Using mesh fencing to raise your chickens or ducks

Raising chickens or ducks can be a really rewarding experience. Unfortunately, though, chickens and ducks — especially when they are chicks and ducks, respectively — are extremely vulnerable to vicious predators such as wild cats and foxes. As such, it is imperative that you construct an enclosure to prevent them being exposed to the outside world. Mesh fencing or other forms of wire fencing are ideal, as they prevent animals like ducks and chickens from escaping, while, at the same time, preventing their larger predators from breaching the perimeter.

Wire fencing should be sturdy and run at least 20 to 30 cm underground; this makes it much harder for predators to dig a tunnel underneath. If you want to be extra secure, experts recommend burying the wire at least 30 to 45 cm under the Earth’s surface, if not more. Additionally, laying some kind of tile barrier instead will prevent foxes (or dogs) from attempting to dig at all. In a domestic setting, it is possible to go years without an attack, which is why some people in these kinds of environments are more willing to give them free reign of a fenced backyard.

As a side note, ducks and chickens are known to sometimes drown some of their young. While this is probably just an evolutionary trait to only keep the strongest of the young and preserve food, this can obviously be traumatic, especially if children witness such an occurrence. Unless you rig up some kind of automated water system that negates the risk of drowning, there really isn’t much that can be done about such an act. Foxes are mostly nocturnal, although they are known (especially in suburban areas) to hunt for food during the day; therefore, even mature ducks should ideally be penned at night when they are sleeping and most vulnerable.

In any case, no matter what animals you wish to contain, mesh fencing is a great way to protect — not imprison — your pets. Raising animals without protection leaves them exposed and vulnerable; and, especially for young animals, a lack of cover or fencing is practically a death sentence. Using wire fencing gives your pets the security they need to live long and fulfilling lives. Ideally, let your chickens and ducks roam your backyard with a watchful eye. Ducks are especially great for hunting snails and insects, which can help to cut down on an overabundance of annoying insects in a sustainable and natural way.

Is it worthwhile updating to Kodi version 17? (Originally written by Ben Schultz in November 2016)

A brief history lesson on why many people seem to resent updating applications

Back in the days when dial-up internet was king, updating even the most modest of software titles was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Plus, if you were paying by the minute for your connection, a simple update to your media player didn’t just cost you time; it could cost you, or your company, money. And don’t get us started on downloads being interrupted by someone picking up the phone mid-download.

We’ve come a long way since the internet’s humble beginnings, but the inconvenience of software updates still appears to be an enduring legacy after all these years. Fifteen years ago, a typical 56 kbit/s line meant that the 83.2 MB file (of which the file size of the Kodi v17.0 “Krypton” early access download currently is) would take just shy of three hours to download.
Today, however, the average connection speed means that if you had started the download just before reading this article, the download could have already completed. But, of course, today we are faced with new inconveniences to replace the inconvenience of choked bandwidth and long waiting times; namely, we speak of the seemingly constant nagging of updates—and sometimes they’re even mandatory! To prove this point, there is a very high likelihood that at least one of your installed applications has a new update ready to go.

Kodi, though, is different. Kodi v17’s Beta 5 is the slickest and most robust version of the software that has ever existed. What might be a bit surprising about this is the fact that it is a beta. Some people—perhaps rightly—shy away from beta builds, and instead opt for an older, perceivably more stable release. But in this case, such concerns are mostly unfounded. On the contrary, Kodi 17’s fifth beta has patched all of the nagging issues, including issues with the playback of HLS streams, Android crashes*, and problems with skin settings not loading when “reload skin” was triggered. (*Note: the Android build isn’t perfect, but we’ll cover that soon.) It’s not just Android users that are well served to update, either; in fact, Beta 5 has worked with Microsoft to roll out a fix for Kodi’s UWP version, where use of an AMD video card could potentially cause the dreaded blue screen of death.


Points of concern

Although our testing of Beta 5 so far on a Core i7 has shown nothing but promising results, Kodi doesn’t pretend that the release is flawless. Beta 5 certainly behaves with the silky smoothness of Stevie Wonder singing in a vat of chocolate fondue, but some of the known problems—especially for Windows users—might leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
The problem, unfortunately, isn’t just a device-specific one; rather, it’s the customizability of the Windows build that has been compromised. For the vanilla user who hasn’t customized a media player since the early days of Winamp, this may not be a problem; however, for those of you who love to put your own personal touch on Kodi’s graphical user interface, be warned!

Put simply, you are currently unable to update the skin you are currently using on Windows; attempting to do so with Beta 5 will simply result in failure. It’s not the only problem, either, as attempting to upgrade any of your existing add-ons on Beta 5 of the Windows build will also not work.
If you’re a mobile-only user reading this and scoffing at the pitfalls of being a slave to Microsoft, don’t get too carried away yet. This build has also had video freezes on Android and Raspberry Pi, although the extent of this issue has not been expounded upon by Kodi’s development team.

Naturally, the Kodi team insists that they are trying to squash these bugs; however, it’s hard to say what other bugs might be lying in wait, ready to terminate someone’s Schwarzenegger movie marathon at the most inopportune time. At the time of writing, the fifth beta of version 17 has only been out for a week, so all we can really do is speculate and deal with what has already been made public.



Kodi has done a great job at addressing previous issues, and it seems that—for most people, at least—this version will be a worthy upgrade. If the idea of compromising on customization doesn’t sit well with you, even if it’s just a temporary sacrifice, then perhaps sticking with a tried-and-true version might be in your best interest.
Furthermore, if you use Kodi in a business capacity—such as for demonstrating audiovisual content on televisions in a retail store, or for business presentations for the latest quarterly report—sticking with a more stable version might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you just want a new version that has fixed way more bugs than it has created, trying out Beta 5 could be a pleasant experience. Plus, if you do actually encounter any bugs that aren’t mentioned here, you can use your discoveries to help improve Kodi for yourself and millions of other users.

Acupuncture: Does it really help you, or is it a placebo?

The fact is that a lot of so-called alternative medicines are typically nothing more than snake oil peddled by miscreant charlatans. However, objectively speaking, acupuncture seems to occupy a mysterious grey area, and its effectiveness has polarised patients and experts alike, for many decades.

According to Scientific American, millions of Americans receive acupuncture treatment to treat chronic pain, with some even using it to alleviate depression. Harriet Hall, a retired physician and Air Force flight surgeon, believes the published evidence for acupuncture may indicate it is effective in treating pain and nausea, but does little else—if anything—for any other symptoms. Hall maintains that the evidence is compatible with acupuncture being a placebo.

Pharmacologist David Colquhoun (from University College London) is much blunter. Colquhoun says of acupuncture: “Acupuncture does not work, which means all discussions of how it does work are irrelevant. I’m not aware of any evidence that acupuncture works for depression.”

Indeed, if 3,000 trials, decades of research, and millions of dollars can’t determine any concrete effects from acupuncture, one may wonder if it really has any benefits at all. Of course, to those who swear by it, its placebo effect can work just as well as western medicine, especially for cases like depression, where a person’s psychological state has everything to do with whether they are depressed or not.

To be clear, clinical research can never truly prove that any treatment has exactly 0% effect, in the same way that any particular deity can be proven to have exactly 0% chance of existing. Therefore, the burden of proof is on acupuncture; if the research cannot adequately reject the null hypothesis, then the evidence does not confirm acupuncture as being a truly viable medical treatment.

The question must be asked, then: how has acupuncture subsisted since its origins more than 2,000 years ago? To answer this question, one must first look at acupuncture in the context of traditional Chinese medicine. ‘Qi’ (pronounced “chee” in British English) was believed to be a life force energy that would flow the body’s main organs. Although this belief has no scientific basis, its concepts have persisted for thousands of years.

But if it was just a mystical medicine with no basis in science, why do people still line up to get it?

People will still pay for things with no scientific basis, which is why we still have religion, astrology, and mediums who make very good livings from exploiting people’s willingness to believe in the unbelievable. Some people can regularly (and genuinely) feel better from the placebo effect of acupuncture, just like people may feel good after reading a good astrology forecast in the newspaper, getting a pleasant prediction from a psychic, or enjoying praising a god or saviour through gospels and hymns. That is not to say that these things are certainly false, since, like previously mentioned, these things are, in fact, unfalsifiable.

In conclusion, if you genuinely feel that acupuncture makes you feel happier and healthier, that’s your prerogative. Moreover, there are no adverse effects to acupuncture, so long as the acupuncturist is properly trained, of course. A lot of people, knowing this, might decide to instead invest their time and money into scientifically proven medicines; however, some people’s habits will never change. If anything, alternative medicines, in general, have soared from $20 billion in 1990 to over $34 billion in 2009. Although, if one factors in inflation, this increase is only a negligible one. The reality is that only time will tell whether or not acupuncture—and the alternative medicine industry at large—will decline over the coming years.

Pokémon Go – Nintendo’s New Cash Cow?

(Note: The following article was originally published on July 14, 2016.)

For many casual observers, Pokémon may be best remembered as a trading card, gaming, and TV phenomenon that swept the globe into a frenzy 15–20 years ago. Naturally, the A$60 billion franchise has almost been milked dry over the years, and Nintendo’s struggling Wii U console meant that a breakout hit was highly sought-after. However, Pokémon Go hasn’t just revitalised Nintendo’s dry spell; it has transcended culture, age, and language. More importantly, Pokémon Go has got people to get outside and active once more.
Nintendo is no stranger to fostering fitness and social interaction within its video game titles. Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus have sold a combined total of approximately 43.8 million units. To put this in perspective, both of the aforementioned titles are, on their own, currently one of the top 25 video games ever sold, each surpassing The Sims 2, Skyrim, and even Super Mario World. What makes Pokémon Go different, however, cannot be chalked up to a single catalyst; instead, there are several factors which have paved the way for Nintendo’s latest success.

1: Combining a multibillion-dollar franchise with an augmented reality on a global scale.

As already mentioned, Pokémon is huge. You would need to be living under a rock to have not heard of Pokémon Go, much less Pokémon as a franchise. Pokémon Go has infiltrated the public consciousness on an unprecedented scale, especially for a video game. The game has seen whole families on the hunt for the virtual critters, which populate your mobile device depending on your location. The runaway success of the new mobile game has seen Nintendo’s share price spike by A$14.4 billion, a staggering 67% increase from the stock price before the game’s release.

2: Making the game free and on a range of mobile devices.

As Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile market, hordes of people who don’t own a Nintendo DS—or other proprietary handheld game consoles by Nintendo—now have the opportunity to see what the big deal about Pokémon is for themselves. Better yet, the fact that the game is free means that people who are new to the Pokémon series can try the game risk-free, increasing the awareness and exposure of Nintendo’s 20-year-old franchise.

3: Capitalising on its users’ propensity to freely advertise the game on social media.

Marketing for video games is a huge industry. Common methods for advertising mobile games are on other mobile games, ads on TV, or ads on websites such as A significant contributing factor to Pokémon Go’s explosion in popularity is social media. The games virality (not to be confused with ‘virility’) can be felt all over the internet, but it can also be felt in the flesh, with many people congregating and bonding over the game, which sees its players step into the real-world wilderness to catch Pokémon.
One thing is for sure, though: with a battle mode component sure to be on the way soon, Pokémon Go shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

— Ben Schultz

How to create shortcuts for the en and em dash on Windows 8!

Well, it took me over an hour of solid investigative work, but I’ve finally figured out how to input en and em dashes with ease!

This is pretty inside baseball, so this post is probably only going to apply to people who want to set up a shortcut for any symbols on their Windows machine, regardless of which application they are in.

The em dash—you know, the extended horizontal lines that surround this fragment—is useful for breaking up a train of thought; unfortunately, however, Microsoft keyboards don’t have an easy way of employing the em and en dashes outside of Microsoft Word. The other solution, unfortunately, is to use the numeric keypad; for instance:

Hold down one of the Alt keys and type on the numeric keypad: 0150 for an en dash or 0151 for an em dash. The dash appears when you release the Alt key. On a keyboard with no numeric keypad, use a Fn (Function) key combination to type the numbers.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a numeric keypad; some people—like my colleague—have a gaming keyboard, which neither has a numpad nor function key numbers. Besides, even if you do have the option to press “Alt+0151”, it is an extremely tedious option; moreover, it’s a struggle just to remember the numbers!

Here’s my long-term solution to remedy this annoying issue for Windows 8 users: (A similar concept should apply to other Windows users; simply search to find out how to add a new keyboard for your particular OS as necessary.)

  1. Download and install the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4 software package. (This link will automatically open a new tab for you.)
  2. Once you’ve installed and opened Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4, simply open the program and select File → Load Existing Keyboard…
  3. Scroll down and select ‘US’—you should now see a fully populated keyboard layout.
  4. On the left you will notice that it says ‘Shift states:’ with ‘Shift’, ‘Alt+Ctrl (AltGr)’ and ‘Ctrl’; simply click ‘Alt+Ctrl (AltGr)’ to check the box.
  5. You should now see blank keys throughout the on-screen keyboard; this is a good thing.
  6. For an en-dash, simply copy the punctuation mark between the following quotes: “–”. Switch back to Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and click the key situated directly left of the ‘Backspace’ key. Paste your en dash into the text field and click ‘OK’.
  7. For the wider em-dash—you know, these ones—simply copy one one of the aforementioned em dashes and go back to Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. On the blank space directly left of your newly-installed en dash, click the blank button and paste your em dash. Hit ‘OK’.
  8. You’re almost done! To make sure you didn’t mess up the process, click Project → Test Keyboard Layout, then try Ctrl + Alt + (equals symbol [=]) for the en dash, and Ctrl + Alt + (hyphen symbol [-]) for the em dash. If it worked, then you’re almost done!
  9. On Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, select File → Save Source File As… (You can call it whatever you like; I just opted for saving it as ‘em dash’, but it’s totally up to you.
  10. Now click Project → Build DLL and setup package. When it asks you to open the director after creating the setup package, select ‘Yes’.
  11. Right click on ‘setup.exe’ (but just “setup” if you have file extensions hidden). Click ‘Run as administrator’. Once you’ve installed the custom keyboard, go to step 12.
  12. Copy this into an explorer window text field: Control Panel\Clock, Language, and Region\Language
  13. Press Enter. Once you’ve loaded it up, you should see English (United States). If you have another language installed, such as Australian, double-click that option. Under input method, select ‘Add an input method’. Scroll down and find your newly added custom keyboard, which is probably listed under ‘US – custom’ by default. Click ‘Add’. If you followed all of these instructions carefully, you should be done! Congratulations, pour yourself a celebratory drink!

Note: Although I didn’t have this issue, my colleague has noticed that you may need to exit and relaunch certain applications. Once you have done this, however, you should be golden for as long as your computer lives. Hooray.