My window to the world

i-pond: Telstra joins the personal homepage war, attract Apple lawyers?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Jul-2007 17:45

Australian telco Telstra has launched a "personal homepage" service called i-pond (yes, probably attracting the fury of Apple's lawyers over the similar iPod trademark).

The service is just another one in a sea of "personal homepages", such as Microsoft Windows Live, iGoogle, Netvibes and others.

You can move boxes around, add new widgets, create boxes based on RSS feeds and even create your own personalised homepage, like mine at i-pond. The trick here is that only BigPond customers are supposed to be able to register, but anyone can register and grab a personalised page, really (untill they lock the registration page).

They even offer a widget called "Virtual Puppy", a Flash-based animation of a dog walking around the widget and pouncing at balls and bones you throw at it...

Their press release comes with all the buzzwords for this decade, including "user generated content", "Web 2.0", "Second Life" and more:

BigPond Group Managing Director Justin Milne said: "I-Pond is BigPond's latest innovation as we spearhead the charge towards Web 2.0, the user-generated internet experience of the future."

I-Pond is the latest Web 2.0 initiative to be launched by BigPond, following launches of BigPond's islands in Second Life, interactive BigBlogs and Australia's leading online games community BigPond GameArena.

Mr Milne continued: "As internet users become increasingly sophisticated they're demanding new ways of organising and engaging with information online. Our Web 2.0 products tap into this desire for personalised internet experiences and explore the new ways of communicating that Web 2.0 enables.

"Today we're launching I-Pond, the ideal way to personalise and prioritise the huge amount of information available online."

I-Pond is a new, personalised way of organising information. It enables customers to keep an eye on the weather, have the latest headlines from their favourite news sites updating in real time via RSS feeds, see their diary and have one-click links to web videos or the latest sports results only a glance away.

The look is good, the widgets are fun. But do we need another personalised homepage service? I guess BigPond is trying to introduce the concept to people who would visit their ISP's page, but not tech savvy enough to find this kind of services on the big Internet.

I wonder if any of the New Zealand ISPs are working on this? Xtra, IHUG, Slingshot, Paradise? They all have very boring pages. Both Paradise and Slingshot have pages coming out of the 90s. Xtra diverts to its Yahoo!Xtra partnership, which seems to have been engineered and designed in 1997.

Anything else brewing here in New Zealand?

IPv6 PoP in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Jul-2007 16:11

Today I got an e-mail bringing to my attention that SixXS has opened an IPv6 PoP in New Zealand, with the help of Advanced Computer Solutions.

More information on this IP6 New Zealand PoP page.

I was told that for this month SixXS we will be giving new users from New Zealand bonus credits so that they can directly request a tunnel + subnet from this PoP.

I am using a UMPC

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jun-2007 21:25

For my benefit (carrying a rather large laptop is not good for your back), I decided to give a try to Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPC).

I am thinking it can be quite useful when going to my weekly meeting, or simply away for a weekend, where I don't expect to have to work 100% of the time, but would like to keep in contact via e-mail or even catch up with my RSS feeds.

So I got the TabletKiosk EO v7110 off Darryl, who is now going around with a Samsung Q1. I have Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate installed on this UMPC (instructions to install Windows Vista on UMPC here), plus Avast, Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Skype, FeedDemonHamachi and BeInSync to keep my UMPC always synchronised to my laptop. I have just downloaded and installed Ilium Software's InScribe, a free software keyboard for UMPC and Tablet PCs.

I also tried the Vodafone vodem (HSDPA) and it's working well so I have cellular data connectivity if I can't connect to a Wi-Fi network. I am using the vodem because it's a USB device - this UMPC does not have Express Card or PC Card interfaces so I can't use the better performing Vodafone Merlin XU870 (HSDPA) or the much faster Telecom AirCard 595 (CDMA EVDO).

So far so good, the user interface is similar to the Tablet PC, which I am used to, so no big learning curve.

I recommend installing a remote control software such as GoToMyPC (or the free LogMein) so that you can use your bigger laptop or desktop sometimes - I am configuring this device, updating stuff, copying files and instead of using the much smaller screen I just have to connect to it and remote control the device:

Bummer is the smallish hard drive. I have only 10 GB free now, which is going to be a problem if I wanted to have a bigger media library loaded into it.

Just for kicks, below is the Windows Vista Performance Index:

For comparison, this is the Windows Vista Performance Index for my current laptop:


Let's see how it goes.

UPDATE: It works well, and it is synchronising to my laptop with no problems. I only wish that TabletKiosk would make the drivers compatible with Vista. The touchscreen doesn't work until you login, and don't try downloading any drivers from Windows Update, because this will most likely make you have to return to a previous Restore Point, as it happened to me. It also has problems coming back from Sleep, which is a bummer because this is one of the main functions for a UMPC, right?

Vodafone Simple Tariff for data roaming - here but not for us

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jun-2007 09:26

Vodafone Group PLC has announced its Vodafone Connect Abroad plan, which will see laptop users accessing the Internet while roaming to other Vodafone networks for about EUR 12/day. The company says "almost unlimited" but in the fineprint it reveal that "unlimited" really means 50 MB per day, and the standard per megabyte charges after this.

Better than nothing anyway. This will be available for customer of European subsidiaries while roaming in some of the Vodafone networks around the world, including Vodafone Australia and Vodafone New Zealand.

With 'Vodafone Connect Abroad' customers will be able to use their laptops when overseas to surf the internet, check emails and access their company intranet, whether they are sitting in a hotel room, in a cafe or on the beach. The new tariff ensures the comfort of straightforward pricing combined with a familiar and reliable service. In countries where there is an HSDPA network, Vodafone Connect Abroad customers using a Vodafone Mobile Connect USB modem or a Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G broadband data card will be able to connect just as they do in their home country and benefit from download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps.

Any Vodafone customer who uses a wireless data product, uses their mobile handset as a modem or has a laptop with an embedded SIM card, can sign-up for Vodafone Connect Abroad free of charge. Customers will pay nothing until they choose to connect abroad for a 24hr session. They can access the internet, emails or business network as many times as they choose for e12 (excl. VAT) in the same 24 hr period on any Vodafone or partner network included in the offer.

The move to introduce Vodafone Connect Abroad, which was first announced in March 2007, builds on the success of the company's innovative voice roaming tariff, Vodafone Passport, which since June 2005 has brought lower, reassuring prices to over 12 million European customers' mobile phone bills when travelling

Meanwhile, we at Vodafone New Zealand still pay NZ$10 from the word GO! while roaming to other Vodafone networks. Granted 50 MB is not "unlimited", but it would be a great start of a service.

When is Vodafone New Zealand going to "unleash" Vodafone Passport services and tariffs here? Perhaps now that their billing system has been migrated (not without pain to users) we could expect to see some improvement in the offerings to Vodafone customers?

AT&T EDGE, Vodafone HSDPA and business practices

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jun-2007 08:27

If the stories coming out (RCR NewsGizmodo, Gizmodo) that AT&T has beefed up its EDGE network because of the Apple iPhone launch are correct, I can only think of one question: why networks won't offer the best service these days, being happy with sending customers awya the "best effort" excuse?

An AT&T employee who works on Operations tells us that the carrier ordered a last-minute beefing up of its EDGE throughput, latency and coverage in anticipation of the iPhone. The operation, internally referenced as "Fine Edge" will continue until June 15th, and has been going on for as many as 6 weeks.

EDGE is slow, but at least at AT&T, the implementation isn't limited by the protocol itself. Rather, the limiting factor is, according to our source, the data backend and the way the towers are configured to allocate bandwidth to data and calls. And according to an internal doc, they're dropping in more T-1s in their poorest performing towers, hoping to get that paltry 40kbps performance to a new minimum of 80kpbs. (EDGE's real world max is about 200kbps.) That's still painfully slow, but we're not ones to look a gift WWAN upgrade in the mouth.

Hmmm. Isn't this the same problem that Vodafone New Zealand is facing? Good HSDPA infrastructure (up to 7.2 Mbps in some places), but a backhaul providing poor performance overall? Or are these just the rumours I hear?

UPDATE: Verizon Wireless (which Vodafone PLC is one of the major shareholders) has upgraded 100% of its U.S. network to CDMA EV-DO Rev A - which leaves any EDGE network in the dust, by a factor of ten. Competition is good...

Winner of Most Obscene Banner Award 2007

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jun-2007 09:52

The winner of Most Obscene Banner Award 2007 must be handed to the the crew who created this ad for Yahoo!Xtra Answers:

It's obviously an air guitar solo, right?

Windows Live Folders live... but not so fast

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Jun-2007 09:10

I really don't like the way Microsoft does things, launching, but not launching. Like Windows Live Folders, an open beta which is supposed to be live now. But it's not:

Windows Live Folder not available in New Zealand
My system language is set as English (New Zealand). And no, I am not changing my system to satisfy their silly requirements.

Their loss. Let's use AOL's Xdrive instead. It offers up to 5 GB free, instead of 500 MB of Windows Live Folders.

UPDATE: To access the Windows Live Folders with US English directly use this link.

NewsGator Enterprise Server 2.0, FeedDemon, linkblog

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jun-2007 21:34

Back in November 2005 I posted a full NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES) 1.0 review on Geekzone, and since then I have been using FeedDemon as my preferred tool for RSS reading, synchronising to my NGES server here at home. I also have the mobile location enabled on this server, so I can read my RSS feeds on the go, from any mobile browser.

This setup is an example of a small NGES deployment, and of course most individual users will end up using the web-based NewsGator service, which can also be used with FeedDemon.

What I wanted to do

Last month I learned about FeedDemon 2.5 and a new feature that allows synchronising clipping folders with the NGES. Clipping folders are special folders where you can drag-and-drop RSS items to share with other users within your organisation for example.

I immediately thought this would be great for creating a linkblog here on Geekzone - but I didn't know how much work that would involve. At the end it worked, and here are some of my findings through the process.

Things I had to do to get there

First, FeedDemon 2.5 requires NGES 2.0 and up - and I was running NGES 1.4. So I had to update that, which required updating my Microsoft SQL 2000 database software to the newer Microsoft  SQL 2005 version. Not impossible, and actually it took absolutely no time.

After the installation - which simply updated my current NGES database, so nothing wasn't lost, I found that the stock FeedDemon 2.5 is not actually ready for NGES, so I had to run a FeedDemon 2.5 beta software.

I initially had Beta 1 installed, and I am currently running Beta 4, which is much better and stable - including fixes for some problems I've found with FeedDemon 2.0 in my previous installation.

Some new features

NGES 2.0 introduces a lot of features and before explaining how I got to my linkblog, I will post some screenshots:

The new NewsGator Enterprise Server 2.0 interface

Automatic tagging


User features: mark as read, flag post, save to clippings, forward via e-mail, tag, rate

Feed "Scorecard"

FeedDemon 2.5: "Dinosaurs"

Inside your organisation you will be able to share attention data between users - and extract a lot of information about the feeds in use. The new reporting feature is great for IT admins, people managing attention data within the organisation and marketing specialists "managing" your company's presence on the Internet.

The new version allows tagging, and automatically creates tags from articles downloaded to the server. It also allows users to add tags to articles, and clip those to shared areas.

It also makes heavy use of AJAX, causing the NGES homepage to load slowly at first - I recommend you keep the page always loaded, since it refreshs automatically. I also noticed that Firefox seems to perform a little bit better than Internet Explorer 7 - albeit I had not taken any formal timings in the process. As usual, your mileage may vary in this case.

The software is not completely bug free though. I've noticed a problem found in NGES 1.0, fixed with NGES 1.4 was back with NGES 2.0: the folder counters in the mobile location are completely wrong. I've reported this to support and something is going to be done about it.

Creating my linkblog

But what I wanted was to get to the linkblog feature - so my plan was to use FeedDemon 2.5 on my desktop, as usual, to "clip" interesting articles, having this synchronised back to my NGES, and from there use the public RSS feed for the clipping folder and have it as a source for a new FeedBurner feed.

I was thiking I could use the FeedBurner "FeedBoost" feature, that allows users to add a small javascript to create a list of articles from a RSS feed - thus having my linkblog automatically generated.

But it didn't work. I found out the RSS feed for the clipping folder is actually password protected, and this can not be changed (so I am told by the NewsGator support people). I also find out FeedBurner does not support password protected sources, so I was back to square one.

My next idea was to use a NGES feature called "Headlines". It's very simple: when "Headlines" is active you can insert a small javascript code in any webpage and it will fetch the articles from the server, presenting these in a list. Very similar to FeedBurner's own FeedBoost actually.

"Locations" can only be created against feeds in "My Folders", and is not relevant to feeds in "My Clippings", so had to subscribe to my own clipping feed, create a "Location" with this single feed in it, and enable "Headlines". This actually worked perfectly and did exactly what I wanted.

But since this is my test server at home, I didn't want to have an unknown amount of traffic coming down my cable modem connection. So I thought hard and found a way around it: the public NewsGator web-based service does support authentication, unlike FeedBurner. And it also supports "Headlines" in its main "Location".

I just had to subscribe to my clipping RSS feed through the free NewsGator web-based service, which worked well, and then enable "Headlines" for the default location.

Like FeedBurner would, the NewsGator web-based service acts as a proxy between my linkblog and my NGES, thus solving the possible load problem on my home server.

Linkblog working

After all the updates, tests, support inquiries to NewsGator and FeedBurner (thank you guys!) I managed to get this working and have my linkblog up and running.

I could have migrated my feeds to Google Reader, which provides a "linkblog" feature automatically, but I simply can't think of replacing FeedDemon - this thing is fast and very convenient.

Of course you can do the same with a combination of FeedDemon and the NewsGator web-based service, if you don't run your own NGES. You don't even need FeedDemon, if you want to solely use the web-based service provided.

Now I am ready to test NewsGator Go! for Mobile on my Pocket PC...

UPDATE: Newsgator support pointed to a way of making the shared clipping RSS public, that is available without a password required. So I now have it also through FeedBurner to provide a public RSS feed, whch is now up in the linkblog.

The best (and funniest) Apple iPhone video review you will see before launch

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jun-2007 11:00

This is from The New York Times ("The iPhone Matches Most of its Hype") and worth watching:

There's also a video from Walter Mossberg's review on The Wall Street Journal ("The iPhone is Breakthrough Handheld computer").

Microsoft please stop messing with my location

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jun-2007 09:45

This morning I tried to visit the Microsoft Support microsite to check a KB for more information on a suggested automatic update for my Windows Vista 64 bit system.

Much to my surprise, instead of the usual Microsoft U.S. support site I was greeted with the Microsoft Hong Kong site:

Firefox correctly goes to the U.S. site... And If I restart Internet Explorer then it goes to the correct page. But I don't want to lose all the other tabs and pages I have loaded!

Hello! My system is set as English (New Zealand), and so is Internet Explorer. I have no idea what this page says - lucky there's an "english" version, but I don't want that version. Microsoft, please stop messing with people's destinations.

Or shall I start rebooting Windows Vista every day now?

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.

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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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