My window to the world


Laptop bags and backpacks discounts at Skooba Design

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Jan-2008 09:38

We received a Skooba Design backpack during the Mobius Conference and they are really cool (and I am looking at one of their laptop bags now), so it's worth posting the offer I received today in the email from their online store.

Through the end of Febuary 2008 you can get 25% discount off any oder of US$ 50 or more at Skooba Design - even discounted items - using the code TECHREADER. And if you are in the continental US you get free UPS shipping.



Windows Home Server will not be on MSDN

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Jan-2008 08:48

If you have a MSDN subscription and have been waiting to test Micosoft Windows Home Server or even use it as a development platform for new Add-in, forget it for now.

The MSDN team has announced the decision of not making Windows Home Server available on MSDN.

Sad...



Acer laptops with Ubuntu Linux available now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Jan-2008 22:43

I think this is a temporary offer only, and I don't have many more details than what is in the product page, but it looks like Acer is making a limited laptop series available now with Ubuntu Linux pre-loaded.

You just have to go to a Dick Smith store and look for product code XC5822. The picture here is the same as the one on the site, but I am told it's not exactly the same as the model being offered.

They are some late 2004 Acer Aspire 4315-100508Ci models, based on an Intel Celeron M 540 1.86GHz Processor, 512MB DDR2 RAM, 80GB 5400 RPM SATA HDD, 14.1" Widescreen Display, DVD+CDRW Combo Drive, Intel Media Accelerator X3100 Graphics Card and wireless LAN.

The laptops are running Ubuntu 7.10.

What's more interesting is the price: NZ$699, making it a great value when compared to the ASUS Eee PC, which has only a 4 GB flash memory for storage and costs the same.

This should be a good introduction to Linux machines if you don't feel inclined to install this system on your own hardware.



Some recommended Windows Home Server Add-ins

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Jan-2008 13:01

After rebuilding my Windows Home Server (because of the HDD crash) I decided to invest some more into "Add-ins". Those are programs specially designed to run on a Windows Home Server machine, which is a bit different from the standard consumer-grade OS.

If you don't know yet, Windows Home Server is based on server code, making it a more robust platform. But not all software will run on it, so some special versions are needed. Also, add-ins can plug into the Windows Home Server console for easier remote management.

The first program I installed was Avast for Windows Home Server. One of the cool features is the complete integration withthe console, plus remote management of any Avast installed on PCs connected to this server. You can initiate a scan, schedule scans, start a program or virus definition updates and check the event logs.

Then I installed Whiist, so that I could add links to the Windows Home Server pages. But not only that, it will automatically create photo sites, including thumbnails, with nothing but a few clicks.

Next I installed Diskeeper 2008 for Windows Home Server. This new version also integrates into the console and is specially designed for Windows Home Server, which uses some special redirectors for file storage.

The most interesting add-in is Webguide (pictured). This is such a cool program that Microsoft entered into an agreement with the developers so that it could be free for Windows Home Server users. Go and download yours!

Webguide has some tricks though. If you are running the Power Pack 1 beta you will need to change a web.config file before installation. If you want to stream music from your server, make sure to load the local library using Windows Media Player. And if you want to stream DVDs then you will need a MPEG2 decoder and an AC3 decoder.

I have installed Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 on this server, so that I could use its MPEG2 decoder. And you can download a free AC3 decoder from here.

If you have an ISO file for your DVDs then you will need Daemon Tools. Just be aware when installing it to not install the advertising part of the software. Read each disclaimer before clicking ACCEPT!

Of course if you are playing DVDs over the network you will need the drive set to the appropriate region encoding - but you know this, right?



Rabbit ears for your LCD

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2008 16:55

Yes, we have a cable modem service with 10 Mbps "tubes" here at home (although they promised 25 MBps for end of 2007 but this is now past and nothing happened). We run a Windows Home Server box, Windows Server 2003 for e-mail, Windows Vista laptop, Apple iMac, a couple of Windows Mobile Pocket PC. We have gigabit switches, wireless router, and terabytes of storage.

But we don't have IPTV in this country. And now that we had to move the Sony LCD from the wall because of some renovations we can't watch TV or cable anymore.

Even a service such as Sling Media would help - just plug their box to the cable modem adapter and get the output over wi-fi on the other side of the house.

But not in this country.

I understand we can have this functionality if we add a specific video card to a PC and configure the right software, hack a couple of XML files and things would be up and running.

But I don't want thing that require an electronic engineer to get working. I want simple things. A box that transmits wirelessly to my media centre or connects to my wireless network directly for streaking. We want consumer grade stuff.

We need TV tonight. The father-in-law is coming for dinner, and I am sure he will want to watch TV news at 6pm - Sir Ed died today, the news, the news!

The solution? Go out and buy rabbit ears for $20. Not even all those gigabytes of RAM, terabytes of storage, computing power and bandwidth can help if our providers don't come to sense and offer some decent modern entertainment service.



RIP Sir Edmund Hillary

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2008 11:44

When I moved to New Zealand I was impressed with the recognition Sir Edmund Hillary received in this country.

Who, besides the Queen, would be of such a character as to figure in the national currency (the NZ$5 note)?

Today Sir Edmund Hllary is dead. Not many details yet but I am sure the story will be well known to all New Zealanders in the next few hours - if not minutes.

In my ten years here so far I've came to know more about his story, the Everest, expeditions and philantropic work.

From the Wikipedia on the Everest expedition:


The route to Everest was closed by Chinese-controlled Tibet, and Nepal only allowed one expedition per year. A Swiss expedition (in which Tenzing took part) had attempted to reach the summit in 1952, but was turned back by bad weather 800 feet (260 m) from the summit. During a 1952 trip in the Alps, Hillary discovered he and his friend George Lowe had been invited for the approved British 1953 attempt and immediately accepted.[5]

Shipton was named as leader, but was replaced by Hunt. Hillary considered pulling out, but both Hunt and Shipton talked him into remaining. Hillary was intending to climb with Lowe, but Hunt named two teams for the assault: Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans; and Hillary and Tenzing. Hillary therefore made a concerted effort to forge a working friendship with Tenzing.[5]

The Hunt expedition, like many such expeditions, was a team effort. Lowe supervised the preparation of the Lhotse Face, a huge and steep ice face, for climbing. Hillary forged a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.[5]

The expedition set up base camp in March 1953. Working slowly, it set up its final camp at the South Col, 7,900 metres (25,900 ft). On May 26, Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb, but turned back when Evans's oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 100 metres (300 ft) of the summit.[6] Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to go for the summit.

Snow and wind held up the pair at the South Col for two days. They set out on May 28 with a support trio of Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Ang Nyima. The two pitched a tent at 8,500 metres (27,900 ft) on May 28, while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning, Hillary discovered his boots had frozen solid outside the tent. He spent two hours warming them before he and Tenzing attempted the final ascent, wearing 30-pound packs.[5]

The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot (12 m) rock face later named the "Hillary Step." Hillary saw a means to wedge his way up a crack in the face between the rock wall and ice, and Tenzing followed.[7] From there, the following effort was relatively simple. They reached the summit at 11:30 am.[1] As Hillary put it, "A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top."[8]



When referring to this expedition to the top of the world he said: "We knocked the bastard off."

In 2003 Time publised an interview "A visit with the world's greates living explorer". Stuff has published an obituary:


Sir Ed – as all New Zealanders knew him - never forgot that he reached the summit with Tensing and he devoted the rest of his life to fundraising to improve the health, education and the environment the Sherpa people of Nepal.

When he first started that work he personally built many of the schools and hospitals in the Himalayas with his own hands.



It is a sad day.



Telecom New Zealand releases GSM data roaming prices: where is the competition?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2008 08:56

Here we go again ranting on the mobile operators... If you don't know yet (but should) Telecom New Zealand is in the path of migrating its CDMA EVDO Rev A network to a mix of WCDMA and HSDPA.

The new network is being deployed from this year, but CDMA EVDO Rev A (wich has been just been completed last month) will stay around for another five years.

Telecom has announced the prices for data roaming on overseas GSM/3G networks. And it is not pretty.

You see, prices are pretty much similar to Vodafone's own prices - an absurd amount of money. Let's take for example if you go to Australia:

Telecom New Zealand: NZ$8/MB, Vodafone New Zealand: NZ$10/MB (on Vodafone Australia) or NZ$30/MB (non-Vodafone networks).

That's expensive. It's NZ$8 per megabyte (and up to NZ$30 per megabye if using a Vodafone account on non-Vodafone networks)!

In most hotel rooms you can get a full day of broadband for AU$29.95. Or you can get onto Telstra WiFi Hotspots for AU$27.50 a day. Or you can ask the office you are visiting if they have an open network for visitors.

Of course, since the only Telecom "worldmode" (GSM and CDMA) device is a phone you might not end up using much - unless they have plans to have loan WCDMA data cards for you to use while on those overseas networks.

Overall it's great to have an option now in terms of data roaming. The bad thing is that I would like to see prices 1/10th of these.

Bt the most important thing to realise is his is a direct and high cost of doing New Zealand business overseas!

Oh, and Vodafone's excuse is that prices are set based on what overseas networks charge us. But do they want me to believe Digicel (Aruba) charges the same as T-Mobile (USA) or Telia (Denmark)?



Vodafone updates: what a mess

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2008 08:42

I am still reinstalling the applications in my laptop, after the Big Meltdown last week. Last night I was reinstalling the cellular data connection software.

I use two providers for mobile data: Telecom New Zealand (CDMA EVDO Rev A) and Vodafone New Zealand (HSDPA).

Telecom provides me a much better experience in New Zealand with better CDMA EVDO coverage than Vodafone's HSDPA service. And sometimes much faster too. Vodafone, on the other hand, provides me with data cards that I can actually use while overseas.

Mind you I don't use Vodafone data roaming overseas anymore, because it costs NZ$30 per megabyte when I am in the US. So I just use their data cards with some overseas SIM card. But I digress. I actually use Vodafone here in New Zealand when I can't get onto the Telecom network for some reason - and their coverage not always coincide so it's good to have both options.

Last night I downloaded the latest software for the Telecom hardware I have here (the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595 PCMCIA and the Sierra Wireless 595U USB). I installed the software and had both devices working in less than five minutes.

I proceeded with the Vodafone software. I have a Novatel Merlin XU870 Express Card and the Huwaei E220 (vodem). The Vodafone New Zealand website lists the VMC 9.1 as the latest supporting these. I downloaded it, the slowest possible connection to their servers and installed. It took about 90 minutes to get both devices working.

Then I found out the VMC 9.1 software causes some problems, such as disabling the built-in WiFi while connected and the solution is VMC 9.2 - which is supposedly available in the Vodafone Business website (a corporate site, not the Vodafone New Zealand site).

Good luck trying to find the software though. If you browse the site by OS, the Windows Vista page says the latest version is VMC 9.1 (which I already have) and actually says the Merlin XU870 is not supported (when I know it is). If you browse by hardware, the Merlin XU870 page says the latest is the VMC 6.0 released in 2005 (way before the Merlin XU870 HSDPA was even released?).

But I can't find th VMC 9.2.

Is it really hard for Vodafone to actually make things easy for their users? I guess after the ten days roaming fiasco between Vodafone Australia and Vodafone New Zealand we can expect anything.



To the point: uncov

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Jan-2008 11:10

One of the best commentaries on web 2.0 technologies and people, with very heavy wording, uncov goes to the point (most of the times).

Also worth checking are the pictures and captions for each post - an example posted here.

The blog is no fail. You can read a Wired Q&A with the author Ted Dziuba.

Recommended.



Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 coming soon

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Jan-2008 08:53

Now that the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 story is out I can talk a bit more about my experiences with Windows Home Server. You probably read about a catastrophic failure around here: the Windows Home Server crashed because of a faulty drive, the replacement unit goes to sleep and never comes back - and my Windows Vista laptop had to be completely rebuilt exactly when my backups were not on the server.

Just before my Windows Home Server crashed I had installed the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Release Candidate. As Ed points out it's not a public beta and in the hands only a few people who have ben testing Windows Home Server heavily.

My plan was to exactly test the new server backup functionality. Alas the unreliable Maxtor drive caused the whole thing to come down and the WD drive just is not good enough.

But let's look at the good side: the server is up again, now with 100% Seagate storage and working well. I managed to talk to the store where I bought the WD drive and I am able to return it - in which case I will get anothe Seagate drive and use it as the server backup.

This new feature (screenshot below) allows users to designate a drive to be used as a backup of user content on the Windows Home Server. Even with duplication you may have problems - what happens if the server is stolen or the house burns down?


With server backup you will be able to copy the files to an external unit and take it away with you or have it on a secure location.

Another new feature in the Windwos Home Power Pack 1 is the support for Windows Vista 64 bit. The original Windows Home Server did not have a Connector for that OS, but now users will have this option.

Upload and download of files to the home server is now easier when using a web browser. Also when downloading files you have the option of downloading multiple files in ZIP format or on a new self extracting format.

I still find a couple of problems though, mainly the Path Too Deep errors that happen when a very large file (more than 4 GB) is copied to the shared folders within the server itself (files copied from other PCs on the network are fine).

I don't know when the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 is being released but it is already in the Release Candidate stages, so it should be soon.



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.

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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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