My window to the world


The Telecom XT network outage (14 Dec 2009 updated)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Dec-2009 14:45

I won't go into the gory details of today's XT network outage. There's enough "experts" around - and a lot of them seem to gather on this Geekzone discussion.

But here is just some background information you ought to know regarding the Telecom XT network.

There are two RNCs in the XT network. One in Auckland and one in Christchurch. These are Tier 0 sites - Tier 0 sites have the highest levels of availability (power, connectivity etc) and the strictest change control procedures.

A network of similar size to Telecom XT could quite easily have been built with one RNC but two RNC provide added resiliency into the network. A single event would not affect all customers.

And that's what happened.

A RNC is a platform made of multiple redundant components. You can imagine that a total RNC failure means quite a serious issue. It appears the issue cascaded to affect the way cell sites restart which is what happened during the day. It was the establishment of communications to each cell site turn took its time and delayed recovery for the part of New Zealand affected - those living south of Taupo it seems.

I am told this issue is being "analysed" at the highest levels of both Telecom New Zealand and Alcatel-Lucent, the technology provider.

There's only one thing I want to tell you:

blog85d0656287d8dabc09b7f13a70104ce2[1]

(For those of you who don't get it.)



Smartphone and mobile data survey: Victoria University needs your help

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Dec-2009 09:06

I was contacted by a professor who is looking for help with getting 300 answers (or more) for a Victoria University of Wellington survey on smartphones and mobile data usage - respondents will be in to win $200.

This is a Victoria University of Wellington research project on the use of mobile information systems in the workplace.

If you are currently using a mobile device enabled with data capability (e.g. mobile email, mobile Internet, mobile business applications etc) for work purposes, then we invite you to complete a survey questionnaire. It should take you approximately 12 minutes to complete the survey, which is anonymous and will be available until the 25th of December 2009.

By completing the questionnaire you will be entered in draw to win a prize of $200.  Please use the following link to access the survey:

http://vuw.qualtrics.com/SE?SID=SV_cBko9uZySNCz9Zi&SVID=Prod

Your participation is important and will help to improve the understanding of the adoption and use of mobile technology.  Should you require any further information about this project, please contact Eusebio Scornavacca at (04) 463 6697 or email eusebio.scornavacca@vuw.ac.nz  or Professor Sid Huff at (04) 463-5819 or email sid.huff@vuw.ac.nz.



Can Google really hack it in business?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Dec-2009 10:56

A couple of months ago I tried Google Apps Premiere, and found a series of problems mainly synchronisation to mobile devices.

I posted about those problems and was contact by a Google product manager who offered to monitor my account to try and find out why those problems happened. Nothing came out of it so I decided to move my account to Microsoft BPOS.

Bob Scheier conducted an email interview for Inforworkd and I explained why/how. The article was then syndicated and wound up on PC World, NetworldWorldComputerworld US,  and obviously Computerworld NZ.

One of the things I complained was that even though I was a paying customer, wait for email support reply was more than 48 hours and here is the comment from someone else:

"There's no one to really call if you're having a problem," says Greg Arnette, who as CTO of email archiving vendor Sonian is both a Google Apps user and a competitor to Google's Postini service. While phone support is included in Google Apps Premier Edition, "They do everything they can to direct you to the online forums," he says.

And their online forums don't seem to be really monitored by their support people... This is the paragraph from my interview:

New Zealander Mauricio Freitas, a blogger at the tech publishing site Geekzone, abandoned Google Apps for Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite after it took Google 48 hours to contact him about problems with Google Sync for Mobile.

And here is the quote from a Google PR person (probably in the UK):

Google says it steers customers to its online support when the company believes that will provide a faster and better answer. It also says the 24/7 phone support it offers in its paid version is aimed at administrators, and that it relies on resellers to provide phone support for users and to help companies with especially large or complex challenges using Google apps.

But isn't the whole idea of having priority access (including a PIN you must use to authenticate yourself to get the support request looked upon) to skip the forums where there is no Google presence?

Resellers can do some good phone support, but they probably won't do free work. And the fee paid to Google is not for reseller phone support - in other words no, thanks I don't want to pay for support I already paid for.

And finally, the problem I was experiencing was at the service level, nothing to do with using the service configurations. It wasn't something a reseller could fix for me, but something that required Google developers to look at. Which they didn't.

Disclosure: I still have Google Apps (the free version) for some personal domains. I am a keen user of Google Ad Manager, Google AdSense, and Google RelatedLinks. I am very happy with those other applications and Geekzone has been used as study case for Google AdSense, and as an example for Google RelatedLinks. So don't take this piece as a "I hate Google" post. It's a critical view of some parts of their services that just don't work as they should.



Why bother with Google DNS (or any other third party DNS resolver)?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Dec-2009 18:07

The web is hot with news of a new, free DNS resolver service powered by Google. A DNS resolver will answer requests from your computer or router and translate names (such as www.geekzone.co.nz) into IP addresses such as 210.48.73.74 - the actual address servers are known by on the Internet.

This is not the first third party DNS resolver server around - other well known services include OpenDNS and DynDNS Internet Guide. These services already offer more feature than Google's free resolver - including automatic blocking of known malware sites, adult sites, custom configuration based on account and your network.

Most users will probably be interested in getting quicker replies to their DNS requests - after all a webpage may contain many invidual items and each will require access to a server, so ultimately just loading a single webpage may require many DNS requests. Obviously this applies to first visits to a domain - most OS or routers will cache DNS responses locally.

But are these third party DNS resolvers faster? I used the DNS Benchmark program to test my ISP's own DNS resolver (TelstraClear), an alternative TelstraClear DNS resolver (old Paradise servers), Telecom DNS resolver, WorldxChange DNS resolver, OpenDNS, DynDNS and Google DNS.

The results, from a New Zealand perspective, are below. As you can see Google DNS is certainly not the fastest of the bunch. Actually both Google DNS resolvers are slower than everything else, except for one of the DynDNS servers (the other DynDNS server is actually faster than Google's).

Another important thing to consider when using a third party DNS is how well your ISP work with services that use a CDN (Content Distribution Network). A CDN uses geographically distributed servers to bring content closer to users. This means when you access content from microsoft.com you might be accessing a server in Singapore, while people in London will access the same content from a server in Europe.

For this to work the DNS resolver will give your computer the DNS to the closest location. When you use a third party DNS resolver, one sitting in the U.S. for example, you will get the wrong "closest" location. On TelstraClear for example this will cause problems with their stateful firewall. Your computer will request some elements from Facebook for example targeting a server in the U.S. but the response comes from a server in Singapore. At this moment their firewall will block the connection - and your browser will be there waiting forever (or for a very long time).

So it's not always great to use a third party DNS resolver - unless you know exactly why and how.

image

  Final benchmark results, sorted by nameserver performance:
(average cached name retrieval speed, fastest to slowest)

  203. 96.152. 12 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.010 | 0.012 | 0.020 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.154 | 0.198 | 0.325 | 0.043 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.156 | 0.226 | 0.334 | 0.062 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                 kirsty.paradise.net.nz
                    TelstraClear Ltd

  203. 96.152.  4 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.010 | 0.013 | 0.017 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.151 | 0.197 | 0.328 | 0.042 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.151 | 0.261 | 0.338 | 0.066 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                 rachel.paradise.net.nz
                    TelstraClear Ltd

   58. 28.  6.  2 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.019 | 0.021 | 0.025 | 0.001 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.019 | 0.021 | 0.026 | 0.001 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.019 | 0.022 | 0.027 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                      ns2.wxnz.net
               WorldxChange Communications

  203. 97. 78. 43 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  + Cached Name   | 0.019 | 0.021 | 0.025 | 0.001 | 100.0 |
  + Uncached Name | 0.147 | 0.188 | 0.302 | 0.032 | 100.0 |
  + DotCom Lookup | 0.150 | 0.257 | 0.332 | 0.069 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                  ns1.acld.clix.net.nz
                    TelstraClear Ltd

  203. 97. 78. 44 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  + Cached Name   | 0.019 | 0.022 | 0.028 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  + Uncached Name | 0.148 | 0.191 | 0.319 | 0.040 | 100.0 |
  + DotCom Lookup | 0.148 | 0.230 | 0.338 | 0.061 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                  ns2.acld.clix.net.nz
                    TelstraClear Ltd

  202. 27.158. 40 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.019 | 0.022 | 0.028 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.153 | 0.209 | 0.332 | 0.046 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.147 | 0.168 | 0.208 | 0.019 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                    dnsc1.xtra.co.nz
                    Telecom Xtra ISP.

  202. 27.156. 72 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.018 | 0.026 | 0.186 | 0.024 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.150 | 0.209 | 0.327 | 0.045 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.146 | 0.172 | 0.209 | 0.021 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                    dnsc2.xtra.co.nz
                    Telecom Xtra ISP.

  216.146. 35. 35 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.146 | 0.149 | 0.154 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.150 | 0.210 | 0.322 | 0.056 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.151 | 0.225 | 0.312 | 0.055 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
            resolver1.dyndnsinternetguide.com
                Dynamic Network Services

  208. 67.222.222 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.146 | 0.149 | 0.157 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.148 | 0.212 | 0.345 | 0.057 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.150 | 0.267 | 0.336 | 0.056 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                  resolver1.opendns.com
                      OpenDNS, LLC

  208. 67.220.220 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.146 | 0.149 | 0.158 | 0.003 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.148 | 0.230 | 0.588 | 0.091 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.149 | 0.248 | 0.321 | 0.060 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                  resolver2.opendns.com
                      OpenDNS, LLC

    8.  8.  8.  8 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.177 | 0.192 | 0.477 | 0.046 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.181 | 0.245 | 0.485 | 0.074 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.192 | 0.297 | 0.386 | 0.066 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
             google-public-dns-a.google.com
                 Level 3 Communications

    8.  8.  4.  4 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.177 | 0.198 | 0.399 | 0.053 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.182 | 0.259 | 0.485 | 0.079 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.193 | 0.301 | 0.402 | 0.068 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
             google-public-dns-b.google.com
                 Level 3 Communications

  216.146. 36. 36 |  Min  |  Avg  |  Max  |Std.Dev|Reliab%|
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  - Cached Name   | 0.212 | 0.214 | 0.219 | 0.002 | 100.0 |
  - Uncached Name | 0.214 | 0.282 | 0.492 | 0.062 | 100.0 |
  - DotCom Lookup | 0.231 | 0.277 | 0.335 | 0.034 | 100.0 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
            resolver2.dyndnsinternetguide.com
                Dynamic Network Services

   58. 28.  4.  2 | The DNS server at this IP address is
  actively refusing to answer queries made by this client.
  It should not be used for normal client-based resolution.
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
                      ns1.wxnz.net
               WorldxChange Communications

  UTC: 2009-12-05, from 04:51:33 to 04:52:26, for 00:52.613



Introducing Geekzone Freeview Pizza Evenings 2010

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Dec-2009 13:27

I have posted in our forums dates and details for the Geekzone Freeview Pizza Evenings 2010. As you suspect by the name Freeview is our main sponsor for the event - but we have other companies providing drinks and spot prizes.

The most important thing to note this time is that we want to make sure Geekzone users have access to the event, so we decided to do the following:

- Sometime in January 2010 we will open registrations.
- People who replied in the forum discussion (or watched that topic) will be contacted via email and allowed to register first.
- After 48 hours we will open registrations to all other users who registered on Geekzone before 1st January 2010 and had at least two posts.
- After 72 hours we will open registrations to all other users who registered on Geekzone after 1st January 2010 (up to a maximum of 15 tickets).

I will keep updating the forum discussion with all sponsors - there are some very good ones coming on board this year.

I am not allowing comments in this blog post otherwise people will comment here instead of replying in the forums (yes, I know you wouldn't but someone else might).



Add to the Story: a Christmas Tale...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Dec-2009 14:41

Just received an email telling me about an interesting way of getting people to create a magical story about Christmas... The Add to the Story promotion sounds like fun: people can call a number Vodafone is making available for a very limited time, listen to the last sentence left from the previous caller and add to it.

You can call 250 (free from Vodafone mobile) or 0800 777 028 tomorrow 4th December from 9am through 6pm to participate. Prize winners will be notified instantly.

Vodafone will then make an animated video of the lines and will post it on YouTube. And there are prizes too: iPhones, HTC Magic, travel vouchers, movie passes and a $10,000 Air New Zealand travel.



Telecom New Zealand Christmas Tree in Wellington 2009

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Dec-2009 10:44

Last night I had the chance to share some drinks with a few friends (courtesy of Telecom New Zealand) before going to the Frank Kitts Park to see the opening ceremony of their Christmas Tree in Wellington. Here is the clip with all the kids in the park "helping" Santa start the lights.



From now until Christmas people can visit the tree. You can also donate gifts to Women's Refuge - there's a special box there to receive donations.

You can also interact with trees (Wellington and Auckland): visit www.telecomtree.co.nz to have some creating your own light show and then upload it to view the results on the real tree later.



What copyright really means in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Nov-2009 17:49

The "© kiwiright" documentary explains the meaning of copyright laws in New Zealand (and the world) and is a great introduction to the current copyright debate going on in New Zealand. Juha Saarinen talks to us about the current state of copyright in New Zealand. For more information visit the Creative Freedom Foundation.



The Internet: bad and good according to Jeff Jarvis

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Nov-2009 09:17

Companies are still afraid of jumping on the Internet. People are terrorised their products and services will have bad reviews, or their position won't be heard.

Fear nothing... Watch this video on how to win arguments about the Internet, by Jeff Jarvis:



Migrated to Microsoft Online Services at the end

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Nov-2009 15:48

It was like a dream: I've decided that running an email server was not part of my business, and it was time to move this function out of my infrastructure into a hosted solution.

I won't get into the fine calculations behind this decision (involving my time managing servers, cost of backups, server hardware, hard disk space, etc, etc.) since you can probably find a lot of experts (real ones and self-proclaimed ones) around to explain why it makes sense.

The contenders on the first round were Google Apps Premiere (because I wanted Google Apps Sync for Outlook to keep using Microsoft Outlook) and Microsoft Online Services.

I thought of Google Apps Premiere because it comes from a company that shows innovation in the way it thinks about software - plus a lot of people recommended it. And I thought of Microsoft because it provides a natural path if you are coming from Exchange servers and want to keep the functionality.

Google Apps Money talks, and because of costs I decided back then to go with Google Apps Premiere, which is licensed at US$50/seat per year (note there's a free version as well). Microsoft was a bit more expensive but since then they have announced a price drop for all online services, including those delivered in New Zealand.

Moving my mail service worked ok. But I found a series of problems with Google Apps Premiere synchronization to mobile devices.

After that blog post I was contacted by a Google Sync product manager who asked if it was ok to monitor my mailbox to try and find the root causes of these problems.

After a couple of weeks where nothing was solved I just decided it was time to move on.

You see, when I posted about those problems with Google Apps Premiere synchronization to mobile devices I immediately received emails from some companies offering to host my email services.

Big thanks to the following companies/services and I hope you check them out: Telecom New Zealand with their Telecom BusinessHub, Rackspace with their Rackspace Email Hosting, Microsoft with their Microsoft Online Services. There is also a fourth local company that is working on a hosted email solution but not yet released so I will have to hold it for a while (I will update this post when they go live).

After the failed attempt of using the Google Apps I have moved my email Microsoft Online Services. There are a couple of features that I found interesting. First, when you sign up for the service you can nominate a Partner. This will be your services contact if you ever need anything - the advantage is that you can select someone local to you (or very close). For a service demo/description watch this video.

Another interesting feature is the way accounts are structured. On Google Apps you need an admin account for each domain but you don't have a single account for all services if you have more than one domain (not as in Internet domain but as in business structure).

Microsoft Online ServicesOn Microsoft Online Services you use a Live ID account to "own" the service (and pay for it) through the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal, but delegate domain management to any other account within the domain(s) through the Administration Portal. One Live ID can manage multiple subscriptions, and each domain will have its own manager.

For full disclosure, those companies offered one or another service if I migrated to their offering - migration, support, etc. Microsoft offered to extend my old trial subscription so I could continue using the service and migrate my domains to their service.

What are you doing? Is you company still hosting its own email servers? Are there a plan in place to migrate this kind of function to outside the company? What services have you decided to use? Put in the comments (just no astroturfing spam - if you work for the company be clear about it).



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.



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