Questions To Ask You Timber Floor Installer In Sydney

Hardwood floors are a long-term investment and depending on the size of your home and the quality of the product that you select, that investment can be significant. When you select a professional timber floor installer in Sydney it’s important that you ask plenty of questions from the get-go. Asking the right questions can help to ensure that you get what you’re paying for and can help you to avoid any potentially costly or inconvenient issues down the road. Not sure what questions to ask? Check out our list of the questions you should ask your timber floor installer in Sydney before they go ahead with the job, this will help you to understand more about the process and what you should expect, as well as how you can prepare.


What type of hardwood is right for my home?

There are a lot of different hardwood options out there, and a good timber floor installer in Sydney should have plenty of knowledge and experience to fall back on when it comes to helping you select hardwood for your floors. The type of hardwood you choose should depend on a number of factors including your design preferences and how much foot traffic your floors are likely to get. There are many different kinds of wood to choose from, such as oak, hickory, maple, walnut, and many others. It can seem overwhelming at first trying to choose a wood, especially when they all have very different characteristics and lifespans. An experienced timber floor installer in Sydney should be able to help you narrow down your choices and select a floor type to suit your home.


Do you offer free in-home estimates?

Free in-home quotes are not a given and sometimes a timber floor installer in Sydney may charge a call-out fee to visit your home and provide an accurate quote. It’s often the case that you can apply this cost to the job if you choose to go ahead with it, but it depends on the business you choose.


Are you insured and properly certified?

It is very important that your timber floor installer in Sydney is properly certified to perform the work you’re asking them to do. Uncertified workers who don’t install your floors properly may void your warranty and quality issues could be a problem down the road. It’s also important that the professional you choose has good insurance in case anything does go wrong.


Can you provide references?

Repairman installing timber flooring

It’s also very important that the professional you choose can provide solid references and testimonials to confirm the quality of their work. Satisfied customers are an important sign that the company your choosing to give your business to is trustworthy and worth working with. Bad reviews or unsatisfied clients are a red flag and you should steer clear. A company will poor quality service or workmanship is not worth the hassle.


What are the costs involved?

Make sure you get a good understanding of the potential costs involved in putting your hardwood floors in so there are no nasty surprised. Your chosen installation person should be able to tell you about the cost of purchasing your flooring, installation costs, tools, equipment, and the cost of any finishes.


How much time will it take?

Another important thing to know is how much time the job will take to do. Will it be fast or take several weeks and what steps do you need to take to prepare? Adding new flooring can be a major undertaking so it’s worth understanding how long it takes.


Hot Water Cylinders Explained

woman taking a hot shower

Most people never really give much thought to how hot water cylinders and other water heating equipment work, all they really know is that when they get in the shower and turn the tap on the water comes out hot. There are a number of different systems and ways of heating water, including gas, solar and electric systems – gas and electric hot water cylinders are some of the most popular options out there and one of the most common systems that you’ll see in homes in Australia and New Zealand.


How hot water cylinders’ work

Hot water cylinders are a tank-based system that uses an electric element or gas burner to heat water. A thermostat will determine the temperature that the water is heated to. It’s a bit like the kettle you have at home, using an element immersed in the tank to heat the surrounding water. The system has two tubes, the first is a cold water tube that brings cold water into the tank and the second is a hot pipe that carries the hot water out to deliver it to your home.

In most cases, electric hot water cylinders are more efficient than their gas counterparts but tend to come at a higher cost and are slower to heat and recover than the gas tanks. Most gas hot water cylinders can heat approximately 190 liters in about an hour whilst an electric tank can take a number of hours.


Things to consider

worker setting up a hot water cylinder system at home

If you’re looking at buying a tank and thinking about whether you should go for gas or electric than you should keep in mind the fact that an electric system will likely come at a lower upfront cost and also offer slightly more flexibility, you can for instance connect them to solar or add a heat pump – this means you can make changes as your needs change or you family grows. You can also easily purchase a system that offers thermostatic control, this makes it easier to control cost and could save you a lot of money. If your tank is insulated the water will stay hot for several hours even after the element switches off. Most will even come with a timer which will allow you to take advantage of off-peak electricity hours.

The systems can usually be shut down simply by turning a switch on or off which can be very useful if you’re not going to be home. If you’re going away on holiday, save money by switching it off.


What should you be aware of when it comes to electric systems?

You will find that you pay a higher bill then if you’re using solar or gas power. Most electric systems will cost the average household about 78 cents per hour although the cost will vary depending on its capacity and the tariffs. The average household will need to heat water for at least a few hours during the day which means you’ll likely pay close to $600 annually for heating up your shower. Thermostatic control is also a must otherwise the temperature can get too high and it can end up becoming hazardous. It’s also very important to not set your thermostat too low, temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius can allow bacteria to survive and grow which could make your household sick.

The most important things to think about are your budget, needs, and space. Find a system that works for you and your household. Speak to an installation expert to find out what will be best for your long term needs and specific circumstances.


Why Handmade Jade Jewellery Is An Excellent Gift

Jewelry fashion beads necklace with natural stones crystals jade

Buying a gift for any occasion can be really difficult, and it’s something that everyone struggles with at one point or another. No matter how well you know someone, thinking of the perfect gift to get them requires some time and effort, especially if they are quite modest and never give any hints about what they may want.

One timeless gift that always impresses recipients is handmade jade jewellery. Unlike the mass-produced alternatives, this product is fabricated with real artistry by experienced and passionate artists. The end result is something truly stunning and memorable that simply can’t be replicated by a machine.

The following will look at the main reasons why handmade jade jewellery makes an excellent gift.


It’s highly memorable

When you are buying a gift for someone, you no doubt want to dazzle and delight them for many years to come. Unlike a diamond ring or a silver necklace, a jade necklace in New Zealand is truly unique and likely something that the recipient would never have expected.

If you are celebrating the birthday of someone close to you, such as a sister, brother, spouse, or your parents, this kind of item is going to impress and delight them. It’s small, gorgeous, and has the quality of real artistry being put into its creation.


They have unique meanings

An authentic piece of handmade jade jewellery can have a unique meaning related, such as growth, fertility, love, protection, wisdom, and more. This is because they have a spiritual meaning in the Maori culture in New Zealand, where they are made.

This means you are giving someone more than something pretty to wear around their neck, you are giving them something that has a transcendent meaning. This can make the gift far more personalised, and they don’t need to be a spiritual type of person to appreciate the sentiment the gift represents.

You can think about the relationship you have with the person, or about their personality traits, and get them a piece of handmade jade jewellery that is suited to them. You could give your romantic partner, one that represents love or give a parent one that represents wisdom.


They have cultural significance

Another great thing about handmade jade jewellery is that they are tied to the Maori culture of indigenous New Zealanders. They have a very special meaning to that culture, and therefore a recipient of this gift can feel like they are more of a global citizen and can have a greater appreciation and respect for different cultures.

This makes them a very special gift that anyone would be honored to receive from you. No matter who they are, this gift is something that anyone is able to cherish and see the value in.


They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes

When you are shopping for handmade jade jewellery, you’ll find that there are a wide variety of different designs in various sizes. There really is one for every budget, and they are all beautiful to behold.

Since they are carved by experienced artists, there is a lot of personality in each design. The beauty of handmade jade jewellery is something that you simply can’t get from the generic and mainstream items you get from the big accessory brands.

Each of the items is named by the artist, and this lets you know that they are a real work of art, not just a commercial product.

Handmade jade jewellery is truly special and makes for an unforgettable gift no matter who you buy it for and what your relationship with them is.


Speed Boot Time

Coming from Ubuntu, Windows 7 seems to take forever to boot. If you want to see exactly what applications are taking so long to load at startup, try Soluto (free now while in Beta). Soluto is excellent for visualizing the startup process, but I warn you not to try to modify your startup applications using Soluto. Just use it to help you decide what you need to get rid of, and then un-install it. Soluto itself takes a long time to load, and when used as a boot manager, it simply runs in the background and prevents or delays other programs from loading. It’s more efficient to modify startup applications from within Windows.

You’ll notice that the first thing in Soluto’s No-brainer (remove from boot) category is WMP, meaning Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service. In the past I have used this service to stream music from Media Player to my Xbox360. However, I no longer have any need to stream music from Media Player, so this service is a waste of time. Here’s how to remove it (without using Saluto):

Disable Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service
You need to open the Windows Services dialog. You can do that from the Control Panel (Control Panel → System and Security → Administrative Tools → Services), or you can simply hold the windows key + R to open the Run Dialog, then type services.msc. Once you have the Services dialog open, keep scrolling down until you find the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service, then right-click on it.

From the right-click menu, select Properties and from the Properties dialog, in the General tab, change the Startup Type to Disabled:

Disable WMP sharing service part 2

That’s it for the WMP sharing service (Windows Media Player will still work just fine, by the way, it just wont stream media unless you restart the service manually). One of the other applications Saluto flagged for removal is Microsoft Office Groove, which is part of Microsoft Office Enterprise and allows for collaborative document editing. Although Groove sounds neat, I have no need for it and don’t want it slowing down my boot. Here’s how to remove it (or any other component of Microsoft Office, for that matter):

Remove Microsoft Office Groove

From the Control Panel, select Uninstall a program (or Programs and Features, depending on your Control Panel view). Find Microsoft Office, select it, and click the Change button:

That’s it! Groove is gone.

Identify Other Programs That Run At Startup

If you don’t want to install Saluto just to see what’s running at startup, you can figure it out by looking in a few different places. The first one is the easiest… just look in the Notification Area:

If you see a program running in here that you didn’t start yourself, it probably is set to run automatically at Windows Startup. Sometimes, this is good. For example, you can see that I have Microsoft Security Essentials running at startup (the green house icon). I also allow Dropbox to run at boot (the blue box). However, other applications you only use occasionally will still add themselves to the startup list. For example, the camera and monitor icon is Gadwin Printscreen, which apparently decided it’s important enough to run at startup. I disagree. Most of the time, preventing a program from running at startup is as simple as using that programs Options dialog. That is the case with Gadwin Printscreen, along with most others:

That was easy, but I guarantee there are many startup applications other than those listed in the Notification Area. Ideally, you should be able to see all the programs that run at startup from the Startup folder, visible from the Start menu under All Programs. Alas, that folder is far from accurate. Eight programs that I installed myself (not Windows components) run at startup, and only one of them manifests itself in the Startup folder (good job, Dropbox). The only way to see the entire list is from within the System Configuration tool, msconfig. Note: CCleaner users may notice that CCleaner will mimic msconfig, displaying an accurate list of startup applications.

To run msconfig, open the Run Dialog (Windows key plus ‘r’) and type msconfig. Open the Startup tab:

As you can see, I allow Adobe, Java, and Google to run an updater application at startup (they’re pretty light-weight). Other than those, I only have Miscrosoft Security Essentials, Microsoft IntelliPoint (for my mouse), and Dropbox. Don’t ask me why the Windows Operating System is listed as a startup application. If you find something in here that you want to get rid of, you can simply de-select it. However, once you know what’s running at startup, I think it’s better practice to at least attempt to disable the Run At Startup option from within each individual program’s Options dialog before resorting to msconfig.

Setup Mail, Browser, Music, Photos, Videos, etc.

Now that you have installed your main Windows software and trimmed all the unnecessary stuff, it’s time to grab your external hard drive (or navigate to your FTP server or online backup website) and start copying all your files back into your Windows machine. If you’ve simply copied files and folders onto your backup medium, this will be as easy as dragging and dropping into the right folders. If you’ve used backup software (like Windows Backup), you’ll have to use the same backup software to find the files you wish to restore.

Customize Your Fresh Windows 7 Installation

If you’ve just installed Windows 7 and want to do some tweaking to make your new OS more functional and to look better, then this walkthrough is for you.

Remove Crapware
In the past, my only copy of Windows has been the one that came with my PC. Unfortunately, all the PC manufacturers sell out and install tons of crapware (software you don’t need) on your Windows installation before you even open the box. I usually spend nearly a day researching and trying to remove crapware without removing essential Windows components or other necessary software. In the past, I have found CCleaner very helpful with this task. However, I’ve also heard good things about PC Decrapifier. Fortunately, this time, I had a nice unsoiled copy of Windows to work with. Next time, though, I’ll probably give the decrapifier a whirl.

This should always be your first step after installation. In that past I have removed software that was essential (then promptly forgotten what it was) and been forced to re-install Windows. That’s not such a big problem if you haven’t spent a lot of time on the installation yet.

Of course, you should be careful not to remove software you’re going to need. However, you should also be careful not to keep software that you don’t need. I have found that pre-installed software is nearly always unnecessarily slow, bloated, and ineffective. Freeware alternatives are usually a better choice. Keeping this crapware can slow down your boot time, use up your memory, and perhaps interfere with alternative software you might install in the future.

In general, to remove software you should try to run the custom Un-Install executable that comes bundled with most software. If present, you’ll find it from the Start menu under All Programs and within the folder for the software you’re trying to remove. If there is no un-install application, the next step is to open the Control Panel and click Uninstall a program (or Programs and Features if you’re using the icon view). CCleaner seems to duplicate the Windows Un-Install feature, so alternatively you could use CCleaner for this task. I’m not sure how the Windows un-installer compares to CCleaner, but either method should work fine. Finally, after removing software you should be aware that the removal application probably did not do a good job of cleaning up your computer. There is almost always garbage left behind. You can see it in the C:\Program Files directory, in the hidden C:\ProgramData directory, and in the Windows Registry. The files left in your program directories don’t impact system performance, but the crap left in the registry does. That’s why I frequently run a registry cleaner that I trust not to screw anything up… CCleaner.

Install Security Software
Before you connect your fresh Windows installation to the Internet, you need to make sure you have a firewall. If you’re connected via a modern router, you already have a hardware firewall. Otherwise, you might be relying on Windows Firewall, which comes with Windows. I usually use both. Unless you have specifically disabled Windows Firewall or your router’s built-in firewall, they will work by default and you don’t generally need to worry about it.

Once you’re on-line, there are plenty of free anti-virus applications to choose from. I’ve usually used AVG Free, but more recently I discovered Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) and have been very pleased. From what I’ve read, it’s more effective than the free alternatives, it scans quickly, it doesn’t have any “nagscreens” asking you to pay money for an upgrade, and it’s simple to use and customize. MSE will automatically disable Windows Defender (a built-in Windows anti-malware program) because MSE takes over all the functionality of Windows Defender, so don’t be concerned if you notice that.

I usually run an anti-spyware application in addition to my default anti-virus software, and I usually find many threats that were not detected by the primary anti-virus. However, since installing MSE, neither SUPERAntiSpyware or Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware have detected any threats that were missed by MSE’s scans. I occasionally run scans with both of those anyway, just for peace-of-mind.

Install Updates
I’m sure that by now, Windows has already nagged you to update. If not, you can access Windows Update from the Start menu, under All Programs, near the top of the list.

I usually install most of the optional updates as well as the recommended ones.

Install Other Software
Finally, it’s time to start installing the excellent programs that led you to Windows-dependence in the first place. This is my current list of favorites. In most cases, I have tried several alternatives before deciding to keep these particular programs installed. They are all free except Microsoft Office (which you can get for free or cheap if you’re a student or corporate employee), and they all work well. Only a few are open source, but this is Windows after all.

μTorrent – A (very) tiny BitTorrent client
7-Zip – Open source utility for manipulating archives (“zipping” and “unzipping”)
Adobe Flash Player – Browser-based runtime environment for web applications and videos developed with Flash Professional (SWF files)
Adobe Reader – Read PDF files (yes, I know Sumatra PDF is light-weight, but it’s not as reliable)
Adobe Shockwave Player – Displays web content created with Adobe Director such as high-performance multiuser games, interactive 3D product simulations, online entertainment, and training applications
Audacity – Open source audio editor/recorder
CCleaner – Remove unnecessary files to free disk space AND full-featured registry cleaner, fast and reliable
Combined Community Codec Pack – Play any video file without a fuss. In most cases, this allows you to play all videos in the default Windows Media Player without a problem, although the included Media Player Classic generally works better. This succeeds where VLC fails (and vice versa). Some codec packs have been known to cause Windows errors, but this one is much more responsible.
DirectX Runtime – For displaying applications rich in multimedia elements such as full-color graphics, video, 3D animation, and rich audio
Dropbox – Sync files online and across computers automatically
FreeFileSync – Open-Source folder comparison and synchronization tool. Fast and easy to use.
Freemake Video Converter – Convert between nearly any of the video formats. True freeware, no adware, sneakware, or registration.
Gadwin PrintScreen – Highly-customizable yet still easy to use screenshot capture software. Basic version is freeware and still has great features.
GIMP – Open source image editor. Not quite as cool as Photoshop but it’s free!
Google Chrome – Google’s Internet browser. I’m a Firefox fan, but Chrome is still pretty neat.
Google Earth – The ultimate mapping application.
ImgBurn – Read from or create a disk image file (ISO), write an image file to disk, or simply burn to a disk directly. Best of its kind.
Java – the Java Runtime Environment is required to run any Java-based software
Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware – Detect viruses, worms, trojans, rootkits, dialers, spyware, and malware
MediaMonkey – Music player, organizer, tag editor, and much more. It’s the only music organizer/player that actually allows you to edit the ID3 tags in the audio files instead of saving everything in a separate database specific to the application. Works well with MiniLyrics for synchronized, scrolling lyrics (downloaded and saved directly to the ID3 tags).
Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007/2010 – I like open source software, but when you use Microsoft Office at work, you can’t get around using it at home for compatibility. Plus, it really is much better than any of the alternatives. If you use it at work (like me), you might be eligible for the Home Use Program and get it for $9.99. Students can get it for $79.99 here.
Microsoft Security Essentials – described above in Install Security Software
Microsoft Silverlight – for rich Internet applications including multimedia, animations, and graphics. Similar to Adobe Flash
MiniLyrics – Lyrics plugin software for numerous media players, automatically downloads and displays scrolling lyrics, allows you to save downloaded synchronized lyrics to ID3 tags.
Mozilla Firefox – World’s greatest Internet browser. Also get the Adblock Plus Add-On to minimize the ads you see and block malware domains.
Nitro PDF Reader – An excellent PDF printer, but also much more. It’s also a PDF editor, allowing for text anywhere and even a signature. Very professional, offered now for free while in beta. If it’s not free anymore, try PDFill, Bullzip, or PrimoPDF, but these are not nearly as nice. You can edit PDFs with GIMP to add signatures and text, and the result is legible, but you’ll notice distortion. If you have Microsoft Office, OneNote can do everything Nitro PDF can do, but it’s not as streamlined.
Notepad++ – Open source code editor. Best application to use for any kind of text editing, excellent syntax highlighting.
Paint.NET – Cross between GIMP/Photoshop and old-fashioned Paint that allows you to do anything from doodle to advanced photo editing.
Picasa – Photo organizer, editor, viewer, and much much more. My favorite features are the photo album viewer, collage creator, geotagger with Google Earth integration, and Picasa Web Albums which display a map next to every geotagged image. Additionally, Picasa recognizes all my image tags (I tag everything with my own software).
Skype – Video chat, IM, and phone calls on your PC. Last I checked, it still worked a little better than Google Chat on the PC I was using.
SUPERAntiSpyware – Spyware and adware detection and removal (Works great except annoying nagscreen)
VLC Player – Media player than can play anything using built-in codecs. I often
Windows Live Movie Maker – Best free video editor.