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Your future broadband: 50Mbps downstream and upstream

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Mar-2007 19:13

Found this through GigaOM today, and got to the press release:

Meet the Man With the Fastest Internet Speed in the Country

ROSEVILLE, Calif., March 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- To the amazement of those watching, Jim Husman zipped around his computer like a Cheetah on the Serengeti as he completely dominated a Quake 3 video game versus other online gamers. The remarkable part was that he did this while simultaneously streaming a high definition movie trailer of Batman Begins, listening to an online radio music stream, checking his e-mail and uploading a massive graphic design file to one of his clients.

How was he able to do this? Husman was the first person to sign up for the fastest residential Internet speed in the country -- SureWest Communications' (NASDAQ: SURW) Internet product of up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) of synchronous hyper-speed. Launched in December 2006 over SureWest's fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) platform, which reaches nearly 100,000 marketable homes in the greater Sacramento, CA region, it is the only service in the United States that delivers 50 Mbps of residential Internet speed both uploading and downloading.

SureWest is able to offer this unmatched Internet speed by delivering 100 Mbps of bi-directional bandwidth to each customer's home on its FTTP platform, leaving room to bundle video and voice services as well. With over 190,000 total marketable homes over its combined copper and fiber Broadband networks, SureWest can offer the 50-meg product to 52 percent of its Broadband service territory.

Great stuff! And it is 50 Mbps DOWN and UP... While I can't complain about my (now really small) 10 Mbps/2Mbps cable service from TelstraClear, I can only hear the people on Telecom's ADSL service crying...

I really hope TelstraClear comes with a 25 Mbps offering soon... Tomorrow is not soon enough now!

TVNZ On Demand is live

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Mar-2007 15:41

DRM? Love DRM? Get more of it then! TVNZ is launching its TVNZ On Demand service, which provides access to library of TV shows, ranging from the last week broadcasts to old kiwi classics.

Users can access the shows in two ways: by streaming the content (which is always free), or downloading the content (which attracts a cost).

Downloaded content is paid for with PlayPoints, which can be purchased in batches of $10, $20, $50 or $100. A 30 minute programme will cost 4 PlayPoints, or  about $2. When you register you get 20 bonus PlayPoints (the site says 10 bonus PlayPoints but my experience was different).

Downloads are fast, and through Akamai servers, but the Download Manager is less than perfect in terms of user interaction. I've downloaded a 23 minute show (30 minutes without the advertising) weighing in 225MB and all worked ok. The first time I tried to play the .WMV file it asked for my user name and password, or offered the option to create an account right there.

The file played on Windows Vista and WMP 11 with no problems at all. The quality was really good even on full screen, and with no artifacts I could see.

When you "purchase" a download you are actually only purchasing the right to watch that specific file on that computer only, and for seven days - no more. A shame, I'd like to be able to have it for longer periods, perhaps do like some music store where you pay a monthly fee, and providing the subscription is current you can access and play any song in the library. This would make a lot of sense. As it is, I can see that a lot of people will be put off of having to pay $50 to buy 12 one hour shows... It can be quite expensive at the end.

To be fair, all streaming shows are free though.

The website is quite nice, and they are going to make some money with advertising I see... Not a problem seeing that somehow they need to pay for the free streaming. But they could put a bit of effort and make that welcome e-mail better looking.

All in all, a great initiative. A shame Telecom New Zealand's plans for IPTV haven't come true yet, even after a couple of years of work on their part. And I do hope the Internet infrastructure in this country is well looked after, because this kind of service will no doubt stress the networks even more...

UPDATE: There is a good discussion about TVNZ On Demand on Geekzone.

ReadyBoost testing

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Mar-2007 12:01

I've just invested $113 on a Sandisk Extreme 2GB 133x SD Card from flashcards. Let's see if these Windows Vista ReadyBoost problems are related to my current Transcend 1GB 133 SD card or if it is really just Windows Vista playing up.

If you haven't followed, ReadyBoost works on my laptop (AMD Turion 64 x2) but for no apparent reason (and not logged) ReadyBoost stops working. It could be the card, so I am replacing it to test. If not, then I will have a larger fast new card for my Nikon D50 DSLR.

UPDATE: Doom... The new card fails, like the Transcend I used previously. It could either be the laptop (strange, since it's Windows Vista Premium Ready) or the operating system. I bet it is the operating system.

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.

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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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