Wednesday, December 11, 2013

May the Dell PERC H310 RAID Controller Burn in Hell

Aaaah Dell.

Reasonable prices - and that's it.

I've recently been handling a purchase of gear from Dell for a fitout and although their pricing is good their sales staff are annoying as ever.

After requesting a quote with no indication I was ready to proceed I received twice daily phone calls for a fortnight.


Once a week? Yes.
Twice a week? Maybe.
Twice a day? F off.

Anyway, in the order was an R420 server.

My contact "Harry" tried to McDonalds me and upsell me on parts here there and everywhere.

But there's one part he didn't try to upsell me on that actually effing matters.

Most Dell servers come with a RAID controller model called the PERC H310.

If you're like me, you probably thought, great - it's got a hardware RAID controller.

Well here's the thing.
This model of RAID controller has no cache.

In RAID controller land that renders the device 100% rubbish.

In real world terms, it means instead of getting read and write speeds that your disks are actually capable of you will get speeds of 5 - 10 MB/s.

Yes - you read correctly.

You are now going to be experiencing HDD performance in your server comparable to that of a HDD from the early to mid 90s.

All because Dell has the nerve to sell a controller that simply shouldn't exist.

The fix is simple - upgrade to an H710P controller which has 1GB RAM for ~$500 at the time of ordering.

This controller makes your drives perform as intended and adds a feature called CacheCade which lets you use an SSD as cache (note - buy a 2RU server with 8 3.5" slots so you have room for mechanical drives and SSDs).

They also make a model called the H710 which only has 512MB RAM and no support for CacheCade.

Don't really know why they bothered with that model to be honest...

The reason I recommend the H710P is because it comes in the proprietary card form factor so it won't eat up one of your very limited number of spare PCI Express slots.

Now - having said all that.

The reason for purchasing the Dell server in the first place was that it was rack mountable and it includes a 3 year warranty.

That's all very well and good, but here's something for nothing.
Dell (and pretty much every other vendor) suck to deal with.

Poor language skills, annoying sales staff, screwed up deliveries.

If I was doing this all again, I'd build it myself.
Simple as that.

Cost wise it probably works out about the same for the hardware and realistically the extra money you pay for the three year warranty probably works out covering the small percentage of parts that may (or may not) pack it in within the next three years.

But you know what? I think I'm happy with that.
Shit breaks.
It happens.

Unless you have a catastrophic failure where all server components pack it in (in which case I can guarantee you the warranty claim will be a fight), it works out much of a muchness without all the hassle that dealing with a vendor is supposed to alleviate.

<--- End of Rant --->

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Fix Windows 8.1 Resolution and Weird Font Issue

Well after upgrading to Win 8.1 I realised fonts and well pretty much everything looked weird and crap (on my 13" 1080p screen which usually produces excellent quality).

It turns out it wasn't just me and on 8.1 there's an issue that effects DPI scaling.

The good news is you can fix it :)

Head to for details (it's easy).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a WiFi Console Cable

Thanks to one of my co-workers for coming up with the idea for this one.

Ross Taylor has earnt himself a beer.
We were thinking about a relatively cheap way of being able to establish a console connection to a device without having to be physically cabled to it.

The idea came from one of the contractors showing off his wireless console device which got us to thinking about different ways of wirelessly connecting to a console port.

My partner in crime is still pursuing the Android phone path but I thought I'd make use of some hardware I already had kicking around :)

This guide is designed to use a USB to Serial Adapter.

If you're feeling adventurous you could take it a step further and wire up a serial cable directly to your RPi.

Step 1) Turn your Raspberry Pi into a WiFi Hotspot

Download SDCard Formatter and Raspbian distro:

Install Raspbian.

To setup the hot spot follow the instructions over here:

Note 1: You only need to follow the WiFi hotspot guide up to but not including step 4 for the purposes of making a wifi hotspot you can connect to and then console out from.

In theory following the rest of the guide should be fine and provide you with a hotspot for internet access as well (via the ethernet interface) but you don't need it for a console connection.

Note 2: For the Edup Edimax based adapter you will need to enter the following commands as per to install a copy of hostapd that works with the edimax chipset:

sudo mv /usr/sbin/hostapd /usr/sbin/hostapd.bak
sudo mv hostapd /usr/sbin/hostapd.edimax 
sudo ln -sf /usr/sbin/hostapd.edimax /usr/sbin/hostapd 
sudo chown root.root /usr/sbin/hostapd 
sudo chmod 755 /usr/sbin/hostapd

Once you've install the Edimax release of hostapd edit /etc/hostapd/hostapd.conf and comment out the line:

One other thing worth doing is setting hostapd to start at boot:
sudo update-rc.d hostapd defaults

Step 2) SSH to Raspberry Pi from Client

Fire up Putty and SSH to the IP Address

You should now be logged into your Raspberry Pi over WiFI.

Step 3) Install Connect Up

sudo apt-get install cu

Step 4) Figure out the Connection Name of your USB to Serial Adapter

Run dmesg and look for your USB to Serial Name.
This is usually something like ttyUSB0 or similar.

Step 4) Connect Up via USB to Serial Device

cu -l /dev/ttyUSB0 -s 9600

Step 5) Winning.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ubisoft Rocksmith Real Tone Cable and How to Kill Lag (PC)

It turns out I've been living under a rock for the last year but I've just discovered the Ubisoft Rocksmith Real Tone Cable and this thing is Awesome!

It's a cable that is simply a 1/4" jack (guitar end), some sort of Analogue to Digital Converter in the middle and a USB connection on the other end.

The cable runs for all of $38 at JB HiFi and is available at pretty much all decent video games stores.

You can also purchase the cable with the Rocksmith game which is available for PC, XBox and PS3.

My purpose for this cable was to simply be able to plug my guitar into my PC, fire up some effects software with some degree of recording capability and also bang my headphones on so I can jam away as loud as I want and not annoy the neighbours.

Well, after some stuffing about, I'm there :)

When you first plug in the cable (Win7) it's automatically recognised.

Then you go into your sound properties in Control Panel, select the rocksmith device, bump up the level so it's a bit louder and enable "listen to this device".

And then you (might) start getting mad (depending on your soundcard).

I started strumming away and noticed a good 1 second of delay between my guitar and what was coming out the speakers.

I've had this issue with using a 1/4" to 3.5mm cable in the past.

As always, there's always a way to fix things on Win7.
Thank christ I'm not using a mac.

Step 1 - Download and install ASIO4ALL

ASIO4ALL is a (free) driver that takes over some parts of your in / out audio from your soundcard driver.

Once you've downloaded and installed (and said yes to the gazillion driver install requests) there's no shortcut to the application.

ASIO4ALL requires an application to be running that talks to it, and then the ASIO4ALL menu appears in the system tray.

Also - make sure any application that uses your soundcard (my culprits were Chrome and my Webcam app) are closed before you use ASIO4ALL as it requires exclusive use of your output device.

Step 2 - Download and install Guitar Rig 5

Guitar Rig 5 is a great free effects, recording and playback suite.
You have to signup (*cough* mailinator *cough*) to receive a free serial but that's about it.

Step 3 - Fire up Guitar Rig 5 and configure ASIO4ALL

Once you've fired up Guitar Rig 5, you'll notice ASIO4ALL come to life in your System Tray.

All you need to do now is define your input (Guitarsmith) device and your output (most likely 
stereo speakers) device.

Wait a few seconds and you short start hearing delay-free audio cranking out your speakers.
Plus you get some free sweet effects.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

US Mounted 231 Offensive Cyber-operations In 2011, Runs Worldwide Botnet

From Slashdot:

"U.S. intelligence services carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, the leading edge of a clandestine campaign that embraces the Internet as a theater of spying, sabotage and war, according to top-secret documents [from Edward Snowden]. Additionally, under an extensive effort code-named GENIE, U.S. computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control. Budget documents say the $652 million project has placed 'covert implants,' sophisticated malware transmitted from far away, in computers, routers and firewalls on tens of thousands of machines every year, with plans to expand those numbers into the millions. ... The implants that [an NSA group called Tailored Access Operations (TAO)] creates are intended to persist through software and equipment upgrades, to copy stored data, 'harvest' communications and tunnel into other connected networks. This year TAO is working on implants that “can identify select voice conversations of interest within a target network and exfiltrate select cuts,” or excerpts, according to one budget document. In some cases, a single compromised device opens the door to hundreds or thousands of others."=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Still trying to understand how this was allowed to happen and hasn't been realized by security vendors sooner?

So the Australian Government won't let Huawei bid on projects because suspect that there's spyware on their devices / appliances, yet we now KNOW that devices from US based companies are potentially riddled with US written spyware.

From a technical perspective, the vendors whose routers and firewalls have the malware present MUST have been involved and let it be installed.

The likes of Cisco, Checkpoint etc. would 100% have been involved and allowed this to happen otherwise they would have picked it up.

As other commentators on Slashdot have raised, the problem is that if an exploit is present on a device, there's nothing stopping anyone else in addition to the original installer getting access to the compromised device.

If this article is true (and it looks pretty legit) this is possibly the biggest security breach on a global scale in the last decade.

What legal consequences will the US-based engineers involved now face?

Will be interesting to see if any software makes its way onto the interwebs to check if your router / firewall has been compromised.

I think Obama asked for a cowboy outfit for Christmas and all he got was the NSA...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

GNS3 - Specifying interfaces for links.

For some bizarre reason, GNS3 doesn't by default let you choose which interface to use when use the link tool to join devices.

To fix this, go to Edit -> Preferences -> General -> [GUI Settings]

Then check [x] Always use manual mode when adding links.

Oh - and then restart (yes - annoying if you're in the middle of a lab - you remembered to select "save to nvram" when you created the project right?).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Xen Desktop Minimum Cost Deployment Guide


Let's say you're a small business and you need VDI for your staff when they're out of the office / working from home.

Let's face it - Citrix is the established name in this area.

Having said that, they're a bit of a closed book when it comes to purchasing software and licenses and the only way you seem to be able to get it setup is by paying a contractor to set it up for you out the nose.

Well this guide is for those contractors.

Rather than making your customers pay for all sorts of Virtualisation server licensing, there's a cheaper way (in terms of licensing and overall for the customer) to do this, which means more money for you in professional services :)

There's an older verison of Xen Desktop called Xen Desktop 5 Express which is free for 10 users.
That's pretty cool.

There's three main requirements if you want to implement an on-network version of this for free.
Firstly, you need to have a Citrix Xen Virtual Server to run it on, a Windows 2K8 Server and then enough resources to host a bunch of Win 7 guests.

To setup external access, you need some type of SSL-VPN server to provide users with secure but high-speed access to the Citrix VDI service (IPSEC will be WAAAAY too slow).

Anyway, we'll get to the external access bit later.

In all this - there's one thing they don't tell you.

If you want to use VMWare as your Virtualisation platform, you need to use the licensed version of ESX as Xen Desktop requires vCentre when running on VMWares technology.

vCenter iteslf is licensed (and quite expensive) and doesn't work with the free version of ESX.

So - what's your best bet?

It's actually SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to buy a separate physical server for your Xen Desktop environment and run the free Xen Server on it.

I priced the cost of ESX (licensed) + vCenter Essentials (as at 17/08/13) and that was at least $3000.

The best alternative is to buy a physically separate server for ~$1000 (for a Dell Xeon based unit) and bang the free version of Xen Server on there.

The other alternative is to run Xen Server as a nested host on ESXi but performance will probably suck.

Anyway, that's the best option for a live real world environment for your clients.

To test this in a lab however you can take the nested xen server option.

Requirements for a basic Xen VDI deployment:

  • 2 * Win 2K8 VMs and a Win 7 Pro (or better - AD membership required) VM and then as many VMs as users you will have.

One of the 2k8's runs AD, the other is an AD member and runs all the Citrix server components.

You then have a Win 7 template VM which is used as the base for all the Citrix VDI VMs.

Step 1) Create ESXi guest for Xen Server
Step 2) Enable "vhv" for esxi Xen Server Guest
Step 3) Install Xen Server on VMWare Guest
Step 4) Install 2K8 AD DC.
Step 5) Install 2K8 member and Xen Desktop Server.
Step 6) Install Win7 on guest VM and install any apps you want the VDIs to have.

primary win server required (ad dc)
have to run win 7 vdi install twice (fails first time) - run again after first reboot
account logged in as is one used for xen desktop server config so use a domain admin account
xen desktop 2k8 server storage increased to 48gb
each time you make a vdi it consumes the same amount of storage as the master.

win 7 x32 client used

dhcp configured on dc

xen desktop virtual agent installed as local machine admin (non-domain account)

virtual desktop agent threw no errors using this method.

private and domain firewalls disabled on all servers and workstations

Edit->Preferences->General->[GUI Settings]

Check [x] Always use manual mode when adding links

running xen desktop studio had to add xenlab.local\xenadmin as local admin

install of xen desktop was created using local admin account on 2k8 xendesktop server

domain admin xenadmin was added as local admin on win7 machine before running quick deploy on xendesktop server

when running quick deploy logged on as domain xenadmin received error account permissions not good enough
had to supply local admin account creds (appears account used to install has permission and others don't)

BGP and Source Based Route Maps

Ahem. Yes - it's probably high time I stop being so distracted and put some networking related articles up.

Well, until my focus drifts again, here's an article on how to source based route maps for BGP instances.


Let's say you've got two pairs of routers with each pair at a different company.

We'll be running iBGP between routers at the same company and eBGP between companies.

Different service providers are used for connectivity as follows:

Now let's say that we want to route a couple of /24 subnets over link A and B however we want to route traffic for some particular hosts within those 4 * /24 subnets over link A only.

This is initially pretty easy.

Step 1) Define interfaces
hostname A1
interface fa 0/0
ip address
no shut
interface fa 0/1
ip address
no shut

conf term
hostname A2
interface fa 0/0
ip address
no shut
interface fa 0/1
ip address
no shut

conf term
hostname B1
interface fa 0/0
ip address
no shut
interface fa 0/1
ip address
no shut

conf term
hostname B1
interface fa 0/0
ip address
no shut
interface fa 0/1
ip address
no shut

Step 2) Define eBGP and iBGP Peers
router bgp 64512
neighbor remote-as 64513
neighbor remote-as 64512
neighbor next-hop self
no auto-summary

router bgp 64513
neighbor remote-as 64512
neighbor remote-as 64513
no auto-summary

router bgp 64512
neighbor remote-as 64513
neighbor remote-as 64512
neighbor next-hop self
no auto-summary

router bgp 64513
neighbor remote-as 64512
neighbor remote-as 64513
no auto-summary


Step 3) Define Local Interfaces

interface fa 2/0.1
encapsulation dot1q 1
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0.2
encapsulation dot1q 2
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0
no shut


interface fa 1/0.1
encapsulation dot1q 1
ip address
no shut
interface fa 1/0.2
encapsulation dot1q 2
ip address
no shut
interface fa 1/0
no shut

interface fa 2/0.1
encapsulation dot1q 1
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0.2
encapsulation dot1q 2
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0
no shut

interface fa 2/0.1
encapsulation dot1q 1
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0.2
encapsulation dot1q 2
ip address
no shut
interface fa 2/0
no shut

Step 4) BGP Network Statements and How-To Advertise /32 Hosts in BGP

Ok - so now we've got our basic lab setup with BGP advertising some subnets at different locations.

Now we want to advertise the /24 subnet on both Company A DC1 and DC2 but then also put some more specific host routes on Company A DC1's router to make this the preferred entry point router for these specific hosts.

We can control which is the preferred entry point for the /32 host routes as they are more specific and should be more favoured by the external BGP AS's.

To advertise the /24's:

router bgp 64512
network mask
network mask

router bgp 64512
network mask
network mask

To advertise the /32's:
As the host IPs and are learnt from networks with a mask of, BGP won't enter them into the route table as the mask doesn't match.

To address this, create a static route for that IP as follows:
ip route fast 2/0
ip route fast 2/0

You can also use an IP as the next-hop for the static route, as long as it's the actual next-hop for that destination it doesn't matter :)

Now that the router is learning a /32 mask for this host, you can advertise this network in BGP:
router bgp 64512
network mask
network mask

Step 5) Controlling the Return Route Path

Ok - so now we're successfully making Company B routers take the route path via ISP A to reach Company A for 2 specific hosts.

Now, the aim of this scenario is to force all traffic in all directions for these two hosts over the one ISP link.

To do this we need to make sure that if the two source IPs and try to route out router A2 we force the traffic via A1.

We can do this by defining a route map on Company_A_DC2's router which matches a source IP of the /32 hosts defined with destination any and then uses the BGP route-map "Next-Hop" function to force traffic out Company_A_DC1's router.

First of all we need to create the route-map which specifies the IPs of the hosts we want to redirect:

route-map redirect_hosts permit 10
match ip address Host_IPs
set ip next-hop

ip access-list extended Host_IPs
permit ip host any
permit ip host any

The significant part of the statement above is the any statement on the end of the access-list rule.

This signifies that this rule is to be applied to and as the source IP.
Without the any statement this rule would take effect in both directions and could cause major issues for the return path to the server from Company B.

Now we want to apply this to interface fa1/0 on A2 to force any traffic entering this interface over to router A1:

interface fastEthernet 1/0
ip policy route-map redirect_hosts

Congratulations :)

You've just forced BGP into doing something a little bit nasty.

Not exactly the recommended way of doing things but a good one to keep in your back pocket nonetheless.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nested VM Hypervisor aka Enabling VT-x for Guests

To enable nested VT, add this line to the .vmx file of the ESXi virtual machine:
vhv.enable = "TRUE"
The easiest way to do this is download the .vmx file from the data store, edit it, and over-write the original.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cop that IBM you W@nkers.

About time.

IBM has now been banned from bidding on any Qld State Government projects until they "address what the state says are IBM's project governance issues".

Not really enough of a consequence in my opinion though.

How about:

"Until they pay back the money they stole (above standard market rate) and money taken for projects not delivered".

And then given them a 20 year ban on top of that out of spite anyway.


Fortinet Forticlient VPN on Windows 8 - how to make it work.

My work laptop recently received the Windows 8 treatment and all I can say is - wow - what was the point of that?

If you use the Fortinet VPN client, you'll instantly start raging because it doesn't work.

Here's the hot tip - to make it work, you have to manually enter the default port number (if that's what you use) of 10443 in the connection settings box.

It's already there and greyed out but apparently there was a glitch in the Matrix and this somehow became broken on Win 8...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Samsung Tec Tiles. Necessary? No. But damn cool.

I'm constantly impressed by my Samsung i9305 (or S3 4G if you will) Android Smartphone.

Whether I'm firing up sudo commands within the terminal emulator to do some external access testing or using my Qi charger on my desk to power the sucker up again, I'm constantly impressed with what you can do with this unassuming looking device.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day along the lines of "wouldn't it be great if you could just get in your car and your phone would turn on its bluetooth radio automatically?".

While you're at it, why not fire up driving mode and either the music player or Google nav?

I said "yeah - I remember something about Samsung selling programmable NFC stickers" and the inner geek in me thought I'd better have a look...

After a bit of Googling around I found the stickers in question and remembered they were marketed as "Tec Tiles" by Samsung.

For the reasonable sum of approx. $3 a sticker I ordered a pack of 5 off eBay and am well chuffed.

The setup was literally as easy as install the app on your Android phone from the Play Store and select what you want the sticker to do.

You then "write" to the tag (will have to look into this as I suspect the phone actually just reads a sticker ID or something and associates that with commands in a database or something - or it could actually program the sticker - who knows?) and that's it!

I've now got a nifty little Samsung NFC sticker in my car that I simply tap my phone against and I'm in (what I like to call) driving mode.

Necessary? No.

But they're damn cool :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Best HTPC Remote Control (Hand Held) Setup

It was a sad day when my official Microsoft MCE remote (1039 model - picture below) packed it in.

Official MCE Remote = Awesome.
Sadly no longer in production.

I'd gotten very used to this remote with its nicely functioning and highly responsive buttons and the way it "just worked".

As this remote is no longer in production (and there is no updated version) I was left with the option of getting the closest thing to an official MS remote which was the Happuage MCE Remote Kit which runs for about $50 in Australia or a cheap ebay generic kit which ran for about $20.

I ended up going with the ebay generic version which worked but was quite frustrating in that buttons didn't register properly and was very unresponsive (as in lots of delay) when buttons did actually register.

So - if you're new to the Media Centre game and want a good quality remote setup, what's your best option?

If I was doing it all again (or had to start from scratch right now), my recommendation would be to buy the cheap ebay MCE kit and throw away the remote but keep the USB IR receiver.

Next, go out (or stay in I guess these days...) and get yourself a Logitech 
Harmony remote.

There are various models ranging from $20 - $200 depending on the level of fanciness you feel you need :)

Cheap ebay Generic Kit =
bad remote performance but a
good way to obtain a USB IR receiver.
I purchased a bargain clearance model Harmony 200 for $15 from JB HiFi and am super impressed with it.

I simply signed up via to access the configuration service and fired up the browser based plugin which then let me start configuring up my remote.

I used the software to configure the primary profile (as you can see there are three profiles - tv, cable and DVD which can be mapped to any device you desire) as a Microsoft 1039 Media Centre remote and waited for the config to sync to the remote.

I then thought - it can't be that easy.

I walked into the lounge and pressed the power button and the HTPC woke up straight away.
Logitech Harmony. Get one. Now.

Am very impressed at this point.

I then proceeded to give all the other buttons a whirl and everything worked perfectly.

All commands were mapped as I expected and the buttons register first time every time.
As a bonus the interface is nice and responsive.

This is all using the original USB IR receiver from my Microsoft MCE remote kit (which is the same what's included in the ebay kit mind you).

I then took it a step further and loaded the profiles for my TV and Stereo Mini System on and was further impressed with the setup.

The only thing I had to do in addition to this was manually configure a button for use with the stereo mini system profile so that I could scroll through my input selects.

This was as simple as using the Logitech configuration software and pointing the original remote at the new remote, pressing the desired button and then dragging and dropping the newly learnt command to the relevant button in the configuration software.

The ultimate party piece is when you've setup the special "Watch TV" button at the very top left of the remote correctly.

By default this will turn on and off your media centre and TV simultaneously.
Spending 5 minutes more with the software will allow you to also make it include your stereo / amp in that process which is just awesome.

Very impressive stuff :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Minix Neo X5 Mini Android Media Center


An Android based media center device that is small, powerful and has a decent remote control and keyboard option.

Minix has just released the Neo X5 Mini and it looks bloody good.

Spec wise it's very similar to it's previous incarnation but got shrunk in the wash and now has a better remote.

The device is orderable from Deal Extreme for the very reasonable price of $89 (AU).

For that you get a tiny little media center that's capable of running XBMC with hardware acceleration (using the MX player trick), HDMI output, SPDIF output, 802.11n 2.4GHz support as well as 2 USB ports, an  ethernet port (think it's only 100mbps) and an SD slot.

Inside the SoC it packs a Rockchip RK3066 Dual-Core 1.6GHz processor (Cortex A9 architecture) and a Quad-Core Mali 400GPU.

That little GPU will more than take care of 1080p decoding :)

Full specs are available at the official Minix product page.

It comes with a small remote that is meant to better than the one included with the standard size Neo X5 and also supports the mini keyboard / wii-mote style thingy / accelerometer controller (available from Deal Extreme for $40 AU).

This pricing is not great at the moment due to the over-inflated US dollar (waiting for imminent crash...).

There's an XBMC release (Neon XAF build) compatible with the Neo X5 mini over at including instructions.

I highly recommend changing the theme to Confluence :)

Check out the youtube clip below for a great full review and to see XBMC in action.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

LED Downlights - MR16 12V, GU10 240V or 12V MR16 Backwards Compatible Philips Master Bulbs

As anyone living in Queensland knows, we're about to be further screwed by our state government and power companies on power costs to the song of 21.4% with no reasonable explanation why.

I personally think the laws relating to what a state government is allowed to do urgently need a shake up but that's a topic for another day (although I will say this - primary services should NEVER be privatised. EVER.).

Anyway, now everyone needs to scramble and do whatever they can to minimise the impact of this dick move.

So job number one for a lot of people is going to be getting their lighting sorted.

For me, this is a priority as my house uses exclusively 12V MR16 50W halogen downlights throughout.

That equals one big-ass power bill.

For the uninitiated, there are two types of downlight voltage and socket formats (with the LED incarnation pictured below):

1: 12V LED Light (achieved using a transformer hidden in your ceiling - one per light) with MR16 pins.

2: 240V LED Light with GU10 socket.

I've got the first type (12V/MR16).
So off I went and whacked a 5W LED 12V MR16 globe in there and no dice.
The thing wouldn't even turn on.

As it turns out, 12V/MR16 LED lights are only designed to work with special LED transformers.
The two older types are electronic (what I've got - small and light plastic things) and iron core (big and heavy funnily enough).

Now apparently the Iron Core transformers will actually make your LED lights work however they will shorten the life span of the bulb.

Some good information on the topic is available here.

Anyway - I'm now faced with the situation of having to get this compatibility issue sorted.

The three options I've got are:

1) Replace all the electronic transformers with LED transformers and use 12V MR16 LED lights

2) Throw out all the old transformers and have a GU10 flexible cable wired straight onto the end of the 240V cable.

3) Replace 50W halogens with Philips Master MR16 12V Bulbs (with patented compatibility circuitry).

To explain the differences a little further, we need to get familiar with the anatomy of what's involved.

In either scenario, there is a transformer (also called a driver), a controller Integrated Circuit chip and the actually LED's themselves.

In the 12V/MR16 scenario, the transformer is separated out from the LED bulb which simply contains the IC chip and the LED emitters themselves.

In the 240V/GU10 scenario the transformer is integrated into the bulb (that long white bit at the top) as well as the IC chip and LEDs.

Now there's one other option to address this issue...
This involves using a specially designed 12V MR16 bulb made by Philips which contains patented circuitry  designed to work with old 12V electronic transformers (described on this page).

So I started reading up on each option and came up with a quick list of Pros and Cons for each:

MR16 12V
  • Separated transformer which allows bulb to run (almost) entirely cool giving best chance of long bulb life
  • If transformer blows bulb should survive (being that the bulb is the expensive part).
  • MR16 lights are generally a shorter profile so should fit better in convex gimbals (light fittings).
  • Higher deployment cost (new transformer for every light).
  • Sources suggest that use of any transformer (even LED specific) can potentially cause a fire.

GU10 240V
  • Cheaper to deploy as GU10 sockets much cheaper than LED transformers.
  • Bulbs cost the same as MR16 verisons.
  • Uses slightly less electricity as transformer integrated directly in bulb.
  • Integrated transformer generates some heat which may slightly shorten bulb life.
  • GU10 sockets require a ground cable to be wired in. This can be an issue if there's not a ground cable already running to the transformer.

MR16 12V Philips Master (Backwards Compatible)

  • Electrician not required
  • Immediately start enjoying power savings
  • Cheapest option overall
  • Still using a transformer so not perfect in terms of safety or efficiency.
  • 10W model has a fan which can become louder over time and seize due to dust or bugs (7W model has no fan).


I decided to give the Philips Master LED 7W a crack and they worked perfectly :)

I also gave the 10W version a try and can confirm that the fan sound is annoying and they aren't actually any brighter and they don't fit in standard halogen fittings properly (radius too large) whereas the 7W models are fine.

If you're interested there's a discussion concerning the Philips Master 7W going on over at Whirlpool that I'm participating in... (Not my thread).

I got a quote for re-wiring all my lights to GU10 sockets and when I did the math it worked out about $1300 cheaper overall to replace all lights in the house with Philips Master models as it did to re-wire and purchase decent (Philips Master quality or better) GU10 bulbs and new fittings.

Some personal feedback regarding the Philips Master bulbs is:

  • Generally speaking they are excellent
  • They are best suited to areas of a high concentration of LED bulbs (areas where my lights are spaced fair apart are a little bit darker than areas where they are close together).
  • The colour temperature is pleasant in the home.
  • The light output is solid. What I mean by this is that there is no motion strobe effect. I tried a Nichia 8W 60 Degree 3000K bulb and while it was compatible with my old transformers the light it produced it obviously wasn't cycling very fast. To clarify, when you look at the light it produces it appears solid and there is no flickering. When motion occurs within the light coverage area however the object creates a strobe effect (imagine a very old movie with a poor framerate where the motion is very jumpy).

The only area in my home where they don't quite cut it is the main dining area where the bulbs are unfortunately spaced very far apart.

I will probably have to bite the bullet for these four bulbs and get some LED transformers por a GU10 socket installed so I can increase my bulb options to get some super-bright Cree LEDs.

Hope this has helped and that your decision is easier than mine was!

By the way - all work involving 240V wire connectivity alterations must be carried out by a licensed electrician (duh).

Also (and this is a bit of a grey area) I would personally make sure that any bulbs you purchase meet Australian standards.

The only standard I could really find that they must comply with is C-Tick however according to what I read on the interwebs the manufacturer isn't required to put this on the packaging.

Chances are if they've paid for it they would though.