29th of July, 2007

Well this weekend I have been sorting out my accounts which obviously got delayed due to this recent holiday and all the rush in the few weeks before. I have also sorted out a few longer term changes and additions that I have been meaning to do for a while. And in all not only has the work been done to highlight that the VAT people will owe me another small refund, but I have also now put my accounts in suitable order to be able to fix my 2006 to 2007 tax year.

One aspect of this accounts update was with completing the addition of several new items into these accounts. What I mean is that beyond the on-site photo, description and addition to my order forms then three changes need to be done to my accounts as well. The first of these is a new column on the sales page to record sales on a per order basis. The second addition is on my totals page to record item sales on a per month bases which allows me to see popularity changes. Then last of all a new line needs to be added to the stock page, that not only records purchases and sales leading to my in-stock total, but it also highlight how many weeks or months my available stock will last. This stock page is therefore very useful to not only know my stock level but suitable low stock warnings highlight when I should be buying more.

Usually I only complete this three-page update once the first item has been sold, but since this is hardly efficient by now having to find out my purchase invoices a second time, then at times like this I like to switch back to updating my accounts before I have added to item in question to this site.

One thing I have noticed from this accounts work is that my support for new popular items is currently going too fast to handle meaning that I now have a small batch of items here in a queue to be added to this site. Not only that but I have several more new items about to be dispatched to me from a new and very interesting wholesaler. So my end conclusion is that for the current time I will have to stop buying yet more tempting new items and focus my work in getting these existing new items on-line. And since it takes between quarter to half a day to get an item on-line, and possibly several days of testing to be able to write my detailed item description, then this all adds up to a couple of weeks of solid work.

Well at least when that work is done a lot more very tempting items will be here and available. Most interestingly is that this new wholesaler means that a few items will be here at very market competitive prices. One of these happens to be that I am replacing my discontinued MACROX model with a new MACRO+ model which I will be able to supply at around half my existing price. This new model not only supports Macrovision and CGMS removal but also supports Scart, Phono and S-VHS support. The end result being that I am soon to sell a hell of a lot of this new MACRO+.

Beyond the MACRO+ I am also restocking on my SATKIT. And as luck would have it I have finally found a low cost source of this model meaning that now I can greatly lower my price. I have always known that buying at a lower cost was possible, when I saw another wholesaler offer these Satellite Finder Kits a few months ago, except their one was not available when I checked, but this new wholesaler has an even better price. I can only hope they have the same one with the extended range signal meter, when their description is often lacking, but at minimum it would be exactly the same as the one I already supply meaning no loss.

The last two items in this wholesale order are the very low cost SatBeeper meter and a quite expensive professional digital terrestrial signal meter. So I am now looking forwards to getting those items here and on-line but I can also say this new wholesaler has a few other tempting items that I plan to one day stock.

In all this is pleasing to able to move my company into a new lower cost and efficient level.

Well as I mentioned on Monday I will now say a few more things about my holiday as those Americans sure do strange things.

To start with I will cover the differences in their road system. As in NJ where my brother now lives they have a certain law that bans people form refuelling their own car. As sure enough in this area of NJ every gas station has an overweight employee going around filling up everyone's cars. One good thing here at least is that you say how much fuel you require and with your attendant typing say $30 into the computer on the pump then the pump will give you exactly $30 worth with no further human help. We need more of those in the UK. And sure enough once you have paid your attendant this $30 then you just drive away.

In any case you have to wonder why this law exists when in the UK it is hardly like you go down the motorway seeing multiple cars explode at the petrol station as you go past.

The next strange thing I noticed is what they do with their freeways. Like for example you are on a four lane freeway and with only a little warning you have two lanes go one way and two lanes go the other way. While this is good to keep traffic moving at higher speed you have to make sure that you are on the right side of the freeway when it splits.

If not then sometimes they do a small side road to get you back in the right two lanes or failing that then it is also physically possible to cut across in the middle of the split even if such an act can get you a fine.

Things happen to get even stranger in the USA when it comes to road mergers. The weirdest thing I have seen is that sometimes they just don't merge and you end up with two freeways going in the same direction, side by side, with nothing more than a variable sized patch of grass between them.

And when these freeways do desire to merge then the result to me appears rather risky. For example when they merge two three-lane freeways then you end up with a six-lane freeway. All seems nice until your local road engineers decide that six lanes is just too many for their freeway and within a few hundred meters they cut off the two slowest lanes forcing everyone to move left.

The most spooky thing about New Jersey are the trees when they have far too many of them simply everywhere. To begin with they do seem rather pretty but following four weeks it is more like the trees are haunting you with a feeling that something is wrong if not dangerous. And here are some examples to highlight my point.

One strange thing about NJ is that every NJ number plate reads "New Jersey: The Garden State" but in the four weeks I was there I can swear that I did not see a single garden in terms of a nice lawn and a flower bed. So you cannot help thinking that this statement is wrong and it should really read "New Jersey: The Forest State" when sure enough the vast majority of gardens do feature trees.

The other thing that bothers me about trees is that outside the cities their freeways have no barriers when either side of the freeway is simply a large unending forest. And what bothers me here is that this does not seem very safe when you can just imagine a late night car accident where their vehicle slides sideways between the trees before a couple of hundred meters into the forest they wrap themselves around a tree and die.

You can only start to suspect that this is where some of their missing people have ended up when it is quite unlikely they are going to search many miles of road-side forest. So you can just imagine countless drivers with their skeleton hand on the steering wheel while the sound of freeway traffic is just out-of-sight.

My brother's home in NJ is also in the middle of a forest. No surprise there. And so from morning to night you can look out the window and see nothing much beyond the trees. These people don't go walking in their woods either when they consider this unsafe what with (very unlikely) bears, snakes, deer with lyme disease and more I don't know about.

Now I don't have much of a problem with that myself when that is what eyes, ears and a good million-dollar medical insurance is for, but you can begin to see that these forests carry an air of danger. The other thing that bothers me about NJ trees is that their are no lower branches, meaning no youth climbing, with these trees quest to grab the sunlight.

By comparison then in the UK the forests are friendly and welcoming when there is nothing much to hurt you here, if you avoid poking badgers with sticks that is, where on every weekend you can see plenty of people taking a walk and having a picnic. So at the end of four weeks you can only end of up with the feeling that NJ trees are "evil". I rest my case and happy to be home.

The next thing that anyone visiting the US will notice that during the warmer weather these Americans sure love their air-conditioning units when sure enough the average American will ignore their local climate in an attempt to make their own. And unlike my brother's new house it is best to keep this noisy AC unit away from the TV area.

In any case I have seen good evidence that proves that the US spend more energy on keeping cool than the Chinese do on keeping warm. I just cannot see AC units catching on in the UK though, beyond the usual office buildings and department stores, when in the UK if you get hot you open a window and/or remove clothing and if you get cold you close the window and/or add clothing. I was tempted to bring an AC unit from wal-mart back with me, when at $200 that is good value, but then I recalled that I did not really need one.

The other large item I had a brief temptation to buy is that they sure have some good value HDTVs in wal-mart, but all of 5 seconds later I recalled that the US HDTV is MPeg2 while the EU HDTV is MPeg4 h.264 meaning they are incompatible. Not to forget that when I come to replace my 61" TV that I actually need to do some good research first.

Beyond my visit to the Statue of Liberty (see below) then I also visited some zoo near Philadelphia where in this case they usually cage up more local animals and those from other states. My most interesting meal in the US was when I insisted on spending $160 buying my family a Mexican meal, when there just are no Mexican restaurants in the UK (AFAIK), which made me decide I just had to have Mexican while in the US. And so in the end I had some very tasty battered alligator strips with honey & mustard sauce, where in case you don't know then alligator tastes very much like chicken but more soft, slimey and springy. And then I had some Buffalo with tacos as my main meal where in the end their large meals proved a little too filling for all of us.

The last thing I have to mention under the theme of "strange Americans" are their mail boxes. What I mean is that the international view of Americans are that they are not too trusting of their neighbours and many like to arm themselves with hand guns to protect themselves, even if the reality is more one of paranoia.

By comparison then I recall that people in one town in Canada leave their doors unlocked allowing their neighbours the trust to wonder through their homes if they have some good reason to do so. And well here in the UK we are unarmed and usually friendly.

So after re-highlighting Americans arming themselves to shoot their neighbours then we come to the contradiction that is the mail box. As sure enough these mail boxes can be quite remote, like my brother's one is down the end of his road and just around the corner, where this is certainly out-of-sight of everyone. And sure enough with my own US deliveries I have seen how the US postal service just dump any package too large for the mail box on the top.

The thing here is that any thief driving around can easily obtain a lot of boxes with the contents resold on eBay. Sure there are strong laws against such theft but well they have to be caught first and that is easier said than done.

So the contradiction here is that Americans are very trusting that their neighbours won't steal their valuable mail but they arm themselves to protect these same items when relocated in their house. Now while not many American readers of this page can find humour in what is normal for them but this social contradiction is sure to bring a small smile to everyone else.

Well as I have now just about summed up my holiday, except for my being in the US on July the 4th, even though I sure a'int mentioning my views on this questionable celebration, then I will now pass over this holiday subject and get back to my taxes.

23rd of July, 2007

This recent weekend, beyond all the other stuff I had to do, I have been playing with my new security camera. This item I ordered late Thursday evening, where to my surprise it was courier delivered on Saturday, when I was expecting a Monday delivery.

This camera I just had to get when I first saw it when this is a wireless model. As for a long time I wanted to improve my security in this way, but it is hard to run suitable cabling in some places, which is where a wireless connection is ideal. And best of all I can record security video directly to my computer network that has plenty of storage for such an application, even if such recordings don't take up that much space.

Sure you can say that such a wireless security system is not as safe as a wired version, but then it also seems true that if criminals are clever enough to take out a couple of wireless cameras then they would not be criminals in the first place. And well since this is just the first step in this latest security system for my business then I will have to see how many wired and wireless cameras are used. Not to forget with my computer experience I can well protect a wireless link to the best the technology allows.

In any case this first camera has consumed much of the past few days when it has proved a real pain to get working right. To cut a long story short then by handling these settings "very gently" then I have just about got it into a working condition. So once I get this camera to maintain a connection to my access point for a long time then I can install it and should it not obtain a stable enough connection then I will replace it with another model that will.

Well since it will require several more days of testing to decide if it will be used or replaced, and many more days to complete this system and maximise security, then for now I will say more about my holiday.

So on the 18th of June I departed on one of Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 747-400 aircraft and on the 16th of July returned on one of their Airbus A340-600 aircraft. I can also say that my travel on two of the world's largest aircraft is certainly not by accident, when I have always wanted to fly on these two aircraft, where that is only possible between two popular destinations. So that now only leaves the even larger Airbus A380-800 which only now is starting to enter service.

One thing I can say about these big aircraft is that having to haul about all that extra mass makes your flight smoother. These aircraft may require more runway but there is much less inertia compared to smaller aircraft, like for example on the 747 when it slows down to decrease altitude in a type of belly flop then you can see clouds going past at walking speed.

Out of the two aircraft I would have to pick the Airbus when on the Boeing the wings greatly bend under the strain while the Airbus wings remain fairly straight. The Airbus also seems to keep a higher cabin pressure and the toilets are about three times larger. So if you ever have a choice between these two then I would recommend the Airbus. And for both these aircraft at least there seems more leg room than provided on smaller aircraft.

Looks like I picked a good time to take a holiday when apart from departing with one Prime Minister and returning with another then just what is this deal with the rain? The worst flooding in modern history and I was away for most of it.

As to what the weather was like in New Jersey then check out one of my photos taken on the 1st of July...

<Statue of Liberty>

You can see that I visited the Statue of Liberty and had a good walk around it. As to the weather then it was very hot that day at about 90F and most days happened to be not unlike that one. There was some rain in the early evenings which tended to be heavy and short. The thunderstorms in NJ are certainly more impressive than the local kind though.

I will also say that you can click on that photo to bring up the huge version which will also demonstrate the resolution and photo quality of my new camera. That also applies to the one below.

One other interesting thing about this trip is that unknown to me at the time I took several photos (using 24x zoom) of this building with the crane on top...

<WTC2>

As it was only following some later research that I discovered that some of my many photos were of Manhattan and right where this building is being built used to stand one of the towers of the World Trade Centre. The second tower was located behind and to the left of this new construction. And as you may now guess this photo contains the building that they are constructing to replace the WTC. Maybe they are only building one due to their insurance only covering one, or maybe this new building is bigger and they are using space for other things. I have not looked that closely in order to find out.

Well there are two of my 2500 plus photo and I am certainly not uploading the rest of them. :-]

As that is enough insight into my recent holiday for today then my next news update will cover the subject of "those strange Americans".

20th of July, 2007

I can now confirm that every outstanding order has now departed even though the majority of orders actually departed one day later than expected on Thursday. This was not due to any delay within my company though when sure enough all these orders were all ready to depart on Wednesday except that my usual Royal Mail collection at 17:30 did not happen. Then despite trying to contact my local Royal Mail number for such missed collections twice then the number just rang with no reply. I did wonder if there was a postal strike going on, but after a lot of research I could see no confirmation. So only the following day did the Royal Mail bother to collect my mail where when asked this person simply said that due to on-going postal strikes that services are currently unpredictable.

The penultimate holiday delayed order departed earlier today pending required stock arrival this morning. So that only leaves two orders going nowhere quickly. On the first order the customer forgot to pay VAT where I will see about contacting him this weekend. As to the second order then this customer is waiting for a hard to obtain item, where as he is well aware of the situation then he is just using patience while my on-going electronic search finds another one. So in the end there are no orders left that can be dispatched within the near future.

Moving backwards into my holiday news then this week has certainly been a very busy one. Beyond unpacking all the items I put away before the holiday then on Tuesday four weeks of mail turned up. This was because I had RM suspend my mail during this holiday, but once all this mail did arrive then it soon became clear that I had a lot more work to do. Beyond having to write a few letters this weekend then orders received through the post more than exceeded the orders received on-line. And sure enough I had to contact every one of those customers to ensure they were aware of the holiday delay and to seek confirmation that they now wanted me to dispatch their order. That happens to be a quicker version to seeing if their cheque cleared or not.

A lot of my time was spent early on merging my laptop data to the rest of the system and making completely sure that there was an order form to cover every payment confirmation during this time. I also uploaded to my server all my holiday photos then lets not forget cleaning out all the spam e-mail received on the addresses that I was not watching while I was away.

As to today then some new stock arriving this morning, beyond restocking of the SPLOCK3, made me decide to spend some time testing out my new method for obtaining photos of my items. What I mean is that my scanner may do nice photos but it takes a couple of extra hours work to just clean off the dust and other weird scanner artefacts. So my new method is to make use of my new digital camera instead.

That camera happens to be the Canon PowerShot A710IS which I mainly got for my holiday but was careful enough in the feature selection to ensure I can write off half the cost as a business expense as well. Those features are that beyond 7.1 million pixels then this model has image stabiliser, auto and manual focus, and well tons of other stuff including a movie mode.

I actually picked this camera up in the USA for a bargain price of $194.73 (~95 GBP). I was planning on getting a camera before I left but it turned up rather fortunate that my research into digital cameras, not to mention other work, did not allow enough time for a UK delivery. So I simply won an eBay auction and had it shipped from California to my address in New Jersey. And sure enough this camera turned up within the first week I was there allowing me to take over 2500 photos and short movies during the following three weeks.

Sure enough I needed a memory card, when the default 16MB one is tiny, where just before I departed the UK I ordered an 8GB SDHC card from Ireland. The good thing here is that shipping this card to New Jersey as well saved me Ireland's 19% VAT rate, where there was no tax on import as well due to no custom's label. So another 43.92 GBP of hardware tax free thanks to my holiday.

Anyway now I am beyond the long version of how I took my latest item photo using my new digital camera, and 8GB SDHC card, then you can now see the results yourself with my new HDMI cables on my Cables (Video/Audio) page. I just snapped lots of photos and cropped and resized the best copy to make what you can see. Don't forget to click on the small item photo to bring up the larger copy. Although this 600 x 543 photo is rather small compared to the 3072 x 2304 original, but then it is wasted bandwidth to use photos larger than required.

Well since I am about to get some sleep then I will leave my full holiday details until I have got those important letters out the way tomorrow and Sunday and sure enough I will crop and resize some interesting holiday photos for your inspection. Lots more to say there where at least I have made a start with some of the hardware I returned with.

16th of July, 2007

This is just a quick news update to confirm that I have now returned from my four week holiday in the U.S.A. I have a lot more to say but that can be done another day where the more important thing today is that all currently outstanding orders will be dispatched either tomorrow or Wednesday depending on how quickly I can get things back into operation, not to forget adjusting to losing five hours from my time zone.

16th of July, 2007

This is just a quick news update to confirm that I have now returned from my four week holiday in the U.S.A. I have a lot more to say but that can be done another day where the more important thing today is that all currently outstanding orders will be dispatched either tomorrow or Wednesday depending on how quickly I can get things back into operation, not to forget adjusting to losing five hours from my time zone.

In any case if you happen to be one of those people awaiting my return before placing an order then you are quite welcome to now go ahead.

More news will now follow over the next few days. Stay tuned.