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Foo Camp Day 2 and Day 3

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2007 09:43

I am back at the base, after an uneventful trip back home from Warkworth to Auckland by road, then flying down to Wellington.

The weekend was great, in terms of content, company and weather. Perfect for Kiwi Foo Camp (Baa Camp as we are calling it). Couldn't be better.

Sessions for Day 2 started at 10am. Of course, because the night before we had dinner, drinks, games and a light show brought by a couple of guys who hacked some bodysuits with LEDs and other lights, dancing in the middle of the field in the darkness of the night. Awesome stuff. Check the Foo Camp pictures on Flickr through the links in this post.

The first session I attended was "Open Source and consumer software", led by Ben Goodger (Google) and Asa Dotzler (Mozilla). Interesting take on developing software aimed at end users, interactions with developer and other bits.

I missed the Mozilla 3.0 session, but I heard all about it later from Juha. New features in Mozilla 3 will allow developers to create "disconnected" web applications that will work even when no Internet connectivity is available, by caching data required to process user's requests. Think of this feature used with Google Mail and Google Calendar for example and you can imagine what can be done.

Russell Brown, David Slack, Mark Cubey had a very interesting take on "Stories are the new data" and preserving our national knowledge, that non-copyrighted content (almost) everyone has in their heads, in the garden shed, in the back of the garage. Russell's comments on how Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand (government sponsored, experts only) compares with the people's Wikipedia and why Te Ara doesn't seem so important in the context of preserving digital culture, timely information and more. Good stuff Judith Tizard (New Zealand Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister with Auckland Issues, Minister of Consumer Affairs) was there. She actually attended both Day 2 and Day 3 of Foo Camp.

Tomizone's Steve Simms conducted a session on Wi-Fi and broadband sharing, with an appearance by Stan Swann, the guy who created the poor man's cookware wi-fi enhancer. Believe it or not, with a $10 frypan or wok you can increase the range of a USB Wi-Fi adapter to up to 3KM with line of sight. That's incredible and has been used in poor nations and some other areas to increase Internet penetration.

The session with New Zealand entrepreneur (and one of Kiwi Foo sponsors) Rod Drury gave us a peek into his latest venture. It's an accounting package that will take MYOB out of the business. But not a simple accounting package, but a Web 2.0 software as a service approach. His team designed a sleek web interface for one of the (in my opinion) most boring tasks any company will have. is going live soon.

And what about "Fucking big websites"? This was the session lead by Arthur Bergmann, Operations Architect at Six Apart, of Typepad and LiveJournal fame. We learned about memcache, perlbal, gearman, dataqueue, mogilefs and more. We also found out that there are about 2,000,000 Typepad users and at any given instant there are about 500,000 people reading LiveJournal, with 100,00 to 200,000 http connections live. Also got some interesting tidbits like Facebook using memcache and dipping between 20,000 to 25,000 times to the cache system for data lookups.

Apparently they have a mix of MySQL 4 and MySQL 5 databases in the system, just "because it's a pain to upgrade", and they use "whatever works".

Chris DiBona ran a session on the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) program. Good stuff, and interesting to see the programme going ahead. Slowly but getting there.

Web statistics firm Hitwise was there and Luke Welling presented a session called "Lies, damn lies and flamebait". The most impressive sequence of charts was a comparison of Digg and Slashdot, showing that in October 2006 Digg crossed the big geek site and shot up in traffic. But then he changed the charts and showed how these two websites are still just a blip when compared to for example. What an eye opener...

The funniest thing in his session was the discussion about the demographics segmentation called "PRIZM". What was funny about it? Well, the segment who most visits is called "Shotguns and pickups". We all guessed was something to do with Wal-Mart not having DVDs for all their usual shoppers...

The "flamebait" in the session was a traffic comparison between all flavours of Linux (Redhat, Devian, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Suse) and databases. Very interesting material.

Even after a couple of suggestions directly from a Microsoft employee I still couldn't connect my laptop to the wireless LAN. Something to do with the drivers in use. Funnily enough, when I got back home there was a driver update available, and I bet this would have solved my problem. Damn.

A most interesting weekend, and I would do it again. I know Foo Camps are by invitation only, and I feel honoured to have been invited to the first one ever done in New Zealand, so here's hoping something happens again next year. Well done Nat. Thanks for that!

Kiwi Foo Camp (Baa Camp) Flickr Set

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2007 00:02

I am back home after the very successful Kiwi Foo Camp (Baa Camp). Now that I have Internet access again I will post Day 2 and Day 3 impressions later, but for now I have just finished uploading my pictures to Flickr, so click through to check my Kiwi Foo set.

Search on Flickr for the Kiwi Foo tag or for Baa Camp tag for more pictures.

Foo Camp Day 1

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Feb-2007 10:19

What a first day... Got a ride with Juha from the Auckland airport to Warkworth where the Foo Camp is being held, and arrived here to a huge meeting of people from all over the world, representing all sorts of tech knowledge and orientations. Our first official session after dinner was with David Cunliffe, Communications Minister. Really good stuff and full of interesting information.

After this we had a crazy experience with a light show and a four way stereo sound installation, with four cars blasting out the music (yes, it was in the car park).

The Foo Camp is very unstructured with participants creating their own sessions and people can join anything they want. The Open Source movement is heavily represented here, from big names (Mozilla, Google) through less known but but not less interesting companies from Europe, U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

My Internet connectivity here is absolutely bad. I am on plan D already, and it goes like this: my Windows Vista laptop refuses to connect to any of the three wireless networks available (not that they are fast anyway, but it would be good). I don't know why, probably a compatibility problem with the Access Points? I see a lot of people using Mac laptops here, and even the odd Windows XP will connect. Am I the only one disconnected? Shall I buy a Mac laptop next?

I then tried Vodafone 3G. No go. We all know Vodafone coverage outside Wellington, Auckland and other main centres is absolutely appalling. You are lucky to get two bars on GPRS here.

Next I tried Telecom EVDO. Good signal reception but Telecom New Zealand in all their wisdom made a point of crippling the Treo 700wx Bluetooth and there's no Bluetooth DUN (dial up networking) on this device anymore, so it is useless. The Apache wasn't much better either with its Bluetooth DUN freezing every fiftee minutes, as we all know (but Telecom denies the problem).

So I am posting this on GPRS, and that's all I will do. It's impossible to read e-mails or even browse RSS feeds.

This is going to be an unconnected weekend, I see.

Baa Camp - New Zealand's own Foo Camp

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Feb-2007 09:09

In a couple of hours I am off to Auckland, where I will join others for the Baa Camp, our own Foo Camp, organised by Nat Torkington.

The list of institutions being represented include Google, Mozilla, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others (one hundred and something people will be attending).

It will be a fun weekend, lots to learn and share...

More when back.

Windows Vista Video Competition

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2007 23:11

We here at Geekzone and Microsoft New Zealand are running a "Windows Vista Video Competition". It's easy to enter, and it's fun - because you have to create a video spot about using Windows Vista and upload to Soapbox or YouTube.

If you need an invitation to use Soapbox on MSN to upload your video for this competition, you can follow the instructions in the competition page and we will forward you an invite.

The prizes are really cool, and include Microsoft Zune media players and copies of Windows Vista Ultimate.

Go ahead, start creating your movies and "wow" everyone.

Windows Mobile Device Center: frustrating

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2007 22:24

I have been using Windows Mobile devices for years, and with all the problems I see people reporting, I never had problems with ActiveSync and Windows XP. Not even over Bluetooth - I always had all my devices synchronising reliably over Bluetooth.

I have now installed Windows Mobile Device Center on my Windows Vista laptop. How frustrating.

USB connection is very unreliable. My i-mate Jasjar connects, but neither the Palm Treo 750v or Palm Treo 700wx will connect, instead showing an error - and no message on why the error, no event log entry, nothing.

Next I tried ActiveSync over Bluetooth. Forget it. It took me three to six attempts on each Pocket PC to manage to pair the devices with my laptop. And I did not achieve ActiveSync over Bluetooth for any of my devices. Incredible because WMDC has an explicit option to allow sync over Bluetooth, actually removing the requirement for a COM port to be defined.

What a piece of software this one. Not good.

Windows Mobile Device Center for Windows Vista final available

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2007 20:52

At last the Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) is out of beta, and available for download now:

Mobile Device Center x86

Mobile Device Center x64

Found through Josh's Windows Weblog.

Loki and the Vanishing Point Game

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2007 09:03

If you have been following the Vanishing Point game and answered all the puzzles you should have received an e-mail just minutes ago. If it is stuck on your Junk Mail folder, here it's for you then:

Congratulations on a game well played, and thank you for helping us disappear.

You were not the first to guess our identity, but because you played our game, we want to tell you our secret.

There is no such person as Loki - or rather, she is four sisters who decided to be one extraordinary person. 

Each of us has a unique talent:

Lorelei is our tinkerer.  Clocks and counting, space and time:  she is our genius. 

Odessa is our performer, our actress and magician, the girl we send in to dazzle and charm.  Odessa goes to meetings:  Loki gets promoted.  It's very convenient. 

Kara is our reader.  With a love of history and a photographic memory, she gives us access to any fact, figure, or event at a moment's notice.

Ivy is our spy.  She's the girl you dont notice, the face you don't remember, and vanishing is what she does best.  Ivy has gotten us out of more than one impossible situation.

Together, we have presented L.O.K.I. to the world.  Our mask and super-hero, LOKI has allowed us each to be bigger than ourselves.

When we heard Microsoft and AMD were looking to give extraordinary prizes to exceptional people, we knew LOKI could never find a more perfect job.  This, Odessa said, would be a trick we could never top.  O, how we wanted this job!  (And what clever, unfair, underhanded things we did to the other applicants to make sure we got it!  But that's another story.)  And once we got the job, we all agreed that Loki's greatest triumph would be her last.

We created the Vanishing Point to reward the smartest minds (and communities) on the planet - and still we underestimated you.  We used our smarts and our guile, not to mention money and connections and countless hours of time - and still you humbled us.  We knew the terrain and barely gave you a mapand that didn't stop you.  We built puzzles that should have taken you days and you solved them in hours. 

"Loki" is a genius:  but you were far more brilliant.  You were thought made fire.  You were lightning.

Thank you for your work, your talent, and your dedication.  It has been a privilege to witness:  an honor and a delight.

For each of us to live, Loki had to die.  Thank you, thank you beyond words for taking her to the Vanishing Point.


And the massive on-line and real life game is now finished. For each puzzle you solved some more points were added to your account, and the organisers will soon draw some prizes, including a trip to the edge of space, plus PCs and software. Good luck in the draw.

You can find much more information in the Vanishing Point Wiki.

Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo: not so turbo anymore

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2007 20:15

Last December my Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo 1TB drive died. It died on 26 December, so I was very surprised when I contacted the local retailer on 27 December and actually had a replacement unit here on the 28 December. Pretty decent service from Ascent, as usual.

No so fast on the "turbo" front though. I am not sure what's going on here, but the replacement drive is not as fast. I tried RAID 0 (as before) and RAID 1 and there's no way to copy files to this unit at high speed. A single 30GB file (a virtual HDD) is going to this Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo at about 4MB/sec and it will take hours to copy from the internal HDD to the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo.
For comparison I have a second external Hitach 60GB HDD and it will receive the same file at speed of up to 30MB/sec. And using the same USB 2.0 port - yes I tested this to make sure it wasn't a port specific problem.

So what could be the problem? I mean, the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo comes with 16MB cache, 7200RPM, and the option for OS cache is enabled on that drive. What else could be crippling this drive? A bad USB interface? I doubt, because I tried on firewire and it didn't work any better. Actually I tried this drive in three different PCs and it performed badly with all machines.

A pain, because the previous drive used to copy the same 30GB file in about 16 minutes instead of the 2 hours of this new one.

The only thing I can see different is that the old drive was an Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo, while the new one is a Maxtor OneTouch IIIs Turbo. No one knows the difference and there's no mention of this model.

I am going to ask Ascent for a second replacement and see if this is possible.

Cleaning up the RSS feed aggregator: removing some non-interesting RSS feeds

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2007 10:15

Today I removed one RSS feed from my aggregator. Scoble is gone. I followed during the weekend his posts on how he created a (paid) video about Intel's plant and how mad he was after other blogs failed to link to his work.

Well, there you go... Newfound truth: not everyone will link to everything you write. EVen though you think it's a great piece of work.

I am not surprised though, I should have removed the feed much longer ago. Back when Microsoft/AMD gave laptops to bloggers, community sites and MVPs. At that time all was quiet but a voice raised the alarm: "That's my idea of payperpost". I was affected by that post, as many other bloggers.

So there you go. Reality is hard, but you can't point fingers at others without expecting people to point fingers back. Got paid by Intel (or Podtech, as Scoble says) and didn't get the expected links? Too bad, need to find the next best story.

Great summaries for the whole story, from Valleywag:

Robert Scoble: shillling for Intel
Silicon Valley Users Guide: Lessons from the Scobleizer

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.

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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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