24th of December 2003
This site and all aspects of my business are now CLOSED until the 5th of January 2004, which is of course for my usual Christmas and New Year holiday. This would have been done days ago, except that my cable modem and connection to the Internet went down on Friday only about an hour after I updated my News page and resumed again on Monday morning.
Unfortunately, this messed up my planned time for answering all outstanding e-mail, even if many have already been answered, where as I have been too busy doing other things from Monday, then this means that the remaining ones will have to be answered following Christmas and before New Year.
Sorry about this delay in answering this e-mail, but then my life is full of these problems.
As mentioned before you can still send me your orders during this holiday, both on-line and through the post, where of course these won't be dispatched until January the 5th. However, as it turns out a few last minute orders were dispatched on Monday, which was not exactly planned, but happened anyway.
I have already noticed a large surge in orders, due to this holiday and other factors, but of course even this does not compare to the large volume of January orders. That is the month that I call the one where people buy for themselves what they really wanted for Christmas yet never got, where the pre-Christmas shopping leaves them in the mood for doing more shopping, but this time for themselves.
Go on you know that you want to in other words. :-]
One extra thing I noticed recently is that Conax got itself publicly hacked again only a few days ago, which explained the rise in sales of one if my items. Naturally, as this is not the first time it has been hacked, then this easy key insertion in older firmware means that it is already everywhere.
Now I am wondering how long this key release will last, when last time it went on for a few months before they changed.
Since I do not often mention such things here, then I guess that it is soon near time for my annual report of the status of these conditional access systems. As one of my hobbies is keeping a eye on developments in the conditional access system world.
Anyway, I will be back on the 5th of January, where I will last of all wish all my customers a happy holiday and a better new year than what this one was.
19th of December 2003
Well today is the last day for order dispatches should you wish to order items from me in time for Christmas. This means that if you place an on-line order before 16:30 today, then you have very good odds of having this order dispatched today as well.
Since I am officially on holiday from the end of today onwards, then this means that the next official dispatch day is Monday the 5th of January 2004. Normally, I would only take a holiday until the 3rd, but of course the 3rd next year just happens to be a weekend.
So this all means that I will be on my "interrupt me an get shot" Christmas and New Year holiday between tomorrow (the 20th) and the now known 5th of January next year. That happens to be 16 days in total, but then this is not quite true.
What I mean is that every year without exception the truth is that December is a very busy time, even if January is even more busy, which means that e-mail replies have been delayed due to order dispatches.
This means that my holiday will really start on Monday, once all the delayed e-mail have been answered, which means no more e-mail replies until the 5th, or maybe the 3rd if I am in the mood. So that means that if you have something to say, then you had better do so by Sunday at the latest if you wish an early reply. As after Sunday means that you will only get a reply in early January, which could even be as late as the 7th.
As to what happens to orders during this time, then should you desire you can still send them to me, both on-line and through the post. These after all can be received and stored, even if none will be departing before the 5th of January.
All orders that I receive during this holiday will be dispatched on the 5th and 6th of January no matter the quantity, when during this month I have been stocking up on items to last this holiday.
Although I have not updated this news page for a long time, but I have certainly been doing a lot of site updates this month. The one you should most be aware of is that you can now pay me in Sterling (GBP) through the PayPal system on my Sterling Order Form, when before recently I was only accepting PayPal payments in USD.
This came about following my addition of my main business GBP bank account to this PayPal service, where a quick check of the withdrawal option to this account only showed my USD total. True that I had no GBP funds at this point, but I went off to check to make sure that GBP payments can be received and debited without any USD transfers.
After hours of searching I came to the conclusion that it could, which is why I added this payment option to this Order Form.
There was however one problem, when despite the fact that this popular service now takes up about half of all on-line order payments, but a lot of funds from Credit Card funded payments were being received.
These payments I did not normally accept, which left me with the choice of either rejecting a whole load of payments, or to upgrade my PayPal account to a Business account.
Due to my conclusion that it was not worth supporting PayPal without supporting the most popular card payment option as well, then that is why PayPal now sends me Credit Card funded payments in exchange for a 3.4% + £0.20 charge on every transaction.
That also makes the highest charge that I pay any service without exception, when without doubt many small suppliers do not accept PayPal payments due to it being just too expensive. As for example on a £100 payment PayPal would now charge me a total of £3.60.
Due to this high charge I will now obtain this back due to an increase in my item prices, when under PayPal's terms and conditions I am not allowed to directly charge my customers this fee. This is against my normal "you use it and you pay for it" system, but even without a direct charge this new expense still needs to be paid for.
True that I could have charged my UK customers a surcharge based on PayPal's terms and conditions, but then I do not believe in discriminating against groups of people simply based upon where they live.
At the same time I will also be pointing out the much more low cost FastPay service, which for UK customers at least provide payments at the cost to my customers of just 20 pence. Not everyone can use this service of course, but it is the lowest cost and best system around.
Anyway, should supporting this PayPal option increase sales, then the affect won't be too bad, but in the end every charge needs to be paid for in one way or another.
The other important change is that my WHITE cards are now back in stock after a few months of being out of stock. And of course things went "belly up" after the wholesaler of my former WHITE cards went bankrupt.
You could say that his low card prices were a little too good. :-]
Anyway, since I could find no alternate supplier with reasonable card prices, then I decided to complete the outstanding orders, no matter the cost, then to give up supplying them for good.
So I had even gone as far as removing this card from my Order Forms (no easy task), when suddenly I by accident found cards at a reasonable price.
As one supplier who had originally offered cards at sixteen times my normal cost (that is right a 16 times price increase) changed his mind and now offered an acceptable five times increase.
That is why WHITE cards are now back in stock and I am charging about twice as much for them, when these cards now cost me five times more. Good value if you ask me, where as they are still the lowest cost cards that I supply, then that is why people will still want them.
I still have to update the text in that section to take account of this change, but that is not too important.
Also I have done a few other changes on my Order Forms, like including the high PayPal charge in the e-mail copy of this Order Form I receive. Apart from that the note "card only orders" has changed to "smart card only orders" to avoid confusion with card payment orders.
A couple of things that I have to do here is to change the system to allow Standard Postage on UK and CI orders up to the total of £30, then I have to see if I can better correct for this 0 grams problem.
Another thing that has been done recently is that I have now scanned and put on-line the new FUN5 and FUN6 card designs, when these have been changed over the past couple of months. I still have to do the now green FUN2 though, where the FUN4 still looks about the same.
While I am on that subject, then restocking on these FUN2 and FUN4 cards oddly took about a week this time, where I guess my local wholesaler must be suffering from high December demand as well.
One problem that I am sorting out over the next few days is that Global Communications UK Ltd no longer make the DGEN4 for some unknown reason, even if they still make the DGEN2. This is a problem, when I have one outstanding order for one and both my usual wholesaler and Global are out.
So this item I could well soon have to mark as Discontinued in the near future if not now.
In the last couple of days I have been sorting out by labeling, indexing and better storing my stock, which is to keep better count on what it is that I have here.
Over the next day or two I should finally add the PV5 and PA1 cables, which are two that have been here for months, but what I have just never got around to adding. Those I rediscovered during my stock check.
More important news is what has been happening last month and why my News updates ended on the 7th of November, which is mostly due to hopefully the end of computer failure.
As what happened is that following my restoration of my main management computer the previous month, then the network cable to the server was playing up. Many lost packets and the whole connection used to go down when I played a video file.
So I decided to replace the old cable and now install my new CAT5E cable, which took just about the whole day to move a load of items out of the way of the wall in order to install it correctly.
Only problem is that things only got worse, when now I could only connect to the server if I was already connected to the server. What I mean is that the link needed to be "warmed up" with lots of data before it could establish any connection, when even when connected it used to go down frequently.
One thing for sure was that file transfers to the Internet were just not going to happen.
After many days of trying to get it to work I gave up and tried to figure out what was going on, where I came to the correct conclusion that the problem was not the cable, when the problem was caused by the 300w PSU just not being powerful enough to power the link.
As of course I had already blown up one 300w PSU only the previous month, where I just stuck in the replacement 300w PSU to get it working again.
So I went and ordered a new 500w PSU, where I also ordered some new expensive PC3200 DIMMs (1GB) of memory at the same time for my new motherboard.
That was because when this computer failed the first time I ordered new hardware to replace just about the whole system, but as half of the hardware did not turn up after about two weeks, then that is why I cancelled that other order and got my old hardware working again.
Now before powering my old hardware on this 500w PSU I decided to give the new hardware a try, when after all since I now had a suitable PSU, the new Motherboard, a 2.4 Ghz CPU and finally some really good memory, then combined with my old PCI graphics card I could see if all the new hardware worked.
After powering up this board the very first time it did work, which is why I made the not so wise choice to now upgrade and replace my entire system. This I soon concluded as unwise, when replacing the whole O/S, reinstalling loads of applications and sorting out problems can take days or even weeks.
As it happens I was very fortunate, when things went very well for a total reinstall. As it was only a couple of days later that I had everything working enough to declare this computer operational.
Hell even reinstalling and initialising WinXP went in straight away, when the last time I had to do this Microsoft had to be contacted to obtain a very long code to enter.
And I can say that this system is now working so stable and perfectly that this now very much better than the old crap system that it replaced. I even got my two HDD RAID drive working, even if RAID1.5 sucks and is much slower than my servers RAID 1+0.
Maybe it would be better to use all both master and slave connections on these cables, when four drive RAID 1+0 is bound to be better than what I currently have.
I am even overclocking this Intel CPU by a minor 5% at this time, when my 2.4 Ghz CPU is now running just fine at 2.52 Ghz. Although the CPU temperature dropped by several degrees once it had been broken in, but this is oddly enough the first system that has ever run cooler when I had the case on.
That is a miracle, but one I put down to the two fans on the PSU actually doing a good job in sucking air past the CPU. As with the case off the air is being sucked from the side and therefore not past the CPU, which explains the higher temperature with the case off.
I may even be able to overclock this CPU by 10% at 2.64 Ghz now, but anyone going beyond that using the Intel fan is clearly not knowing what they are going. As sure you can get that boot screen to read some very high values over 3 Ghz, but if this CPU overheats, then it start to drop clock cycles in order to cool down, hence more speed equals much less data processing.
That is why soon enough I am getting some hardware to do some real CPU cooling and maybe even reaching that 3 GHz mark. This good memory can certainly handle it, where for note I am currently running on 55c and this CPU will start to drop cycles if it hits 66c.
As it runs at about 60c under maximum load currently, then so do I have some room for a little more overclocking.
Apart from the new CPU cooling I have to get a new AGP x8 Graphics Card, when currently I have a choice of my old PCI Graphics Card, then my lightning damaged AGP x1 card. And since that second one does not work on this system anyway, then that is why I am currently using my old PCI card.
My supplier oddly seems constantly sold out of my desired Graphics Card as it happens, when I have been checking off and on for months.
This old card also means that the CPU is having to do a lot of extra graphics processing, but as I can now do full screen video no problem, then this is hardly an issue.
Also at this same time I will have to swap the server to using a Gigabit NIC and swap my switch for a Gigabit one, where these two changes will greatly increase my link speed. I also may upgrade my wireless link to my laptop computer as well, when the 1 Mb/s transfer I find a bit slow.
Things are working perfectly now anyway, which is good news for my business.
The only one problem is that one of the two CPU fans in my server has failed, when the warning alarm has been going off at like 4am. After playing with it for a while and getting it working off and on, then I decided to give up and turn off the alarm instead.
After all as my server's CPU has two fans, then it is not a vital loss. And as my server has great five fan case cooling, then the end result is that this 1Ghz Athlon XP CPU is now running 3 degrees warmer. I will one day soon have to replace that failed fan though, just in case the other one desires to give up as well.
Anyway, even though my annual holiday is just about to start, but as you can see I will still be doing a lot of work to improve things further during this time.
Well there will be another News update soon enough, when I close everything down.