My window to the world

Disrupting WhatsApp worries mobile operators

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Jun-2013 09:35

WhatsApp, the messaging app available for pretty much all smartphone and feature phone platforms around these days (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, S40, Symbian, Windows Phone) is the disrupting app that worries mobile operators most.

At least this is what I’ve heard around.

And it may be justified. Exactly one year ago (June 2012) Forrester said “SMS usage remains strong in the US: 6 billion SMS messages are sent each day.”

Today, almost one year to the date from that report we see the news WhatsApp is delivering 27 billion messages daily. This comes only six months after WhatsApp disclosed they were  delivering 11 billion messages a day (December 2012) worldwide.

Some people will say “mobile operators are happy because they charge mobile data”. Remember though that mobile data costs the operator while SMS is a by-product of the platform.

DIA filter causing problems accessing Google services in New Zealand?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-May-2013 12:00

Someone reported on Geekzone about problems accessing Google+ Photos and Picasa albums from New Zealand.

An industry person involved in the discussion commented:

“Hi guys - thanks for the heads up on this. Something odd is going on but I can't be specific about what it is I'm afraid. We are working towards a resolution. This isn't affecting all ISPs but is affecting several in NZ.”

When asked if a Telecom solution would need to be implemented on Vodafone (another ISP who joined the DIA filter initiative):

“I'll tell John [Vodafone person] what's up. I'm not sure whether this specific issue will turn out to require an ISP specific solution or not. I would expect VF was affected as well - thanks for confirming.”

The next thing we know someone tells us that there’s a rumour about the New Zealand DIA Filter being configured to block an IP address belonging to Google, affecting not only the previously mentioned services but also GMail.

Remember, the DIA filter is optional for ISPs, but once an ISP sign up for it, then it will filter all traffic, for all its customers. From TechLiberty:

“The filter works by creating alternative routes to particular network IP addresses and passing them onto the participating ISPs. Traffic to those IP addresses is then passed to the DIA and checked by the filter to see whether it is going to the blocked site or another site on the same IP address. If it is going to a blocked site, the user is redirected to, or else it allowed through the DIA's ISP and out onto the Internet.”

There is more commentary from Techliberty here.

I have contacted both Telecom and Vodafone about this issue. A Vodafone spokesperson responded “Thanks for your email, but we don’t have anything to add to the comments.” Telecom’s comments were “We have no specific comment to make. We understand that Google are looking into it, and we are happy for them to resolve.”

The DIA did not respond for requests for comments.

First Yelp app review from New Zealand is out!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-May-2013 20:38

The first Yelp app review from a New Zealand “customer” is out… And it’s not good. Except, of course, if you discount the fact the poor one star review comes from the competitor’s marketing department, as shown below:


Yelp launched in New Zealand 2nd May. The service is a local business guide and review site with social networking features, launched in the USA in 2004 and is now in 21 countries, uses 12 languages and had more than 100 million monthly unique visitors in January of this year. Localist is the local brand of a similar service. Someone there must be feeling threatened. Or is it a prank by someone else?

Thanks to @jaredvh for the tip.

Is Facebook two factor security message showing in timeline for you too?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Apr-2013 16:25

I have had two factor authentication in various accounts for ages, including Facebook. Just today I've noticed that every time Facebook send me a SMS with the authentication code, it posts a message in my timeline, like so:

Apparently I am not the only one, as someone commented in one of these entries "Good to see I'm not the only one with these messages popping up on my timeline"

Can Facebook really win anyone's trust one day?

Storytelling of Science

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2013 11:39

Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins and others discuss the Storytelling of Science, hosted by Arizona State University’s Origins Project.

Telecom New Zealand decides to stick with Yahoo! email service, Yahoo! compromised again?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 10-Apr-2013 07:46

A few weeks ago there was a massive breach of security in the Yahoo! email service behind the Telecom addresses. according to information supplied by Yahoo! in a press release up to 20% of 400,000 active email accounts had been compromised.

Telecom employees worked hard day and night to manage the situation. Most of the action needed from consumers of this service involved password reset. This caused lots of trouble to people who weren’t able to access their accounts from email clients or third party services.

After the event a review was launched by Telecom New Zealand: ““We share the frustration that our customers have been experiencing over recent months. We fully appreciate that repeatedly saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut it anymore. We are committed to taking a close, hard look at the best way to meet our customers’ email needs.”

Almost a month after Telecom announced they decided to stick with Yahoo! as the email provider for its consumer ISP service: “Telecom New Zealand announced today that it will continue to offer its Yahoo! Xtra email service with Yahoo as its email provider, after receiving strong feedback from customers around the high value they place on it and obtaining a commitment from Yahoo! that it would work with Telecom to improve the customer experience of the service.”

It took Yahoo! a week to acknowledge something was wrong:

Yahoo! is continuing to work with Telecom to ensure Yahoo! Xtra mail accounts that were compromised last weekend have been secured and its in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding this issue is on-going.

“There is a lot of misinformation around what may have caused this vulnerability in the Yahoo! email product and the type of information that may have been compromised. There is currently no evidence to support reports that access has been gained to any user information beyond the customer's email address book or that this issue is related to any issues overseas, although we continue to investigate this,” say Laura Maxwell-Hansen, GM Yahoo! New Zealand. 

A “lot of misinformation” said Yahoo! so I asked the PR person if they could clarify exactly what happened, so that we could post the correct information and the reply was “It’s not appropriate to disclose that information as these details could be misused and may assist a hacker in the future.”

Either they were not sure what cause the problem in first place or there was no fix being released soon. Otherwise how could disclosing it “assist a hacker in the future”? Obviously we don’t know for sure because of all this security by obscurity.

Guess what? Almost three weeks after the events, and just a week after Telecom’s decision to stick with Yahoo! as its email provider it seems the email service has been compromised again. This is from their network status page:

UPDATE: Here is what the Inbox folder of a compromised mailbox looks like when the account sends spam out and starts receiving bounces from servers reporting invalid addresses… Just look at the frequency of spam being sent:

(Imnage courtesy of Geekzone user possum888)

Geekzone experience using Pingdom RUM

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Apr-2013 08:15

After seeing a couple of my tweets about analytics and performance the folks at Pingdom asked me a few questions to put together a blog about Geekzone performance. How we maintain the site, how we collect data (including real user monitoring and analytics) and what makes the site run.

You can see some interesting information about browser usage and speeds in our State of Browsers on Geekzone March 2013.

We have been using the Pingdom RUM service pretty much from the start of the beta, released first week of January and should be out of beta soon.

Outlook 2013 going metro on you: how to really edit contacts

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Mar-2013 11:40

I just had the most strange experience after installing Office 2013 on my laptop… Someone pointed out to me that an Anniversary date showing in my Windows Phone calendar for a contact was wrong by a couple of days, so I went into my Outlook on the laptop to update the information.

It took me almost 24 hours of talking a Microsoft friend how to actually access the Anniversary field in an existing contact. I will show you why…

Let’s create new contact, which uses a “long form” dialog like previous Outlook versions:

After saved I find my contact in Outlook and this is what I see:

Double-click the contact in the list and we now get a different, “metro short form” dialog:

Nowhere to edit the Anniversary. Surely if I entered that information in my contact card then I should be able to edit it?

I asked my Microsoft friend and he kept telling me on Twitter to edit the contact and click “Details”. But there’s no details here. Someone else then suggested I change the Contacts view from “People” to “Card” before opening the contact.

Changed from People to Card view and that’s how the list looks now:

When I double-click the contact entry to edit I then get the old style “long form” edit form, the same one used to create the contact in first place:

And indeed if I click Details I get to the information I want to change, which is what I’ve done for the last fifteen years:

So let’s check this:

  • Regardless if you are in People or Card view, you always get the “long form” when creating a new contact
  • If you are in People view you get the all hipster “metro short form” when trying to edit a contact
  • If you want to actually, you know, edit the contact with all the information in the “long form” then you have to switch to Card view before opening the contact to edit because there’s now switch before “short” and “long” forms once you start editing it.

Why didn’t I think of this? Perhaps because it’s not intuitive enough? Perhaps because it’s confusing? Even the Microsoft guy forgot to tell me that I had to switch between views. He kept telling me on Twitter “People, Contact, Details” and never mentioned that I had to switch views.

A friend on Twitter came on Microsoft’s defence saying that any upgrade project would require training, etc. But I don’t buy that. Do people seriously think John Doe walking into Dick Smith to buy a copy of Office 2013 to install on their new PC (or buying a new PC with pre-installed Office 2013) won’t get confused? Do people seriously think John Doe will buy a new PC and training to use at home? I got confused, and I use this every day, I can imagine what non-tech users will think.

Google Reader sunset impact on publishers

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Mar-2013 09:02

Here is an interesting insight on why the so much publicised closing down of Google Reader is probably going to affect the web as we know it. According to the blog Google Operating System post "Google Reader Data Points" the CNN RSS feed has 24 million subscribers on Google Reader. The second most subscribed feed is Engadget with 6.6 million subscribers. JoelOnSoftware has 148,000 subscribers.

As for our little Geekzone, here is our most recent stat from Feedburner (another Google service) showing we have 176,049 subscribers via Google Reader, out of 177,299.

That's 99% of our RSS subscriber base disappearing on 1st July. I imagine other blogs and news sites around the world will see a similar number.

In a single stroke Google is wiping a whole lot of information consumers from these publisher's stats.

Some might say "oh, but people can use Google+ Circles, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, LinkedIn Groups and so on to distribute this same information around".

Sure, this could be done sure but publishers would struggle to get the same number of subscribers on those platforms. And the amount of work (and money) required to reach readers on a diverse set of platforms, each with its own problems, would be huge.

I don't think Google is doing a great service to the web when they announce the Google Reader death.

State of browsers on Geekzone March 2013

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Mar-2013 11:52

It's almost one year since I've posted the last State of Browser on Geekzone March 2012, so it's time for the annual update. These charts are based on more than 600,000 visits (and a couple million page views) to Geekzone during the 30 day period ending 12th March 2013.

Since last year Chrome usage on Geekzone went up from 30% to 40%. Both Firefox and Internet Explorer had a very small dip, and Safari a very small gain. Firefox went down from 28% to 24% and Internet Explorer from 26% to 23%.

Now for New Zealand-specific numbers. Chrome went up from 30% to 39%, Internet Explorer is the second most used browser with 24% (down from 29%) and Firefox is the third most used browser with 22% (down from 27%).

Similar to the last update, here are two charts showing New Zealand only browser usage split in business hours and after hours:

And here is the split of Internet Explorer versions. Internet Explorer 9 is getting strong going up from 43% to 50%, but Internet Explorer 10 is gaining traction going up from 0% to 10% in the last twelve months. Internet Explorer Explorer 6 practically disappeared with only a couple of hundred visits to the site out of almost 70,000 Internet Explorer visits in total. Internet Explorer had a big dip from 43% to 30% but Internet Explorer 7 remains around the same number:

In the last few months I have been running some RUM services on Geekzone, including Torbit and a beta version of Pingdom RUM. So here is for the first time the fastest and slowest of the top three browsers on Geekzone. About 30% of Geekzone visitors use ad blockers, and I'd expect Firefox and Chrome users to use ad blockers more than Internet Explorer users. These numbers could be a bit shifted to those two browsers:

I hope you found this post informative. If you want some more specific measurements please post in the comments.

UPDATE: As requested, here is an OS distribution:

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.

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