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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Band Isn’t Wide Enough…

Bandwidth.  The single word that can summarize today’s blog post.  And what a frustrating little word it is…

South Africa is an amazing country; but let’s face it, we’re kind of late to the “internet bandwidth” party.  In fact, in party-terms, we are so late that we’re only arriving when the people who had too much to drink are already sobering up.

You see, in the UK, USA, Europe, Russia, and pretty much every non-African country (and unfortunately even most African countries) internet bandwidth is available at reasonable speeds, with reasonable limits, and at reasonable prices.  Here in South Africa we are stuck with slow internet (compared with international standards), with pathetic limits, at ridiculous prices!  I once had a 4Mbps connection, the fastest available in SA at that time, and when my friend visited from the UK he complained about the slow internet…

Sure, this subject has been discussed previously on many other blog and forum posts.  I know all the reasons.  I know that things are changing.  But why is it taking so long?

Seacom is a step in the right direction, of course; and there are more such connections coming.  And it is starting to filter through.

Here’s my frustration, though.  You see, my humble home is located just outside of Pretoria.  I have Telkom ADSL lines, iBurst signal, Neotel coverage, and various other options, a mere 10km from my home.  But where I’m located (not even in some obscure valley somewhere) I have only two options – Vodacom 3G, and a local wireless connection that I won’t name, but that some friends and I have caught stealing their customers’ bandwidth.  So my only real option is Vodacom, and I’m really on the fringe of the 3G / HSDPA signal area with that.  So now I have two questions to ask:

  1. Why, if we’re so close to the coverage, don’t they just extend their coverage that little bit?
  2. Vodacom was one of the cheapest (if not THE cheapest) broadband providers in SA until a few months ago.  So what’s wrong with them now?  A friend of mine has uncapped ADSL, at 4Mbps, from MWEB, and it costs him R899.  Even MTN are offering an uncapped 3G connection now (though only on contract, and it’s slower when you go above 3GB, but it’s still awesome to know you can use as much as you want).  SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH VODACOM?!  I mean, the best I can get from them is a 20GB data bundle, and that costs at least R3899!  I mean, that’s more than the average South African salary!

So those are just some of my frustrations.  I used to be a big fan of Vodacom’s internet offerings.  It just makes sense.  But I don’t know what’s wrong with them these days.  Recently they announced that they are increasing the amount of bandwidth that we get for the same price – Well, thank you Vodacom, but 300MB?  I mean, really…

Though I’ve never been a fan of MWEB, that’s who I’ll use if I can ever get my hands on an ADSL line, unless something changes drastically.

So, comment time.  Can anyone answer any of my questions?  Is there someone out there with significant influence to get some of these problems sorted out?  (And have any of you seen my other blue sock?  Oh, wait, I got it.)

All right then, boys and girls, that’s it for today.  All of my international readers, enjoy your good internet connections!

Lourens, out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I.T. Support Bloopers

Today I just realized how easy it is to mess something up completely.  Sometimes we really need grace to just keep things going after creating some major mess-up…

Just this afternoon, one of my business partners was providing some IT support over the e-mail to a customer in Saudi Arabia.  He sent an e-mail to the customer explaining what she needed to do on her side.  But when the reply came, my partner (purposely remaining nameless in this post in an attempt to protect whatever little bit of a name he may still have left!) noticed that he had been sending e-mails to the customer using the e-mail account he uses to receive marketing e-mails, instead of using his business e-mail address.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem.  Most people have the good sense to name their “alternate” e-mail addresses something logical.  However, I can only guess what the customer thought when she got IT support from “Xena Warrior Princess”!

So, ladies and gentlemen, I can honestly say that you won’t find another IT company quite like Renovo Computers.  We have Xena Warrior Princess providing tech support!  You can mail her (him) at

So I was thinking – I’m sure many of you have some other interesting support stories?  Please share them with me and I will post them here!

But for now, have a great weekend!

Lourens, out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gimme Some Penguin Lovin’


I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been a fan of Linux for a few years now.  I loved the concept even before I installed the software the first time.  You see, Linux is free.  (In two ways – it’s free as in “free speech”, and free as in “free lunch”.)

For those who don’t know what Linux is, in essence it’s an operating system (like Windows) that’s distributed free of charge (unlike Windows).  It used to be a fairly complicated operating system to master, but then Ubuntu came along with the goal to make Linux more “human”.  And things have indeed changed since then.  I’m going to go into detail in a few moments.  But first, guys, please forgive me; I have had limited exposure to other operating systems, so I will be comparing Linux with Windows today, and not with MacOS, or Unix, or Novell, or anything else.  Okay?  Okay.

So I recently got my hands on Ubuntu 10.04 64-bit (it’s the latest Long Term Support edition of Ubuntu that was released in April 2010) and installed it.  The first thing I noticed was the 5-minute install time.  Yes, a complete install in 5 minutes!  (And I thought Windows 7 was awesome with its 20 minute install time…)  The next thing that impressed me was its boot time.  I went from cold start-up to desktop in 23 seconds!

But since most people out there are still using Windows XP, waiting for a system to install or boot is obviously not that much of an issue for most.  So let’s look at some other features:

Firstly, I love the new theme.  The old orange / brown was really not my thing.  (No offense, I bet some people loved it, but not me.  Both colours remind me of drinking fish oil and antibiotics (the kind that looks like milkshake but tastes like vomit) as a child.  No thanks.  The new theme is quite pleasing to the eye, as you can see:


Another nice new feature is Gwibber.  Gwibber is like a central social networking program.  It can connect to your accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and many others, and update your status, as well as display all your friends’ status updates.  No more “Sannie Koekemoer is out of town but a new Hairy Cockroach was born in her InsectCity, and it needs someone to take care of it”, or “Gertjie Pretorius sent you a Slimy Leg in Random Body Parts” or such nonsense.  I think that’s great.


It also has a great multimedia package, including a new video editor.  You can listen to music, rip CD’s, and watch some movies straight out of the box.  You can also purchase music on Ubuntu One, a cloud-based network, and the music is automatically synchronized with all of your devices through the cloud.

Ubuntu 10.04 is real easy to use.  It includes most of the software you will probably need, like 3.2 with its spreadsheets, word processor, and presentation program.  And those things that you don’t get included, you can always install with the great Ubuntu Software Center. 

Software Center

I didn’t have any driver problems either.  All of my devices (including Bluetooth, and my Vodafone 3G modem) worked directly after installation.

But, in all honesty, not everything that I have to say is positive.  The first thing that bothered me was the fact that they moved the “Maximize, Minimize, and Close” icons to the upper left, instead of the upper right.  Why?  I couldn’t get any clear answer.  People are used to having them on the right; now it’s just plain confusing.  Especially in some programs, like’s Word Processor; if you have a document open, the document’s Close icon is still on the right, but the program’s close button is on the left.  I don’t doubt that you will get used to it, and maybe even like it, eventually; I’m just saying it’s a rather pointless change that irritates me.

File Browser

Another thing that troubles me somewhat is the fact that Ubuntu doesn’t include native support for MP3’s and DVD’s.  You have to download the packages to add support separately.  Though it isn’t a huge download, it’s still a bit of an inconvenience.  I can understand that the codecs involved aren’t “free as in free speech”, and so it goes against Ubuntu’s philosophy; but still, it would have been nice to get the support out of the box.  We once revived a customer’s old laptop by installing a version of Ubuntu.  It was mainly for her daughter to use to write some stories.  Later we heard that she also wanted to watch DVD’s, but when we wanted to install the packages, she didn’t have internet.  So that’s slightly irritating as well.

I also have to say that, despite the fact that Ubuntu is incredibly stable, it would seem that Firefox (the default web browser in Ubuntu) is not.  I had problems on older versions of Ubuntu, and I’m still having problems in the new release; Firefox would just stop responding for no apparent reason.  Though it doesn’t happen often, it is completely random and unpredictable.

So my final verdict:

Ubuntu has come of age.  This is by far the best version of Linux I have seen yet.  I can finally recommend Ubuntu 10.04 as the permanent operating system for most people, whether they are used to Windows or not.  BUT, if you are a hard-core gamer, stick to Windows.  Though gaming support for Ubuntu is improving, and some Windows games actually look better and perform better in Ubuntu, it’s still a struggle to get some Windows games to work in Ubuntu.  The same goes for people who use specialist software of any kind.

If you want to download Ubuntu (free of charge), go to the Ubuntu web site bly clicking here.  It’s a fairly large download though, so if you would rather like to get a copy of it on CD or DVD, please contact Renovo Computers.

I also recommend, before you switch to Ubuntu, that you take a look at to see if there are open source alternatives around for any software that you use.

So, that concludes our broadcast day.  Be blessed!

Lourens, out.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Return of Windows

It’s not even a year after the release of Windows 7, and apparently Microsoft is already preparing software developers for Windows 8.  Doesn’t that seem a bit drastic?

Well, not really, no.  Let me explain.

People were upset with Windows Vista.  I talked about that in an earlier post.  (In fact, to use the word “upset” would be an understatement.)  And then people claimed that Microsoft were themselves upset with Vista, using as evidence of this the fact that MS released Windows 7 a mere 3 years after Vista, while there was a gap of more or less than twice that between XP and Vista.

But, in fact, Vista wasn’t the odd one out there; XP was.  There has always been an average of a 3 year gap between Microsoft OS releases.  Windows 1 was released in 1985; Windows 2 in 1987; Windows 3.0 in 1990 and 3.1 in 1992.  Then Windows 95 in 1995, and 98 in 1998, followed by Windows 2000 (based on NT) and Windows Me (based on Windows 98) in 2000.  Windows XP followed 1 year later, in 2001, only to be replaced by Vista at the end of 2006.

So in all honesty, Windows 7 is just Microsoft getting back on track.  Also, another thing I want to point out, while I’m on the subject.  Someone commented on one of my earlier posts that “Windows 7 is just Vista with the bugs sorted out”.  True; but that’s usually the case with operating systems.  Windows 98 was just Windows 95 with newer features and fewer bugs.  Similarly, Windows Me was 98 with new features and fewer bugs (though some would say more bugs).  Similarly, XP was just an overhaul of 2000 (though an excellent overhaul, I have to say).  Vista was Windows redesigned from the ground up, but Windows 7 is, once again, an overhaul (but just like XP, an excellent overhaul).

So to get back to the point; Microsoft starting to talk about Windows 8 is really not surprising to me at all.  In fact, Microsoft started talking about it before the release of Windows 7!  They are looking toward the future, which is a good thing.

Now, I know that some of my readers love to criticise MS, and will use the release dates as further criticism.  (These readers are especially Linux fanboys!)  And though I love Linux (yes, I really do, and I will feature some Linux-related posts in the future as well!), I have to point out that a new version of Ubuntu is releases every 6 months.  And the reason?  To add new features, and to sort out bugs.  Yes, I know that Ubuntu is free.  But in principle it’s the same thing – People improve their software and release it to the public.

So, in summary – Windows 8 is coming, whether we like it or not.  “Will it be good?”  We’ll just have to wait and see.  “Does it look promising?”  Yes indeed; if half of the new features people are talking about are included, then it will be excellent.  “I’ll just wait for Windows 8 then instead of upgrading to Windows 7 right now.”  Well, it’s up to you; but seriously, 7 is brilliant.  And don’t hold your breath; it’s probably going to be more than 2 years before we can actually install Windows 8.