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Backup your stuff - this includes you Telecom New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Feb-2008 19:23

This is juicy - might be in the mainstream media sometime soon... A fault at Telecom's Pukekohe exchange caused 10,000 phones to stop working. This included interruption to emergency calls, etc.

It appears this is one of the NEAX telephone exchanges still in use (for our North American readers it would be the "CO").

Now comes the juicy bit of this story... The rumours are that Telecom restored a backup and things started falling down. People start receiving calls intended to someone else, and calls being charged to the wrong person.

Why? It looks like the backup routine wasn't working and the data restored goes back to 2005.

Any changes since then were lost and Telecom is reapplying transaction files (do they keep three years of transaction files?).

I have e-mailed Telecom's press contact people to find out more about this rumour.

Any good IT administrator knows to test backup and restore routines at regular intervals and to run restores to test the reliability of its procedures.

What really happened there Telecom?

UPDATE: Here is what happened according to the Telecom spokesperson:


As reported, a complex software fault began causing problems for fixed line phone services in the Pukekohe area on Thursday evening.

Rather than risk a recurrence of the suspected software fault, Telecom has used a software file from 2005 to restore service as quickly as possible to the greatest number of customers.

While this meant that most customers in the area were returned to service on Friday afternoon, those customers whose details had changed since early 2005 would not have had their dial tone restored (so they could make outgoing calls) or they could be receiving calls intended for a different phone number.

Telecom has been progressively cross-referencing data to restore full service for these customers over the weekend and this is expected to be completed by tomorrow (Monday). Telecom's priority has been to restore the ability to make outgoing calls for customers, followed by incoming calls.

Services such as call minder and voice messaging will be restored once this work has been completed.

Telecom is able to identify which phone lines have been misdirected as a result of this fault and, as per standard practice, customers will not be charged for any calls not made by them.

If customers in the area have not already logged a fault with their service provider and are still experiencing problems on Monday they should contact their service provider.




Storage in the cloud SkyDrive is out of beta and available in 38 countries

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Feb-2008 08:43

Microsoft Live's SkyDrive service, that allows users to store files away from their computers, on the Internet, is now out of beta. And it is free.

The good news is that storage was increased from the 1GB available during beta to 5GB - and availability is now extended to 38 countries, including New Zealand.

The complete list of countries include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey.
 
To use SkyDrive you need only a Windows Live ID - even the Geekzonemail ID is valid!

Now if we could have some WebDAV integration that would allow us to map the SkyDrive as a drive letter in our PCs...



Zumobi? Not really...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2008 11:29

Is just me or a lot of people get all hyped up on a boring user interface with limited options? Give me a RSS reader any time and I can choose what I want instead of waiting for those tiles...


UPDATE: removed the links - the other sites were not hyped up really, just reporting on something that happened. But I still think the software is the most boring user interface there is for Windows Mobile...



DayOut Mobile update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2008 08:49

The mobile site Dayout.Mobi has been updated and it now lists links to current events, supplied by New Zealand Live.

This is an interesting mobile site - you should bookmark it on your PDA or smartphone and use it while out and about around the major New Zealand cities.

You can search for informaiton such as attractions, restaurants and bars, event venues and accommodation directly from your device and receive results formatted for the small screen.

And while we talk about going out and drinking, perhps you might be interested in another mobile site that was brought to my attention: NZTaxis. In this site you can find contact information for cab companies around the country.









Some Pointui eye candy for Windows Mobile

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2008 17:24

Only today I spent some time downloading and installing Pointui for Windows Mobile. What a revelation!

Guys, this is what Windows Mobile should have by now. It's a nice clean interface, with beautiful slide visual effects when moving between menu options, very easy to read fonts and very finger friendly.

Try using Pointui on a Touch device (such as the HTC Touch, HTC Touch Dual, Okta Touch) and you will see it shine. The flush touchscreen on these devices makes it easier to browse the menus with your finger.

Of course it still lacks some feature, since it replaces the shell but not the programs themselves. So I'd like to see a more finger friendly Contacts and Calendar lists, and a better UI for the phone application. But what they offer now is really nice.

I am using this in replacement of Spb Shell, because it really makes things easier to use. Just check the screenshots from my device:

          
 



Telecom New Zealand to trial offshore contact centre for main customer services

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2008 13:49

I got a little bit of information that will be of interest to some of the readers who use Telecom New Zealand services... It looks like TNZ is planning to run an outsource trial where 10% of its current contact centre handling the main consumer market segment would be handled by TeleTech, an outsource provider based in Manila.

You know, it is the contact centre that answers your call when you dial 123 from your Telecom phone and it gets answered by a Kiwi based in Hamilton.

I have just had a phone call with Mark Watts, who gave me some more information about this project.

It is nothing new really. The Telecom broadband call center is already handled (in part) by the same group in Manila.

There is nothing decided yet about what happens in four months, the time they expect to run this trial for. It could be that nothing changes, part or the entire service is moved offshore.

Telecom staff received some e-mails yesterday announcing the trial, but they made it clear that final decision will be heavily influenced by customer satisfaction results.

When asked how this would be measured, Mark told me an independent research company will follow up with callers who contacted the 123 service and capture the metrics.

I also asked if the overseas staff will have the same powers to access account information and work on it, and Mark assured me they will have all the tools needed to provide the services people are used to.



Sierra Wireless Watcher software for CDMA update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2008 11:15

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an update that allowed Mac users to use the Sierra Wireless CDMA cards and USB devices distributed by Telecom New Zealand CDMA on their Mac PCs.

Down in the post there was a short paragraph about version 6.0.64 also being released for Windows users.

I didn't install that at the time - and I should have done that then, because today I got an e-mail from Telecom telling me that this update addresses some known issues and add stability to the overall experience.

More imporantly it fixes an issue when running the Sierra Wireless Watcher under Windows Vista would require you to enter the connection password every time a connection was attempted. Apparently the "Save Password" option now work - off to install it!

The update works with Sierra Wireless AC595 (PCMCIA Datacard), Sierra Wireless AC597E (Express Datacard) and Sierra Wireless AC595U (USB Datacard).



Adding DVBViewer to Windows Vista Media Center

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Feb-2008 12:29

During the last week we managed to get the most excellent DVBViewer running in our Windows Vista Ultimate box (the Apple Mac mini we have in the lounge) as reported in my previous post.

But reality is you don't want to have to always use a keyboard to leave the Windows Media Center interface, manually run the DVBViewer and then use the keyboard again to to get back into the Media Center application. You can automate this sequence with a couple of XML files and other two batch files.

Ideally you would have DVBViewer configured to start in full screen and stay on top. You will also configure a remote control to use instead of a keyboard. This is all done through th Options menu on DVBViewer.

I then read about creating the XML files and use them with the MCE Registration API. Once these are created you can then create a strip and add the tiles to it. This second step involves some registry modifications and I found out that using the MCE Menu Customizer would be faster and error free.

So I have created a couple of XML files that create two applications and entrypoints that you can then add to the Media Center menus - and I am making the files available here.

So these are the steps:

1.Download the MCEDVBviewer.zip file and unzip it in the same folder where DVBViewer is installed - it must be installed on the default folder (\Program files\DVBViewer)

2.Double-click dvbviewermceregister.bat to create the icons which will be added to the "Online Media" strip.

3.If you want these in their own custom strip then download MCE Menu Customizer and execute it - just drag-and-drop the application tiles to the "+" signs and name the strip.

4.Restart the Media Center UI and you are all set.


The "Digital TV" tile kills the Media Center interface and start the DVBViewer. If you have DVBViewer set for fuil screen then you will have your DVB-T channels in a couple of seconds.

You can configure a button on your remote control to exit the DVBViewer application. You can then use the green button to restart the Media Center interface. If you restart the Media Center without closing DVBViewer then you can select the "Stop Digital TV" tile to close it from within the Media Center.

One small user interface problem though: when you select any of those two tiles you will see a warning "You must be connected to the Internet to use this feature". Don't worry - it will go away in a few seconds and I don't really know why it's showing this (yet) since there's no Internet access at all on those two tiles.

If you want to uninstall the tiles, simply double-click the dvbviewermceunregister.bat file to execute it.

Thanks to Koen for his quick reply to a newbie question - I could have found the answer if I read the MSDN links I posted before.



DVB-T in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2008 16:52

Sometime later this year New Zealanders will be able to receive high definition digital TV broadcast thanks to Freeview.

Currently Freeview offers DVB-S services - the "S" means satellite - and while the service is digital it is not high definition TV.

On the other hand the upcoming DVB-T service - where "T" means terrestrial - will broadcast high definition content, but not until later in the year.

If you have the appropriate hardware you are able to get the trial signals for now with standard TV but digital quality.

Since the DVB-T services are on trial now and we have a new Media Center PC in the lounge I decided to try it. Thanks to Fossie's very good "Ultimate New Zealand DTT (DVB-T) Summary/Guide" I managed to configure DVBViewer to use the Hauppage WinTV-HVR 900 USB receiver and capture the signal.

It helped that we have almost line of sight to Mt Kaukau and its Kordia transmitter.

I have the HVR 900 USB stick plugged to my Apple Mac mini running Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (for its Media Center capabilities). The Apple Mac mini hardware supports the DVBViewer running in full screen, decoding H.264 content and using between 40% and 50% CPU - great performance.

The only problem is that Windows Vista Media Center does not support DVB-T in its native mode - at least in New Zealand. If I start a scan it comes empty, while DVBViewer shows fifteen channels.

Microsoft, are you going to have this fixed before launch? I raise my hand to test it!
 
I don't know why, because the TV setup in Media Center lists Terrrestrial but I guess it doesn't "know" the New Zealand frequencies.

Anyway, you can't simply use the standard software decoders on your system to watch these channel as they are all encoded with the H.264 standard. A good suggestion is to use the Cyberlink H.264 codec - the one built-in their excellent PowerDVD Ultra software for high definition DVD playback. 

Of course when this goes mainstream we should expect to see easy-to-use receivers that won't require things such as" viewers", "codecs", "streamers". But if you are a tech person, a geek - then go ahead and by all means try it. Very good indeed.

Currently the trials have the free to air TV channels in New Zealand, plus the special Kidzone channel. The content is not high definition yet, but the codec is the same, TV One expects to start transmission of high definition content with the Olympic games later this year.

For more good read check "What is Freeview?" by Tony Hughes.



Windows Home Server doing well in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2008 09:14

An interesting bit of information I found in the Windows Home Server blog:


In order to compare the sales results of a smaller country with a larger country, you need to come up with a relatively simple way to equalize the field of play. So, if you look at Windows Home Server sales divided by the number of households with a broadband connection in each country, you get some interesting results. Here are the current rankings of the top 16 seeds in the Windows Home Server World Cup competition. 
  1. Norway
  2. New Zealand
  3. Denmark
  4. Germany
  5. Switzerland
  6. United Kingdom
  7. United States
  8. Australia
  9. Austria
  10. Canada
  11. South Africa
  12. Sweden
  13. France
  14. Netherlands
  15. China
  16. Japan


This is really cool. Windows Home Server is more than just another file server. It's not a backup on LAN like Apple Time Capsule -it is more than this.

I use Windows Home Server here. Of course I could simply run Windows Server and use shared folders for everything. But with Windows Home Server you get automated daily backups, data redundancy on select folders, and a console that allows you to monitor the status of your network - and with some cool Windows Home Server add-in software you can keep adding functionality.

It also comes with a homeserver.com domain you can use for free so you can access your home server from anywhere with Internet access. You can setup a photo website with the Whiist add-in and have your friends and family see it.

We currently have more than 2 TB (terabytes) of data including digital content and computer backups stored in our home server - and I think it's really cool to actually have that much data stored somewhere always available wherever you are.



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.

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