My window to the world

Wellington City Council: Citizenship online

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Feb-2009 15:19

This morning I was looking through some blogs and found a link to an on-line petition, hosted by the Wellington City Council.

I didn't know Wellington residents can discuss and influence local plans on-line. And looking through the WCC website I found a very fresh press release that tells me they even have forums!

04 Feb 2009 Wellington City Council has launched two new online tools - a budget simulator and a discussion forum - that give Wellington residents an opportunity to have their say on how the Council should best prioritise spending while keeping rates rises to a minimum.

The Council's Citizen Engagement Director, Wendy Walker, says the new tools are part of a range of initiatives designed to help canvass the opinions of Wellingtonians as the Council prepares to develop a blueprint for the city for the next 10 years.

"With the global economic downturn, our city is facing a lot of tough spending decisions - so it's very important that we hear the views of as many residents as possible on how we can keep what's great about Wellington while making sure rates stay affordable."

The discussion board features online forums for each of the Council's seven strategies - urban development, environment, transport, economic development, governance, social and recreational, and cultural well-being - as well as a general forum for the Council's 10-year plan for the City (Long Term Council Community Plan or LTCCP).

"People will be able to click through to the forums and leave comments about our proposals under each strategy - while also giving a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to indicate whether they agree with the comments that other people have posted," says Wendy.

For more information about the Council's long term plan, and to access the new online tools, visit the Getting Involved section on the Long Term Council Community Plan 2009/19 web pages or phone (04) 499 4444.

Not only this, but the WCC makes a few RSS feeds available, including latest news, citizens' views, current on-line petitions and more.

Think Small and solve problems

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2009 08:20

What about pausing a bit from complaining and helping find a solution for those small problems? That's what ThinkSmall seems to allow people to do, through a web-based crowd solution finder platform (yes, these are made up words to describe it).

It comes from Tim Norton and the crowd behind Made From New Zealand - if you are registered with Made From New Zealand then you can use the same login at ThinkSmall.

Web browser wars and Geekzone numbers

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Feb-2009 12:06

This morning I got an email from tech journalist Chris Keall, who was looking for some updated information about our Geekzone traffic. More specifically he wanted to post an update on a web browser market share story he wrote for NBR a few months back.

I've sent the information on his way and he posted "Microsoft browser share hits record low" on NBR.

Interesting numbers for Trade Me (I guess a more mainstream kind of audience) and Geekzone (a more tech savvy audience).

Here are the numbers from the article:

TRADE ME (January 09/Nielsen NetRatings)
Microsoft Internet Explorer: 72.27%
Mozilla Firefox: 19.84%
Apple Safari: 3.83%
Google Chrome: 1.52%

A hardcore tech audience puts Geekzone visitors ahead of others in their departure from IE – though Microsoft’s browser still leads. Firefox has gained 2.6% since NBR last checked in during October, while after blazing to nearly 5% on its debut, Google’s Chrome has remained static.

GEEKZONE (January 09/Nielsen NetRatings)

Microsoft Internet Explorer: 46.03%
Mozilla Firefox: 40.61%
Google Chrome: 4.60%
Apple Safari: 4.54%

To add a bit more information I am posting here some data from our Google Analytics for the month of January 2009:

Total visits January 2009: 739,689 (+8.29%)

Geographical distribution
United States: 24.81%
New Zealand: 23.90%
UK: 10.48%
Canada: 3.92%
Australia: 3.69%

Microsoft Internet Explorer: 46.03%
Mozilla Firefox: 40.61%
Google Chrome: 4.60%
Apple Safari: 4.54%

Operating Systems
Windows: 89.89%
Mac OS: 5.95%
Linux: 2.61%

XP: 63.24%
Vista: 32.28%
NT: 1.56%
Server 2003: 1.40%
2000: 1.13%

Telecom Xtra: 6.15%
Comcast: 2.62%
Road Runner: 2.62%
WorldxChange: 1.92%
Vodafone/IHUG: 1.84%

These are numbers that raise interesting questions and comments. For example almost 46,000 visits from people using Telecom Xtra every month. Also note about 14,000 visits from people using WorldxChange and 13,500 visits from Vodafone users.

This is interesting because WorldxChange was for some time the darling around our forums. People used to recommend their services all the time - until they apparently oversold capacity and started having communications problems. Once people started complaining in our forums WorldxChange pulled out and stopped talking to customers here.

Telecom New Zealand has a shadow presence - lots of employees lurk around but no official participation, although I always receive official comments when I bring questions to them.

Vodafone is the one doing best with a couple of "official" people lurking the forums and answering questions.

Another thing to note is the high Firefox usage amongst our readers. This is probably because of our tech savvy audience.

And lastly there's a huge number of U.S.-based visitors to Geekzone. I'd like to see more New Zealanders visiting the site though, mainly because we have a wealthy of knowledge and solutions to local problems.

What do you think? Do you run a website? What kind of numbers you see? How can we increase local traffic?

Those small TelstraClear problems start to annoy me...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2009 19:20

And obviously a few others (1, 2) agree there is a problem somewhere with TelstraClear network and services.

It actually looks like there is a few problems, not only one... 

To start the Paradise DNS seems to be out of sync a lot of times, and I've experienced errors trying to access some domains that are resolved correctly when using the Clear DNS - both Paradise and Clear DNS maintained by TelstraClear. I thought this could be something to do with the times, but I know of a couple of domains which are not updated on the Paradise DNS even after a couple of months.

Worse, if one tries to use something like OpenDNS then some of the IP returned are simply not accessible though TelstraClear. For example if you try to access Facebook when using OpenDNS and connected through the TelstraClear cable modem service then you will experience timeouts. It seems the IP returned by OpenDNS is not what TelstraClear expected to have when accessing tha domain and the whole page load just stalls with lots of timeouts.

Another problem is the following message that shows up sometimes for entire domains:

Network Error (tcp_error) The Web Server may be down, too busy, or experiencing other problems preventing it from responding to requests. You may wish to try again at a later time.
It seems to indicate TelstraClear has a badly configured or badly performing transparent proxy. Sometimes just refreshing the request solves the problems, sometimes it happens multiple times during the day.

UPDATE: It appers other people have this problem with DNS also.

UPDATE: I have passed on some of the faults to a TelstraClear network engineer.

Install Google Chrome advertising...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jan-2009 11:35

This is quite a clever ad for Google Chrome, Google's own web browser:

Running out of IPv4 space? IPv6 training in Auckland and Wellington

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2009 19:49

Conferenz will be running the training sessions "IPv6 for Business" in Auckland (20 & 21 April 2009), and Wellington (27 & 28 April 2009).

"IPv4 (IP) addresses are running out around the world. A daily updated trend based prediction currently suggests late 2011, however industry experts are picking the day to be much sooner. Either way, this is well within the lifetime of current equipment and IT solutions within your business.

The IPv6 protocol was designed 10 years ago to eventually replace IPv4 in a gradual adoption, with the two co-existing side by side for several years. This adoption has started to pick up pace significantly in the past year, with most major operating systems and many network equipment vendors now supporting IPv6.

IPv6 for Business will teach you the skills to begin experimenting with IPv6, and planning the adoption of this new protocol in your organisation’s network.

Learning Objectives
• Learn about the history of the Internet and IPv6, its advantages, and the motivation for deploying it in your network
• Gain exposure to the IPv6 protocol, and the IPv6 addressing architecture
• Learn how IPv6 works in the wider Internet, and how to work with your ISP to achieve good IPv6 connectivity
• Understand popular IPv6 tunnelling mechanisms, and how these may already be impacting your network today
• Be able to identify and resolve common IPv6 problems that may already exist in your network today
• Learn how servers and desktop computers interact with each other, and with network equipment such as routers and firewalls.
• Learn how network services such as DNS operate in the IPv6 network.
• Learn about IPv6 support in common software and operating systems.
• Find out what to look for and ask for when considering future proof software and hardware solutions from your vendors.

Who Should Attend?
Anyone who is likely to be affected by the adoption of IPv6 from organisations such as:
• Government departments
• Educational facilities
• Large corporate organisations
• Any organisation involved in the design and maintenance of computer software, components, systems or networks.
Including roles such as:
• IT Managers
• Network engineers
• Network designers
• Network consultants

Training Methodology
This two-day course will use case study examples and group exercises, as well as tutorial sessions. All attendees will be provided with a workbook and supporting slides. It is expected that attendees will have some level of networking experience and a basic understanding of IPv4. Laptops and equipment will be provided, but feel free to bring your own laptop as well.  

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?

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'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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 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.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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