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Now with more fibre

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2016 10:34

My previous entries in this blog have been about how bad Vodafone's HFC (commonly know as "cable") have turned and how slow things are moving towards a resolution. This is something that started happening since the company introduced "unlimited" plans back in late 2014. Customers have had almost constant periods where Internet speeds were anywhere from 10% to 50% of the offered plans - on a service that was known for reliably and consistently deliver 100% all the time.

This is not solved yet as we still see reports of work in progress, new node replacements and customers still seeing the dip in speeds in the evenings.

I joined cable when it was still called Chello, provided by Saturn (before being TelstraSaturn, TelstraClear and then finally, Vodafone). Below is the welcome pack given to customers joining the cable TV and broadband services:

When we bought a house one of the main points in the checklist was the possibility to connect to the cable network. This was when broadband wasn't a thing, when people in ADSL areas couldn't get more than 10Mbps, etc. It was a good run, more than 16 years but enough is enough.

I have been waiting patiently for fibre to arrive in our area. I said many times in the Geekzone discussion on this topic that if fibre was available here before Vodafone fixed their HFC woes, then I'd saw. When Chorus started work in our area I was worried about install costs, time, etc.

Well, last week we got a card in the mailbox. Fibre is here, and available now. So I had to go ahead and swap. 2degrees broadband got our business. Install was initially set to a couple of weeks later but I got a call from our new provider saying Chorus had a team working weekends and if I minded them doing the job this Saturday. By all means, go ahead!

The install was easy. We are lucky that we didn't need consent from neighbours and lucky our connection was an aerial drop instead of an underground cable. The two technicians had the whole thing installed and tested in about 90 minutes. I swapped our router to the ONT, reconfigured to PPoE using the 2degrees credentials and instant results.

Now we are another household part of the "Number of fibre-connected kiwis" statistics. And one less Vodafone HFC customer.

PS. By the way, I found the Saturn Welcome Pack emptying a cabinet drawer while waiting for the Chorus technicians to finish their install. What an interesting twist.

Unlimited is not unlimited: Vodafone cable going gigabit

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 10-Nov-2015 14:58

Microsoft has backed out of “unlimited” storage for OneDrive. American ISPs are more and more placing limits on plans available to consumers. Locally we had the debacle of Vodafone cable hitting extremely poor performance – most notably since the “unlimited” plan was released to their customers earlier this year (see my previous post “How bad is Vodafone cable at the moment?”)

It’s a surprise to me then that our media is making it known that Vodafone is planning to invest $22 million in bringing up to gigabit speeds for their cable network without asking the obvious question: if their network can’t cope with customers consuming 100 Mbps now, how can we be sure the 1Gbps service will be “usable”?

There is a reason why Wired published an article today saying "there's no such thing as unlimited data".

Things to think about (and I am not sure it’s in that $22 million plan): capacity planning, actual bandwidth availability, resource management, setting high expectations.

Yes, I’m a pessimist. Or a realist.

UPDATE: Vodafone cable is failing tonight, no DNS resolution and proxy problems.

How bad is Vodafone cable at the moment?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Sep-2015 19:39

For the last few months (at least since a discussion on Geekzone was created around April 2015, but a couple of months before that) Vodafone customers on cable (the old TelstraClear network) have been trying really hard to keep calm.

At some point, after a few complaints Vodafone decided to put some work into the network and sent out a letter to customers promising things would be better by end of September.

Once the fastest thing around, with speeds of up to 130 Mbps before fibre was even a dream around the country, the Vodafone cable network (in Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch) started showing signs of ageing. Things started going downhill with the launch of unlimited plans around end of 2014. People moved to unlimited plans with 100 and 130 Mbps options and soon things were really bad, from 7pm through midnight.

And that was even before Netflix opened its doors in New Zealand and the other ISPs started seeing similar performance problems. But it seems most ISPs were not affected or recovered quickly.

Here is one of my speedtest results:

This is on a 130 Mbps connection, over a wired connection, with a gigabit capable router, to Vodafone's own servers. This service would usually show 130 Mbps at any time of the day but now most of the time someone is at home (in the evenings), when we really want to use the service… it's unusable.

This is the performance for New Zealand ISPs according to the Truenet report August 2015. See the red line? That's the drop in speed for Vodafone cable, averaged during the month:

And the advertised speed vs actual:

The letter sent to customers back in May say work is being done and completion is expected by September. I understand this work involves changes in the core network infrastructure, changes to hardware in nodes, enable more channels, software updates.

Vodafone staff are doing a great job of updating the Geekzone discussion as works progresses, as well as keeping an update of work being done in their own Vodafone community site. I really hope this is not going to disappoint us. Fibre is just in front of our driveway now:

Frustrated with Microsoft Family accounts (parental controls)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Sep-2015 18:08

Up until recently it was pretty easy to use Microsoft Family Safety to manage your child's time and access on a Windows PC. Install the software, create a local account, manage the account online.

Things changed a bit with Windows 10 and I am now trying to get around configuring our daughter's access to our laptops at home but so far hitting a roadblock around Microsoft accounts.

There are many reasons why I want to do this. First is to make sure we have a set policy around screen time, and this is enforced. Second we want to monitor activities, websites, etc. And obviously filter out whatever is not desirable. I also wanted to be able to monitor her Microsoft Store account to make sure she is not installing anything she shouldn't and perhaps block in-app purchases (in case I put some money on her account to buy a game or two).

I tried adding "family" members through the Windows Settings, a feature that requires everyone in the family to have a Microsoft account (no surprise here) but the email invites never arrived and the accounts still show as "Pending".

Never mind, let's try this through the "Family " tab in the Microsoft Account website. I invited my daughter (who interestingly is listed as adult on her own account, despite the date of birth clearly showing she is not yet an adult). The email arrived but when I clicked the link it says she's already member of my family. I log into my own account and she's not listed. I tried the other way around - sending an "Adult" invite from her account to mine, and again the link doesn't work.

At the moment I am using Norton Family for Parental Control, which works well to monitor, block and filter activities (and on Android too) but I still want control on the Microsoft account itself.


State of browsers Geekzone March 2015

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Apr-2015 20:53

It is time for the annual report on browser usage around Geekzone. At the bottom of this post you will find links to previous years so you can compare these numbers with previous years.

These charts are based on Google Analytics data collected during the 31 day period ending 31th March 2015. I realise part of our audience is more technically inclined, so our numbers are different from those presented by other more mainstream websites (such as Trade Me and news sites) but we have a huge number of non-tech visitors landing in our pages from search results seeking solutions for their problems.

Also this is for desktop visits only, which is 85% of the total recorded in our desktop website (we have a mobile version usable on smaller screens such as smartphones). I intended to post another entry with tablet/smartphone numbers.

Overall since last year we’ve seen a good increase on Chrome usage (53% up from 45%), Firefox remaining almost the same (23% compared to previous 22%) and another small drop on Internet Explorer usage (15% down from 18%).

New Zealand numbers again show a good jump up for Chrome, with Internet Explorer shedding some users:

And here is the split between New Zealand business and after hours. Note how people tend to use less Internet Explorer at home, and Safari usage increases:

This year Internet Explorer 6 and 7 almost disappeared from the scene (IE 6 has under 0.5% usage now):

Here is the OS distribution:

And Windows versions:

Previous posts for comparison:

You are still a pirate according to Stuff

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Apr-2015 19:45

A story on Stuff (“Netflix wants to make content the same worldwide”) says:

“CEO Reed Hastings told Gizmodo Australia the online media streaming service wants to stop subscribers pirating content because it is unavailable in their country” and later on the same article “However, he said VPN piracy played only a small part in piracy worldwide.”

Following a common trend in New Zealand press, using a VPN to circumvent geo-blocking is called “piracy”.

Note however these are not straight quotes, but second hand “reporting”, because the source article on Gizmodo actually quotes from Mr Reed Hastings:

“The VPN thing is a small little asterisk compared to piracy… Piracy is really the problem around the world. The VPN scenario is someone who wants to pay and can’t quite pay. The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to [use a VPN]. Then we can work on the more important part which is piracy."

You see, the original article makes a distinction between a problem (content piracy) and someone who doesn’t want to be a part of the problem but has to use technology to unlock and PAY for the content to legal distributors (the VPN users). The alternative is true piracy – downloading content for free from illegal distribution on torrents. Obviously whoever wrote the article for Stuff (there is no byline) didn’t bother making the distinction.

I’d like to know how these writers on Stuff see buying books or DVDs on Amazon and having these items shipped to New Zealand? Perhaps they don’t quite see that as “piracy” even though these actions are actually just the real world equivalent of buying digital content in different markets from legal distributors?

What do you think?

2015 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2015 15:58

Received the email confirming that I am, once again, a judge in the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, a traditional technology award sponsored by the likes of Callaghan Innovation, Cisco, Duncan Cotterill, Emulex Endace, Fronde, PWC, IBM, NZ Trade & Enterprise and others.

This year's gala dinner awards ceremony is in Wellington, so I am pretty excited about this coming back to our city.

Looking forward to finding out more about the entries in the [secret] category I am judging with other three New Zealanders and an overseas judge.

Trackers - How technology is helping us monitor and improve our health

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Dec-2014 18:30

I just came home and found a print copy of "Trackers - How technology is helping us monitor and improve our health", a book by Richard MacManus (Wellington-based technologist, founder of ReadWriteWeb and later an author since he sold the blog).

The book will be available 1st January 2015, $29.99... Already available as a Kindle eBook (Trackers - How technology is helping us monitor and improve our health eBook).


Self-tracking is the practice of measuring and monitoring your health, activities or diet through technologies such as smartphone apps, wearables and personal genomics, empowering you to take control of your day to day health. Richard MacManus explains the benefits and risks of self-tracking and looks at:

  • What exactly is being tracked
  • The tools and techniques being used
  • The best practices of early adopters
  • How self-tracking is revolutionizing the health and wellness industries
  • How the medical establishment is adapting to these new trends


Geekzone is a ESET NetGuide Web Awards 2014 winner

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Dec-2014 19:19

Thank you folks! For the second year in a row Geekzone was a winner at the ESET NetGuide Web Awards 2014.

Unfortunately I couldn’t be in Auckland this year, but Nate represented us at the ceremony at the Hilton Hotel.

Once again, thank you for your support and to the entire Geekzone community!

Windows Phone and Android apps screen comparison

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Oct-2014 17:57

There’s a long discussion on Geekzone on why won’t you try Windows Phone. Interestingly a lot is talked about the apps (or lack of them). Also there’s a lot of talk about the user interface on these apps. Some people don’t like the way Windows Phone apps look, but I’ve found that most of the apps actually look the same as in other platforms – the main difference is really on the “home screen”.

I’d say that most of the people will find the apps they use are available in all mobile platforms. Few people will find that the app they want is not available on Windows Phone. For example, I have come to really like Authy, simply because I try to use two factor authentication wherever I can and really dislike the idea of having to recreate all those tokens every time I changed devices. Authy makes those tokens portable so you can simply swap a device, load the app and re-authenticate to load everything. It is probably the only app keeping me away from Windows Phone today (after using a Windows mobile platform since its beginning back in the early 2000).

Based on that Geekzone discussion I decided to go around taking screenshots in apps I can find in both Android and Windows Phone and see if they are that different – I don’t think so. Below you will find a series of apps on Android (left) and Windows Phone (right) to compare their interfaces:


































freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

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Other recent posts in my blog

Now with more fibre...
Unlimited is not unlimited: Vo...
How bad is Vodafone cable at t...
Frustrated with Microsoft Fami...
State of browsers Geekzone Mar...
You are still a pirate accordi...
2015 New Zealand Hi-Tech Award...
Trackers - How technology is h...
Geekzone is a ESET NetGuide We...
Windows Phone and Android apps...

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