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I've known ALDI (“ALbrecht DIskont”) for years; that's the place where there's no fresh produce and everything is sold from the packing cartons.

Well, that was years ago. In the meantime, we have moved to Australia, and so has ALDI. And they now have fresh produce:


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This page is specifically about ALDI Australia; I haven't been to an ALDI shop outside Australia for over ten years.

The most interesting thing they have, though, are technological. Every week they produce a flyer with special offers. These are often not just discounted offers, but one-off specials that will not be available again after the stock has been used up. Some of them good; in my experience, the majority are not.

To ALDI's credit, they're quite happy to take things back again if you're not satisfied: they have a 60 day “no questions asked” return policy, as long as the goods returned are complete and in original condition. This is a good thing; based on my prior experience, I wouldn't buy much of this stuff if it weren't for the ability to return them.

Here's what I have bought, and what I think of them.

Tevion UPS

In November 2007 I bought a 500 W Tevion UPS for only $99. Following the industry trend, they stupidly and misleadingly call “850 VA”. I wonder what would happen if somebody would really connect an 850 VA reactive load with cos φ of 0.6 to it. Still, that's a very good price, and it even has a continuous line voltage monitor. As of April 2008 I'm waiting for more of them to come on sale.

Tyre pumps

I bought a couple of battery powered tyre pumps, and returned them both. They're toys, not tools. I tried the first one to pressurize my garden sprayer. After a minute of pumping I had less pressure in the sprayer than with two strokes of the piston.

I returned that and bought a larger compressor, which also doubles as a jump start station. It didn't work either! In particular, on both units, the air pressure gauge doesn't show anything unless it's pumping (and I have my grave doubts about the accuracy then), so I can't use it for its prime purpose, checking tyre pressures:


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Tevion wireless mouse

I also bought a couple of mice, advertised as a mouse with 6 programmable buttons and 2 scroll wheels; that's incorrect: they only have 4 buttons. It's interesting because it's a wireless mouse without batteries; instead, it gets its power from an inductive pad on which it rests. An interesting idea. Under FreeBSD it worked out of the box, with the exception of the horizontal scroll button, which didn't seem to generate any output.

On the whole I'm happy with this mouse. The lack of usability of the horizontal scroll wheel is common in non-Microsoft systems; I think there's some kind of initialization to enable it. About the only issue I have with it is that it's easy to get grit on the mouse pad, and it makes it unpleasant to use until it's been removed.

Raclette grill

In April 2008 I bought a raclette grill to replace my old one, which is losing the PTFE coating on the pan. On the face of it the ALDI unit is very attractive, with an oval form allowing 8 trays instead of the more common 6, and with a thermostat. In practice, though, it just didn't get hot enough, and it was also uneven in heating. When I finally got one part of a tray grilled (over-grilled, in fact), the other end was still only barely cooked enough:


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Comparing the old and new only gave a partial answer:


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The element on the older grill is further out from the middle of the tray area than on the new one, explaining the uneven grilling. But why is it so slow by comparison? I had suspected a lower power rating, but according to the specs it does 1200 W, while the old one only does 900 W. I wonder if it's honest.

Bread machine

I've been baking bread in the oven for a while now, but the idea of a machine to take over the timing work for me sounds like a good idea. Also ALDI's two month no-argument return policy gave me the security that I needed to decide to buy it.

I've never even examined a bread maker before. What I found didn't encourage me:

How much of this is the fault of this specific el-cheapo bread machine? Certainly the unbelievably bad instructions are. But I suspect that the paddle issue is general, and probably the colour (though all, including this one, offer the option of making the bread darker). The loaf looks quite like the loaf on Laucke's home page, so possibly that's the way it's intended to look. In general, the results are an order of magnitude worse than doing it manually, and the problems cleaning the machine mean that it also doesn't save any effort.

After the disappointing results with the bread maker, decided to see what it was like for just kneading dough. Once again, the results were disappointing. Tried a French-style baguette, but greatly misjudged the amount by which it would rise during baking:


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Then tried a rye bread, which showed a number of the weaknesses of the machine:

  1. Inserting the baking pan is non-trivial: the drive for the paddles needs to be aligned correctly, and just finding the correct position is difficult. On this occasion (but, surprisingly, not before) it took me four attempts to get both paddles to engage, not helped by the lack of firm confirmation that they've engaged.
  2. On this occasion, the removable paddles somehow got dislodged; only one of them gripped, I was able to turn the device off (it holds state for 15 minutes) and reengage the things, but that was only possible because I was watching it. Normally this would have resulted in a wasted loaf.
  3. It only allows the dough to rise once. To do a typical two-rise loaf you have to knead it again. This may have been the explanation of the extreme size of the previous loaf.

The problem with the dislodged paddles and the difficulty in inserting the pan is enough reason to return this particular bread maker. Peter Jeremy tells me that his has fixed paddles, but one way or the other they all leave holes in the bottom of the bread.

In summary, I'm returning this unit for two reasons:

  1. Bread machines aren't for me; they don't offer enough flexibility, and they don't make things significantly easier.
  2. If I did buy a bread maker, it probably wouldn't be from ALDI.

Mini greenhouse

On 18 June 2008 I bought a thing which ALDI calls a “mini greenhouse”, made out of steel tubes stuck together and held by plastic joints; no screws intended. It was covered with thin plastic foil. At the time of assembly, I wrote:

I suspect it won't last long.

It didn't: the joints kept coming apart, and the wind tore the foil. Three months later it self-destructed:


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