Special offer! (Everyone but you)

I’ve always been impressed with Amazon. They can find and post me almost any book ever published half-way across the world for a reasonable price within a few weeks. I’ve bought heaps of books from them and their service has always been excellent.

As happy as I am, Amazon have one annoying flaw. It’s their marketing department.

The offer

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

As someone who’s shown interest in books and magazines on science, you might like to know the Magazines store is offering two-year subscriptions on select science magazines for the price of one until April 30th.

It’s like getting a full year free. Or like getting a bonus zoo pass.
Renew, start a new subscription, or give a gift today.

In this email (targeted enough that it has my name in the subject line) is an offer for Popular Mechanics – $10 for 2 years. What an offer!

Taking the bait

Intrigued, I click on the offer.

Blah blah, log in, choose a shipping address. All smooth sailing, or so I thought:

Important Message

* Popular Mechanics (2-year) cannot be shipped to the selected address.


I try my other Australian postal address address. Same error.

No reason is given. Nothing in the Amazon online help seems relevant. I give up. Amazon loses a sale.


So, Despite Amazon knowing:

    All my previous purchases have been posted to Australian addresses
    My profile is set for Australia
    I’m coming from an Australian IP address

Amazon marketing still still send me an offer that they have no intention of honouring.

The email was nothing more than bait to get me to visit the Amazon website. (Perhaps so I’ll buy something else while I’m there) The offers it contained weren’t genuine. The email was nothing other than spam.

Skewing the results of a survey before the results even arrive

The Perthnow/Sunday Times website is promoting “WA’s biggest law and order survey”. Questions on police, justice, road laws, bikie gangs and that sort of thing.

Perhaps you’re even willing to ignore the unanswerable question 31, “Do you view bikie gangs as social clubs or as
conduits for organised crime? (tick one box)

Yes No DonÒ€ℒt know”


Have a look at the instructions at the bottom of the page for returning the survey: “Please return your
completed survey (no stamp required) to: (address)”

Okay. So a survey on law and order published on the Sunday Times’ website, links to a PDF file that has to be printed out and mailed in! Who, under the age of about 40 has posted a letter in the last 5 years?!

Is this survey actually targeting the opinion of a broad range of Perth citizens or is it only for those of a certain demographic? Sunday Times, put your survey online. Post it on Twitter and Facebook. Give a chance to include the opinions of us who see posting a paper letter in this day and age as anachronistic and absurd.

Setting up a Bigpond NextG wireless connection on Linux – Part 1

Recently, Telstra Bigpond have changed the pricing on their NextG broadband that makes it (gasp!) actually competitive if you have your mobile and home phone already with them. So, interested in having a postpaid wireless broadband/redundant Internet link for an all-up price of a couple of takeaway coffees a month, I go ahead and sign up.

Continue reading “Setting up a Bigpond NextG wireless connection on Linux – Part 1”

Why can’t I get ADSL2…?

Over the last week, I’ve been investigating ADSL2 ISPs. The lure of a 1Mbit upload rate is just too good to ignore.

Upgrading would mean changing my static IP address from my ADSL provider (who don’t offer ADSL2 at my exchange, and likely won’t for a long time), which I can handle. The one thing I have a problem is the excessive amount of time I’ll be without ADSL of any sort while Telstra change my ADSL from their equipment to my new ADSL2 provider’s.

While on Telstra’s ADSL hardware, I can change ISPs with a phone call and a few hours’ wait while my account is swapped over – I just put in the new password and away I go. Apparently, if I want to change from Telstra’s ADSL hardware (which most ISPs wholesale) to another ISP’s hardware, this isn’t so simple. I’m forced to disconnect my ADSL completely, and wait two weeks while Telstra change my line over. I’m told there is no way around this!

Why this inconvenience? I think Telstra worried this delay is the only thing stopping customers from jumping ship from their ADSL through them and their resellers on to competing infrastructure.

Until Telstra, the ISP industry, or both get their act together, a lot of us are going to be stuck on ADSL1 for a very long time.

Holden lemons leave a sour taste

I’ve just read this article by John Connolly about a poor Holden Vectra driver stuck with a four grand repair bill after the cam belt died prematurely. John invites responses about what car should win the award for car so bad it should be “taken out… and shot”.

Here is my reply. Enjoy πŸ™‚

Hello John.

I have just read your article and I would like to tell you about my most miserable driving experience in my entire life, called a 1997 Holden Commodore VT.

I bought this vehicle with a fair share of its used-car warranty remaining from a Holden dealer in 2000. Apart from the usual joy that accompanies buying a used car from a dealer (such as them losing the spare key) I drive home and happily showed my new car to all my friends.

Then, it started. If I had known back then that a fault with the alternator wiring was the mere needle head tip of the iceburg of weird and expensive faults with this car I would have sold it there and then. Heck, I would have given it away…

After the alternator wiring caught fire and was promptly replaced under warranty by the dealer, I started noticing that most of the interior plastics where becoming extraordinarily brittle, especially with the door speaker grilles, snapping at a mere touch. Very annoying.

If a bit of interior wear was all there was to this story then this car would hardly warrant an entry in the Dog and Lemon guide, but I have yet to tell you of the various horribly expensive mechanical faults, many caused by poor design and cheap materials.

I had the power steering pump rebuilt twice. Due to the seals prematurely perishing, this resulted in a spectacular failure mode where stinky hydraulic fluid sprays all over the hot engine causing a rather alarming escape of smoke from under the bonnet while driving.

Due to a poorly designed suspension, tyre life was extremely poor. Some two thousand dollars later for a totally new suspension and the bi-monthly replacement of tyres was finally cut back to yearly.

Naturally, there were many electrical faults with this vehicle which left me stranded. My mechanical engineering knowledge has only increased since I’ve discovered the many complex and expensive components that make a modern engine tick (since over time, I’ve replaced just about all of them) and I can now pepper my conversations with works like “ignition module”, “engine management module” and “crank angle sensor” to impress the best of them.

Then the automatic gearbox died. The gearbox mechanic was baffled that a box that had done 160,000 Kms had broken in such a thorough and spectacular way that he couldn’t even begin to figure out what had caused it.

This is just small sample of the many, many faults I’ve had with the poorest designed, most expensive to own, biggest lemon ever manufactured – The 1997 Holden Commodore VT.

By selling such a spectacular failure of a product Holden have guaranteed I will never spend a single cent on another one of their products ever again. Nor will any of my family, my friends or anyone else willing to hear my story.

(I’ve just got rid of this car and got myself a good deal on a new Mitsubishi 380, with 5 year warranty)