Saturday, 31 December 2011

At last! A virtual credit card for South Africans with No monthly subscription nor other fees!

Wow, wow, wow, wow, EasyPay has come up with the payment solution that I have been waiting for for a very long time.  I’ve always been nervous about exposing my real credit card’s full credit to the “wild” of the Internet.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to create a virtual card that has a limited amount of money on it – then the card’s numbers become useless to fraudsters?
Well, that’s what EasyPay’s product called VCpay™ can do for you (seems like it was launched on 15 November 2011)– and what sweetens the deal even more is that there is no monthly subscription and no other charges.  In fact they even give you a cashback reward of 0.5% per transaction.  That’s not a whole lot of cash, but it’s better than nothing!

From the EasyPay web site:

VCpay™ is a mobile phone application (BlackBerry only for now), that allows you to create, on demand, a unique virtual credit card that is intrinsically linked to the transaction you are effecting or intending to effect.  This means that only you can create such a virtual card for an amount you specify in an off line manner using your mobile phone anywhere and anytime.
Update May 2013: Blackberry, Android and iPhone supported now :) :  List of phones

VCpay™ works off-line and it is therefore not reliant on mobile network coverage or its reliability, signal strength or availability.

As a result, VCpay™ provides you with 100% guaranteed service delivery and eliminates the frustration and embarrassment we have all experienced when our traditional card products fail to work due the failure of communication networks and/or the non-receipt of confirmation SMS messages from our issuing banks.

VCpay™ works off line and thus does not expose your account information or your identity, so it is impossible for your personal and financial information to be compromised, intercepted, phished or hacked – making VCpay™ the most secure, simplest and fastest way to pay.


It can be used in PrePaid or PostPaid mode, and funds can be transferred into your VCpay account in 3 ways: 1) EasyPay locations, 2) EasyPay kiosks, 3) EFTs. 
See here for more details:
(HTT note: I notice that you can’t charge the VCpay amount to your real credit card… so, all those loyalty miles etc. from your real credit card will be lost - at the expense of peace of mind through more security – but you will get 0.5% cashback ;) )  Although their terms and conditions clause 6.3 hints that this might be possible for a fee – later?)
HTT note: When adding the VCpay beneficiary to my FNB account it picked it up as a pre-loaded “Public Recipient: Net1 Applied Technologies“

You can then create a virtual card on demand using the cell phone app and then use the Virtual cards on the Internet anywhere a MasterCard "card not present" transaction is accepted, such as the majority of websites, telephone orders or purchases and/or bookings for airline tickets, rental cars or concert tickets.

Both Prepaid and Postpaid Virtual Cards are accepted on the EasyPay website for any product.  This includes prepaid airtime, prepaid electricity and bill payments to over 400 institutions, such as municipalities (e.g. rates and taxes), traffic fines, SABC TV Licences, retailers, doctors, insurance companies, school fees, etc. 

See here for more information on how the system works and info on the 2 registration steps (download the app,then Link the VCpay™ app to an EasyPay Wallet):
HTT Note: when the BB app asks you for your “EP Wallet PIN” then that’s where you enter your login password that you use for the web site.
HTT Note: I tried to link my EasyPay wallet to the VCpay account but the app hung…. “linking to wallet”.  I then closed the app and when I restarted the app I logged in using my VCpay password and it seemed to be working :)

I transferred a small amount of Rands (just to try it out) from FNB to my EasyPay wallet and it arrived in about 10 minutes :)
and I could then start creating my virtual credit card on my cell phone!:imageI then had to enter my VCpay password but got an error creating the Virtual Credit Card :(
Update on Wed4Jan: I unlinked my wallet then linked it again and the Virtual Credit Card (with *very* low limit, valid until May 2015) was created.  I used it to pay one of my online bills and it worked perfectly. Well done EasyPay for an awesome product that I will most definitely use for my (now safe) online shopping.

You can also see a list of virtual cards that you have already created and the ones that are used up:

For more info on how to download the BB app [980KB]: or just go to to download the app.
Here’s a list of currently supported BB devices:
Blackberry OS5 or greater
8900 | 8910 | 8980 | 9000 | 9350 | 9360 | 9370 | 9630 | 9650 | 9700 | 9780 | 9788 | 9790 | 8300 | 8310 | 8320 | 8330 | 8330m | 8350i | 8520 | 8530 | 8800 | 8820 | 8830 | 8830m | 9300 | 9330 | 9800 | 9900 | 9930 | 9981
Blackberry OS4
8900 | 8910 | 8980 | 9000 | 9350 | 9360 | 9370 | 9630 | 9650 | 9700 | 9780 | 9788 | 8300 | 8310 | 8320 | 8330 | 8330m | 8350i | 8520 | 8530 | 8800 | 8820 | 8830 | 8830m | 9300 | 9330
When 1st running the app you need to accept the terms and conditions… I have pasted them below for all you legal eagles to peruse… Interesting are clauses 5.1 (risks) and 6.3 (fees if linked to a credit card… but I didn’t see that option ):

VCPAY TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE   Last updated 09/11/2011
Please ensure that you have read, understood and are happy with the terms and conditions governing the use of the VCpay mobile application before acceptance as acceptance constitutes a legally binding agreement between yourself and EasyPay.

1.1. “Application” or “App” means “VCpay”.
1.2. “EasyPay” means EasyPay (Pty) Ltd registration number 1983/008/597/07 hereafter referred to as “we”, “us” or EasyPay.
1.3. “EP Wallet” refers to a virtual wallet into which prepaid value funds can be placed to facilitate web or mobi based transactions at some future date.
1.4 “I, “you” and “yourself” refer to the client.
1.5 “VCpay” is a virtual credit card application that allows to create once of virtual credit card number for one transaction for an exact value and is brought to you by EasyPay.

2.1. By downloading and using the VCpay application, I authorize EasyPay to transact on my behalf in accordance with instructions I have given to them.
2.2. The creation of a virtual credit card coupled with the use of such a card will be deemed to be an instruction by me to EasyPay to transact on my behalf.
2.3. I hereby confirm and accept that EasyPay will not be liable for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature that I may suffer as a result of creating a virtual card for an incorrect amount and/or for the selection of an incorrect beneficiary.

3.1. Any material changes to the terms and conditions of use will be communicated to you via e-mail, SMS or updates on the VCpay website, continued use of the application after such changes have been communicated will be deemed to be an unconditional acceptance of the updated terms and conditions.
3.2. You agree to ensure that your details will be kept up to date in order to be enable us to communicate any changes to you timeously.
3.3. As Easypay is required by law to communicate changes and updates to the terms and conditions of use to you, any communication in this regard will not be subject to any opt out clause you may have exercised either through EasyPay or through a third party database.
3.4. Further, you agree that EasyPay will not be held liable for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature, except to the extent permitted by law, which may arise due to your failure to update your information.

4.1. You agree that it remains your responsibility to ensure that the PIN you have selected will be kept safe and is not disclosed to anyone in order to minimise the risk of fraudulent transactions.


6.1. EasyPay levies no charges for downloading of the VCpay mobile application; however such download may be subject to fees levied by your network operator.
6.2. No fees are charged for the generation of virtual credit cards through the application.
6.3. You may only link your EP Wallet or your Credit Card to the application; if the application has been linked to a Credit Card, processing of transactions will be subject to either a fee per transaction or a monthly fee with unlimited transactions, you can choose the option most suitable for you at signup. 6.4. The ‘per transaction” option ensures that fees are charged upon the completion of every VCpay transaction.
6.5. The “monthly fee” option means that you will be charged a fixed fee every month, regardless of how many VCpay transactions you complete in that month.
6.6. If the application has been linked to an EP wallet, no service charges will be levied. 6.7. In order to effect security checks, during signup EasyPay will deduct a small charge from your linked account, due to security reasons this fee cannot be disclosed upfront however it will not exceed R5.00 (Five South African Rands).
6.8. The amount mentioned in 6.7 above will be reserved for your first VCpay transaction.

7.1. EasyPay reserves the right to cancel your usage of the service at anytime, without prior written notification if you have violated any of the terms and conditions of this agreement or in the event that we reasonably suspect that you have used the service to commit fraud/have engaged in fraudulent conduct with the use of the service.
7.2. EasyPay may, at its sole discretion and without prior notice to any user, permanently terminate or withdraw the service, in whole or in part.
7.3. EasyPay may, at its sole discretion and without prior notice to any user, temporarily suspend, in whole or in part; the use of the application in order to perform any maintenance or repair work or for any other reason that requires the temporary suspension of the service.
7.4. Should you no longer wish to make use of the VCpay application, you can simply delete the application from your mobile device.
7.5. Notwithstanding the termination of the service, you will remain liable for any transactions requested and/or processed prior to such cancellation.

Update on 27 May 2013: Here is some pricing info that the VCpay team sent me in response to a comment received from Guillaume:

EP Wallet: Free
You can deposit funds at the following participating EasyPay merchants, however, an EP bill number would be required for this option – VCpay application once downloaded onto your cellphone handset will supply the EP bill number linked to your EP wallet– the funds will only reflect into the your EP wallet once the below retailers settle their devices – this will depend on when these retailers settle +- 48 hours
  • Pick 'n Pay supermarkets, hypermarkets, family stores and selected mini markets nationwide
  • Shoprite, Checkers and Checkers Hyper stores nationwide
  • Lewis Stores nationwide
  • Lifestyle Living nationwide
  • Best Electric nationwide
  • Foodworld stores in the Western Cape
  • Saveworld stores in the Western Cape
  • Elite Cash 'n Carry in the Western Cape
  • Selected Score Stores
  • Selected Boxer supermarkets
  • Selected Spar outlets
Virtual credit card:
Credit card usage:
            Monthly Fee:                R 7.95               [Charged Once per Month]
            Transaction Fee:           R 2.95               [Charged per transaction that the client performs]

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

My BlackBerry Bold 9700 was hanging more than 3 times per day [Solved]

So, my Blackberry Bold 9700 was hanging with the dreaded clock in the middle of the screen.  It has 256MB of onboard memory where the OS and apps are installed and I know I was running low (down to 10MB).  But the OS6 version of the operating system didn’t leave much room for new apps. 
I uninstalled all the apps that I didn’t really use but still couldn’t get more than 10MB free.  It seemed like the deletes weren’t really adding to the free memory :(

After about 6 hours of use, my BB hung and showed the “please wait forever clock”!  A reboot was the only way – that means a battery pull, before I found out the quicker way of: holding “alt+Right_Shift+del” trick!
So, I was reduced to restarting the phone every 6 hours or so - #FAIL
I even scheduled a daily reboot using QuickPull
At the worst possible time eg: using the GPS to navigate, the phone would hang… I wanted to throw it away and get that Android phone which was next on the “which-phone-should-I-get” list.

I decided to take the plunge and start again – in other words: wipe the phone and all its contents – for the sake of my sanity.
I found a great blog that explained the process: BlackBerry 302: A complete wipe and clean install of your BlackBerry OS and listed tools to get the job done easily:
BlackBerry Desktop Manager (DM)
BlackBerry Swiss Army Knife (BBSAK)image
I also found BBHTool and BlackBerry Master Control Program (MCP)
image    image

BBHtool is great in that it has a feature called “Shrink-a-OS” where you can choose which parts of the OS’s apps you don’t want to include on your phone – and so saves precious memory space!

I backed my phone up using BB DM and then followed the instructions and landed up with 122MB free before restoring all data and 3rd party apps.
Then 76MB free (as indicated on phone’s My World)
I then restored the 3rd party apps using BBHtool 
I then added 20MB of 3rd party apps.
Then upgraded all my BB apps to the latest version
I now have 16MB free and I haven’t needed to restart the phone in over 24 hours… so far so good… I just wish the phone had more memory!  Or the OS used up less.  SolvedStamp

Things to note:
*) when restoring a version of the OS, then the versions of the BB apps are the old ones that were shipped with the OS – so next time I will try to backup even the BB apps for restoration after the OS install.  Obviously, the workaround is to upgrade each app after the reinstall.
*) after the reinstall, you will need to accept each app’s terms and conditions and some will need you to re-enter the usernames and passwords
*) Setting up email accounts needed to be redone – but just entering of the passwords: I got an error "Sorry Unable to continue your session. Please login again".  To solve a problem like this can try the following tips. Sign in to from your Blackberry browser, then select the state, on the page that appears scrolls down until it finds Communicate - Email, then follow the data requested.
*) All info on my 2GB memory card was not deleted (whew)
*) My TelMap navigation software survived the reinstallation, but I lost the “My Places” list – that was the biggest casualty :(

Monday, 12 December 2011

Dec2011: Here's how to get you and 11 friends into Cape Point or Boulders for R7 each - no jokes, no catches... just bring along your SA ID book, proof of residence, 2 ID photos and R80

Here’s an update to my article on “Here's how to get you and 11 friends into Cape Point for R5 each”.  Inflation has moved the price of the “My Green Card” up to R80, but it’s still an awesome deal.  Read further to see how you can get a family of 4 on to Table Mountain for R308 on your birthday.
Here’s the URL: 

imageWhere can I buy the TMNP Activity Permit?
- Shop A1, Westlake Square, Cnr Westlake Drive & Steenberg Road, Westlake (Mondays to Fridays from 08:00-16:00)
- Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre, Cape of Good Hope Section of TMNP (Mondays to Sundays from 08:00-16:00).
- Boulders, Kleintuin Road, Sea Forth, Simonstown (Mondays to Sundays from 08:00-17:00)
- Tokai Forest, Tokai Road, Tokai (Mondays to Fridays 08:00-16:00 closed between 13:00-14:00)
See here for an updated list of sales offices:  Sales offices:

Remember to take along: your SA ID book, printed proof of residence, 2 ID photos and R90.

So, if you want to take your family of 4 (2 adults, and 2 kids under 18) up Table Mountain then instead of paying R580, you can buy the “My Green Card” for R80 and it will cost an additional R464. 
Note: “My Green Card” reduced tickets can only be bought at the ticket office (not online): So, the ticket office price would have been R580 - that’s a saving of 20% (=R116).  If you buy tickets online, then it would have cost you R520.

To save more… go up on your birthday for free: then the family trip for 4 will cost only R388 (incl. the R80 for the Green Card) [R308+R80].  That’s a saving of R192 if you had paid at the ticket office and R132 if you had paid online.
Download calculator:

Birthday special: Celebrate your birthday on the top of Table Mountain, taking the cable car up and back (=return ticket) free of charge courtesy of Table Mountain Cableway.  Remember to take your South African Identity Document with you on the day and present it at the ticket office before departure.  Valid for adult (18 years+) return trips only.
Should the Cableway be closed due to adverse weather conditions on the day of your birthday, you will still have to collect your ticket on that day. This Birthday Special ticket issued on a closed day is valid for 7 days from the date of your birthday.

See here for webcams on Table Mountain:

Note: Children under 4 travel for free.

Updated on 12Dec2011: I have just got my Green Card and the cost has gone up to R85 (still a gr8 deal)

Updated on 20Sept2013: I see the URL has changed and the price is now R90:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Finding emails with large attachments from your GMail account, then deleting them

If you haven’t noticed by now, one of GMail web client’s missing features is the ability to show the size of an attachment in the email list.  Sure, you can see which emails have an attachment but if you want to search for the ones with large attachments and then delete those you will need to download all the emails to your local email client then delete them.  This is a waste of bandwidth so I have tried to find a solution.

I started with the free program ImapSize which can be found here [1.8MB]:
I wanted to use the program to identify all large emails and keep the email but remove the attachments (which I already had on my local PC’s HDD).

Here are the instructions of how to delete the attachments:
BUT, when I followed the instructions I could see that a new email was created without the attachments – BUT the original email was not deleted as I thought the program would do.  I see other people in the forums also had similar problems. 

So, I proceeded to use ImapSize to remove all large attachments and use a workaround using my email client (see below) to delete the emails with the large attachments.

I noted that ImapSize hasn’t been updated for a looong while: Version 0.3.7 released (February 19th, 2009), and I also see that the author (Ivan ivecanski) hasn’t got any time to update it and has started making it OpenSource – but the files are still not available :(

Due to the above problems I resorted to using my Outlook email client (as a workaround):
I configured it to use IMAP although on second thoughts pop3 would have been fine.
The main “trick” being that you need to configure the email client to only download headers – and not the attachments nor the body of the emails.
First, setup GMail to allow downloading POP or IMAP:
Here’s the instructions on how to set up your email client to fetch the emails:
POP3: (preferred):

The above steps will tell Outlook where your GMail emails are and what the passwords and ports are.

Outlook will then start downloading all your emails and attachments… but, hold on – we do NOT want to download any emails – we JUST want to download the list of emails (headers).
So, before telling your email client to go fetch the emails – we need to configure the client to only download the headers:
* Select Tools | Send/Receive | Send/Receive Settings | Define Send/Receive Groups... from the menu.
* Highlight the desired group.
* Click Edit....
* Go to the desired account in the Accounts list.
* Under “Folder options”, select ‘Download headers only’.

* Click OK.
Now, when you click Send/Receive, Outlook will only download the headers information for messages exceeding your threshold size. But getting the full emails is easy, as is deleting messages right at the server without downloading them in full ever.

Once you have all the headers then you can use Outlook’s search functionality to find the emails that are larger than nMB:

Or type the following in the search bar: messagesize:>2MB received:<Oct 2011

This will search through the current folder’s headers and list only the emails that are larger that 2MB and received earlier than Oct 2011.

Select the emails (Ctrl-A) and delete them.

Outlook will then tell GMail to send those messages into the ‘Trash’ folder.

Go to GMail’s web client and “delete them forever” from the Trash folder – check the “%full” reading on the bottom of the mail list.


There you have it – all large emails identified and deleted without actually downloading them to your local computer.

If you have any better methods, then please share them in the comments below.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Download South African postal codes list for free

I’ve seen various requests for the postal codes of South Africa (or zip codes) to be made available in a downloadable format but couldn’t find any available for free. 
There’s the official South African Post Office (SAPO) page that allows you to only search for the one you are looking for: Search by location name or by post code
As well as the listings on

So, I decided to create my own and make it available to all for free download here:

Did you know that there are 16,740 postal codes in South Africa?

Please post comments if you notice any errors or omissions.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Compare airline tickets online in South Africa

So, Tweeple were looking for online sites to book air tickets in South Africa – probably now planning their end of year Christmas holidays in Cape Town or Durban. 

These are the main airlines in South Africa – you can either click on each link and manually compare prices one-by-one or scroll down to an aggregator that does the fetching of the prices and you can compare all on one page
(Note: that some aggregators add a lot to the price… so, I usually use the aggregator to get an indication of price, then go to the direct site to do the booking):

List of airlines (in no specific order):
South African Airways (SAA):
British Airways (BA):

Kulula/ComAir: (get up to 50% off if you have a Discovery Vitality card)
Mango Air:  (get 10% off if you have an Edgars Club card)

Virgin Atlantic: (no domestic flights)

South African Express: Liquidated on 27 Feb 2008
1Time Airlines: Stopped operating on 2 Nov 2012
Velvet Sky: Ceased operations in February 2012 and was liquidated in May 2012

Aggregator sites: image image image image
A lot of these aggregators are “skinned” which means that they all query the same search engine disguised as different sites – the main search engine seems to be the TravelStart one.  Each “skinned” site gets a commission for the bookings.

International travel flights:
Check where you are sitting on the plane:

Update on 16Nov2011: Register for ExpertFlyer Seat Alerts feature, and be notified when the exact seat you want becomes available! See here for a list of supported airlines (South African ones are listed): Free for 1 alert at a time.

Updated on 19Nov2012: Register Updated links to airlines that have been liquidated

Looking for a hotel?:
If you are looking for hotels, then this is a great site:

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How to add subtitles to an avi file and burn it to DVD

I have been battling to find instructions on how to add subtitles to an avi file so that I could make a DVD and watch it from a DVD player.  This forum on put me on the right track and I found another way of doing it with free software that I already had installed on my computer.

I used FormatFactory and its embedded help  gave the instructions as follows:

Launch FormatFactory and drag and drop your file into the FormatFactory window.  A window will appear where you can select the output format of the “conversion”.
I left it at avi (‘All to AVI’) since I want the output to still be avi but with subtitles: image

Next, click the “Setting” button:

Go down to the “Additional Subtitle” section and then click on the Ellipsis (3 dots) which will allow you to navigate to the subtitle (.srt) file.
Click ‘OK’ ‘OK’; then “Start” button to start the conversion.
Wait for a long time…

Then the converted avi file with subtitles is created and can then be burnt to DVD using your favourite burning software eg: ‘Nero Vision’


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Buying electricity via mobile cell phone or online [Solved]

There’s only one thing that I hate doing more than putting petrol in my car – that’s buying electricity… the pain of drawing cash, then imagegoing to the local cafe or garage to get that electricity token is sooo painful!  But that was until I found other ways of buying electricity without even getting into my car :)
You still get your free units per month and there are no extra costs.

Most of these sites allow you to purchase using your credit card.

After registering I can now purchase electricity (for no extra charge) using my credit card. I can use my PC or my cell phone's browser or use SMS to purchase.
Using my credit card is much more convenient (no more queuing for cash, and for purchasing the electricity), and so it's safer too! [those ATMs are becoming dangerous]
Additionally, if I run out of electricity in the middle of the night then I can purchase more by sending an SMS from home.
Oh, and the cherry on the top is that the bill comes at the end of the month along with "reward points" and even cash back discount.

Here is a list of sites that I’ve found that cater for City of Cape Town electricity:
FNB mobile: dial *120*321# from your cell phone and navigate thru the menus.
image   image   image  (not accepting new registrations)  image  
(Via SMS: SMS "secret code cvv amount" to 41658 to buy electricity) [currently offline for Cape Town electricity purchases] register meter number and pay by credit card.
image image  No credit card purchases, but EFTs are processed under 5 minutes (24/7). Also offers airtime. you can save your setting so that you can easily buy from your phone
image  There’s even a lucky draw and you could win your electricity for free (PowerWinna)

Outside Cape Town:

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Polycom IP SoundStation IP 5000 call lasts exactly 20 seconds and then disconnected [SOLVED]

A colleague had this nasty problem that he managed to solve – he found lots (hundreds) of people on the Internet had the same problem but there were no solutions out there – so I convinced him to share how he solved the nasty problem:

The problem:
Polycom IP SoundStation IP 5000 - calls last exactly 20 seconds and then they are disconnected.

The logs on the SwitchVox PABX showed the following error when tracing the SIP messages passing between PBX and Polycom IP 5000.  This is the error code that I suspected was causing the issue:

(Critical Response) -- See doc/sip-retransmit.txt

image image
It took a while, but changing the protocol that IP5000 uses to connect to the PABX from TCP/IP to UDP seems to have fixed the problem - now the calls work properly :)
It now also connects to the SwitchVox PABX immediately compared to previously when using TCP/IP it took at least 10 seconds. 
So now, once the phone is plugged in and boots up, it immediately connects and calls longer than 10 seconds are now no problem!


For others trying to figure out how to log onto the phone’s web page to change the settings:
use username (upper case ‘P’):  Polycom
password:  456 
(This is the default username and password)

Friday, 30 September 2011

Error Code : 1062 Duplicate entry '' for key 1 auto_increment [SOLVED]

I am using mySQL and Fabrik and Joomla for my web app and out of the blue it started giving errors:
Duplicate entry '' for key 1 SQL=INSERT INTO `main_table` (`field1`,`field2`,`field3`) VALUES ( 'Value1','Value2','','Value3') 
This meant that no data was being successfully entered into that database table :(


After Googling a bit (no, a lot) I stumbled into this blog which helped me a lot (thanks Vinu Thomas):

The important sentences:  “Mysql throws this error because the field type of the auto increment field is not large enough to hold the next value, so it tries to wraps the count back to ’0′ where the is already a record with that value.
We changed the field from int to unsigned bigint which fixed the problem for us. So if you face the same problem, check if your auto-increment field has maxed the datatype for that field.

That’s exactly what I did and saw that my table definition was this – where field1 was the PK and of type varchar(255):
table_name CREATE TABLE `table_name` (
`field1` varchar(255) NOT NULL auto_increment,
`field2` varchar(15) default NULL,
`field3` varchar(255) default NULL,

I altered the table to this and the problem was solved!:
table_name CREATE TABLE `table_name` (
`field1` bigint(255) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,                      
`field2` varchar(15) default NULL,                                             
`field3` varchar(255) default NULL,                                          

Using this sql statement:
alter table `dbname`.`table_name` change `field1` `field1` bigint(255) UNSIGNED NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tree fell across Doordrift Road, Constantia in Cape Town

A colleague’s friend told of a story that she was driving on Doordrift Road last night (Saturday) and about 21h00 (after sunset – so it was already quite dark) when they heard a load creaking sound then suddenly this HUGE tree fell about 20m in front of their car (which was travelling at about 60km/h).

They got the fright of their lives and luckily they managed to stop in time – they also were sooo, lucky that the tree didn’t fall on top of their car!

This is what they saw last night:


They got out and tried to manage the traffic as best as they could – including cyclists who couldn’t see the tree across the road.

They notified ADT (security company) and the local authorities who managed to close the road and start working on clearing the tree.

This morning we decided to go and see if the tree was cleared. I was very surprised to see that the road was still closed and the chain saw was still hard at work to removed the HUGE tree.

Here are some photos of what we saw this morning:
Cape Town-20110925-00025  Cape Town-20110925-00027 Cape Town-20110925-00028  Cape Town-20110925-00030 Cape Town-20110925-00031 Cape Town-20110925-00032   Cape Town-20110925-00034

This is the damage to the townhouses across the road:

Cape Town-20110925-00036  IMG-20110925-00035

So, now, who pays for the clearing of the tree and for the damage to the wall, wrought iron fence and electric fence?

Seems like the construction workers “trimmed” the roots of the tree.  These construction workers were building a pathway along the road and dug quite deeply to lay the foundations for this cobble pathway.

Oh well – at least nobody got killed and we will need to see who wins the fight for these material items.  Those people in the car were really lucky it didn’t land on them! 

Monday, 29 August 2011

Twitter fake page: Beware it will steal your password (phishing)

If you get a Direct message that looks like this:

ROFLMAO i can't stop laughing at this pic of you
Direct message sent by YourFriend (@yourFriend) to you (@YourName)

The first reaction is to click on the short link which will take you to which will resolve to (notice the ‘l’ before the ‘t’ of twitter) which will present a FAKE Twitter login page that looks exactly like the Twitter web site with username and password screen:


Please beware – since this is a FAKE login screen – So do NOT enter your login details!

If you do enter your username and password – then the fake page will steal your username and password and then redirect you to another fake page:  (notice the ‘l’ before the ‘t’ of twitter)
Once the phishers have harvested your login details then they will send DMs to all of your followers and send them the same “ROFLMAO” message and hope that they fall into the same trap and log in to the fake Twitter page.

Be careful out there and remember to ALWAYS check the URL of the page that you are logging in to.

Walkie Talkie on your phone: Push To Talk (PTT) using data channel on any network in South Africa

Use your BlackBerry or Android phone or PC to instantly talk to a group of users – just like using walkie talkie radios!  All of this for free (just pay for the bandwidth)!  I suppose you could call it a VOIP app, since the voice does get converted to IP packets – but what’s different with this app is that the voice gets transmitted to a group of people and it comes over their phones’ speakers – like an intercom system!

This app is available for download from here: and best of all it’s FREE.  This allows public groups of up to 100 people – if you want to create private groups, then there’s the “Loudtalks Mesh or “Loudtalks Cloud” products. 

The Cloud product is free to try out for up to 10 users, then there’s payment options to go larger groups up to 1,000 people. 
In short, if you have your own server, then go for the Loudtalks Mesh option – else Loudtalks Cloud – which doesn’t require a server and is very quick to set up.
See here for a comparison:


Some of the features of the app are:
Loudtalks conversations are nearly as fast as face-to-face and possibly the fastest way to communicate online.
With Loudtalks you can voice message two, three or even a hundred people simultaneously.
Re-play your conversations when you want from the voice history.
Unlike traditional VoIP applications you don't have to use a headset with Loudtalks.
Loudtalks works over WiFi and 3G, and can be used on GPRS and EDGE.
Real-time, low latency
Public channels
Voice-activated transmission (VOX) support

Currently, the app is available for BlackBerry and Android phones as well as PC (Windows and Linux using Wine):
BlackBerry - point your phone to: Note: that it does not use BIS – so if you are not using WiFi, then you will pay for the bandwidth used.  Depending on your wireless provider and service plan using the app may cause data charges even if you have "unlimited email and browsing" BIS data plan.  The app uses 110kB per minute talking, and 20kB per hour when idle.  Regardless of your service plan you can always use the app on WiFi for free.
iPhone: iOS version will be released later this year (2011)

How to get going?:
Install the app then create an account and username,
then add contacts – once approved,
then you can try talking by pressing the PTT button (for BlackBerry it’s the convenience button on the LHS of the phone; for Windows it is F7) – keep that button down to talk, and release it to listen.  

You can also create your own public channels that other people can search for and join.

I’ve tested the application with Vodacom in South Africa and has worked with WiFi and the Vodacom network on BlackBerry 9700 Bold and 8520 Curve.  
Users with 3G handsets should enable the WAP2SR in the Options->Connection menu – this will reduce the high battery consumption.

If you get stuck, here’s a FAQ for BlackBerry users:

Let me know if you have managed to successfully use the app – and for what purpose.  I am going to suggest this for the local neighbourhood watch in my area.

Follow LoudTalks on Twitter here:

Other similar apps that I’ve found are: Blackberry and other “rugged devices”, and not free Windows and iPhone Android and iPhone iPhone (soon Android) Android and iPhone (free)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Calculator: Cost comparison of Incandescent vs CFL vs LED globes

Thanks to Chris from and Mitra Ardron for extending the analysis by taking inflation into account – I have modified the calculator for South African (Cape Town) conditions: price of electricity, the price of the globes, and the inflation rate of power costs.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) globe, CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps), and the bad old fashioned incandescent globe

To quote Mitra:

The spreadsheet tracks the cost curves for Incandescent, CFL and LED globes so you can see at what point you would break even. 

has changed the figures for South Africans: electricity cost per kWh, and prices for the different types of bulbs
Based on a set of assumptions (that I got from Mapawatt), it shows (at 4 hours/day usage):
* CFL's are better than all of them from year 1, it takes 17 years for LED's to beat CFL's but then need replacing after year 35. 
* LED's beat Incandescent globes after 3-and-a-bit years.

To quote Mitra again:

Obviously this depends on assumptions about inflation in electricity prices, so I've added a second tab, where I assume electricity inflates at 7% more than general inflation.

HTT has changed the inflation figures for South Africans: electricity is due to go up 25% for the next 3 years (and probably beyond that too).

Don’t give up on the LED globes - in the near future, I’m sure that their prices will drop drastically and will replace CFLs.

Here are the screen shots of the charts showing the results: no inflation, and with inflation (note: horizontal axis have different scales)
image        image

Is it just me, or do you also think that the power guzzling little incandescent globes should be banned!

To see the actual formulae and data download the calculator here:  HTT_Calculator_Lighting_cost_analysis_SouthAfricaAug2011.xls

The electricity rates for Cape Town for 2011 are here:

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Copyright © 2008 HandyTechTipper. All articles are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 South Africa license, unless where otherwise stated.