A house that generates its own electricity, warms and cools itself, provides its own water and food – including fish, vegetables, eggs and honey – powers its own car, is smothered in greenery and is still in the middle of inner-city Sydney.
I flew out of Melbourne at 7 pm on Saturday night.
Nothing unusual there. But between arriving at the airport and boarding the plane I went through a security check, got pulled out of the line to have my backpack and bag sampled for bomb making residue, and had my carry-on bag weighed a the boarding gate by Jetstar’s new carry-on police.
The boarding gate weigh-in is because my carrier, Jetstar have just lowered the carry-on weight from 10 Kg (22 lbs) to 7 Kg (15.4 lbs) and people who exceed the 7 Kg weight are charged $50 to have their overweight bags shifted to the hold as late checked baggage.
The carry-on policeman thanked me politely but looked a little disappointed when my bag weighed it at 6 Kg. To my surprise, they did not add the small bag I carried over my shoulder to put under the seat.
I knew about the new limits, and had weighed my bags near the check-in area, and they came to 7.1 Kg, so when I saw the carry-on police ahead, I quickly shifted my Nexus 7 tablet (and case) into my pocket, taking 400 grams out of the load and putting me safely under the carry-on limit.
Others were not so lucky. I saw several people being ushered out of the queue with over-stuffed bags, headed for the $50 sin-bin of late checked luggage.
The reality is carry-on weights vary from country to country and airline to airline. Jetstar even had different rules for different routes. but now, 7 Kg combined carry-on weight is the rule. In my case, the little shoulder bag was not weighed, but that may well come. With budget airlines trying to increase profits, baggage is a money-spinner. In 2013, 20.6% of Jetstar’s revenue came from “ancillary sources” namely food, checked luggage, seat booking fees, booking fees, etc. This added up to an average of $31.60 per passenger.
Qantas reportedly comes third in the world in ancillary revenue per passenger at $US45.67, But much of that is from selling frequent flyer points to credit card providers and retailers loyalty programs.
Overall airlines extracted $US31.5 billion, or $US16 a passenger from ancillary fees in 2013. These fees are helping to get airlines back into the black.
The moral of this little story is, look carefully at what you carry, and where you carry it.
The night before I flew to Melbourne, I made a last minute switch from the HP Stream 11 laptop I am testing back to my HP Chromebook 11 because it, and its power supply were half a Kilo heavier than the Chromebook, pushing me over the 7 Kg limit. It caused problems, mainly that a selection of video and music I had saved on a Micro-SD card for the trip got left behind. I had other sources, so it was just an annoyance, but it has generated a to-do item to write a couple of travelling checklists.
I have learned a number of lessons. I am the proud owner of a hard-shell wheeled carry-on case. I bought is as a kind of walking stick last year when I had to travel while recovering from a month long issue with vertigo (dizziness & nausea when moving around) I could set the handle low, and lean on the four wheeled case as I pushed it along. It was an unusual color but a very cheap demo model, and it saved my life. Its new cousins are still costing around $300, and other similar devices are as high as $840. But now, its 2.5 Kg shell is too big a price to pay for style and convenience.
I flew with a 1.4 Kg (3 pound) 38 Litre Lite-haul convertible Kathmandu backpack, and discovered that 7 Kg is a totally different story to 10 Kg. Even with a less than robust back I could carry the 7 Kg bag comfortably. I did not deploy the shoulder straps once. I just carried it everywhere will only minor discomfort. I walked 14 Km in three days, 10 of them carrying the 7 Kg carry-on, and arrived home feeling fine.
I simply did not need the 2.5Kg wheely case. Next time I may carry my Nike sports bag. It weighs in at 0.74 Kg saving more than half a kilo for more important items.
I carry a lightweight folding backpack. it weighs 200 grams, or 0.2 Kg (0.44 pound) and folds into it’s own back pocket. It easily fits under the seat on the plane with personal items in it, but is big enough to carry 15 liters of personal stuff, shopping or warm clothing. It may not impress at a business meeting, but for a working trip it worked fine for me.
So spend some time checking that you are only travelling with what you need. Most of us add a host of might needs to the mix, and finish up fighting with too much baggage. I recommend a visit to Onebag.com for some tips on keeping it light.
For many users of touch devices such as phones and tablets, mice are a thing of the past. For me, the mouse still has a huge place in my toolkit. It is essential for laptop and desktop computing, and even editing text on a tablet works better with a mouse.
I use a number of tablets and computers on a daily basis, and wireless mice have three drawbacks. They require a spare USB port for the dongle, they require AA or AAA batteries, and they are mostly fairly large.
I spend a lot of time using Laptops, Chromebooks and Tablets. None of these have a lot of spare USB ports, and some have none at all. So Bluetooth is the only option to get full functionality on all devices. If I am doing serious typing on my Nexus 7 Tablet, I connect a Bluetooth keyboard, and at times, having a mouse is handy.
If I am travelling, I will have a Chromebook or an Ultrabook. Long hours working on one of these devices on a table or on my lap is a sure invitation for a stiff neck, and back pain. So I carry a stand that tilts the laptop up to a level where the screen is comfortable. This may require a Bluetooth keyboard, but always makes the trackpad difficult to use, so I always use a mouse if I have the room.
I have been using a Microsoft Sculpt Touch mouse, simply because it was the only Bluetooth mouse I could find here in Tasmania, Australia that was reliable. The Sculpt Touch is a good size, but has a tactile bar that replaces the wheel that drives me absolutely crazy. It is impossible to control on non Windows computers, and just plain bad on Windows. Scrolling becomes an exercise in frustration that has on one occasion literally driven me to throw the mouse across the room (onto a lounge chair, I was frustrated, not stupid) and resort to the touch pad. It also uses 2 AA batteries, and therefore is quite heavy.
I do not like mice that require batteries. When I travel I must take spare batteries, and/or a charger. I like everything I use to charge from a USB port. This makes it possible to travel for an extended period with only one charger. I have a USB powered AA/AAA charger, but it is another device, and unless I carry spares, I have to stop work and wait for my mouse batteries to be charged, or do without the mouse
So I went shopping for ANY mouse that was Bluetooth enabled and has USB charging. I took a few deep breaths before I paid out $90 for a mouse, and kept the receipt in case I could not use it, but I have found THE perfect mouse for me.
The Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse. I confess, if I had seen one, I may have gone for the T631 white mouse, but other than that, this is mouse is ideal for me. It is very small, 59 x 85 x 19mm and weighing only 70 grams. The tiny size had me worried that it might be difficult to control, but it invites you to place two or three fingertips on top and control it that way. There is no wheel, the entire top surface is touch sensitive, and stroking the top surface up and down or sideways provides a scroll effect. The provided software works on Windows & Mac, and adds multi-touch functionality, but since I use Chrome OS, Linux and Android as well as Windows I have kept my use to the basic functions that work on every device.
Scrolling is smooth and effortless, and can be done almost anywhere on the top of the mouse. The Bluetooth setup is a function of the operating system, but the mouse seems to reconnect on wake-up very fast. It has been faultlessly reliable.
An added feature that a number of Logitech keyboards have is the ability to pair to two or more devices, and switch between them with the flick of a switch. The Logitech mouse has a switch on the bottom of the mouse that allows two connections. I would love the ability to connect to three devices, like my Logitech K810 Keyboard, but two is enough for most situations.
To keep the mouse clean and small, the micro-usb charging port is on the bottom, so the mouse cannot be used and charged at the same time. This is not really a problem. One minute of charging will run the mouse for an hour. I have only had the mouse go flat once, I plugged it in for a minute to get it working, continued worked until I wanted a break, and re-charged it the few minutes I was away from the computer. Basically I charge the mouse & keyboard up once a week, and just forget about it after that. I do not bother to switch it off unless I am travelling.
I am far more concerned with function than looks, but it is still a pretty mouse. it is small, works on everything (better if you have the Windows or Mac software, but I am happy without the extras) and has a simply beautiful scroll surface.
Watch out for the Click!
I have seen criticism of the buttons sticking down. The do NOT stick. The buttons are under the chassis of the mouse. There are no buttons on top of the mouse. It is a single, unbroken touch surface. The entire mouse moves down when you click a button. If (like me) your fingers hang over the sides of the mouse, and touch the desktop it is possible that when you click (press down) your fingers, resting on the desktop, will grip the mouse tightly enough to stop it coming back up. This is a user error, based on the very light, small and short travel of the mouse. As you become aware of this, you learn to be a little gentler in handling the mouse, and it then moves perfectly.
I became comfortable with the tiny, light and sensitive nature of the mouse quickly. the button held down issue took a few days. but now, when I have to use a normal mouse it feels monstrously big, and awkward. Having to deal with a shrunken tendon in my right hand makes this mouse even more friendly.
Overall, this is my choice for the best ever portable mouse, and in my case, the best mouse ever.
The quick and simple connection with Chrome and Android devices as well as the usual Windows and OS x devices makes it very versatile. Frankly, the best ever! It is small, light and a little different in use due to the tactile to surface, but once you use the mouse for a few days, you will not want to go backwards to an old, traditional mouse.
I am writing this on an ASUS Chromebox, with a Logitech K810 Keyboard and a Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse in Google Docs. Despite the high price, I am trying to convince my wife that a second T630 Ultrathin makes sense for my office, where I use multiple devices on a daily basis.
The jury is still out on that second mouse… But I am hopeful…
Telstra has gone from one of the most respected entities in Australia to a joke among it customers. Here is one reason why.
The last twelve months have seen me go from a very long term Telstra customer into a very disgruntled ex-customer.
So in October 2012 I went into a Telstra shop to activate a third phone.
Enter the clowns…
Our business plan was no longer available, to add a new phone we would have to move to a plan that was 20% more expensive. That was a shame, but not a deal breaker. I had an existing handset, and simply wanted a SIM and a connection to our business plan that allowed us to call between phones. For some reason that was never explained, the phone first had to be activated with a 10$ pay as you go SIM. This was explained after the SIM was installed. This was annoying, because I already have three unused $10 PAYG SIMs in my desk drawer. I waited for two hours while repeated calls where made, forms filled out and signed, whispered consultations and trips into the back room, and more calls. I left to get back to work, and returned the next day for another two hours. Just before the store closed I was assured they would get everything working the next day, and call me if there where problems. The phone was working, but I had data turned off until I was sure it was on a data plan. Given Telstra’s outrageous charges for casual data I was not taking risks. All seemed well, the next phone bill looked about what I had expected. I paid it.
This is not my account number!
Then on the 11th of December I got a notice that my mobile phone account was in arrears. It was a account number I did not recognise. The Telstra shop had created a new account for my third mobile phone. Calls between it and the other two business phones where being charged and full rates. And a data pack had been added each month. In the meantime my existing phones had been moved to a more expensive plan, and both phones now had data packs, even though one handset did not have data capability. My mobile phone charges had gone up more that 300%. Between 11 December 2012 and May 2013 I spent over eight hours on the phone over multiple calls trying to rectify the problem. The second account was cancelled, but I still had to pay the three months charges including multiple $15 data packs that had never been touched. My two existing phones where now being billed at almost three times the rate I had paid previously. All told the three phones where costing five times as much as the two had. And the Testra support lines could do nothing but promise it would be fixed NEXT month, just pay this bill, it will be fixed next time. It never was.
They never missed sending a bill on time, though!
At the end of May, in total frustration, I moved to another carrier, and Telstra promptly billed me $344 for exiting my contracts early. I had been a mobile customer since the days of analog phones, my first being a Motorola brick that would just fit in a briefcase without bending the aerial. I had been on a Telstra business plan for more than five years. But I was billed for early termination of my contract because Telstra had forced me to move to another plan so I could add my third phone. Another 45 minute phone call got that termination fee halved. and I decided $172.02 was a small price to pay for finally being free of the worst customer service experience I have ever been through. It was too much to hope for… When the SIM cards arrived from our new carrier, one phone demanded an unlock code. This was a handset I had bought outright from a Telstra shop more than two years before. I did not know it was network locked, because I was using it on the Telstra network. Once again I went back to Telstra phone support. A 15 minute call gave me the assurance that I would have an unlock code within five working days. A week later I called again, and got the same assurance, and again a week later. On the fifth attempt I was a little more forceful. My problem was escalated to a supervisor, and I would get a call back within one hour. Fortunately, I have a drawer full of old feature phones, and we pressed one back into service to keep us working. Because once again, nothing happened. I called back in another week. I got the same routine. “Sorry sir, it is a priority, we will call back before close of business”.
$15 and 5 minutes accomplished what Telstra could not do in six weeks
The next day I Googled unlocking Telstra handsets and in five minutes had payed $15 via Paypal to an individual in Australia. I thought the money might just disappear, but 30 minutes later I had the unlock code, instructions, and a phone number I could call if I had problems. within 10 minutes the phone was working again. Something that Telstra should have done free, and had been promising for more than six weeks was done in 30 minutes for $15. Like the previous fees, I considered it money well spent. I am now totally free of the bloated and inept Telstra. The total cost of getting that extra handset working ran to $480.42 above what I should have been charged. and when it was finally working with three phones on one light usage business plan it was costing 2.5 times as much as I am paying on my new carrier. And I am enjoying four times as much data per month. Goodbye Telstra. Do something about your customer service or you will find yourself going the way of the dinosaurs. Too slow and stupid to respond to a changing world of social media and fast responding competition. Photo Credit: Indigo Skies Photography via Compfight cc