My window to the world

Net neutrality is a fallacy

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Apr-2007 11:56

I have just finished reading Cringely's "We don't need no stinking best effort: Net neutrality may have just been a fantasy all along" and it is indeed an interesting piece.

In it Cringely explains that Net neutrality has been an utopic ideal for some time:

...big broadband ISPs were apparently preparing to offer tiered levels of service and at this point it is a matter of flipping a switch, with the result that Comcast's VoIP might suddenly work a LOT better than Vonage's VoIP, which is to say my fax line.

Well it turns out that I may have, in this case, actually understated the problem. Readers claim that some -- who knows, maybe ALL -- big broadband ISPs are ALREADY running tiered services.

"I used to work at Time-Warner Cable's Road Runner High Speed HQ," wrote one reader, "and as of 2005, TWC marked all VoIP packets with the TOS bit turned to 1. TWC has 5 levels of priority, VoIP having the highest, router tables second, commercial services 3rd, Road Runner consumer 4th and everything else is classified as 'best effort'."

How does it apply to New Zealand? Remember the Xtra Go Large fiasco? That was supposed to be a plan with no limits, full speed, but with "managed" peer to peer (P2P) traffic. What happened is that a lot of people complained, Telecom New Zealand denied anything was wrong, but after a while they conceded the "network management" implementation was crippled and actually ALL traffic was being impacted for users on that plan.

This week I attended the Thirsty Thursday drinks promoted by the IAB and had a chance to chat with Collin Jackson, president of InternetNZ. They are not talking about Net neutrality, but pushing hard for peering. Go read the link. Peering has nothing to do with peer to peer networks, it's a completely different thing, and peering in New Zealand it is a hot topic.

Anyway, keep reading Cringely's piece to find:

What's to be done, then? Well we won't be going back to true net neutrality. Revealing that it had never existed was probably a weapon the ISPs were saving for their final defense of the status quo. In the long run, the ISPs will probably get their way, too, on being paid for access to higher service tiers. But since we've already paid for that bandwidth, I propose the ISPs be made to share their bounty with us.

If an ISP can account for packets on different service levels accurately enough to bill a Google or a Yahoo, then they can take half of the revenue generated by allowing faster access to me and credit that to my account, lowering my bill. I can either take the money and run or apply it toward raising the priority level of some of my own services.

Thanks Provoke for the Geekzone Gadget

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Apr-2007 08:07

I announced here a couple of days ago the release of our Geekzone Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar.

The software is a small application that lives in the Windows Vista Sidebar, monitoring our Geekzone Forums, and showing the forums with most recent topics, how "hot" or "cold" a forum is based in the number of replies and the last hour and providing direct links to the discussions.

I always wanted to have something like this, and it was made possible by the guys at Provoke. They came along for one of my weekly coffee meetings in town, we talked about the idea, what I wanted to give our users and we agreed on a quick project - less than a week to have it all done.

The Geekzone Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar was developed in just a couple of days, from concept, design and testing through release.

We already have some ideas for v2.0, including perhaps posting replies direclty from the gadget instead of having to load a webpage, user selection of which forums to monitor, and more.

I recommend the guys at Provoke if you are looking to create something similar, or even start a bigger project. They work with design, business solutions and e-government applications.

Is your CEO or manager blogging yet?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Apr-2007 21:37

If not, I hope he doesn't follow this path when he decides it's time to add some "transparency" to the company:

Great Dilbert comic. It is not only about blogs though.

Kryptonite (Jadarite) discovered in mine

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 11:56

We all think of geek programs such as Star Trek when talking about some modern technologies and how they were pictured 30 or 40 years ago before these were actually created. Think of Tablet PC, Smartphones, and more...

Now, in a very interesting twist, Mother Nature has brought us... Kryptonite. According to the BBC:

A new mineral matching its [Kryptonite's] unique chemistry - as described in the film Superman Returns - has been identified in a mine in Serbia.

According to movie and comic-book storylines, kryptonite is supposed to sap Superman's powers whenever he is exposed to its large green crystals.

Researchers from mining group Rio Tinto discovered the unusual mineral and enlisted the help of Dr Stanley when they could not match it with anything known previously to science.

Once the London expert had unravelled the mineral's chemical make-up, he was shocked to discover this formula was already referenced in literature - albeit fictional literature.

"Towards the end of my research I searched the web using the mineral's chemical formula - sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide - and was amazed to discover that same scientific name, written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns.

"The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film) and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite."

As usual, the Wikipedia article about Kryptonite is already updated to include the Jadarite, which is the probable name for the new mineral.

Is this life copying fiction, again?

Download the Geekzone Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 11:16

One of the many feedbacks we receive from our users regarding the Geekzone forums is "How can I keep up with all the new posts and replies?"

You can of course add each forum's own RSS feed to your feed reader. Or you can go the cool way and add our new Geekzone Gadget for Windows Sidebar to your Windows Vista-based PC running Windows Sidebar.

This gadget will keep an eye in all our forums and show the ones with most recent topics or replies on top of the list. You can then click on a forum name to see the most recent discussions with posts or replies. You will also see a colour coded "meter" showing how busy the forum is.

While this is not the final v1.0 release, it's really close and you can download and use it now. Soon we will have a release with a couple of cosmetic changes - but the main functionality is there.

Also, for v2.0 we are already planning things such as selecting which forums to keep an eye on for you, and the option to post a reply to a discussion directly from the gadget.

If you have suggestions for new features, please post a comment here or in our forums. The software is being developed by the folks from Provoke.

You will need Windows Vista and the Sidebar application to have this gadget installed on your PC. The gadget can be docked or floating on your desktop.

You can find more Windows Sidebar gadgets online. Check the official Windows Vista Sidebar web site or the New Zealand Windows Vista Sidebar web site for some localised gadgets.

Why a Windows Vista Sidebar Gadget, you ask? Well, being a "geek" web site, we found out that about 15% of our users are already running Windows Vista. While we appreciate we have people visiting Geekzone with other platforms, it's just the case of deciding where to start and economically this would make sense. If you are keen to develop a similar gadget for other platforms, contact me and we can discuss.

RSS in plain English

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 10:53

Are you overwhelmed with information overload? Need a quicker way to read the news, interesting stuff, your relatives' blog posts?

You should try RSS feeds. I posted about those before, and you can probably see the orange RSS icon on this page.

To understand what's RSS and how it works (in a very simplified way), check this video from Common Craft:

Visiting the PlanHQ and a review

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 10:13

Just yesterday I was visiting the folks at PlanHQ here in Wellington, to discuss a design update for Geekzone. This morning, by coincidence, I see a review of PlanHQ services at WorkHappy.Net, a blog with resources for entrepreneurs.

PlanHQ is an on-line business plan software, but the team also work with web site design, usability, etc. The team behind it includes Tim Norton (whom I've met a few times including at the Kiwi Foo Camp) and Natalie Ferguson. Also, Rod Drury (of Xero fame) is the company's Chairman.

Unpack your vodem: Vodafone releases support for Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 17:21

Believe it or not, but Google Analytics tells me about 15% of our readers used a Windows Vista-based PC to access Geekzone during March/April 2007.

That's why I get so excited when I see support for Windows Vista rolling out of the door - such as the new, fresh Vodafone vodem drivers for the new operating system.

The vodem is a HSDPA (high speed mobile Internet) USB modem you can use with your PC. For pictures and some speed tests, check out my "Unpacking the Vodem" review.

Vodafone New Zealand promised the drivers for Windows Vista a while ago, and these are now officially available through select stores, while Vodafone sorts out download pages, etc. In the meantime, if you are in New Zealand and you must have it now then post a comment here or contact me and we will arrange for someone at Vodafone New Zealand to get in touch.

UPDATE: I've sent an email with a download link to whoever asked for it. Just be sure to read the instructions. The update must be made from a Windows XP machine, not Windows Vista (go figure!). Vodafone stores should now have this update available. Do not call the customer services because apparently they have no idea what this is about.

Agreement between Vodafone New Zealand and TelstraClear coming to an end?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 08:43

It looks like the agreement allowing TelstraClear to resell Vodafone New Zealand connections under a different area code (029) is coming up for renewal soon. And lots of signs indicate the agreement will not be renewed.

I was alerted to this by a post in our forums, plus an article in the newspaper. I decided to put my ear on the ground and listen for more information. I also asked the parts about the rumours. This is the comment from Vodafone New Zealand:

Commercial Development Manager Tom Chignell says: "TelstraClear is one of many channels we use that sell our services for us, and it's not our practice to comment on business matters between ourselves and our distribution channels.

"Vodafone is committed to an ongoing commercial relationship with TelstraClear.

"We have a variety of mutually beneficial dealings with TelstraClear. As well as acting as a channel for our mobile services, we work cooperatively on the TCF on a range of issues from number portability to llu [Local Loop Unbundling]. We interconnect a huge amount of traffic with them, and we are working very cooperatively with them on the NAD (number administration deed)."

I haven't received a reply from TelstraClear, yet.

But what I've heard from two different sources is alarming. Alarming because it shows how TelstraClear lost the plot: it just happens that TelstraClear was only reselling the Vodafone product (mobile connections). But here comes the catch: the customer base belongs to Vodafone, not TelstraClear.

So even though Vodafone did not provide direct support to customers calling them (in case of need (as I saw reported in our Geekzone forums before), the customers actually belonged to Vodafone.

Of course Vodafone may, or may not, realise how many deals (mainly in the government sector) TelstraClear brought to them. And it looks like they are not afraid of scratching this relationship.

The story leaked to newspapers from TesltraClear's customers since neither company will confirm or deny the stories.

Mobile operators need better customer services to convince the audience

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 07:49

Every time I read our Geekzone forums I believe both Vodafone and Telecom need better customer services, pricing plans that don't confuse the users, flexible help desk hours, and more.

I've just read Seth Godin's post "Just because they say it" and it reflects pretty much what we see in the New Zealand telecommunications market in general:

I get more complaints about the bad customer service provided by cell phone companies than just about any other sort of organization.

We're waiting for the bait and switch, for the service to fade out, to be stuck, once again with a company that doesn't care. It might very well be that this time it's different.

The challenge to a marketer that chooses to enter a market with a miserable history of customer abuse is obvious: you can claim to be better, to be unevil, benevolent even, but people just aren't prepared to believe you. It doesn't fit the consumer's worldview. So, you could be the honest politician or the quality contractor or the direct marketer with no fine print and no spam, but you better be prepared to prove it over and over before we believe you.

Actually we have to consider that it is part of human nature to complain when things are wrong, but you read very little when things are right.

I can't complain about either Vodafone New Zealand or Telecom New Zealand really. I use both as my mobile communications providers and never had a problem.

For my fixed communications I use TelstraClear. They have superb cable modem service, way ahead of the DSL provided in the rest of the country by Telecom New Zealand. But wait time of 45 minutes when calling the help desk... That's the problem. Lucky I only had to do that a couple of times last year - none so far in 2007.

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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