Titbit: House prices ups and downs; Perth prices fall in Q3

The house price numbers are already in from the September 2013 quarter. If you owned an ‘average’ house in Sydney or Melbourne then it is likely your property increased in value by a useful 1.3 to 1.8 percent or about $10,005.

Sadly for the rest of the country house prices fell with Queensland suffering the biggest falls, and Perth and Hobart suffering the second highest falls.

For those of us with an ‘average’ property in Perth we could expect to get about $8,500 less for our property than we could have got in the June quarter—assuming we could find someone to buy our house.

On the upside for Perth more properties were being sold in Q3—albeit at lower prices.

With the betting about 50:50 on whether the Reserve Bank will drop the cash rate lower than 2.5 percent this could be the end of the interest rate reductions. About half of the experts are tipping that the next rate move could be upwards even though the Australian dollar remains much higher than the Reserve Bank would like to see it.

The big problem for Perth is that new home starts are still at record lows. So while established properties are starting to move because sellers are now prepared to drop their asking prices, the new housing stock becoming available is still not keeping up with current demand. Investors are being very cautious about building new homes due to the huge drop in resource projects and the general shocking state of state finances in Western Australia; and prices—especially for land—are still too high for your average couple to consider committing to building a new home.

To give you some idea, in relative terms to the population new home starts are only about 50 percent of what they were in the 1980s. You can begin to understand why builders are discounting new homes so much—but it is the cost of land that is making it so hard.


Titbit: Shares massively outperform real estate in FY13

Not surprisingly, and as predicted by the market analysts, share market investment blitzed real estate investment for the financial year just ended.

I can recall on the Sunday business show where they were forecasting that the share market would outperform real estate from the year 1/7/2012 to 30/6/2013 by a factor of three. Well they were wrong! Way wrong!

Based on the Australian average real estate improvement of 1.6 percent in FY13 the share market, which achieved a whopping 17.29* percent improvement, outperformed real estate by a factor of over ten! If you factor in dividends from shares the return from investment in shares is a whopping 22.2* percent providng a factor of almost 14 over real estate.

Even if you use the West Australian only real estate percentage improvement of 2.8 percent then the share market still outperformed that by eight times.

So, had you put $50,000 into real estate and $50,000 into the market at the start of the financial year then you would now, 12 months later, have $50,800 in your real estate account (assuming you did not have to pay anything out for costs or maintenance) and $61,100 in your shares account—assuming you bought the ‘average’ spread of shares.

So, the question now is, what do the experts predict for FY14?

[Page 40 of Saturday’s ‘Australian Financial Review’, 29-30 June, Equities by Leng Yeow]


Titbit: Voyager 1 punching through to ‘Deep’ space

After a couple of false alarms NASA is now 95 percent sure that Voyager 1 (launched 36 years ago) is either now just leaving our solar system and entering into deep space, or may have already left the solar system and is now currently in a zone sandwiched between our solar system and deep space.

Voyager 1 is some 18,535,000,000 kilometres from the Earth and is on the very edge of the front edge of the solar system.

Data streaming back to Earth from Voyager 1, which takes about 17 hours to reach us after it is sent by Voyager 1, indicates that Voyager is moving through this region between the solar system and interstellar space.

Assuming NASA has it right then Voyager 1 is about to become the first man-made object to leave our solar system and enter into the wider reaches of the Milky Way galaxy.


In a way this is more amazing than the Moon landing. Something man made that is sending back data is about to leave our solar system.


Titbit: Microsoft Surface Pro for Australia by ‘end of May’


Microsoft have formally announced that the Microsoft Surface Pro will be available in Australia by ‘the end of May’.

Okay. So we have another month to wait but at least now we know when the Surface Pro will make it here.

For those not keeping up you may be wondering why is the Surface Pro interesting. Well the Surface Pro is the version of Microsoft’s Surface that runs Windows 8 Pro (and not Windows 8 RT). This mean you can load and run ‘real’ Windows programs on it such as Adobe Elements (or Adobe Photoshop), Corel Draw, and DxO Optics.

The Surface Pro also has USB 3.0, 4GB of RAM, and built-in 128GB of storage.

Now the next interesting thing will be to see what the price is for the Surface Pro in Australia.


Titbit: Top 20 most reliable car brands mid-2012

2012BrandReliabiliyThis table is for the UK and is based on the number of ‘significant mechanical failures’ resulting in a breakdown for each brand.

It will be no surprise to anyone that Honda and Toyota are 1 and 2. They have been for about five years.

Good old ever reliable Subaru retains its 5th position.

Hyundai have now made into the Top 10.

For anyone looking for BMW, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz they are down at 25, 26, and 29.

There are two interesting comments associated with this article (which is linked to by the table at left). The first is:

Warranty Direct boss Duncan McClure Fisher says cars are becoming increasingly complex, with lots of electronic gadgets, especially on executive models. "Owners of these cars pay over the odds for the premium badge, but our study shows they could also be paying over the odds just to keep the car on the road," he says.

The second item of interest is a linked article titled “New cars less reliable than old ones”. When you go to this article the secondary headline is “Some new cars are 10 percent more likely to break down than the previous models”. This is a bit disturbing because you would think that as computer engineering comes into play that the reliability of cars would be improving. Seems not.

BBC’s Top Gear programme have also published a Most Reliable Cars on the Planet list. I am not sure of the source of their data but their Top 10 most reliable cars on the planet are:

  1. Scion
  2. Honda.
  3. Toyota.
  4. Nissan.
  5. Acura.
  6. Mitsubishi.
  7. Lexus.
  8. Hyundai.
  9. Porsche.
  10. Ford Mercury.

Scion is a actually a Toyota brand, so that sort of puts Toyota at No. 1 and, if you include the Lexus, gives Toyota three slots in the Top Gear Top 10. Acura is a Honda brand so that gives Honda two slots.

The interesting entry here is Nissan at No. 4.

And no Subaru in Top Gear’s Top 10!


Titbit: Roundabouts. Yeah! That will work — NOT

It is generally accepted that the vast majority (that would be 95 percent) of Western Australian drivers have not a clue how to use a roundabout correctly.

I actually wonder why councils and main roads put roundabouts in.

I remember when I had to attend a compulsory road rules update and the instructor, a policeman, informed us that with all roundabouts that he was aware of, after the roundabout goes in the accident rate increased. So, a logical person might ask, if the accident rate goes up when roundabouts are put in then why are roundabout put in? Obviously NOT to decrease the accident rate.

Anyway, they are going in everywhere.

So, back to the point. Western Australian’s have almost no idea how to indicate when using a roundabout. So now the infringement penalty for indicating incorrectly on a roundabout is being increased to a $100 fine and 2 demerits.

That should make everybody use roundabouts correctly! NOT!


Titbit: Microsoft releasing Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet in February

Microsoft have announced that they will be releasing the Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet on the 5th of February—for almost everybody but Australians.

Microsoft released the Windows 8 RT Surface tablet a month before Christmas. For those paying attention you will know that this is the Microsoft Windows Surface tablet that does not run Windows programs.

The version of the Surface tablet that does run Windows program is the Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet.

One of the ‘big’ things about the Windows 8 Pro surface tablet, apart from the fact it runs Windows 8 Pro and not Windows 8 RT, is that it has a 1080y screen and not the lower resolution 768y screen on the RT Surface.


Just to make it clear, unlike the Windows 8 RT Surface tablet the Windows 8 Pro Surface table is a real Windows PC. It runs the quad core i5 Intel cpu. It has USB 3.0. You can install Photoshop, Vuze, DVD Fab, FireFox, AutoCAD, etc., on it just like you can on a real Windows 7 PC. It can be connected to a full size monitor. In theory, depending what kind of PC performance you need, you could do away with your desktop PC and do everything you do on Windows 7 from the Windows 8 Pro Surface.


Titbit: Game of Thrones Season 2 most downloaded for 2012

I was going to add this as an update to the Game of Thrones post from yesterday, but then decided to do a separate post.

According to the TorrentFreak site, which publishes all kinds of data and notes about downloading and torrents, season 2 of Game of Thrones was the most downloaded TV series for 2012 on BitTorrent. One episode from season 2 was downloaded 4,280,000 times via BitTorrent which, according to TorrentFreak, is a higher number than the number of people in America who watched that episode when it was aired by HBO.

If you apply a previous statistic I saw that each TV series or episode or movie downloaded is shared 2.2 times (i.e., copies given to 2.2 other people) then that makes the 4,280,000 become 9,416,000. So you can see why TV studios are beginning to get very concerned about illegal downloading.

For anyone interested the Top 10 TV series illegally downloaded via the torrents in 2012 were, in order (according to TorrentFreak, here):

  1. Game of Thrones.
  2. Dexter.
  3. The Big Bang Theory.
  4. How I Met Your Mother.
  5. Breaking Bad.
  6. The Walking Dead.
  7. Homeland.
  8. House.
  9. Fringe.
  10. Revolution.

Note that this is based on torrent downloads. It is likely that about half as many again have probably been downloaded via NNTP (Usenet) because this is where the ‘serious’ downloaders get their stuff because downloading via NNTP is more anonymous and much harder to track. In many cases it is also faster.

One of the biggest issues with downloading via torrents is that even days after you have done the download your crumb trail can remain in the torrent swarms and your end-point IP address can still be decoded.


Titbit: It’s official—more sex = longer life


Seems sex reduces depression, reduces stress, and brings on sleep. All of which contribute to a longer life.


Given that long-term stress seems to cause all manner of diseases including type 2 diabetes, some cancers including liver and stomach cancer, and heart disease leading to heart attacks, then anything you can do to relieve stress has to be a good idea.

Sex daily seems to be about the right amount from the studies conducted, but certainly at least three times a week is recommended.


Have I mentioned before that I have type 2 diabetes?


Titbit: Windows 7 Finally Overtakes Windows XP

According to Net Applications sometime in August the number of installed copies of Windows 7 finally exceeded the number of installed copies of Windows XP. But only just.

The numbers from Net Applications show 42.76 percent for Windows 7 and 42.52 percent for Windows XP.

The fact that is has taken Windows 7 so long to finally get in front of the ten year old Windows XP operating system just goes to show how reliable and liked Windows XP was.

But even as Windows 7 just managed to pip Windows XP, as most of us know, we are now only weeks away from the release of the very different touch-screen Windows 8/RT.

Following are the numbers released by Net Applications for the Top 5 operating systems installed on our desktop and notebook computers:

  • Windows 7, 42.76%
  • Windows XP, 42.52%
  • Windows Vista, 6.15%
  • Mac OS X 10.7, 2.45%
  • Mac OS X 10.6, 2.38%

With all of its versions of Windows that are out there Microsoft still controls 92 percent of the computer market.