Toll Roads in South Africa and theft by the Fiscus

There have been many heated debates and commentaries on the current state of affairs surrounding toll roads in South Africa, but for the sake of clarity, I think it can be summarised as follows:

1. SANRAL, by way of it’s equally logic challenged spokesman, Vusi Mona, claims that it is not possible to fund road maintenance and new infrastructure from the fiscus and thus we need toll roads.  Government has mandated them to do this.

2. Various parties have mounted legal challenges to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.  OUTA and the DA have taken the matter to court, but to date have failed to make their claims convincingly enough to stop the projects.

I have often asked myself how much money the state collects via the fuel levy and haven’t heard much comment on that.   When I saw this comment on MyBroadband on the matter of conventional tolling of the Western Cape’s freeways, it started becoming clearer to me.

SA Fuel Stats* 2014 figures confirmed by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene are expected to be R46 billion.

In 2011 the following applied:

Fuel levy: 177.5c/l
Total SA Fuel Consumption: 21.1 billion litres
Total Fuel Levy Income: R37.5 billion.
Total Levy collection since 2008 (6 years) when construction word on the GFIP started: R 225 billion at least!

SANRAL receives R10 billion annually from the fiscus, which is of course too little to do their work.  It looks like a sinister movie plot, but it’s not:

      • The Ministry of Finance assigns only 26,6% of the fuel levy to the purpose for which it was collected.
      • Toll roads are constructed, despite fierce opposition to the plans, since there’s “not enough money”
      • Furthermore the government pension funds risks “investing” in SANRAL in lieu of the GPIF tolling project.
      • Only once, in 2003, was there a one month statutory appeal period to register objections to the Western Cape N1/N2 Toll Road project, the appeals which minister of transport summarily dismissed.

What is going on here?  Surely a legal challenge to the misappropriation of funds can be mounted and the effects thereof reversed?  After all, it was Barend du Plessis, under the “dreaded apartheid regime” that instated this fiscal travesty by dumping the fuel levy into the fiscus, ending the road fund (the South African NP government was facing serious financial problems at the time).  In effect he raided the road fund.  Exactly what the South African ANC government is now doing.

South Africa, by way of it’s road users, has paid R225 billion to keep its roads in good shape, yet the Government has thought it totally in order to misappropriate R165 billion (that is R 165 000 000 000) of that money.  To add injury to insult, it now wants to collect more than R1 000 000 per month from the Gauteng freeway users alone, to “cover the debt incurred to upgrade the Gauteng Freeways”.

How will this be stopped and reversed?

Will OUTA, the DA, Cosatu, the EFF and others take on the Ministry of Finance and it’s sinister plot to double-tax us continuously?  Or will the people of South Africa take matters into their own hands as the people of Brittany in France have?

In 2010, it seems, the idea of a dedicated road maintenance fund was put forward by S’bu Ndebele, transport minister at the time, although it seems the DA had been promoting the idea for some time before.  So if this is being planned, why is SANRAL forging ahead with its tolling regime?

There are those that claim this is part of UN agenda 21. Watching and reading about it, does seem to make some sense, in a bizarre way, of what SANRAL and the ANC are doing, but please decide for yourself.

At least it seems there are people brave enough to come forward and spill the beans!

South Africa’s ruling party is making a grave mistake if they think that they can continue on this path of reckless unaccountability in the face of the South Africa’s people.  In the words of an old ex-comrade of the struggle: Enough is enough!

Magento Store Installation And Configuration Notes

1. Change Theme (and solution if it doesn’t seem to work)

After installing a demo store for a Magento installation, I tried changing the theme just to learn how the system works.  There are many how-to’s that explain how to install a theme automagically ( and manually ( among many, but all fail to mention a very important aspect of themes:  Once a theme is installed, you have to go to the CMS menu, click “Pages”, select a page (click it) and click “Design” on the left.  Then select the new theme from the “Custom Theme” dropdown box.  Once you save the selection, the new theme will show for that page.

There are countless forums and pages that I have come across where some commenter had this exact problem and no-where is it answered by the Magento gurus.  Astounding!  I can just assume that this is so obvious to a seasoned Magento user, that it is ignored.  Thanks to user Allysin over here, I finally found this solution.

2. More to follow…

android kitkat

How to get Whatsapp on Android KitKat (4.4) to sync contacts

I recently upgrade my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7″ (P1000) to Cyanogenmod 11.2 to attempt to fix a Bluetooth problem I’m having (which is a different matter entirely), but noticed that Whatsapp was not syncing contacts with my phone contacts at all.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even able to add new contacts to Whatsapp or start chats with people not in my history of chats.

CyanogenmodI had previously upgraded from CM 9 to CM 10.2, which was an experimental build for the Samsung 7″ Tab, but this behaviour did not occur there.

After much searching, I finally decided to leave it for a later time.  Then one day, while looking for reasons why Waze wasn’t performing certain actions properly either, I noticed the setting (under settings | apps) “Enable Privacy Guard”.  This led me to further investigate this feature.

Under settings | privacy | Privacy Guard, a list of all apps is shown and each’s guard may be enable or disabled.  Lo and behold, when I disabled it for Whatsapp, suddenly the contact sync worked and my contacts where shown in Whatsapp.

I would have liked some notification by Android that Privacy Guard is on when an app attempts something that is blocked by privacy guard.  Maybe it’s just not ready in CM 11.2 yet?

Anyway, if you have this problem with Whatsapp or other apps, investigate this option and maybe you find that it solves the problem like it did for me.

How to test for a valid twitter handle using a regular expression

I use Redmine CRM, which allows custom fields in the Contacts, Deals and other modules.  The validity of an entry may be tested with a regular expression.  I had to do quite a bit of testing before I finally got it right (not doing this every day!), so here is what I ended up using:


Meaning is should start with an “@” and then have at least 1 of A-Z, a-z, 0-9 or _, but not more than15.

Hope this helps someone else somewhere, sometime :-)

Jesus and the Wrath of God

Roland Giesler:

Good read!

Originally posted on Escape to Reality:

blood-stained crossAre you familiar with the hymn In Christ Alone? Do you know this hymn is not hundreds of years old? It’s not even 20 years old. In Christ Alone is a very modern hymn. It was written in 2001 by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

I mention this hymn because it has these wonderful lyrics:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

“Wait a second, Paul. Are you saying God poured out his wrath on Jesus? That sounds twisted.”

I agree that there is something dreadfully wrong with the picture of a father killing his son to satisfy some legal need for blood. It falsely portrays God as guilty of filicide, the murder of his own child.

I know some people have been turned off from the gospel…

View original 828 more words

South African Radio Stations via Rhythmbox

Since I run an Ubuntu desktop environment, I get to do with all the idiosyncrasies of service providers that imagine a “Windows only” world…  <sigh>

Here’s what to use to get radio via Rhythmbox or other music players:

  • Cape Talk 567 MW – rtsp://
  • RSG – rtsp://

If you have more streams (that you have tested!), please comment below and I’ll add them here.

LTSP notes

These are my personal notes wrt LTSP installations, tips and tricks that I have needed in various setups.  Instead of just storing these in my own notebook, I share them here for the benefit of anyone that may benefit from them.  Feel free to leave comments, corrections or suggestions.

Ubuntu 12.04 64bit Server with LTSP

i386 Clients that don’t support required ‘cmov’

Norhtec Surfboards with XCore86 processors:

  1. The last version of Ubuntu that has the ‘cmov’ instruction built into the kernel is 10.04.  I suppose it is possible to compile a custom kernel with ‘cmov’ support, but I think Ubuntu has removed code from their source, so one would need quite a bit of customisation to overcome this.  Not for me, I’ve wasted too much time on things I don’t really know enough about.
  2. Debian continues supporting ‘cmov’ up to the latest build.
  3. Debian LTSP implements NFS to connect from the chroot booted system to the server, Ubuntu uses NBD.
  4. With Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid, the NBD server listened on a port, typically 2000, 2001, 2002, etc.  Since 12.04 Precise (or maybe even the release before that?), the chroot booted clients connects with a named pipe instead of a port.
  5. To allow a 10.04 chroot client to connect to the 12.04 server, do the following
      1. $ sudo ltsp-chroot -a i386
        $ vim /etc/ltsp/update-kernels.conf

        Change the content to:
        BOOTPROMPT_OPTS=”append ro initrd=initrd.img quiet splash nbdport=2002″

        Now run:

        $ /usr/share/ltsp/update-kernels
        $ exit

        $ sudo ltsp-update-kernels

        Now the file /var/lib/tftpboot/ltsp/i386/pxelinux.cfg/default should reflect the changed connection method using a port.

      2. Change the nbd-server config as follows:
        $ sudo vim /etc/nbd-server/config
        user = nbd
        group = nbd
        includedir = /etc/nbd-server/conf.d
        oldstyle = true

        $ sudo vim /etc/nbd-server/conf.d/ltsp_i386.conf
        exportname = /opt/ltsp/images/i386.img
        readonly = true

        $ sudo vim /etc/nbd-server/conf.d/swap.conf
        port = 2002
        exportname = /tmp/nbd-swap/%s
        prerun = nbdswapd %s
        postrun = rm -f %

      3. A different way (which I only found out yesterday by going through the script), is:
        $ sudo ltsp-update-image -a i386 -o “quiet splash nbdport=2002″


Extra notes:

There is a file /etc/ltsp/ltsp-update-image.excludes which removes certain file from the chroot when the image is created.  Edit this to allow sshd keys, home directories and more to included in the image.

If the client doesn’t log in to the server due to ssh keys not in the ssh_known_hosts file, delete the /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts file in the chroot, run ltsp-update-sshkeys and then ltsp-update-image.

If the screen resolution notification pops up after logon, delete the users ~/.config/monitors.xml file.

To enable sshd on the thin client:
In /etc/ltsp/ltsp-update-image.excludes comment out:
# etc/ssh/ssh_host_*_key

In /var/lib/tftpboot/ltsp/i386/lts.conf add:

Printers connected to the thin client?
check the device the printer is on: ls -la /dev/usb/lp1 for example  (on wheezy)
then set lts.conf to:
PRINTER_0_DEVICE = /dev/usb/lp1
for the application MAC address

Lexmark Support fail!

Here is the exchange I had with Lexmark support regarding the Lexmark Prospect 205 printer/scanner/fax/copier.
I have highlighted some text in orange to make it clearer and clipped some standard template text for the sake of brevity, but otherwise I changed nothing.  Just did a cut and paste from gmail.
Lexmark have now removed the drivers in question…  but haven’t said a word about it.

Dear Roland,

Here is your Service Request # 1-11261004232

Thank you for the information and it’s clearer this time. Going back to your concern, I tried checking it from our website again and found out that this printer doesn’t have an Ubuntu drivers so this means that it is not compatible with it. I sincerely appreciate your patience.

If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact me at your convenience and I will be happy to assist you. (If I am not available, another representative may reply to your request.)

<clipped template info>


Lexmark eSupport Team
[THREAD ID:1-568IEH4]Please rate your e-mail support experience. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us. Please click the link below to participate in a brief Lexmark Customer Satisfaction Survey.
**********Original Message**********
I can understand why we have missed each other.  In the original thread I
referred to a “Lexmark Prospect 205 Scanner/Fax/Printer” which is what I
have.  That model definitely has a driver on your website and it works as I
said before. Does that make it clearer?
On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 9:18 AM, Lexmark Support <>wrote:>
Dear Roland,
> Here is your Service Request # 1-11261004232
> We have here the P250 printer as your printer and we don’t have drivers
> for Ubuntu with this type. May I know if you really have a P250 printer?
> If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact me at your
> convenience and I will be happy to assist you. (If I am not available,
> another representative may reply to your request.)<clipped template info>> Sincerely,
> Giovanni
> Lexmark eSupport Team
Eh, am I missing something here?  I think you should read my original mail
before firing off a canned response!Here is what I asked:I have installed the latest printer & scanner drivers for Ubuntu (32 bit)
from your support site on two machines.  On the one (running Ubuntu 11.10)
everything works 100%, printing & scanning over the network.  On the other
machine running Ubuntu 12.10 however I can print, but scanning produces the
error “Failed to open device ‘lexmarklegacy_1_0_0:libnet/00200075694B':
Error during devce I/O.I have also engaged some non-lexmark forum on this matter and the full
thread is available here:<>
I posted as “lifeboy” and have provided this link so I don’t have to repeat
the volume of information I have provided there regarding my setup.To which you responded (totally unrelated and seeming not having read what I wrote!)
Here is your Service Request # 1-11261004232
> Thank you for contacting Lexmark. With regards to your concern, I regret
> to inform you that this printer is not compatible with Ubuntu and that you
> can’t find any drivers available from our website. I sincerely appreciate
> your patience.
>1. I *did download* the drivers from your website and you *do* support *
Ubuntu* and *Debian*.  And the printer works as well as the scanner from
one of my machines!!
2. I explicitly asked for technical help.  In the thread I referred to I
have posted extensive technical information that you should pass on the
your driver development team. The drivers where update recently with never
version, so don’t try to tell me you don’t support Ubuntu.
3. It seems that I should rather buy a printer from HP, Brother, Canon or
Epson, right?
4. Does you employer know that you’re not doing your job, by brushing off a
technical support request?I am appalled by this response. Can you please escalate this request to
your manager?thank youRoland Giesler, CEOOn Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 10:13 AM, Lexmark Support
> wrote:> Dear Roland,
> Here is your Service Request # 1-11261004232
> Thank you for contacting Lexmark. With regards to your concern, I regret
> to inform you that this printer is not compatible with Ubuntu and that you
> can’t find any drivers available from our website. I sincerely appreciate
> your patience.> If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact me at your
> convenience and I will be happy to assist you. (If I am not available,
> another representative may reply to your request.)
<clipped template info>
**********Original Message**********
Roland Giesler <roland@***********t> Feb 15
to Lexmark
Again I don’t understand?  When I go to the Lexmark support site and select the Prospect Pro205 printer, I get the driver plain and simple:
Here is the site URL:
Select on the Downloads tab: “Unix /Linux” and then “Ubuntu 12.04″, I get the complete list of drivers.

Canonical: Killing Maverick Meerkat and plugging its burrows? (Solution available)

I really didn’t think that I would ever have to write this kind of post

Since the end of support for Ubuntu Maverick 10.10 in April 2012, the repos are suddenly (since when?) removed as well.  This is a very serious problem since we have a number of 10.10 environments which are extremely stable and in production, with only very occasional modifications needed.  However, it is not possible to add even a simple application like vim to any of these installations by using the repositories and standard Ubuntu provided tools, since the complete repositories seem to have been removed!

Now, I realise and support the fact that Canonical cannot continue to support releases indefinitely and that’s perfectly in order.  But, hey, even Microsoft of all companies have many of the patches and updates available that were previously released even for very old products.  Ubuntu is an open source system, we use it exclusively at clients and inhouse, but in this instance you are seriously letting us down. Why can the repos not simply stay online?  I’m not asking for new updates, but simply that what was there before stays there.  There is a community as well, you know, and by what reasoning do things simply get removed?

Consider this.  Our client wants to upgrade their systems to 12.04 and have budgeted for this in the next 6-12 months.  Neither they, nor we, currently have manpower resources available to upgrade their LTSP servers and applications and to ensure that it all works.  You know that it’s not as simple as clicking the upgrade button, so why are we being put in this position?  The forced upgrade cycle is one of the main reasons why we moved away from Windows, apart from the security issues inherent in that platform, yet now Canonical is putting us in the same position.

Here is a quote from Kate Stewart’s announcement to the Ubuntu Security Announcement List:

Since its launch in October 2004 Ubuntu has become one of the most
highly regarded Linux distributions with millions of users in homes,
schools, businesses and governments around the world. Ubuntu is Open
Source software, costs nothing to download, and users are free to
customize or alter their software in order to meet their needs.

Canonical, please but the repos back online where they belong.

Update: (Please see Kate Stewart’s comment as well)

The old repos are held at All one need to do to keep Maverick (or any of the other discontinued releases) alive, is the change the repositories.  It would be great if Ubuntu could add the “old” repository to the sources in the Update Manager.  For now one has to edit the /etc/apt/sources.list to reflect the repository.

Here are the ones I changed:

deb maverick main restricted
deb maverick-updates main restricted
deb maverick universe
deb maverick-updates universe
deb maverick multiverse
deb maverick-updates multiverse
deb maverick-backports main restricted universe multiverse

## Partner release are not in the old repositories.
### deb maverick partner

deb maverick-security main restricted
deb maverick-security universe
deb maverick-security multiverse

Once the changes have been made, do a sudo apt-get update and inspect the output for any repositories that are not found and correct the corresponding line accordingly.