Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Are airlines really using tricks in their advertising to get you to pay more?

I was reading the following article about supermarkets using surge pricing as Uber uses. I'm definitely not a fan of the idea, but I suspect in time it will come. In the end if it boils down to making more money, that tends to be the way of business.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/could-australian-supermarkets-introduce-epricing/news-story/c67c44fddd5264b9414fc1cbf792a02c

One section of the article which mentioned techniques used by airlines caught my attention. To quote a section of the article:

Hotels and airlines had been using an e-pricing system on the internet for years, Dr Coker said.
“They use little tricks, they know when you’ve been looking and gone away and when you come back. Some of them can adjust the pricing based on how often you’ve been looking,” he said.
“You’ll find when you go back the pricing is higher because it wants you to hurry up and buy it.”

Some time ago I was looking for a airline ticket for my daughter. She was about the book the ticket. I said wait a minute whilst I check another site. The other site wasn't as good. When she then went to book the price had increased quite a bit.

More recently I was looking for some accommodation on a major booking site. I did quite a bit of research and found rooms and prices. When I returned to book the price for the room had increased significantly and the free breakfast had also gone. If this hotel is using the techniques mentioned it may be worth them noting I would have booked there, but instead booked a different hotel.

I don't know if either of these were just coincidences where seat on the airlines had been taken, rooms in the hotel had been taken, or examples of how we are being manipulated by online sites. But it does mean we need to be watchful of such activity and even take into account how we search the internet.

We are now being tracked individually on the internet, but not all systems are as thorough. There may be techniques you can use to check you're not being hit with these techniques, or to minimise being affected by the techniques. For example:

  • Use one computer and internet service provider to do your research. When you're ready to book use a completely different computer and internet service provide. E.g. use your mobile data and fixed broadband which are most likely different internet service providers.
  • Clear the cache and history on your computer, particularly for the browser.
  • Use the incognito feature of your browser.
  • Perhaps use the Opera browser which can use a VPN or a VPN service.
  • Use different browsers.
  • Make sure you have logged off all services such as email and social media. Being logged into services makes it easy to track your activities.
  • Perhaps even do your research at the local library or computer store. The local Apple store has plenty of computers.

If you see any unusual behaviour of pricing techniques let others know they're occurring. By sharing the information we get some insight into how we may being tricked into parting with more money than we need to.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT support

Myki card expired with a balance on it. Get your money back.

OK. I figure this will happen to others. You get on a bus and your Myki card has expired. There's money on it but you can't use it. Not happy Jan. The only option at that point is to purchase another Myki card from the driver at a cost of $6 ($3 for concession) plus some credit. I'd say around $10 in total.

This will also be a problem for those catching trams. It's a nuisance at a train station but easily solved, as long as it's a larger station where they sell Myki cards.

Once the Myki card expires, which it does after four years, that's it for the card. If there's money on the Myki card don't throw it out. You can get the balance transferred to a new card and the new Myki card doesn't cost anything. Take your old card to the nearest large train station and they should be able to do it for you.

I just did this with four cards and recovered nearly $30. Not bad for the effort involved.

Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Free Bike Share Melbourne site now live.

Old bikes sitting around the home doing nothing? Why not share them with family and friends?

A while ago I decided rather than have bikes sitting in the shed, which I'd most likely eventually throw out, perhaps I could put the bikes to better use by sharing them.

I've decided to share the information I gained as I fixed up my bikes for family and friends. Perhaps others may benefit from what I've learnt. I've also added a web app so those sharing a person's bike, can let them know the location where they've left the bike.

If there's interest in my approach I'm happy to hear suggestions. Some of those suggestions may end up being added to the site to help everyone.

The Free Bike Share Melbourne site can be found at https://www.FreeBikeShareMelbourne.com.au.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.FreeBikeShareMelbourne.com.au

Victorian Stamp Duty calculator reflects July 2017 change.

At this stage I can't find the actual formulas used from the 1st of July for Victorian stamp duty on the transfer of property, which makes it hard for people to estimate how much stamp duty they may be up for after the 1st of July.

I decided to use the indicative table provided by the Victorian government, The assumption I've made is within each dollar range the saving is linear.

I've now updated the Victorian Stamp Duty Calculator to provide an estimate of the stamp duty and fees on the purchase of a property. In addition I've added a handy summary to provide an estimate of deposit + stamp duty + transfer fees.

You can find the Victorian Stamp Duty Calculator at www.VictorianStampDutyCalculator.com.au.

Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, June 09, 2017

Google Adsense Error 500. That's an error.


When trying to access Google Adsense Google returns error 500. That's an error. There was an error. Please try again later. That's all we know.
The 500 error has been occurring since yesterday. It doesn't matter it I use Safari or Chrome on a MacBook Air, or Chrome on Windows 10, the error still appears.

To get around this issue you can use the Google Adsense app on your mobile phone. You can still see you Adsense stats and there's no error.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT Support

Update: 12 June 2017
Checked the Google Adsense forum shows other people are experiencing the same problem. The following link can be used to check your balance from a desktop or notebook computer.
http://www.google.com/adsense/m/?unsupported=true

Update: 14 June 2017
A number of people were experiencing the same issue and had posted this on the Google Adsense Help forum. I added my issue as well in case knowing others were experiencing the same issue may help confirm the issue. Don't know if it helped. Google were aware of the issue. The issue was resolved within a couple of hours of my posting, however I think this was just a coincidence and nothing to do with my post.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Your AdSense Publisher Policy Violation Report

I received an email with the subject "Your AdSense Publisher Policy Violation Report" which at first was a bit concerning. The report stated:

In the last 24 hours

New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found.

For anyone using Adsense to generate income this type of report is a concern. I visited my adsense account to find someone had visit one of my sites using a proxy server at my-addr.org.

I checked my site and it was still serving ads. Things didn't make sense.

I checked the raw site logs and it appears someone with an IP address based in France visited my site. Based on the time involved (around three minutes) and their queries (information entered into the form) it looks like it may have been a real person. They were using Firefox as their browser.

Google Adsense reported six violations, which equates to one violation per each page the person visited. Google Adsense also reported it was a malware violation.

My best guess is the person's computer is infected with malware and when they visit a page, in the background the malware is effectively clicking on ads.

All of this is outside of my control and it would be a concern if Google Adsense suspended sites based on this. However, in this case Google Adsense appears to have suspended the pages using the proxy site address and not the actual site. That makes sense. At least they've not suspended my actual site.

In the back of my mind I always have this very unsettling feeling that Google will terminate my Adsense account for something that happens outside of my control. The lack of being able to contact Google directly in the past when their systems incorrectly disabled my blogs due to a technical issue, showed me how exposed I can be.

At least for the moment Google adsense continues to work and I don't have a problem. Even though I'd received the email for a violation and my Adsense account contains violation alerts. Google Adsense has apparently suspended pages, but they're not actually my pages and thus have no affect on me.

I share this story in the hope it helps to explain what happened to me and that might help someone else.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT support.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Where Did I Park My Car now has sharing using SMS for Android and iPhone.

Where Did I Park My Car was originally written to help people to make a map link to where they've parked their car. However, Where Did I Park My Car can be used any time you want to create a link with your location either for yourself, or to share with family and friends.

I have to admit I'm an email person and I share things using email. However, the next generation tends to use SMS more than email. For that reason I've added the email to share the map link for your location using SMS. Simply use the link for Android, or the link for iPhones. Text messaging will open with the message already formatted. Make any changes to the message and then send to one or more people.

Kelvin Eldridge
https://www.WhereDidIParkMyCar.com.au
Where Did I Park My Car

Properties being passed in reported as sold at Auction. Is this misleading.

Out of interest I've attended three auctions in recent times. Each of the auctions were passed in. After the auction the price is further negotiated and the buyer offers more to close the deal. The auction results on Realestate.com.au report these as sold at auction.

To me these have not been sold at auction, but sold after the auction. Stating they've been sold at auction makes it appear the auction provided a result, but it didn't. The negotiation after the auction provided the result.

Is this a new strategy to squeeze and extra $10-$15K out of potential buyers?

Why don't buyers just walk away. They've already most likely bid more than the property is worth. But they are probably so committed at this stage, what's $10-$15K more. However if they stood their ground would the agent want to miss out on the sale? Would the owner want to walk away from the sale for the sake of $10-$15K. That's very unlikely.

I don't think any bidder at an auction would throw in a higher bid against themselves, yet that's what they seem to be doing.

Are you prepared to walk away at an auction, or would you cave?

Is this the new norm? Pass in auction to then squeeze out that little bit more.

How many auctions are being reported as successful in realestate.com.au when in fact the property in my mind has really been sold after auction? Or is the negotiation phase after the auctions still considered part of the auction?

Kelvin Eldridge
www.JustLocal.com.au

Friday, May 26, 2017

Free Qantas Frequent Flyer membership.

One of my contacts is flying soon so I suggested they sign up for the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. If they end up flying Qantas they may get some points. In the past Qantas has provided free membership, although on their site they do charge $89.50. I decided to search the internet.

It appears if you use this link (https://www.qantaspoints.com/join-now?code=FAMILYFREE) you'll reach a form which will enable you to sign up to Qantas Frequent Flyer for free. As soon as I get someone to test this, if it works I'll update this post and let others know.

From what I've read the free offer is available until December 2017.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.JustLocal.com.au

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Optus IMAP email settings.

One of the tasks a client needed recently was a netbook set up so he could use Thunderbird as the email client. They were using Optus as their ISP.

Since they were using multiple devices, the obvious solution was to use IMAP if possible. Using IMAP means all devices see the same emails. With POP3 each device downloads emails and it can get a bit messy deleting emails as the same email needs to be deleted on each device. I prefer to set up email using SSL with the password being encrypted. This provides better security when using third party access points such as when travelling.

A quick check on the Optus site and the email settings didn't mention SSL, so I decided to check the internet. As usual there's a lot of misinformation with sites providing values for SSL for use with Optus. I tested the SSL port settings found on the internet crowd support sites and they did not work with Optus.

The Optus help does state that port 110 is used for IMAP/POP3 for incoming emails and port 25 for SMTP for sending emails. The server's address is mail.optusnet.com.au. This works, but there is no security, as in encryption of passwords.

If you're connecting directly to the Optus service using their fixed or mobile broadband this shouldn't be a problem. However, if you're travelling and using a third party access point to connect to your email, this is a real concern. Whilst travelling and using third party access points, it is perhaps best to use webmail, which will give you better security. Alternately think about using a service such as Gmail which provides better security for email clients.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT support.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blood Alcohol Calculator now available for when consumed multiple types of alcoholic drinks.

Recently I released the Standard Drink Calculator which enables people to calculate how many grams of alcohol they've consumed. The one limitation is the Standard Drink Calculator is only for a single type of drink.

Now I've released the Blood Alcohol Calculator which enables people to enter in up to six different types of drinks and the number of each drink. This is good for those situations where drinks flow from one type to another such as at a dinner, or some other function. It's not unusual for people to mix  a champagne, white or red wine, beer, or spirits. Now the Blood Alcohol Calculator enables people to determine their blood alcohol content more easily.

For times when a single type of drink is being consumed visit www.StandardDrinkCalculator.com.au, and for times when multiple types of drinks are being consumed visit www.BloodAlcoholCalculator.com.au.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.BloodAlcoholCalculator.com.au
www.StandardDrinkCalculator.com.au

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Where Did I Park My Car web app now has sharing via SMS message for Android users.

With mobile phones a lot of people appear to prefer SMS messaging over email and for while I've wanted to add the ability to share a location using SMS, but the feature is only supported by Android  mobile and not iPhones.

Since so many people now have Android mobiles I decided to add the ability to share the location link using SMS for Android users only. If Apple's iOS provides the feature in future I'll add a link for iPhone users as well.

It's interesting how many people want to have the ability to share their location or send themselves a reminder of where they've parked their car. The other day we returned from Sydney and caught the bus back to the long term parking. It takes quite a while to get back to the car park and the car park is huge. Having the ability to see where the bus was and where I car was parked made everything much easier.

If you want to share your current location with others, even send yourself a reminder as to where you've parked your car, check out Where Did I Park My Car at www.WhereDidIParkMyCar.com.au.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.WhereDidIParkMyCar.com.au

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Petrol Prices Melbourne blog to share news.

There's been times with the Petrol Prices Melbourne site that I would have liked to let people know of  price hike, low prices, and other things I feel people may be interested in.

I've now set up the Petrol Prices Melbourne blog to share information with those visiting the Petrol Prices Melbourne site. You can find the new blog at http://petrolpricesmelbourne.blogspot.com, or using the News link on the www.PetrolPricesMelbourne.com.au main page.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.PetrolPricesMelbourne.com.au

Kogan mobile offer, 14GB for $4.90.

I thought I'd share this offer as it caught my attention. Kogan have a special offer on the prepaid mobile plans. The one which caught my attention is the 14GB for $4.90. The period is 30 days and the offer expires at the end of May. The offer is for new customers only.


The reason this caught my attention is I'm testing 4G services and would like to run my home broadband off the mobile service. With 14GB that should give me nearly two weeks of service and testing time. After that I won't continue with the service, but it will have provided the value I currently need.

At other times I use an offer like this when I'm travelling.  To have 14GB available when travelling is very handy. Kogan does use Vodafone 4G so keep in mind coverage. So far however Vodafone 4G has provided a better coverage than their previous 3G service. If travelling to major centres in Australia the offer may be good.

Sometimes people run out of data or credit on their monthly plan. Having a spare mobile which can handle a Vodafone SIM means you can get an inexpensive way to get extra data, calls or SMS, whilst waiting for your current plan to rollover to the next month.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT support.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PayPal Here reader flashes red and green.

I decided to pull out my PayPal Here mobile card reader and charge it up. It probably hadn't been used for over a year. Even then the PayPal Here reader had only probably been used twice.

I expected it might be a problem having left the card reader for two years and not having charged it, but the reader charged up. When turning on the yellow star lights flashed but I couldn't connect it using Bluetooth. The blue Bluetooth light would never come up so could not be paired with a mobile phone.

After pressing the reset pin, next to the power button, and holding the pin in for eight flashes to reset, all the PayPal Here reader did is turn on, display a green light for a period of time, then the green light started to flash red and green.

From everything I've read, it appears when this happens to the device you simply need to get a new one. Hardly used, but now out of warranty, the option is to purchase a new reader.

That can't be good for PayPal. By reading the forums it appears quite a few people have the same issue. Since most people hardly used the reader, similar to myself, I've not received value from having the reader.

I can still use the PayPal Here app on the mobile phone which is most likely what I'll do.  Most of the time when credit card payment is required, I have clients go online and use my online form to pay using PayPal. That works well for me.

Replacing the PayPal reader for $49 (I originally paid $99) doesn't quite seem so palatable. This is the second PayPal reader I've had. The first was made obsolete fairly quickly and didn't get much use.

I also have the option of trying out the new Square device which interests me and it slightly cheaper. The disadvantage is dealing with another supplier.

Now at this point I know my options and can move on, but the one thing I haven't done is to ask PayPal. I decided to call PayPal. I think it is always good to see how a company responds.

I spoke to a very pleasant lady. Initially it was confirmed that yes the device was out of warranty and I'd have to purchase a new device. It was suggested the best option was to purchase at Officeworks as I could have the PayPal Here reader that day, or alternately they could get me another device, but it would take up to two weeks. As part of our chat I discussed my options including not using PayPal. The lady asked if I'd be happy it they were to credit my account with the $49 to offset the cost of purchasing a new unit from Officeworks. That was an unexpected offer which I accepted and will now purchase a replacement PayPal Here reader.

Overall I'm impressed with the service from PayPal. I didn't expect to have the outcome that occurred, and it really is a lesson that you need to ask, otherwise you really won't know.

As a business, having a PayPal Here reader ready for those times when your gut tells you it's best to receive payment upfront, gives you peace-of-mind. When one person I personally knew didn't pay, costing a couple of hundred dollars, taught me a valuable business lesson. The PayPal Here reader is the now insurance that payment will be received.

Full credit to PayPal for providing a positive customer experience.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au

Monday, May 15, 2017

Petrol Prices Melbourne update to show average terminal gate price. That is price where prices drop to.

Petrol prices in Melbourne follow a cycle of what is known as discounting followed by restoration. Over a period of time the price of petrol drops in Melbourne until it reaches a certain point, and then the price is restored with a large price increase. The cycle then starts again.

To many people it doesn't make sense when the price will jump. Miss out and you'll spend $10-$15 more for a tank of petrol. However, from my observation of the market, petrol prices drop to around, or slightly below the average terminal gate price. I tend to liken the average terminal gate price to the wholesale or cost price of petrol and we pay for petrol at the retail price.

Now having an idea as to when we'll be approaching the restoration phase of the petrol price cycle, we can be alert for the price jump. No longer do we need to think there will be a jump during most of the discounting phase.

During the discounting phase we simply shop around for the cheapest price and take advance of discount vouchers. Once the price nears the average terminal price, we can be ready for the first signs of the restoration phase and thus fill up our tanks to take advantage of the lowest prices in the cycle.

To make it easier to know the average terminal gate price, I've now added the average terminal gate price to the Petrol Prices Melbourne main page.

I hope this further piece of information helps take some of the mystery out of the petrol prices in Melbourne and helps save you some money.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.PetrolPricesMelbourne.com.au

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Would anyone notice if you disabled your Facebook account.

I'm not a big user of Facebook. I only have 18 contacts. I usually post multiple times a week. But I do think that people don't communicate using Facebook. One person posts and the other person reads. This isn't being social. It's one big noticeboard. Noticeboards aren't being social.

So in a moment of thought on Friday before last, the 5th of May, I decided to disable my Facebook account.

Who would notice? How long would it be before people noticed?

It's now been nine days. Not a single person noticed.

It's not that I haven't seen the people who are my contacts, as I have. About half of them during that time. Not a word about me not having a presence on Facebook.

How long would it be before anyone noticed if you disabled your Facebook account?

#facebookdisable

Kelvin Eldridge

Update: 23 May 2017
Still no one has noticed my Facebook account is disabled. Very interesting indeed.

Global cyber attack. Media reporting Australia not affected, but that doesn't appear to be correct.

A global malware attack is making the news, affecting hospitals in the UK. Tonight on the TV the news report said Australia was not affected. Yet earlier I'd check one site recording the attacks and Both Sydney and Melbourne were on the map.

I've just read Australia's security adviser has been one confirmed incident. Given that I've attended many malware infected customers over the years, none of these have ever been report, so we can expect many more organisations will have been infected.

The malware has been called Wannacrypt or Wycrypt. The malware appears to be a spear phishing attack delivered via email as an attachment. The term 'spear' usually referred to being targeted. The malware then encrypts files and infects other computers on the network.

It appears Windows 10 users are not affected.

Microsoft has now released patches and unusually includes patches for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, which are no longer in general supported or provided with updates.  The patch can be downloaded. For currently supported operating system run updates.

One person said on TV the tech guru said the only way to fix the problem is to replace the hard disk. In general this may be best option for some people, but if you're quick and switch your computer off when the infection first starts, there may be data you can recover. This has happened to one of my clients whose computer had had a couple of hundred files encrypted. All files were recovered. So if something like this starts to happen on your computer, it may be prudent to quickly switch it off.

The following article is from Microsoft and includes the link to the download for the Windows XP patch.

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/


Kelvin Eldridge
www.OnlineConnections.com.au
IT support.

Friday, May 12, 2017

First Home Buyers 'super saver scheme' looks like a real fizzer.

Going through the Budget 2017 information so far made available in the online media, all I can say is I'm very unimpressed with what the Federal Government has come up with for First Home Buyers.

Now I could be wrong, but it looks like a shocking scheme tying up people's money for perhaps $2,000-$3,000 benefit per person per year. That is a benefit of up to $12,000 for a First Home Buyer couple over two years or more years.

From what I read, individuals can put in extra money (additional contributions) into their superannuation starting on July 1st 2017. Let's say they put aside the full $15,000 each per year. That money is tied up for 12 months before they can access the money. A couple could put aside $30,000 in that time, if they had that money available. Two years minimum to get the full value from the scheme and save $60,000.

Now what if the First Home Buyers decide to purchase within the next twelve months. Since the money can only be withdrawn after a year, that saving could be locked up in the superannuation until retirement.

In the meantime, houses are going up in Melbourne and Sydney at over 10% a year. Even at a reasonable long term average of 5%, a $600,000 house (if you can possibly find one) has gone up $30,000 in the first year, far exceeding the $12,000 possible benefit from the scheme over the two years.

If really doesn't make much sense and people could potentially lock up their savings for a very long time if things change, such as they find and buy a great house at a great price in the meantime. Since they can't withdraw their money at that time, their savings become superannuation and I don't think that's what people may have wanted. Take that same money and put it into the mortgage and I'd guess you'll get a better return than most super schemes. Keep in mind money offset against a mortgage is interest saved and that's tax free, equivalent to 7-8% compounding interest and even more when interest rates go up.

Compare this with what the Victorian State Government has done. By removing stamp duty for properties under $600,000, a saving for First Home Buyers of around $15,000 instantly come July 1st, and much more for homes in the low $600,000 price range. No lock in. No lengthy period to wait. No potential for your money to be tied up should your circumstances change.

Before taking advantage of the Federal Government's scheme do think things through for yourself. It's not every day that the government gives you a tax saving incentive worth up to $12,000. But then again it does come with strings and that could end up biting you if you're not careful.

Superannuation is a very complex and ever changing area. Make sure you understand fully the implications of getting involved with anything to do with superannuation. Seek professional advice first if you have to.

Kelvin Eldridge