The event is organised by the Wireless and Broadband Forum New Zealand, and brings together the ICT industry, government entities and enterprise users on a single day with sessions, forums and a showcase of technologies.
During the day I had the opportunity to meet and greet people, introduce myself, introduce people I know to other people I know and create conditions for some businesses, plus lots of interesting talks with industry players.
Unlike previous years, this time the coffee cart wasn't sponsored by Vodafone New Zealand, but Willian Cass' aangel did a great service making sure everyone was full of caffeine.
The Telecom New Zealand stand was interesting, and I had a chance to play with their upcoming Telecom New Zealand Palm Treo 700wx, and compare it with my Vodafone Palm Treo 750v, both running Microsoft Windows Mobile OS. I noticed the CDMA version comes with a stub antenna, it uses a different grey coating (compared with the rubberised blue coat on the Treo 750v) and just a tad bigger buttons. I was promised one of these new handsets pretty soon for a review.
Nutshell's Ian Miller stopped by while I was comparing the Palm Treo models, and I ended up with one of their cases for these new models. Nutshell makes some very nice leather cases for PDAs and smartphones in general - but it's almost unknown here in New Zealand, even though he's based in Auckland.
I met Nick Robertshawe (Telecom d>zone), who arranged the Telecom sponsorship for our Geekzone 2006 event a few months back, and talked about the next event, what we're planning, etc. I also had a chance to introduce him to the guys at DayOut.co.nz, which has released one of the first .mobi domains in New Zealand, dayout.mobi.
I also had the chance to meet some Geekzone Forum visitors from within the Telecom ranks, but I can't say who is who, sorry.
Walking around I met Pat Kelly from APT, who showed me a couple of interesting devices - including an AnyData ADU-610WK HSDPA USB modem (which, unlike the vodem, can reach a maximum speed of 7.2 Mbps) and the Hantel WLL-HTT800F, a CDMA fixed line solution.
Steve Simms, from Tomizone was there, and I had a chance to explore a bit of this service. He was just back from the U.S. where Tomizone was being introduced. It basically allows users to share their broadband connection wirelessly, and charge for this. The router uses a special firmware, and the billing system is provided by Tomizone. You can have friends in a white list, who will be able to use the service for free, while everyone else will have access to the broadband connection for a fee. It sounds great if you live in a dense area and can put a wireless AP by the window, but it makes much more sense for someone who owns a food court or a cafe and don't have access to other brand services.
Mike Peachey from TradeQuotient showed me their mobile dispatch application, working on a browser and on compatible J2ME-enabled mobile phones. Tradespeople can receive service orders on their mobile, acknolwedge, start the clock and charge, all from the their handsets, with full support from the backend database. Very cool.
Leigh-Mardon had an interesting security application, the Cellular Authentication Token (CAT), enabling OTP (one time passwords) on mobile devices, including J2ME, Symbian and Windows Mobile clients.
For VoIP lovers, IT Net World was therem and James Baker showed me their Swix solution for hosted IP telephony based on Windows Server. The platform is vendor independent, and different licence types, for small/medium and large organisations. The whole thing integrates with the active directory and seemed very slick, including call handling, rerouting, voice-mail and many other PBX-like features.
Also there was Barry Williams, representing Renaissance and their products in New Zealand, including a new Asus Tablet PC, US Robotics Skype Phone, and a few other wireless products. It was through him that I found out that Palm is bringing the Treo 750v and Treo 700wx directly to the market with the operators (Vodafone New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand), with Renaissance disitrbuting the other Palm handhelds, and possibly in the near future the new Palm Treo 680.
I spent quite some time talking to InternetNZ's Communications and Research Officer, Richard Woods, who joined the organisation after having worked as a tech reporter for years. We discussed the current state of technology coverage in the MSM and blogs, and lots more. I ended up joining the Internet Society of New Zealand.
As I said before, Vodafone New Zealand wasn't there, but Dion Knill (Vodafone Head of Business Terminals) showed up to attend some sessions and we had a quick chat.
To complete the day, I got a ride back to the airport in the same cab as the InternetNZ crew, and scored an entry to the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, courtesy of David Farrar, whom I met for the first time, albeit briefly.
It was a very full on day (flying in and out the same day) but worth the visit.
This is the basics:
InternetNZ, the Internet Society of New Zealand is a non-profit, non-governmental society formed to support and encourage the coordinated and cooperative growth of the Internet in New Zealand. Its individual and organisational members share a vision of an open and accessible network that benefits the wider community. The membership works with a variety of technologies to foster the development of the Internet and related aspects of a maturing information society in New Zealand.
To promote easily available access to the Internet for New Zealanders including fibre to every home. To develop, maintain and disseminate standards for the Internet and its associated technologies and applications. To develop effective administrative processes for the operation of the Internet in New Zealand. To promote education and conduct research related to the Internet. To represent the common interests of the wider NZ Internet community. To support continued competitive provision of access to the Internet.
Let's see how this goes.
MIX is Microsoft’s premiere conference for web developers, designers and business professionals. MIX07 will explore the next generation web technologies that help businesses unlock new revenue opportunities and lower development costs. MIX is a forum for discussing ways to bring technologies such as ASP.NET AJAX (“Atlas”), Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E), Media Center Edition, Internet Explorer, and the Expression suite, together in a way that enables developers and designers to deliver rich web experiences that drive business results.
MIX will cost $1195 USD, but if you register before March 15th you will get a special discounted price of $995.
MIX07 will be held on 30 April - 2 May 2007. I missed it last year because it was just the week we were expecting our first baby. Let's see if I can make it this time.
http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ is a QR code generator, similar to Windows Live Barcode, and http://reader.kaywa.com is a QR code reader .
http://www.camreader.jp has some information on QR codes and a mobile application.
http://www.intelcom.ru/download/decode/QRCode.jar is a J2ME-based QR code reader for mobile phones.
http://www.quickmark.com.tw/English/download.html has a Pocket PC QR code reader - actually many, and all the ones I tried didn't work on my HTC Apache and Treo 750v.
I am still looking for a good Windows Mobile application.
In this podcast you will hear Microsoft New Zealand's Darryl Burling talking about web 2.0, ASP .Net Ajax, WPF and more. He also comments on the Geekzone coffee group I run here in Wellington, meeting at Astoria every Wednesday 1:30pm.
The QR code is a bi-dimensional bar code capable of storing up to 7089 characters. QR Code carries information both horizontally and vertically, capable of encoding the same amount of data of a standard bar code in approximately one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. It looks like this one:
An example of business application for this code, as shown in the demo, is having the business card information encoded and printed on the top of the card or on its back. Using a mobile application you can take a picture of this code, and automatically scan it for the information, adding to your contacts database.
Interesting that the demo shows a Windows Mobile application - but there's nowhere to download such a thing - yet. I would like to have one of those. And I would print QR codes on my business cards, for sure. How geek is that?
By the way, be the first to post below the correct contents of the QR Code in this page and I will have an Amazon gift voucher for you.
The speech team finally signed off on Vista, which means after exhaustive testing we don't know of any issues that stand in the way of our users productively using speech. Of course, we're one of many teams, so this doesn't mean Vista is ready to ship (yet) but we're extremely close. I'm running the latest bits on my Toshiba Tablet M200 and it sings: it's amazing what kind of things you can still do even on a relatively old (2 1/2 yr old) laptop. Besides speech recognition (of course) I have the new graphic drivers and the wonderful aero interface.
So this is good news. First that a piece is done. Second that even old hardware is supporting Windows Vista - well not so news after all. I too have a Toshiba M200 here and had Windows Vista running with Aero Glass UI. This is good to show to people thinking that Windows Vista will always require new hardware.
The only question really is, will manufacturers release new drivers for the old hardware we have around?
The Zune is a media player device with 30GB (gigabytes) of storage space, 3" colour display and with wireless networking capabilities. The Zune Website is now live, and you will find lots of information there.
With the device comes a new on-line music store, where you will be able to purchase your songs, with DRM of course.
But even with DRM, there's an interesting twist: using the wireless capabilities you can "beam" any music from your device to a friend's device. Create your own mini-community! Share your media! Let the media be free!
There are limits though: a friend can only play a shared song 3 times in 3 days, after which he must buy the song to continue using it. Fair enough.
And a fineprint caught my attention today: "Recipients cannot re-send music that they have received via the sharing feature." This can't be right. How can they expect a viral thing to happen if the "virus DNA" can only be transferred once?
Anyway, you can have your own content there too. the Zune software can import audio files in unprotected .WMA, MP3, AAC; photos in JPEG; and videos in .WMV, MPEG-4, H.264. So all is not lost, yet.
As usual, Microsoft (and other consumer electronics companies) started thinking of U.S. only. The Zune won't be available elsewhere for a while, and unlike Apple iTunes store, the Zune store does not seem to be available outside the U.S. for a while. Reports come in that Microsoft UK have no idea of who their music store partner is going to be, so things will be slow outside the North American market.
Also, MSN Music is closing doors this 14th November, being replaced by the Zune store:
Beginning November 14th, 2006, MSN Music will no longer offer music downloads through the MSN Music store. The "Buy" buttons that you are used to seeing on the MSN Music album and artist pages will change to links that connect you to Zune and Real Rhapsody. See below for information regarding how this change will impact your MSN Music account.
And the recently launched Urge (a partnership between Microsoft and MTV) doesn't seem to be getting any exposure either.
So, what happens with the Windows Mobile Portable Media Center (PMC) now? The supporting MSN Music store is gone. You will have to supply your own content or rely on third party suppliers. If they don't migrate to Zune as well.
Communities are being built around the new device. Check Zune Thoughts and the virtual Zune User Group for detailed content and discussions.
Still, would I consider a Zune? Hmmm. Yes. The geek in me is asking for one. To replace my aging PMC. Will it be a rival for the Apple ipod? Only time will tell.
Some of our Geekzone users around here tried the Vodafone vodem USB device to connect to Vodafone's HSDPA cellular data network with their Windows Vista tablet PC and laptops, and it simply didn't work.
Today I got an official reply from Vodafone New Zealand regarding this issue. The response is
The VMC software for Vista is being developed globally. I can’t give you an exact date for delivery, but it is in development. The upgrade will be available for download from www.vodafone.co.nz. You can register for software updates online.
Microsoft Windows Vista is very close. Consumers won't see it until 2007, but enteprise IT is already planning deployments. I know of at least two large deployment projects in New Zealand. Also Windows Vista will be available to MSDN subscribers seven days after the RTM. So it is possible the final version can be used by business customers and developers as early is the first week of December 2006.
So I guess this settles the question, at least on this software.
The thing was that all services required you to use a Web browser to access the information. But we all know there are more mobile phones in the world than computers. So why not use those devices? The missing element was "voice". Voice activated services, such as text-to-speech and speech recognition are the key to access unified messaging services.
My interest on this subject was mainly because of some of the projects the company I was working for, Unisys, had in progress. Those included voice messaging, unified voice messaging, voicexml etc. I even wrote a sms-to-landline service and our team was involved in deploying a flat menu-based voice mail service. Alas those are things that run on mainframe hardware.
A few years later, I am still curious about those things. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 now provides an unified messaging paradigm (I wrote about it here and here), but not all companies or small businesses run Microsoft Exchange Server.
Today I got a tip about an interesting service, called ifbyphone. I registered to the free trial using my SkypeIn number in San Francisco (you can register from anywhere, but some services seem to be only available in the U.S.) and gave it a work out.
Ok, the flash introduction is a bit cheesy. But you can go over that. The registration requires a 10 digit number, which must map to a U.S number (hence using my SkypeIn number instead of my New Zealand number) and it's painless. You will be automatically assigned an e-mail address within the @ifbyphone.com domain, with webmail access.
You can configure other external e-mail addresses with both POP3 and IMAP server types supported. The service allows you to call the access number and be automatically identified (if you don't block the Caller ID). After entering a PIN you have access to e-mail, headline news, weather alerts, reminders, notes, even RSS feeds you configure into your account.
You can press a menu option number on your keypad at any time, or simply say a command. Speech recognition is vey good, even with my funny accent.
An interesting feature is the e-mail keyword monitoring. You can setup the service to check your mailbox(es) and call your number if an e-mail arrives with any of the keywords. I tried this and it really works. Nice.
The service still needs a bit of polishing. Like some of the live menus play different voices (male and female). I'd like to have all a single voice style, perhaps being able to select via a menu to have one or another? Also all the menus are a bit confusing, but once you find your way around, it's ok.
Of course you can have some of these features if you use a Pocket PC and a program such a Fonix Voice Central. But then you are not using a simple mobile phone.
So there you go. It's what I was looking for, five years ago. Live now.