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Vodafone billing systems still with problems after the pit stop

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Jun-2007 09:40

It appears the Vodafone New Zealand billing system is not without problems after the company's "pit stop", a six week period which impacted customers' ability to check their account, query balances, update plans, even pay parking via SMS.

I received my second Vodafone bill for the period after the pit stop and with it came a surprise:

I paid the previous bill ($140.48) via Internet Banking on the due date 18 June but it seems that the due date for the previous bill coincided with the issue date on the new bill - so obviously my payment did not show up - silly system theirs.

But then I found out Vodafone do not have a record of my payment, even five days after the payment was made.

When I called them last week I was told there was no record of my payment and the CSR asked me for my bank account number so someone in the accounts team can look for this transaction. It's really strange, because I shouldn't need to provide this information - I mean, a simple query on their database surely would show a payment of $140.48 on that specific date, with my Vodafone account number in the reference code field, without the need of such personal information.

At the time the CSR also "added a note to the account, so people know there's a payment in process and don't cut if off".

Now it is Monday morning and I can see the payment finaly made through, although with the wrong date (23 June) instead of the correct payment date. Also the payment only showed up today in their on-line system, but with a date after the actual payment was made. I hope the system is a bit smarter this time and don't put me in the "defaults" list.

I am not alone complaining about problems with Vodafone's new system.

What is really annoying is their message just on top of my incorrect "overdue notice":

Good news! We've completed the upgrade of our systems. Vodafone balance, billing and account services are now back to normal.

A six month vulnerability analysis of Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Jun-2007 10:34

Jeff Jones has updated his report on Windows Vista vulneraility analysis, with results including the first six months since launch.

This chart shows how many vulnerabilities were reported for some OS in the market, in the same period (six months after launch):

The full report, with links and explanations is available as a pdf.

Belkin Customer Services

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jun-2007 15:00

Many times I read on the Geekzone forums about bad customer services, and I have posted here in this blog some of my own experiences as well.

As usual I also try to bring balance by posting about my good experiences... As my latest encounter with Belkin's Customer Service.

About a year ago I purchased a Belkin 800VA Universal UPS. Great product, works as advertised and I was so happy that I decided to purchase a second unit - the Belkin 1200VA Universal UPS. The idea was to be able to connect all the remaining equipment in the home office - the Apple iMac, a LAN switch, the router, and the cordless phones connected to my SPA 2102 VoIP gateway to those two UPS.

By chance the old Belkin 800VA faulted just a couple of hours after I've placed my order on-line for the second larger unit! So I had to run my whole office from the mains for a day, until I got the 1200VA unit. But in the meantime I contacted Belkin support to ask how to proceed with the older UPS, now dead as a dodo...

And here comes the good thing: after a few e-mails (very quick replies!) Belkin arranged to have a replacement unit sent - and it has just arrived, exactly a week after my first e-mail was sent. There was no confusion on what, how, where - and I now have to simply post the faulty unit back.

That's right, Belkin first solved my problem, then worried about having the faulty unit back.

Now, if some of the telcos in Australia and New Zealand could learn customer services from these guys...

This is so wrong: Airbus receives certification for on-board mobile system

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Jun-2007 11:16

Remember to enjoy your next twelve hours long haul flights from Auckland to San Francisco, or from Sydney to London.

If things are going the way Airbus wants, soon people will be able to send and receive voice calls and SMS on board of aeroplanes.

This is so wrong... Can you imagine if you just happens to sit next to someone shouting instructions to their managers, or participating on a conference call, or simply having a few "beep" every time someone sends or receive a SMS?

People trying to sleep with all that background noise is already bad. It's gonna get worse. We will soon see "Non Smoking, Non Mobile Phones" flights being announced...

It is going to be hell on air.

Loop Select 008 giveaway

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Jun-2007 10:57

I have a copy of "Loop Select 008: a rare vision" to giveaway to one my blog readers.

Microsoft has partnered with local recording company LOOP to present a multimedia time capsule of creative culture.

Loop Select 008: Rare Vision is a CD/DVD/book box set featuring cutting edge up-and-coming local and international music acts, thoughtfuls short films, motion graphics, stencial art, graphic design and photos.

Just post a comment here and next Wednesday (27 June) I will draw a name from the list.

Fake Steve Jobs is funny, but needs some geography lessons

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Jun-2007 09:45

It's true. Fake Steve Jobs is funny. But calling Nokia "a bunch of filthy Swedes" (Nokia is a Finnish company) and writing that Lisbon is in Lebanon (Lisbon is the Portuguese capital, 3,000 miles from Lebanon) just helps to add to the stereotype many have that Americans don't know anything outside their borders.

Well, we don't even know if Fake Steve Jobs is based in the U.S. anyway...

Watch Motorola designers and engineers working together

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Jun-2007 09:07

I've just received a tip for a short (five min) movie called The Shape of Phones showing the thinking behind Motorola design, development, and testing of mobile phones.

Interesting view of "sizes". When is a milimeter large or small?

An open letter to illegal software distribution sites

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Jun-2007 08:54

Alex Kac, the guy behind Pocket Informant wrote something today that needs reposting and linking here. It may be just another voice, and may not change much, seeing that a lot of people still think it's ok to get software for free, denying the just compensation for the work done by many developers around the world. But it is important to listen to this voice.

Here is a bit of Alex Kac's open letter to warez sites:

Myself and a band of software devs here have found a *very* large pirate warez site which I will not link to. They have cracks for almost everything imaginable. They have our software on there with download ratios in the TENS of THOUSANDS. In many cases I find more downloads of our software on the warez site than I see on our own download servers. I've calculated that even if we only lost 10% of those downloads that could have been sales its a pretty major hit.

The fact is that companies like ours and most other WinMobile devs operate on a shoestring budget. Most of our software sells at a break-even point, some at a loss until it breaks even 2-4 years after introduction. For the amount of money I've "lost" I could have *easily* created a Pocket Informant for Desktop or BlackBerry or heck other major applications or improvements. I could have hired an extremely high paid developer for a year or two averagely paid ones. For a company that has only 3 full time developers that's a fairly major loss.

The fact is that piracy hurts those who pirate. They want our software obviously. Some just use it for a "test", but we offer a two week trial and with a bit of work you can probably get 2-3 months free usage of our products a year. And we don't sell for a large amount of money. Just wait and you can usually get our software for a steal - without actually stealing. I don't think paying $9.95 is such a huge issue if you need an app like VoiceMinder. Its barely a lunch and drink. But the reason piracy hurts those who pirate is because they are like vampires slowly killing the company that they are sucking the applications off of.

Who here would care if there was never a VoiceMinder, FlexWallet, FlexMail, or Pocket Informant upgrade again? I have personally had fleeting thoughts of selling WebIS or just closing it down because even as this market has grown the software market has not and while I'm not naive enough to think its *all* about piracy, I know that it just makes me depressed. And no, we're not closing down and yes there will be major upgrades of everything. And yes, piracy has been part of the software business from the very beginning but that doesn't mean I can't ask you to stop.

And therein lies my plea to you. If you actually use our software please pay for it. When you don't you personally are contributing to the financial downfall of a bunch of people who are working hard to make good quality software for you. If you don't want to think of piracy as theft, think of it as stiffing us. Would you stiff the waiter of a tip? How about the guy who built your house? How about the plumber or the electrician? Or the Taxi cab driver? And yes, software does cost money to make. I pay electric bills, Microsoft dues, travel expenses to meet with MS devs, trade shows, advertising, not to mention salaries. So if you wouldn't stiff the waiter at your favorite restaurant his 15% (or 10% if you're money concious) tip, why stiff us the few bucks we ask?

WebIS has always been extremely liberal in our licensing as well. We don't use activation (we've thought about it), we don't lock our license to your username, we don't do anything to make licensing hard. We let you run our software on as many devices that you personally use and we use the honor system. Heck, we even make 2-3 versions of our software in most cases and let you pay for one and get them all.

This is an important issue. A lot of people hack their creations and distribute for free. Others create their applications and sell them because it's their way to pay for things in life. Try to undersdant this.

Microsoft wants ISPs to control your desktop

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Jun-2007 10:46

Today I am reading a press release out of Redmond, where Microsoft claims to have created a "Telco 2.0 Vision".

The platform is based on some known and new technologies, including the updated IPTV framework called Microsoft Mediaroom, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Microsoft Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services, Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration, Hosted Microsoft Dynamics for CRM solution, Microsoft Solution for Managed PC, Microsoft Connected Services Framework and Microsoft Connected Services Sandbox.

What caught my attention was the "Microsoft Solution for Managed PC". I never heard of that one before, and just reading the name I had an idea of what would be coming: a way for IPSs to provide a connection with hardware they could manage.

And sure enough, this is what I read on the official Microsoft Solution for Managed PC page:

Many communications solutions provide state-of-the-art hardware at subsidized prices linked to monthly service contracts. Now, Microsoft brings the same strategy to broadband service providers. The Microsoft Solution for Managed PC allows broadband service providers to deliver a compelling new offering: a state-of-the-art computer packaged with broadband service, PC health and security software at a completely new, more affordable price point.

With the Microsoft Solution for Managed PC, broadband service providers can increase revenue, gain market share, and even create new, deeper relationships with their customers by streamlining problem resolution. What’s more, the affordability of the Managed PC solution means that service providers can reach more consumers and small businesses than ever before and the flexibility of the solution allows them to address specific sub-segments with targeted offerings.

It sounds good, right? But it seems that for you or your company to get just the right PC for your needs, you would have to subject its management to a third party.

This would be akin to having your PC as an appliance (which it is), pretty much like those cable TV set top boxes, or those satellite boxes. With not much freedom of choice:

The Managed PC comes complete with security protection that provides an all-in-one PC care solution featuring firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, back-up capabilities, and parental controls to further simplify PC ownership for first-time users. With the Solution for Managed PC (SMPC) security products, service providers can improve the user experience for both consumer and small business customers by automatically scanning the Managed PC for common network, printing, or communication malfunctions, reducing the expense and inconvenience of computer downtime.

This should surely reduce the number of people affected by phishing scams, trojan software and botnets. But do you trust your ISP to decide what's better for you or your needs? What about those cases where some security software deleted entire e-mail repositories, or made PCs a paper weight?

Can you imagine if all the users on an ISP go down at the same time?

Not much "Personal" left in the Computer (PC) it seens. Welcome to the Nanny Internet.

New users arriving on the Internets...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Jun-2007 22:51

I think there must be a wave of new users arriving on the Internets. I say this because in the last few months I have received a series of disturbing e-mails, at least one a day, but sometimes more.

Those e-mails are disturbing because they show more people are using the tubes withouth really realising what it is and how it works.

Some people can't distinguish between Interent domains for example, and how they relate to companies. Here at Geekzone I receive e-mails that clearly should be directed to Vodafone New Zealand, Telecom New Zealand, and other companies:

[name removed] from Inglewood, New Zealand contacted Geekzone.

Notes: Please note new change of address
[address removed]
Please send account to this new address

[name removed] from Palmerston North, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: My contract is No [removed]
I have had my cell phone stolen/go missing. I understand that the policy includes an insurance policy that covers this.

who do I see un PN to obtain a replacement?? Can you also send me a copy of the contract? I do not seem to hae one, noy sure but I cannot remember getting one.

Phone my father on 027 [removed] if you wish to discuss anything.

[name removed] from Upper Hutt, New Zealand contacted Geekzone.
Notes: your site tells me my password is incorrect.Cant get my emails.please sort it

[name removed] from Christchurch, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: Slingshot webmail is crap!It is sooooooo slloooooow to do ANYTHING!!!!!!!! It takes a minute or
more to delete something or change a page!!!!! FRUSTRATING FRUSTRATING!!!! I used to use incredimail
which is way quicker and user friendly (Now there's a thought!) I was meant to change to outlook express but that doesn't bloody work at all. So I'm stuck with your crap site!!
I've had this problem for  a week and usually have to be on hole for an hr to ring through. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!!

[name removed] from AUCKLAND, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: my account no [removed] mobile no [removed] for vodem. please note my change of address as follows.
[address removed] Papakura. Auckland.  Please acknowledge via email or post.

[name removed] from Auckland, New Zealand contacted Geekzone.
Notes: The above account has been disconnected - but account was paid on 11 May 2007 by Direct Credit.
This is a business phone and most important that it is reconnected immediately.   Please advise. cellphone # is 021 [number removed].

[name removed] from Auckland, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: We have not received our Vodafone statement for May 07. This could delay payment.DPGT

[company name removed] from Auckland, New Zealand contacted Geekzone.
Notes: Would a customer services representative phone our land line on 09 [number removed] to organise a cancellation of part of our account no: [account removed].
[name removed]

[name removed] Group Limited from Wellington, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: Could someone please contact me on my mobile phone number.  Sarah [name removed] was our accounts person who has now left.  I have been trying for over a months now to make contact with someone but keep being fobbed off, even when going into Thorndon Quay office I was told no one was available. 
I have a problem that needs to be sorted and quite frankly am sick of chasing you guys round for some very simple answers.

[name] from auckland, nz contacted Geekzone.
Notes: please disconect  my dial up connection .my customer number is [removed].
invoice no. [removed] .thank u for service.

Notes: Hi.My name is [name removed].
[full address removed]
PH. [mobile phone removed]
Email [email address removed]
I ordered a phone 19/05/07.Can you tell me if you recieved this order and when will it arrive?
Order No.[removed]
Code 010444.
Samsung Z400V-Black.
I paid by BNZ Visa.
$99.00 incl. Gst & delivery.
I recieved an Email confirming this order 19/05/07,but nothing since.

Mrs CJ [name removed] from Wellington, NZ contacted Geekzone.
Notes: I want to speak to someone at Vodafone about a billing error and it is impossible to get a real person.  Could you please get someone to contact me ASAP.  I do not want my service restricted as threatened by Vodafone text received today 29/05/07.

Thank you

I read somewhere that many people "browse by Google", basically ignoring the address bar in their browsers, and going directly to The Google, entering a company name in the search box, visiting the first result (or any result on that page). I think this is what happens when people contact me with some requests:

This is an interesting phenomenon, because it started happening more and more since October 2006, when broadband prices dropped and this kind of service became more accessible in the country.

Another possibility is that people are simply sick of trying to talk to their service providers. It looks like they can't get through Vodafone or Telecom's call centre, the stores are of no help and so on. In this case these e-mails also show the current status of customer services in New Zealand.

Google AdWords Business Pages has just been introduced in New Zealand, providing a free webpage for businesses that place advert through Google AdWords, but don't have a web site yet. As Lance Wiggs wrote when commenting on this service:

Of course if you are a business without a webpage, you may not even know what google is… and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this or Geekzone, where I found the report.

Exactly my point. Providing the technology is great, but we need to make it easy for people to understand and use it.

Rod Drury is fighting the right fight for a better broadband infrastructure in New Zealand. But shouldn't we be also thinking about helping whoever is going to be using this?

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.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

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