Wednesday 25 September 2013

MacBook Pro Retina or MacBook Air not sleeping when closing the lid?

This only seems to happen to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina.  Why?
I think I finally have the answer: They do not have built-in network ports.
Most people use them connected to both power, and a wired network port, through an external adapter when working at the office.
When leaving for the day, you close the screen, unplug the power, the network, and leave.  Tomorrow your battery has died, and you cold boot. But only sometimes.  Why?
In System Preferences, Energy Saver, Power Adapter it has a setting to "Wake for Network access".

So, after closing the lid and going to sleep:
If you unplug the power cable first, then the network, your MacBook stays asleep.
If you unplug the network cable first, then the power cable, your MacBook wakes for the network event, and never receives a new sleep instruction, as the lid stays closed.
Case closed.

Tuesday 09 April 2013

I am too poor to be able to afford a loan from Wonga

Wonga offers loans at ridiculous rates.  I am too poor to throw money away like this:
The total cost works out to 74% for one day!
The tip says: "We suggest you choose your next pay day as the repayment date".  If they really cared about their customers, I can think of several more relevant tips, such as:
"Hey, we noticed you chose the minimum amount for 1 day.  Did you know that keeping it for 3 days won't cost you more?"

Yes, if you borrow more it becomes relatively cheaper, but now you know how they can afford prime time advertising on DSTV.  I wish my shares gave this kind of a return.  Currently Bitcoin seems to keep up, but who knows where that will end?

Monday 18 February 2013

Advertising Mathematics

I suspect that radio advertisements on a national station such as 5fm must be pretty expensive.
Certainly, if I had to pay for such an ad, I would probably check the maths before giving the go ahead.  Apparently people in advertising, copywriting and editing do not seem to think so, though.  (Unfortunately I cannot recall which companies were actually advertising; shows you how effective the ads were, or how defective my memory is).  Two recent examples (paraphrased, but the numbers are correct):

According to BigInsurer the average time spent waiting for a call centre call to be answered is 38s. [Does that include the time spent listening to and navigating the IVR menu? I doubt that...].  This means that you spend 1.2 years of your life waiting for a call centre agent.  [1.2 years 38 000 000 s, which seems to imply that the average person makes a million calls to call centres over their lifetime.  I hope to make significantly fewer calls...]

According to SomeCompany, your heart will beat 3 million times in your lifetime, so make them count.  [Indeed, make them count! At 60 beats per minute (don't get excited or exercise) that is just more than a month (34.7 days).  I do agree with the fact that your life tends to stop just after your heart stops beating, if you can't get it going again soon...]

Or maybe it is a filter, to ensure that they don't target mathematically literate people?

Thursday 10 January 2013

Power blackouts

I just checked my Landis+Gyr prepaid meter's hidden counter (i 050) and see that I have experienced 39 power failures since the installation of the meter (20 months ago).

Wow.  That averages 2 power failures a month.  Thanks Eskom!

Customer loyalty programs

Everyone has a customer loyalty program these days, encouraging you to earn points in exchange for allowing them to track exactly what you buy, and when you buy it, and to get you to use them exclusively.

However, I would like to single out a few I have noticed these days that are not worth it: Edgars used to have a Cash Card, which gave you R50 back for every R700 you spent, which was a very respectable 7% discount, and made me buy things from them I normally would have bought elsewhere (like an Xbox from CNA, rather than Game - same price, but 7% discount!).  This has now been replaced with a Thank U card, which works out to less than 1% discount.  No thanks, I'll shop somewhere else then.

Similarly, Exclusive Books has a Fanatics card that rewards you with about 2% (after they charged you 20% more than Kalahari.com for the physical book and 200% more than Amazon.com for the ebook).  No thanks.

Woolworths has the right idea though - 10% (I have seen 20% on some items) discount on specific items, deducted immediately at the till point!  No fuss, no waiting for vouchers, and I know exactly what I am in for!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Banks, Credit Cards and Status

Traditionally you start out with the normal credit card, for poor plebs.

After working hard and earning more money, you one day "graduate" to the gold card, with higher limits, more status, benefits (and fees).

When you start earning the big bucks, you finally qualify for the platinum card, with stratospheric limits, oodles of status, benefits (and even higher fees).

I'm just wondering, now that the gold price has truly and properly overtaken the platinum price, and gold costs more (per ounce, not per volume - yet), are the banks going to rebrand? Or can the middle class with their gold cards silently laugh at the so-called rich with their cheaper platinum cards?

Thursday 11 October 2012

Gullibility and the R1 cappuccino

I heard a radio program the other day about things you know about your job that no-one else knows.  One caller stated that he knew that the cappuccino you pay between R12 and R16 for only costs R1 to make, and everyone was horrified about the profit margins and accepted the claim at face value.  He is in the industry, so he should know, right?

This is where critical thinking, as opposed to gullibility comes in.  Let's assume a standard cappuccino.  That consists of 250ml milk (give or take), 1 teaspoon sugar (4 grams), and about 7 grams of ground coffee beans.  The exact amounts can vary, but let's assume that is accurate for a first estimate.  That results in costs of R2 for the milk, almost nothing for the sugar, and about R0.80 for the coffee.  The paper cup and plastic lid are not free either - call it another R0.20 at least.  We are up to R3 for a cup already, and even if we made a mistake with some of the prices, we are never going to reduce that to below R1.

Of course you need to pay the barrista, pay for the machine (lease/buy, cleaning, repairs, various consumables) and rent the location to sell the coffee from.

While I do not deny that large profit margins can be made from selling cappuccinos, they are most definitely not on the order of 1000%, but probably between 100% and 200%.

What this exercise illustrates though is how few people are able to apply a bit of critical thinking and some quick mental arithmetic to blanket statements made by "experts".  No wonder people keep falling for pyramid schemes and offers that are too good to be true.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

How to get rid of junk mail

The real, physical kind, not email (still working on that one...)

Reader's Digest is a master at sending you voluminous junk mail that fills your mail box.  I might have won the sweepstakes dozens of times already, not to mention prompt reply cars, quads and limited lifetime offers.

If you ever actually reply (even to say no thanks, but enter me in the sweepstakes anyway, since no purchase is necessary terms and conditions legal fine print etc.) you will severely increase the number of offers extended to you, since you have just indicated that you are interested, as soon as they find the right offer to tempt you with.

What does dampen their enthusiasm, though, is if you just send the entire envelope, unopened, back to sender.  They can't get you to buy anything if you don't open it, and now they have to pay postage on the entire package twice (not just the reply-paid envelope inside).  And their processing centres are not set up to handle this.

This means that you are flagged as a "BAD PROSPECT" and left alone for a while.  I have successfully reduced my spam from them from about two offers per month to about two offers per year.

Good luck!

Tuesday 09 October 2012

Cellphone operators and crime (8ta, CellC, MTN, Vodacom)

Your cellphone has been stolen.  I hope they can't make phone calls...

It was switched off.  You never changed the default pin.  Good thing the default is:

8ta:
0000 or 1234 - no thief will ever guess that right?  Your fraudulent call costs may be more than 0...

CellC:
A random number you couldn't remember, and changed to your birthday/lucky number/whatever.  The thief won't get it in 10 tries before the SIM is blocked.

MTN:
00000 - no thief will ever guess that right?  Your fraudulent call costs may be more than 0...

Vodacom:
A random number you couldn't remember, and changed to your birthday/lucky number/whatever.  The thief won't get it in 10 tries before the SIM is blocked.
 
Now, blacklist it (otherwise the insurance won't pay, and it is the right thing to do, right?)

I'll use Startpage to do a search for the term "Blacklist" on each of the network operator's sites to see if they provide instructions.  (Powered by Google, but without the filtering/sorting)

Let's see how our major network operators do when trying to blacklist a cellphone:

8ta:
The first non-paid for link has the number (081 182):


CellC:
The first non-paid for link has the number (084 140):


MTN:
Nothing...


Vodacom:
The first non-paid for link has the number (082 111):


Draw your own conclusions...

PS: The number for MTN is 083-1-808.  It can be found on the MTN service provider page (mtnsp.co.za) or the SAPS.  Good luck actually getting the phone blacklisted if complaints on Hello Peter are anything to go by.