The simple solution to petrol driveoffs.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Dec-2008 21:35

Anybody who has a car will know that petrol driveoffs have become a real issue over the past year as fuel prices have increased. Go to fill up these days and it's not uncommon to find the pumps on prepay forcing you to pay for your fuel first to stop people filling up and driving off without paying.

The issue of prepaying for fuel was discussed earlier this week on Campbell Live, it seems that many stations are wanting to hold your credit card inside at the till if you choose to fill your tank, since they have no way of knowing exactly how much this will cost. This causes significant customer inconvenience while you stand in line, hand over your card, go outside, fill your own car (since chains like BP don't have forecourt staff), join the queue again and pay for your gas. Not only does this take time it exposes you to the risk of fraud due to the ability of staff to capture your credit card details or duplicate a card. Under no circumstances should you do this - never let your card out of your sight.

So how do we fix this problem? Simple. We go back 10 years.

Remember all those fancy EFTPOS at pump terminals that the service stations trialled everywhere? They are in use today at Pak 'N Save and New World Fuel sites and many truck stops but have virtually disappeared from forecourts everywhere else.

Why you may ask? They made life so simple for the customer, infact they made life so simple they were bad for business.

Every time a customer paid for their fuel using one of these they didn't enter the premises to pay the cashier. Get annoyed every time the cashier at Shell tries to upsell you to the special of the week on the counter? This is because the profit margins on goods in service stations is exceptionally high. As fuel margins have declined it's become a significant revenue source however if people don't walk in the door to pay for their fuel they can't be upsold overpriced drinks or snacks.

A source tells me over 85% of fuel transactions these days are card based, this figure is fairly typical for most retail outlets as we move towards a cashless society. Reintroducing EFTPOS at pump obvious has significant costs but can virtually eliminate driveoffs and speed up the whole process of buying fuel. But will it ever happen? I have a feeling the answer is no..

The next time you are inconvenienced standing in line just remember the reason you have to do this. Life could be so much easier if you were able to pay for your fuel at the pump but it's those damn greedy fuel companies intent on selling you snacks you don't need that are intent on not only ripping us all off with their fuel pricing, but making life as difficult as they can because the simple solution is a threat to their business model.

Go figure..

RIP Boston Legal

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Dec-2008 08:57

The last show ever has now screened in the USA.


Briscoes - you just lost a sale. Damn Christmas Carols..

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 4-Dec-2008 21:04

If you read my blog yesterday you will realise I hate Christmas Carols. Especially 3 weeks out from Christmas.

Briscoes lost a $95 sale tonight. 50% off 600 thread count Egyption Cotton sheets that looked rather nice. While picking a colour Bing Crosby started putting me to sleep singing "I'm dreaming off a White Christmas". That was enough to cause me to put down the sheets and walk out.

Bad luck Briscoes. I know you're doing poorly so that $95 would have helped the bottom line but you obviously don't want my business.

The return of the Christmas Carol

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 3-Dec-2008 15:13

It's that time of year again.

Time for me to remind retailers who might read this blog that I hate Christmas Carols on instore radio.

I can stand the odd carol on the days leading up to Christmas Day but not a selection of sleepy elevator music style carols on continuous random shuffle that make me fall asleep while I'm perusing your store three weeks out from Christmas.

Play carols and I will walk out. Guaranteed. I'll spend my money somewhere that actually wants me to enjoy my shopping experience and not put me to sleep...

What a shame competition doesn't exist in in our mobile market..

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 30-Nov-2008 13:02

Isn't competition in the mobile marketplace amazing. It happens everywhere except New Zealand where Vodafone and Telecom are content trying to extract every single cent they can out of their customers.

Vodafone Australia are now offering a Dell Mini 9 with built in HSDPA data card and 5GB of data per month for A$69.95 over 24 months. There is $0 upfront cost for the mini note.

If you're after a new phone for Xmas how about a new Nokia N96? They are free if you're committing to a $99 cap for 24 months.

Want to compare what $99 per month on Vodafone Australia buys you? How about 10 x 4 minute phone calls every day for a month. That is around 1200 minutes of airtime to any network.

How much will you get in NZ? Not much - 250 minutes on Vodafone Talker will set you back $109.95 per month and Vodafone will give you $300 off a mobile.
That would mean you'll be paying close to NZ$1399 for the same phone with a total cost over 24 months of just over NZ$4000 vs just under A$2400 in Australia and receiving around 4 x the number of airtime minutes per month.

We're not being ripped off in NZ? Yeah Right...

Air NZ Airbus A320 crashes off the coast of France.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 28-Nov-2008 08:02

An Air NZ A320 has crashed off the coast of France this morning with 7 crew missing.

From reading reports on this Aircraft was in service with Air NZ as rego ZK-OJL and has been on lease to German Airline XL Airways flying under rego D-AXLA. Reports are it was undergoing routine maintenance and was on it's way back to NZ to commence flying again under Air NZ colours from the 1st December.

More news as it comes to hand..

UPDATE 08:16 - Reports are the aircract had undergone it's C check and was undergoing an acceptance flight with 2 XL crew and 5 Air NZ Crew on board.

TelstraClear you fail.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 21-Nov-2008 12:59

I obviously haven't paid my TCL bill - at least that's what the recorded message says that just rang me on my mobile.

What was interesting to see was they they were attempting to set the CID so it originates from their residential credit services.. except that they have the CID wrong!

On my mobile I see 064508889977 - obviously this needs another 0 at the start so it says 0064508889977 so the call will connect. The idea of sending the CID is great, I'm just not sure how many people you will get returning the call since you're using the wrong number!

/me now wonders if I should not pay my bill next month to see how long it now takes to fix this! :-)

Edit: It appears that this issue may not infact be a TCL issue so I might owe TCL an apology! :-)

It appears that Vodafone have their switch incorrectly configured and it's not handling CID correctly.

Analogue TV shut off in NZ - Correcting the media FUD.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 20-Nov-2008 17:56

We all know that the mainstream media sometimes struggles with getting their basic facts right and today is no different.

The NZ Herald have reported on a NZPA story today incorrectly reporting that analogue TV broadcasts will probably be shut down in new Zealand in 2012. This is nothing but FUD.

New Zealand broadcasters planned to switch off analogue television services once the 75 per cent threshold was reached or in 2012, whichever came first.

This statement is incorrect. There are no plans to shut off analogue TV in New Zealand once uptake reaches 75 or 2012, whichever comes first.

To quote the Ministry of Economic Development who hold this responsibility

(b) Setting a Switch-off Date

10. Free-to-air digital television (DTV) needs to establish itself, and time is needed to assess take-up rates and the public response to DTV. An initial target date (or range) for ASO will therefore only be announced once total DTV penetration reaches around 60%. Following this, a firm date will be set once penetration reaches around 75%, or in 2012 – whichever is first.

Is it very clear that a date for ASO (analogue shutoff) will be announced in 2012 or when uptake reaches 75%. ASO will NOT occur in 2012 or when 75% of households have digital TV. 

Industry expectations at present are that the Government will confirm a date for ASO around mid to late 2012 with the ASO date based on projections of approximately 90% of households having access to digital TV. This date is expected to be in the 2013 - 2016 region with estimates at present of this occuring around 2014.

There have been several other reports in the media lately that ASO will occur in 2012. This is not correct.

Biddle Telecommunications launches fantastic new mobile plans

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Nov-2008 16:23

Biddle Telecommunications are please to announce their new mobile plans into the NZ marketplace. We are sick of the rip off plans in the NZ market place and want to shake up the industry.


You Fail Sometimes (tm)

$29.97 per month 
*60 You Fail minutes to any network
*600 You Fail TXT's to any network
*250MB You Fail Data

Extra minutes cost 49c per minute

You Fail Always (tm)

$49.97 per month

*120 You Fail Minutes to any network
*600 You Fail TXT's to any network 
*500MB You Fail Data

Extra minutes cost 41c per minute

You Fail M3gA (tm)

$79.97 per month
*250 You Fail Minutes to any network
*600 You Fail TXT's to any network
*1GB You Fail Data

Extra minutes cost 31c per minute

You Fail Ultimate (tm)

$129.97 per month

*500 You Fail Minutes to any network
*600 You Fail TXT's to any network
*2GB You Fail Data

Extra minutes cost 25c per minute

You Fail L33t (tm)

$199.97 per month

*1000 You Fail Minutes to any network
*600 You Fail TXT's to any network
*5GB You Fail Data

Extra minutes cost 19c per minute

All You Fail plans feature You Fail Upgrade (tm)
If you exceed your monthly plan minutes calls are charged at our regular rate until you reach the next tier You Fail Plan. Once you reach this tier you automatically receive the airtime benefits of this plan for the current calendar month.

For example - you are on You Fail Sometimes. Extra airtime is charged at 49c per minute so once you exceed your 60 You Fail minutes you will be charged at 49c per minute up to the $49.97 You Fail Always plan cost. Once you reach this you will automatically receive the airtime benefits of this plan.

$29.97 + 49c per minute for additional airtime (41 minutes) = 101 minutes for $49.97

Once you have reached 41 minutes of additional airtime you will receive the airtime benefits of You Fail Always. This means you will receive an additional 19 minutes of usage for this month without having to pay any additional charges.

Want to upgrade your data cap? Once you exceed your data cap all additional data is charged at $19.97 per GB of data. You can however prepurchase additional data that is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase

2GB $29.97
3GB $39.97
5GB $49.97
10GB $99.97

If you prepurchase a data block this will be credited to your account at the time of purchase and will be valid for 12 months. Any data usage in excess of your monthly included allocation will deducted from this and the balance carried over. Any unused data will expire at the end of 12 months however if you prepurchase another data block of equal or greater value before the expiry date this will be carried forward and added on to your balance.

BT is also introducing the You Fail Hour. Between 7pm and 7am you can nominate an hour and receive free calling to any other mobile phone on the BT network. During this hour you can make as many calls to any other BT phones and only pay $1. Simply TXT "FAIL" to FAIL (3245) and wait for the TXT response. Once this has been received you can make as many calls as you like for the next hour and will pay no more than $1. Any calls that run over the hour will be charged at normal airtime rates. You can only use 1 You Fail Hour per 24hr period.

We are serious about our entry to the market and expect strong uptake of these plans due to their exceptional value. We aim to never be beaten when it comes to offering New Zealanders true value in the mobile marketplace.

And remember.. Don't call us - we'll call you.


Consumer Magazine ISP survey - how accurate is reader data?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 12-Nov-2008 08:36

This months's Consumer Magazine features the annual ISP survey, the result of which don't seem to have changed significantly over recent years. What is surprising however for many Geekzone readers is that there are seemingly differing results that Consumer magazine are reporting compared to the satisfaction levels many people are reporting on Geekzone.

Consumer's resporting is based solely on reader responses - hardly the most scientific of surveys (just like forum posts!). People's perception of "satisfaction" may be skewed by many variables and it's potentially very questionable how accurate this data actually is.

For the results - the rating for all ISP's is shown first followed by their rating as a broadband ISP

Inspire came out on top (2) followed by Actrix (1) and then Maxnet (3). Interesting WorldxChange rated 4th but Xnet rated 6th - considering they are one and the same it does question how much research went into this article!

There has been a huge number of complains lately in regards to WxC here on Geekzone in regards to speed and customer service but Consumer readers seem to be more than happy with their results. Who's right? Is the recent criticism of WxC justified?

Rounding up at the bottom of the table is Xtra. Consumer readers however seem to be deeply unsatisfied overall with Xtra as their IXP with their satisfaction results well below the 65% average. Xtra is the one ISP that many people are now consistantly saying offers the best ADSL performace in the country so it seems to show that the survey is potentially far from being an accurate indicator of ISP performance.

What it does show however is that many people are unhappy with their broadband performance and seem to believe their ISP is solely at fault. What we know from the large number of posts on GZ over recent times is that household wiring is one of the biggest contributors to poor ADSL performance. I've probably helped close to 20 people I know this year rewire houses and in nearly all cases ADSL performance has increased significantly. Because wiring changes to phone wiring are permitted by the homeowner many people have added their own extensions, done a poor job and are causing themselves problems. If you are expiencing issues such as constant dropouts then look at your house wiring first - there is a good chance it's a significant factor. If you are modernising your house ensure you factor in home networking and install a structured cabling solution.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at