Reducing mobile costs, wireless home audio

Hi and welcome to the last Newsletter for 2011.  We are on leave from Dec 9th until Jan 10th.  I will be available via e-mail and Text most of the time I am away for queries and emergencies.  If I don’t speak to you before then, have a great Xmas!  In the meantime, I do have quite a few working slots, so let me know what you need done before Xmas asap!

Roaming:  When we travel overseas we tend to rely on mobile services more and more, however, the Telco’s have not reduced the cost of these services for as long as I have been watching.  Remember, each text you send costs about $1 and voice calls are around $1 a minute to send or receive.

  • If you are travelling overseas, to avoid ‘bill shock’ on return here are some ideas to think about:
  • Don’t pick up calls, you will be paying for an International call on all incoming calls;  You can leave your phone on silent so you can still see the caller ID and decide whether you want to call them back or Text/e-mail instead.
  • Voicemail; before you leave, change your message to encourage callers to e-mail or text instead.  Picking up voicemail while overseas is an international call.
  • If you plan to be in a country for more than a week or two, buy a local pre-paid SIM card.  They are always very competitively priced so you can make local calls and send local texts for next to nothing. (You need a local or an unlocked phone for this to work – see below)
  • If you have a Smartphone, make sure you know how to set up WiFi – this is available for free at many locations you may be travelling to.
  • If you have a modern iPhone, learn how to use iMessage (modern iPhones (and iPads and iTouches) can send texts to each other using WiFi – i.e. no cost) and FaceTime* (Very good video calling between modern Apple products over WiFi – i.e. no cost).
  • Get a Skype account and learn how to use this before you travel.
  • E-Mail – make sure that your email is setup to be accessed and to be sent over a variety of networks.

Unlocking phones:  When you buy a new phone under contract in Australia, it is ‘locked’ to the network provider you choose at the time.  They do this to ensure that they receive the revenue to cover the cost of the phone.  Once the contract period is over (usually 24 months) then the phone can be ‘unlocked’.  It is very useful to do this as soon as the contract is over, so that the phone can be used on other networks – this is extremely useful if you are travelling overseas (see above) as you can then use a local SIM card in it.  Contact your Network provider for the method to unlock your phone.

Fax machines:  Still using them?  I used to have a dedicated number so faxes were easy from home, however the volume of faxes has reduced to the point where I didn’t feel it justified the monthly cost of the line.  Unfortunately, there is no direct substitute for the existing fax number over the Internet.  I have done a number of things:  I have replaced the old fax machine with a more intelligent current model – when I scan something, I can send it via fax (over existing phone line) or automatically email the document. (Which is of course the main thing I do with it)  For incoming faxes,  I can either ask the sender to e-mail instead (most can if asked) or I just turn on the fax receive mode on the new machine briefly to receive the fax over my phone line.   I know some people use Internet based fax services like  probably the important point for most of whether they can ‘port’ your existing fax number over to these services – you need to ask them before committing to the service (bear in mind that you will still be paying for the number rental though).

Internet Plans:  These tend to change every year with the major providers – more often with the smaller providers.  It is worth talking to your Internet Service provider once a year to find out if you are on the best plan.  One client had a 0.5meg speed, 5GB plan for $90 (plus $300 excess charges in last month!) I was able to renegotiate this to 20meg (speed) 25GB plan for $65 per month (and got the excess fee waived).  Have a look at your current plan and have a chat to your provider, or let me know and I can do it for you.

New PCs:  Quite a number of new PCs installed this month:  Sample price is $700+ for desktop, i3, 1TB hard drive, 4GB RAM, DVD-RW – this is very competitive!  Found some great brand name laptops around the $600-$700 mark too.

Home Audio: Lots of fun this month setting up wireless audio systems.  They tend to be based on iTunes and Apple TVs.   Typically control from iPhone and iPad and playing music (stored or streaming radio stations) and videos through existing TV’s and stereos, and wired or wireless, indoor and outdoor speakers.

Back-ups !!!:  Hardware has become very cheap these days – there is no financial reason not to do regular backups of all your important data.  I have recovered data off a couple of PC and Mac drives this month for people without backup – this process is very expensive on fingernails!   Please back up your data regularly; hard drives on any computer can fail at any time.  Please let me know if you do not know how to do this.

Thinking about buying a new Apple product?  Hold off until this Friday when I have heard they may be having a one day sale.

Learn how to service your own computer:   A couple of places are left, so enrol quickly.