Friday, May 28, 2010

Alert: Don't trust St Vincents & Mercy Private Hospital Limited

Last July 2009 my daughter had an operation. We called the hospital twice to ensure we were covered and were told we were. All bills were fully paid.

In January 2010 they started sending notices that $58 was owed.

If you take the effort to call a hospital twice and ask if you are covered, the hospital should stick to their word.

I share this information to warn others.

- Kelvin Eldridge

TAGS: st vincent's hospital, st vincents hospital, st vincent hospital

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apple iPhones purr

Who would have thought your Apple iPhone loves you and purrs when you stroke it.

A while ago I noticed something quite unusual about my Apple iPhone 3GS. As I rubbed my thumb along the shiny chrome edge of the iPhone it felt rough for some reason. I thought perhaps there was something sticky along the edge. I checked and the edge was clean.

As I moved my thumb gently along the edge it felt like my iPhone was purring. Now I like my iPhone, but I really didn't expect it to like me too.

Sadly I found my iPhone hasn't developed feelings for me. It appears that sometimes when the iPhone is charging with the screen displaying information, the edge of the iPhone becomes live. I'm not sure what the voltage is, but I assume it is quite low.

If I hold the iPhone to close to my ear as a stroke the edge of the iPhone, I can actually hear the hum of electricity. In the past I thought I was prickled from my iPhone and thought it was my imagination. Now it makes sense. The metal on the iPhone appears to be live. Personally I prefer to think of the iPhone as being alive;-)

I wonder how many other people have a purring iPhone.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Alert: Plagiarism on the internet is rife

If you publish on the internet expect to be plagiarised.

At university plagiarism may be considered grounds for expulsion. However, in the real world of the internet it is very common for others to take people's work and call it their own. Whilst this is common, I personally don't believe it is right.

I have often found within an hour of publishing a post on the internet that someone has taken my content and called it their own. If you write a blog for your business with the hope it may promote your business, then also be aware your content may copied to promote others, and if their presence on the internet is stronger than yours, then your content will promote them and not you.

I'm happy for someone to take a short extract (a sentence, a paragraph) from my site and link others to the source. I think we'd all agree that is acceptable etiquette on the internet and how on the internet we help each other.

However when people start taking more than a paragraph, or sometimes the entire contents of a page and copy it to their site, then to me that isn't appropriate behaviour.

Here is an entry from a Facebook user which I feel is a good way to use a small amount of content from another site. Only a small section of the content is used and a link is provided to the site providing the information. This approach helps both the original poster and the new poster.

On the other hand, here is a blog post from another site. If you check what I've written you'll see they have taken my material, edited it to make it look like they wrote it and called it their own. No credit. Pure plagiarism. I would find it hard to trust and deal with a site that works that way. To me it reinforces the saying "judge a person by their actions, not by what they say".

Just received an email
Friday, May 07, 2010
Subject: Thank you for buying iTunes Gift Certificate!

Just before I deleted this email from my spam filter, I just thought I’d check it out. Whilst I was quite certain it was a scam, I also think many people will be tricked with this free offer of an iTunes Gift Certificate.

The body of this email contains the following:

You have received an iTunes Gift Certificate in the amount of $50.00 You can find your certificate code in attachment below.

Then you need to open iTunes. Once you verify your account, $50.00 will be credited to your account, so you can start buying music, games, video right away.
iTunes Store.

There’s no company logo – and the next clue is the email contains the attachment and in the attachment is the program file iTunes_certificate_197.exe.

Alarm bells ring when someone sends an .exe file as an attachment – you’ve been warned

Honestly I was quite surprised/shocked to see people so openly copying other people's material and then with a bit of editing putting it on their site as though they wrote it themselves. The iTunes email was an obvious scam. Exactly what this site is doing I'm not sure, but I would certainly avoid them. At least the site said something true which is "Alarm bells ring" and if you see a site copying another site's material that should certainly ring some alarm bells for you.

In the past I've seen IT businesses in New Zealand and Western Australia take whole pages from my site and include it on their own site as their material. As a business practice an IT business copying another site's material is crazy. If you can't trust them on how they act on the internet, how could you trust them with your confidential information on your computer. A local council once took a graphic from my site that I took months to get approved and simply added it to their site without seeking permission. Copying of material can be done by anyone and any organisation both private and government.

More recently I've noticed an increasing number of skeleton sites taking material using automated methods. The aim appears to quickly generate material to generate advertising revenue, or a better position in search engines. The real concern is some of these site may end up containing malicious material such as links to malware and that could mean my material is being used to trick others. That too me is a real concern. The lesson here is if you use standard tools on the internet such as well know sites, then the chances of your information being copied increases significantly with automated tools.

I previously loved supporting Open Source projects and spent hundreds of hours building open source material. However sites like Firefox and Google Chrome simply came along and took the material I produced and gave nothing back. That is what open source appears to be about, but it is not the way I work. The real problem is when those who take don't contribute back to those who give, they end up killing off the source of their material. After nearly eight years of participating in open source I no longer support or contribute to open source as a result.

If you run a business and publish material on the internet, be aware that others may be using the material that you spend hours to generate.

If you use other people's material I personally feel you should link to the material and give the original creator the credit and some of your energy. Including too much is a sure way to kill of those that help you. Knowing that an 80 million dollar business like Mozilla/Firefox and a 21 billion dollar business like Google is benefiting from my work with no return for me, simply meant I stopped developing for open source. I'd estimate there are half a million to possibly millions of Australians using my material and the benefit to me financially was less than $150. I really believe if we help each other we all grow. These who simply leech off others without giving something back to them will simply cause the developers of the material to stop producing.

By all means link to other's material. Provide the minimum amount of text from the other site. A sentence or a paragraph. Don't copy whole sections of their site without their permission. You wouldn't want others to do it to you, so don't do it to others.

The good thing with the internet is plagiarists copy and if they found your material on the internet, you can often find the copy of your work. That probably won't help you, but once you know others are copying your material then you can adjust how you use the internet.

For anyone who is thinking about dealing with a site, do a search using parts of sentences of material from their site using Google, Yahoo or Bing. If they've been copying material from other sites and calling it their own, you'll most likely find the source and you'll then know the site to trust.

I hope this information alerts other small businesses of the considerable level of copying of content which is occurring on the internet and enables them to take that into account when they produce material for their site.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Be careful of data charges when travelling overseas

If you aren't on some form of a data plan in Australian and you use data on your mobile phone, you could end up getting an extremely large bill. When you go overseas you may think you are covered with your plan. You should think again. Even with very light use you could end up with a bill for hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars.

The following is from an article published on the Australian which shows the range of prices for data when overseas. This is called roaming.

The charges for data roaming vary by operator for Australians ranging between $5.12 and $20.48 per megabyte for postpaid customers and $15.36 and $51.20 per megabyte for prepaid customers, the report found.

I read recently where one person was overseas using their iPhone as a street directory and ended up with a bill for hundreds of dollars.

During a month with very light internet usage, mostly checking emails, I would use around 100MB on the iPhone. The cost for the 100MB in Australia is $10 using Telstra prepaid. However if I were to do the same overseas, that same very light usage could end up costing from $1,536 to $5,120, which to me is one of the reasons we are seeing staggering excess charges.

When I've travelled I've purchase credit for wireless internet at the hotels and used internet cafes. At least that way I know what my costs are. There is nothing worse to spoil a great holiday than to get a staggering unexpected bill when you return.

I personally prefer prepaid because if you do something wrong, most of the time you end up only going through your credit. On a plan you may not be protected.

Take care.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Alert: Polldaddy News

I received an email today which I thought was interesting. It was a very well written newsletter from Polldaddy with the subject Polldaddy News and from Lenny [newsletter<@>] (angle brackets added by me to avoid a possible email link).

The start of the email contained the following:

Hi Kelvin,

Welcome to the Polldaddy semi-occasional newsletter. Every month or so we’ll send you Polldaddy news and special offers, exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Let us know what you think, and what else you’d like to see in this space. Thanks for using Polldaddy and if you like it, please tell a friend!

I don't recall every using or signing up for anything to do with Polldaddy so I decided to investigate it further.

I checked where the email came from and it was from Texas in the United States. It isn't a surprise to receive unwanted emails from America. In the past I've worked out that America accounts for approximately 30% of spam I've received. That's ten's of thousands of unwanted emails for myself alone.

I then checked the site. It appears to be a standard site set up to get people to click on links which indicates it's primary purpose is to act as an affiliate advertising site.

In summary, until I can find any information to the contrary, this is a spamming attempt designed to get people to the site to click on links which generate the site income. The newsletter appears to be designed to trick you into feeling like you may be a member of their service.

I would suggest deleting this type of email.

- Kelvin Eldridge

How to work out the payback for installing solar panels

We are all being presented with the idea of installing solar panels. In some states you even receive nearly three times the rate you pay when you generate excess electricity which goes back into the grid. Does this mean you'll end up getting paid for the excess electricity you generate?

One electricity company is offering a 1.5kWh solar panel system fully installed for $2,990. Payments over 24 months with a 10% initial payment and the remainder is paid interest free. Sounds pretty good doesn't it. I thought so. I've also seen companies offering to install similar sized solar panel installations for twice the price or more, so it is good to shop around.

I decided to do some rough calculations.

First I needed to find out what the real world figures are for a 1.5kWh system. From a bit of research I found in general, the amount of electricity that would be generated per day to be estimated at 4 times the kWh rating. I read other figures stating from 3 and going up to 7, perhaps more in summer. To look at this more simply, whilst the sun shines during the day, we effectively get around 4-7 hours of sun generating electricity per day depending on the season. We can then use an average of 5.5 hours per day for our calculation.

Using the electricity cost calculator and plugging in the figure of 1,500W (1.5kWh system) for 5.5 hours the total dollar value of the electricity generated will be $605.26 per year.

In addition, if you are spending $2,990 and decided instead to keep the money in the bank, you'd earn interest on the money. Since the payments are over two years you'd lose approximately $150 in interest based on a 5% interest rate.

Thus the total cost without any additional charges being incurred would be approximately $3,140.

The saving of $605.26 would take approximately five years to recover.

"But what about the 60 cent rebate I get back when I generate electricity back into the grid", you might ask.

This is where I think the government has been very clever by providing this incentive, but the question becomes, is it a real incentive.

All you need to do is to check your electricity bill and determine your average usage per day. I've read the average electricity usage for Australians is around 14-17kWh per day.

In winter the solar panels are expected to generate 4 hours at 1.5kWh, which is 6kWh per day and in summer it will be 10.5kWh. Based on these figures, for most Australians, for most of the time, they won't be getting any rebate. The easiest way to know is to check your bills and how much electricity you use during each quarter. I have heard of one person getting a rebate and I must say I was impressed. The couple both work and are rarely at home during the day. If your electricity usage can be lowered to below the amount the solar panels generate, then yes you should get a rebate. Even then however, I don't expect it will be much.

In summary the payback on investing in solar panels can be expected to be around five years. To me a five year payback is a long time and makes the decision whether to install or not much harder.

Other things that may be worth considering are:
  • Electricity prices are expected to increase over the coming years.
  • Whether people will see the solar panels on your home and consider them to have increased or decreased the value of your home. I love the idea of solar energy and solar panels, but most installations I've seen tend to look ugly.
  • I've read and haven't yet confirmed, that during a power outage the solar panels won't supply electricity.
  • If you are at home most of the time during the day, then the chances of you getting a rebate would appear to be reduced.
  • I've read where people have lost their off-peak electricity as a result of installing solar panels. With their electric hot water systems they end up paying more for electricity than they did before installing a solar system.
  • I've read that any rebate received by pensioners will be considered income.
  • I haven't read the contractual obligations which I believe people should read carefully.
  • A person expressed concern to me should an installer damage a tile which isn't identified at the time and it if causes damage, the damage may not be covered by insurance. I've previously had work done which caused unexpected damage, as well as a tradie breaking tiles, so I understand this concern.
  • We are now saving an estimate $400 a year by reducing electricity usage with little or no outlay. Even if you do consider solar panels, you should also consider reducing your electricity usage. The benefit of this is you also increase your chances of getting the rebate.
I hope this information helps others to determine their situation and aid in making a better, more informed decision with regards to solar panels.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Virtual Profit Sharing member

I'd like to welcome Christina Peros as the latest Virtual Profit Sharing member. You can find Christina's member page as

- Kelvin Eldridge

Monday, May 24, 2010

How I got sued by Facebook

I read this article How I got sued by Facebook and thought it was interesting as it showed the Facebook information a person was able to gather using fairly straight forward data gathering techniques.

In this case the person appears to be a decent person, but it begs the question, "what are those who are up to nefarious activities doing with the data?"

Recently I showed my wife that if you know a person's Facebook profile number you can search Google using the term Facebook and their number and you'll see what Google has gathered. I think that is something people should do as an exercise. It shows their data is not just internal to Facebook. It shows how other companies and individuals have access to their data.

The problem is when you do the search often your picture is displayed and so are the names and pictures of 8 of your friends. I don't think most people would no that is happening. Did your friends give you permission to display their photos when your name is searched?

There a nearly 500 million users of Facebook. Each will have dozens and many hundreds of connections. Given the hypothetical six degrees of freedom, with little data mining effort it may be fairly easy to find a contact to enable an introduction to another person. That doesn't feel terribly safe to me.

I also showed my wife another person's profile. I said their interests are public. How easy would it be for a person to pretend to be interested in something just to get to know someone once they have prior knowledge of their interests. It would certainly be a good ice breaker. This of course has been going on well before the internet, but the internet makes things simpler.

I recently heard of a story of one person who met someone at a nightspot. They gave no details to them but by the next day the person had tried to friend them.

I don't know whether this was true or not, but I read a while ago that who you are connected to online may affect whether you can get a loan. The theory went that if you connected to people who are a credit risk you may be considered a credit risk. If your circle is well off people then you may be considered a good credit risk. I've also heard of people in America not getting work because of their online activities.

With approximately 500 million people worldwide using Facebook, reportedly 25% of online users using Facebook, that means those who have access to the data can effectively map and determine the relationships of a quarter of the online population. That is a huge responsibility.

All I can suggest is people take care. Keep in mind you are giving your information to another organisation. Their aim is to make money off your information. You don't know what they or others are doing with your information. You don't even know who "they" are or could be.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, May 21, 2010

Facebook D-Day

My daughter asked me yesterday if I was going to participate in Facebook D-Day, which I believe is on the 31st of May. I said, "probably not". Today however, I've been thinking, perhaps for me it is a time to have a D-Day for all the services I've connected to that create a lot of noise in my life but add little value.

Perhaps it is a time for Spring cleaning, the irony being most of the online services have been created in the Northern Hemisphere where it is currently Spring. The real problem is I have these various accounts that as a business sounded like a good idea at the time, but from my experience, and based on the observations of others, don't seem to offer any real value and simply consume valuable time.

So I've decided. Those services I'm not actually using such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and others are going on D-Day.

Whilst I do hope that if you are on my mailing list that you get great value out of what I share, but if you don't, then feel free to D-Day me. Unclutter your life. Focus on what's important to you. Your family, your friends and most importantly yourself.

If you closed down Facebook tomorrow how many of those "friends" would continue to contact you tomorrow, in a week, or a month. My bet is most of the people you constantly share your life with aren't really as close as you think. That's the reality of the virtual world. It isn't real. It only feels real. Your real friends and acquaintances will follow you through life in the real world. I don't know about you, but there is something exciting about catching up with an old friend and sharing what you've been up to.

I can't help smiling because I know for many, to disconnect from services like Facebook and Twitter where being busy with a constant flow of updates has become the norm, the idea of disconnecting will be overwhelming. If services like Facebook, Twitter and others add real value to your life then they are of value and you should keep them. If they are only creating noise that keeps you busy, then perhaps it is time to review.

For me I suppose one of the underlying reasons I'm considering disconnecting from the services is I no longer feel comfortable with what they are sharing. When a business model is based on a free service, then it has to make money in some other way. A way you may not have agreed to, or just as bad, agreed to, but not be aware to what you agreed to, or the implications.

When my daughter turned 18 her Facebook account become public without her knowledge. Whilst she adjusted her settings after I pointed it out, she still left things visible to others she didn't want visible. I can still search on her name on the internet using Google and still see pictures of some of her friends.

In my opinion online services should start on the premise that your information is yours. You should decide who can do what with it. If that doesn't make money for the business providing the service, then they should provide a way for you to pay for the service. Free most often means you or your information is being used by someone else for their gain. I think services should be upfront and transparent in what they do.

For me D-Day is a time of clearing out the closet, but in a way it is protest against the modern trend of using people's information for commercial gain without those involved really knowing how their information is being used.

The great thing is you always have choices.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Google going a little too far?

I use a number of Google services which I find to very useful. A little while ago I signed on to a Google service I use, checked some things and then signed off. During that session (I don't know if I was signed on or not) I also did some searching for power generators, as I'm researching solar electricity. I decided it was time for breakfast and so closed my computer down.

I'm dieting and whilst having breakfast I came up with an idea. I've written a calculator which enables people to determine their Body Mass Index and Basal Metabolic Rate. The calculator produces stats which people can use to diet. I use this technique and have lost 20kg.

I was thinking perhaps using my calculator differently might make it easier for people to lose weight. I have a belief that in general we become overweight because we eat more than our body needs (a fairly obvious statement). In effect we eat the amount of food for the weight our body will become. What if we determined how much we want to weigh and then eat the amount of food required to sustain that weight. If we are overweight, then in time we'll become the weight we are aiming to achieve.

I opened up my computer went to  (which is where I have the BMI/BMR calculator) and clicked on the graphic to the page. I then entered my numbers and hit submit. I got two very interesting results. The calculator gave me the answer of approximately 8,943kJs per day. That's the answer I wanted. If I eat at that energy level then in theory, I should eventually become roughly the weight I entered. To me that's an incredible way to think about dieting. Eat for the weight you want to be.

That is vastly different from dieting. For example, to diet I eat between 6000-6500 kJs per day. It isn't hard to diet, but dieting is about correcting my overeating from the past, a weight which I gained over many years and taking off over a shorter period. Eating for the weight you want to be means over a much longer period of time your weight will come down to what you want it to be and it will take much less effort. Like the turtle and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

However, what I didn't expect was the Google ad results at the top of the page.

The ads don't relate to the page. They relate to the Google searches I performed in an earlier session. It appears Google is recording information relating to my searches and linking it to me.. The BMI/BMR page has nothing to do with power generators and I didn't perform any searche in the current session.

Google appears to be taking information from one session about what I'm interested in and then at a later time showing me ads relating to my earlier interest. To do that it means Google has to be tracking me as an individual in some way. To me that's a bit, shall I say, freaky. Based on my knowledge of computers, I know it is possible in theory to identify and track an individual on the internet. That person may not be known by name, but a name after all is just a tag. Whether my name is Kelvin or Bob doesn't really matter. Tracking me at an individual level I feel has gone one step too far. By all means if I'm looking at a page relating to weight loss display weight loss ads. If I'm searching for information relating to power generators then in the results display relevant ads. But follow my movements on the internet and then present advertising based on what I've shown interest in previously, now that's creepy.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I know this can be done in a number of ways. I just hadn't seen it implemented until now. I suppose it really boils down to knowing that if you go to one site and provide information, then going to another site which has some form of relationship to the first site means you can be tracked. Lots of organisations put code onto their pages which potentially enables third party organisations to track users' movements.

I certainly learnt something today I didn't really think about too much before and will now review some of the pages on my site.

I've said to many people over the years whenever you sign on to the internet (or probably any modem form of communication) your movements can be traced to you personally. Who has access to that information and how those people use that information is outside of our control. One thing for sure is it will be in their interest and not necessarily ours. Perhaps knowing a little more will help us to make better decisions.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blogs now live for Templestowe, Tempelstowe Lower, Bulleen, Doncaster, Doncaster East, Eltham and Eltham North

A while ago due to the work involved in maintaining multiple blogs, I decided to consolidate the blogs for Templestowe, Tempelstowe Lower, Bulleen, Doncaster, Doncaster East, Eltham and Eltham North into a single blog. To me this wasn't ideal.

I've now developed some new technology which create posts for each blog with less time involved which will enable me to again make information more relevant to those in their local area.

The blogs for 3106, 3105, 3107, 3108, 3109 and 3095 are now live. You can access each blog from the News/Blog menu item on the JustLocal postcode page.

I'm very excited with this latest update. I also have to thank Microsoft. I've been a fan of open source software in the past but the more I move back to Microsoft software, the more I'm to be able to do and the easier it is to to it.


- Kelvin Eldridge

Incredible value for JustLocal advertisers

The aim of JustLocal is to make sure every business advertising on JustLocal gets value or their money back. Advertising generally means paying up front with no guarantee of a return on the investment. Yes it is great to then get your money back if it doesn't work, but when we advertise we want it to work. We don't really want our money back, do we.

I then thought how can I make sure advertisers always get value in a way they cannot lose. Then I had a thought. I run an IT consulting business and as I solve problems I often document the solution. Many problems can take hours to resolve and as you can appreciate, at IT consulting rates that can add up. I decided to trial making my solutions which are documented in MyAnswers, available for free for JustLocal advertisers. All it takes is one solution I provide and you'll get the value and often more than what you paid to advertise on JustLocal. Plus you'll still have JustLocal working to promote your business.

Check out the MyAnswers solutions. There are nearly 2,000 solutions and I continue to add solutions every week. Even if you said each solution was worth $10, that's still nearly $20,000 of potential value and some solutions have taken hundreds of dollars worth of time.

As you can probably tell I'm pretty excited to make this offer. I will keep this offer open for a limited time and I'll make the solutions available to those who take up the offer for a period of 12 months.

Now not only will you have an excellent advertising service promoting your business in your area, but you'll have the opportunity to save a bundle with MyAnswers solutions. You simply can't lose and that's the way I like to do business.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How others are using material from your site on their site

Today I noticed an entry in my log that referenced only a single file. That means someone is linking directly to a particular file on my site. They aren't visiting my site, simply using material from my site.

I decided to investigate.

The site in question was

The file they are linking to is the-immortals.jpg, which is an image of the book Pathway of the Gods
by Joanne Mitchell
I promote on my site.

I then went to the site. Perhaps they are also promoting Joanne Mitchell's book I thought.

However when I visit the site the image is on the site, but it has nothing to do with Joanne Mitchell's book. A bit strange I thought.

If you check the site you'll see the site is a largely a collection of links to other sites. That's quite common. The pictures are provided by a Google facility. So in essence Google is providing a tool which enables sites to use the content of other sites without permission. The only reason the image appears on the site appears to be to fill out the site with material by others.

I don't know about you, but the use of pictures from other sites without permission doesn't quite sit well with me.

I've often felt that Google's image facility is bordering on unfair use of material from other sites. It takes a full section of content and makes that available to others. If I took someone's image and put it on my site without permission I'd consider that to be wrong.

We all link to other sites and in doing so include short sections of text. The question becomes one of what people consider to be fair use.

I recently heard of a situation where a person took sections of other people's work and called it their own. Some consider this to be modern day creativity. Others consider it plagiarism. Maybe it is a bit of both.

For me the important thing is for people to know how their material is being used by others when they may not be aware it is happening. Checking your site logs will often indicate where your material is being used by others. Reviewing your robots.txt file for your site is also something to consider. I for one will be reviewing my robots.txt file in the near future.

- Kelvin Eldridge

UPDATE: I've researched and written up how I created the robots.txt for my site. This hopefully will reduce unwanted bot traffic as well as Google and other search engines indexing files which I'd prefer they didn't use. The MyAnswers solution 1982 is now available to clients and JustLocal advertisers.

Free Optus fusion plan upgrade that promotes as giving more but gives me less

Today I received a call from Optus telling me they were upgrading my Optus Fusion account for free and how they were giving me more benefits for free which included more data. As it turned out during the call something twigged. I really have lost confidence in telephone companies. When they say they are offering me more, I have to ask why and what they are taking away.

I've seen Optus change their plans before where they introduced a fantastic bargain package (two telephone lines, dial-up internet and basic cable TV for around $25) and then after the contract was up separated all the components so it wasn't obvious and the new price totalled around $80.

During the call they said I'd have unlimited local calls and unlimited national calls. I'd also receive unlimited calls to Optus mobiles. I said wait a minute. I already get unlimited calls to all mobiles, not just Optus. I told them quickly I didn't want them to touch my plan. They were giving me more data which I don't currently use and taking away mobile calls which I do currently use.

I checked the Optus web site and the Optus Fusion plans have changed. The $109 plan with unlimited calls to any mobile is now the $129 plan with more data. I only use 50% of my current data allowance and so extra data isn't currently of value to me.

If you receive a call from Optus telemarketing be very careful. You could be changing to a plan that ends up costing you more.

I am now out of contract and paying month to month. I am really concerned that Optus will start charging me for something which I believe is currently included in my plan. At $129 I'd seriously review what Optus is offering.

I would suggest if you receive a call to thank them for their time and then hang up. Go to their web site and check the plans. A telephone call from a telco's representatives is more likely to be in their favour than yours. It is important you look after your interests.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, May 14, 2010

Word Check is now only avaliable to customers

Over the last eight years I've provided Australian English dictionaries now used by possibly over a million Australians. I previously ceased contributing to open source projects as I found my energy was being used with very little in return. Projects such as Firefox/Thunderbird, Google Chrome and use my work and energy but have provided nothing in return. I've literally tried everything I could think of and to be frank, over the years the total financial contribution was around $150 and very few people contributed to the dictionary.

I've decided since it is my clients that enable me to support my family with their financial support I need to focus my energy on those who support me. Word Check will now be available to clients of Online Connections, advertisers on JustLocal, those using my Virtual Profit Sharing page to buy from VPS partners and those purchasing products and services from my pages on JustLocal. In effect anyone who supports me financially or in other ways.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience. I trust you will understand and thank you for visiting my site.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alert: Account has been limited - Gumtree Australia

Tonight I received an email purporting to be from Gumtree Australia. I believe this is a phishing attempt as I don't have an account with Gumtree Australia and have never used their service. The following is the body of the email.

Dear Member,

Your online has expired. If you want to continue using our service you have to renew your online

• Copyright © 2005-2010 Kijiji International Limited.

I decided to investigate further. The link took me to a site and a sub folder

Checking the site showed it had nothing to do with Gumtree.

This appears to be an example of where the site has been hacked and the hacker has placed a sub folder on the site which provides a fake login screen. The fake login screen is designed to obtain a person's Gumtree's sign in details including their emails address/nickname and password.

For those businesses with a site it is important to regularly check your logs for suspicious activity. Hacking of sites is extremely common.

If you receive emails I've found one of the quickest ways to confirm the email is a phishing attempt is to check the link. In Outlook you simply hover your mouse over the link text and the address will be shown. Many free email services don't provide this feature and it is easy for people to be tricked when they can see the address information.

It is a good idea not to click on links in an email. Go to the site you use and enter your details in the site.

You should immediately delete these emails.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Alert: TinyMCE

I thought it was prudent to let others know I regularly see in my logs people attempting to go direct to a particular page on my site. No other page or file, just a particular page, which doesn't exist on my site.

I can't be sure, but this feels like a hacking attempting. Today I saw another attempt. When I checked where the person was located they were in Russia. The link they were trying to access was:

As I said I'm not sure there is an exposure, but when I see a number of attempts to go directly to a single file in a site, to me, that is a good indication that perhaps someone is up to nefarious activities.

If you use or are thinking of using TinyMCE on your site, you may wish to make sure it is secure.

From what I hear and read there are a great number of hacked sites where owners of the sites don't realise their sites are being used by others without their knowledge. This can be for any purpose such as spreading malware, phishing attempts, garnering better placement in search engines, or many other purposes that we may never even think of. I'd highly recommend that if you run a site that you check your visitor logs and error logs on a regular basis. .

- Kelvin Eldridge

MyAnswers now FREE for consulting clients and JustLocal advertisers

MyAnswers contains a wealth of information. Many tens of thousands of dollars of consulting time has gone into solving problems and documenting solutions to those problems for clients.

In appreciation of the support given to myself and my family over the years by my consulting clients, I've decided to make all solutions available free upon request. For those wishing to advertise on JustLocal I'm also making the solutions available for free as additional value for joining JustLocal. One solution can easily pay for advertising on JustLocal and there are nearly 2,000 solutions available.

I can't understate the value in the MyAnswers solutions. This is type of information consultants will charge hundreds of dollars to solve your problem. I use the database of solutions on a regular basis to assist clients. They are in effect my notes which help me solve my clients problems. It is quite difficult to remember how I solved a problem a year or more ago, but having the solution documented saves my clients time and money.

Thank you once again for your support.

- Kelvin Eldridge

Friday, May 07, 2010

Alert: Thank you for buying iTunes Gift Certificate!

Today I received an email with the subject Thank you for buying iTunes Gift Certificate!

Rather than have OzEfilter delete this email at the mail server before it reached my computer, I decided to investigate. Whilst I was quite certain it was malware, I can't help feeling many people will be tricked with the free offer of an iTunes Gift Certificate.

The body of this email contains the following:

You have received an iTunes Gift Certificate in the amount of $50.00 You can find your certificate code in attachment below.

Then you need to open iTunes. Once you verify your account, $50.00 will be credited to your account, so you can start buying music, games, video right away.
iTunes Store.

This email is plain text which is the first clue that it is likely to be malware. A legitimate email from the Apple would prominently display their branding, but of course so would a more professionally created malicious email, so lack of branding is a clue that something isn't OK in this case.
Another clue is the email address that it was sent to. I use different email addresses for different purposes. This email address isn't used for anything to do with Apple. This reminds me of the days when I used to provide a different password to each video rental library. I'd heard of some libraries getting robbed and if their records were stolen, then customers using the same password in multiple stores left themselves open to people using their details to borrow movies at other local stores. This approach of using different email addresses is useful on the internet. Provide companies you deal with financially with a different email address and not the one you use publicly. Don't use a single first name as part of your email address as the increases your chances of receiving spam and malware.
The next clue is the email contains the attachment and in the attachment is the program file iTunes_certificate_197.exe. There is no reason for any business to send a certificate which is a program. That's a dead give away this is potential malware.
A scan of the zip file using Microsoft Security Essentials returns no result. This is normal for new malware and I'd be pretty confident based on my testing of Microsoft Security Essentials, that other anti-virus software programs wouldn't detect the malware as well. That is why I use OzEfilter. It takes up to 48 hours for anti-virus software to be updated to handle the latest threats. The only thing that protects you from new malware is the action you take. With OzEfilter it means I check a summary of what I'm about to receive first before receiving it. As a result only a couple of malicious emails each year ever get close to my computer.
If you receive a free gift unexpectedly in the email just think back to the story of Troy and the Trojan Horse. This trick has been around for for centuries. You'd think we would have learnt how to spot a Trojan Horse by now.
You should delete these emails immediately you receive them.
- Kelvin Eldridge

Update: 12:11pm

If you do get caught with malware like this, the first thing I suggest to clients is to turn their computer off so it doesn't potentially infect other computers on the network. I then investigate and remove the virus. I see lots of people get their family and friends to assist and often they make things worse. I've also seen a friend go to two different professional IT support businesses and by the time they contacted me, it took a great deal of work to recover their data from their machine and get the computer working again. One of the IT support businesses even told my friend they'd need a new hard disk which was wrong advice.

If it was me and I didn't have IT knowledge, I would turn the computer off for a couple of days. Usually within 48 hours your anti-virus software company will update their virus signature file and that update may remove the malware. If that doesn't work I'd then take a backup copy of all the important data on the computer, as the computer may need to be repaired and sometimes that requires reformatting the computer.

I wouldn't suggest installing another anti-virus software package at this stage because in the past I've seen that make things worse.

As IT support can be very costly, for some home users I've suggested that once they have a copy of their data, sometimes the most cost effective way for them to fix the problem is to restore the computer using the restore disk that came with the computer.

For those people in Melbourne who require assistant I can check out their infected computer. For those elsewhere, you'll need to find a good IT support person. Someone who is recommended and has a track record. Sadly there are a lot of very average people providing IT services and many can make the problem worse. Before getting someone to fix your computer make sure you first get a backup copy of all your data if it is possible.

Update: 1:06pm

Have a great birthday anonymous Mac user. In terms of the malware affecting Mac computers, at this point in time I'd guess with Microsoft having around 90% of the operating system market, malware writers will focus on Microsoft operating systems. However, as malware writers start to target vertical markets this might lead to increased attacks against Mac computers.

I checked the malware file and it contains the line program cannot be run in DOS mode which would lead me to feel it will only run on Windows machines.

I wouldn't suggest for anyone try to find out if it will run on the Mac.

Update: 3:16pm

Anonymous wrote to let us know their roomie used Restore to fix their computer. Many malware programs stop Restore from working. If this is correct and this malware hasn't affected Restore, then using Restore is an excellent approach to try. Thanks Anonymous.

Update: 4:26pm

Beth. My guess is running the program on the Mac won't work and so your computer should be OK. I don't use a Mac and can't categorically say it won't run, but since the Mac uses a different operating system I can't see how the program would run.

I applied the Microsoft Security Essentials that recently became available. This update still does not detect the malware.

Update: 11.58pm

I've kept checking for an update to Microsoft Security Essentials every couple of hours and the update is now available which identifies the malware.

Thanks too Geert for the link to another site. Unfortunately I don't publish links to other sites without further research. I've found going to a site with virus information in the past to infect a computer. Recently I've seen an enormous proliferation of sites copying material from other sites. Even this blog post has been copied by at least one other site (slight editing) to pass off as their own. Some of these sites use others' content to generate traffic and others for scamming. My apologies for not releasing the comment. I trust you'll understand.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Web pages designed for Apple iPhone Safari browser

For those with an Apple iPhone, you can now more easily use the Electricity Cost Calculator and the BMI/BMR Calculator.

When I first designed these online calculators I thought they would display well on the Apple iPhone. However the Safari iPhone browser shrunk them and they weren't as easy to use as I'd hoped. I've recently modified the calculators and now if you use the calculators in landscape, the calculator takes up the full screen which makes them very easy to use.

The Electricity Cost Calculator enables you to easily calculate how much an appliance costs you to run on a daily and yearly basis. It also enables you to determine the payback period if you replace an old appliance with a new low energy appliance. The payback period is great for determining which devices you can easily replace as the lower energy costs means the devices will pay for themselves with the energy saved.

The BMI/BMR calculator is the approach I used to lose weight. Actually 20kg in weight. Once you know what you need to do to lose weight it becomes much easier. There are so many people trying to make money in the weight loss and exercise industry, it is easy to get confused with all the messages. I worked out an approach which cost nothing, requires no exercise and takes around 5-10 minutes a day. The BMI/BMR calculator is what I used to start my weight loss journey and I hope others can use it to assist them in their weight loss journey.

I really didn't have the time or resources to go down the path of developing applications for the iPhone using Apple's approach, and frankly, I don't think it is particularly good idea for me to lock myself into a single device. It took quite a bit of research to determine how to make web pages look good on the iPhone and at the same time Desktop/Notebook/Netbook computers. The approach enables me to provide useful web based applications for my clients, whether they want to run the application on the iPhone or on their computer.


Kelvin Eldridge