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Geekzone server updates

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Oct-2008 16:07

I have posted this to the frontpage on Geekzone, but seeing some people read my blog only, here is an update.

On 21st October we will be moving Geekzone to a new server and expect small periods of downtime throughout the morning, while we move the database across to the new machine and swap IP addresses.

Geekzone currently runs on an Intel Xeon "Nocona" dual-core 3GHz box with 3GB RAM and two 70GB SCSI discs. The application runs on native Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition and Microsoft SQL Server 2008.

The new server is a HP DL360 Intel 5400 quad-core 3GHz box with 10GB RAM, four 146GB HDD and ILO2 for remote lights out management. We are migrating Geekzone to a virtual machine based on Microsoft Hyper-V. We will continue to run Geekzone with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 but as a virtual environment.

The current server will be used for database mirroring and for development of new features for the site.

Thanks to HP New Zealand and Microsoft New Zealand for their support - we couldn't do this upgrade without their help.



Making the web faster with RPO

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Oct-2008 12:52

Some time ago I posted about RPO on my Twitter. This is one of those software that seem to be aimed only at geeks at heart, but any company with a public-facing website should look at. In short RPO is a webpage optmizer.

You see, one of the factors that drive people away from your website is speed. How fast the information is presented to readers is important to determine how long visitors stay on a page or browse through a site.

RPO helps reduce this time by optmizing the content, reducing size and number of requests, combining files, and other tricks - all automatic and behind the the scenes. You can read more about these actions on Steve Souders' High Performance Websites blog.

I was just on the phone with CEO Ed Robinson, and he was telling me New Zealand website ownews can now speed test their sites with Page Test, a locally hosted instance of AOL Pagetest.

Here are some examples of local sites and their current performance: Stuff, NZ Herald, Geekzone. And you can see here a rolling list of latest tests.



Welcome Windows 7

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Oct-2008 12:27

The word is out. Microsoft decided to call the next version of Windows simply Windows 7. No more dates (Windows 95, Windows 98). No more "aspirational" names (Windows Me, Windows XP, windows Vista). Just this: Windows 7.

It makes a lot more sense. And I hope is a good change.

There's a lot more about thi in the Windows Vista Blog.



The broken Section 92A of the New Zealand copyright law

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Oct-2008 13:34

One the biggest technology issues we are facing in New Zealand is the topic of copyright, specifically the new Section 92A of the New Zealand Copyright Law:


...[Section 92A] says that ISPs have to cut people off the Internet if a music company accuses them of copyright infringement. There’s no trial, no proof, and no accountability on the record companies to get it right. This provision was inserted into the Bill by the government after the Select Committee had told it to do the opposite and then passed by a large majority in the House.


This wrong in so many ways... No proof, no trial, no accountability. Any company representing a "copyright holder" can unload thousands of those letters and ISPs would have to cut the service to their customers.

Then, just this week, as reported by Colin Jackson, Hon David Cunliffe (Minister Technology and Communications) and Hon Judith Tizard (Associate Minister of Commerce) met with IT people here in Wellington:


When it opened, Judith Tizard spent 30 minutes telling us why the change had to be made. She began by strongly expressing her anger that we had complained to her at this stage in the proceedings. None of us, she said, had been to see her before this on this topic. When we protested that we had worked with the Select Committee, which had removed this provision - and balanced it with one which made licence holders liable for false accusations - she said that this was completely inappropriate of the Select Committee, because Cabinet had already decided this was going ahead. We should not have been surprised, we were told, that this provision was reinserted by the government at the last minute before the bill was passed.


Back in September 2008 InternetNZ, the organisation that manager the Internet space in the country issued a press release saying:


“A deeply flawed law that undermines fundamental rights and simply will not work.” That is what the telecommunications industry, internet service providers, user groups, internet advocates and IT professionals think of parts of the recently passed Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act.

Section 92A, when it is brought into force, will require ISPs to “reasonably implement” a policy to disconnect ”in appropriate circumstances” the internet services of users who have repeatedly downloaded or uploaded infringing music, movies, games and other copyright material.

“The Act gives no guidance on what ‘reasonably implement’ or ‘in appropriate circumstances’ mean,” Mr Chivers said.  “This leaves the door wide open to those who seek disconnection of an alleged repeat infringer based on flimsy evidence, or worse, allegations alone.”



Why, would you ask, is it so important to consider one's Internet connection? We had a very good discussion on Geekzone about this topic. Basically more people are using the Internet today for their remote work, home business, even telephony using VoIP services such as 2Talk, iTalk, VFX.

What happens to these people if a notice is sent and their ISP simply cut their Internet service?

Businesses stop. Communications stop. People won't be able to do basic things such as calling Emergency Services.

Fair enoug though, if there's evidence. But who will investigate the notices? Who will determine if an accused is guilt or innocent?

As Brenda writes in her blog about this topic:


You don't get a trial, you're just cut off and no more internet for you.

No more email, no booking airlines, no more buying books on the internet - you're cut off based only on an accusation. If they decided to accuse me, I would not be able to continue my occupation as an Open Source programmer / gadget wrangler. I'd have to give up and probably retrain as a barrista.



A few months back we started getting reports in the Geekzone forums from people being cut by their ISPs based on requests from alleged copyright holders or people representing those copyright holders.

Here is an example. The letter was sent by WorldXchange to a customer, after a notification from Lion Gate.

In another instance Paul Clarkin, WorldxChange Director Operation and Carrier, has confirmed accounts were closed due to  this kind of notice.

We ran a round of Q&A with some CEOs of the major telcos around and this what a couple of them have to say about this:


6.What is your opinion on the obligations set out in the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendement Bill for ISPs over Copyright Infringement by your customers? What is TelstraClear's Policy on this?

This is an issue our legal and regulatory teams have been taking a keen interest in and it has been a hot topic in Australia too. The Bill you refer to has been passed by Parliament, but the changes have not come into force yet. These changes include imposing obligations on ISPs to terminate the accounts of customers who infringe copyright and also to remove infringing material from websites. We see significant practical challenges with this as we have no real ability to determine whether or not any given material infringes copyright. However we will put in place appropriate processes to ensure that we comply with the law, in a manner which also protects the interests of our customers.

(Dr Allan Freeth, Chief Executive Officer of TelstraClear.)




9.There has been some comments recently around the account suspension correspondence from some XNet customers. How does WorldxChange validate the party sending the cease and desist email is valid and not someone sending the email as a joke or prank? And how does WorldxChange manage customers who may dispute the email, or who have had their internet connection hijacked due to unsecure wireless, or have unsupervised minors up to no good?
Oh yes; the question that I’ve been looking forward to most. The legislature on the subject still requires clarification. Of that there is no doubt but my understanding is that if we were operating to the letter of the law, we would be required to suspend a customer on their first offence.

In reality; I fail to understand why the ISPs have been made responsible for the adjudicating the issue full stop. When a boy racer exceeds the speed limit and runs over someone, do we make it the responsibility of the Minister of Transportation or company that laid the road? No, it is between the boy racer and the courts.

In my opinion, it should be between the aggrieved party that feels that someone has stolen their property and the person accused.

That said, life is never that simple and we have an obligation to all of our customers; not just those that do not agree that media/content is as much another person or company’s property as is the TV on which you might watch it, is your property.

Xnet is not prepared to take any risks on the matter and with the low margins Internet services provide, I am certainly not willing to cop any fines because of the choices made by a few people. Our views on the matter have been outlined in several Geekzone threads and have not changed.

To the question of validating the cease and desist order. It would take a pretty elaborate prankster to be able to send the order and identify the content that the subscriber downloaded, the size of the file and exactly when they downloaded the media. The agencies that we accept reports from always identify themselves, the media/content downloaded and a time stamp with associated IP address.

I am unaware of any instances Xnet have processed invalid orders and we always give the report we receive to the subscriber affording them the opportunity to dispute it. We receive many more orders than we actually action because spam style stuff does hit us now and then.

On the issue of customers having their Internet connection “hijacked” due to un-secure wireless or unsupervised minors up to no good; ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The security of one’s wireless connection is their responsibility. We are not responsible if you leave your house unlocked or if you forget to turn on your alarm; are we? The onus for managing access and supervision of my PC and wireless connection is mine alone. Not my ISP’s. Xnet Technical Support are always glad to offer advice to secure your PC or wireless device.

Now then, all activity in relation to cease and desist email is conducted by the Technical Response managers. They are in communication with all affected subscribers and regularly give them the benefit of the doubt. We have breached the legislation on many occasions by allowing customers to carry on with the service after discussing the issues with them.

The folks who have complained on the Geekzone threads have had every opportunity to dispute and discuss their suspensions with Xnet Management prior to being suspended. They generally leave that part out of their threads.

(Cecil Alexander, WorldXchange CEO)


You can read other reactions here, here, here, here, here.

The image here (c) opensourcecinema.org.



Start a new life in the cloud (computing) competition...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 10-Oct-2008 14:39

Ben is running a competition in his all about cloud computing blog Diversity to introduce a new class of products.

The winner will get the Nova Navigator, a box that runs with a local OS, but is designed to take advantage of applications in the cloud - including storage.

To enter simply leave a comment in Ben's blog and wait for that special e-mail on th 27th OCtober.









Vodafone BlackBerry Storm FAIL: Apple iPhone UI

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Oct-2008 19:36

Thanks to Ben and his Twitter, I had time to grab a PDF of a page on the Vodafone UK website with the new BlackBerry Storm details.

Note the Apple iPhone UI in this bad photoshop work by someone at Vodafone... And not only that but one screenshot shows "Cingular" as the operator and the other shows "AT&T".

Well done folks...










AnimfxNZ 2008 in Wellington

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Oct-2008 11:44

I received today an e-mail from a friend who is part of the trust organising the AnimfxNZ in Wellington.

Very cool - and I didn't know we had such an event here in the city.

The AnimfxNZ brings together a conference and exhibition covering all things in  the Game, Animation and Film, Music TV, and Sporting Stereoscopic fields.

AnimfxNZ 2008 is happening 14th - 16th November, here in Wellington.



More information on the Location Innovation Awards

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Oct-2008 10:46

I've just posted on Geekzone about the GeoSmart Location Innovation Awards.

Great opportunity if you are involved in the mapping space, or if you have an idea for a killer application using location based information and want to get it out there.

There are four categories you can enter: Social Networking, Proximy-based Marketing, Location-based Games, AA Maps Widget.

All the information you need is available in the Location Innovation Award FAQ.

Read more about the competition on its Location Innovation Awards website, and if you are planning to enter participate in the Geekzone forum created exclusively for this.



TelecomOne un-conference day 2 and wrap-up

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Oct-2008 10:01

I am back home in Wellington now, after the TelecomOne un-conference. On the second day (day 0, day 1) I attended half of a session moderated by Nat Torkington about children education and technology, and then Peter Gutman's session about cybercrime - variants, free market of information, why security forces are not doing enough, etc.

About 12pm we did a wrap-up session where we all had the opportunity to review what went right, what went wrong, how it worked for everyone and what is next.

TelecomOne was an interesting un-conference. First because it was mainly an internal event, with a few "externals" being invited. This caused a bit of friction in the wiki pages where invited atendees discussed the upcoming meetup during the weeks leading up to the actual event.

Some Telecom people were worried about an open discussion about their vision, directions, services, network in the presence of "externals". We actually even had a person from the legal department on site - but I can guarantee that everyone understood very well the implications and the rules of separation. All discussions were open and clear, with a very good deal of understanding, criticism, suggestions and discovery.

Add to this the rounds of werewolf games (on Friday and Saturday evenings), plus the late night talks and it was a very enjoyable weekend - you can see my Flickr TelecomOne set here, or search for Flickr TNZ1 tag. Also available is a series of #TNZ1 Twitters. The special touch was the "Innovation Red" wine served there...

During the wrap-up we had comments from some "externals" that were a surprise. For example one of them even said something like "... amazed to find out so many bright Telecom and Gen-i people together and certainly changed my view of the company".

Also worth noting is the presence of some high up people there - if not the whole weekend, at least attending a couple of important sessions - like Alan Gourdie (Chief Executive, Telecom Retail) who attended the session about communicating to customers and public in general where we discussed public blogging, social media, regulations and other topics.

On the way back home, all out-of-town people managed to band together again at the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge and we almost had another session there, in the corner.

Also is worth noting that Telecom provided meals and a bus from Auckland CBD to Warkworth, but "externals" (such as myself) did not receive any contribution towards the expense to attend this camp. I paid my own travel, accommodation, and car to drive to Warkworth. Actually very interesting to see a group of "externals" such as the one the organisers put together coming on their own to participate on a private camp.

Also interesting is to see the Foo Camp concept can be applied really well to private organisations.

Well done the organisers and facilitators. Well done to Telecom for being brave and accepting that people from outside your organisation can help too, by providing real criticism and constructive feedback.

Special thanks to the Mahurangi College and staff, location of Foo Camps, and now TelecomOne. On to the next one.



TelecomOne un-conference day 1

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Oct-2008 15:27

Today is day 1 of the first TelecomOne unconference event and it was full of interesting - and surprisingly open sessions.

For me the day started with an interesting session led by Brenda, who guided us through discussions on open source mobile platforms. At some point an interesting idea came from the participants: why not create a non-prod enviroment for people that are interested in playing with new mobile technologies to do it safely on a sandbox?

The idea is not as crazy as it sounds - and got lots of support from the audience.

I led one of the following sessions, talking about community feedback - how does Telecom capture feedback, and how does the company respond to it. This include public and internal processes, on-line community participation.

The third session was a very interesting discussion about the missing bits on the network - what people think should be there to better serve the community, developers - and ultimately their customers. And the first thing was "love". All you need is love!... Seriously though the discussion touched on lots of technical topics, processes and ideas.

I then attended the "Listen to me" session - all about Telecom employees participating in social media: what to do, what to expect, how to behave, who does it, all things related to establishing a successful employee presence on the Internet.



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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