My window to the world


Come join the Cloudcamp 2010 in Auckland and Wellington

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2010 21:49

I will be attending the Cloudcamp Wellington (26 March 2010) and seeing there is a Cloudcamp Auckland (26 February 2010) I decided to post a reminder here for you guys.

These events are half-day unconferences about cloud computing, software as a services, and related topics.

Geekzoner Ben Kepes is organising the events (in Australia and New Zealand).

UPDATE: As noted in the comment, the Google Barcamp Wellington is happening on 25 March 2010.



People browse by search (or ReadWriteWeb faces the Facebook Login problem)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Feb-2010 22:55

For the last few years I have been telling people I meet that Internet users "browse by search". Basically some (a lot) of Internet users have a search website as their homepage and have no idea what the address bar in the browser does. These users fill the search field with a company name - or a URL even - and hit the first link in the search results.

What happens next is strange: people completely disregard any signs - logos, text - and treat that page as their final destination.

I know it, because every second week or so the last few years I have been receiving emails from people trying to sort their problems with either one of the big telcos in the country (Telecom New Zealand or Vodafone New Zealand). Those queries go from a simple address change, to account cancellation, some even with full credit card numbers asking to have their accounts paid with that card.

Every time I receive one of those I pass it on to the appropriate company, copying the sender.

People seem to completely ignore the www.geekzone.co.nz in the address bar when in fact they were looking for Telecom or Vodafone. They completely ignore there's no Telecom or Vodafone logo anywhere in our pages. They completely ignore common sense and provide personal information that I could use for other purposes if I wanted to be bad.

Today ReadWriteWeb (RWW), one of the top technology blogs around, found out about this "problem". They posted about a project to integrate Facebook friend into a user's AOL IM account and in a matter of hours they received a couple of hundred comments of people complaining about their Facebook login problems.

Never mind Facebook pages are blue and RWW is red. Never mind the address bar showed www.readwriteweb.com and not www.facebook.com.

It looks like RWW found out what "normal" people already know: the Internet is hard for users. Perhaps because RWW reports on technology that is sometimes way ahead of what average users actually consume, they seemed surprised by this discovery. One sentence from their post on this is the sum of all:

"Users dont't care about what you care about."

In other words, all those cool sites, mashups, technology glitter are great for the tech heads, but they are not what your average Internet users care about.

Think about this when creating your online service. Make it too cool or complicated and people won't use it. Make it simple and it might have a chance to stand out in the middle of all the other services that show up every single day.

UPDATE: Want to see other posts where people "don't get it"? Check "Skype Free Credit" for an idea.



Vodafone UK Twitter wasn’t hacked, just a disgruntled employee

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Feb-2010 10:20

In an interesting story, The Next Web is telling us about a slip in the Vodafone UK Twitter account. A Vodafone UK employee with access to the company's Twitter account posted "VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver". Screenshot on the right, since the tweet has since been deleted (obviously).

Since then someone behind the VodafoneUK account has repeatedly posted "We weren't hacked. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. We're very sorry"." in response to queries from its Twitter followers.

This reminds us all that the power given to employees that face the public are much bigger than before. It's easy to see someone snapped under pressure, or after a more "demanding" customer asked one too many questions. But still is not an excuse for public displays of "affection".

 

 



Telecom and Vodafone have we covered where kiwis work, live and play - your turn to sell it now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2010 16:05

Apparently advertising standards in New Zealand wouldn't allow a company saying anything bad about a competitor's service or product - even if it's true - so a TV ad like this one wouldn't be produced here:

It won't matter anyway, because in terms of coverage, both of our largest mobile operators claim to have us covered - almost completely.

For example, Telecom New Zealand has a XT mobile network that "covers 97% of the places Kiwis work, live and play."

Vodafone New Zealand also operates a rather large network, even though the blurb on their website is quite confusing: "Our 3G Broadband (HSDPA) network currently covers areas in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Whangarei, Whangamata, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Napier, Palmerston North, Nelson and Queenstown. If you're travelling outside 3G broadband areas, our 2G (GPRS) network will cover 97% of the places people live and work in New Zealand. Please note, however, that you will experience considerably slower speeds when connecting onto the GPRS network. We have 97% coverage of where people live, work and play in New Zealand."

I have asked Paul Brislen to clarify this, so the official short answer is "We have 3G coverage (including 3G Extend) to 97% of the population. We also have 2G coverage to 97% of the population." (actually his email provided a lot more information). So I'd say they have us covered too.

Now my question to you. If those two giants can't compete in coverage, then what features would you use as a selling point if you were in charge of the marketing for these companies? Post in the comments below (and yes, "We operate a reliable network" will probably appear in the replies).

UPDATE: At the risk. Even if you work for one the companies - or the other - your anonymous comments are welcome on this post. It's about fun and trying to find something worth in all the marketing blurb we are bombarded with.



There are more serious things than Bill Shock: modern telephone fraud

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Feb-2010 12:19

In the last couple of weeks we have seen a series of articles in our mainstream media about "bill shock". A "bill shock" happens when you travel overseas and get a surprisingly large bill on your mobile usage.

I do not have sympathy for people who claim "bill shock" because people know there are roaming charges involved when you travel. When you arrive in another country both Vodafone and Telecom send SMS warning users of different costs for voice and data connections. You signed a contract that says you have to pay for roaming costs.

I don't like the mobile data roaming costs as anyone else. I think our telcos simply make as much as they can - it's unbelievable a mobile operator in the U.S. can give their customers 5GB of mobile data for a fixed price, but charge visitors something that (adding up the margins) comes to $10/MB. The mobile data roaming prices are a joke.

But there's something else that local companies will have worry more and more with the adoption of VoIP solutions - the old telephone fraud.

Just to give you an idea, a company has a digital PBX. For some reason it's not completely secure and some crooks find it. These people then enter their own configuration in this digital PBX and create a "company" to sell cheap calls to China, Korea, South Africa. They sell some calling cards around and publish their "access number". Callers buy these cheap services, call the access number and after the dial tone enter the number they wish to call and get connected - all using the unsuspected company's digital PBX over their VoIP lines.

Companies may find this after a month or so, when the first bills come in. But by then they suffered under a constant stream of outbound calls and have to pay for it.

This is kind of tricks work with new digital PBX systems, but also with older ones. An unsecure route to an outside line, a non-secure voice mail access and things can be done, easily.

This is being discussed on Geekzone here, and shows an interesting series of questions:

  • Should the telco monitor your usage and contact you if patterns change (a la credit card companies?)
  • Should the telco be responsible for a misconfigured VoIP installation that their technicians are not involved with?
  • Should an insurance be required for telephony services now?
  • Should insurance companies charge less from companies using VoIP installed by certified technicians?
  • Should the telco "forgive" the bill and simply pay for the calls that are not their problem in first place?

What do you think?



Windows Mobile 6.5.3 in the wild: advances in User Interface

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Feb-2010 21:12

Microsoft has released a small update to Windows Mobile, its phone operating system. Windows Mobile 6.5.3 is a step ahead in the "facelift" of this smartphone platform, and the latest update brings the following new features:

  • Capacitive touchscreen support
  • Platform to enable multi-touch
  • Touch controls throughout system (no need for stylus)
  • Consistent Navigation
  • Horizontal scroll bar replaces tabs (think settings>system>about screen)
  • Magnifier brings touch support to legacy applications
  • Simplified out-of-box experience with fewer steps
  • Drag and drop icons on Start Screen

I am told the native browser performance has improved, with decrease in page load time,  better memory management, pan & flick gestures smoothed, and zoom & rotation speed increased.

The OS comes with updated runtime tools (.NET CF 3.5, SQL CE 3.1), and support for Arabic read/write document.

The update in itself is a small release but it should bring the venerable operating system closer to current consumer markets. The first handset with the new operating system is the Sony Ericsson Aspen, just announced.

Screenshots below - click for larger versions:

   



Google YouTube on TelstraClear: is this still affecting you?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2010 12:09

I have been using TelstraClear cable modem services for many years, in its many different "brands" - Chello, Saturn, TelstraClear - and really enjoy having a plan that provides me with consistently good speeds and reliability (but don't try calling their customer services line).

Digital media in all its different forms is now part of many families every day life. Here at home we are able to rent and buy movies from iTunes at any time and have those quickly delivered to our media center. We have two VoIP lines at home, being completely POTS free. We have 100GB+ of online backup stored at Mozy servers - including all those iTunes movies, music, family photos and short movies captured with our Flip video camera. We have six computers at home, and we work from home.

This is all possible because we subscribe to a TelstraClear 80GB cable modem plan with good download and upload speeds - and frequently go over the cap. I don't mind paying for the service when it provides me with the means to exercise my freedom - freedom of work, freedom of play.

A few years back, Dr Allan Freeth, TelstraClear CEO was quoted as saying "the main result of faster broadband links to the home may be more downloads of pornography and movies rather than improvements to productivity." This was also reported on Computerworld.

That statement made then InternetNZ Executive Director Keith Davidson jump with a release saying "Dr Freeth's view that true high-speed broadband available at home is not important for New Zealand's future is not a view we share. High speed broadband - 100mbps and more - is vital to New Zealand's future" .

So what? The Internet is for Porn (safe for work except for the word "porn"). But try watching this short movie on a TelstraClear connection - even a fast 10Mbps connection - and you might have problems. Actually since just before September last year people started reporting problems when accessing YouTube clips over a TelstraClear connection.

This problem is still going on, and while TelstraClear have very quietly admitted there's a problem, it seems the solution is not coming any time soon.

Could it be that politics of peering are involved in this? Peering is a very sensitive subject within TelstraClear. Dr Allan Freeth remarks were "Peering has become an extremely emotional issue, as noted in the recent Internet NZ report, which also noted there was no evidence of market failure. Our decision was a commercial one - we need to earn a return for the use of our assets. While some people believe the Internet is 'free', I can assure you my shareholder doesn't see it that way. Organisations that have content they want to supply to end users can buy a service from us, which is tied in with the cost of national carriage. This is still more cost effective than international bandwidth."

A lot of an ISP traffic goes to all of Google's properties. YouTube is probably the biggest one of those services and to help reduce traffic, Google does peer locally with larger ISPs. It basically comes to this: Google is clever and wants free (or low cost) distribution of its content. To this end they enter an agreement with larger ISPs and colocate cache boxes.

Of course if your ISP don't have one of these boxes then your traffic to Google's online properties needs to find the content somewhere else. In TelstraClear's case it seems this traffic goes all the way to the US and back.

There are local YouTube caches in New Zealand, with other ISPs. But the problem then is back to the peering camp. It seems TelstraClear rather have a lot of traffic going out over international connections than to have it flowing locally and pay for it to a competitor.

If this is not the case, I'd love to see an explanation from TelstraClear - something I feel they owe their customers. To me it comes down to YouTube access through TelstraClear is crippled and the way the company acts is disrespectful to their paying customers.



Microsoft Developer Survey - win a trip to the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (LAX)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2010 15:46

Microsoft will start pushing this promotion tomorrow (1st February), but it is already available so if you would like to be in to win an all paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference then read on:

"Microsoft would like to get to know NZ developers better so that we can better cater resources, training and events in the near future. We would like NZ developers to fill in a brief survey. Every completed response will go into a draw for a chance to win an all expense paid trip to the next Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. Terms and conditions apply."

The T&C and survey are here.



Learn about Open Source at LCA 2010 Open Day

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Jan-2010 13:02

On Saturday 23rd January the LCA 2010 will open its doors to the public for LCA 2010 Open Day. Part of the week of linux.conf.au, which is happening 18-23 January 2010 (and despite the name this year is based in Wellington, New Zealand), the Open Day will be an opportunity for the general public to learn about free and open source software in a very hands on fashion.
There will be 30+ exhibitors from business, education and community groups demoing some of the software they have written, along with a number of other activities including:
- Activities for kids with the One Laptop per Child laptops in the Little Blu Kids Area
- Demonstrations from the Wellington makerspace group
- 2 New Zealand Electric Cars run with open source software
- 3 sessions about free and open source software
        "Open Source for Newbies" - Cat Allman & Leslie Hawthorn (Google Open Source Office)
        "50 ways to love your project" - Josh Berkus & Selena Deckelmann
        "Geek my car" - Jon Oxer
- And more
Check the PDF poster for this event for more information.
Registration for linux.conf.au is still continuing and the organisers expect 600 delegates for the main conference alone (with a split of 40% New Zealand, 40% Australia, and 20% from the Rest of the World).



Prizes for Geekzone Freeview Pizza evenings 2010 rolling in...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2010 12:12

I have just sent out an email to our users in New Zealand inviting them to register for our Geekzone Freeview Pizza evenings 2010 - Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch.

This year events are sponsored by Freeview and Telecom New Zealand. Other sponsors are participating with prizes - full list after the pictures of the swag I am holding here for you...



Mobile handsets, USB modems and SIM cards - courtesy of Telecom New Zealand (four handsets, two USB modems) and Sony Ericsson (three handsets).



Freeview|HD DTR (Digital TV Recorder) and three digital satellite receivers, courtesy of DTVS.



Three EVA2000 courtesy of NETGEAR.



Polycom Communicator courtesy of Asnet Technology.

And here is the complete list (so far):

- 2degreesmobile (three $200 SIM + three $150 SIM or topup if existing customer)
- Air New Zealand (three tickets, one for each event)
- Altaro (21 licenses for Oops!Backup for Windows)
- Asnet Technology (three Polycom Communicator)
- BigHammer (three Kingston 16GB USB DataTraveller)
- Data centre limited (3x 1U colocation plus unlimited bandwidth for one year - you must register your interest at www.datacentre.co.nz before the meeting, drinks AKL)
- DTV Solutions (Homecast HT9200DTR WLG, three DTVS-1B satellite receivers)
- Microsoft New Zealand (three Windows 7 Ultimate retail)
- NETGEAR (three EVA2000 )
- Nutshell Leather Cases (one leather case matching each of the Telecom handsets below)
- NZ Internet Shop (Aeropress coffee maker WLG)
- NZS.com (online advertising packages)
- Quay Corporate (24" LCD WLG)
- sniff (drinks AKL/CHC/WLG)
- Sony (three NWZA840 walkman)
- Sony Ericsson (three W705 mobile phones, suitable for XT network)
- Stickemen Studios (concept art for King Fu Funk, Doc Clock, Dragon Master Spell Caster and Shadow Rising videogames)
- Symantec (six copies of Norton Antivirus)
- Telecom New Zealand (two sierra wireless 885u USB mobile broadband modem, two Samsung Ultra Touch S8300T, one Sony Ericsson W995 and one Sony Ericsson W705)

Note that to be in to win the colocation hosting and free bandwidth from Data centre limited you must be register your interest on their site and be present in each evening.

Please consider visiting these sponsors sites to show our appreciation!




freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also 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 freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. 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.

If you'd like to help me keep Geekzone going, please use this Geekzone Amazon affiliate link when placing any orders on Amazon.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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