My window to the world


The VOCO Clock

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Mar-2007 10:17

This is not exactly high technology but it is one of the most hilarious electronic product I've seen lately: the VOCO Clock.

No, I don't have one here for testing, but if you visit their website you will be able to listen to some of the "wake up call" messages, recorded by Stephen Fry.


You will hear gems such as these:


I'm so sorry to disturb you sir, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree, sir. I believe it is the rotation of the earth which is to blame, sir.

I'm delighted you have survived another night. May I add my own congratulations to the roar of the world's approval? Thank you, sir.

I'm afraid the staff has absconded, sir. And it is my day off. I trust it will not be too onerous to make your own esquisitely sliced toast and perfectly cooked breakfast?

Come come, sir. Let us not be defeated. Let seize the day, and take it roughly from behind. As the Colonel used to say in his unfortunate manner.

The world has been very anxious to hear from you for the last eight hours. Shall I inform the news agencies you are about to rise, sir?

The rising and the shining cannot be postponed indefinetely. Though shining isn't compulsory in this world, the rising eventually is.




What is new on Windows Mobile 6?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Mar-2007 21:39

There's a great blog post on MSDN where Jason Landgridge lists the differences between Windows Mobile 5 and Windows Mobile 6, plus a list of new features and the new naming convention for Windows Mobile-based devices.

Worth a read...





Windows Vista annoyances

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Mar-2007 13:23

Not a good post for a Sunday morning, but here it is... Four things that annoy me on Windows Vista:

- Microsoft Outlook 2007 is the only software that still shows "... stopped responding. Closing program" when I click File | Exit. Can't they work together in peace?

- Wireless LAN is still a bugger. I found more networks that it won't connect to, with the same driver errors. I've posted in this blog and reported to some Microsoft folks. But this is still happening and no word on fix for this behaviour.

- ReadyBoost stops working without any message. Sometimes I right-click a SD card and find ReadyBoost is no longer available. I know this is the case when I notice my HDD thrashing away. Couldn't they at least give a visual indication, now that the UI is so fancy? I am going to buy a new SD card from another brand, to test the hardware.

- Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) is a piece of software. Devices will connect or not, at will. Lucky I sync the PIM with my Exchange Server, because this is the most unreliable piece of software ever.

If these things don't go away pretty soon I am sure going to install Windows XP SP2 on this laptop. I am pretty sure some would even suggest Ubuntu. But I am still not ready to spend time learning something new now. Perhaps later.










Small world

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Mar-2007 20:13

This is a small world... I had a stop in San Francisco on my way to Seattle to attend the Microsoft MVP Summit. While walking down, talking on the smartphone and checking e-mails on my Pocket PC I bumped into Nic Wise and wife Leoni.

No, they are not coming to the summit. It just happened that they were disembarking a plane from Madison (Wisconsin), for a short stay in San Francisco before heading to New Zealand. Pure coincidence in time and location. A few seconds before or after we would miss each other...

Another coincidence? Tonight Nick Randolph joined us for dinner in Seattle. He told me his flight from Perth to Los Angeles had a stop in Auckland (New Zealand) and I found he was on that loooong queue I saw in front of the QANTAS gate! We were in the Auckland airport at the same time, unbeknown to each other. I probably walked past him just a few meters away!

Small world...

I had a few hours in San Francisco, so I met an old Brazilian friend for brunch. Great weather, nice food. Flying out of San Francisco to Seattle though and everything changed. Snowy caps in Oregon, and clouds over Seattle. Raining here (no news), but not colder than Wellington on a rainy day.

Also, what's the problem with Air New Zealand? I bought my tickets to Seattle three months ago, and my profile says "aisle seats". When I checked in (and I did so in Wellington, which means a good four hours before the Auckland crowd) they didn't have any aisle seats available anymore.

The food was good though (in Premium Economy), and the wine too. The service was great (unlike the Trans-Tasman routes).




Locks on Vodafone 1210 Windows Mobile Smartphone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Mar-2007 10:14

There we go again... I just got hold of a Vodafone 1210 Windows Mobile Smartphone to test, and the device is application locked, like most Windows Mobile Smartphones.

It means I can't install my self-issued Root Certificate, which I need to synchronise the device to my Exchange server.

I know i-mate will supply a signed certificate loader program for their Smartphones. I've asked Vodafone for something similar.


In the meantime, I have successfully used the hack that unlocks the Windows Mobile SDA and installed my certificate. The hack is a signed registry editor (so that I can change some security policies), and a PC tools that "unlocks" the device. Google it and you will find more information.

It's a shame manufacturers and operators can't get this right. It's a great security feature, but why is it possible to install a Root Certificate on Windows Mobile Pocket PC, but Windows Mobile Smartphone is so locked down? I know a few organisations that actually issue their own Root Certificates. I hope Vodafone comes back to me with a proper signed certificate loader program.

Ooops. Better stop complaining, or Pocket PCs will be locked down too.




Windows ReadyBoost is a pain

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Mar-2007 10:05

One of the best features in Windows Vista is actually a pain... I am talking about that great feature that will cache the swapfile to a fast(er) flash memory, reducing the time needed to get applications back from the hard disc into main memory when paging is needed.

Here comes the thing: it works great, when it works. I complained before during Beta 2 about this feature being "faulty", that is it works after a boot, but if the screen saver shows up, or if the laptop goes to sleep, there goes the ReadyBoost. The way to reactivate it is to remove the SD card and insert it again.


This was happening on my Toshiba and now it is happening on this Acer. It could be the SD card though. I will have to buy a new one to test, even though this a very fast SD card, and works most of the times.

You can read about the ReadyBoost in the ReadyBoost FAQ.






Air New Zealand services

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Mar-2007 09:25

Air New Zealand is always surprising us... You see, I am from a time when flying, even on a 45 minute domestic flight, involved some food and drinks (including soft drinks, alcoholic ones).

Some time ago, for almost two years I had to fly twice a week, every week, and I couldn't complain about the TAM service. The hot breakfast was great, attention was in the details. But I know they have changed ways from fifteen years ago.

Same with Air New Zealand. They used to have nice hot food on domestic flights. Lately they replaced food with a (single) choc chip and water. Wow... Great stuff. They could have left the coke. Even in the U.S. with all cost cuts the arilines at least continue serving free soft drink (and paid alcohol).

Now I read on NZ Herald that

The free biscuit - one of the great traditions of flying on Air New Zealand's main domestic routes - is on the way out.

The national carrier has decided to axe the free chocolate chip cookie in favour of charging for a range of costly inflight snacks.

From Monday, passengers must pay or go hungry on all 737 aircraft, which fly main routes between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and Dunedin.


The free biscuit is a "great tradition[s] of flying on Air New Zealand"? Please... And now they will be serving overpriced food, supplied by a Wellington catering company.

What happened to "tradition"? No, I am not talking about the biscuit, that was just a cheap replacement to some (decent) food.

Air New Zealand flights over the Tasman to Australia have on-board service, including the food and drinks we would expect. But the food in coach is horrible. The "gourmet hashbrown breakfast" is something that is far away from gourmet, from hashbrown and from breakfast. The best I could have in the last three weeks was a toasted foccacia with cheese and ham.

I was in coach class in the last three out of four flights, and the difference between the food (and service) on business and coach is very visible.

And what about the decision to keep using metal forks, but replacing the knives with plastic ones. Where this very intelligent decision came from? I mean, the metal table knives, with no sharp points is replaced with a plastic table knife with no sharp points, but they keep the metal forks. Do they really think forks are no more dangerous than those blunt knives? Too much paranoia.

UPDATE: You should go and read Lance's take on this. Quite good.





Best and Worst Services during Google AdSense roadshow

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Mar-2007 13:25

During the last three weeks I have been flying up and down New Zealand and across to Australia to participate in the Google AdSense RoadShow panel.



During the panel publishers had a unique opportunity to interact with local Google AdSense and AdWords managers, ask questions to us publishers - myself representing Geekzone, and Australians Tim van Brugge representing i-do.com.au (a wedding directory) and Paul Greenberg from dealsdirect.com.au (an Australian on-line retailer).

But I decided to write about some non-technical stuff in this post today. So without further ado, here are my Best and Worst Facilities Awards:

- Best coffee: the cafe downstairs from the Hilton Brisbane
- Best hotel location: Sheraton on the Park, Sydney and Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best hotel room: the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney
- Best hotel bathroom: the Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best breakfast: the Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best gadget to have in the plane: Blackbox M14 noise reduction headphones
- Best casino on-route: Crown Casino, Melbourne
- Best airport experience: customs through Brisbane
- Best car show: the Ferrari 60th Anniversary Exhibition, Crown Casino, Melbourne

- Worst in-flight food: breakfast on Air New Zealand
- Worst in-flight movie editing: Casino Royale on Air New Zealand (they cut the poison scene, but left the torture scene in place)
- Worst in-room Internet service: Hilton Brisbane
- Worst airport experience: spending 100 minutes through customs in Melbourne (passengers with better things to do were disrupted because TV program Border Patrol was filming on location)



Vodafone launches +64home concierge and assistance services for business users

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Mar-2007 11:47

Just got an interesting box here at home, coming from Vodafone New Zealand. Outside it says "Novice travellers dream of foreign lands", and inside it says "Experienced travellers dream of home".

The box is the welcome kit to a new "by invitation only" exclusive service offered by Vodafone to business account holders.


The booklet explains that +64home cardholders can call two special numbers called "Roaming Priority Service" and "Rapid Response".

With Roaming Priority Service travellers are able to contact Vodafone customer services and get into a priority queue for quicker assistance. The number is only available to card holders while in overseas trips - while in New Zealand people should continue to use 777.

The "Rapid Response" service comes in two flavours. "Rapid Response Concierge Services" is similar to some offerings from American Express and other gold or platinum credit cards. In summary is a concierge service for travellers abroad, with 24/7 access to a help line with someone that will the user organise important things from hotel bookings, organising car hires, message relays and even arrange gifts to be sent to someone.

"Rapid Response Medical Information Services" can help the traveller talking to a doctor, arrage a doctor visit, or help with admission to hospital.

The box also comes with a small cologne spray "New Zealand", by Demeter.

UPDATE: I am now unsure of "launch" as it seems this is not a new offering, but just that only now I was "invited". Perhaps because I have a business account and have been all over the world in the last two months?







Windows Vista: wireless LAN troubles, again

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Mar-2007 17:35

During the Kiwi Foo Camp my Windows Vista-based laptop was having troubles connecting to the wireless LAN routers available. Actually not "having troubles", because it simply wouldn't connect at all. I was very frustrated because that was a full geeky weekend, and I was the only one (about 120 people there) without an usable Internet connection.

Since then I've noticed three or four updates to my wireless LAN driver, all applied.

And then it happened again. During the Geekzone moderators meetup last weekend in Wellington we used the Xero offices, and two out of three Windows Vista-based laptops couldn't connect to the wireless LAN router - including mine.

The event records are bellow:

Wireless network association started.
Network Adapter: Atheros AR5006EXS Wireless Network Adapter
Interface GUID: {D87C0DBD-88FB-446B-8473-D7149528276B}
Local MAC Address: 00:16:CF:65:4D:14
Network SSID: A20
BSS Type: Infrastructure
Authentication: Open
Encryption: WEP
802.1X Enabled: Yes
---
Wireless network association failed.
Network Adapter: Atheros AR5006EXS Wireless Network Adapter
Interface GUID: {D87C0DBD-88FB-446B-8473-D7149528276B}
Local MAC Address: 00:16:CF:65:4D:14
Network SSID: A20
BSS Type: Infrastructure
Failure Reason: Driver disconnected while associating.
Reason Code: 229378
---
WLAN AutoConfig service failed to connect to a wireless network.
Network Adapter: Atheros AR5006EXS Wireless Network Adapter
Interface GUID: {D87C0DBD-88FB-446B-8473-D7149528276B}
Connection Mode: Connection to a secure network without a profile
Profile Name: A20
SSID: A20
BSS Type: Infrastructure
Failure Reason:The specific network is not available.



Exactly the same errors I found during the Kiwi Foo Camp. I couldn't check any specific technical details on this configuration though, because the technical person wasn't there (it was Saturday).

Lucky this time I had an option, because I was using the Telecom New Zealand new CDMA EVDO card, with incredibly fast speeds.

Next week I am off to Seattle for seven days. If this thing fails again it will be time to seriously consider installing Windows XP on this machine.


UPDATE: A hotfix has been issued for some problems that may be related. Check the Microsoft KB "Several problems occur on a Windows Vista-based computer when you work in a wireless network environment".



freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


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

I work for Intergen and I'm also 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 freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. 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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