1 Year in a Renault Megane GT220

I have been a little slow on writing the next installment of the ownership experience with the actual 12th months of ownership arriving in mid-June 2014.  However as the car isn’t being driven much this 4 week lag really reflected a grand total of maybe 300km of driving!

The 6th month Review had seen us covering almost 7000km, which is a stark contrast to the barely 4000km covered in the last 6 months.  So much so that over 25% of this distance was completed in a single week!

Operating Costs:

It’s amazing how cheap a car is to own when you don’t drive it!  Fuel consumption is still averaging a low ~9L/100km in mostly city driving, although the usage pattern has a lot more short trips that are inevitably edging consumption higher.

Total Distance (km): 10706.9
Total Fuel (l): 994.28
Average Consumption (l/100km): 9.27
Average Fuel Price: $ 1.73
Average Cost/KM: $ 0.16
Fuel Consumption Chart
Fuel consumption over the past 12 months.

The numbers above are cumulative – that is based on the total 12 months of ownership – and I guess more than anything reflect a lack of change in the usage pattern.

Service costs on the other hand finally copped a hit with the required 10000km/12 Monthly servicing being completed slightly early in April.  The cost was the fixed $299 Capped Price (Elf Oil used of course) and no other expense was incurred.

It’s a Renault. What has fallen off it?

Nothing.  Nada, Zip!

That’s not to say there’s not been a few quirks that have raised their head.

Quirk 1: I raised it in the last review installment but as a recap the car was delivered without a fairly simple rubber seal fitted across the bonnet shut-line.  This seal doesn’t appear to do much except prevent bugs and dirt from getting into the engine bay from above, for someone with a bit of a detailing fetish like me this is a good thing.  At any rate the missing seal was fitted during the first service in April.  I’ve not noticed any impact of this change so I guess I didn’t have to demand it be fitted.

Quirk 2:  The stereo, OK another repeat from the 6th month point, it’s not great but the real issue is that unless it’s placed into “Driver” Mode the tweeters aren’t being driven.  This naturally produces a flat and somewhat muddy sound quality.  Unfortunately “they all do that” and until Renault realises that EVERY Megane Wagon with the 2013/2014 stereo has this problem I’ve found a reasonable workaround with manual tweaking of the Driver mode (including changing the LHD bias) to make it “acceptable”.

Headunit Firmware Version
Headunit Firmware Version

Quirk 3:  It’s actually a bit of a precious flower when it comes to fuel quality, in my town everything is just perfect with Shells 98RON fuel, switch to an alternative brand like Caltex and suddenly “starts second time every time” for cold starts comes into play.  It’s not a big deal but something to keep in mind – change fuel brand to something more to her taste and voila problem solved.

Fault 1:  Yes we have a fault, just one, and it’s not critical, but it can be annoying.  The passenger seat base has a rattle, only without a passenger in it, and most likely related to something needing a little plastic sleeve or bit of tape around it, but not having that sleeve or tape.  Either way bumps on the road or a light tap on top trigger it.  The entire seat base is most likely to be replaced under warranty.

 Back to the Living and Driving with Question

Earlier this year I did a couple of solo long runs in the car, in Australian terms they were not that long – round trips of 500 to 750km – completed in single days.

Hitting the Countryside
Hitting the Countryside

In both cases Celeste reaffirmed by confidence in her dynamic abilities and tourability.

The trip out to Temora was a great run on rural roads in generally poor conditions, with the highway run up to Sydney later that week tested the carrying capacity, and the driver aids late into the night.

The Visio (Lane Departure Warning) and the Adaptive BiXenons certainly work together very well, and when I was dead tired the beeping alerts of the Visio system were a great “NO, Seriously you need to take rest stop” reminder.  The headlights themselves are stunningly effective in High-beam and it’s sad to hear that the 2014 Facelift models don’t get the Adaptive BiXenon lights – even as an option – then again there’s no more GT220 model available in Australia either.

The “white” leather has remained surprisingly resilient to staining with any marks coming off during regular cleaning and treating with Meguiars or Chemical Guys leather products.  It’s still a little daunting when chucking unknown fabrics into the car though – I’m waiting for the day where there’s some strange coloured mark left that just won’t come out.

The Carminat (Tom Tom) navigation system has been updated quarterly as new maps have come available.  The update service cost me AUD69.99 last year and the next 12 month renewal should be a lowly AUD49.95 as long as I don’t let the offer lapse.  The update process is a little clunky requiring the SD-Card to be ejected from the SATNAV unit, then updated on a PC before being returned to the car.  I’ve no complaints with the system itself, and while Tom Tom doesn’t make the LIVE or RDS Traffic services available in Australia it’s hardly Renaults fault.

Updating the Carminat TomTom
Updating the Carminat TomTom

There’s not much more to add, tyre wear has been good, despite the front end scrabbling for traction due to the lack of LSD.  Brake wear is minimal despite the heavy layers of brake dust on the wheels (Bowdens Own Wheely Clean works wonders) and the pedal remains progressive with good feel.  It turns out the front rotors and pads are shared with the Koleos soft-roader so there’s a few options available in the aftermarket when the time comes.


A tirade about Oates and Poop

There’s a humble invention in this world that serves a very noble purpose. Today that invention inflicted a cruel injustice upon me.

There’s a sense of betrayal lingering in my mind, I was betrayed by corporate greed and uncaring bean counters who obviously felt a dab of glue would stretch the supply chain costs beyond acceptable margins, a dab too far into the profit machine that is Oates.


I introduce to you the object of my ire, a shiny stainless steel wrapped tool, a tool my friends, thats sole purpose is to allow those of us who clean the dignity of keeping our hands away from the inner workings of the vessel in which we (and anyone who uses our bathrooms) poop.

Today this tool tore my dignity asunder as the head, like a bristly hedgehog if cleanliness calmly unwound from its shackles – or as it turns our poorly fitting screw in handle – and tried to scurry round that pesky S-bend towards the probably gator and piraña infested mystery that is the Canberra sewer system.


Dear reader I swallowed my pride and a cup of concrete, reached down and chased that while bristly beast, snagging it from the porcelain confines and restrained it once more.

I have done the unthinkable, the horror of realisation that I reached into a toilet, down into the that abyss where poop swims into a distant memory, not to save an iPhone, not save a Kitten, but to save a brush. Either I’m a great humanitarian or a fool, or maybe just a 39 year old dude who had to shove his hand down a toilet because somewhere someone decided a dab adhesive of would be the difference between profit and the total loss of consumer faith in their products ability to keep the place of pooping at a safe distance.

People of Oates, I salute your ability to be uncaring and cruel.

Panasonic DMC-TZ40 Mini Review

I’d only had the Panasonic DMC-TZ40 for a couple of weeks before leaving for my Malaysia trip and in that time had played around enough to learn where the basic settings were and understand how the WiFi function could be used.

As the camera itself is an “old” and now discontinued model there’s not much point in a full review, so consider this as a way of me reminding myself just how little I paid and and just how good it was on the trip.

F1 Overtaking

One of the big reasons I bought the TZ40 was the Zoom, at 20x optical it was going to bring the action closer.  Now in practice that zoom works well on a clear sunny day when the shutter speeds can be drop to deal with the camera shake.  In practice newer generations of this camera and its competitors are going out to 30x zooms.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good thing given the difficultly holding the camera steady enough.


The best zoom point for the camera is in the middle of the range though, the above shots were “easy” grabs and most from this position in the stands to the corner (a few hundred metres) were sharp and clear considering the hazy conditions.


When working with closer faster moving subjects the same middle of the range zoom point coupled with the burst mode on the shutter got me what I really enjoy – closeup clear sharp pictures.  The success factors were again influenced by the ability to aim and stead the camera.  So much so that I feel investing in, or making a “grenade grip” or large handle grip is going to be on the cards.  That way the weight of the camera is better supported by the left hand while the right hand can guide the shots while triggering the shutter.

In short there’s not enough camera to hang onto solidly if you have larger hands, the same reason that makes the TZ40 a great travel companion is its downfall in these scenarios.


The huge amount of indirect light thanks to heavy cloud and haze cover did cause all of the automated functions some grief, the chrome finish of the Mclaren cars flaring out in most shots and confusing everything from shutter setting to focus points.  I think had I not been relying on so much Automation I would have tweaked the Aperture and Shutter settings to specifically suit, however while the high-resolution screen nthe rear of the camera is bright and very sharp the lack f size still makes discerning these sorts of issues impossible in the field.


More conventional livery wasn’t a problem though with the mix of colours and contrasts being well picked up.



There’s really no true substitute for a DSLR at capturing super detailed pictures, but to be very honest I travelled to Malaysia with under 6kg of clothes, electronics and camera, I certainly didn’t have the space (or will) to wrangle more stuff.

The Panasonic TZ40 bridges the chasm between “good” mobile phone cameras with all their foibles and the new-generation of mirror less interchangeable lens cameras.  The small external size packs a lot of useable features into a very pocket friendly package.

Overall I found the battery life to be very good, using a “power bank” to top-up the battery when walking around, having lunch and so forth extended the life and the change to the spare (at 199RM for a genuine battery)  was completed quickly and barely interrupted use.

I had initially been using a Patriot Class10 32GB SD card which was “fast” enough for our DMC-TS3 indestructible camera but when filled I went out and splurged on a 64Gb Sandisk Extreme in MicroSD form (with adapter) to allow sharing with the GoPro.  While on paper the specification difference between the two cards is not extreme it does play out in practice with the Sandisk card giving a faster save-time and consequently better burst mode performance.


At night the automatic Nightshot mode rarely faltered with the superbright lights and a colours captured clearly with minimal user effort.    Motion blur in stills as expected but very little evidence of shake.

Petronas Towers

In bright light colour and detail are good, again this is a point and shoot (and the images are resized) but the level of detail captured is more than adequate for decent prints.

Overall I quickly became comfortable with carrying and using the TZ40 – I got good results most of the times I pulled it from the pocket and by contributing more effort on my part even better results would have been attained.

For the price of these super-zoom compact cameras I have no idea why some people travel relying upon mobile phone cameras to capture memories.

Premium Wheel Cleaners

You know the feeling you get when there’s a task you should do but really don’t want to do because there’s something more unpleasant in the way?

I’ve got that feeling these days thanks to a spare (cheap) set of wheels lined up in the garage.

The problem is they’re dirty, the kind of dirty that doesn’t come off with detergents or All Purpose Cleaners, the kind of dirty that comes off in your hand and not in the wash.  The kind of dirty you hope your daughter will never be.

Dirty wheel barrel
Inner barrel of the SP20 alloys.

So what better opportunity to get some of the “off the shelf” wheel cleaners and have a go at comparing them.  The best bit was these wheels need refinishing so any damage done wasn’t going to upset me.

The Test Subjects

I’ve seen on forums talk of IronX and similar – decontamination chemicals that turn purple as they work – and when I read that Bowdens Own “Wheely Clean” did the same I was keen to try it.  My other contender, from the UK was Autoglyms “Custom Wheel Cleaner”.

Both claim to not damage wheels or paintwork, both claim to strip away contamination, both claim to make the job easy.

Wheel Cleaners
Bowdens Own and Autoglym wheel cleaners ready to do battle.

The two products were bought from local resellers at/around their respective RRPs.  They’re both just under AUD20 so neither is a “budget buy”.

The Test

The easy bit – tape up a wheel into three sections, one for each brand and one “before” section.  Use each product according to instructions, compare before and after.  The best result wins.

Comparison of clean
LEFT: Autoglym, RIGHT: Bowdens Own

As the picture shows the Bowdens Own Wheely Clean has delivered a better result, neither product breaks down grease and tar effectively so a further cleaning process would be needed to deliver the best possible results.

I believe the two products are quite evenly matched, however the Bowdens Own product instructions specify more agitation and soak time than the Autoglym.  Naturally this will contribute to a better outcome.

The Bowdens own product does turn purple, and while neither has the greatest scent the Bowdens really does get “on the nose”.  If I was a betting person I’d be thinking Peroxide (as in hair bleach) is the key ingredient – maybe an experiment is in order.

After the initial comparison I re-cleaned the entire wheel with Bowdens Own – again I doubt the results would be significantly different had I used the Autoglym – but the second clean was worth the effort.

Wheely Clean
Really Clean: After a second application of Bowdens Own Wheely Clean


I have no doubt that every home detailer needs to have a product like these in their kit.  The speed of the result and the overall ease of use lift them head and shoulders above scrubbing with with old-school soap products.

The downside is cost, I’ve gone on to use these products in conjunction with my regular detailing and would say that 12 wheels is about the maximum you can expect to clean per bottle.  I’d recommend using a wheel cleaner like these to break down heavy buildups of brake dust and and contamination, but for weekly washes I think you’ll find greater value in using a good set of cleaning tools and normal detergents.

For my money I’ll be sticking with Bowdens Own – their wheel cleaner product works and it’s a great opportunity to support an Australian business that is bringing good products to market.

Good things come to those who wait

I’ve never been an outstandingly patient person but sometimes when there’s money involved it easy to wait.

Back in early 2012 prior to our epic Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore trip we bought a Panasonic Lumix FT3 – the rationale was simple, it was small, rugged, waterproof and reviewed very well.  It usurped our Canon cameras at the time thanks to size and both the Canons were getting old.

I’d also harboured the idea of buying a Super Zoom compact as well, setting my heart on a Nikon S9200 – a model barely released – and ultimately it just wasn’t available during our trip at a price I was prepared to pay.

The FT3 has travelled with us, we’ve lost the original battery and the two no-brand ones are getting a bit tired, it’s got scratches and scrapes from falls but it just keeps on going.  It’s spent 6 weeks in Vanuatu, snorkelling and trekking, finally the humidity taking a toll and the camera suffering condensation internally, but a few days in the sun have that all cleared up once more.

So now with the Malaysian F1 looming and my budget trip planned I was revisiting the idea of a new camera.  There’s nothing wrong with the old FT3 – except the super tough brief meant Zoom was sacrificed and for F1 where the action is a little further away Zoom would be good.

Enter the search for a new Super Zoom compact.  Again size was an important factor, and immediately I looked into the Nikon and Canon offerings, The Nikon S9500 or Canon SX280HS immediately sprang to mind but after reading a few reviews I was forcing myself into a bigger choice, there are quite a few good compact super zooms out on the market, but my own budget (No more than AUD300) meant that I’d need to be doing some bargain shopping to get what I wanted.

Since the advent of digital cameras there’s been a yearly new-model cycle – when I was looking for the S9200 I was looking to buy at the start of a model cycle, but this time with my availability lesson learnt I was going to buy an End-of-Model runout.

So off the the various retailers I went, knowing the basic specs and models meant I was really just trying to identify the camera that felt nice in the hand and fitted the budget.

Lumix TZ-40
Panasonic Lumix TZ-40

In the end it was another Panasonic – the Lumix DMC-FZ40 that fitted the best.  Not only had it consistently reviewed well but it also felt nice in the hand.  The familiar user interface helped push it over the line.

I paid AUD293 compared to the RRP of AUD399 (saving over 25%), got all the features I wanted and have it ready to travel.  There were a couple more surprises in this – firstly I bought from a Bricks’n’Mortar retailer during a “sale”, secondly online discount resellers simply were not price competitive.  In fact if you took into account the risks of getting non-Australian stock, which may or may not have the Panasonic International Warranty that we get here then buying online was at least 10% more expensive!

Sure all the 2014 generation Super Compacts have taken a bigger step forward, the lenses are now pushing out towards 30x (from the ~20x of the 2012-2013 generations) but are they that much better?  The replacement for the TZ-40 is the TZ-60 – with a launch RRP of an eye watering AUD549 is a great camera I’m sure but I doubt it’s over AUD250 better!   The price difference is roughly half my ticket costs!

The 2011 Lumix DMC-FT3 with the 2013 Lumix DMC-TZ40
The 2011 Lumix DMC-FT3 with the 2013 Lumix DMC-TZ40

So what’s it like?

Well I wouldn’t go as far as saying I love it, I’ll save that for the day when I am truly blown away by a camera, but for the most part the reviews are honest.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ-40 does everything well, just like all the other “numbers driven” super-zooms there’s flaws with the premise and the performance, but there’s a lot of camera in a tiny price.

Unlike a lot of reviewers I must have a steady hand technique as I’m able to use the full zoom to capture distant scenes, it’s not the easiest I admit, the same amount of zoom on the 300D is easier to shoot with thanks to the bulk of the camera providing stable grip points,  but using a mini-tripod or adapting a GoPro grenade grip would work really well.

The iPhone app is a little clunky but for tripod mounted shots, it’s workable.  It would be good if later versions of the App saved the images into their own Camera Roll rather than blending with the rest of the photos in the iPhone.

Image App Tile
A 3-shot tiled image made by the Panasonic Image App.

The composite picture above shows some of the zoom capabilities, all shots taken from the same point, letting the iA mode do it’s own thing.

Naturally I’ve only taken a few pics so far, and the real test starts in two weeks when I hit Malaysia.


6 Months in a Renault Megane GT220

Ok so we haven’t been living in the car since we picked it up on the 14s of June 2013, but we have covered almost 7000km!

Celeste wearing a smart bow for her delivery.
Celeste wearing a smart bow for her delivery.

Along the way we’ve covered a few highway trips, a lot of short round-town commuting and shared some interesting experiences like visits to the service centre and running out of fuel.

Operating Costs

I’ll be honest I track fuel use in a spreadsheet, each tank is carefully entered and the average cost per kilometre is calculated.  Sure it’s dependent on fuel pricing and the driving style but over time provides a real understanding of the “variable” costs.

It’s easy to say I’ve visited petrol stations 14 times in the past 6 months, but the numbers below (up to the last refuel a few days before the 6month mark) tell us the real story.

Total Distance (km): 6531.6
Total Fuel (l): 610.7
Average Consumption (l/100km): 9.28
Average Fuel Price: $ 1.72
Average Cost/KM: $ 0.16

I should say for the record that I have been “driving like I stole it” for about 90% of this distance.

On the servicing front we had a basic Oil and Filter change done at around 3000km to ensure any crude from the run-in process was flushed out.  This was carried out by our local dealer, and not without it’s own quality glitches with oil spilt into the under-engine panelling and ultimately pouring out over my garage floor.  The service itself was just shy of $300 – the main cost being the genuine oil filter and the Elf oil, which accounted for over half the bill.

The next three future services at 10000km/12 month intervals are capped at $299.

It’s a Renault, What’s fallen off it?

OK You got me.  I’d love to say that my experience has been flawless, and it hasn’t been.  All said though I have some minor issues.

  • The roof rail cover fell off, the clips broken, I had flashbacks to my old RenaultSport Clio at that point.
  • The bonnet is missing its leading edge seal, it never had it, I’m still waiting for it.  So much for Renault having parts in Australia.
  • There’s a rattle in the passenger side area of the cabin.  Maybe something loose in the door, I’m not sure.
  • The felted door seals make noise unless they’re heavily lubricated.  I’m dealing with this myself, the Goss Dri-Lube stick works wonders for about 8 weeks at a time.

Other than that there’s been no issues, not mechanical maladies and no weird “Starts second time every time” annoyances.

Is it hard to live with?

I don’t think so, it’s a wagon and immediately that makes it way more useable than just about every size comparable sedan.  When we started out car hunt we were frustrated that most sedans had boot openings that made us feel that we were “posting” our luggage into the dark unreachable corner and recovery required a rope tether to climb in and get it.

In a way stuff can still end up way deep in the back against the rear seats but at least large, odd shaped or long things can be slid straight in.

The rest of the car is just conventional, the Keyless system is truly Keyless, a few times the proximity unlock function hasn’t as it’s been snug against a mobile phone in a pocket, but it’s never failed to lock, nor failed to start.

The stereo is functional, it works and sounds OK in the “driver” mode, but just about every other sound field adapting mode is useless.  The fact that the tweeters are only driven in Driver mode probably has a lot to do with this.  Renault doesn’t have a fix, “they’re all like that” isn’t really a good enough response but that’s what we got.

The real annoyance was running out of fuel.  Yeah something that can be averted by the addition of well aged liquid dinosaur to the tank, however I do partly blame the car for it.  See it gives distance to empty down to a 50km range.  From that point it doesn’t give indication of range.  So making a decision on which petrol station to fill up at isn’t really about choice, it’s about what’s closest.

Interestingly as it died and tried to auto-start a few times it came up with “ESC” disabled, something that isn’t possible to do as a driver, only the traction control can be turned off.  I’ve got to investigate this more.

There's nothing to see here!
There’s nothing to see here!

Is it really a RenaultSport?

It’s definitely more than “just a regular wagon”.  Despite the ESC that cannot be over-ridden there’s lift-over oversteer available on-tap, the lateral grip on flowing corners is outstanding and when the curves tighten into tight bends there’s enough “slip” available before the traction control cuts the fun that careful throttle application can keep things moving.

On the highway it’s a competent almost effortless cruiser.  This is naturally aided by our relatively low speed limits keeping the engine slightly “on the boil” at the expense of fuel consumption.  At a steady 130km/h (the French national limit) consumption drops off by about 10% compared the 110km/h we have here in Australia.

On country roads – that is the kind that traverse the majority of rural Australia something spectacular happens and the chassis absorbs the lumps and bumps firmly but with a edge of suppleness that even Australian designed large cars haven’t delivered when fitted with their factory “sports” suspensions.  The harsher ride around city potholes and undulations isn’t as pronounced with the addition of speed, the somewhat “on stilts” stance of the car is now working in our favour with the longer suspension travel suddenly coming into play.

Incidentally even with a few hundred kilograms of cargo in the back the suspension doesn’t seem to sink into a “dog-with-worms” bum dragging stance that many Japanese and Korean wagons do, it’s obvious that a despite the very limited nature of the production the RenaultSport engineers have managed a pretty good balancing act between a practical family tourer and a “hot hatch”.

Inside the car there isn’t an excess of noise, the engine has a gruff note that becomes a melodic bellow at higher rpms, it’s not unpleasant but I suspect removing the intake resonator which transmits some of this into the cabin could be a good thing.  The exhaust is very muted, the large pipe dumping well under the car, roughly half way between the rear axle one and the rear bumper.

Tyre noise on the other hand is noticeable, partly this will be the Dunlop SportMax, a tyre not known to be a quiet runner and partly reflecting a lack of luxury car-like sound deadening.  A $30 roll of deadener in key areas and some quieter rubber would probably not hurt.  On smoother (concrete & hot mix) the noise is very well suppressed and the noise of the air swirling around the roof-rails becomes far more obvious, it’s not unpleasant, yet it does make me wonder what the car would be like without them.

Would the car need an LSD?  Certainly it would help with the grip under power, as would the PerfoHub arrangement (which would also bring Brembos to the party) but I’m not sure I would have found the extra $10000 Renault Australia would probably charge for a car with that.  Naturally I’d hope that they’d find more than 220hp for it too once those grip and traction matters were addressed.

Speaking of power, we did run Celeste up on the dyne at Ultimate Tunes here in Canberra and got a very respectable 147kw at the front wheels.  I’m happy enough with that for now.

So where to from here?

Driving, more driving and some more driving.  At the moment we’re not considering modifications, by the 30000km/3 Year mark we will have to make plans for servicing that avoid cost blowouts.  To this end there are a number of high-quality Renault approved oils available that aren’t the relatively hard-to-get Elf (nor are they as expensive), Genuine “Service Kits” are available from the UK and mainland Europe for very reasonable prices and there are at least two good French specialist workshops in town.

But swinging back to the modifications topic.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done research, but considering the car is largely a bespoke combination of RS265 driveline and GT-Line Estate/Wagon/Sports Tourer some things will require custom fettling.  Cat-back exhausts don’t deliver major power, and changing the cat will bring up the power levels but like most emissions controlled vehicles that will likely trigger warning lights, boost cuts and other weirdness.  The only remedy for that being a tune.  The tunes themselves delivering up to 80hp more than stock on the GT220 are already proven (basically it’s a RS265 power tune) and there’s a few companies that can do it.  Shame all of them invoke locking the ECU to a specific tuner or tuning tool.

Intake modifications seem to deliver nothing of value, Blow-Off-valves etc certainly can help manage higher boost levels but lets be honest, the factory unit will be fine for a modest boost increase (and the reality is that at least half of my power gain is simply in extending the current boost level further up the rev range as it tapers off quite significantly compared to the RS265 boost map.

Anyway there you have it.  6 months of living with a Renault Megane GT220.

Dlink DAP-1513 – My most disappointing IT purchase of 2013

A few weeks ago we grew tired of the glitchy and intermittent performance of the Netgear Ethernet over Power device that was feeding the Internet goodness from one side of our townhouse to the other.

It was time to try something new.

Well along came the DLink DAP-1513 purporting to offer all the speed ports and convenience to make our WDTV Live, Foxtel, Xbox360 and DVD Player all network connected in the blink of a hat.

DLink DAP-1513
The DLink DAP-1513. My worst IT purchase of 2013

Maybe I should have twigged when the DLink website didn’t show a firmware update, and the product harked back to 2011, but no, I figured it’s a simple device with a simple premise.

And for $66 from MSY how could I go wrong?

Quite a bit is the answer.  From the first moment the DAP-1513 fought the good fight.  I plugged my MacBook Pro into it and waited for an IP number to be assigned so I could access the configuration pages.

No, guess what, not DHCP service out-of-the-box.  Time to read up and set the IP on the MacBook to match the defaults of the DAP-1513.  Ahh that’s better “we’re in”.

It was immediately obvious that user interface design didn’t really feature on this products radar.  The clunky interface had me stumbling about trying to connect to the 2.4 & 5GHz networks in the house, eventually we achieved a working connection to the 2.4GHz 802.11N network and with another restart I was connected to the house LAN, and the greater Internet beyond.

The performance was pretty good, not stellar, but pretty good.

It was only after plugging the DAP-1513 into it’s final home in the media cabinet that it’s evils came to light.

I had tried streaming a 720p MKV video via the WDTV and it started playing, even the FF/RW functions worked better than with the defunct Netgear Ethernet over Power setup.  So we settled in to catch up on some viewing.

Then it stopped.

The lights went out, well not all the lights, just the important one.  The WiFi link LED.  It didn’t come back either.

What ensued was a two day (on and off) ordeal of changing settings, moving devices and generally working out that in our home it’d run for 10 minutes before dropping out.

Only a disconnect from power (aka a hard reset) would restore the connection.  Unfortunately watching things in 10 minute chunks is never going to fly in this household.

The final nail was when the MacBook Pro could stream video via WiFi to a location right next to the DAP-1513, it was rock solid, sure we knew that already, but it’s what made it very clear.  The DAP-1513 for all the promise was either faulty or useless.

I gave it the benefit of the doubt and returned to MSY to debate over refunds or replacements.

In the mean time a spare 20m cable was tacked down the stairs and across two door ways to give us what we wanted, seamless data flows.

I quickly stuck a spare Western Digital MyNet N900 on the end and boosted the effectiveness of the household wireless as well.  Now we have brilliant WiFi speed, flawless streaming and no stutters pauses and disruptions.

Thanks DLink for building a device to remind us all just how little hassle it is to drop cable across our homes and not spend money on poorly supported products.

Setting up this Blog – aka How Awesome is WordPress?

When I set out in my mind to create a bit of a travel back in early 2012 for Kitty and I to use while travelling through Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong I quickly threw one together using the “Build me a WordPress Blog” type function within my GoDaddy account.

The result was functional and quite neat.  However the automated offering meant that it didn’t update as cleanly, nor did plug-ins work exactly as expected.  Probably because of the version/update lagging.

So upon our return (and despite the lack of use) I jumped onto http://download.wordpress.com and grabbed the latest release and ran the install over the existing one, suddenly we had a cleaner interface, and every plug-in we wanted just worked.  We still hardly used it though 🙂

So when it came time to make this Blog dream a reality I reached for the same tool.

Well lets put this into a timeline:

  1. 3pm – Decide today I’m “Going to do it”
  2. 3:15pm – Buy Domain using GoDaddy (already have an account so that’s just a few clicks)
  3. 3:30pm – It probably didn’t take 15 minutes but there’s always a minute or three between clicking the “Shutup and take my money” button and having the domains available to bind to the hosting control.  Anyway I did it.  Now I can hear you screaming “You host with Go Daddy? What are you?  Stupid?” – Yeah it’s cheap and somewhat cheerful, but it works for me.  I have more hardcore Hosting through http://stormhosts.com which has been excellent for a number years.
  4. 3:45pm – The Domains are bound to the file system, the permissions set so the config script can do its thing.  The MySQL Database created.
  5. 4pm – I’ve hit the Install page and bam the famous 5-minute process works.
  6. 6pm – I’ve tweaked the design, set up my preferred initial plug-ins, written a page and a couple of posts.  I’ve also fed the fleet of cats and tinkered with settings on our other WordPress site.

Yeah it’s safe to say that 3 hours go-to-whoa for anything in IT is not too shabby, especially when it’s multi-tasked around other things.  The result, while not bespoke is neat and clean, much better than my stagnant design skills could achieve and best of all everything is just a one-click config away.

So yes, I rate WordPress, and I rate it highly.