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Measurement Lab network tests ISP performance, traffic shapping

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2009 09:48

Measurement Lab was announced as a partnership between the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, Google Inc. and academic researchers. It offers tools for consumers and researchers.

"Measurement Lab (M-Lab) is an open, distributed server platform for researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools. The goal of M-Lab is to advance network research and empower the public with useful information about their broadband connections. By enhancing Internet transparency, M-Lab helps sustain a healthy, innovative Internet."

You can check their network tools now (Java required):

"Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT) provides a sophisticated speed and diagnostic test. An NDT test reports more than just the upload and download speeds -- it also attempts to determine what, if any, problems limited these speeds, differentiating between computer configuration and network infrastructure problems. While the diagnostic messages are most useful for expert users, they can also help novice users by allowing them to provide detailed trouble reports to their network administrator."

"Glasnost attempts to detect whether your Internet access provider is performing application-specific traffic shaping. Currently, you can test if your ISP is throttling or blocking BitTorrent. Tests for other applications will follow soon."

"NPAD diagnoses some of the common problems effecting the last network mile and end-users' systems. These are the most common causes of all performance problems on wide area network paths."

All very useful...

What really goes behind the scenes with cheap airlines...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Jan-2009 22:38

See what really goes on at the call centre of a low cost airline...

Anyone who has ever flown with a low cost airline will have experienced something similar to this short little clip that pokes fun at all the little tricks used to sell you a seat. How many times have you fallen for the cheap airfare that ended up costing you more than you thought?

And yes, this is an Air New Zealand ad...

Waiting for the HP Mini Mi Edition with Linux

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Jan-2009 11:28

Just today I got an email from FedEx with the confirmation a HP Mini Mi Edition is coming my way for review... I don't know the configuration yet It is coming with a 60GB HDD, but the most interesting thing on this new model is that HP distributes the device with a Linux-based OS, with apparently very fast boot times and some other uber-connected software features.

You can see a lot more pictures in the official HP Mini Mi Edition page, and check more about the OS and features on this FAQ (PDF link).

Now to keep refreshing the FedEx tracking page...

Booting Windows 7 to desktop in less than 30 seconds with SSD

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jan-2009 10:33

I have finally come around to installing Windows 7 Beta in all my PCs around the house, replacing Windows Vista Ultimate.

We now have a (finally) working Windows-based Media Center. It is great being able to actually watch HD broadcast using the native Windows Media Center application. Until now we were only able to watch Freeview HD with third party software, because of lack of H.264 support on Windows Vista.

Windows 7 changes this with built-in H.264 support and the experience is very pleasant. You can check some screenshots in my previous blog post about Windows 7 Media Center.

I have also replaced Windows Vista Ultimate with Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on my main laptop. At the same time I've swapped the original 160GB HDD with an Intel 80GB SSD. A lot of talk has been around about Windows 7 support for SSD technologies so I decided to try it myself.

You can see below the Windows Experience Index results for my laptop, an AMD Turion 64 x2-based Acer Ferrari 5000 with 4GB RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 video graphics:

Intel SSD and Windows 7 performance index

The interesting thing is that this same Intel 80GB SSD showed a 7.9 index on another PC. Perhaps because of differences in controllers or drivers?

Anyway, with this laptop I am able to boot (after BIOS) into the Windows desktop in less than 30 seconds. And this is with Microsoft Office 2007, Live Messenger, Avast AV being loaded at boot time - real life experience.

Overall I am feeling a great improvement over previous Windows versions. Small UI things such as the ability to see previews of multiple windows for an application when hovering the mouse cusor over it in the Taskbar, and the automatic hiding of all othe windows so you can see it directly on the desktop make much easier to work:

Are you testing the Windows 7 beta? Just for curiosity, as a developer or IT administrator? What are your impressions?

A fix for Windows Update install crashes on Windows 7 Beta

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Jan-2009 07:57

There have been reports of some Windows 7 beta testers experiencing installation errors with Windows Update and third party applications like Java and Flash (crashes of Explorer and MSI-based installers).

This may be an issue related to the Customer Experience Improvement Program client (CEIP also known as SQM). If you are experiencing this try the fix outlined below. Any machine that’s currently not affected by this problem does not need this fix, nor will future installations or upgrades.

What happened? Microsoft deployed a configuration change which exposed this problem. The following instructions will remove those changes (registry keys) to prevent further CEIP related crashes. 

1.Select and copy the following to your clipboard:

reg delete HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SQMClient\Windows\DisabledSessions /va /f

2.Click on "Start", then "All Programs", then "Accessories"

3.Right click on "Command Prompt", then click on "Run as administrator"

4.In the UAC prompt, verify that the program’s name is "Windows Command Processor" and then click "Yes"

5.Right click on the "Administrator: Command Prompt" window’s black area, then select "Paste"

6.Press "Enter", you should see “The operation completed successfully”.

7.If you see “ERROR: Access is denied”, please make sure you followed Step 3. 

8.Close the "Administrator: Command Prompt window"

Windows 7 Media Center screenshots

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Jan-2009 10:05

I first came in contact with Windows 7 when Microsoft released the M3 build to a select group of private testers on Connect, back in December.

Windows 7 M3 made its way to my HP tablet PC and it is running on it - solid and fast for a few weeks now. It will be replaced this weekend with the new Windows 7 Build 7000 though.

But Windows 7 Build 7000 is already installed on my Windows Media Center in the lounge. I run an Apple Mac mini as a Media Center PC, booting into Windows via Bootcamp. It's a machine small and silent enough to be in the lounge.

Until now I had been using dvbviewer to watch Freeview (DVB-T) with good results. The receiver is a Hauppagge HVR-900, and while the whole setup struggles a bit with very high definitions channels (such as TV3) it does well on the other HD channels.

My main objective on upgrading this setup to Windows 7 Build 7000 was to test the built-in H.264 support, that would allow us in New Zealand to have Freeview HD terrestrial programs directly on the Media Center experience, without having to use a third party program.

And did Windows 7 deliver! The upgrade over the existing Windows Vista installation was smooth and quick. The Apple Bootcamp drivers all worked ok, and even the drivers for the USB DVB-T receiver worked fine.

Tunning worked well - but there are still problems with the EPG (Electronic Programming Guide).

Another thing I feel it misses is the - long lasting - lack of support for ISO files. The Media Center won't play a DVD backup in ISO format without third party software.

Other than these two points, it's a very interesting release so far. The PC itself boots much faster than before, channel switching is smooth and the picture is almost perfect.

Here are some screenshots for your pleasure:

Microsoft Certification Exam discounts (New Zealand only)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Jan-2009 14:47

Are you on the Microsoft Certification path? I will help you get some discounts then. You need only to visit the Microsoft Learning special site and request a voucher by entering a special MVP Certification code NZADDEB4.

This code will give you a 10% discount voucher and free retake if needed to.

Note this is valid for exams taken in New Zealand only by 31st May 2009, and valid for Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) exams.

What are you waiting for?

Thanks to the Microsoft MVP Program for arranging this so I could distribue to you folks...

ESTA required to travel to the USA from January 2009

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Jan-2009 17:08

The Department of Homeland Security Attache to the European Union Jacquelyn Bednarz overviews the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which will be required by all visa waiver travelers to the U.S. as of January 12, 2009.

This is important because it affects New Zealanders travelling to the U.S. under the visa waiver program - I guess a lot of the people involved in technology here do so.

Another step in solving the potable water problem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Jan-2009 16:37

Some say the biggest problem in our future is not lack of oil - but lack of potable water. Swedish inventor Petra Wadström has developed SOLVATTEN, an environmentally friendly system that makes unsafe water drinkable using solar energy.

The system combines heat, UV and built-in filter in a specially designed container to clean contaminated water by filtrating macro-organisms which cause diseases.

Visualizing the spread of botnets

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Jan-2009 07:37

I've found this blog post with a visualization of the spread of botnets over the course of some time, based on botnet IRC channel logs:

Read about botnets here

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 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.

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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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