentary. Linked at the end.

“4 State Legislatures Voted to Increase Speed Limits This Year” click here to read more.

I’m not saying we should go as fast as we want,

or drive at speeds that endanger other road users,

just that we should have realistic speed limits on open highways.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation Posted Speed Limits and  Speed limit Setting Practices Spring 2003 suggests-

The normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable person should be considered legal.

A speed limit should be set so that the majority of motorists observe it voluntarily and enforcement can be directed to the minority of offenders.

A speed limit should seem too fast for a majority of users or it is not a maximum limit.

Generally the posted limit should be set near the 85th percentile speed.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation might seem like a strange department to quote if you don’t live in BC, but the 85th percentile method is suggested in the US Dept of Transportation PDF . Click Here. And I expect that speed limiting system is more widespread than just BC and the USA. It certainly is logical.

I’ve often pointed out that we’re locked in to a speed limit which is a round number – 100kph, that is only 62.13mph. In Europe and many US states the maximum speed limit is 70mph, which is 112.6kph.

112kph would be an improvement, but really there are many roads where you can drive at 120-130kph when it feels safe.

You don’t HAVE to drive at 120-130 -140kph.

You should always drive at a speed that feels safe. This speed is different for every person.

The British Columbia speed limit setting document is a blueprint to to set far more accurate speed limits than we have at present.

If the speed limit was 130kph 0r 140kph, you can still drive at 93kph, as many do, but it would make overtaking much safer being able to go up to 130kph legally.

Driving long distance at 120-140kph would keep drivers more aware than the ridiculously slow blanket 100kph speed limit that we have at present.

Link to ‘Speed Kills Your Pocketbook’-  this documentary has many valid points, and see the cop with a speed gun ranting about how everyone is breaking the speed limit, but he’s in an advisory speed area with a yellow sign, the speed limit signs there are white and in fact no-one he gunned was breaking the speed limit!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BKdbxX1pDw&feature=share
Oh, ignore the inane attempts at humour in the documentary! there is a lot of good info there.

Sign the Wheels Australia Petition, click on the image

Speed damages your wallet

Australia it’s time to act! After years of traveling in the slow lane, we need a higher speed limit. Welcome to our campaign: a crusade designed to increase the limit to 130km/h on our best highways, thus leading to less fatigue-related crashes. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP! Sign our petition HERE: http://bit.ly/Wheels330 and SHARE this post to spread the word. Make your voice count!

 

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Lawnmower fix broken governor

 

Satan, a Rover Sprint 373 Lawnmower, with a Briggs and Stratton ‘Easy Start’ engine  got his name because from NEW he would never start easily – only ONCE did Satan start easily and that was the day I took him back to the shop to complain!!

Here’s the misleading advert –

 Rover sprint 373 fix broken governor

Our previous mower had a vertical pull cord. I could put one foot on the mower and yank up and easily start it, so of course when it was time to buy a new mower, I bought another Rover, not realising that the pull start was now aimed backwards.

The mower is 15 years old now and has only ever run for 10 minutes at a time, to cut the small amount of grass around the pool. He’s started showing his age. Recently he would only run for 3-4 minutes before dying.

Investigation showed that the rubber  primer bulb was completely sucked in and research suggested the carburettor to fuel tank gasket has dried out and needs to be replaced.

Mower Carby

Before I could get to that job, more problems turned up. The only way to start this ‘Easy Start’ mower is put the lawnmower on an incline, prime 4-6 times with firm pushes of the bulb, then pull the starting cord as hard as possible while shoving the mower down the slope- also as hard as possible. With all that, it barely starts.

I started the mower, intending to quickly cut as much grass as I could before it stopped, and when I released the starting cord it must have caught up in the blade of the governor and jammed. There was a horrific shrieking noise, as if the engine had seized. I rotated the blades backwards and unjammed the cord, but the governor lever, which is connected by thin springs, was loose.

I started the mower again and it ran at full throttle. It was quite impressive, never before had Satan sounded so eager!!

It was revving so hard that fuel began to spray out of the three vent holes in the fuel cap!! I switched it off quickly.

I’ve assumed that the blade of the governor is broken. I could take everything apart and fix it, but the mower is old, it’s only a small amount of grass to cut. I decided to connect the throttle directly to the butterfly in the inlet manifold and take over control of the throttle.

It was very simple, using traditional Aussie Bush Remedy methods –

FENCING WIRE !!

I removed the springs, bent a piece of thin fencing wire with a loop for adjustment and connected it to the butterfly lever and the throttle cable.

Fix Mower throttle remocve governor

 I made sure that the throttle would totally close, because that’s the only way to switch the mower off. Started the mower and – YES!! I had control over the throttle. I mowed the grass and although the rubber bulb sucked right in, the higher revs I was using allowed enough fuel to be sucked into the engine for it to keep running.

I noticed that where the grass was a bit higher and thicker, I had to increase the throttle a tad and reduce it once back on lighter grass. Just as I expected. I have new respect for the clever governor system and I guess I have just taken the evolution of motor mowers back 30 years. But I’m happy with the result and now more encouraged to fit a new carby gasket.

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Full Refund on Faulty Product

 

I bought an oven on 6th Jan that was faulty.

The manufacturer got a local repair company to fix it. The repairman couldn’t come for 2 weeks!! When he finally arrived all he did was check that what I had described was in fact the problem, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD THE REPLACEMENT PART WITH HIM. I rang the repair company 2 days later to see what was happening and they hadn’t even booked me in for further visits!

They booked me in and the repairman came back a WEEK LATER and fiddled around with no result. I complained vigorously to the company about the incredible delays and lack of repair, and the NEXT WEEK he fitted the part and it didn’t fix the problem.

I made a video complaint and put it on youtube, with plenty of text references to the product name in title and description as well as in the video. The next morning the company called me to say they would give me a refund on the oven AND on the installation costs – IF I WOULD REMOVE THE VIDEO.
I got the refund 3 days ago 🙂

Obviously I won’t name the product, which was a Gas Oven, because the Manufacturer has done the right thing. I am not out of pocket but I have been without an oven for eight weeks.

The problem that at its lowest setting , which was 120C, the oven temps would slowly rise to 200+C making it impossible to slow cook or know what time to cook, also plenty of potential for over cooking.

After a new thermostat was fitted, the problem remained. I looked at the design and decided it was faulty. When the thermostat reached the set temperature, it turned the gas to low, but there were around 40 of these little flames, and obviously they were enough to continue heating the oven.
Perhaps if tested in a cold climate the result would be different, but when the ambient air temp in the kitchen is 30+C the oven temps continued to rise. If instead of turning all the gas jets down, there was one small pilot light and all the gas jets went off, then I’m sure the system would work.

There were lots of good things about the oven, such as simple lighting by Piezo Ignition or match, meaning one part less to go wrong. I had done my research and chosen carefully, but of course you can’t test an oven in the shop!

It seems that mere written or verbal complaints have lost their power. Social Media is the way to go if you have a legitimate complaint and you have patiently tried to resolve the problem.

Although I didn’t mention it, if the company had not refunded me, I planned to visit all the review websites and give an honest, bad review, stating what was happening to me, with a link to the video. Plus post on facebook, twitter and so on, all with the video link. I was very mad that I was getting such poor service. The fault should have been rectified soon after my warranty claim, because the product was BRAND NEW. Waiting two weeks for the first service call is one week too long for me, and then it wasn’t fixed.

I shot the video in one take, no editing except to add some text overlays. I had THREE thermometers in the oven and a timer, all of which appeared in the video and I described the problem and what the camera was looking at while filming – just about anyone can do that with their phone these days!

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Built in Obsolescence destroys Brand Loyalty because nothing lasts anymore.

 

In the last month our Air conditioner failed, our Refrigerator failed, our New Oven was faulty and couldn’t be repaired. The Aircon and fridge were just 13 years old. I got a full refund including installation costs for the new oven, which I believe had a design flaw.

Sorting all that out seemed almost like a full time job!

It seems we are continually replacing appliances, often just after their warranty runs out.

But I think it’s our fault.

I remember a time when we had a second hand washing machine and a 2nd hand fridge that both lasted for many years until they rusted away. These days the appliance dies before it’s had time to start rusting.

When I bought my first mobile phone I also bought an expensive leather case to protect it – what was I thinking?? that I mustn’t scratch it and spoil the resale value? Ha Ha the joke’s on us all, nothing lasts anymore. Everything is built with Planned Obsolescence.

That old 2nd hand washing machine which was originally in a laundrette, so had done a ton of work, finally rusted away. Naturally I was impressed with the brand, Whirlpool I think, so I replaced it with a new Whirlpool. Sadly the new one only had one speed, the old one had two, and it ripped up so many garments that we became afraid to use it and did a lot of hand washing. Luckily it rusted away very quickly.

When our trusty Rover Mower died after a sterling 20+ years of work, I was impressed with the brand and replaced it with another Rover. Instead of the vertical pull start of the old one, this one had a horizontal pull start and it was a very reluctant starter. I took it back and the shop owner started it with one pull. There was nothing I could say. I’m not weak but to start ‘SATAN’ as we call the mower, it has to be pushed away hard and simultaneously pull started, using ALL my strength.

Hot water tanks used to last 30-50 years. Our new one bought in 1998 had to be replaced in 2008.

These and other experiences have destroyed my brand loyalty. Now I trawl the net, reading forums and reviews, looking for what people say about a product and after many hours I get a probable view of what is good and bad.

I was in the market for a new Camera a couple of years ago. I was extremely happy with my 4mp 10x zoom Olympus, I felt it had a special lens. Research soon showed me that the Panasonic FZ150 12mp 24x zoom was way ahead, so I bought one and it was every bit as good as the forums and reviews said it was. Who would ever have thought that Panasonic would make a better camera than Canon or Olympus?

Similarly I recently bought a new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Ace and I’m extremely happy with it. Who would have thought that Samsung would knock Nokia of its perch as the worlds top selling phone producer – Samsung dethrones Nokia to become the world’s top selling phone brand

Built in Obsolescence isn’t as new as we might think- it began in the 30’s Is planned obsolescence socially responsible?  and became routine in the 1950’s.

It’s not just the fault of the producers. We the consumers are also at fault. We haggle over prices, ask,’what is your BEST price’, and generally buy the lowest priced product that will suit our needs.

Often the producers profit margin is slim. An example is the home printer. These are sold at or under cost price and the profit is made from selling ink cartridges. The printers have counters/ photo cells etc and know when the ink is getting low. Some of them will refuse to print when one cartridge is low, even if that is a colour and you want to print in black. They often have 6 cartridges a light and dark Magenta and Blue which is possibly another attempt to make more money from the consumer.

Canon and other printer manufacturers always insist that new replacement cartridges must be used. That is not so, I’ve re-filled cartridges for at least 15 years. Which makes me just as guilt as everyone else, we’re all trying to save money at the producers expense.

The result is that here in Australia we no longer make Fridges, TV’s and many other products. It’s cheaper to buy from overseas.

That’s a very short term view.

When you take a TV/Fridge etc to the dump because it is cheaper to buy a new one than repair the old, do you ever think the system is crazy? I do.

Low prices are very attractive, but we must expect to continually have to renew everything. There are times when I would pay extra not to have this hassle, but I have no trust that a more expensive product will have the longevity there used to be, in ‘the Old Days’.

Product Longevity – here’s what I think in 2013
Mobile phone – 5 years if it doesn’t go swimming it’ll be well out of date by then
Hot Water tank – 10 years
Microwave 3-5 years. I’ve had them die a week out of warranty
Aircon – 13 years
Ceiling Fan Switches- the 3 speed, 5 – 8 years
Refrigerators – 13 years
TV’s – no data yet

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