Saturday, 29 March 2008

Running Internet Explorer on Linux... in fact run MS Windows on Linux

Why do you wanna do this you might ask? Well, here's 1 reason: if your company uses a MS product and wants you to connect to it using Internet Explorer (since other browsers won't work). Here's another reason: WebDesigners might also work on Linux but still need to test their sites on IE.

We tried IEs4Linux (free and OpenSource):

but the best tool turned out to be VirtualBox (free and OpenSource):

Pre-Emptive Load Shedding Schedule for period 31 March to 30 April 2008

Remember to charge those torch batteries for Monday's new load shedding schedule, and remember load shedding creates a potential security concern.... so join your local neighborhood watch and get out there and patrol your area to ensure that the baddies don't win the war!

Here's the City of Cape Town's explanation of Pre-Emptive Load Shedding:
Click here for the explanation

Here's the Pre-emptive load shedding schedule [47KB]: Pre-emptive_loadshedding_schedule.pdf

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Battery+inverter or generator: the Pro's and Con's

With all the blackouts aren't you thinking of getting a Generator for your power needs? Well after reading this article you might put that "Genie" on hold for a battery/inverter combination!

This article that was sent to me by the "SA Community Information Centre" - an organisation that is dedicated to preventing crime in South Africa.

Why not visit their web site here: and support them.

I found it very informative and decided to share it (with small modifications):

To shed light or not to shed light, that is the question?
Here is an informative e-mail we received that might help us through the dark times ahead:

With all the rumours that are currently flying around regarding the onset once again of "load shedding" I thought I would send you the following, with the hope that if you can send it out on your mailing list it might prove useful to some of your family members, and keep the neighbourhood peaceful as well as safe.

After careful consideration and talking to a number of specialists on the subject, I came to the opinion that generators have a number of disadvantages.

They are expensive to buy and run and maintain, the smallest you can reasonably expect to supply you with sufficient power is a 5kVA, a good/safe one of these will cost anything from R10,000 to R20,000.
Storing petrol is dangerous and whilst most people do it for their garden lawnmower etc. the amount needed for a generator is too much to be safe and I felt that with the maid or gardener handling it, it was an accident waiting to happen.
Generators are excessively noisy and will disturb the neighbours, they cannot be safely operated in a garage or enclosed space, and they emit dangerous exhaust fumes and must be well ventilated.
Most, if not all of them create a poor power supply with a number of "spikes" that will blow your computer and damage most household appliances. You have to make sure that your water heaters and certain other circuits are turned off before starting the generator and then you have to make sure the generator is properly switched off when the power comes back on to prevent feedback which again will damage your appliances.
If you are not at home then your wife, maid or kids will have to set it up and start it.
Taking all this into account I decided to make up my own solution.

I added up the total Wattage of what I wanted to run during "load shedding" and I purchased:
  • 1 x 1,000 Watt inverter: cost R1,250 from PSS Distributors Nr ABSA Stadium
  • 2 x 100 Amp "Deep Cycle" no maintenance batteries: cost R900 each from Dixons Batteries in North Coast Road.
  • 1 x Intelligent charger: cost R850 from Dixons Batteries or Makro.
  • Total cost: R3,900
There are two ways of using this system, the first and easiest is to simply connect it up and put an extension cord and multi plug into the inverter, connecting whatever you choose to run to this.
The second is what I have chosen to do, that is to get an electrician to disconnect the circuits I want to power from the Eskom supply (Distribution Board) and re-connect them to my unit, when the power goes out they just keep on working, when it comes back on the charger kicks in and recharges the system, basically the circuits I have selected are now running permanently from the inverter.

I have connected my outdoor security lights, alarm system, lounge sockets (T.V. DSTV and a couple of standard lamps), all my bedroom sockets for bedside lights and my office telephone and computer system). It might sound complicated but it’s basically just a bigger version of the UPS systems many of us are already using to power our computers, and the inverter is something every caravanner and camper knows all about. The advantage is that it's silent, safe and convenient, you can make it as big as you want, to power as little or as much as you need.

It’s not advisable to use it for the cooker, or for your hair-dryer, vacuum cleaner nor kettle, but then neither is a generator and with a 2 hour power cut it's surely not too hard to do without those.
You could run the refrigerator but again for two hours you don’t really need it.
You don’t need two batteries unless you are going to run a lot of items, as I do. Then it is advisable to have two batteries linked in parallel
- the electrician has calculated that I can run all I have allowed for up to 4 hours without the need to recharge the batteries.

Points to be aware of:
  • You must have "Deep Cycle" batteries, preferably low maintenance [normal car batteries are not designed for this purpose and will not last very long].
  • You must have an "intelligent" charger: it’s worth spending a little more on this to make sure it does the correct job.
  • If you have more than one battery always connect them with proper heavy duty battery connectors (you can buy them at Midas) and "in parallel" [that’s + to +, and - to - otherwise you will increase the voltage from 12 to 24 volts and damage the inverter!]
  • If you decide to make this a permanent set up (as I have) then get a registered electrician to connect it up for you. (If all you are going to do is run an extension cable and sockets from this then you can easily set it up yourself.)

The advantages are obvious:
  • It’s cheaper than a generator to both purchase and run and maintain.
  • It’s silent: a generator in every house is going to drive us all to distraction.
  • It’s safe: no petrol to store and no exhaust fumes to ventilate.
  • It’s fully automatic if you’re not at home it just kicks in and does its own thing.

Here's more info:

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on "how to choose your generator": size (KVA or Watts) and how much can I connect to it? Plus: safety tips,

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Setting up your PC to connect to the Internet using your cell phones (modem settings for Vodacom, CellC, and MTN)

I dived into the article stating that "I connect my laptop to my phone (using BlueTooth or the cable)" but I neglected to describe the pains that I went through in setting up my PC's DialUp networking to use the phone (Nokia modem) to connect to the Internet!
So, I have decided to share this information here:
{note: for simplicity, I have only described the use of a USB cable to connect the cell phone to the PC (running MS Windows). Using BlueTooth instead of a cable is also possible, but I have found the cable more reliable. See for more details.}
Installing the cell phone modem:
1) Install the software that usually comes with your cell phone. For Nokia, it's called "Nokia PC Suite" and can be downloaded from the web site. Ensure that the Nokia USB modem is also installed.
2) Plug in the USB cable and Windows should recognise that a phone has been plugged into a USB port and will install new drivers.
3) In the control panel: Start->Settings->Control Panel->Phone and Modem Options->Modems and select the cell phone modem, then click "Properties" then "Advanced" and enter the following in the "Extra initialisation string": (see below for your network's initialisation string) 4) In the control panel: Start->Settings->Control Panel->Network connections->Create a new connection->Next->Connect to the Internet->Next->Setup my connection manually->Next->Connect using a dialup modem->Next->Select (and tick) the new modem (untick any others)->Next->enter a name eg. "Nokia N70" ->Next->Enter the phone number: *99***1# -> Enter the username and password (see below for your network's username/password) ->Tick "Add a shortcut to my desktop"->Finish
5) A new dialup connection will now be listed in the "Network connections" list. Right click this new item (Nokia N70) and select "Properties"->Options->Untick the following 2 items: Prompt for name and password; Prompt for phone number; -> then click "OK"
6) Double clicking on the "Nokia N70" shortcut on your desktop should start the dialup process over your phone.
Here are the network dependent settings:
Extra initialisation string: +CGDCONT=,,"internet"
Username: leave blank
Password: leave blank

Extra initialisation string: +CGDCONT=,,"internet"

Username: leave blank
Password: leave blank


Extra initialisation string: +CGDCONT=,,"myMTN"

Username: mtnwap
Password: mtnwap
Note: I am aware that the Nokia PC suite's (version download the latest from here: "Connect to the Internet" can also be used and the setup process allows you to select the network that you're on (Vodacom, MTN or CellC).

Did you know that you can send FREE SMSs to Vodacom cell phones?

If you have a Vodacom SIM card then you can register on and then you can send up to 20 free SMSs per day to other Vodacom subscribers?
If you don't have a Vodacom SIM card, then go and buy one (for R1.99 at some supermarkets), then purchase and load R12 airtime…..and then register on on

{I think MTN has a similar feature called MTN-ice - so buy your MTN SIM card now and let me know}

There's also a cool feature to schedule the sending of SMSs.... eg: for your friend's birthday or Christmas
You can set up a contacts list and then pick from that list when sending SMSs

Also, there's a service called "email-to-SMS" where you can send a (free) SMS to a Vodacom subscriber by sending an email.
If your friend's cell phone number is 0824567890 then write a short email as follows:
Subject: Type your SMS in the subject line [limited to about 145 characters]

Note: this email-to-SMS service is limited to 3 SMSs per day (per email account)

For other countries' free email-to-SMS services go here: (thanks orkut):

Here are some more tips on saving money re: cell phones:

Did you know that it is cheaper to call cell‑to‑cell than to call cell‑to-Telkom?

Did you know that it’s sometimes cheaper to dial someone’s voice mail directly than it is to send an SMS (contract dependent)

Did you know that it’s cheaper to dial someone’s voice mail directly (sly voicemail)than to let it divert to voice mail?

Did you know that you can dial someone’s voice mail directly by dialling:

Vodacom: 082131+rest of the number;

MTN: 0831483+rest of the number;

CellC: ????? ;

This is useful when:
*) you think of something and don't really want to call someone at that time (early in the morning or late at night)
*) you don't really feel like typing an SMS (costs are more-or-less the same for SMS and direct-voicemail)

Update on 14July2009:


Vodacom4me allows Vodacom subscribers to send 20 free sms's every day from the Vodacom portal website. BUT, this feature is only available from desktop computers and cell phone users are redirected to a mobile version of the Vodacom4me site :(

This means that the site cannot be used to send free sms's from a mobile phone :(

Free082SMS bridges this divide though :) by providing users with an interface to the Vodacom4me website or email to sms from their mobiles to send free messages on the go! The site is built around a simple text based structure for optimal performance on most web enabled phones. Check it out... click here for more (and screen shot)

:) Ok, Ok, I did need an incentive! I can win R10,000 if I just TAGGA my goods and help kill the *illegal* second hand market!

I've already registered and logged some of my stuff on the TAGGA - Searchable Stolen Goods Database.
I've been meaning to register the rest, tomorrow "I'm too busy today!" I hear myself saying to myself!
Well, tomorrow has arrived (and I need the bucks!) and I really do want to kill the *illegal* second hand goods market and by so-doing perhaps reduce (even if it's in a small way) the horrible, vicious and senseless violence that so often accompanies theft and robberies.

Win R10,000 cash at TAGGA: Register and enter the serial numbers of the items in your household (if you've had stuff stolen, then enter those serial numbers as well). The more serial numbers that you enter the better your chances of winning.
Be proactive and fight crime in a way never used before. Click away crime with TAGGA!

{see the TAGGA web site for rules etc.}

For more info see my previous blogs here:

In this day and age I'm amazed by the low number of people that use their cell phones to connect to the Internet for email, www access, cheap IM etc

I'm amazed by the number of people that don't use their cell phones to connect to the Internet for email, www access, cheap Instant Messaging (eg. MXIT, Skype, NimBuzz), etc.
Here's a quick guide on how to set up your cell phone for data. Either follow it step by step, or call your network provider - they will send you an SMS that will automatically configure your cell phone for data use:
111 for Vodacom, else 808 for MTN: or 140 for CellC {these calls are free if dialled from your cell phone to your network provider}

Thanks to MXIT for this set-up information:
I've modified a few things from their site:
Some phones are not GPRS/3G compatible. Don't stress, yours is most probably supported.

Setting up GPRS/3G
Get connected via your service provider's service menu; just follow the simple instructions below:
(It helps to know your mobile's manufacturer and model. Oh and remember, you only have 2 minutes to complete these steps, don't know why)
1. On your mobile, dial *111#
2. Select option 5 (phone settings) from the menu that follows. (Answer -> 5 -> send)
3. Select option 1 to choose your mobile make and model from a list, or options 2 to have Vodacom identify the phone for you.
4. In both cases, simply follow the steps provided to get the WAP settings sent to your phone.
5. Connection settings will be sent to your phone; save these settings.
6. If any of the above mentioned steps fail, simply retry.
7. Still having trouble? Call Vodacom's call centre on 111 from your Vodacom cellphone or 082 111 from another phone. Alternatively visit a Vodacom outlet near you.
(GPRS/3G can only be activated by the person in whose name the contract was taken out, so some of you might have to get mom or dad's help on this one. Good luck!)

Cell C
1. On your mobile, dial *147#
2. Connection settings will be sent to your phone; save these settings. If a password is requested enter 0000
3. If any of the above mentioned steps fail, simply retry.
Still having trouble? Call Cell C's call centre on 140 or visit a Cell C outlet near you.
(GPRS/3G can only be activated by the person in whose name the contract was taken out, so some of you might have to get mom or dad's help on this one. Good luck!)

1. On your mobile, dial *123#
2. Select option 1 (phone setup) from the menu that follows. (Answer -> 1 -> send)
3. Select option 3 (WAP).
4. Connection settings will be sent to your phone; save these settings.
5. If any of the above mentioned steps fail, simply retry.
Still having trouble? Call MTN's call centre; dial 808 (contract) or 173 (pay as you go) from your mobile phone. Alternatively, visit an MTN outlet near you. (GPRS/3G can only be activated by the person in whose name the contract was taken out, so some of you might have to get mom or dad's help on this one. Good luck!)

Virgin Mobile
1. When you first insert your Virgin Mobile SIM into your mobile you'll receive an SMS asking you if you would like to accept Virgin Settings.
2. If you reply YES, your settings for MMS and WAP can be automatically downloaded and installed on your mobile.
Do the following to manually request MMS and WAP settings:
1. Go to the 'Virgin Mobile' menu which you will find on either the main menu or applications menu of your mobile.
2. Select 'Virgin Settings' and reply YES when asked if you'd like to download them.
Still having trouble? Call Virgin Mobile's call centre on 123 or visit a Virgin Mobile outlet near you. (GPRS/3G can only be activated by the person in whose name the contract was taken out, so some of you might have to get mom or dad's help on this one. Good luck!)

Now that your phone is set up, let's look at some examples of how to use data on your cell phone:
*) I use my cell phone to receive and send email - I use Gmail's cell phone app ( to fetch my home and work emails (create a Gmail account and then change the settings to fetch email from other email accounts).
*) I use my cell phone to connect to the Internet: I recommend Opera Mini (
*) I use my cell phone to connect to the Internet from home: I connect my laptop to my phone (using BlueTooth or the cable (see here for more: 150MB is sufficient for my email and graphics-less web browsing I have purchased a 150MB bundle (R119 incl VAT per month) and so my "per MB" cost is 79c (there's no monthly ISP fee and it's much faster (I connect over 3G) than dialup). I was paying R79 for TelkomInternet and then paid for duration of calls. I did investigate the Telkom Closer plans but it couldn’t beat the wireless MyMeg150 bundle at R119.
*) I use Instant messaging on my cell phone to keep in contact with my Skype® and GoogleTalk® (as well as MSN® Messenger, ICQ, Twitter, Yahoo!™ and AIM) contacts: this beats sending SMSs at 80c (or more) each… each instant message costs less than 1c (yes, that's one cent). I have installed Fring ( on my Nokia N70 and my wife uses NimBuzz ( (her Nokia 6230 doesn't support Fring). I also use MXIT (
*) I check the weather for various locations using my cell phone: install "Mobile Weather" from
*) I use Reporo ( to check news headlines

Now that your phone is set up, let's look at the costs:
Setting up your cell phone for internet access is easy - and it costs from 39c per MB up to R2.00 per MB (out of bundle)
You pay for the data sent and received not for the time that you're connected!

Data connectivity is sometimes referred to by the type of connection e.g. GPRS, Edge, 3G or HSDPA. They are send and receive data but at varying speeds (GPRS is slowest, HSDPA is fastest). If there's no high speed connection available, then your phone will step back and use the next slowest connection.
Note: the faster the connection, the faster your pages update (no more frustrating wasted time waiting for the web page to update or the email to load), but the faster your Rands are spent!

Note: graphics use up your bandwidth fast! If you don't really need to see the images on the pages you visit then turn off loading images on your Web Browser (I recommend FireFox (with ImgLikeOpera addon)
See here for more info: or Opera on your PC and Opera Mini on your cell phone). If you need to see an image then right click on it and select the option to "Show image:. This will save you lots of Rands!

The costs:
First of all - remember that you pay for the data sent and received not for the time that you're connected!
1MB is read "1 MegaByte" and is 1 million bytes
1KB is read "1 KiloByte" and is 1 thousand bytes
To calculate the cost: for 200KB at your out-of-bundle rate of R2 per MB: divide the 200,000 data by 1,000,000 and then multiply by R2
I.e. (200,000/1,000,000)*2=R0.40

Typically, a session to retrieve say 10 emails (no attachments) is around 200 KiloBytes and will cost 40c (that's 4c per email)
{Vodacom costs:}
{MTN costs:, and note that there's a monthly subscription fee}
{CellC costs: and note that there's a monthly subscription fee}

Note too that for these bundles, there's a "use it or lose it" policy ie. If the bundled bandwidth is not used up each month then it's lost :(

Note: all costs quoted are for Vodacom unless otherwise stated
The quoted 39c per MB are for the Vodacom "MyMeg One GB" data bundle
All costs are for cell phones operating in South Africa - using your cell phone while roaming in other countries is much more expensive (eg. Vodacom: R17.50 per MB: - rather purchase a local SIM card at your destination and set it up for data.

Note: While your cell phone has a data connection active then your cell phone uses more power - so your battery's power will drain faster.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Moving from Opera to Firefox.... Here's the list of addons that I needed to install

I have just been through the same process (changing from Opera to Firefox).

Thanks to Tokei from for his article.
In addition to the addons that he listed, here are some gaps that I found and how I filled them:

Extended Statusbar 1.2.7: A Statusbar with Speed, Percentage, Time and loaded size (like Opera's one)

ImgLikeOpera 0.6.15: Allows load only the images that you want

keyconfig 20060828.1: Rebind your keys so that your Opera keystrokes can be used

PageZoom 0.3.3: Adds page zoom functionality.

Secure Login 0.9.1: A login extension similar to Opera's Wand login

Tab Mix Plus 0.3.6: Tab browsing with an added boost.

User Agent Switcher 0.6.10: Adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of the browser.

wmlbrowser 0.7.17: Display WML (Wireless Markup Language) content (for WAP sites)

Duplicate tabs: duplicatetabs

Once you have configured FireFox - you don't really want to do it again if your PC crashes - so backup your Firefox addon config using: mozbackup-portable-firefox-and-thunderbird-backup-tool

Here are more sites with interesting info and comments on the subject:

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Use your phone's internal GPS module externally on a laptop using existing, more sophisticated GIS applications, and FlipSilent....

Use your phone's internal GPS module externally on a laptop using existing, more sophisticated GIS applications. I think this would interest all my buddies with the cool Navigator cell phones! Free for personal, non-commercial use.
Symarctic ExtGPS is mainly targeted for Nokia N95, E90, 6110 Navigator handsets.
Download from here:
{From: 25 best applications for your Nokia N95:}
Another one that I thought was worth a try:
Flip Silent for N95:
A small download which makes you use your N95 phone in a more natural way:
When you are in a meeting, and a call is coming in, you can flip over your phone to make it go into the silent profile and hang up the phone call or mute the ringer - without touching anything on the phone, just flip it over, your phone will go into silence!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Does a time switch on your geyser actually save electricity?

This is the question everyone has been asking and I too have been wondering.
I have created an “ElectricityUsageCalculator” (Excel spreadsheet) for you to calculate your usage and where you can make savings.
In fact, in the quest for the answer I have taken the long path of reducing my household’s electricity consumption and I thought that I’d share this information…
Before I get to the detail, I’d like to thank the following people/organisations/forums for sharing their valuable information:
Why not pay these sites a visit?

Cutting to the chase:
OK, so some of you don’t really want to know how I got to the “findings”, you just want to know if turning your geyser off and on really saves you Rands, so here goes:
*) if you have a solar panels, then yes - installing a time switch on your geyser will definitely save you money (without time switch: electricity and solar will heat up the cold water, and so electricity will be used. With time switch: only solar will be used to heat up the cold water; electricity will kick in if the time switch is set to use electricity for critical time periods. See here for more details:
*) if you don’t have solar panels, then you’ll probably not save a lot of money by installing a time switch: Niel says (see comment on 6th February 2008 @ 10h08: that you’ll “only save electricity if you leave your geyser off for 2.5 days”; and “you can’t save electricity by switching a heater on and off, as the amount of energy required to keep it at a certain temperature for a given time and to heat it up again after that given time is the same.”
Again, referring to Niel's comment February 12th, 2008 at 1:01 pm: <> " geyser was on for 46 minutes over a 24hr period or basically for 1 minute 55 sec every hour..." <>
….rather insulate your geyser (using a geyser blanket) and hot water pipes to reduce the heat loss.
….but if the time switch is set to turn the geyser off during peak times, then you will help Eskom to reduce the peak loads and perhaps reduce the need to load-shedding…. But isn’t Eskom installing those ripple switches for this? {Yeah, but until then…. best we do our bit to make our lives easier!}
If you do want to save money try these steps (in the order listed):
*) turn down the temperature setting on your thermostat (mine is set to 35oC) – you know when it’s set right by the amount of cold water that you need to mix when you’re having a shower…. If you’re mixing a lot of cold water, then you know that your thermostat is set too high – you need to turn it down (colder), until you are mixing little or no cold water for your shower.
*) use less hot water (ie. Install a low‑flow shower head [I have an RST low flow one], and shower quickly) to save electricity – the less cold water that your geyser needs to heat up, the less electricity is used.
*) use the ‘Electricity Usage Calculator’ to see where you ‘spend’ your electricity.
I was amazed to see that my main “culprit” was not my geyser, but in fact my swimming pool pump! [thanks Tim Truluck for pointing this out to me!]
Don't edit the shaded cells....
Step 1) In the worksheet ‘PerHourCosts’: check the ratings (W) listed [column D] and adjust to your appliances' ratings;
(Note which appliance is the most costly to run per hour)
Step 2) In the worksheet ‘UsageCosts’: fill in the 'hours used per item per month' [column D];
(Note: 'Cost per item per month' - the high cost items is where you can save the most)
*) Lastly, use solar power to heat your geyser: install solar panels. If you are building a new house or if you replace your geyser, then install solar panels and a time switch.
Detailed explanations:
*) Electricity is used by a geyser each time the temperature of the water goes below the thermostat’s trigger temperature.
*) Refer to the worksheet ‘GeyserThermostat’ for the following explanations:
*) Assuming the water in the geyser is cold to start with, and the thermostat is set at 60oC, then the thermostat will turn on and allow electricity to flow to the geyser’s element which heats up the water [this costs about R2.30 per hour]. After about 65 minutes, the water temperature will be above 60oC and the thermostat will turn off and no electricity will be used.
*) When someone in the household decides to take a shower, the hot water exits the geyser and cold water replaces this hot water which forces the temperature to below the thermostat’s trigger temperature of 60oC. At this point, electricity will again be used to heat up the water to 60oC at which point the thermostat turns off again.
So, as more hot water is used, more electricity is used.
*) Heat loss will be small on modern (or geyser‑blanket clad) geysers and piping, but the lower the thermostat temperature, the lower the losses, and the lower the electricity that is used to get the water to the thermostat temperature. Comment from Dave on “I turned my geyser down from 60oC to 50oC and saved 20% on my bill”
*) A solar‑only geyser will heat up the water more slowly (note: the thermostat plays no role in limiting the solar‑only upper temperature)
*) Installing a time switch in a solar installation will: 1) ensure that electricity is not used on a sunny day (i.e. on a sunny day you would rather have a slower heating up of the water by the sun, rather than use electricity and solar to heat up the water faster); 2) ensure that electricity is used so as to guarantee that there is hot water early in the morning and, in late afternoon on cold/cloudy days.
How do I find out how much electricity something uses?
Adapted from “Saving Electricity 101”:
Look at the label - nearly everything you can plug into the wall has a label that says how much electricity it uses.
If the label only gives the number of Amps and not the number of Watts, then just multiply the Amps by 220 to get the number of Watts. (Amps x Volts = Watts. So a hot plate that uses 3 amps uses 3 x 220 = 660 Watts.
Note that if a device is powered by a transformer (one of those great big plugs), then the transformer has converted the electricity from AC to DC, so you need to multiply by the DC voltage, not the AC voltage of 220. For example, if the device says "INPUT 9V, 0.5A", then that's 9 volts x 0.5 amps = 4.5 Watts.
Another tip:
*) Remember to turn off your ‘plug’ circuit breakers when you’re in “load-shedding” mode – this will ensure that your appliances are not connected to Eskom when power is turned on again – remember, when power is turned on again, there is usually a surge (over 220V) which could damage your appliances. Leave a light turned on, so that you know when power has returned, then turn your ‘plug’ circuit breaker back on again.
An alternative would be to purchase surge protectors for your most expensive/vital appliances.

Update on 16June2010:
Watch out or, at least, be aware: #WTF Geyser's element has just blown <3 years after installation... 5 year geyser warranty, but only 3 months on the element! #FFS #RipOff

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Creator of TAGGA will be on TV on Monday10th March @ 08h30 on "View From the House"

The creator of (the web site that was created to stop the illegal second hand goods market) will be on SABC 2 on Monday10th March @ 08h30: on "View from the House".

The program will discuss
the Second-hand goods bill which Parliament is deliberating.

The TAGGA system will also be discussed. See a previous blog for more info:

Don't miss it.

Now I know when Eskom load shedding will happen (well, almost....)

Thanks 'MyEnergy Monitor' - I now (continuously) know the Eskom National Energy Status, and I can select my suburb(s) and show their "outage" schedules.
Whenever any statuses change (eg. from green to orange), then a popup is displayed to let me know. The app also allows me to configure various options: simple desktop alert or system shutdown.
You can even report an unscheduled power outage!
Installation and configuration is very easy and the region and suburbs are pull-down lists - so finding your area(s) is easy.
For more info, see here:
For screen shots and to download [1.6MB] go here:
Excerpt from the program's detailed help screens:
The load shedding schedule for your selected location displays the load shedding time windows when we are in the 'brown' stage (when the grid is under the most strain). Currently, load shedding only takes place when national usage is in Brown, and therefore schedules are only provided for Brown Stages. At the bottom of the schedule, you will see today's day name. The schedules vary based on the day of the week. If you would like to display the schedules for yesterday or tomorrow, click the little calendar buttons to move the day. Displaying tomorrow's schedules will not affect the monitoring that is occurring on today's schedules.
When current national power usage is in brown stage 1 - 3, the schedules will kick in. Your location will then have a high probability of being load -shed during these times. If you have set up actions when adding your location, these actions will run at the set interval before the probable power outage.

Report an unscheduled outage:
If you encounter an unscheduled outage in your area, you can report it using the Report unscheduled outage link.
Complete the details about the outage, and we will use that data to fine tune the load shedding schedule.
Well done MyEnergy, and thanks a lot! - it's an app that will help me to better understand and cope with the "outage" schedules!

Update on 15Mar2008:

PowerFox is an extension for Firefox 2 that adds a small icon to the browser's status bar indicating the current power status as reported by the PowerAlert site's RSS feed.

Friday, 7 March 2008

I fear that technology can't help here - let's just pray.......for Zimbabweans in Zim

On reading this email (pasted below) and many more stories from ZWnews: I felt so heartsore! The least I could do would be to assist in spreading the word. I took particular note of the paragraph stating: "it's genocide in the making and if you do not believe me, read the Genocide Report by Amnesty International which says we are IN level seven (level 8 is after it's happened and everyone is in denial)"

Another site for info on the current situation:

Letter from Zimbabwe sent in by John Winter

I reckon that these are the last days of TKM and ZPF. The darkest hour is always before dawn.

We are all terrified at what they are going to destroy next........I mean they are actually ploughing down brick and mortar houses and one white family with twin boys of 10 had no chance of salvaging anything when 100 riot police came in with AK47's and bulldozers and demolished their beautiful house - 5 bedrooms and pine ceilings - because it was "too close to the airport", so we are feeling extremely insecure right now. You know - I am aware that this does not help you sleep at night, but if you do not know - how can you help?

Even if you put us in your own mental ring of light and send your guardian angels to be with us - that is a help - but I feel so cut off from you all knowing I cannot tell you what's going on here simply because you will feel uncomfortable. There is no ways we can leave so that is not an option. I just ask that you all pray for us in the way that you know how, and let me know that you are thinking of us and sending out positive vibes... that's all. You can't just be in denial and pretend it’s not going on. To be frank with you, its genocide in the making and if you do not believe me, read the Genocide Report by Amnesty International which says we are IN level seven (level 8 is after it's happened and everyone is in denial). If you don't want me to tell you these things then it means you have not dealt with your own fear, but it does not help me to think you are turning your back on our situation.

We need you to get the news OUT that we are all in a fearfully dangerous situation here. Too many people turn their backs and say - oh well, that's what happens in Africa. This government has GONE MAD and you need to publicize our plight or how can we be rescued? You can't just say "oh you attract your own reality". The petrol queues are a reality, the pall of smoke all around our city is a reality, the thousands of homeless people sleeping outside in 0 Celsius with no food water, shelter and bedding are a reality. Today a family approached me, brother of the gardener's wife with two small children. Their home was trashed and they will have to sleep outside. We already support 8 people and a child on this property and electricity is going up next month by 250% as is water. How can I take another family of 4 and yet how can I turn them away to sleep out in the open?

I am not asking you for money or a ticket out of here - I am asking you to FACE the fact that we are in deep and terrible danger and I want you to pass on our news and pictures and don't just press the delete button for God's sake. Help in the way that you know how. Face the reality of what is going on here and SEND OUT THE WORD. The more people that know about it, the more chance we have of United Nations coming to our aid.

Please stop ignoring and denying what's happening. Would you like to be protected from the truth and then if we are eliminated how would you feel? Surely you would say "if only we knew how bad it really was we could have helped in some way". I know we chose to stay here and so we deserve what's coming to us. For now, we ourselves have food, shelter, a little fuel and a bit of money for the next meal - but what is going to happen next? Will they start on our houses? All property is going to belong to the State now. I want to send out my Title Deeds to one of you because if they get a hold of those I can't fight for my rights. We no longer have SW radio which told us everything that was happening because the government jammed it out of existence - we don't have any reporters, and no one is allowed to photograph. If we had reporters here they would have an absolute field day. Even the pro government Herald has written that people are shocked, stunned, bewildered and blown mindless by the wanton destruction of everyone's homes which are supposed to be 'illegal' but which a huge percentage of them actually do have licenses for. Please - have some compassion and HELP by sending out the articles and personal reports so that something can be done.

"I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do." - Edward Everett Hal

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Forget about BlueTooth - use the blooming cable!

Forgive me while I moan a bit, while I share my experiences!

I have a Nokia N70 phone and I purchased an MSI BlueTooth USB "dongle" (StarKey) for my PC to connect to the Internet (3G or GPRS)

First of all, I decided (incorrectly) to purchase a "longer range" bluetooth dongle (claimed to work up to 100m). Then I figured out that both BlueTooth [BT for short from now on] devices need to support this "long range" capability - by my results, I figured that the N70 doesn't support this "long range" feature.

Secondly, I am forever fighting with my BT setup to get connected - I either need to stop/start the BTSTAC~1.exe process OR turn BT on then off OR reboot the phone OR reboot the PC.... sometimes all of these need to be done to get BT working again.
Last night was the last straw as none of the above hacks worked and so I decided to dump the BT device and dig out the USB cable.... and what a pleasure!
Connected 1st time, faster speed (USB to phone).... so, forget BT, hello plain old, good old USB cable!
{Note: I have subsequently found that other BT dongle devices behave much better than the MSI device... so, perhaps I'll spend a few bucks on getting another brand's BT device.}

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