CRM software runs my life

Month: May 2008

First Home Buyers Grant

The NSW Government introduced the First Home Buyer’s Grant Scheme back in the year 2000. The $7000 cash bonus is nice, but it is the stamp duty concession that really helps out. The stamp duty calculator shows that the duty on a $500k home drops from $18,170 to a tiny $180 if you are a first home buyer, a huge saving of $17,990. This saving deteriorates pro-rata however as the price of the home approaches $600k, at which point it becomes unavailable. Means testing by this method is all well and good, as long as the means test is indexed. Back in 2000 property prices were significantly lower than they are today, as shown by the Reserve Bank’s own property price index graph from the May 2008 Regional Economic Performance Report:

Graph of Australian House Prices 2000 to 2008

This graph clearly shows that property prices have at least doubled in every state in the last 8 years, the same time period the grant scheme has been running. For 8 years of rapid growth the threshold has remained unchanged. NSW is actually the worst state for this, with an Age article citing:

Mortgage repayments account for 29.1% of total first home-buyer income, a one percentage point increase over the December (2007) quarter.

Adding to the cost of housing are taxes and charges, which added $110,000-$115,000 to the typical house and land package in Sydney, Mr Lamont said. In Victoria, that figure is about $57,000.

Surely the NSW Government should be keeping more of a finger on the pulse rather than making huge profits from Stamp Duty. The Federal Government is a little closer with their savings accounts, but $5000 a year is not going to get you a decent deposit anytime soon.

How to buy a house

My favourite house in CroydonYou thought buying a car was complicated! For anyone wanting a checklist (who doesn’t love a checklist) here is basically mine so far:

  • Open inspection
  • Family inspection / Attempted building inspection
  • Check public transport timetables and/or traffic
  • Pest inspection
  • Building inspection
  • Quotes on repairs and alterations
  • Check heritage listing
  • Check zoning for the area and surrounds
  • Council check for previous development applications* (see below)
  • Council check for proposed development applications
  • Check council codes to see if any planned modifications will have a chance of approval
  • Survey inspection and verification (if there is even one post-1881)
  • Sewerage and other utility diagrams and connections (and possibly easements)
  • Solicitor contract inspection
  • Prepare a solicitor/conveyancer to do the conveyancing
  • Alteration of contract terms (land tax, mistakes, settlement time)
  • Talk to mortgage providers to get pre-approval and negotiate rates
  • Understand and compare loan rates, structures, flexibility and features
  • Decide whether rates are going up or down over the next 30 years
  • Decide whether house prices in the city, suburb and street are going up or down over the next 10 years
  • Organising a cheque to pay the deposit on the day of the auction

Exhausting and risk-laden probably sums it up the best. I don’t know how some people move house every year or two!

* On another note Burwood Council (and most impressively most councils) has an online DA system. There is a very simple little hack to get development applications from further back in time. That highly disguised “num_days” parameter can be changed to whatever you like. Maybe 1800 works well?

ReadyNAS Issues

ReadyNAS units mounted in the rack
We recently purchased a Netgear ReadyNAS unit (formerly made by Infrant Technologies). It is a nice compact little unit, 1RU with 4 hard drives across the front. It runs an onboard Debian install with some custom software to support X-RAID, the front panel buttons and a nice web interface.

We have run into some issues lately in relation to the performance of the device over the network. Their general advice is to do a direct connect and check your network drivers, but this hasn’t helped our fault. When logged into the SSH server on the system I can see that the CPU is running at 90%+ pretty consistently during usage. These are smb processes running under the various usernames that have access to the file shares. Even when the desktops are idle they are chewing CPU cycles on the NAS.

After about 24 hours of usage the NAS starts to become unresponsive. In particular the web interface actually crashes the browser (both IE and Firefox). I am trying leaving oplocks turned off at the moment as some people have suggested, but I am not seeing any reduction in CPU usage. Apparently these problems have been fixed in the latest beta, with the next prod version due in ‘a couple of weeks’. It can’t come soon enough as far as I am concerned.

Ferrari 360 Spider

I managed to get a test drive of a Ferrari 360 Spider today. With a 0-100 km/h figure of 4.5s it is certainly no slouch. It is kind of awe inspiring to drive a car that has been reviewed on Top Gear, a show which I worship. When you are going under 60 km/h the car basically gets very angry and frustrated; lots of bouncing and jolting around. It isn’t until you hit the 100+ km/h mark that it starts to smooth out and the power starts pouring like a creamy Italian espresso. Sorry, after driving and photographing the car today I feel like I need to engage in some Top Gear style journalism too. It was really a great experience, it is just such a shame that we don’t have more roads with decent speed limits. The Old Pacific Highway has lots of patches with 60 km/h limits which ruins the experience, but I guess all the flowers strapped to trees along the way are testament to the reasons for that.

National Broadband Network Submissions

This came up all of a sudden after I decided to test my SEO by googling my name. That took me to this page on Submissions to the National Broadband Expert Panel. Among them is a submission that I emailed in to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (hell of a title, although I guess at least it isn’t lumped with Arts anymore). A few things surprise me:

  • I appreciate the open tender process, but I don’t remember being told my submission would be made public.
  • I am surprised just how few submissions were made. I know the window was only about 2 weeks, but seriously given the state of Australian broadband, the $4.7B+ of taxpayers money on the table, decent media coverage and the email submission method I would have thought more people would be interested.
  • I got all excited thinking perhaps the use of the phrase “submissions included” meant that only a few high calibre submissions had been listed. I then came across a submission from Karen. We truly have a bright future in Australia!

Blog SEO

You will have noticed and will continue to notice a few changes to my blog over the next few weeks. I have moved to friendly URL’s (thanks Binary Fortress and the WordPress guide), added a few of my favourite feeds to my blogroll, cleaned up some images, added a Feedburner feed, increased the number of posts on my front page to 10 and cleaned up some of my content. I still have plenty of work to do to bring across more of my old content and resources. If there is anything else you can suggest please feel free to comment. I would love to implement everything that WordPress suggest related to SEO, but it seems blogging has driven SEO to a whole new level. Maybe a topic for another post?

Commercial Ready Grants Cut

One of the spending cuts in last nights Federal Budget 2008 was the Commercial Ready program. Thankfully the R&D Tax Concession is still available, but this relies on the inventor having the capital upfront. The axing of this program will stifle innovation in Australia, particularly when our venture capital system is so underdeveloped relative to the US and other places. Looking down the Commercial Ready page it is clear what a success the program was. Surely keeping Australian innovations in the hands of Australians should be a priority? Now inventors will be forced to take their goldmines offshore to be exploited elsewhere. I also feel sorry for the many supporting consultants who relied on these grants to help themselves and their clients.

Microsoft TechEd Promotion

The video interview that I did for Microsoft TechEd 2008 is now online:

I am the third person speaking, in front of the orange “Explore” banner.

Management Execution

I was referred to this article by Seth Yates, and the bullet points covering the priorities of management execution struck me as being a nice focused summary:

  • Do enough, no more (at least for this release!)
  • Get it right, quickly – not necessarily the first time
  • Build a firm foundation for growth
  • Be able to add a steady stream of new features
  • Delight your customers!
  • Be better quality than anyone else (stability, ease of use, performance…)
  • Scale gracefully

Of course trying to achieve these things in a competitive market is always going to be tricky. It does summarise how companies like Google execute well; get a Beta out, progressively update, scale and aim to be the best.

New Blog Theme

My blog has been overhauled. This time I have gone for a WordPress back end and a brand new theme, albeit still headed by that beautiful Aston Martin. Let me know what you think! I am still loading content into the new site, so please be patient (there are 4 years worth of blogging articles).

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