Friday, January 30, 2009

Goldfish: Soundtracks and Comebacks

I bought my first Goldfish album ("Caught in the Loop") after listening to a sample on the SmallBizPod podcast. Usually it has electronica music at the end, and the track "The Four Forty Five Blues" is a wonderful mix of electronica, blues and an underlying South African "something".
This video belongs to their second album, "Perceptions of Pacha", and there are samples of all the tracks and a link to buy the album at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PerfectDisk 10 Announced

"Raxco Software today announces Version 10 of the award-winning PerfectDisk family of disk defragmentation and optimization products. PerfectDisk 10 includes several enhancements and new features to help users keep their computers running at optimal performance, reduce costs and extend the life of their PCs, laptops and servers.
"Included in the launch is an exciting new virtually-aware product for businesses’ virtual environments -- PerfectDisk 10 Virtual Enterprise Edition (VEE). PerfectDisk 10 VEE is the first-ever centrally managed defragmentation solution that is both aware of its virtual existence and is also able to dynamically adjust its resource consumption behavior with respect to its physical server load, such as VMware ESX Server and Microsoft Hyper-V. Other defragmenters, if they can even run in a virtual environment, have no knowledge of their host environment, thus making them susceptible to performance-debilitating resource contention.
"A new PerfectDisk Home Edition is now available for home consumers.
"A complete list of enhancements can be found at"

This statement arrived by email today. I will be testing the new version shortly, and a full review will be included in . They have provided me with registration codes for testing purposes. Home and Business users can find a comparison between PerfectDisk and Diskeeper on their web site. All the different versions of PerfectDisk for home users are listed here.
Update: Softpedia has published a review of PerfectDisk 10

Fast Food, Slow Brain: how to alienate your customers with a simple lawyers letter

On the weekend I got an interesting email. The guy who wrote it was clearly terrified, which makes my blood boil. I have no way of knowing whether anything written is true, because all the specifics that would allow for verification are missing, as you will see:
I came across your story whilst searching for info about a consumers rights to blog their opinions and the implications of defamatory High Court Action.
I will not mention the companies name suffice to say the person who wants to take legal action against me for defamation is a franchisee of a large fast food corporate in South Africa.
I waxed lyrical on and also sent copies of this to the franchise head offices and to the mall contacts from which the franchise operates.

Some facts

The corporate is one of the largest in South Africa in that industry.
I have been in touch (telephonically and electronically) with the Corporate executives - they have apologized for the service I got from the franchise branch and I have kept all emails as a record.
I considered this matter closed until the franchise branch owner (franchisee) sent me a letter via his lawyers demanding I retract my statements which they claim have damaged reputation & business.
They threaten that all costs will be for my account.
They threaten High Court Application against me by next Friday.

My take:

I know I am in the right in this issue.
My problem is that I have no idea of what the costs are for a High Court action let alone hiring a lawyer to defend me.
I was even thinking that if this got so far that I would defend myself but my lawyer skills go as far as Boston Legal or LA Law tv show episode. I'm sure I could pull of a few jokes in court but I dont think that would win me anything.
I am not by any means rich. I was thinking of using my bonus (which i get next month) and if things really get bad selling my car.
The "F$%* You" attitude in me tells me not to back down whilst the scared part (I admit its there) tells me to send a two liner to the lawyers retracting my statements.
The similarity in our situations is BIG CORPORATE vs little man.
Some advice from your experience would help
I'm not sure how much of my experience will help in this specific case, but it ocurred to me that the franchisee is behaving like an idiot. First of all, any restaurant owner who sues his customers for complaining deserves to lose his franchise and all his money. Restaurant reputations are won or lost on good service, and any business owner who doesn't listen to his customer complaints is a loser.
I sincerely hope that the Head Office guys get hold of the franchisee and fire him or take away his franchise for potentially screwing up their brand reputation.
If the lawyer who sent the letter ever reads this, I think he is being unprofessional and extremely stupid. He should have advised his client against such an action, and if pressed he should have refused, if only to save his reputation. The consumer site has systems and methods in place for dealing with abuse of unreasonable complaints, and if this complaint fell outside that category, and assuming it was truthful, I suggest that the lawyer goes back to law school and apologises to his lecturers.
Launching a High Court action is tactically suicidal, because of the associated publicity and public interest. You have to sue for more that R100,000 for the High Court to be interested, and you have to prove actual losses in order to claim damages. How do you prove losses from lack of sales based on a complaint on HelloPeter? You can't. Case dismissed. Lawyer looks like a bumbling idiot, client ends up paying costs on both sides. Client loses a good reputation, and gains a new one: Mampara of the Month.
There is a Facebook Support Group for bloggers who get sued in cases like this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Misleading: Incredible!

It seems that Incredible Connection has joined the group of advertisers who are happy to mislead consumers with their "Windows Compatible" adverts. My complaint is that the adverts don't say how much extra you have to pay, or that Windows is not supported on the Mac.
In my book (not a MacBook) that is misleading, not to mention bad marketing. The cost of buying Windows on their web site is not cheap either, and if your original PC came with Windows pre-installed then your "Recovery CD" is unlikely to work on a Mac, piracy notwithstanding. So the "All-in-Wonderful iMac" is not as "all-in" or "wonderful" as it would appear. I guess the "reality distortion field" famously associated with Apple has extended to South Africa. I also tried but haven't had a reply.
Update 26th January: Greg Hill, the product marketing manager at Core Group, the Apple distributor in SA, called me.
"The intention of the "Windows Compatible" decal on the marketing material that you came across was not to mislead the consumer at all, but rather to highlight the fact that these fantastic machines are also capable of running MS Windows.
In future we will ensure that the consumer is made aware that the price does not include MS Windows.
We will also takes steps to coach the retail staff to communicate clearly that a legitimate version of Windows is required in order to take advantage of this feature on the Mac."

Hilary gets her 3am wish

Remember this ad? Hilary Clinton wanted world leaders to phone her at 3am in the White House. Now she gets her wish, thanks to call diversion and a decent PABX at the White House. As Secretary of State she can talk to world leaders any time. BH Obama is cleverer than you think.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Apple: the piracy option

I phoned some of the the computer stores listed in the "Windows Compatible" ad (above) and asked them what it would cost extra to run Windows on a Mac.
Each salesman explained about Boot Camp, and how you would need to reconfigure a Mac's partitions to create a Windows partition. They also confirmed that Apple does not provide Windows support. The sad thing is that both salesmen encouraged me to install a pirate copy of Windows.
They talked about using "an existing Windows CD" and were quite surprised when I asked for the cost of buying Windows new, instead of using an existing copy of Windows. I was quoted R1126 for Vista Home Premium and R 1582 for Vista Business, but with no support. Perhaps those prices are excluding VAT, because PriceCheck lists WinXP Home edition DSP pricing starting at R1168 including VAT. Unless those are (illegal) upgrade prices, but even so they are lower than those indicated on PriceCheck.
The salesmen were surprised when I told them that installing Windows from a CD that came with a different PC was called piracy. The one guy ducked the question by saying "it depends on the number of licenses you have". That may be true for a large business with multiple licenses, but if a home user installs Windows on a different PC to the one it was supplied with, you are technically breaking the law. I wonder what Microsoft has to say about all this?

Update 26th January: Greg Hill, the product marketing manager at Core Group, the Apple distributor in SA, called me.
"The intention of the "Windows Compatible" decal on the marketing material that you came across was not to mislead the consumer at all, but rather to highlight the fact that these fantastic machines are also capable of running MS Windows.
In future we will ensure that the consumer is made aware that the price does not include MS Windows.
We will also takes steps to coach the retail staff to communicate clearly that a legitimate version of Windows is required in order to take advantage of this feature on the Mac."

And on a lighter note:

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Greatest Prank Call Ever


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tracker Offices Burn Down

The earliest known photo of the fire (above). Click on the photos for a bigger image.
Tracker is a national vehicle theft recovery and tracking service. Their head office building is next door to where I live, and they used to run a 24 hour call centre from the top floor. At 2:35 am today my wife woke me to say that the building was on fire. By 3:30 the entire top floor roof was destroyed, and the fire was still raging.

Anton Pietersen took this video

I took around 20 pictures, the best ones are here. My neighbours have been asking wild questions like "How could a building of this size not have a sprinker system?" Personally I think sprinklers in the ceiling would not have stopped the roof from burning down. No one has any idea how or where the fire started. That doesn't stop the wild speculation.
The ground floor seems unaffected, with lights on in the canteen area, and some computer monitors in ground floor offices on and working. Bizarrely, the switchboard message system was working at 4am, but when I asked to be put through to report a vehicle stolen, I got a "this line is not working" beep. Since the upper floor was burning, I'm not surprised. I wonder how long it will take Telkom to reroute the number? By 7.45am (when I called) their emergency call centre number was working again. I understand it was already switched over by 5.30.

Gareth Crocker, Communications Manager for Tracker left the following comment at 11am:
I would just like to let everyone know that Tracker's emergency call centre was recently moved from that building and escaped unscathed. We have a disaster recovery site and plan for this kind of thing which we are rolling out as we speak.
We don't anticipate major disruptions to our business come Monday morning.
Clearly their disaster recovery plan is working, and was well planned. It's also good to know no one was injured or burnt. I'm glad the call centre wasn't damaged, but the part of the building that used to house it is gone. I'm also glad no one was in the building at the time.
The intense heat from the roof burning is something I won't forget in a hurry.
It's an eery sound: there were no sirens or buzzers going off: just the occasional woosh of something bursting into flames, and the occasional sound of a computer monitor or something exploding from the heat.
You can view the (intact) building on Google Earth at 26° 7'55.74"S 27°58'47.86"E. My wife took the video on her phone.

The building in the foreground of these first pictures (below) is our block of flats. The view is looking through the trees to the inferno behind:
Update 4.30am: the fire department ran an additional fire hose to the hydrant across the street. This gives them an additional supply to the one in the office complex. By 6am it was no longer needed, as the flames had been put out.
Update 6am: More pictures now that the sun has risen.
The building in daylight, with the roof missing.
A weary fireman turns off the extra connection that crossed over the road. By 6am it was no longer needed.
A fireman on the top floor stands on the balcony above the cafeteria. You can see the wooden tables and umbrellas outside, and fire hoses running inside the building.
Update 7am: more pictures, and the smell of wood smoke.
The last few tendrils of smoke rise from the building. I guess the burning wood smell will be around for days to come. It's not unpleasant, and could have been a lot worse. The fire trucks had mostly left by around 7am.

Update 1.30pm: My neighbour Anton Pietersen took his video at between 2.30 and 3.05am, when the roof of the East wing (above) of the building was still burning. At 2pm a gentle rain helped damp down the ash. Now the slow process of cleaning up begins. I don't envy the Tracker guys that job, but at least they're safe.
Update 21 January 2009: I met with Piet Fourie, from the insurance company, and gave him copies of all the photos and videos, and made a statement. It looks like it could cost around R40 million to rebuild the building and replace all the damaged furniture. There is water damage on the floors that didn't have fire damage. The building entrance is destroyed as well, and so it's basically unusable for now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Zuma vs Zapiro

January 16 2009

September 8 2008

September 12 2008

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mike Hanna reports on Gaza

Mike Hanna was a senior correspondent for CNN for many years, and his stories on South Africa have always been well researched and well written. Now he works for Aljazeera English. Today I saw his report on Gaza, where the death toll has crossed the 1000 mark (including 535 children), and over 4600 injured. The names of some of the children who died are here. Help stop the bloodshed. Gaza in Ruins special report.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Puran Defrag 6 released

Puran Software recently sent me information on version 6 of their excellent Puran Defrag product.
New features include:
  • Multiple schedules are possible now.
  • Added Idle Time Defragmentation.
  • Added Screensaver Defragmentation.
Minor changes include:
  • Percentage display when moving large files.
  • Manual addition of file exclusion expression is now possible from main GUI.
  • Removable storage can be accessed from main GUI.
  • Changed registration system. Now with one permanent registration key for each user.
  • Puran Defrag now remembers its window position.
I have also had the opportunity to test the beta version of the product, and it has some nice improvements and finishing touches that existing customers will appreciate. I am still amazed at the quality of the software, as well as the simplicity of the interface. The current version is on sale for US$19.95, and the upgrade will be free for existing customers. You can expect a review as soon as I figure out how to benchmark the defrag products being reviewed.
Update Mon 12 Jan: The product has been released and registered users have been sent their new registration keys. More to follow

Saving Soweto - 24 Hours of Trauma

"A woman born in South Africa has more chance of getting raped, than learning how to read".

Aljazeera English has produced a documentary series about "Bara", which you can read here. These videos are not for the squeamish. According to Wikipedia, "Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the largest hospital in the world, occupying 173 acres (0.70 km2), with 3200 beds and 6760 staff members. The hospital is in Soweto, Johannesburg. It is one of the 40 Gauteng provincial hospitals," and is under-funded and under-staffed by the callous, uncaring politicians who supposedly run this country, but who prefer to waste money on perks and dinners, while the people suffer. Our former Minister of Health has a lot of blood on her hands.

"We have no ventilators available, and no ICU beds available. We can't take rescuscitation patients at the moment because we have nowhere to put them."

"On average we see about 3000 trauma patients a month. Approximately 300 resuscitations a month. That's an average of 10 a day."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

xkcd is absolutely right!

I found this cartoon on David Donde's blog. I couldn't help posting it again. The original is here.