Does Free for life mean Free for life? Not to SugarSync it doesn’t

One of my favourite online storage services SugarSync announced on the 10th of December 2013 that they were dropping all their free accounts and you had until the 8th of February 2014 to pay for the service or your account would be deleted along with any data attached to it. Their press release can be read here.

Why they made this decision is unclear but the way they handled this doesn’t sit well with me, I’ve been recommending SugarSync for many years and know of a lot of people using their free 5GB service and many more using their paid services. They could have taken the approach that companies like Google have taken with Google Apps (if you had a free account prior to the changes you get the account free forever) and grandfathered the old free users and I doubt that anyone would have had a problem with this.

As a paid user who had just exceeded the 100GB limit on my $9.99 a month plan I was faced with having to upgrade to the 250GB plan for $24.99 a month to obtain an additional 10GB. I contacted SugarSync in September 2013 who offered nothing except upgrade to the 250GB plan.

“I understand your concern. But currently, we don’t have any intermediate plan between the 100 GB and 250 GB. However, you can earn more storage using the SugarSync referral program.”

Interestingly they raised the option of encouraging friends to sign up the free plan as a way to increase my data allowance, surely they knew about the changes coming in a few months?

  • When you refer a friend who signs up for a 60 GB individual or larger plan, you and your friend each earn 10 GB of free storage, which you’ll both receive after the friend’s first billing cycle.
  • When you refer a friend who opens a 5 GB free account, you and your friend each earn 500 MB of free storage, up to a limit of 32 GB.
  • Note  If your friend opens a free account, then upgrades to a paid account, you’ll both receive just the 500 MB of bonus storage, not 10 GB.
  • You won’t receive bonus storage for referrals who did not use your unique referral URL to sign up.

My SugarSync account is now closed, a small part of this was unwillingness to offer anything between 100GB and 250GB and the other is their shutting down the free service after promising to keep this running forever. I like SugarSync but SpiderOak has come a long way since I last looked at it and it was a straightforward transition.

I’ve helped many of the people that I had referred to SugarSync to user alternative services like SpiderOak who offer their free 2GB plan for LIFE. If you would like to trial SpiderOak an additional 1GB for LIFE free use this referral link by clicking here (this also gives me an additional 1GB for LIFE for free).

SpiderOak offers other benefits including encrypting the data before it is uploaded, read below for an explanation as to why this is a benefit.

Your SpiderOak data is readable to you alone. Most online storage systems only encrypt your data during transmission, and do not encrypt the data while it is resting on their servers. This means that anyone with access to the servers your data is stored on (such as the company’s staff) could appropriate it. Or, even if your data is encrypted during storage, your password (or set of encryption keys) is often stored along with your data, thus making your data easily viewable by anyone with access to those servers.

SpiderOak’s encryption is comprehensive — even with physical access to the storage servers, SpiderOak staff cannot know even the names of your files and folders. On the server side, all that SpiderOak staff can see, are sequentially numbered containers of encrypted data. In this way, we are not capable of betraying our customers.

The secret that keeps your data accessible to you alone is your SpiderOak password, which is never transmitted to SpiderOak in its original form. This means you alone have responsibility for remembering your password or ‘Password Hint’ (which you can create to help you remember.) If the password is forgotten, there’s nothing anyone can do to make the encrypted data readable to you again.

When you first run the SpiderOak software on a computer, a series of strong encryption keys are generated. The keys are themselves encrypted with your password and stored (along with your backup data) on SpiderOak servers in their encrypted form.

To be most secure, encryption key generation needs to happen on a real computer — not in a web browser. However, it’s 2013 and people expect to signup for services on the web. We use some Javascript magic to make this convenient.

If Javascript is enabled in your browser when you fill out the SpiderOak user signup form, Javascript code running inside your browser on your computer will hash your password with the bcrypt algorithm before sending it to the SpiderOak servers. Then when you first run the SpiderOak backup software, it will prompt for your username and that same password to authenticate you into your account. The plain version of the password is never sent to SpiderOak.

If you mistrust Javascript for these purposes, you may disable it when signing up for a SpiderOak account. In that case the form will have no password fields at all. Instead of a password a temporary “activation code” will be automatically created for you, and you can use this activation code when you first run the SpiderOak software to authenticate into your account. The SpiderOak software will then prompt you to create a password.

In either case, when you run the SpiderOak software for the first time and authenticate into your SpiderOak account, strong encryption keys for your account will be automatically generated, encrypted with your password, and saved. No trace of your original password is stored. These are the necessary steps to create a true zero knowledge environment.

Click N Collect – why is such a simple concept so hard to implement?

Click N Collect (or Click & Collect and Click and Collect) is a fairly simple concept that in my experience has not been implemented well by any Australian retailer and it appears they have not bothered to put any thought into how the service will operate.

None of the Click N Collect services that I’ve used will permit you to order if the store has no stock (even though the store may actually have no stock like Harvey Norman and Masters) which isn’t logical unless the item is a clearance item so you often have to check multiple stores to find stock instead of using the closest.

Harvey Norman

Ordered two Logitech keyboards during a sale that started on Saturday the 24th of August at a few minutes after midnight, both keyboards showed as in stock. Order confirmation came through at 8:33 the same day showing both keyboards and a delayed order email at 9:40 saying that the second keyboard was on backorder.

On Thursday the 12th of September a ready for collection email was sent at 10:30am, it only included the details of the first keyboard but I assumed the other would be on the order. Included on the order are the store hours which showed trading for the store to be 9:00am to 9:00pm. I arrived at the store at a few minutes after 8:00pm and they were closed, the sign on the door showed they closed at 8:00pm but they allowed me in to collect the keyboards after I explained the times on the email.

To collect I had to provide my drivers license which they photocopied and the pickup wasn’t as fast as it should be. Was told that a tax invoice would be sent to me electronically which it was before I left the store. On the stock situation I was told that there is no link between the online system and the stores and they have to process the online orders manually when staff arrive in the mornings.

I discovered the main keyboard was actually an ex demo or similar with dust etc on it and missing some packaging but they ordered in a new one and swapped it over without any problems. A Click N Collect order for another item on the 21st of October displayed the same hours with the incorrect Thursday times so clearly no-one has bothered to fix that.


Sony camera ordered Saturday night from JB HiFi Mt Gravatt and as per their Click N Collect guidelines I should receive an email that it’s ready for pickup within two hours of the store opening. After ordering the camera I received a confirmation of order email (not a tax invoice).

At 1:30 on the Sunday no such email had been received and there was confusion when I rang as they said initially there was no stock and that it would be arriving shortly and they couldn’t see the order. After discussions with a manager I was told that they had a break in the night before and the cameras were stolen. I asked for the order to be transferred to another store with stock and picked one of the city locations. No confirmation email of the changed order was received but on Monday at 8:30 a ready for pickup email came through (also not a tax invoice).

When I collected the camera I was only given a slip to get me out the door and was told a Tax Invoice was emailed to me.

Email sent on the 16/11/2013 requesting a tax invoice and asking if they have plans to change their click n collect system to send a tax invoice when you collect it.


Placed an orderclick_n_collect_masters_01 for a welder and helmet combo that was showing as in stock and available on the 1st of September and immediately after the order was placed a Tax Invoice is emailed. A check of the stock shows this as still being available at the Tingalpa store on the 15th of September but a call to the store shows no stock and no ETA.

On the 8th of October confirmation that the welder was ready for collection was sent and the welder was collected on the 11th of October. Pickup was easy although the items were not waiting for collection at the Click N Collect counter and took a while to appear from the back.

No updated Tax Invoice has been supplied so I have a welder that has six weeks less warranty. This would be an easy change to the Masters system to send an order confirmation at time of order and send the tax invoice when you collect the goods.

Attempts at contacting Masters by email have been made more difficult by website issues and their removal of any way to contact them except via online chat (only during business hours) and phone (only during store opening hours). For a company that prides itself on customer service why make it difficult for customers to contact you?

edit: I used the online chat feature on their website to contact them, after a while they came back with an email address, I sent an email and a few days later received an updated tax invoice. They didn’t answer the questions I asked regarding invoices being sent out prior to collection instead of at the time of collection.

Early in 2014 I ordered some storage containers using a discount coupon that expired that day from the Springfield store which required purchase over $100 for a $25 discount, received an email saying they were ready for collection (the email only included three items but I didn’t think twice about this as it wasn’t unusual for others to only list a few of your items and not all of them).

Arrived to collect them after a 30 minute drive and they only had three items totalling $20 out of the $120 worth products that I ordered. I raised a few issues with them such as the stock showing as available at the time of order, the fact that they clearly didn’t pick the stock from the shelves in a reasonable time allowing it to be sold, that they didn’t communicate the other items being out of stock and my loss of the $25 discount. It took a while but I managed to negotiate a $15 gift card as part compensation but why is Click N Collect so hard?


Ordered some batteries for pickup on the 26th of August and was advised they were ready on the 27th. Process for collection was slow with the items being held out the back and the amount of checking including collection of credit card details and having to sign for collection was way over the top considering the order was only $18.00.

Dick Smiths (DSE)

I’ve used Dick Smiths Click & Collect service a few times for batteries and have found their website to be particularly unintuitive and whilst the stock has always been waiting it’s out the back and takes them time to find it.


Hewlett Packard, the environment and perhaps too much packaging?

Every major company is happy to promote itself as being green and Hewlett Packard is no exception.

Having worked in IT for a long time I’m used to wasteful packaging like a piece of A4 paper arriving in a box that could take two or three reams (IBM) or a piece of paper and out of date CD (HP Digital Sender License) arrive in a large box flown from somewhere in ASIA but it was the delivery of a management Ethernet port for a HP server that was really over the top.

And yes the box was strapped down using packing straps to the timber pallet which was flown from ASIA using an express courier.

Moving WordPress from shared hosting to a VPS – requests credentials for updates

I recently moved this wordpress installation from a reseller cpanel installation to a virtual private server (VPS) using a cpanel full backup and restoration. Everything went smoothly until I decided to update wordpress and was greeted with the following message.

To perform the requested action, WordPress needs to access your web server. Please enter your FTP credentials to proceed. If you do not remember your credentials, you should contact your web host.

The solution was to change the configuration of PHP and SuExec to have suphp act as the PHP 5 Handler instead of dso.

Confirmation that the setting has been changed.

Refreshing the upgrade page where the credential error occurred and within seconds the upgrade has been performed!

Australia Post’s Parcel Locker system in operation

The original lockers installed at the Brisbane GPO

The original lockers installed at the Brisbane GPO

Continued from The Packstation comes to Australia Post or does it?

The day the system went live I had a parcel arrive, both an SMS and email arrived at the same time. The SMS contained the Locker and Access Code along with the collection date, similar to the information in the email which was more verbose.

Subject: Parcel to collect for Matthew McDonald (C1099) Parcel ID n/a

Hello Matthew

You have a parcel awaiting collection at the Brisbane City Parcel Lockers.

Parcel ID n/a
Date/Time 17 October 2011 7:02 AM
Current Status Awaiting Collection at Brisbane City Parcel Lockers
Location 261 Queen Street
Brisbane City QLD 4000
Locker C1
Access code 172959
Access 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
Time to Collect 20 October 2011 7:02 AM

Important: You will need both the locker number and access code with you when collecting your parcel. If you cannot collect it within 2 working days the article will be removed from the Parcel Locker and placed at the over the counter parcel pick up area at the same site for collection between Monday to Friday 7:00AM to 6:00PM, Saturday 10:00AM to 1:30PM.

Kind regards,
Australia Post

For more information go to
Please note that this is an automatically generated email – replies will not be answered

Arrived at the post office as a few packages were being loaded, they use the same touch screen but go into a different menu that allows them to scan or manually enter the packages, they entered the locker number (customer number), chose a locker to put the parcel into, that lockers button illuminated and pops open, the parcel is inserted and the button pressed to lock the locker.

There was a guy helping the Australia Post employee load the parcels (I assume from the locker supplier) and he congratulated me for being the first to use the lockers.

You enter the locker number and access code, the locker pops open and the area around the button on the locker illuminates. After you remove the package you close the locker but you have to press the button or the locker does not lock and you don’t receive the notification that your parcel was picked up, I assume there is a timeout as the screen was still displaying my pickup until that button was pressed. The guy mentioned that they will need to put some signage up to let you know that you have to press the button in.

After collection you receive an email and an SMS

Subject: Parcel collected for Matthew McDonald (C1) Parcel ID n/a

Hello Matthew

Thank you for collecting your parcel from the Brisbane City Parcel Lockers.

ParcelID n/a
Date/Time 17 October 2011 9:12 AM
Current Status Collected from Brisbane City Parcel Lockers

We hope you are enjoying the convenience of using an Australia Post Parcel locker.

Kind regards,
Australia Post

For more information go to
Please note that this is an automatically generated email – replies will not be answered

My second parcel arrived on Monday the 24th of October however I didn’t receive an email and SMS to advise me but a phone call saying the touchscreen was broken and the system was unavailable. My options were pickup from the registered mail counter or wait for the system to be fixed. If they do keep the system they will want to make sure there is at least one other touch screen available so the system can keep working.

There have been a number of malfunctions with the system that I heard about from Australia Post staffers including

  • Six touchscreens in the country but only two working at one stage.
  • A customer putting his code in to open his locker had all the lockers open.

In February a marketing company contacted me to complete a survey which I did, I found at least some of the questions to be poorly worded and with insufficient options (for example they didn’t take into account that GPO Box holders would want to use this service).

Apart from that there has been zero contact from Australia Post regarding if the box numbers we have been assigned are still continuing.

According to the Australia Post website the locker trial is still running, the Parcel Locker Terms & Condition state that it’s a 3 month trial which can be extended or cancelled at any time.

The Service is being conducted by Us as a trial. It is intended to run for three (3) months but We may decide to change this time period or end the trial at any time. We will advise you by email and SMS when the trial is over. During the trial, the Service will be free for you to use.

However another page on their website now says this is a 12 month extended trial.

Find out how a Parcel Locker can make your life easier by giving it a try – and right now it’s free when you join our extended trial.

  • We intend to run the free trial for 12 months. When you register, you agree that we can ask you what you think of the service. Of course you don’t have to respond to our survey, but we are interested in hearing your views.
  • We will advise you by email and SMS when the trial is over.

Rumour around the post office is that the trial has been a bit of a failure and Australia Post can’t work out how to charge for the service but are committed to it now. This would explain why the trial has been extended for another 12 months.

Changes to Delivery
January 2013

Email received 27th of November 2012

As you may be aware, Australia Post is adding more 24 / 7 Parcel Locker locations across Australia following the success of its recent trial. We are now in the process of establishing an extensive network of Parcel Lockers at 250 locations nation-wide over the next two years.

From 1 January 2013, only parcels which are sent using Australia Post or its subsidiary, StarTrack will be delivered into our Parcel Lockers. Carriers who choose not to use Australia Post or StarTrack to send parcels into our Parcel Lockers have been advised to contact the sender or customer to organise an alternative delivery address.

For information about what happens when a parcel addressed to a Parcel Locker is sent using another carrier, please see the FAQ Can carriers other than Australia Post deliver parcels to the 24/7 Parcel Lockers?.

Where possible, we advise you to check online which shipping provider or carrier is delivering your goods, to ensure your parcel can be delivered to your Parcel Locker address.

The terms and conditions of the Parcel Locker service have been updated to reflect the processes applicable to Parcel Lockers. To read the updated terms and conditions, please click here.

We trust you will continue to enjoy the convenience of using Australia Post’s Parcel Lockers as we add more locations around Australia in the coming months.

Similar setup to the Brisbane GPO

Similar setup to the Brisbane GPO

Replacement Lockers
March 2013

In May 2012 the original supplier of the Parcel Lockers was informed they had not won the tender to supply Australia Post. Pitney Bowes was the lead on the project along with TZ Ltd indicated that it was pricing and failure to integrate the system into the Australia Post network that caused them to lose the contract. More information is here.

Neopost ID is supplying the new lockers for Australia Post with 48 by the end of the 2012 and 250 by the end of 2013 (I assume they mean locations?) at a cost of around 11 million Australian dollars over a unspecified multi year period.

Email dated the 27th of February 2013

Hello Matthew,

We will be upgrading the Brisbane GPO Parcel Lockers, commencing 3:00PM on Friday 1st March 2013. The upgrade is expected to be completed within 48 hours.

This is part of our plans to add more Parcel Lockers across Australia over the next two years and this includes replacing trial lockers with new ones. After the upgrade, you will receive new instructions on how to collect at the new lockers whenever a parcel arrives for you.

If a parcel for you is in a locker when we commence the upgrade, or if a parcel arrives for you while the service is unavailable, you may collect these parcels over the counter at the Brisbane GPO, open Mon – Fri: 7:00AM – 6:00PM, Sat: 10:00AM – 1.30PM. Alternatively, we will load your parcels into the lockers once the upgrade is complete; new Access codes will be advised.

We trust you will continue to enjoy the convenience of using Australia Post’s Parcel Lockers as we add more lockers around Australia in the coming months.

Email dated the 6th of March 2013

Hello Matthew,

The upgrade of the Parcel Lockers at the Brisbane GPO Parcel Lockers has been completed. Thank you for your patience.

Please note that these lockers work differently to previous Parcel Lockers at this location. To collect a parcel from the Brisbane GPO Parcel Lockers, you will need to enter your Parcel Locker Customer ID C1 (which is unchanged) and a one-off access code.

Your Parcel Locker address is unchanged:

Matthew McDonald

Parcel Locker C1

261 Queen Street

Brisbane QLD 4000

To change your details or view any parcels in a locker awaiting collection, please sign in to your account.

Sign in

Please note for quality assurance and security, when your parcel arrives at your Parcel Locker address, we validate your name and Parcel Locker Customer ID. Once your details are confirmed we email and SMS you a one-off access code to open the locker. You will get a new access code each time you use the Parcel Locker service.

For more information about Australia Post Parcel Lockers including location maps and terms and conditions, please click here to visit the Australia Post Parcel Lockers page.

We hope you enjoy the convenience of using Australia Post Parcel Lockers.

Address Change and Software Change
March 2013

Email dated the 18th of March 2013

Dear Matthew

We are upgrading the software that supports our 24/7 Parcel Lockers in order to give you even more choice and control over when and where you receive your parcel.

The upgrade will allow you to register for multiple Parcel Locker locations. It will also allow you to access My Deliveries, our handy online tool, to track and manage all your parcel deliveries.

Following the upgrade scheduled for later this month, your Parcel Locker Customer ID will be replaced with a 10 digit Australia Post Customer Number and your Parcel Locker address will change accordingly.

If you are already a registered user of My Deliveries or have arranged a mail re-direction online, you will have an existing Australia Post Customer Number which will replace your Parcel Locker Customer ID.

You will receive an email with details of your Australia Post Customer Number and new Parcel Locker address after the upgrade. From this time, please use your new Parcel Locker address when shopping online or arranging for a parcel to be delivered to you.

We are working to ensure that this transition is smooth and seamless.

Thank you for supporting our 24/7 Parcel Lockers. Should you have any queries or feedback regarding this information please contact

Email dated the 23rd of March 2013

Dear Matthew

We have upgraded the software that supports our 24/7 Parcel Lockers. The upgrade allows you to register for multiple Parcel Locker locations and access My Deliveries, our handy online tool for tracking and managing your parcel deliveries.

You now have an Australia Post Customer Number, which replaces your Parcel Locker Customer ID. Your Parcel Locker address has also changed accordingly.

Please start using your new Parcel Locker address below for future parcel deliveries:

Matthew McDonald

Parcel Locker CN 10012 34567

261 Queen Street

Brisbane QLD 4000

When collecting your parcel, you will need to use your new Australia Post Customer Number

10012 34567 and follow these simple steps:

Enter the last 5 digits of your new Australia Post Customer Number (APCN)

Enter the one-off access code sent to you for that delivery.

Your APCN can also be entered by swiping the barcode below in front of the Parcel Locker scanner.

You can scan your barcode from your smartphone or a printed copy of this email.

Login to your new Australia Post account to view our online services;

Please login here

You will be required to provide a password the first time you login, for security reasons.

Please use the password reset functionality to set a password for your new account.

For more information on the upgrade, please click here.

Have further questions? Please contact

We hope you continue to enjoy the convenience of using Australia Post Parcel Lockers.

The format of the email when you have a package to collect is

Hello Matthew McDonald,

You have a parcel to collect at the BRISBANE GPO PARCEL LOCKER.

Parcel Locker location: 261 QUEEN STREET


Access code:


Access: Click here for access and location details

Please collect by:09:48AM on Wed 06 Nov

Please follow the on screen prompts to collect your parcel:

Scan your Australia Post Customer Number or enter the last five digits of your Australia Post Customer Number. (Your Australia Post Customer Number was emailed to you as a barcode when you registered for the Parcel Locker service and is also the number you use when you address your parcels for delivery to your Parcel Locker).

Then scan the barcode or enter the access code above

If you do not collect your parcel by the time advised it will be moved from the Parcel Locker to the over-the-counter parcel pick up area at BRISBANE GPO POST SHOP.

April 2014

So far around 30 packages delivered with only a few occasions when I needed to pick up my parcel from inside the post office, one of these was an upgrade and the other was a failure. I have seen a number of irate people who have been unable to get their parcels out either due to a failure of the system or no-one trained on hand to assist them.

Since the change to the system in early 2013 you need to have two codes or barcodes, one is your customer number and the other the access code which means opening two emails if you want to type these in or scan them from your smartphone/printout.

The old system sent both your locker number (where your parcel is located) and a six digit access code. This wasn’t too bad except the locker number is in the format B7 so required you to enter the locker character first before pressing a few keys to bring up numeric and finally entering your access code.

I would prefer a single email that I need to scan to open the locker, maybe they could have a pin number you enter for ease of use.

The Packstation comes to Australia Post or does it?

I’ve long been interested in the DHL Packstation run by DHL Parcel Germany which provides automated booths for self service collection and dispatch of packages via Deutsche Post and express deliveries from DHL Express Germany. Currently there are nearly 3000 packstations throughout Germany and the DHL goal is that no-one will live more then 10 minutes from a packstation. The manufacturer of the Packstation is an Austrian Company KEBA.

DHL require registration to use the service which is free of charge for private and business, from 2011 you can no longer use the customer number and PIN to access the Packstation but need to use your Goldcard and PIN.

Customers can use any Packstation in Germany, the address format is

Name (Willhelm Schmidt)
Customer Number (85673543)
Packstation and Number (Packstation 111)
Postcode and Town (14109 Berlin)

Not only can you send and received packages from the Packstation businesses can also use them to store parts for service calls. For companies with more then 3000 employees DHL offer in-house Packstations for the use of employees.

Other countries with similar systems include

  • Austria with Osterreichische Post running a service called Post.24-Station. KEBA make the booths for them the same as for DHL Packstation.
  • Estonia with Smartpost running a service called Delivery Point Solution. There is a booth within15 minutes drive for everyone in Estonia. Their system was self developed.
  • Lativa with PostService running a service called Mana pasta stacija (My Post Station). Their system is self developed.

Australia Post recently announced they were going to be setting up and trialling their version of the Packstation which is manufactured by TZ Limited in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Brisbane GPO, 261 Queen Street, Brisbane City, QLD 4000 (trial from Monday the 17th of October)
St Kilda Delivery Center, 170-174 Chapel St, St Kilda, Victoria 3182 (trial from Friday the 21st of October)
St Leonards Delivery Facility, 2 Herbert Street, St Leonards, NSW 2065 (trial from Wednesday the 19th of October)

56 lockers will be deployed at each location initially – a layout of the trial is available on the Australia Post website.

The Australia Post system will use a customised version of the TZ Courier software and the lockers have been custom designed for Australia Post. Each locker has a individual security code that is emailed to the recipient so couriers can drop off deliveries at the locker. At the three trial locations access will be 24/7 to a secure area. The photo above are the lockers being delivered today to the Brisbane GPO.

Unlike the DHL Packstation system the Australia Post system appears to be tied to a location (although the Customer ID may be usable Australia wide like the Packstation?), I registered for the three month free trial and received an address in the format;

Name (Matthew McDonald)
Locker number which is your Customer ID (Parcel locker C1xxx)
Address (261 Queen Street)
City State Postcode  (Brisbane City QLD 4000)

When a parcel arrives you will receive a SMS and email (The SMS can be set to only be sent between 8am and 10pm or 24/7) which contains the locker number and access code and you have 48 hours to collect the parcel.

You can receive any parcels delivered by Australia Post with the exception of

  • Letters and standard mail
  • Express Post letters
  • Parcels requiring ‘proof of identity’ or payment on delivery
  • Parcels containing wine or other alcohol
  • Parcels larger than our biggest locker, which is 375mm x 600mm x 650mm
  • Multi-parcel deliveries; we can only manage one parcel per locker

I’m not sure what they mean by proof of identity parcels, I assume this is where the person has to provide identification and not just a signature on delivery as the Trial information states (similar to the Packstation terms);

  • When you register, you agree that delivery of your parcel will not require a signature. Instead, your use of the one-off access code will prove your acceptance (and the delivery of) your parcel.

If you don’t collect within 48 hours or it’s too large you have to collect the parcel as per normal during business hours. More information is available here.

Australia Post offer the following additional services at this stage

Missed deliveries – these can be redirected to your Parcel Locker by using the details on the missed delivery card.

Is there going to be a cost after the three month trial? The Packstation has no charges for using it so I hope Australia Post go down the same path.

Will we start to see DHL Packstation type booths popping up around the country? Hopefully yes.

Continued in Australia Post’s Parcel Locker system in operation

Australia Post unveils ‘post office of the future’

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Australia Post is excited to announce plans for a ‘post office of the future’, an innovative store showcasing a range of new services to offer customers greater access, convenience and choice in the way they transact with Australia Post.

The store will offer a dedicated area for online shopping where online traders can fulfil their postage needs, a travel services zone and a private lounge where customers can complete more complex financial and identity services transactions.

In another first, the store will have a 24/7 zone for customers to pick up parcels, vending machines where customers can buy stamps and packaging products as well as weigh and send parcels at any time that suits them.

Managing Director and CEO, Ahmed Fahour, said that this was the first of many exciting changes to transform Australia Post into a more customer-focused organisation concentrating on eCommerce and trusted services.

“Our retail network is key to our strategy and a critical part in shaping the future of Australia Post – the community is changing and we are changing our stores to meet their needs,” said Mr Fahour.

“Our customers have told us they want more options in how they interact with us, so we will be providing them with greater access, convenience and choice in how they do business with Australia Post.”

The Brisbane GPO has been chosen as the first site for the new store, which was also the location of the first PostShop back in October 1989.

“The Brisbane GPO store will enable us to find out firsthand from customers about what services they use and like, which will help us develop future concept stores across the country,” said Executive General Manager Retail Services, Christine Corbett.

The new store will feature six dedicated zones:

  • Online shopping zone for online traders including an eBay corner to dispatch parcels, purchase a range of packaging products and shop online with a range of Australia Post eCommerce partners;
  • 24/7 zone with parcel lockers where customers can pick up their parcel at any time, a vending machine with packaging products and a self-service terminal where they can weigh, and post parcels as well as an ATM;
  • Financial and identity services section where customers can sit down and go through transactions with staff;
  • Travel services zone offering foreign exchange and a range of travel related services;
  • Self-service terminals to allow customers to quickly pay a bill or post a parcel within Australia; and
  • New spacious counters, divided into dedicated transaction types.

The concept store at Brisbane GPO is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Australia Post transforms its parcel service to meet online shopping boom

Monday, 10 October 2011

Australian online shoppers and sellers will be the big winners from the most significant changes to Australia Post’s parcel operations in its 200 year history.

Australia Post Managing Director and CEO Ahmed Fahour said Australia Post’s response to the internet shopping boom includes new delivery options such as the ability for customers to collect parcels from an initial 100 extended hours locations across Australia and access parcel lockers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with customers receiving email and SMS notifications when their parcel arrives.

“These new measures are additions to existing parcel services and come in response to a 10.9 per cent increase in parcel volumes over the last financial year – a figure which can be directly linked to Australians taking up online shopping in record numbers,” said Mr Fahour.

The new services providing customers with more flexibility and choice include:

Extended hours for parcel collection

The ability for customers to have their parcel delivered to a location of their choice from an initial 100 parcel pick up locations across Australia which offer extended hours with many open weekends.

New 24 hour access electronic parcel lockers will be trialled in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Customers can collect their items 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will receive a SMS notification when their parcel is ready for collection.

New parcel lockers for Post Office Box holders in 24 locations nation-wide by the end of November with more to come.

Trial of new self-service machines for domestic parcels and Billpay at five initial retail outlets, with many more to be operating across the country by the end of the financial year.

Competitive pricing and home delivery service

Australia Post/eBay low cost satchels and boxes priced at a low flat rate to anywhere in Australia no matter how remote or far away.

A new international tracked parcel product called ‘Pack and Track international’ which is a significantly cheaper option. This product offers tracked delivery between the United States and Australia with more international destinations to be added in the future and is available online from today and in retail outlets early next year.

To the door carding requiring our drivers to leave a card under the door, rather than the letterbox, to ensure customers who are at home receive their delivery.

Supporting consumers and Australian retailers get online

  • 60 upgraded business hubs across Australia focusing on small to medium business activity, with the first to be opened in Mount Waverley (Victoria) in November, and 20 to be launched by the end of 2012.
  • Australia Post, in association with our partner Mailplus, is offering free Express Post product pick up for new customers during October and November this year.
  • An online label printing service, Click and Send, that makes it simple for customers to send parcels by allowing them to print labels, pay for postage online and organise courier pick up, all from the convenience of home or work.
  • Our flagship concept store opening in Brisbane in December, which will have a dedicated online shopping area, 24/7 parcel pick up zone and vending machines with stamps and packaging.
  • Helping Australian retailers with their online ordering and payments through our SecurePay business and our Shop In A Box product, which is available online shortly.

“We’re listening to our customers. Australians are receiving more parcels than ever and many of our customers are rarely at home during the day and find it increasingly hard to get to a post office,” said Mr Fahour.

“This is the biggest change Australia Post has ever made in our parcels business since it was set up many decades ago. It will allow us to introduce more services to complement those we continue to offer, such as home delivery and parcel collection at the post office.”

Richard Umbers, Executive General Manager Parcel Services said that while home delivery is still the best option for some people, for others it is more convenient to collect a parcel from a location of their choice which is open for longer hours.

“This year we trialled extended hours and drive-through parcel collection in Sydney and 90 per cent of residents surveyed who took part in the trial told us they wanted the service to continue.

“With our extensive delivery network and the largest retail network in the country, Australia Post is the natural partner for eCommerce in Australia with millions of parcels delivered annually on behalf of online sellers both domestically and internationally.”

These are the initial parcel pick up sites which will operate beyond normal business hours from early next year. Extended hours will be tailored to needs of the local community.




Altona North



Bakery Hill

Baulkham Hills






Bondi Beach




Brisbane City East


Frenchs Forest

Brisbane George Street




Caulfield South

Hunter Connection













Fortitude Valley





North Ryde

Kelvin Grove




Hoppers Crossing

Regents Park


Melbourne, Bourke Street*

St Leonards


Melbourne, Collins Street East

Strawberry Hills


Melbourne, Franklin Street*



Melbourne, Law Courts

Taren Point




Upper Mt Gravatt




Mt Waverley

Wetherill Park








Port Melbourne







Bibra Lake



Canning Vale

Ingle Farm

South Melbourne

East Perth

Kent Town






Melrose Park



Mount Gambier



North Adelaide



Port Lincoln



Regency Park





Osborne Park







Victoria Park

Eastern Shore




Western Shore

West Perth

* Initial parcel locker locations.


McGills Business and Technical Bookstore – Brisbane store closed

McGills last remaining bookstore has closed, McGills in Brisbane followed their Melbourne store which closed it’s doors on June the 5th 2009 after 149 years and now Brisbane closed it’s doors on Thursday the 7th of July 2011.

The Melbourne store closing was covered in the media

Read it and weep: old McGills closes its book

Melbourne newsagency McGills to shut

The Brisbane closing was without warning*, they packed up on Thursday after a period of initially a 20% off sale which was increased to a 30% off sale soon after. Their website only states that Weborders are no longer available.

*I suspected something was going on after the 20% off became a 30% off sale and decided to visit the store and use up my remaining membership reward dollars on discounted books, ended up paying only $8 for nearly $200 worth of books but it was an effort to find useful books. The girl that served me told me I had to use up all my points as they have to close my rewards account. Their website shows that Rewards are not longer available.

This leaves a large gap now in technical books in Australia, I don’t know of anywhere else that has the range of books that McGills kept so I guess I’ll buy ebooks or physical books from overseas. I’m surprised that McGills were not able to continue to operate as a webstore in particular for corporate clients, their website no longer allows weborders (their catalog returns a blank screen) and refers you to the Brisbane store.

And the Southbank Institute of Tafe store has been renamed from McGill SBIT to Campion Bookstore.

I’ve contacted Campion to ask if McGills is gone permanently or if they will be coming back as an online retailer and Campion has responded saying that “Unfortunately, Mcgills has ceased in all aspects including online.” so that’s it for McGills.

At least I have my Safari Books Online account to fall back to, perhaps this is the future of books and physical bookstores no longer have a place?


Power Saving device scams – they don’t save electricity nor do they reduce your power bill

The local free magazine had the local PoolMart pushing a GO4GREEN EnergySmart device with promises that it will save you up to 10% on your power bills. I had hoped that after the Earthwise PowerSavers device promoted by A Current Affair (ACA) and Today Tonight in January 2011 was exposed as being unable to meet any of it’s claims that the sale of these devices would drop off but it seems there are plenty of people willing to hand over good money for snake oil.

A Current Affair removed their promotion of the device from their website soon afterwards they were presented with evidence it was a scam however by that time plenty of people had purchased the $895 box that promised power savings of up to 25% whereas Today Tonight has left it’s information on their website.

To understand why these devices don’t work you need to understand there are two ways that power is billed, Real power and Apparent power.

Real power

This is how households and small businesses (under ~$30K power spend per year) are billed and it’s based on the amount of  watts (W) consumed (true power).

Apparent power

This is how businesses (above ~$30K power spend per year) and factories are generally billed and it’s based on volt-amperes (VA) drawn.

Power Factor

Power factor is defined as Real Power divided by Apparent Power.

A circuit that consists of resistive loads such as incandescent/halogen bulbs, ovens and bar heaters will have a power factor of 1.0 whereas circuits containing inductive or capacitive elements such as electric motors and florescent ballasts which have a power factor of less then 1.0.

When these devices are being demonstrated they will usually use a wireless power meters that work by placing a clamp around the active conductor and measure Apparent Power not Real Power hence why when they demonstrate with an inductive load like an electric motor power “savings” are seen as the Power Factor is around .8 to .9. If the same test were performed by using an incandescent or halogen bulbs no saving will be seen as it’s Power Factor will be 1.0.

Essentially Power Factor is something that only matters if you are being billed for Apparent Power, these power saving devices are targeted at households where they make no difference to the size of the power bill and they are promoted through misleading methods including the use of wireless power meters that measure Apparent power.

This is a photo of the inside of a typical plug in power saver, they all work on the same principle which is a AC capacitor, a few components and a LED or two for looks (and to consume power so not only did you pay for something that doesn’t work it actually costs you money to have it plugged in). Cost to manufacture these devices would vary between $5 to $20 and they retail for $149 to over $1000, hence why so many people are willing to sell these as they are so profitable.



The EnergySmart is being sold for between $149 and $299 by the following retailers; Poolmart Kenmore, iintegrate technology


Sells for $895 (installed up to $1500)

Promoted by A Current Affair (ACA) and Today Tonight (ACA took down their article soon after broadcast – Today Tonight left theirs online and added another segment covering it the next day)

Claims to also protect you from cancer (electromagnetic radiation) and has a reference from Panacea University (not recognised as a university).

Mark Maxwell said a number of times it’s capacitor based and works like a battery to save you power. All the excess electricity coming through is stored until required and it’s released, most of the devices use far too much power when they don’t need it and this capacitor based power saver stores a bit of that and this is where the power savings come from – video HIA Home Show Sydney 2011.

Other videos

Earthwise Power Savers featured on Today Tonight

Earthwise Power Savers Save Electricity Dirty Electricity = Harmful EMF and Facts (ok not real facts)

Earthwise Power Savers Saving Watt’s

Reegen Microplug

No longer for sale – Choice awarded this with their Shonky Award of 2009.

Claims to save up to 30% on your power bills – see presentation and video.

Enersonic Power Saver

Sold by Auscha Corporation – ACCC took them to court and they were ordered to stop selling – sell ACCC action below.

ACCC Action

The ACCC has taken action against a number of sellers of these devices, the most recent was action taken against Auscha Corporation Pty Ltd in July 2010 for it’s activities in 2008 and 2009 selling a power saving product. As you can see the ACCC is slow to act so don’t think that lack of action against any current sellers in any way legitimises their products.

  • the Power Saver was not capable of reducing the amount of electrical power consumed by domestic consumers as measured by retail electricity suppliers, and therefore domestic consumers could not save up to 24% on their electrical power consumption by using the Power Saver
  • use of the Power Saver could not lead to domestic consumers saving on their electrical power consumption as measured by retail electricity suppliers, and therefore domestic consumers could not save money by using the Power Saver, and
  • the Power Saver was not designed and engineered in Australia.

Read the full release at the ACCC website – Federal Court declares consumers misled over Power Saver device

Further Information

Power Factor Correction Scam Review

Do Energy Savers Really Work?

Energy Saving Gadgets – Do They Work?

Hurrah! Another power-saving doodad!

Power Saver scam brought to you by Today Tonight and ACA

Earthwise power saver – scam or what?

Energysmart Go4Green power saver – is this a scam?

Whirlpool Snake Oil Post

World Health Organisation – Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a number of reports that debunk these devices are saving any money.

NIST Team Demystifies Utility of Power Factor Correction Devices

NIST Technical Note 1654 – Regarding Electric Energy Savings, Power Factors, and Carbon Footprints: A Primer

Purchasing Isopropyl Alcohol in Australia (aka IPA, rubbing alcohol, propan-2-ol, 2-propanol and isopropanol)

Isopropyl Alcohol also known as IPA, rubbing alcohol, propan-2-ol, 2-propanol and isopropanol is an incredibly handy solvent and cleaner. Do not confuse it with the cheaper propan-1-ol or 1-propanol as this damages plastics unlike Isopropyl Alcohol. Anything above 99% is suitable for most of the uses I’ve listed, the purer the better.

It can be used for

  • cleaning contact connections such as on electrical devices and in cars
  • cleaning tape and disk heads (floppy drives, tape players, video cassette records, tape drives)
  • cleaning laser lenses (cd/dvd/bluray drives)
  • cleaning CPUs before applying thermal grease (also useful for removing old thermal grease)
  • cleaning mobile phones (smart phones, pdas)
  • cleaning LCD monitors (may damage some types of screens)
  • cleaning negatives
  • a release agent for glues (for example hot melt glue used in paintless dent removal)
  • and many more

Obtaining Isopropyl Alcohol in Australia however is getting harder partially due to it’s use in the manufacture of illicit drugs, chemists used to be able to supply 100% pure at a reasonable price and some outlets like Dick Smith Electronics used to sell Helmar ISO PRO which was 99.7% but no longer do carry it. Jaycar Electronics carry a 50% and finally a 99.8% concentration.

After looking around I found the following for a decent price and ended up ordering from element 14.

element14 (was Farnell)

Isopropyl Alcohol 99.7% – 1 litre for $16.65 (delivery free for online orders)

Adelaide Moulding & Casting Supplies

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 500 ml

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 1 litre

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 5 litres for $54.00 (delivery to Brisbane $22.00)

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 20 litres

GNB Salon Supplies

Isopropyl Alcohol 100% – 1 litre for $13.99 (delivery $12-15)

Places that I’ve heard stock it

Altronics has 2L containers for under $40.

Prime Electronics in Brisbane

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 500 ml for $12.38

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 1 litre for $18.24

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 5 litre for $64.34

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 20 litre for $228.79

sells 20 litre drums for $144 (part number CHELISO020)

Updating the B&N Nook Color using CyanogenMod 7 (CM7) firmware

I’ve been using the CyanogenMod 7 (CM7) firmware on a B&N Nook Colour for a while now and it brings with it Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” to not only the Nook Color but other devices as well.

Installing the CM7 is easy by following the guide at xdadevelopers – Install CM7, OC kernel and Clockworkmod

Keeping the Nook Color up to date is easy, there are two types of updates stable and nightly, as the name implies the stable releases  are stable and the nightly releases are changes made each day so it may not be as stable but on the other hand you get the latest fixes and features. Actually there are three but the third is Release Candidate and this is only available before a firmware becomes stable so I won’t include it in the ones to worry about updating as they are rarely released.

CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Stable)
CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Release Candidate)
CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Nightly)

CyanogenMod has a wiki site with more information – Barnes & Noble Nook Color