Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Firefox Addons fix on Ubuntu 18.04

So after Mozilla fucked up extensions aka add-ons for their Firefox web browser (if you haven't noticed, you may stop reading now), they now released an update to fix that bug. After updating your Firefox browser, your add-ons should be back and operational once again.

To get this bug fix, you want Firefox version 66.0.4.

Unfortunately, running the Ubuntu Software Updater did, in my case, not actually update my Firefox browser.

Running sudo apt update, followed by sudo apt install firefox only informed me that I already had "the most current version".
firefox --version confirmed that my "most current version" was in fact Firefox 66.0.3.

It seems that at the moment (May 7, 2019), the Ubuntu repository does not (yet) have the Firefox release featuring that bug fix.

But there's hope!

Install Firefox 66.0.4 from Mozilla PPA repository:

1) Add Mozilla signing key:
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys A6DCF7707EBC211F

2) Add Mozilla repository:
sudo apt-add-repository "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ubuntu-mozilla-security/ppa/ubuntu bionic main"
sudo apt update

3) Install Firefox (this will now obtain the latest Firefox version from the Mozilla repository you've just added):
sudo apt install firefox

4) For confirmation:
firefox --version returns

5) Launch Firefox to see all your beloved add-ons restored to their former glory.

The above instructions, namely details about Mozilla repository, taken from here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Shopping with Amazon Australia

In short: Depending on what product you're after, it's not all bad.

I've compared a couple of items (ok, just 6), and even within that tiny sample, the results range from "that's ok" to "are you fucking kidding me":

Description Amazon USA Amazon Australia Harvey
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB
Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0
USD 100 AUD 136 AUD 150 AUD 149 - AUD 1 - 0.67 % % AUD 219
AmazonBasics External Hard Disk case USD 7 AUD 9 AUD 10 AUD 12 + AUD 2 + 20.00 % % AUD 14 1
Sanddisk UltraFit USB drive 16 GB USD 8 AUD 11 AUD 13 AUD 9 - AUD 4 - 30.77 % AUD 12 1
Mpow Car phone mount USD 16 AUD 22 AUD 25 AUD 57 + AUD 32 + 128.00 % AUD 24 1
Filter B&W Neutral density
3.0 MRC 110M 77mm
USD 100 AUD 136 AUD 150 AUD 323 + AUD 173 + 115.33 %
Buyee media player USD 35 AUD 46 AUD 53 AUD 43 - AUD 10 - 18.87 %

1 Comparable product

Note 1: For convenience, all prices have been rounded: Amazon US up to the next full dollar, Amazon AUS down to the full dollar.

Note 2: I've ignored shipping; for low-price items that are only slightly cheaper in the US, this might reverse the result.

Also, Amazon Australia still only features approx 60 million products, compared to 570 million items on Amazon US; so it's still a matter of luck to even find what you're after on the local site.

So there you have it. It's not as bad as I expected, but there are still a few instances of blatant rip-offs for Australian buyers; especially now that Amazon US is no longer available to us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Grey Headed Flying Fox

The internet tells me the Grey Headed Flying Fox is one of the largest bats in Australia (Wikipeida, that old beacon of accuracy, even claims it's the biggest).

And as it turns out, there's a rather large colony at Parramatta Park. So, here are a couple of pictures:





Friday, March 9, 2018

Return And Earn

I've finally had the chance to try the NSW Government's "Return And Earn" scheme that imposes a $ 0.10 deposit on some drink containers that can then be reclaimed by returning said containers to a "Collection Point". Specifically, I wanted to try the "Reverse Vending machines.

Now that I've done that, I have several questions:

- Why are there so few "Reverse Vending Machines"?

- Why are "Reverse Vending Machines" not located in high traffic areas, in locations that would be convenient for large numbers of potential users? As an example; there's not a single machine to be found in the entire city of Parramatta, a major hub in the Sydney metro area and home to some 25,000 people, featuring a large Westfield shopping centre that would make just one of many excellent choices for those machines

- Why are there no machines along major roads, where commuters could conveniently return their empties on their way to / from work?

- Why have the machines only one slot for non-glass containers, causing long lines (in my test 22 minutes) even in off-peak hours?

- When will the scanners be upgraded so that the machines no longer reject containers with microscopic dents or invisible scratches in the bar code?

- Whose brilliant idea was it to make actually receiving the refund for successfully returned containers as difficult as possible? Does the Government honestly think that either
-- Installing a buggy app that has received overwhelmingly scathing reviews (Android, Apple), setting up a profile, and then sharing ones PayPal details with the Government
-- Take the printed receipt / voucher to the one designated store listed on the voucher and stand in line again to finally receive the cash refund
are acceptable or even convenient?

- Related to previous item: When will the machine be upgraded to directly dispense cash refunds?

- Is the person in charge of implementing the Return And Earn scheme still working in his role? If so, how do I apply for a job in that department; I quite like the idea of a pressure-free work environment where competence is irrelevant and even complete and utter failure results in no consequences whatsoever.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Driving the "improved" M4

On the occasion of the return of road tolls to Sydney's M4 motorway, here's a video showing a journey along the "upgraded" section from Parramatta to Homebush (and onwards to Concord) and back, on a random weekday the week before the reintroduction of the tolls.

A couple of thoughts:

Before the "upgrade", with frequent lane merges, such as 4 lanes being reduced to 3 at the Church St, Parramatta exit, then 3 reduced to 2 at the James Ruse Dr exit (eastbound), the speed limit was 90 kph. Now with 4 lanes in each direction for most of the "upgraded" section, and therefore less potentially dangerous spots, the max speed limit has been lowered to 80 kph. So while the elimination of a few bottlenecks may reduce travel time in peak out traffic to some extent; paying the exorbitant toll on, say, a lazy Sunday afternoon, will not save you any time, regardless of what the WestConnex crooks and their NSW government accomplices keep telling us – quite the contrary.

Furthermore, that 80 kph limit is exactly the same that applied during the construction phase of the upgrade. We must therefore conclude that 4 wide, straight, unobstructed lanes are no safer than 2 narrow, often winding, lanes in a roadworks zone with its turning trucks and all the other hazards that come with, well, roadworks.

That said, I'm not all that sure the "upgrade" improves traffic flow all that much anyway. Even in light traffic (weekday around 3 pm), the actual speed frequently drops below even the low speed limit of 80 kph. Below is the speed chart from my westbound journey (includes section from Concord to Homebush, which at the time still was a roadworks zone).

Then, there's the blatant lie of what the "upgrade" actually includes. According to WestConnex, the M4 Widening project delivers

"Widening the existing M4 Motorway from Parramatta to Homebush from three to four lanes in each direction"

To, me, and presumably to many other, apparently misinformed, readers, this implies 4 lanes all the way. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this isn't so. At the Silverwater Rd exit, lane 1 (the leftmost lane) becomes the exit lane, leaving the actual freeway reduced to 3 lanes. Granted, the 4th lane returns after the exit, in the form of the non-merging on ramp from Silverwater road; but it only takes common sense to realize that any reduction of lanes, no matter for how short a distance, will always cause congestion in heavy traffic. After all, the elimination of exactly those lkinds of bottlenecks was supposed to be the point of this expensive project.

To sum up; As of August 15, 2017, you get to pay AUD 4.56 each way (with future regular increases already legislated), to drive, even in perfect condition an light traffic, slower than before the "upgrade", on a road that doesn't actually deliver the key promise of the project ("4 lanes each way from Parra to Homebush").

After this experience, some questions remain:
- Is the NSW Government merely incompetent, or outright corrupt?
- Does the NSW Government have employees that are specifically tasked with finding ways to stuff up Government projects?
- Should the company building delivering the M4 "upgrade" (and charging motorists exorbitant tolls for it), Sydney Motorway Corporation, be classified as a criminal organization?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to renew your NSW drivers license in 4 short weeks

How to renew your standard NSW drivers lincense in 8 easy steps over the course of only 4 weeks, with only 4 trips to Service NSW:

Before we start, be reminded that in early 2016 (I think), the RMS (formerly RTA) centralized the production photo id cards such as drivers licenses. This is a “more efficient way to do business” and allows us customers to “complete our transaction faster”. So keep in mind that the process outlined below is actually an improvement compared to the olden days when the friendly customer service person would just print your license and hand it to you on the spot.

Fail to renew your license online, because no email address is linked to your account, and adding an email address cannot be done online.

Attend a Service NSW branch of your choice, for instance Parramatta. When asked, no, instructed, by the bossy receptionist to renew your license online, be quick to point out that you've tried and failed, otherwise she will shove you out the door before you get a word in edgewise.

At this point, bossy receptionist transforms into helpful assistant and updates your account. She will not, however, conduct any further checks regarding your eligibility to renew online, instead reverting to bossy receptionist and once again rush you out the door.

Successfully start process to renew license online. Suppress urge to obliterate your computer when told by the web site that you're not eligible, because the system has determined that an eyesight test is necessary.

Print and complete paper form, return to Service NSW branch again, have renewal application processed, including eyesight test and new photo. Pay AUD 178.00 for the privilege, a modest increase of just over 13 % since the last renewal five years ago. Enjoy the 50 % discount for having a good driving record.

Because the RTA, sorry, RMS, sorry, Service NSW centralized the actual printing of licenses etc, receive a temporary license in the form of a convenient paper document (size DIN A5), which you will be required to carry when driving until your “proper” license arrives by mail (in “about 2 weeks’ time”).

After three weeks, return to Service NSW branch for the fourth time because your license hasn’t arrived yet. Complete another form, take another ticket, then by pure chance once again enjoy the friendly service of Diane. Have your photo taken again, receive another temporary license, and learn that Diane is not only blessed with a cheerful personality, but also complete and utter indifference to customer service. Do not expect her to even attempt to find out why your license hasn’t been mailed, or take any steps to ensure this won’t happen again; Diane won’t even try to hide the fact that she doesn’t give a shit.

After another week, receive your license by mail. Do not take this for granted, there is no telling how many times you will hear Diane say “It just didn’t get mailed” before this last step actually happens.

So there you have it; couldn’t be any easier or more convenient, really. My only request to the RMS would be: Don’t make any more “improvements” to your services, please!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Update: Taxis Combined nightmare

Well, while Taxis Combined clearly isn't even trying to provide a decent service, they do at least respond to feedback. This is their reply, sent via a series of Twitter messages:

Thanks, Frank. We will pass this on to our Driver Services Team who will address with the Driver in accordance with our codes of conduct. While we are not permitted to discuss exactly what occurs with the Driver during this process, we can advise that action taken will depend on the Driver's past feedback & driving history. Action can include counselling, additional training & cancellation of the Driver's affiliation w/ Taxis Combined. This incident will also be recorded on their permanent record. Please accept our apologies for your experience. It by no means meets the standards we expect from affiliated Drivers. If you could DM your preferred postal address, we would like to send you a Cabcharge voucher to both apologise & thank you for providing this feedback. - Cass

For the record, they have in the meantime mailed that Cabcharge voucher (AUD 20) referred to in the above response.

The rest of it, namely the part about "possible action" to be taken against the driver does come across as fluffy and meaningless; or to put it more bluntly, outright bullshit. The fact that this driver was on the road at all clearly indicates that Taxis Combined tolerate that kind of performance. I have no doubt there must have been previous complaints about this guy (people very rarely turn from decent human being into nausea-inducing pig overnight), yet Taxis Combined obviously didn't see a problem with keeping him driving for them.

Adding to that the fact that while this was by far the worst experience with this taxi company, every single previous ride with them was, awful (all of their cabs I've been in were filthy, and every single one of their drivers was either rude, lazy (no help with luggage), incompetent with directions, downright dangerous in their driving (n most cases a combination of several of these); I can say with certainty that my resolve to never use Taxis combined again has not changed.

Avoiding them is of course easiest when booking a cab; just call someone else … anyone else.

But also keep in mind that at taxi ranks, you are under no obligation to take the first cab in line; and at places like airports etc, you don't have to take the cab the hi-vis-wearing wrangler directs you to.

For the record; yes I do have a preferred taxi operator in Sydney; and no I won't name them; I don't want this whole episode to be perceived as an endorsement or promo-stunt for any one particular provider. I also am not affiliated in any way with any commercial, private, or public transport providers of any kind.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Taxis Combined – another trip from hell

I'm the first to admit my own mistakes, and just accepting whatever cab the taxi wrangler at Sydney airport directs me to definitely qualifies.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, just before 8pm, the next available cab in the queue at the international terminal of Sydney airport happened to be Taxis Combined taxi # 2203. I had bad trips with these guys in the past, but this one beat them all.

The actual driving brought no surprises; quite a few heart-stopping lane changes, a nearly missed turn; nothing you wouldn't expect from any taxi in Sydney.

The driver, however, was another story. Constantly sneezing and coughing, he soon explained that he had, in his words, "a cold, or maybe the flu". For the entire trip, he continued to rub his nose and wipe his face. And just in case that wasn't gross enough, he not only constantly chewed on his chewing gum in an extremely vomit – inducing manner, but also used those same hands that would later handle my luggage (again) and potentially touch my credit card to extensively play with said chewing gum.

We can only hope guys like this, and indeed companies like Taxis Combined who manage to provide consistently appalling service, will be put out of business by competition like Uber sooner than later.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sydney by night - again

I better post this, so nobody can say I've gone a full year without putting up anything. And to get back into it, I might as well pick up where I left off.

These nighttime shots were taken from Mrs Macquaries Chair (Sydney).

Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sydney by night - part 2

And because it was so much fun, some more nighttime shots, this time of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Opera House
The Sydney Opera House at dusk

Opera House by night
The Sydney Opera House by night

Sydney Harbor bridge
Wide angle shot of the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor bridge
The Sydney Harbor Bridge