A mickle muckle

R23-018

Have you seen the petrol price today? $1.62 a litre! That’s the highest I’ve ever seen it in Perth, as far as I know. Actually, I can check because I always write the details of every fill into a notebook, including the price per litre. The notebook lives in the car so I’ll have a quick scan later.

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I heard a Nullarbor driver say it was about $2 a litre out there last week. He was heading for Perth from Melbourne to see his beloved Demons get thrashed. He should have saved his money and watched it on TV. Go the Weagles.

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I have internet radio now and Sapristi-nockolds, there’s a UK station that plays nothing but Goon Shows, back to back, end to end, side by side all day and night.

ABC Radio National used to play a show every Friday morning at 5.30am. I was an avid listener for years in the oughties, but they eventually shut it down, around 2010 or so. Actually, they played a radio comedy half hour every morning, Hancock’s Half Hour, Round the Horn, Just a Minute and so on, but no more. I got used to waking just before 5.30 and used to record some of these shows on my Mini-disc recorder. I still have scores of these discs among the roughly 100 discs I have. I copied all the Goon Shows to my hard drive, about 109 shows, but now I can listen to the radio at any time. I’ve heard them all before, but it doesn’t matter how many times, I always hear something new and still laugh. Priceless.

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Aaah, Mini-disc – it’s regarded as just one of Sony’s failures like Betamax, but it’s not a failure for me. I own three recorder/players: one Sony hi-fi deck;

MiniDisc_deck

one Sharp component deck with CD, Mini-disc and AM/FM radio;

Sharp MD deck

and a Sony portable Mini-disc Walkman about 100mm square and 15mm thick, running on one AA battery which lasts for ages.

MD Walkman

Plus I have about 100 recordable and erasable discs. They’re pretty hard to buy now, but that lot should last me a lifetime. Actually, I’ve just found that they’re still available on eBay, but range from about $5 to $9 per disc.

One reason they’ll last a lifetime is that they’re virtually indestructable. They’re enclosed in a plastic caddy with a sliding metal closure to protect them from dust.

Memorex-minidisc

To erase or record on them requires both a laser and a magnetic field (they’re more properly called magneto-optical discs). That means they’re impervious to external magnetic fields, so you could put them in a bulk eraser and they’d be fine. So as long as they’re protected from dust and scratches, they’ll last forever. They used to cost about $3 each and hold 650MB or one CD, 76 minutes.

Having the radio and one of these loaded, I can instantly go to Record if I hear something I want to preserve. To erase, just use the menu and it erases the file table in a second.

When I was at the old TV station, they used to use ¼” endless loop tape cartridges extensively, including in the newsroom. These were pretty reliable but needed regular cleaning and maintenance and the tape was prone to damage. Being endless loops, if you wanted to find something it was guess work and waiting. Erasing required a bulk eraser. Old technology.

In the ’90s I was asked to investigate alternatives and recommend something better. I had been using Mini-discs at home for years and Sony made professional decks, so naturally I included this along with two other systems (including a PC based file server) in my report, with a strong recommendation for MD.

Sony_MiniDisc_MD_Recorder_MDS-81   Sony broadcast MD deck.

Amazingly, my recommendation was acted on and the journalists and editors loved them, with their fast and precise cueing (setting a start point) and instant access. That was one of the first nails in the coffin of tape.

These days a PC file server system would be pretty easy to find and use, but in those days (mid ’90s) Windows PCs were still pretty clunky and a bit hard to use for most people (especially journos 🙂 )

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A good mate has bought himself a used BMW 530, 2006 model, for a very reasonable price. Beautiful car, in excellent condition, and it got me looking at ads myself, mainly on the Facebook Marketplace. Lots and lots of cheap cars there, some of them in good condition but many that look pretty dodgy.

I got the hots, briefly, for a 2006 BMW X5 4WD SUV, asking $8,500. It looks from the photos to be in immaculate condition. It would be a 3 or 4 litre V8, auto.

But I bought a BMW magazine and talked to another mate who owns one and was thoroughly frightened off. The magazine is full of horror stories about the things that go wrong with BMWs, including one guy who says outright that certain throttle actuators fail far more than they should, as if they were poorly designed and bound to fail. But they fail at around the 100,000km mark long out of warranty. The new replacements cost £2,000 each, £2,300 fitted. He refurbishes them, replacing the electronic components that fail, and plastic gears that wear, for £225 each with a lifetime warranty.

That’s just one story, but there are so many known problems that you take your life in your hands buying a used BMW, far more so than a Japanese car. Same for Mercedes, from what I’ve read. The fact is that German cars fail, and fail badly, after their early years.

The BMW 7-series, the top of the line, are very electronic, with many components having integral electronic controllers. All these controllers have the vehicle’s chassis number encoded into them, so buying cheap replacements won’t work, as the car won’t recognise them. You have to buy from BMW at BMW’s prices to get parts that will work. Clever…

My mate mentioned that although his X5 has been reliable, each rear tyre costs $700, because they’re very wide and are run-flats and you only have a choice of two brands. Similarly, a replacement battery is $700.

I think I’ve lost my lust for a BMW, and a Mercedes for that matter.

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I’m trying to retrieve data from a couple of failed SATA hard drives, 2TB models. I set a software program going a couple of hours ago, and it still has 4hrs 10mins to go. I’d cancel, except that it has shown three files as recoverable so far, so I don’t want to give up.

This was a disaster – one 2TB drive was the internal disk, and the other was an external backup drive. They have both failed! I don’t know why or how. Pretty bad luck. It may be possible to retrieve the data but I’m not optimistic.

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So what’s new?

26Aug16_R

Sunset Lovina  26 August 2016   © PJ Croft 2018

Another day, another example of management dishonesty and criminality. The news item from this morning is gone already, but a former manager of a finance industry regulatory body, who moved to become CEO of a building society, was ripping money out of the society using his wife, using deception, inflating his expenses, submitting false claims for reimbursement and so on. Day after day, week after week, month after month these revelations are coming out. The banking and insurance royal commission is exposing deliberate deception and potentially criminal wrong doing on a massive scale. Committed by managers, or lower level staff at managers’ urging, with bonuses as the carrot.

The Abbott Liberal government wasted no time in holding a royal commission into union “corruption” (that word was in the title of the commission – nothing like prejudging the issue).  The result? One criminal conviction for one state branch secretary and one conviction for a low level official. This at a cost of more than $10m to taxpayers.

Yet where are the demands for banks and insurance managements to face criminal trials like union officials? The Liberal government are relatively silent. Why?

Quoting Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary: “The banking royal commission has found hundreds of thousands of instances of potentially criminal conduct (so far), hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unlawful fees, misappropriations and possible thefts as well as overseeing millions upon millions of dollars in fines for the big banks.

“Still that hasn’t stopped the Morrison-led Liberal party, its storefront thinktank and its various conservative media allies from playing the usual anti-union cards.

“It’s just that this time their hand is weaker than it’s ever been.”

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On the subject of income protection insurance, a good friend of mine who works for himself has been paying premiums for this type of insurance for 23 years. He estimates he’s paid about $23,000 in premiums to now.

Last year he had a heart attack (not serious, luckily) and managed to cut the top of his left thumb off in a circular saw accident. Naturally, these took time to heal and he lost income.

He submitted a modest claim (nowhere near the amount he’s paid in premiums) and guess what? The insurance company rejected his claim. It’s on something of a technicality, but they won’t budge. He’s been trying to resolve the issue for nearly a year now, and the insurance company is doing all it can to waffle, obfuscate and generally act as bastards. Notably, they want to do everything over the phone. Why? Probably because there’s nothing in writing that could come back to haunt them.

It’s still ongoing and my friend is at the point of going to the Insurance Ombudsman. He’s not a man to give up, once someone rubs him the wrong way. They’ve picked the wrong guy to have a fight with.

More later.