ProductReview.com.au Australia

This blog post originally documented in detail some personal concerns I had regarding the validity of ProductReview.com.au’s claims, in particular it’s claim of “independence” made via their trust centre if they also happen to supply paid services to the businesses being reviewed on their site.

The matter originated from coming across what I feel were some fairly sizeable anomalies in terms of a significant surge of suspect 5 star reviews (that were too large to simply casually ignore) on a listing during what was intended to be a casual visit to the site.

Will look to refer this to the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading in due course purely to get their opinion on the arrangement. Right now with the COVID-19 situation worsening globally together with the fact this matter is in another country and really does not affect me personally in any direct way, have decided to put any such follow up on ice.

 

 

 

ProductReview.com.au Australia

No new active COVID-19 cases in NZ

There are officially no more known ‘Active’ COVID-19 cases in New Zealand. We move down in to Alert Level 1 tonight.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/418524/prime-minister-jacinda-ardern-reveals-move-to-level-1-from-midnight

Still need to be vigilant obviously.

“We will almost certainly see cases here again. That is not a sign we have failed.”

“If we get one or two cases in the future – which will remain possible for some time to come due to the global situation and nature of the virus – we need to shut down those cases fast. The last thing … we want to do is move up the alert level system again.”

My feeling is though, heading into the Winter seasons in future years, it may still be a good idea to practice some sort of social distancing primarily to protect the more vulnerable in our communities.

No new active COVID-19 cases in NZ

Current Personal Take regarding CoViD-19

Indeed, my views have shifted over time. This is a rapidly evolving situation where frankly anything can go. I do agree that CoVid-19 is serious enough to warrant extra and utmost caution including taking measures such as proper and thorough hand washing, staying well away from others if you’re sick (CoVid-19 or not), and drastically limiting any non-essential travel. This is more so with protecting the more vulnerable in our communities (such as those who are elderly, who have pre-existing medical conditions, who are immunocompromised) along with flattening the curve to avoid overloading our health services (which includes the many hard-working health personnel on the front line).

At the moment, I am of the feeling that the lockdowns happening around the world on balance will save lives but a question does hover over whether these measures will ultimately be a net positive for people’s livelihood in terms of situational (e.g access to gainful employment, individual “agency”) and mental well-being overall in the longer term.

While I agree this situation is indeed serious, I am still of the opinion that many of the commercial mainstream media outlets globally have been irresponsibly fanning a counter-productive, unhelpful, and needless level of panic among the general population by cherry-picking the most extreme stories to come out of this. It would appear that a lot of people on the regular social media channels have been induced in to talking themselves in to a funk including lapping up what I consider as needlessly extreme apocalyptic fearporn doom scenarios and this appears to be getting more pronounced as the situation rolls on. I have been avoiding through blocking as much as possible, my own consumption of any mass media or social media during this period.

I don’t begrudge our own Government imposing a lock down. Given how globalised we were, The New Zealand Government had to do something (or at least been seen to do something) and it appears to be having at least a visible and measurable positive effect by way of decline in new cases each day. In saying that, as the lock down rolls on, I am seeing a lot of people’s mental well-being starting to decline being holed up in their homes and I am concerned that we could see a bit of increasing push back happening in the form of defiance or disobedience among a few of our own citizens.

People I feel need to be mindful that the Data, particularly surrounding death rates, coming out globally may be skewed until such time we can broaden testing availability to more of the general population. The people who will be most often tested at this stage of the cycle naturally will be the ones showing the worse symptoms.

Once this current situation recedes, It will be interesting to see if we will also be taking more consideration of other potentially deadly respiratory diseases such as influenza from here on in. I’m picking physical distancing (more commonly referred to as social distancing) will become a matter of habit for a few years after CoVid-19 comes to pass and may even be something encouraged as a matter of common courtesy every flu season.

Again, like any view expressed in this blog, my views are most certainly subjected to change as events unfold and as new information comes to light.

Current Personal Take regarding CoViD-19

I fear the panic more than the virus itself

In confession, I currently feel greater anxiety towards the panic and public reaction over the COVID-19 virus more than the virus itself. This sentiment of mine is no doubt subject to change however as events unfold.

Yes, Take positive proactive steps to safe guard yourself and your community, friends and family including such precautions like proper and thorough hand washing, staying away from others if you’re sick. But please don’t be an idiot and fan the fear around social media or hoard stuff like toilet paper.

That said, yes, I believe the New Zealand government could be doing more to safe guard our borders and taking stricter quarantine measures at our major ports, at least to slow any spread down and minimize overloading our Health services (by way of helping to “Flatten the Curve”).

I fear the panic more than the virus itself

Drowning does NOT look like drowning

An interactive website I found that provides information on recognising signs of drowning in a child along with the opportunity to practice recognising these signs.

URL: http://spotthedrowningchild.com/

The key take away here is that… Drowning does NOT look like drowning

Quoted from the site… “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.”

Recognise Drowning in a pool

The Youtube videos utilized on the site are from the Lifeguard Rescue (Channel)

Drowning does NOT look like drowning

Melbourne Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations Not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

I have been receiving the occasional inquiry from those looking for alternative Thrifty Car and Truck Rental locations in the Melbourne area that are not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

The background is that, as a regular repeat customer to the Thrifty Car rental brand, I’ve had issues with their independent Licensee, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd which I’ve written about and it appears some other repeat Thrifty customers have as well. It would appear Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd have their own different way of doing things despite carrying the Thrifty banner.

Anyway, to the best of my ability…

Thrifty Locations Operated by Other Business Units

‘Thrifty’ branded locations in the Melbourne area that are NOT operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd

  • Melbourne Airport – Kingmill Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne City (Spencer St) – Kingmill Pty Ltd
  • Brighton – Christer Australia Pty Ltd
  • South Yarra – Unknown
  • South Melbourne – Christer Australia Pty Ltd

‘Thrifty’ branded locations in regional Victoria that are NOT operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd

  • Ballarat – Lyme Hill Pty Ltd
  • Bendigo – Unknown
  • Horsham – Unknown (Operated as Part of a Holden Dealership)

Kingmill Pty Ltd is the Australian Master franchise holder for the Thrifty brand in Australia.

Thrifty locations Operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations which are operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd T/A Thrifty Car rental Victoria (and which I’ve made a personal pledge to avoid dealing with)…

  • Avalon Airport, VIC
  • Bayswater, VIC
  • Blackburn, VIC
  • Clayton, VIC
  • Coburg, VIC
  • Campbellfield, VIC
  • Dandenong, VIC
  • Derrimut, VIC
  • Footscray, VIC
  • Frankston, VIC
  • Geelong, VIC
  • Hoppers Crossing, VIC
  • Moorabbin, VIC
  • Pakenham, VIC
  • Preston, VIC
  • Richmond, VIC
  • Tullamarine, VIC (Not the Airport one)

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd also operate…

  • Thrifty Mount Gambier Airport, SA (South Australia)
  • Thrifty Broken Hill, NSW (New South Wales)
  • Thrifty Vehicle Sales (Dandenong, VIC)

 

With that said, Thrifty in Australia are no longer my “go-to” brand as such. When I am due next to be travelling around Australia will now be looking at each individual car rental franchise / agency on their own merits, independent of the brand they carry

 

Melbourne Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations Not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

New Zealand Rooms of Matrix/Element.io Chat

Update: 23 July 2020 – Riot.IM is now Element.io

So far the known New Zealand specific chat groups (chat rooms) that exist within the Matrix chat federation include…

If there are others that you know of, feel free to advise me or post in the comments below.

If people are looking for a viable alternative for staying in contact with friends and family at home and abroad as opposed to using the common proprietary messaging systems (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc) operated by sole corporations. Then I implore people to start looking at the federation of matrix.org chat servers.

If you want to start chatting. Go to Element.io, sign up for a Matrix.org account and start joining rooms such as :matrix.org

Similar to how Email is structured, where Joe Bloggs at Hotmail can seamlessly Email his friend, Max Mustermann at Yahoo without needing to be with the same provider. The Matrix protocol is structured the same way for instant messaging and group chat. No one single company / provider has total control of the protocol.

If Joe Bloggs for example, doesn’t like Hotmail for what ever reason, he is able to choose to sign up to Gmail. Matrix.org is the same way, you have a choice of providers. You can even host your own node (like I do).

Like any project the onset, Matrix was pretty rough around the edges, but I feel the development of the system (being the Matrix Protocol together with the available client software) has now matured to a point where I feel Matrix/Element.io is now certainly very usable.

The reason why I favour Matrix over say Telegram, Signal, Slack, Zulip, Mattermost, Rocket Chat, is that Matrix is the only system where you can…

  • Self host a node of your own AND
  • Send messages to users on other servers (Federation) AND
  • Has a usable front end client (Being Element.io available for Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and others)

 

New Zealand Rooms of Matrix/Element.io Chat

Huawei P30 Pro Camera – Hybrid zoom

Update 13 October 2019 – So took the Huawei P30 Pro and compared it to the Panasonic TZ110 and another quick test…

At x5 zoom…
Native zoom for the P30 Pro’s x5 Camera. To my untrained eye, it is fairly similar enough in detail. The TZ110 may be a touch more natural in detail and colour reproduction.

Continue reading “Huawei P30 Pro Camera – Hybrid zoom”

Huawei P30 Pro Camera – Hybrid zoom

Matrix Messaging Matters

Earlier on Today, Matrix.org had to be pulled off line for emergency maintenance. It’s back up now and Kudos to Matthew Hodgson and his crew for getting it back up quickly.

On other matters, aside from a flurry of activity in the New Zealand Chat channel #nz.matrix.org, I’m still not seeing as much uptake of the protocol as I would like and today, If I search for any other Matrix chat resources in NZ, my out of date (and sorely need of an update / Fix up) Matrix chat sign up guide seems to come up as the first result.

Will try and pull my finger out and actually fix that page up (including the numbered bullet points and new screenshots) some day, though will state up front, I don’t plan on becoming any sort of Community Lead or Evangelist (Defacto or otherwise) for the Matrix chat / messaging protocol in New Zealand… Well at least not right now with my current commitments.

Matrix Messaging Matters

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

As mentioned in my Facebook Notice, I had elected to build my own personal homepage for staying in touch with Friends and Family as opposed to relying on Facebook. In short, I prefer staying with decentralized inter-operable web protocols and standards (particularly those that allow me to self-host) where practical as it offers me more freedom and control over my own personal web presence.

While It is acknowledged utilizing proprietary platforms that are singularly owned and operated by sole for profit business entities have their near term benefits (many such platforms are Free of charge), they aren’t “neutral” mediums and are typically run with the natural focus of maximizing profits, ahead of the best of interest of their users or the wider world at large. (Engineering their products to be as sticky as possible, to keep people on their platforms for longer in order to serve advertising, locking them in so that it’s difficult to leave and consequentially, with an increased tendency to cause addiction in quite a few people).

Proprietary platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are structured in contrast to say inter-operable protocols like regular E-mail where you have a choice of providers. A user on their choice of provider can E-mail another user on a different provider. No one provider controls the protocol.

It is worth highlighting that the more we use, rely, and pressure others to use these proprietary platforms (by way of the network effect), the more powerful these entities will naturally become. In the case of Facebook, it’s already large and still ever increasing influence and power in our lives (be it through through Facebook Original, Instagram, WhatsApp), I see as potentially detrimental thing to us in the longer term in the sense of…

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Personally, I desperately struggle to see how so much power concentrated in the hands of any given single entity, especially a “for-profit” one, could ever be considered as a good thing for us in the longer run. While Facebook certainly isn’t alone in trying to get their mittens on everything we do online, there is a concern within me that should we allow the general trend to continue, (along side the gradual erosion of Civic Responsibility) we could see an erosion in our own individual self determination as we collectively cede ever increasingly control and power over our lives to such (non-democratic) business entities whom are ultimately answerable only to their owners and stockholders.

If you wish to visit the possibility of using alternatives mediums to stay in contact with friends and family, please see “Keeping in contact with loved ones” where I’ve listed out what I’ve done and the recommended stepping stones to reduce reliance on centralized, proprietary and commercially run services.

Disclosure

As of February 2017 (About a year ago as of writing this), I am now a direct shareholder in NASDAQ:FB. The reality is I don’t think we Netizens are going to realize the longer term implications of where we are headed anytime soon. I do recall people seven years ago rebuked me as being “so pessimistic” for even suggesting that Facebook would become as powerful and ubiquitous as they are now. People are saying Facebook is dying and while that may now be true in North America for their original main name sake platform, many of those same people go on to suggest Instagram and WhatsApp (both Owned by Facebook), along with Snapchat (whom personally I consider as equally as obnoxious) as examples as to where everyone is now flocking to.


Fergus Young
www.nui.nz

 

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

Matrix RIOT two Month Review.

Have had an Instance of the Matrix “Synapse” Chat Server for two months now (instructions). The system operates alright, but in short, the User Interface for both the Android App and the Web Based user interface I found hasn’t been particularly fast… In fact, it feels a bit lethargic in a way akin to walking through a swamp.

Having said that, there is a new series of the server in development called “Dendrite” that promises to be faster with more optimal resource usage, but do not know when the developers are going to get around to formally releasing it to the public.

Will keep the current server up for now, but won’t be actively pushing or promoting it beyond family and a handful of friends. If people expressly mention that they are looking for an alternative, will mention it there and then along with my instance of Matrix/RIOT, but generally not before then.

 

Matrix RIOT two Month Review.

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

The following post deals with the background, along with my personal experiences and findings to-date with the RIOT/Matrix instant messaging and group chat system. To connect to the Matrix Synapse instance, please refer to the basic guide to get started.

In Late December 2017, some concerns were raised among friends regarding their discomfort with Relying on WeChat (along with other proprietary commercial instant messaging apps) for communicating among ourselves, and subsequently I was asked whether or not it would be possible to add some sort of chat function to my website.

I’m going to be upfront. I don’t believe at this stage that I am ever going to pull the majority of my Facebook Addicted friend base out from the clutches of the Facebook eco-system (FB Messenger and WhatsApp) and at this present time, only aiming this service at Family and a handful of closer friends who have expressed desire to use an alternative instant messaging platform. Continue reading “Riot Matrix: Background + Findings”

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

Ranger says No

Relatively short Multiday Trip to Tama Lakes, Waihohonu Hut and Oturere hut and back out to Desert Road. Was going to go around to Mangetepopo Hut and complete the Northern Circuit though an updated 11:00 a.m. Weather report upon reaching Oturere Hut, the Ranger advised us not to proceed due to dangerously high wind gusts.

Click photo below to access the gallery…

Mount Ruapehu

Hut Rangers, Doug and Horse, who we met on the trail, were fantastic.

A dip in the Springs near Waihohonu Hut provided some much needed refresh and temporarily removed the pain of my Left foot.

Ranger says No

Future Website Plans

Over the next month or two, I’m planning (where I have time) to go back through past posts and photo albums and tidying a few things up. Namely…

  • Finish captioning as many un-captioned photos as I can.
  • Writing up more detailed Trip reports to go with the Photo Albums (where I can, particularly with those to do with Hiking).

While originally the intent of this homepage was purely set up as a means of keeping in contact with friends and loved ones (in preference to relying on Facebook), the reason for the Tidy up planning came about while I was trying to search for some new possible hiking trips to do and then ending up back at my own homepage.

It appears some of the pages have been ranking a little higher in search results than they have in the past and this corresponds with a noticeable uptick in general visitation arriving from various search engines, combined with an increase in the general email inquiries about various trips and what not.

I’m thinking some people will no doubt be landing on my website (expecting to find more information about a given hike or place), seeing a photo and going… “Where the Flip is this? Where is this landmark / building? Where’s the Information?!” Potentially frustrating casual visitors in the process.

All that said, the intent of this website was to be a personal homepage (to keep in contact with loved ones and friends) and I never really envisioned it being anything more than that. I don’t at present have any plans as such of turning this into any sort of  travel blog with any intention to monetize or paste it over with adverts, at least not yet anyway. (Website is currently funded solely through my own personal funds)

Video

Keeping in contact with friends and Family at home and abroad

The often used line for people who sometimes quite vigorously defend (their use of) Facebook is that “It helps me keep in contact with Friends and Family far away (or overseas)!”

Here’s the kicker, People I firmly feel were already freely doing that across the Wider general Internet way before the likes of MySpace and Facebook ever came on the scene.

Many people had their own Personal Homepages (at their ISP, colleges or elsewhere) or Personal Blogs and people would find each other by way of any number of search engines of the time, go to their page and flick them an email or sign their ‘guestbook’. (I know I have reconnected with many people I’ve lost contact with this way.),

RSS and ATOM standards were common place where people could subscribe to each other’s blogs or web pages, using any number of RSS readers and be able to keep abreast with articles from multiple sources, be it from their friends’ blogs, News media publication, or elsewhere in one place, (very much, I feel, in the same way how Facebook’s “newsfeed” operates today, but with far more granular control over what you wish to see than the Facebook newsfeed of today ever offered).

Another often used excuse for relying on facebook is “How can I share my photos with my family and friends overseas?”, Facebook is hardly the only medium or tool to do this. Again, your own blog could fill the same role with NUI.NZ as being my living example.

It’s worth remembering that Facebook as a communication medium is entirely controlled by a single corporation whose natural overarching focus is to maximize profits for their shareholders and is not an inter-operable communication protocol with several (typically competing) providers like how Email is structured.

If some people are serious about reducing their reliance on Facebook, are concerned as I am about the increasingly centralization of power to a few for-profit run silos, and are in favour of supporting open inter-operable web standards, I would kindly suggest that a regular Blog could fill that role as the first stepping stone.

Setting up your own personal blog I strongly feel needn’t be solely the domain of I.T. geeks. There are now blogging services which make it easy to get started as it is signing up for a Facebook Account.

There are several different blogging platforms, including B2Evoluation, WordPress, and many others. WordPress as a blogging platform seems fairly okay in my opinion… if you want a quick start, then suggest as an initial starting point signing up for a free account at wordpress.com at least as a stepping stone to get you on your way (it is very easy to sign up, as easy as it is to sign up for Facebook or any other social network).

Once you outgrow WordPress.com and/or you get sick of the adverts, you can then fairly easily move off on to your own self hosted WordPress blog at any web host of your choice once you’re ready.

What ever blogging platform you eventually get going with (Preferably an open source one that allows you to self-host in the future if not now), you can simply post links on your social media profiles (Faceborg, Google+, etc) back to your blog / homepage and have your blog / homepage as your main (web identity) hub and point of presence on the Internet in which to syndicate / share your content from. Much like what I do with on my own Faceborg Profile.

Keeping in contact with friends and Family at home and abroad

Celebrity Worship and The Widening Wealth Gap

The following appeared in NZ Herald’s letter to the editor dated 3rd November 2016

Obscene deal

Wow, this $142 million deal is great for Steven Adams and I congratulate him. I guess he will now be a contender for the Halberg Awards? No doubt there will be in a movie about him one day, too. A script writer’s dream. One of 14 children from at Rotorua to a super star in the US. Not only will this deal do wonders for basketball in this country but it will help put New Zealand on the map in USA perhaps?
Sadly, though, this deal also highlights all that is wrong in the world and especially in America. Let’s be honest and say it like it really is. Is “obscene” the right word or is “absurd” a better description? For any sports person to be paid $820,000 an hour for bouncing a basketball around a court is just ludicrous. To think the top surgeons who are saving people’s lives are getting a fraction of this is the real obscenity. Only in America.

Glen Stanton, Mairangi Bay.

To be brutally blunt, While I echo much of sentiments expressed in this letter (Except the “Only in America” bit), the scenario is perhaps only going to get more pronounced as time goes on.

It’s really our own collective / combined actions (as commoners) that ball games players are getting the figures they do. Aside from the Rags to Riches / Fooled by randomness story. The feeling I get on the street is that the majority are generally hungry for Entertainment, Distractions, Escapism and Vicarious living, while perhaps ignoring  more pressing issues affecting the world in general, and the longer term implications of our actions ultimately on ourselves as individuals in the long run.

Bread and circuses I call it.  Only this time, we’re falling head over heels to pay the entertainment elite (for lack of a better term) to perhaps distract us, and help us escape from the realities of living our otherwise meagre lives and in a perverse kind of way, further deepening the divide.  The rich get richer as a result of the majority’s demand for diversions and we get even more desperate to escape or engage in some vicarious living further entrenching and accelerating the transfer of power from the Ourselves as commoners to the few.

Have to admit, I struggle to understand the level at the public’s fascination and obsession of some Public figures, may be my Celebrity Worship brain circuitry is fried, also gone is my ability to live vicariously. The ability was there when I was young, so not sure when It went, but goes at least some way to explaining why I am having trouble understanding mass psychology and why masses do what they do at times.

I may regard highly, the abilities of a given public figure, but frankly, unable to conjure up any sort of implied relationship (faux or otherwise) with them, unless I’ve met them in person, shook hands and engaged in a conversation with the said person.  Otherwise, it’s this… I don’t know them personally and they don’t know me. Having had a cursory trawl through the Internet, it looks like there is even a test for Celebrity Worship Syndrome [PDF here] to which I confess, I’m very perplexed at the level at which this is occurring at… Have we ceased thinking?

 

Celebrity Worship and The Widening Wealth Gap

Faceborg Assimilated

As as I said in an earlier post, I have recently had to capitulate and join Facebook (proper) amid much escalating and heated (“Angry” and “Shouty”) protestation from different, quite distinct (Separate) circle of friends and acquaintances for not being contactable via facebook.

To my friends, I just wish to say, I really appreciate having you all as friends. I really do, however on a personal level, I have difficulties with supporting a company like facebook considering their past and present behaviour and have concerns that we are collectively allowing a single for-profit minded company too much power over our lives collectively.

Anyway, as of writing this, 10 people have discovered my profile and have since “friended” me on my regular faceborg profile. if I know you and you want to try and dissuade me from leaving the faceborg collective for a 3rd time, now’s a good time to go to profile and “friend” me. (ugh, hate using the verb in that context)

See Also…

Faceborg Assimilated

Faceborg

28th October 2016 – Have had to finally capitulate amid much (quite heated and “shouty”) protestation at my lack thereof and get assimilated by faceborg as detailed in this article.

Original post below. My views on facebook still firmly stand…

In answer to a fairly regular query I receive: “Why aren’t you on facebook?”

While facebook as a platform may be considered the best thing since sliced bread to many, I have to admit, I disagree with how the sole company behind the platform has behaved on several counts and have elected not to support them nor their behaviour by staying off of their platform.

May be if “facebook” as a medium was instead a de-centralised and inter-operable  communication standard (with a choice of providers, much like we have with Email) rather than a proprietary medium control by a single for-profit motivated entity (whose natural motivations are profits ahead of any concern for their users and the world at large), then perhaps, I would indeed see myself using “facebook”.

I will also mention that I am particularly uncomfortable (actually to be honest, “Alarmed” would be more accurate) about how we collectively appear to be handing (by virtue of providing them our personal data) over so much power and control over our our lives, and the Internet in general to a single for-profit corporation such as facebook.  I often do wonder whether or not any one has stopped to think whether so much power over our personal data, the internet and ultimately our lives in general concentrated in the hands of a single profit orientated entity is really a good idea for us collectively in the long run?

There is this long held saying that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, have we all forgotten about this somehow?

It is for these reasons (and several others) why I prefer (and have chosen) to maintain my own homepage  as opposed to handing over personal data to the likes of facebook whom I have little trust in as a custodian of such data.

See also…

Faceborg