Back in January 2014 – having recently acquired an Internet capable television – I enquired online about downloading movies. It seems I opened a trial subscription with a mob called Hulamedia in the US, and I must have provided a credit card.  I think I downloaded a single movie, but found that the titles available were not to our liking. Being busy, I also obviously forgot that the trial subscription became a permanent one.

18 months later and I see a charge on my credit card from DonnaPlay.com  that I’ve never heard of. However – and here’s me being open about my carelessness – I find I’ve been paying US$16.35 and more each and every month since January 2014, because Hulamedia has morphed into Donnaplay, and I’ve NEVER noticed it on my statements as the amount was not very significant.  I have immediately cancelled the accounts with both organisations.

So here’s the lesson: do not sign up for free trials which require a credit card, and remember to carefully check your monthly statement, so you can query it!

Earlier in 2013, we pointed out how Microsoft treats the Australian consumer – be they business or domestic. In short it could be said Microsoft is happy to screw every dollar we’re prepared to pay because most people don’t realise there is any alternative, and just as importantly, when they know there is an alternative many people have an inbuilt bias against the alternative. They just can’t believe an alternative can be compatible, let alone be available free of charge. Here’s a link to why it is “free”

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft is not the only organisation that produces software for word processing, spreadsheets and  other “office” use type products. Many years ago, we used SmartWare software, but these days Microsoft is certainly the major player by a long way. You can ask yourself whether this is due to good products or good marketing.

Microsoft Office (which – depending on version – may comprise Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, OneNote, Publisher and Access) can be purchased in several editions: Home and Student; Home and Business; Professional; and then there’s the Office 365 editions. It usually comes pre-installed with most new computers, and it comes as a surprise to some people that the cost is not part of the cost of the computer and  Windows.  Confusing isn’t it? Go and have a look at the Microsoft web site for full details, but be careful of all the bells, whistles, smoke and mirror advertising.

We could create a lot of information or web pages about the various alternatives that exist to MS Office, but others have already done this for us. Here’s one which rates the best free offerings.  Then here’s one that thinks Kingston Free Office is the best.  So what’s our own opinion. For some years we’ve used OpenOffice, but a few months ago we started using LibreOffice, which is very similar to the other, but provides the ability to save files in the format pushed onto us by Microsoft since Office 2007 (i.e. .docx files for Word compatibility and .xlsx file for Excel spreadsheet compatibility).

The concept of ribbons and tabs used by MS in Office since 2007, has never appealed to us, and many users (we have found in assisting a large number of computer users) still prefer the conventional ‘Menu’ approach to managing their Word, Excel or Outlook applications. It’s a personal view, but this is yet another example of Microsoft trying to impose its philosophy on the world instead of trying to please the customer.

In short, we use LibreOffice: it gives us the ability to save our documents as traditional Word (.doc) files, Microsoft XML (.docx), LibreOffice native (.odf), or several other formats.  Why not try it yourself? You’ve nothing to loose! In fact, if you’re running a business, you will save at least $330 per computer. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Should you need help installing and configuring LibreOffice, please get in touch.

 

One of the incredible features of the Mobotix video system is the ability to zoom in on recorded video footage.  This under rated capability is not always well understood or even described in documentation, but it is the one feature that end users would like to have if they realised it was available – and it is!

The Mobotix MX Control Centre ‘Professional Video Management’ manual details how the enhanced virtual PTZ features enable the user to zoom pan and tilt the camera images in live recording mode in section 3.2.9 of that manual.  Later in the same manual at section 3.5.7 the reader will find how to do the same thing with recorded images, so that the viewer can zoom, pan and tilt on the video footage as it is being replayed from the recording. You can’t do that with the football game you’ve recorded and are playing back, can you?

To save you the job of finding those instructions, we’ve extracted the relevant pages and created a separate PDF document which you may download here: zoom-playback

 

Don’t like paying exorbitant prices for commonly used Microsoft Office applications? Don’t want to get ripped off?  There ARE good alternatives.

At the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into software pricing in 2013, the heads of Apple, Adobe and Microsoft have been dragged kicking and screaming to face the inquiry and provide a real explanation as to why the price of their software is so much higher in Australia than other leading markets.

Committee deputy chair Paul Neville indicated that the Microsoft managing director did not offer any concrete justification for why Microsoft’s prices were on average 66 percent higher than in the US.

You can read the hearing on IT-Pricing for yourself at Page 31 to hear what happened when Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow fronted the inquiry… Continue reading

Late last year the South Australian Government invited comments on a paper outlining proposed changes to laws affecting late night trading of licensed premises. Being involved in a part of the market that supplies video security systems, we submitted the following comments.

“As a supplier of digital video security solutions, I request consideration be given to the following points that I make in respect of Part 5, Section 16 of the draft code.

Your draft paper speaks of “colour high definition visual recordings”, when it fact it should specify recordings that achieve a prescribed minimum video resolution in pixels. “High Definition” is not relevant in a security context. High Definition is appropriate only in television programming, and security applications warrant that the terminology should instead refer to “High Resolution”.

I suggest also that the term “Digital Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)” is incorrect, and might by some be considered a contradiction in terms, since ‘CCTV’ has long been recognised as an analogue video system. While digital High Definition TV may be rated at 1080 pixels (height) or at 1920×1080p, is approximately 2.1 megapixels, it employs a codec that is designed to best display moving images. In security applications a ‘still’ image is often required.

It is inappropriate to expect the recording system to “operate continuously…. and for at least one hour after premises cease to trade”. Most modern security systems are designed to record based on detected events (e.g. movement of persons), and good systems can record before a detected event as well as afterwards. To record continuously is wasteful, expensive and more time consuming for those charged with the task of locating a recorded event and creating a copy of it.

The paper proposes to mandate ”colour” visual recordings. There are however many situations where relatively poor lighting, especially at night, would result in far better images with a monochrome lens. Yet again, I suggest the draft should specify a minimum standard in pixels for recordings.

I submit that the draft paper is too subjective: the terms “High Quality” and “High Definition” are meaningless, while “CCTV” represents a legacy standard. I believe your paper should nominate “Digital High Resolution Video Security” at a minimum of 1280 x 960 pixels (“Mega pixel”) at 10fps (frames per second)”

It’s that time of year when we in the southern hemisphere get to take a break. Some of us don’t get a long break, and at times unfortunately this is also when some students may get bored, and are left to their own devices. The Unley School Fire 2011 is one such example, where one million dollars worth of damage was caused.

History is full of incidents where young people decide to commit acts of vandalism against schools they may have attended, by breaking in and stealing items like computers or simply damaging classrooms and fittings. In the worst cases some don’t want to go back to the school when the next term starts, and classrooms are destroyed.

The administrators of some schools have been proactive in ensuring that they have video surveillance systems in place to guard against such disasters.  An example of a school (St. Patricks use Mobotix) that has acted to install such a system is St Patrick’s at Ballarat where Mobotix cameras monitor internal and external areas of the college.  An issue for some schools is the concern at the cost of such a deployment where large and dispersed areas may need to be monitored. If you are involved in considering this question, bear in mind that Mobotix cameras with their much higher resolution can monitor much larger areas and will typically do the job of 4 conventional cameras. Secondly, remember that the cameras can be configured to email alerts when video motion events are detected.

 

Those of us who live in the west will often see reports of inequality between women and men in western society. Usually this relates to inequality in wages, and the fact that men still tend to hold most of the senior management positions.  The notable exception is probably the head of Westpac Bank Gail Kelly, who took a sizable pay cut recently but still managed to take home almost $9.6 million. But then again all bank bosses are being paid far too much aren’t they?

Women in Saudi Arabia have always been far more disadvantaged. When I worked there in 1990, it was not uncommon to see fully veiled women traveling  in the rear tray of light utility vehicles driven by the family patriarch.

Saudi women in utility, Riyadh, 1991

At other times, locals would transport their livestock, like camels, in the same type of utility.

Transporting livestock on rural road

It seems things have not changed much in Saudi Arabia. Women are still not permitted to drive, and it transpires that in 2012 Saudi Arabia has developed a system where the male in charge of the family is notified via SMS of the location of his subordinates: both wife and children.  Should his wife wish to leave the country she would need – in any case – to present at the departure gate a yellow form with the husband’s permission for her to undertake this travel.

This a little similar to an Australian parent not being permitted to take their children out of the country without the approval of the other parent. Rather than worry about tracking people via SMS, or obtaining a signature on a formal document, would it not be so much simpler if places like airport departure gates were fitted with a high resolution Mobotix camera that could provide the man or the other Australian parent with a live high quality picture of his dependent? It would only take a brief recording to be made: “Are you John Smith agreeable to Cathy Smith and your children Tom and Jill – whose images are shown here – proceeding on a trip to xyz location?” Let’s reduce our red tape and make life easier for everyone.

Dad builds Video Baby Monitor

That’s what the headline said, so I thought: that’s interesting, I wonder why he did that when I thought that one could buy these things at a fairly reasonable price anyway…

What he did which is a little out of the ordinary is that he has enabled himself to watch the images taken by a cheap web camera on his smart phone rather than just on his computer, using open source (‘free’) software. The full story’s here on the BBC News website: Home made video baby monitor.

In some ways, this is similar to what we do when watching the images of Mobotix security cameras: we can use a web browser or dedicated application to watch images on a Smartphone, or computer, and these can be in our own home or on the other side of the world.

From the South Australian Police Web site…”Update on North Adelaide sexual assault – South Australia Police News Friday, 7 September 2012  4:44pm.

In the past 24 hours the detectives investigating Wednesday night’s sexual assault in North Adelaide have collected 100’s of hours of CCTV and door knocked dozens of homes seeking information.  The attack, on a 23-year-old woman occurred in Gover Street, North Adelaide at about midnight on Wednesday night. Continue reading

More and more people, especially the younger generation, have iPhones and other Smartphones that we spend an increasing amount of time on to catch up with Facebook and Twitter postings, or even to check our bank balances. Every posting we read or send, every Google search contributes to the data charges we incur when using the mobile phone networks. Continue reading