Episode 153

posted in: Show Notes
Costco: the bargains are out there… somewhere
Costco: the bargains are out there… somewhere

Much anticipated
Discount store

No pricing on the web site

Membership $60 / year

Situated at Docklands where its hard to get to and pay for parking

Optus email change angers customers | Australian IT
Optus email change angers customers

OPTUS has been forced to halt the planned shut down of its optushome.com.au email domain after users complained of insufficient warning.

to a new domain, optusnet.com.au

Optus warned about the migration in an April newsletter but that was about it.
Would it have been too hard to send an email afvising of the closure.

More reasons to get cloud email or preferably domain email

Centrelink slashes paper | Australian IT
Centrelink slashes paper

The system, switched on in late July, digitises some forms handed in at Centrelink’s 316 customer service centres so they are available for back-office processing, freeing frontline staff to give more time to customers.

CENTRELINK has begun culling 370 million pages of paper forms and correspondence from its frontline offices that it processes by hand and stores in warehouses.

Exploding iPhones not a battery issue, says Apple | Australian IT
Exploding iPhones not a battery issue, says Apple

“The iPhones with broken glass that we have analysed to date show that in all cases the glass cracked due to an external force that was applied to the iPhone,” the company said.

He added that in the case of the eye injury, the injured party had so far refused to hand over the phone to Apple’s management for testing, so it was not year clear what had caused the incident.

Apple has sold 26 million iPhones and 200 million iPods around the world.

Vodafone 3G upgrade completed | Australian IT
Vodafone 3G upgrade completed

VODAFONE has flicked the switch on the $500 million upgrade of its 3G network which now reaches 94 per cent of the Australian population.

Previously Vodafone’s network only reached 80 per cent of the population but the upgrade has extended coverage to Kununurra in WA, Port Douglas in Queensland and Devonport in Tasmania.

TV rage gets email outlet | Australian IT
TV rage gets email outlet

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has recommended the code be amended to allow the electronic lodgment of complaints so problems are picked up early and dealt with quickly.

Under the present code, a written complaint sent by mail is the only mechanism available. It is expected that, once viewers can send an email to their local TV channel, the volume of complaints will rise significantly. NOW VIEWERS will be able to complain about television programs simply by sending an email to the network

anger over the Big Brother “turkey slap” incident.

Xbox $100 cheaper in Australia | Australian IT
Xbox $100 cheaper in Australia

Effective September 22, Microsoft will drop the price of the Xbox 360 Elite to $449 in Australia, just days after Sony cut the rival PlayStation 3 to $499 from $699.

Xbox 360 Elite from the day of the price drop through to October 20th 2009 will receive a bonus copy of the highly anticipated blockbuster title Halo 3: ODST.

The price on the entry-level Xbox Arcade model will stay at $299, and Microsoft will phase out its mid-range Xbox Pro model, leaving it with two models. The Pro will sell for $399 until supplies run out.

Can Bill Gates stop hurricanes? Scientists doubt it – CNN.com
Can Bill Gates stop hurricanes? Scientists doubt it

submitting patent applications for a technology to reduce the danger of approaching hurricanes by cooling ocean temperatures.

According to the patents, many tub-like barges would be placed directly in the path of an oncoming storm. Each barge would have two conduits, each 500 feet long.

One conduit would push the warm water from the ocean’s surface down. The other would bring up cold water where it lies deep undersea.


“I don’t think this is anything that’s going to be done in the next few decades in a practical sense, but maybe further down the line,” Gray said. “I would love to see Bill Gates, with all his money, use some of it to experiment.

Renowned Colorado professor William Gray: It won’t completely stop hurricanes

Its a plan C idea. Only after Plan A & B have been deployed.

iTWire – Faulty Snow Leopard install discs – Apple has no timeline on replacements
Faulty Snow Leopard install discs – Apple has no timeline on replacements

Reports are emerging of faulty Snow Leopard install discs, yet the Apple support line’s only advice is to go back to the store – which has most likely sold out.

iTWire – Got a minute? It’s now enough time to crack WPA
It’s now enough time to crack WPA

WEP was cracked and rendered effectively pointless within a few years of its introduction

Reports today of a presentation at the upcoming IEICE conference in Hiroshima on September 25th suggested that WPA is as broken as WEP.  The only saving grace being that AES implementations are still (currently) safe.

This is everyone’s home wireless network.l Make sure you have AES excrytption. safe for now

eBay offloads Skype | Australian IT
eBay offloads Skype

65 per cent of Skype for $US1.9bn. It will retain the remaining 35 per cent to a private investor group 

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of the year.

Gmail grinds to a halt – Software – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
Gmail grinds to a halt

Australian users reported the outage on the Whirlpool broadband forums at just after 6.00am Australian Eastern time.

The service appeared to have been restored around 7.45am

engineers “slightly underestimated” the increased load put on other parts of the system during the upgrades, causing the “widespread outage” of its webmail

Arnie turns to eBay for budget boost – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Arnie turns to eBay for budget boost

‘The Great California Garage Sale’, the state is using eBay and Craigslist to sell 6,000 surplus items ranging from cars to coat racks, computers to binoculars and jewellery.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is even autographing the sun visors of used cars being sold by the state to help boost their price.


California has a budget deficit of almost $31 billion.

Google’s UK headquarters on fire
Google’s UK headquarters on fire

fire has broken out at Google’s UK headquarters in London.

Initial rumours suggest that it could be the result of a BBQ gone wrong at Google


WD debuts two new HDDs with the same features save one being certified for 1.2 million hours MTBF.

Western Digital has unveiled a pair of new hard drives today called the WD Caviar Black 2TB and the other is the WD RE4 2TB HDD. The only difference between the two drives is that the RE4 is aimed at enterprise users and has been certified to 1.2 million hours mean-time before failure. Western Digital hasn’t said what technical changes there are between the two drives.

The other features of both drives are identical with both sporting a 64MB cache, 7200 rpm speed, 2TB storage capacity, and using the SATA 3.0Gb/s interface. The two drives have dual processors for twice the processing power and use dual actuator technology. That last bit allows an improvement in positional accuracy using conventional actuator principals.

Other features of the drives include IntelliSeek to calculate the optimum seek speed to lower power consumption, noise, and vibration. StableTrac is featured to reduce system vibration and stabilize the platters for better tracking during read and write operations.

Both of the new drives also offer NoTouch ramp loading technology to ensure the recording head never touches the disk media to limit wear on the platters. The Caviar Black 2TB HDD will sell for $US299 ($AUD360) and the pricing of the Enterprise version of the drive will be set by OEMs according to WD. In late March, Western Digital also announced that it was entering the SSD market for the first time.

All Zune models not named ‘Zune HD’ on the outs

Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott of SuperSite for Windows fame has read the writing on the wall. According to the reps he spoke with, production has ceased on all Zune models before the upcoming Zune HD. In other words, when supplies run out, Zune 4, 8, 16, 80, and 120 are as good as dead, with only this year’s model left standing. Shed a tear for the old guard, and keep an eye out for what we’re hoping will be some pretty sweet sales as everyone tries to clean out stock.

Windows Mobile 6.5 cellphones coming October 6th


Unfortunately for those on the hunt for nitty-gritty details, the headline here just about says it all. In a shockingly vague release from Microsoft, the Redmond-based giant has announced that the first batch of Windows Mobile 6.5 handsets will launch on October 6th, or around three weeks after its Zune HD. If we’re reading this correctly, it looks as if this round of cellies will be the first to be called “Windows phones,” and aside from promising “new customer experiences” and superior browsing capabilities, they’ll also feature Windows Marketplace for Mobile (an app store), Microsoft My Phone (a backup service) and Office Mobile. As for what phones we’ll see, all we’re told is that HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony Ericsson and a few other big time players are onboard, with just about every carrier in the world (save for T-Mobile USA) also voicing their support.

Toyota begins pre-production of Camry hybrid

The pilot production of the first Australian-built hybrid car began yesterday with the push of an oversized Power button in Altona, Melbourne.

Toyota Australia CEO Max Yasuda, Victorian Premier John Brumby and Industry Minister Kim Carr get the line rolling.
(Credit: Toyota)

Last year the Federal Government handed car giant Toyota AU$35 million to help support its plans to make 10,000 Camry hybrids each year at its Altona assembly plant. In this pilot phase a small number of Camry hybrids will be built to test assembly methods and work flows, as well as the car itself. Full scale production will begin in December this year, with cars going on sale in February 2010.

Like other Toyota hybrids, such as the Prius and various Lexus models, the Camry is a full hybrid that couples a petrol engine with an electric engine powered by a set of nickel-metal hydride batteries. Most of the time the petrol motor powers the front wheels, but at low speeds, when cruising or at a standstill, the car runs solely on electric power. The electric motor works in concert with the four-cylinder petrol engine when rapid acceleration is required; the batteries are recharged via regenerative braking when cruising downhill or coming to a stop.

Apple sneaks malware protection into Snow Leopard

Free whitepaper – The human factor in laptop encryption

Apple is dipping yet another toe into the anti-malware pond with a feature in the latest beta version of its forthcoming Snow Leopard operating system.

The protection was quietly added earlier this month to Snow Leopard 10A432, the most recent build of the new version of Mac OS X that is due for release this Friday, according to someone who has tested the feature and asked not to be identified because pre-release versions of Snow Leopard come with non-disclosure clauses. A separate Snow Leopard tester said the functionality is included in 10A421a, an even earlier build.

The feature causes users who try to install applications known to be malicious to receive a pop-up window warning that the file will damage the computer and should be moved to the Trash.

At the moment, though, the feature offers fairly limited protection. Based on an analysis of a corresponding preferences file called XProtect.plist, it appears that the feature checks for only two known Mac trojans. And it only flags those files if they were downloaded from the internet using Entourage, iChat, Safari, and a handful of other applications, according to this person. Files that were downloaded using Skype and dozens of other net-facing applications aren’t covered, nor are files on DVDs and thumb drives.

The revelations come as Apple has issued a fresh round of commercials that portray the Mac as a haven free of malware threats. “I want [a computer] that just works without thousands of viruses and a ton of headaches,” a prospective customer complains in this spot. An Apple spokeswoman didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

AutoStockR hits Big W, Dick Smith

Woolworths has implemented its custom in-store inventory management system AutoStockR in the supply chain systems of its Big W and Dick Smith franchises.

While its competitor Coles has shied away from discussing its IT systems, Woolworths has again shone a torch on its investments, with chief executive Michael Luscombe claiming its custom-built AutoStockR system, which was an early milestone in its eight-year Project Refresh campaign, had been successfully deployed at its other businesses.

The automated inventory replenishment system that was rolled out to Woolworths’ supermarkets in 2006 is now being turned on its subsidiary businesses, Big W and Dick Smith, Luscombe said today at its full year earnings announcement.

“We’re now starting to see fruits of it in Dick Smith and Big W as well,” Luscombe said. “Big W is now starting to roll out their version of AutoStockR. It’s basically the same product that’s been customised for general merchandise,” he said. “We’re seeing some terrific improvements in stock and working capital metrics from these stores.”

Vodafone coverage hits 94%

Vodafone has gone live today with its expanded 3G coverage to rural areas, now reaching 94 per cent of the population.

Coverage has been extended out to Kununurra in Western Australia, Port Douglas in Queensland and Devonport in Tasmania, according to the company. Vodafone’s 3G coverage previously reached 80 per cent of the Australian population. The upgrade has also included adapting the 2G network to support EDGE technology.

The completion of the upgrade has met the company’s deadline, set earlier this year after the company failed to meet its former deadline of last Christmas.

Vodafone has marked the milestone with free access to Facebook for new and existing customers until 31 October 2009.

“Vodafone’s great value 3G services are now available to Australians living and working in regional cities and towns, as well as business travellers and holiday-makers who need to stay connected,” CEO of VHA Nigel Dews said in a statement.

‘External force’ fractured French iPhones, says Apple

Apple has claimed that all of the iPhones it has examined which allegedly underwent sudden screen shatter did so because of pressure applied to the outside of the handset.

“The iPhones with broken glass that we have analysed to date show that in all cases the glass cracked due to an external force that was applied to the iPhone,” the company said in a statement quoted by the BBC.

Almost a dozen cases of disintegrating iPhone displays have been reported this month, all in France. Today, a Belgian boy claimed his Apple handset went foom, too.

Unlike many handsets, the iPhone’s screen is protected by a layer of glass rather than plastic, the better to prevent the scratches seen on iPods in the past.

In many instances, the handset’s owner said the phone appeared to vibrate before the screen suddenly cracked. Some also claimed the glass splintered, in two cases allegedly leading to eye injury.

The explosive quality of these examples led many observers to suspect overheating lithium batteries, though the stories of shattering screens don’t mention smoke or fire almost always seen when such power packs detonate.

Indeed, Apple said “there are no confirmed battery overheating incidents for iPhone 3GS”, though it didn’t mention previous models.

It insisted that “the number of reports we are investigating is in the single digits”. ®

Hackers serve up pre-release malware to Mac fanboys

Virus slingers are taking advantage of the release of Apple’s Snow Leopard operating system by offering malware from sites touting operating system upgrades.

Dodgy sites supposedly offering Snow Leopard were rigged to push an Apple-specific DNS changer Trojan, detected by Trend Micro as JAHLAV-K. The malware is a MAC OS X mountable Disk Image file (.DMG) that comes contaminated with various malicious scripts, as explained here.

Users infected with the Apple specific malware would find their internet connections redirected to phishing sites and other fraudulent endeavours. Some of these bogus sites hosted scareware (fake anti-virus) packages.

Fake sites offering the Mac malware were in operation in the run-up to the release of Snow Leopard on Friday.

Snow Leopard security – The good, the bad and the missing

Apple Engineers missed a key opportunity to implement an industry-standard technology in their latest operating system that would have made it more resistant to hacking attacks, three researchers have said.

Known as ASLR, or address space layout randomization, the measure picks a different memory location to load system components each time the OS is started. While Microsoft has had it implemented since the roll-out of Windows Vista, the analogous protection in Snow Leopard, which went on sale Friday, suffers from a crucial deficiency: It fails to randomize core parts of the OS, including the heap, stack and dynamic linker.

That means that attackers who identify buffer overflows and similar bugs in OS X components have a much better chance of causing the vulnerability to execute malicious code that compromises the machine. The halfhearted attempt at implementing ASLR has been a chief complaint of security researchers since Leopard, Snow Leopard’s predecessor. Many had hoped it would be made more robust in the new version.

Was the underdog unfairly crippled in its quest to get chips in PCs? No says Intel, AMD chips just aren’t as good.

AMD and Intel traded more court filings last week as their ongoing legal dispute in the antitrust case AMD filed in 2005 grinds towards trial next year.

The two chipmakers’ briefs filed in US District Court in Delaware last Friday were made public Monday. Their trial is tentatively scheduled for April, 2009.

AMD has alleged that Intel abused its domination of the x86 microprocessor market by various means in order to prevent others from competing fairly.

AMD alleges Intel offered larger discounts to PC manufacturers if they used Intel chips exclusively, punished OEM vendors that considered buying AMD chips, and gave away products to prevent AMD from gaining market share.

Intel claims that the x86 microprocessor market is competitive and that AMD failed to gain market share because it made inferior products for many years.

Each chipmaker claims it builds the superior x86 microprocessor technology.

AMD’s court filing is a case summary that runs to over 100 pages outlining its allegations against Intel and summarising approximately 200 million pages of documents produced during discovery in the case so far. Intel’s counterfiling, which also exceeds 100 pages, denies AMD’s allegations and accuses AMD of litigating in a vain attempt to make up for its inability to compete effectively.

Pipe’s Guam cable: What does it mean?

Opinions are split amongst analysts, telcos and ISPs as to whether Pipe’s new PPC-1 Sydney to Guam submarine cable will lead to lower broadband prices for Australians, but all agree the threat of its arrival, set for October, has had a positive impact already.

Over the course of Pipe Network’s tumultuous ride to launching PPC-1 — which has included alleged threats of violence to its chief Bevan Slattery from a tier one telco, and withdrawal of support from its financiers — broadband enthusiasts have speculated widely on what the new highway to Australia’s largest content provider, the US, will mean.

Greater competition, leading to dramatic price drops and faster speeds are two that have been bandied about, but opinions are divided on how these will play out. One clear benefit to ISPs has been the response from Southern Cross Cable Network — 50 per cent owned by Telecom NZ, 40 per cent by SingTel-Optus and 10 per cent by Verizon Business — which dropped its prices by 50 per cent in the past 18 months, and is on the move to significantly boost capacity.

According to one industry source, Southern Cross has a lot of room to move, but has only done so in response to the impending threat of PPC-1. Southern Cross has utilised a small percentage of its capacity, said the source, but only faces incremental costs in expanding that. In other words, it can boost its capacity without it equating to lower returns.

Xbox 360 Elite drops Australian pricing

Microsoft has confirmed locally that beginning from September 22, the recommended retail price (RRP) of the 120GB Xbox 360 Elite will drop by AU$100, meaning the console will retail for AU$449 in Australia.

Gamers who buy an Xbox 360 Elite from the day of the price drop through to October 20 will also receive a copy of Halo 3: ODST.

Following months of rumours, Microsoft also confirmed that the 60GB Xbox 360 Pro will be phased out — the console will remain available for AU$399 across Australia “while supplies last”.

The news comes just days after the announcement that Microsoft has sold 700,000 Xbox 360 consoles in Australia, with a target of reaching one million sold by Christmas. The publisher hopes to reach this mark with newly-announced features including Movies on Demand, Games on Demand and Xbox Live features like Facebook and Twitter connectivity, all set to launch later this year.

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