One of the best geek jokes I've seen...
Today we found out Telecom New Zealand settled in a misleading broadband advertising case. This paragraph caught my eye:
"Telecom has also agreed to pay $75,000 to Consumer New Zealand Inc to assist in the funding of a telecommunications Price Comparison Project which is intended to provide an internet-based tool for consumers to compare the prices of different telecommunications products."
Wow! $75,000 is a lot of money.
Telecom, may I suggest instead you hand this money (or a good chunk of it) to James (Geekzone manhinli, Twitter @manhinli) a student who single-handledly (ok, with the help of a few other Geekzone users I know) has created New Zealand connections, a website that is (using your own words, Telecom) an internet-based tool for consumers to compare the prices of different telecommunications products.
I suspect he would be more than happy with some of this money, plus perhaps some hosting in a good datacentre, and links from your main corporate site. He could even spend more time in improving the awesome New Zealand Broadband Plan Finder page with all this.
Telecom, do the right thing. Consumer New Zealand is good, but there's someone out there who would do much better. I know. And you would be giving a young developer well deserved recognition.
PS. I have the impression Consumer New Zealand won't like me after this post.
It's incredible but TelstraClear does it again. Looking at their status page I see this:
But right now many sites such as Bing.com and Xero.com (both distributed through Akamai), plus Amazon AWS and others are unreachable through TelstraClear's network. Why would that be? TelstraClear tells me everything is fine!
Wait a minute... Look at the events pages at Xtreme Networks and you can read:
"TelstraClear DoS Attacks
Date: 26 May 10 16:13 - 27 May 10 00:00
Affected services: Cable, CityLink, Wireless, DSL, Hosted, E-Mail
Over the last week TelstraClear has been the target of DoS attacks coming out of the Asia region which in turn, affects all TelstraClear international traffic. When we become aware that an attack has commenced we are dropping our TelstraClear international BGP advertisements which forces all international traffic (after BGP advertisement propagation) through our Telecom international circuit. TelstraClear are keeping us up to date regarding mitigating the effects."
Why is it so hard for TelstraClear to come clean and provide information to its customers?
It seems all my latest posts are about TelstraClear, New Zealand's second large ISP, previously voted "Best ISP" on Netguide People's Choice Web Awards (and asking for votes again, which I think will be difficult to win this year). But really TelstraClear seems to be making all the right moves to annoy its users. And I am one of them.
And TelstraClear is not a cheap ISP compared to others (I pay $149 a month plus the occasional excess use for their 80GB/month plan). Premium costs should provide premium service. And with that premium responsibility.
I have been with TelstraClear for more than ten years, way before it was TelstraClear. The cable service was called Saturn, and even before that it was Chello.
I always told everyone TesltraClear had the most reliable, consistently fast service in the country, but in the last nine months things are going downhill from where I see it.
I will try to look at some of the latest developments here, and it's going to be a longer post than usual (well, not when it comes to this topic).
First, there was their YouTube problem, which dragged for more than nine months, until they decided that yes, it was time to deploy a Google cache. I won't go into much details - read my previous posts on TelstraClear YouTube problem.
So now we have a Google cache deployed on TelstraClear. Things are looking a bit better but I am to be convinced they did provision an adequate sized cache. But that was a positive move.
It's a good move, and I believe they did well, seeing Google's policy seems to be to get as much free bandwidth as possible, by having large ISPs putting their caches, bringing content closer to consumers, but also guaranteeing Google an advantage in terms of content distribution at low cost.
This brings me to the next problem. For a few weeks now I have read lots of complaints about TelstraClear slow international traffic. I have experienced this myself. Every single day. It seems the YouTube problem was solved, but another one came to fill the vacuum created.
TelstraClear uses a transparent proxy. It means when we customers connect to a website we are actually connecting to their server, which in turn will cache the content to make it available later to other users requesting it again.
This works great, if the transparent proxy is actually transparent and doesn't show its ugly head to the users. Every now and them (it seems it's always in the morning) websites stop loading, or won't load completely. It always comes right after an hour or couple of hours. I wonder if the transparent proxy is being overloaded and something needs to be done there?
Then there's the international traffic in general. It looks like TelstraClear international pipe is being saturated. For example iTunes movie downloads that used to take 30 - 45 minutes to download now take 4 - 6 hours. Access to content hosted at Amazon services (such as Amazon AWS storage, used by many companies to distribute images for example) has been slow or simply not connecting at all. Twitter avatars for example.
TelstraClear doesn't "peer" in New Zealand with smaller ISPs. This means they don't exchange some of this traffic locally, with some of this local traffic on TelstraClear's network going overseas and then back into New Zealnd just to reach a server on another side of town.
Always wondered why using www.speedtest.net from Wellington and testing against the Wellington server gives you bad results? Because of this "international traffic". Look at these results (I am based in Wellington):
Try using one of the CityLink servers to download a Linux install file and see how slow that goes... And they are just around the corner (so to speak) from here!
Now, don't take my word, but that's what I think anyway - and I am not sure we will ever hear a confirmation from TelstraClear, but I think Google requires dedicated bandwidth for their cache. And TelstraClear forces a lot of "local" traffic over international links. It could be that international bandwidth has now some reserved bandwidth used by the new Google cache, without any additional bandwidth being provisioned for the existing use.
This comes also with a rumour I heard about TelstraClear having some problems with one of its providers of international traffic, Reach, which just happens to be a sister company, also owned by Australian telco Telstra.
TelstraClear promises to be deploying DOCSIS3 anytime now (which in TelstraClear terms means "in the next five years), but what good would it be for users, if the rest of the structure doesn't support higher speeds?
Remember this is for New Zealand domestic traffic only. Nielsen explains the methodology:
"The rankings do not show which websites have the actual highest traffic numbers (ie total number of unique browsers) of this demographic, but instead show which sites have the highest percentage of their traffic consisting of people who have purchased online from any website, for the month of April.
For example, techday.co.nz is the number one ranking because 55.4 percent of its unique browsers meet the demographic requirement, but their total number of matched unique browsers equals 6,025. geekzone.co.nz on the other hand, in third place, has 51.7 percent of its unique browsers that meet the demographic requirement but their total number of matched unique browsers equals 54,132."
For some public demographic information you can check our Geekzone information on Quantcast and select different countries from their list.
Media Center users in New Zealand are faced with an interesting situation: the Freeview|HD service (our free-to-air DVB-T digital TV broadcast in high definition) transmits an electronic guide in two formats: the one, more common EIT which is limited to only the current and next TV program and the new MHEG5 which presents the whole week, allowing series link, etc.
The problem with the MHEG5 for most media centre users is the lack of support for this standard in the current software releases. What most people have been doing until now was to grab a special XML file from one of many sources online and apply it to their media centre.
However most content publishers (TV channels, satellite and cable services) say the contents on that file could be subject to copyright, and Sky even issued a takedown notice affecting the most well known website in New Zealand distributing that content. Surely a strange move, because I would assume in their business they want the most eyeballs as possible...
Anyway, two developers (SJB and giggles) decided to start a project that seems to be a different take on this: instead of downloading a XML file from the Internet, you can run a program on your Windows PC that will automatically collect the electronic guide from the broadcast and simply reformat it for loading on your media centre software. There's no distribution involved, only a translation, and it's obvious the resulting file is for personal use only.
The program, EPG Collector, can be run as a scheduled task to create the XMLTV file, and you can then run any other software to load it into your media centre. I am for example using Big Screen EPG to load this into Windows 7 Media Center. It can create the XMLTV file from your DVB-S or DVB-T tuners and it's easy to configure.
EPG Collector is currently being tested by some users on Geekzone, and it's available for download now from SourceForge. There's an ongoing discussion about the project on Geekzone, and the plan is to make it an open source project once it's stable.
Also note that as of now (late April 2010), the developers are looking for some more testers. Currently most testers are using Freeview sources but the program should work with other EPG sources in New Zealand. Please join Geekzone and post in the discussion about the project.
Freeview broadcasts the full week guide on DVB-S and Media Center can grab this without any third party software. If you have a DVB-S and a DVB-T tuner on your media center you can easily map the channels and watch HD content, with the guide from the non-HD source. But some people don't have both DVB-T and DVB-S tuners. Or rather have a different solution. This is for you.
UPDATE: There's also a Linux project version now.
From Stuff today:
"The television commercials failed to adequately disclose that, by sending a text to answer the initial question, participants were entering into a premium SMS subscription service, where they would receive five text messages per month charged at $3 per message received,'' the commission said."
This is more evidence that people have been "subscribing" to things without really knowing they were entering into a contract. Mobile operators here were vocal in protesting their innocence before, saying people willingly subscribed to these "entertainment" services.
However it seems clear that some of these companies fail to disclose subscription charges. The same type of problem was reported before by Facebook users who didn't get enough information about being "subscribed" to a service when adding a new application to their profile in the social network site.
I've read and heard of cases where people purchased brand new prepay numbers, which already had ongoing "subscriptions", which should point to people leaving their numbers to be recycled by the operators, which would just pass the number on without proper "desinfection".
There are plenty of cases on Geekzone, but each and everyone were greeted with a "the user subscribed to the service". Which could be the case, but was it an informed decision?
Mobile operators also say they keep the service providers under control, and any breach of their terms of services means termination of contracts. But it's evident that this is continuing to happening. I can only guess people calling to complain about this kind of problem usually reach an overseas-based help desk that's measured on number of calls taken and greeted with a "I am sorry, nothing we can do, our systems are broken right now, we can't see your SMS, you have to contact the content provider directly, anything else we can do for you? Thank you for calling, goodbye."
I wonder how much of the calls going through help desks are actually monitored to capture real problems as they happen? I know for example that calling a fixed line broadband provider and asking "I am having a problem, my neighbour is having similar problem, do you know if there's a fault in this area?" usually gets a reply of "I don't know, we don't track this information", which is exactly the opposite of I would expect them to do.
Anyway, back to SMS subscription services... Some are the real thing, but scams abound. Be careful when you send a SMS to a number you see on TV. Those messages in font size 5 only flash for one second or two.