Thursday, April 28, 2011

If you use a computer, you NEED this!

Nowadays, pretty much everyone is dependent on computers, and two recent near-tragedies happened to my brother (his computer caught fire - seriously, it did!) and my sister (after spending many months overseas, her netbook started smoking!) What is it with my family starting fires in their computers?

Anyway, my brother had all his documents, resumes, job applications etc on his computer, and my sister had over 10,000 irreplaceable travel photos on her netbook. Fortunately I was able to pull apart their machines and save the data on their hard drives, but really - it's all about backing up and protecting your precious data, which we typically only think about once the tragedy has happened!

So I've researched various ways to backup your stuff, and the best one I've found by miles is Dropbox. It works on PCs, Macs, even Linux. Just sign up (free!), install the software on any machines you want to use (I have it on two desktops, my laptop, my iPhone and iPad) and it automatically syncs and backs up your important data online, and makes it instantly available to all your connected devices, or anywhere with an internet browser!

Normally you get 2gb storage as a free user (which if you only backup your important files should be plenty), but if you use my special link to sign up to Dropbox, you'll get an extra 250mb bonus storage, again for free!

You gotta be pretty good to get the thumbs-up from me, but this service is brilliant. And if you don't sign up for it, you'll wish you did when your computer catches on fire and you lose years worth of work for nothing. I'm using Dropbox to backup my company data, tax returns, travel documents, important photos and more.

Funny enough, there's a dropbox cartoon illustrating exactly what happened to my family's computers...


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Long rant ahead in favour of bigger houses!

A bit of action in the week before the Easter break - Tina got a call from Metricon about someone coming over to have a look at our cavity door (the only remaining thing to be done from 90 day inspection). I also got a call the other day from the installer of our blinds apologising for their poor quality - even though he wasn't at fault. Fault for the blinds lies in the manufacturing, so when the 2 blinds are remade, he'll come back to reinstall them and also recheck all the other blinds to make sure they're not going to fall apart. Things are looking up!

"Metricon's signature brand "Monarch" has a floor area of 456 square metres with a starting price of $477,000. Photo: Angela Wylie"

Here's an article that we stumbled across a few days ago, while going through The Age - Room to Move, but is a bigger house better?

Now the article is a decent read - of course, we tend to read everything about homes and housing, having gone through the process. However the real reading is in the 100+ comments left after the article; if you half an hour free, have a read through yourself!

* warning rant begins *

It seems pretty much all the comments have been left by people who have not had first hand experience of building their dream house - let's summarise their small-minded negativity here:
  • Big houses = "McMansions", unpayable massive mortgages, huge utility bills, no backyards, too much cleaning, too many unused rooms, too far from the city, self-indulgent, consumerist... the list of whinging goes on and on.
#1: If you want to score easy points in an argument, come up with a catchy label. Obviously, McMansion sounds good as it brings in all the negative connotations with McDonalds. Other labels used to instantly denigrate opposing arguments are "Boat People" and "Cash For Clunkers", for a start.

#2: Affordability of mortgages are relative to the position of the mortgage payer. No doubt many of the comments on The Age are from those unable to fund any kind of mortgage for any sized property, so naturally there is an assumption that "bigger house = bigger mortgage" and the jealous green dragon rears its ugly, bitchy head. Any smart home owner has worked out their own personal level of mortgage affordability risk.

#3: Utility bills? Our first house was a 12 square cottage in Mitcham. We cooked in the summer, despite 2 airconditioners, and froze in the winter despite central heating and a log fire. Our utility bills were all higher in that cottage compared to our new house, which is far more comfortable in all seasons. Our new place has a 5.5 star energy rating, solar hot water, better orientation, better layout... the list goes on.

#4: No backyard: OK, this is one thing we could probably have more of. From our outdoor room to the back fence is about 7 metres. However, we tend not to spend much time in the backyard and have no want for a pool. My parents had a massive backyard in Templestowe which again was never used. Other people may have different priorities. Plus we have a beautiful huge park 2 streets away, the Eastlink bike trail is 3 streets away and a fantastic ride, and the dog loves going for long walks around the area.

#5: Cleaning? Rooms we don't currently use don't need much cleaning - we have a couple of rooms reserved for kids when they arrive, at the moment they're used for drying clothes (no need for a clothes dryer). We don't do any more cleaning than we used to.

#6: Unused rooms: We certainly use all the rooms we need to at the moment! The home theatre gets a workout frequently (and all our extended family loves it for movies, Rock Band/Guitar Hero sessions etc), our study is home to 3 computers and a mountain of paperwork, another spare bedroom is used for a home business, and everything is efficiently laid out as we have the space to do so.

#7: Too far from the city: Not an issue for us as neither of us need to go to the city. And when we do, it's a 20 minute drive on the Eastern Freeway. Plus the city sucks anyway - parking is hard to find and expensive, there's too many d!ckheads on the streets and everything we need isn't in the city anyway.

#8: Self indulgent/consumerist: Well, all people have different goals in life. Our goal was to have a comfortable, modern house for us and our future family, with a little bit of luxury to enjoy coming home to every night, and that's what we've achieved. We love cooking in our big kitchen. We love (or maybe it's me) playing video games, watching TV shows and movies in the home theatre. We love our massive bedroom and its ensuite - it's like being in a 5 star hotel every day, without the minibar and pay-per-view fees. Since we spend a lot of time at home, why not make it something you love?

Anyway, my final view is that there's a small subsection of the community out there who feel they need to mask their inferiority complex by being overly critical of other people, other people's choices and strangely enough, other people's homes. Give these people the attention and respect they deserve, which (no surprise), is zero on both counts.

*end rant *

Edit/postscript: Looks like the first article was so popular,an opinion piece was published afterwards. Let the fun continue!

Days of the humble home at an end as goliaths invade suburbia


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Product/Company warning: KRESTA blinds

So now with the wedding planning and event all over, it's back to making our house a home.

We've been in over 6 months now - how time flies. We had the 3 month service review done at the start of the year, and while most things have been fixed satisfactorily, I'm still waiting... waiting.... waiting.... waiting....

...waiting... for the service manager to call me back about when we're getting our faulty cavity sliding door frame in the ensuite fixed.

To recap, before handover our independent inspector noticed this fault (door and frame touching each other, failing to meet basic Australian Standards guidelines to tolerances). The problem was "fixed" at handover, but clearly a pretty dodgy "fix" since a week after handover the door and frame was touching again. Noted at 3 month review, promised to get it fixed, nothing done yet. I will be calling in the coming week to find out what's been done.

More issues have arisen with our window coverings. We were able to grab some standard blinds from Spotlight and Bunnings to hang in some rooms, but for the home theatre and master bed we needed custom ones made due to the nonstandard window widths.

Anyway, here's a timeline of what happens - mostly for my benefit, so I can record what's going on in case we end up taking Kresta to the Small Claims Tribunal.
  • late Feb 2011: Placed order with Kresta for 7 blinds: 2 translucent and 5 blockout, 50% deposit paid. Promised to be be done by mid March as a rush order.
  • Mid March: No blinds.
  • Tuesday March 22nd: Called Kresta to find out where our blinds are since they never contacted us after the deposit paid. Turns out we might get them installed next week. Paid remaining 50% owing on blinds.
  • Tuesday March 29: Blinds installed.
  • Thursday March 31: Noticed one blind in the home theatre room had come off the rail and was lying crumpled on the ground. Could've happened this day or day before.
  • Friday April 1: Called Kresta Doncaster store to complain about blind. Polite customer service lady said the installer would pick it up the coming Tuesday.
  • Tuesday April 5: Defective blind taken away by installer and quoted 10 days to remake.
  • Wednesday April 6: Got home after work and saw the big blind in the master bed also fallen off the rail. Looks like it was two blinds "glued" together by a tiny strip of glue and of course glue isn't enough to hold the big blind up.

  • Thursday April 7: Called Kresta Doncaster store again to complain another blind was defective. They said they'd call me back to organise another check.
  • Monday April 11: Kresta called and said they couldn't check the defective blind until Saturday 16th April.
  • Saturday 16th April: Kresta called and says installer is sick. Can't fit us in again until Saturday 30th April. Clearly I'm not impressed. I take the defective blind into Doncaster store and leave it with them.
So, we're in the middle of some issues with Kresta. At the moment it's too early to judge whether or not there are going to be issues with this company - it's OK to make mistake as we're all human, but it's the complaint resolution process and customer satisfaction that will make or break companies. So far, not so good. Will keep updating progress, should Kresta come good on their service claims, we will acknowledge this.

On that note, here is some tips for you new home builders to avoid some of the basic errors that we made when choosing suppliers for our house. Consumer Affairs Victoria reviewed basic contracts for several manufacturers and you are legally entitled to demand a change in the contract should they state:Should any company have any clause relating to these terms, first request they change them to comply with the directive by Consumer Affairs Victoria. Should they refuse, DON'T ORDER WITH THEM, take down as many names as you can and contact Consumer Affairs Victoria who will investigate on your behalf - and find another company who trades fair. Unscrupulous retailers will take advantage of the fact that most consumer simply don't have time to research their rights prior to signing a contract - we didn't. But now we are aware that Kresta are in prima facie breach of the Consumer Affairs directive for asking for full payment upfront, we have a strong case to push for a full refund on defective items, even outside their stated "warranty period". Also be aware Vista part of the Kresta Group (Kresta Holdings Limited)
  • Google search for "company name consumer affairs complaints" - sometimes provides information on major offenders.
  • Also, if you're an iFan, get this free app for your iDevice: My Shop Rights.
  • Consider reading ProductReview and - however these kind of sites tend to be negatively biased - bad experiences tend to be publicised more than good ones. Still, a good way to hear of real-life experiences. Similarly Homeone is a great resource for all home builders.

Keep fighting for YOUR RIGHTS people! On a related note, I recently reported Micro$oft for selling defective game consoles. While on that particular issue Consumer Affairs decided it wasn't a big enough fish to fry, I was able to claim repair costs through my credit card insurance (though it did take 5 months to be approved). Worth checking to see if your credit card provider offers this service.



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