Bad Review of Perth Premier Studio (premierstudio.com.au) and their dishonesty

In March this year, my dad excitedly let me know he had won a “Premier Photographic Experience valued at $500″ from Premier Studio (premierstudio.com.au) by entering a competition in the HIA Perth Home Show. Given I have two young daughters, he was looking forward to getting some family portraits of them for his home. I took it on board to arrange a time suitable for all of us.

Within a few days I called Premier Studio to see what $500 worth of photography would get us. The voucher already mentioned a weekday appointment would cost $100, with a weekend appointment costing $200. I was happy to take a day off work to make the most of the voucher. For some reason Premier Studio were extremely hesitant to disclose what could be purchased with the voucher.  Stating my dad had to call and get a personalised package, as it depended on where he placed it in his house, over the couch or television.

It was only at the end of the call that Premier Studio mentioned $350 is the price of their smallest framed photo (10″ by 8” if I recall). I mentioned this to my dad and we agreed a nice photo of the two girls would be ideal.

I was aware that my dad had to be present since he had the voucher. I thought I would take the girls with him to get the portrait, leaving my wife home to get some time to herself and a chance to study. When I called to book the appointment with Premier Studio, things took a strange turn. Premier Studio insisted that the whole family needed to be present, I mentioned that it was difficult due to a full car already, but they insisted that these were part of their terms and conditions. I mentioned that I didn’t remember previously reading about this. When I got home and reread the terms and conditions, I noticed Premier Studio added the additional terms. Below is a screenshot of the additional terms (they also took the opportunity to fix a spelling error).

Premier Studio T&C’s March 2016. View the old T&Cs here.
premierstudio.com.au-terms-and-conditions-march-2016

Premier Studio T&C’s April 2016. The addition of “Premier Studio reserves the right to refuse service if the entire family does not attend the photographic shoot. ”

premierstudio.com.au-terms-and-conditions-april-2016

After Premier Studio changed their Terms and Conditions, we decided we didn’t want to deal with this dishonest company.

To not disappoint my dad, we ended up taking our own photos in Kings Park. My dad is very happy.

Review of Crow Away (it doesn’t work)

Crow Away, the  “proven, safe and most humane way to deter crows”. I read the number of positive online testimonials and decided to give it ago.  I paid for the full Crow Away Android app from the Google app store.

review of crow away, it doesnt work, icon

Crows are significant nuisance in suburbia,  picking off rubbish from bins, pecking fruit of trees and displacing more favourable birds.

Basic first test

My first test case was using the phone app in the park whenever crows would come nearby,. In this instance the Crow Away app was played on my speaker which I left on the ground for 5 to 10 minutes. What I found was in some cases crows would be within five meters without any noticeable deterrent.

Lengthy second test

The second attempt was a lengthy trial, to see if crows could be deterred from picking off the mangos in my mango tree.

review of crow away, it doesnt work, crows eating mangos

A speaker was positioned pointed directly at the mango tree. The Crow Away app was played everyday during daylight hours. Even after two weeks of constant playing, I conclude that there is no noticeable difference in the crows congregating around the tree. The problem of crows picking at my mangos still persists.

review of crow away, it doesnt work, position of speaker

review of crow away, it doesnt work view, of mangos and speaker

For both my situations, Crow Away didn’t not work and deter crows. I would not recommend this product to others.

 

Review of EaseUS Partition Master Professional v10.8

The following is a review of EaseUS Partition Master Professional, I was lucky enough to pick this up for free copy thanks to a posting on OzBargain, keep on the lookout as EaseUS regularly has EaseUS Partition Master Pro free.

I have used Partition Master Pro many times previously, it is an established product, well reputed, I have never had an issue with it.

Fairly straight forward to use, though at times the interface can be a little confusing.

For a quick demo of resizing a partition.

  • Select the hard disk drive (make sure to select the larger volume and not the recover partition)
  • Drag the partition to decrease the size, hit OK, then Apply and it will state it needs to restart.
  • Restart and let the software do its magic
  • Once booted into Windows, you can create a new volume on the free drive partition space

 

Review of EaseUS Partition Master Professional v10.8 Resizing Review of EaseUS Partition Master Professional v10.8 Boot ModeReview of EaseUS Partition Master Professional v10.8 Finished Partition

Review of Plunkett – $4.5k down and 1 year wasted

Following up a comment I posted on productreview, here is the timeline of events when I signed the PPA and paid the $4500 fee;

  • 8th Sep 2012 – Signed PPA, Informed verbally by Sales Rep slab down by Christmas.
  • 18th Sep 2012 – “Travis, we also need the landscaping plan done for submission to council, a new rule change. Do you wish for us to organise and bill you or do you wish to do? Must now be submitted with planning”. I contacted council and they said the council had imposed this requirement for a few months. Why wasn’t I informed about this additional cost prior to PPA?
  • 20th Sep 2012 – Sales Rep agrees to include the landscape amount in the PPA, since I have paid for the contour survey out of my own pocket. Note, I have never received any landscape plan even though it was included in the PPA. At the same time Sales Rep asks for referrals.
  • 3rd Nov 2012 – reached the 8th week of the informed 6 to 8 week time-frame for council submission. Was informed on the phone by Sales Rep another 3 weeks till plans are submitted.
  • 23rd Nov 2012 – Sales Rep 2 makes contact for the first time requesting signing of council submission form.
  • 10th Dec 2012 – council sends me acknowledgement of development application lodged. (over 3 months from signing of the PPA…)
  • 18th Jan 2013 – receive contracts in the mail and welcome pack. I forward to my bank NAB that informs me the progressive payments are not standard and too aggressive.
  • 30th Jan 2013 – Sales Rep 2 provides me an update that it is in planning which was nice.
  • 2nd Feb 2013 – meet with the designer for selections.
  • 15th Feb 2013 – I speak to council myself and find out the design doesn’t comply and Plunkett was notified 8th Feb. I was not informed by Sales Rep 2 or Sales Rep and contacted Sales Rep 2 myself.
  • 22nd Feb 2013 – Follow up with Sales Rep 2, says she has been unwell.
  • 4th April 2013 – Sales Rep calls me to inform that they wish to redesign the units. I confirm ok via email.
  • 15th April 2013 – follow up how it is progressing with Sales Rep ‘Travis, Ill se [sic] where it is. We had the biggest month in Plunkett’s history, so we are running behind’
  • 29th May 2013 – resubmits to council
  • 4th June 2013 – Sales Rep sends me updated PPA with prices ‘Travis, I have your price for the 2 Storey. If I can get you to sign off on it and date it the 31st of May, I will get a bonus, so I can discount it $5K as long as it comes back before 4pm today’. As it is now a double story, the price of the drawings increases, I sign a new PPA to reflect this but he doesn’t push for the additional money which was good.
  • July 2013 – somewhere here the council does not approval the design again.
  • 11th Aug 2013 – reinitiate the conversation with Sales Rep querying the new r-code changes that took affect. Says he will have a look and get back tomorrow.
  • 10th Oct 2013 – receive email from Sales Rep, ‘Travis, sorry for the lateness in reply. I have been seriously unwell for the last couple of months so have been not fully functioning, and have missed some emails’
  • December 2014 – Now over 1 year since signing the PPA, Sales Rep calls me and asks if he can resubmit using new r-codes. By this time I have resubmitted plans myself as I decided that I can’t wait any longer.

AFS Walling Solutions – permanent formwork concrete walls review

Recently I did some research into the AFS Logic Wall product as an alternative to brick for a development I am working on.

AFS is a permanent formwork concrete wall solution, what this means is instead of creating the timber frame on site for the concrete pour, a factory creates a shell which is then assembled on site and filled with concrete.

The benefits are quicker wall construction times, days not weeks, as there is minimum site works. This initially seams like a huge benefit, but only after speaking to a number of industry people are the true costs discovered.

As a start, read through this AFS Assessment by the Ceramic Advisory Services, though the information may be outdated and biased.

I received the following information from an AFS distributor, April 2014;

Typically AFS150 would be supplied and installed and filled with concrete for approx $ 215/m2, ready for applied finishes.

Compared to a brick, the costs is fairly similar, especially if comparing to double brick. But there are some additional costs that are not accounted for.

From the distance, there looks like there is a huge advantage to reduced wall thicknesses, I was informed 150mm AFS could be used in place of my 230mm double brick. There are a couple of catches though, only electrical conduit can be set in the concrete, water pipes can’t and so a separate stud wall is needed, adding about 75mm and additional costs.

AFS wall have a specified insulation R value, though the wall is concrete only, if you can’t meet the required insulation then additional will be required. With double brick construction, the insulation can be installed in the cavity, there is no cavity with the AFS so again a separate stud wall is needed.

When you need a thin wall, brick is a minimum 90mm thick, whilst AFS is 110mm, possibly due to the cement formwork being 10mm in thickness on each side and unable to support any load.

The slab needs starter rebar for the formwork, whilst brick does not, again, adding additional costs.

Finally, there are only a handful of builders that work with AFS, in Perth I was given the names of four builders, severely restricting the choice.

Review of generic USB to Serial (RS232) adaptors

Having purchased a number of generic USB to serial adaptors from eBay, I thought I would go over the pros and cons of the types available.

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (counterfeit)

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (counterfeit)

The least expensive of those found on eBay, apparently these have a counterfeit Prolific chip, which limits them to working only on Windows XP.

From Prolific;

Please be warned that counterfeit (fake) PL-2303HX (Chip Rev A) USB to Serial Controller ICs using Prolific’s trademark logo, brandname, and device drivers, were being sold in the China market. Counterfeit IC products show exactly the same outside chip markings but generally are of poor quality and causes Windows driver compatibility issues (Yellow Mark Error Code 10 in Device Manager). We issue this warning to all our customers and consumers to avoid confusion and false purchase.

As you can see on my Windows 7 machine I have the Code 10. I have had this cable working fine on a Windows XP machine though.

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (counterfeit) Device Manager

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (counterfeit) Code 10

USB-SERIAL CH340

USB-SERIAL CH340

With very similar packaging to the counterfeit Prolific above, and slightly more expensive, you can find these on eBay by search for Windows 7 compatible. These use the CH340 USB to serial IC and don’t have any problems installing on a Windows 7 machine. I have found that some serial devices do not like this adaptor, which made resulted in the purchase below.

USB-SERIAL CH340 Device Manager

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port
Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port label

Possibly the real deal, and slightly more expensive then above. This Prolific PL2303 USB to serial adaptor has no problems installing on Windows 7, and my Solar Inverter which I was using to test, had no problems communicating unlike the above.  If you don’t want to waste time, get this adaptor, easily spotting with the black housing.

Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port Device Manager

MSI X79-GD65 (8D) and Intel i7 3820 Nightmare and SOIC BIOS replacement

After many countless hours and out-of-pocked expenses I thought I would share the experience of MSI’s X79-GD65 (8D) motherboard and the Intel i7 3820 CPU.

The MSI X7-GD65 (8D) was purchased from PC Case Gear for $299, the Intel i7 3820 for the same price.

Once it was all hooked up I got the following symptoms on power-up;

  • No video
  • CPU phase LED showing constant 3 bars
  • CPU fan spinning
  • No digits on the debug LCD
  • Unable the switch the computer without a hard shutdown on the PSU

After Googling it turns out that old BIOS’ that were shipped with the early boards are not compatible with the late model Intel i7 3820. This is not uncommon, as how can manufactures be expected to design for hardware that isn’t even released yet.

What annoyed me was the lack of options going forward to resolve this situation;

  • MSI have no means of claiming Warranty Internationally, they cop-out and chime to take it back to the store. What kind of company does that?
  • The BIOS chips are soldered on to the board, yes, you read that right, this saves them money. It now it isn’t a straight forward procedure to replace the chips, I will show you have you can do it further on.
  • The firmware updater requires a working CPU, even ASUS realise the need to be able to flash your BIOS with minimal hardware.
  • MSI recommend to purchase an Intel i7 3930k and then flash the BIOS, if I could afford a $550+ chip in the first place I wouldn’t have purchased the 3820.
  • Borrow a 3930, the problem is the Sandy Bridge hardware isn’t cost effective; it is rare for people to own these system.

So where did this leave me, with a $300 paper weight, I wasn’t going to give up so soon.

I spotted updated MSI X79-GD65 (8D) BIOS chips on eBay for $20 including shipping so decided to give it ago.

Have a look on YouTube for SOIC (the surface mount chip packaging) desoldering or SOIC removal with a hot-air gun.

I tried the first attempt desoldering, by running a piece of wire under the legs pulling on it once heated to lift it off the pad, unfortunately I removed one of the solder pads.

Fortunately, this board has two BIOS chips.

The second attempted was the hot-air gun approach, this was a lot easier, sprayed with hot air the chip can simply be removed.

The board now booted up which was a relief except only sometimes and I could never work out what was the reason. Searching the forums and there are others with the same problem, a Clear CMOS basically sometimes allows the board to boot.

I ended up getting rid of the board on eBay for $40, yes, I lost money, but I was happy to have it out of my life. And purchased an ASRock Extreme 4.

While I’m ranting, why do MSI place that giant Military Class III sticker on the socket protector, have you ever tried replacing the protector, you are bound to damage some pins in the process.

The faulty MSI X79-GD65 (8D) with old firmware
A red dot on the BIOS chip indicates an older firmware model
Remove the southerbridge heatsink to expose both the BIOS chips
The BIOS chip B removed from the PCB

The nightmare of unlocking a phone on the Optus network

I spoke how easy it was to unlock a phone on the Vodafone network, now what about the Optus network?

Well turns out it is almost impossible.

Let’s say I acquire a phone locked to the Optus network;

Firstly, I need to know the Optus phone number associated with that phone when it was purchased from Optus.

Secondly, I need to know if it was purchased on a Plan or Pre-paid, yes, there are two different numbers for unlocking a phone on a plan or Pre-paid.

And lastly, only the original purchaser/owner can call the unlocking service.

I am not going to even bother going through these hurdles even though the original owner is my dad, I have the original number, and I could even verify I was the owner with known personal details.

It is a joke.

Now compare this to Vodafone who provided me the unlocking codes through a simple website.