My window to the world

Vodafone NZ 3G, broadband and Auckland traffic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2007 09:01

I am waiting for the boarding call for my flight to Wellington. I had to catch a cab ride from Auckland CBD to the aiport two hours ahead of the time, just to be sure I'd be here on time for check-in.

It looks like the Auckland Traffic Engineering team forgot all about synchronising traffic lights, or traffic lights at all. Lots of roundabouts here, with traffic coming from opposite directions, with one flow crossing the path of the incoming commuter flow, meaning no give away is possible and meaning the traffic just won't flow. At least 30 minutes wait to go through one roundbout. Ridiculous.

Then I tried to access the Internet at the Auckland airport. Crap service. No wi-fi facilities. But talking about "service", let's try connecting with Vodafone New Zealand's 3G network... Almost no go!

A picture tells a thousand words. Just check the horrible service you get from Vodafone 3G in the airport. An airport, with thousands of people coming and going, business deals waiting to happen, blog posts waiting to happen:

The caffeine hit or a geek meetup

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2007 07:11

It all started because I work from home and I wanted to meet people in town. The first to come around was Darryl Burling, even before he joined Microsoft. Then came Craig Pringle, Peter Torr Smith and others. Australian Nick Randolph joined us during the time he was doing some contract work here in Wellington.

The routine is established: every Wednesday from 1:30pm people know I will be at Astoria Cafe for coffee, sometimes earlier for lunch. I bring my laptop and do some work from there. The folks at Astoria are cool with having a bunch of geeks using a couple of tables to spread their gadgets, tablet PCs, latptops and UMPCs around. It helps that they have a couple of wi-fi hotspots (Telecom New Zealand and Cafenet) right there.

Nick Randolph is back in Australia and is starting a similar "coffee group" in Perth:

Sorry about the late post about this, but tomorrow will be the first gathering of the Perth Caffeine Addicts - only kidding (well except for the Perth and the Caffeine bits).  One of the best things I did when I was in NZ was attend Mauricio's Geekzone weekly coffee group and I thought the concept could work well here in Perth.  So tomorrow, with support from Mitch and Alastair of the Perth .NET Community of Practice, we are inviting anyone who has an interest in developer technologies to join us for an informal chat at Tiger Tiger which is located here in the heart of the Perth CBD (opposite Star Surf Shop) from 1:30pm tomorrow.

Although this event is put together by the co-ordinators of the .NET user group I would like to take this opportunity to invite anyone who is doing application (be it web, smart client or otherwise) development here in Perth using any piece of technology to join us and talk shop.  We will be meeting each week, same time, same place, so if you can't make it this week, why not join us next week. 

We do have the occasional visitor to the group and we've also had someone just approach our table asking "is this the Geekzone meeting" or "Are you Mauricio, mind if I join you?".

People from Auckland say this never happens there. Doesn't anyone want to start a coffee group that way?

Do as I say: MPAA violates software license

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Feb-2007 11:12

Found this through Digg (go on, if you have a Digg account, digg it too):

The author of ForestBlog, a blogging tool, has discovered that the MPAA was using his code in violation of his license. He gives the code away for free, but requires that users link back to his site and keep his name on the software. The MPAA deleted all credits and copyright notices from his work, and used it without permission. They ripped him off:

Way back in October last year whilst going through the website referals list for another of my sites I stumbled across this link. That's right, my blogging software is being used by the MPAA (Motion picture Association of America); probably one of the most hated organisations known to the internet. Cool, I thought, until I had a look around and saw that all of the back links to my main site had been removed with nary a mention in the source code!
Now, as Patrick Robin (the software author) notes, this probably wasn't the outcome of a high-level board meeting wherein the executive committee decided to rip him off. It was more likely the work of a lazy Web person at the MPAA who was cutting corners at work.

But the MPAA believes that employers should be held responsible for employees' copyright infringements. They want you to know that if you download movies at work, your employer will also be named in the suit. Infringe as we say, not as we do.

Read the complete entry on Boing Boing.

Incredible, isn't it. The all powerfull MPAA, which protect the movie industry "rights".

That's why I think our lawmakers shouldn't be influenced by foreigner lobby groups on these matters. They never seem to have the citizens' interests at heart. I agree on fair copyright laws, but some of the draconian attitudes and hostile acts against consumers, reported on everyday media just don't seem increase the content producer's share in the cake, and doesn't seem to protect the legitimate consumer who purchase over priced CDs and DVDs due to distribution costs.

Isn't it time for the recording and movie industries to find another way to distribute their products? What about a fair use license, with no crippling DRM, at good prices? I am probably one of the few people I know who actually buy DVDs to keep and play again and again at home. I wouldn't mind buying digital media over the internet for playback on my digital system - if the price was right and fair use licenses applied.

Where is HSDPA for Vodafone Treo 750v? Telstra is launching theirs

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2007 09:10

In continuation of my rant on why, oh why, users don't have the power to update their Windows Mobile devices, here comes another gem...

Vodafone (worldwide) had an exclusive deal with Palm to launch the first Window Mobile-powered GSM/UMTS Treo in Europe and other markets, with some customisations and called Treo 750v.

Back when the Treo 750v was launched, Vodafone hinted that it would support its HSDPA services, with speeds much higher than UMTS. Lots of registry hacks showed up allowing users to enable this faster service, but with side effects.

The deal ran out last month and we saw AT&T (Cingular) launching the Palm Treo 750 in the U.S. and shortly after Palm started selling the Palm Treo 750 directly in Europe, not going throuh any operator. The Treo 750 comes with HSDPA enabled.

Now Telstra has announced the launch of Palm Treo 750 in Australia, running on their Next G network, based on HSDPA. By the way, I am not sure what speeds the Treo 750 can reach, but Telstra has just switched on their 14.4 Mbps HSDPA service, just a couple of months after launching a nationwide brand net network.

What about Vodafone Nw Zealand? We have not heard anything about the promised HSDPA ROM update for Windows Mobile since the Treo 750v launch, almost six months ago. And their network is still crawling at 1.8 MBps almost everywhere where it is available (which is not much a large footprint to start with).

Are they still planning to release the Treo 750v update to enable HSDPA on this handset?

My original rant was about users not being able to download updates directly from the manufacturer or an OS upgrade directly from Microsoft. This just shows that having a long chain (Microsoft, OEM, distributor,mobile operator) just hurts the user and don't add anything.


By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2007 21:22

This is a sneak peek on Yahoo!Xtra, launching 1st March 2007, when Telecom New Zealand's Xtra will part ways with Microsoft's MSN:

Reading the page is an interesting exercise. I wonder how many users connected to Xtra will realise they don't have to adopt Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, and they can keep using Hotmail and Windows Messenger. Or is Xtra going to "recommend" people to change over?

Also it's not like people couldn't use Yahoo! Mail before if they wanted to. So really it's not "good things happen when Xtra meets Yahoo!" by any stretch of imagination (except for the marketing folks at both companies I guess).

What is Microsoft doing after 1st March? It is still a mystery, nothing announced yet. And we are only two weeks away from the changeover date.

What's going to be interesting is to keep an eye on Xtra's rankings. Currently XtraMSN ranks high in New Zealand, but I bet it's because XtraMSN is the default page for Internet Explorer for all machines with locale=NZ. I wonder what's the default page going to be after 1st March, since that is a redirect within Microsoft's domain. Or is there another contract just for the homepage?

Another things is the "priority change". Until now the portal was "XtraMSN", but from 1st March it is going to be "Yahoo!Xtra". Is just because it sounds better, or is the name showing who's the boss?

Where in the world is Mauricio?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 15:07

Just an update if you happen to be in any of the following places:

Auckland, New Zealand (20 - 21 February 2007)
Brisbane, Australia  (28 February 2007)
Sydney, Australia (1 March 2007)
Melbourne, Australia (6 - 7 March)
Seattle, U.S. (10 - 15 March 2007)

I am going around a lot this month and next, participating as a panelist in a seminar with other Google AdSense publishers in New Zealand and Australia, and then attending the Microsoft MVP Summit 2007, with a keynote from Bill Gates.

If you are in any of these places on these dates, let me know and we might have a coffee and chat.

Windows Vista Video competition: keep them coming

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 14:59

I am just reading Nigel Parker's Blog on MSDN, and found out that he is planning to use some of the entries to our (Microsoft and Geekzone) Windows Vista Competition as part of the Microsoft 2007 Technical Briefing in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

Make sure you create a 30 seconds (less or more is ok) video about what you love about using Windows Vista, upload to Soapbox on MSN or YouTube and fill the entry form in our Windows Vista Competition.

You will be in to win some cool prizes, including Microsoft Zune and copies of Windows Vista Ultimate. And be famous during the Tech Brief.

Windows Mobile 6: update or not

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 11:58

One of the things I think is really annoying on Windows Mobile (and I have put this forward to the Microsoft MVP leads and developer teams many times, as others did), is the fact that we users are in the hands of the manufacturers when it comes to updates.

Unlike desktop and laptops running Microsoft Windows software, Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile do not have a Hardware Abstraction Layer (or so we are told). It means that each device needs a very highly fully (insert other adjectives here) customised version of the OS, specific for that hardware.

Things are even crazier with Pocket PC Phone Edition, because the cellular radio requires a step further, including in some cases certification by the mobile operator launching the devices.

Mobile operators are a beastly kind of companies. They need to keep their cellular networks running, they must certifiy devices, they are now Internet providers while until a few years ago they only provided voice services, and more. If they are GSM operator they even have to provide some support to people purchasing never seen before handsets from parallel importers trying to connect and use their services.

Also, if the operator works with CDMA they have to certify each model connected to their network. GSM operators don't have this problem, but they still create their own customised versions of some handsets to guarantee they work with their consumer services  (such as Vodafone live! and T-Mobile Web-n-Walk).

It is really annoying to think you buy some hardware that is still very capable, but in one month will see its resale value going down because of a new software being released.

I am talking about Windows Mobile 6. While most Pocket PC devices out there are very capable of running this new version of mobile operating system, I doubt many companies will release updates for existing hardware.

For example, T-Mobile USA has announced they plan to release an update for their T-Mobile Dash, while T-Mobile Europe says they have no plans on updates for the T-Mobile MDA Mail. Yet those two devices are exactly the same!

Of course all the manufacturers want to push down their new hardware, but very capable Pocket PCs exist that would easily run Windows Mobile 6. Yet we all heard of new devices, but no announcements on upgrades for many of the existing Pocket PC and Smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0.

Sometimes we don't even hear about companies working to release interim updates that fixes problems, even though users try and confirm they work. Consider that creating an update will cost development and testing time, which can be directed into new products.

While new products are exciting - I mean look at the new i-mate Ultimate series! - existing customers are the ones who paid for the companies to get to the point where they can actually create those very cool devices. But it seems they are always left behind.

The i-mate Jasjar, a NZ$2000 3G Pocket PC wannabe mini-laptop, the Apache CDMA Pocket PC, and other Windows Mobile 5.0 are very capable... But people who bought devices in the last two months are screwed. Again.

IMPORTANT: Update your calendar software

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 11:23

Note the U.S. Daylight Saving Time is different this year! This is because of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Why is this so important to be posted here? I am sure a lot of Geekzone readers and people reading my little blog here live in the U.S. If you do not live in the U.S. but have plans to travel to the U.S. soon this is also applicable. If you create an appointment using a timezone in the U.S. and it falls during their DST then you might have problems.
If you rely on your PDA, smartphone, or any other computer for managing your time, be aware that those devices may not have the correct DST information, and all your appointments in the US during a certain period in March 2007 will be shifted by one hour.

You must update your devices with new information. Companies have developed patches for this.

If you use a Windows Mobile device, or Microsoft Outlook, or have an Exchange Server on your company look for more information and read this article. If you or your company runs Microsoft Exchange Servers there is an automatic update for that. There's an automatic update for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. The article has links to a patch for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Windows Mobile Smartphones.

Every step on that article is important.

You don't want to miss your flight, or that important meeting, right? So go and nag your IT department until they apply this patch to their servers, and you have the Outlook and Windows Mobile patch applied. This has to be done everywhere in the world, because if you take your laptop on a trip to the U.S. and change the timezone, the appointment times will be wrong! Same for your mobile device.

I am not sure about patches for Palm OS, Symbian OS, or Apple Mac OS. But they all are bound to have this problem, since the law is just a couple of years old. Check with their support.

For correct DST dates in the U.S. check this article.

Have I strresed this enough now? Go and update.

Novatel Wireless launches new HSDPA/HSUPA products. No support replies yet

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Feb-2007 18:19

Yes, I will keep complaining about this one... Novatel Wireless just issued a press release about their wonderful new line of HSDPA/HSUPA PC cards and Express cards:

Novatel Wireless, Inc. (Nasdaq:NVTL), a leading provider of wireless broadband access solutions, today introduced new, next-generation offerings in its high-speed download packet access/high-speed upload packet access (HSDPA/HSUPA) family of mobile broadband access products. The family of products includes the Merlin X950D ExpressCard, the Ovation MC870D HSDPA USB Modem, the Expedite® EU870D embedded modules and the XUA-1 ExpressCard to USB Adapter.

Introducing new technologies like HSUPA, as well as diversity, equalization and GPS, simplifying installation and designing new form factors for ease-of-use, highly differentiates Novatel Wireless as a company that is tracking the evolving needs of users, OEMs and network operators, and mapping product innovation to those requirements, said Brad Weinert, acting CEO and COO of Novatel Wireless. We will continue to deliver innovative products to the market that support our operators and OEMs increasing requirements, while continuing to offer added value by developing software solutions that take our devices to a new level of functionality for the user.

The Merlin X950D ExpressCard is a next-generation global, tri-band HSUPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS wireless modem. The card can be used in both ExpressCard/34 and 54 slots as well as with Novatel Wireless adapters in PCMCIA and USB slots. Unique to the Merlin X950D, full 2.1 Mbps HSUPA and HSDPA 7.2 Mbps is now a reality. A firmware upgrade will be available to deliver the full 2.1 Mbps HSUPA performance. Mobile users, worldwide, can now enjoy full 3.5G capability in their wireless computing devices as well as utilize the GPS capability offered in the ExpressCard.

I am glad to see their R&D department works fine. It is a shame the Novatel Wireless support is not able to reply a simple question submited through their supports forms, with confirmation e-mail delivered to me.

Shame Vodafone had to use these guys, instead of going with Sierra Wireless, who announced full support for Windows Vista, including WHQL signed drivers ready for all current Sierra Wireless EV-DO cards.

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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