My window to the world


The 31 days of the dragon going strong - enter the competitions now!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-May-2008 08:47

The 31 days of the dragon is going strong - one notebook a day during 31 days.

To enter the competitions (yes, 31 websites, 31 chances to win!) you should look at the list and enter on each one of the sites, following the schedule.

We will be running our Geekzone competition from 29th May through 5th June - this is the period you will be able to enter the competition on Geekzone to win one of the 31 HP HDX Dragon packages.

Before then, check the other sites and enter their competitions - you can win in any of the sites!



Free NewsGator Enterprise Server for up to 20 users

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-May-2008 15:10

That's right... NewsGator is making their NewsGator Enterprise Server free for up to 20 users. It is a great product, which I had the pleasure to use here for a couple of years for review and testing.

In summary it helps companies reduce the traffic RSS feeds brings to their network by creating a locl repository, shared amonsgt its users. Like the popular NewsGator hosted solution your users can access RSS feeds from a web-based interface, FeedDemon, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook and others.

Your company can create groups, provide automatic searches for specific subjects, delivered as RSS feeds, and more.

I highly recommend it if your company is interested in keeping the information flowing.



Sci-fi film themes in Auckland

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-May-2008 14:56

I got an e-mail telling me about the "A Night at the Movies - Symphonic Pops Series, Concert 2" in Auckland, 14th June.

The concert features live performances of movie themes, including a number of sci-fi film themes, such as Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, ET, Superman and many more. 

The Star Wars pieces include the Intro Theme, Across the Stars (Attack of the Clones), Throne Room (A New Hope) and Duel of the Fates (Phantom Menace), backed by a choir.

Here is the official press release information with much more details:


NIGHT AT THE MOVIES STRIKES BACK WITH THE AUCKLAND PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA

Return of A Night at the Movies - Symphonic Pops Series, Concert 2
Saturday 14 June, 7.30pm, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE

Last year’s A Night at the Movies concert by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra proved so popular it’s returning to the Aotea Centre on Saturday 14 June. But this year it’s bigger. And better. Return of A Night at the Movies will be an evening of immense excitement for young and old – including an innovative competition to enthral budding filmmakers.

The concert is part of the APO’s Symphonic Pops Series and will be held at the Aotea Centre, THE EDGE, presenting a thrilling opportunity to here iconic film scores played live and loud by a full orchestra.
 
The concert features pieces from your favourite films, including Laurence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Lion King, Titanic, Pirates of the Caribbean, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Bodyguard, ET and many more. Return of a Night at the Movies will be conducted by Brett Kelly, who, continuing a stellar career conducting Australia’s leading orchestras, makes his debut with the APO.
This year the concert incorporates an innovative new competition called CUT TO: MUSIC. The competition invites film-makers to create a short-film to fit a prepared orchestral score. The winner will have their film screened at Return of A Night at the Movies with the score performed live by the full Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.


It looks (and sounds) interesting. I won't be there though... Perhaps next time?



Digital Broadcasting in New Zealand: reviewing regulation submissions

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-May-2008 21:06

Today I spent a couple of hours reading some of the submissions to the Digital Broadcasting: Review of Regulation Discussion Paper. Below I am copying some of the most "interesting" comments extracted from each submission. There are many more and I invite you to read those.

The review is being conducted by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Ministry of Economic Development.

Fairfax (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/FairfaxMedia.pdf):


3.2.1 Fairfax Media believes it would be unwise for Government to intervene in matters of content rights acquisition. Market forces should be allowed to operate. It is important that fair play/use exists to ensure accessibility and affordability by all and for the protection of events of major importance. The business notes that a lessening of anti-siphoning legislation would appear to be the global trend.

3.2.2 It is proposed that co-regulation exist to ensure fair competition against vertically integrated content and carriage companies, particularly with regard to open access and the control of Electronic Programme Guides.

3.4.1 Fairfax would suggest that greater intervention is required to avoid loss of income from original audio visual content that is copied and shared via peer to peer networks. ISPs and telecommunications companies, the government, and the wider content community need to find consensus through co-regulation on how to prevent illegal file sharing and the resultant sap on bandwidth.

3.4.2 Crucial to any discussion about controlling illegal file sharing is the concept of net-neutrality. Co-regulation could be used to ensure that a communications provider cannot “throttle” bandwidth to or from a content provider at the telco’s own behest. Differential broadband pricing for “preferred” content should also be avoided.

4.1.1 As stated with regard to content distribution above, Fairfax Media is keen to ensure that opportunities remain open for transmission of its content across all platforms. It wishes to see the development of an open access regime through co-regulation.

4.1.2 Such a regime should not be overly onerous such that it hinders the development of new channels, but should prevent platform providers taking unfair advantage of their control of Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs). It should ensure that full technical platform services are provided to content/channel providers. A proactive approach is required to grow a confident digital audience and deliver the promised value of Analogue Switch Off (ASO) to New Zealanders at the earliest opportunity.



Freeview (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/Freeview.pdf):


In New Zealand, Freeview believes that one example of asymmetric regulation would be the requirement for all near national1 FTA analogue broadcast license holders to broadcast their channels digitally i.e. on Freeview. At the same time broadcasters should be free to choose whether they wish to broadcast their channels on the Sky digital platform.

In addition to the above, Freeview has four specific issues that could be addressed through Government policy and the careful use of regulatory tools. These relate to the need of broadcasters, suppliers and customers for long-term certainty of the Freeview platform and are:

• Long-term financing for FTA Broadcasters (Freeview) transmission until Analogue Switch-Off (ASO)
• Provision of additional spectrum for DTT platform growth
• Public announcement of and a plan to deliver on an ASO date
• Clarification of access to spectrum post ASO



Google (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/GoogleInc.pdf):


Google supports regulation of advertising being largely left to the market. To date, New Zealand has largely adopted this model and it appears to have encountered few problems. Google does not believe that now is the time for New Zealand to revert to intrusive regulation of advertising, particularly when the industry as whole (both traditional and new media) has demonstrated a very high standard of self-regulation in the area of advertising.

Online advertising is an evolving, dynamic market – the cost of regulation would be high Online advertising remains an evolving, innovative business model which is fuelling substantial social and economic benefits.

The online advertising business is complex and still nascent, but even at this early stage it is clear that online advertising benefits consumers while also helping small businesses succeed. It is also a robust industry characterised by strong competition, significant innovation and tremendous growth.

The growth in online advertising offers many consumer benefits. In Google’s experience, individuals value advertisements that help connect them to the information, products and services they seek. Relevant advertising is information that is useful to consumers, particularly, as is the case in online advertising (and in contrast to traditional broadcasting advertising) where technology permits niche advertising to be more easily tailored to niche audiences.

The Discussion Papers correctly identify open access regulation as an important network issue. Google encourages the Government to reach a view that the Internet’s inherently decentralised, open nature is an essential feature to be retained and preserved.

Google strongly supports maintaining the non-discriminatory architectural principles that have made the Internet an unparalleled engine for economic growth, innovation and social discourse.

The Internet was designed to maximise user choice and innovation by making the network itself neutral with regard to the applications it supports. That is, the network is essentially unaware of the actual applications for which it is used – network intermediaries, such as Internet service providers (ISPs), do not favour particular sites or applications over others and data is routed equally on a 'best efforts' basis.

For entrepreneurs, innovators and creators, this fundamental neutrality of the network allows innovation without permission. New applications, from the revolutionary to the merely useful, can be deployed and embraced by millions of individual users worldwide without the need for approval from gatekeepers. The users at the edges of the network essentially determine the uses to which the network is put.

Google submits that the Government should evaluate emerging threats to this openness and how, if at all, they impact the local market. Certain ISPs around the world have begun altering this fundamentally open architecture, such as by degrading or blocking certain applications or content. Particularly in the absence of robust competition in the last-mile broadband market, Google submits that the Government should be alert to the possible threat arising from the ability of ISPs to discriminate against applications and content providers in an anti-competitive way.

Just as it is important to preserve the Internet’s openness in the context of fixed line broadband, Google submits that it is also critical in the context of wireless or mobile Internet access. Increasingly, consumers are accessing the Internet through mobile, handheld devices. As in the case of fixed line broadband, users, not the intermediaries offering access, should be in control of the devices, content and applications they access on the Internet.



Qualcomm (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/Qualcomm.pdf):


With regard to standards for mobile broadcast television, Qualcomm believes that a market-led approach and a clear spectrum strategy are vital to the successful long-term development of commercial mobile multimedia services and, therefore, supports the principle of technology neutrality whereby no one technology is favored over another in policymaking. MCH/MED should ensure flexibility for operators to deploy the standard that best suits their business needs.

It is also worth noting that the European Commission (EC) announced last month its decision to include DVB-H in its Official Journal (list of standards). However, the press release issued by the EC overstates the significance of this decision. The fact remains that DVB-H can only be listed as a non-mandatory standard in the Official Journal and this does not exclude other mobile broadcast technologies from competing in the European Union. This decision leaves room for additional mobile TV standards to be adopted by EU Member States and ensures that the market can decide which technologies will ultimately prevail. This is in line with the Transportation, Telecommunications & Energy Council’s (TTE) conclusions, as published in November 2007, which called on the EC to uphold a technology-neutral stance on mobile TV standards.

Qualcomm has been actively following the digital dividend and mobile TV developments in Europe. In addition, Qualcomm and British Sky Broadcasting Limited (BSkyB) conducted two joint technical trials of the MediaFLO System in the United Kingdom.



Recording Industry Association NZ (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/RecordingIndustryAssocofNZ.pdf):


10. When considering regulations for broadcasting and other types of transmission to the public in this digital environment, it is important that consideration is given not only to standards of content being transmitted, but also to whether or not the content infringes copyright.

11. The problem of unauthorized digital downloading and file sharing of music is the single greatest issue for the future of the recording industry, musicians and songwriters alike. The availability of musinc online for free is crippling the full development of a legiitimate digital market.

14. Much of this decline [of CD sales] locally and internationally is due to systematic infringement of copyright by individuals sharing music via on-line peer to peer ("P2P") networks on internet services controlled by ISPs.

16. Until recently, ISPs have played little role in protecting copyrighted content on the internet and copyright theft has been allowed to run rampand on their networks.In the case of infringement via P2P networks, ISPs so far have stood by, allowing a mass devaluation of copyrighted music.



Telecom New Zealand (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/TelecomNZ(A).pdf):


We effectively provide open access to our network.



Vodafone New Zealand (http://www.mch.govt.nz/publications/digital-tv/submissions/Vodafone.pdf):


17. Consumer demand for “free” content has changed the revenue model and forever altered the role of the telecommunications platform provider as a gatekeeper. Content is moving from a closed walled garden, pay per event or subscription model, to a model where it is accessible for the cost of data with the ability to follow links to the internet.

41. Any attempt to impose standards on blogs and user generated content would be anathema to the network users. It poses threats to the right to free expression and contemporary forms of communication. An increasingly aware internet audience, supported by a programme of media literacy, is capable of determining between fact and opinion and moderating unsavoury content.

50. [Illegal File Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Networks] is not a matter for additional regulation, but one which could be dealt with by the Copyright Act 1994. Changes in technology and business models are altering the way in which peer-to-peer networks are being used, in many instances quite legitimately4. Vodafone notes the recent development of the BBC’s iplayer services as one example5. While assuming responsibility for its own network, Vodafone would resist attempts such as those in the United States and Europe to have it “police” the internet.


Oh, the irony of the comments...



New Zealand is no Fiji - Media Center that is

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-May-2008 11:19

It looks like the Windows Vista Media Center beta, known as Fiji is now on. But it is not available to New Zealand users.

Here is some of the features that we expect to see in this update, according to the discussion on Geekzone:


1.  Get rid of all the registry mods needed for Vista Media Center Editio in New Zealand
2.  Tune Freeview DVB-S natively in Media Center Edition
3.  Tune Freeview DVB-T natively in Media Center Edition, including our dodgy AAC sound codecs
4.  Get the guide over the air, rather than having to use Bladerunner/Reven/ or others
5.  Have native muiti tuner support, which is easy to setup


Also is worth noting that New Zealand is one of the only countries in the world using the H.264 standard for their DVB-T HD broadcast. The other country is Norway.

And since this is not going to be tested here you can imagine how well this well end up...

Oh yes. Windows Vista Media Center was never officially supported in New Zealand anyway. So you can stop buying Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows Vista Home Premium.

Go get GB-PVR or Media Portal and run on any cheaper version of Windows instead.

And check our Freeview forum to see how to configure these to run in New Zealand.



iYomu to close site

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-May-2008 11:17

No surprises here: social networking site for "grown ups" iYomu to close.

Nothing to see here. Move along.



Speaking at the Interactive Marketing Summit

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-May-2008 09:05

Next Monday, 26th May I will be speaking at the Interactive Marketing Summit in Auckland.

My session will be case study session on "using customised blogs as a marketing tool" and we will explore my experience running the Microsoft-sponsored Visual Studio 2008 blog.

Other people speaking at the summit:

- Bernard Hickey (Managing Editor, http://www.interest.co.nz/)

- Paul Webster, (Senior Sales Manager, GOOGLE)

- Thomas Scovell (Interactive Marketing Specialist, SHIFT)

- Simon Young (Cofounder and catalyst, IJUMP)

- Jon Ostler (Managing Director, FIRST RATE)

- Jacqui Jones (Marketing Manager/Search & Online Marketing Specialist, NETCONCEPTS)

- Tom Osborne (Commercial Director, APN DIGITAL MEDIA)

- Tim Norton (CEO, PLAN HQ)

- Scott Giles (Online Marketing Manager, AIR NEW ZEALAND)

If you are interested in blogs and communities, check this iJump video podcast recorded last month. I met Simon Young while I was in Auckland and we had a chat about these topics - recorded for you to see.

Remember to register for the Interactive Marketing Summit.



The Geekzone outage post-mortem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-May-2008 19:46

Some of you may have noticed a (brief) Geekzone outage (and therefore affecting this blog as well), on Thursday 15th May.

"Brief" is just a way of saying it. The event happened from 9:15am through 3pm, at which time the site was up and running again.

What happened on that day? At 9:15am I removed one piece of software from the server and rebooted it. I didn't see the server up in under ninety seconds as usual, so I called ICONZ's help desk, which confirmed the server wouldn't boot, thanks to an error while loading the operating system.

The operating system was not happy with a change in drivers, and wouldn't boot without the original DVD for a recovery session.

And just this week I had contacted the ICONZ team asking if they had a library on site that could hold my recovery discs. But before I could send these up disaster happened.

While on the phone with the help desk I went to the Air NZ site and booked a seat on the 11am flight to Auckland - a 45 minutes flight, plus a 30 minutes taxi ride to the data center.

Because this server was originally installed from CD and all the OS since the original install were installed from disc files, we didn't have a DVD drive on this machine. I asked the ICONZ help desk to arrange for a DVD drive replacement to be installed and also asked them to commision a virtual server on their ICONZ virtual co-location platform, just in case things got worse. They arranged this while I was flying up to Auckland.

By 12:30pm I was on site and after evaluating my alternatives I decided to reinstall the OS instead of using the Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery image recovery. The reason for that is because the software that caused the problem would still be in that image, so it wouldn't be any good for me. Also, this server was running Windows Server 2008 Enterprise RTM as an update to Windows Server 2008 Enterprise RC 0, which was installed on Windows Server 2003 R2, which was installed on top of Windows Server 2003.

So a fresh install would make things easier - and cleaner.

Lucky the probem showed up during a restart, so the SQL database was perfectly safe, since the drives were still visible. Using the recovery console I copied the SQL database files to an external USB drive and loaded it on my test  machine to make sure it was all perfect.

I then proceeded to delete and recreate the partitions on this machine - a small problem because those were dynamic discs with software mirror enabled and it seems Windows Server 2008 can't manage this well during the setup. To get around this I used a Windows Server 2003 bootable DVD to delete and create fresh new partitions.

With this sorted, Windows Server 2008 installed very quickly. Installing SQL Server 2005 was not a problem, and soon I had the Geekzone site up and running.

The next steps were to reload some extra software on this machine, apply the Windows Updates (which required lots of reboots due to having SQL Server 2005), and configure the Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery on this newly built machine.

By 6pm I was in a cab going back to the airport to fly back to Wellington. I spent most of Friday doing the last bits of configuration required, testing the backup routines to make sure everything was ok and so on.

The great thing here is that we had no data loss at all. We also had a daily backup to an external drive, plus a weekly backup to an off-site location via FTP. And yes, I do test the backup contents to make sure they are valid (and so should you).

I've installed Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery to replace Acronis True Echo Server, as part of a review and I am really impressed. It's easier to manage and has a much better disc space management consolidation routine, including backup rotation, storage consolidation, etc. And it also allows conversion of image backups to both VMWARE and Virtual Server formats. I didn't have to use it because of the decision to rebuild this server, but it is now running full time as the main backup routine.

Next steps?

A complete image backup is done and scheduled for daily incremental backups. The daily SQL Server 2005 backup is running, as well as the transaction log switch. The weekly backup to the off-site location is back in place and all software is up-to-date.

I will be recreating the recovery DVD images from this new system and shipping those to ICONZ so that we can have a faster recovery next time - without perhaps having to have me flying there.

A big thanks to the folks at ICONZ who arranged the extra hardware and commissioned the virtual server - which we wound up not using at all.

Also thanks to all the Geekzone users who contacted me - a few voice calls, some SMS, inumerous Twitter messages and support from the people in our #geekzone IRC channel - including the offer to drive around Auckland to ferry any hardware if needed.



Windows Live for Windows Mobile update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-May-2008 17:55

So Microsoft has released an update for Windows Live for Windows Mobile. There's one bad thing though: if you install this over any previous copy you might have on your device you lose the Messenger functionality.

That's correct. It seems Microsoft leaves to the OEM or mobile operator to include Messenger on your Windows Mobile device.

This is wrong in so many ways. If I want Messenger on your PC - Windows or Mac - you can just download it from the web. My ISP doesn't tell me that I am not allowed to use Firefox on my computer to access an Internet service (http). Why should the operators have any say on this?

You can always use the web-based Windows Live Messenger Mobile on your mobile device but it is not the same as having the full client.



Geekzone is not a heavy homepage

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-May-2008 17:02

John Clegg (Zoomin, Projectx) has posted a series of tables showing the heavy and the lite New Zealand websites.

Lucky Geekzone shows up in the light sites list as #10 with a 97.2 kilobytes payload (not counting images) and eight JS files (mainly Google Analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings, Statcounter). The heaviest page in the list is vouchermate.co.nz site with 1.3 MB!

Check Jonh's blog post for lots of good information!



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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