My window to the world

TomTom coming to New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Aug-2007 10:39

Not much information at the moment - what products, services, etc - but this is a heads up for all of you who are looking for a GPS-enabled navigation solution for New Zealand: I got an invitation to attend the TomTom product launch in New Zealand, 11 September...

I know there are some in the market - New Zealand's own Navman (now owned by MiTAC) and a couple of other software solutions. It will be good to see what the world's largest personal in-car solution provider will bring to the country.

I won't be able to be there it though, because I will be heading to Sydney to attend the Symantec Vision 2007 (had booked that already).

Windows Mobile timezone udpate for New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Aug-2007 21:53

You can now download two cab files (one for Windows Mobile 5.0 and another for Windows Mobile 6) with update timezone information for New Zealand, including the new DST changes:

New Zealand timezone changes for Windows Mobile 5.0
New Zealand timezone changes for Windows Mobile 6

(And yes, if you read closely, even Microsoft is not using the new names Windows Mobile 6 Preofessional and Windows Mobile 6 Standard, still using the old Pocket PC and Smartphone naming convention...

Windows Vista Service Pack 1: what is and what is not

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Aug-2007 09:20

With the official announcement of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, a lot of people will need to answer some questions from friends, staff, managers: What is it? What is not? How we deploy it?

First Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will not be available until sometime in Q1 2008. A small beta group will be able to test this release soon.

Windows Vista SP1 will address specific reliability and performance issues, support new hardware and support several emerging standards. The company says however that organisations can benefit from the security, management and deployment benefits of Windows Vista today without waiting for Windows Vista SP1.

The plans are to deliver the first Service Pack for Windows Vista in Q1 of the 2008 calendar year, but a beta programme will collect customer feedback before setting a final date. The SP1 beta will be released to approximately 10-15,000 private beta testers in a few weeks.

For users in general that are interested in finding out more about this release, I suggest reading the Windows Vista SP1 Beta White Paper.

IBM Forum 07: The Path to Innovation

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Aug-2007 21:25

Today I spent a good part of the day at the IBM Forum 07. It was an early start but worth it. I met a lot of known people there, and found out a lot more about the industry - it's amazing how things evolve...

First I will be a bit critical: I think everyone at IBM New Zealand, from General Manager Katrina Trroughton down, were the target of a viral distribution of Shift Happens (author, video, wiki) because the buzzwords and questions you see throughout the video were repeated a lot of times, by different speakers, during the whole day.

The keynote The New Working Frontier - How Our Children Are Beating Us to It, by Cliff Dennett, was worth attending. He traced a parallel between gaming and collaboration, attention management, and planning. Food for thought and very well put, although I wonder how many of the middle managers attending would feel inclined to go back to their desks and suggest something as revolutionary as using computer-based games to train and retain staff and clients. But if you attended the session, please put some work into that. It all makes sense, I assure you!

I then spent some time visiting the exhibitions around the show floor, and noticed the main topics around were virtualisation and unified communication - this a theme already present in the IBM Forum 06.

I had contrasting experiences when poking around the virtualisation area. While talking to IBM partner VMWARE I asked if I would notice any difference in performance between VMWARE Server and Microsoft Virtual Server. The technical person was clear: you might not notice any difference in performance between those two tools. And this gave me an incentive to actually try their virtualisation software later to see it by myself.

He then pointed out that VMWARE ESX Server would be a completely different thing: you see, VMWARE ESX Server is installed in the bare metal, and requires no OS to run - unlike VMWARE Server (Windows, Linux) or Microsoft Virtual Server (Windows). So one less layer to worry about, which can actually speed things up. But wait for Microsoft Hypervisor technology to show up soon...

Now the "interesting": I walked to the Integral stand (flash-based site) to find out more about their vision of Utiliy Computing. It just happens that their computing on demand solution is the use of virtual environments on blade servers, providing customers with additional power if the need arises. Well, if I understood correctly what I was told, it's like "we can run as many virtual servers you need in our hosted solution and if your requirements grows we can order more blade servers". Which to me doesn't mean "instantaneous elastic and resilient computing" under certain conditions.

Note that this approach is a bit different to what some mainframe companies are doing, where extra computing power is delivered with every system and always available on demand, with clients paying for a set level of performance, and any excess automatically metered and then charged to the client's account. Note that IBM themselves also provide some "metered computing".

But what really surprised me was when I asked the consultant to tell me how their solution compared with Amazon EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) and Amazon S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) and he didn't know about these offerings - interesting because I dare say Amazon EC2 is the cream in terms of utility computing, while Amazon S3 is the top of storage virtualisation.

But, yes, I am planning to be at the IBM Forum 08 when it comes back to town.

Windows Vista Update for users of 3G cards

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Aug-2007 20:16

The article KB940646 doesn't explain if this affects some cards, all cards, built-in cards, or what, but it's worth trying the update:

You use a 3G wireless wide area network (WWAN) data card on a Windows Vista-based computer. The WWAN data card uses a connection that only receives data. However, you may find that the throughput is much less than the throughput of the same 3G WWAN data card when you use it on a Microsoft Windows XP-based computer.

This problem occurs because of the way that TCP receive window auto tuning is used in Windows Vista for connections that only receive data.

Windows Vista obtains a round-trip time (RTT) estimate at the time of connection setup and every time that a new segment of data that is transmitted. A connection that only receives data is limited to the single RTT sample that is obtained at the time of connection setup. Because the connection only receives data, the connection cannot "converge" to the actual RTT of the connection. For example, because the RTT data may fluctuate for various reasons, a "converge" operation is performed to estimate a meaningful RTT by using blending current and previous RTT data. However, if the connection cannot converge to the actual RTT of the connection, the bandwidth delay product (BDP) estimate that Vista obtains is also incorrect. Therefore, the connection's receive window is limited, and throughput of the connected transmission network is reduced.

Attending IBM Forum 07

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Aug-2007 17:29

Tomorrow (28 August) I will be in the Queen's Wharf here in Wellington attending the IBM Forum 07... It's a full day event. If you see me there, come and say hello.

Windows Home Server: can you write something without experiencing it?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Aug-2007 17:06

I have been posting here about my experiences with Windows Home Server. I know it's a a bit different from what some "consumer" level users will experience themselves because I have actually installed the OS form scratch on my own hardware, testing some configurations, performance, storage options, etc.

I believe most users will actually purchase a turn-key solution, a box ready to go from some partners, such as HP (pictured) and others.

But then you read some "expert" blogger comments such as this, and you have to really start thinking where this comes from:

On August 27, 2007, Windows Home Server is supposed to be released, and I'm in no hurry at all to buy it. I think there is no purpose for it! Who is really going to spend money on buying a new computer and operating system, just so they can share their files with other people? Home Server is said to cost around $500!

Wow! $500 is cheaper than some NAS devices. And it's not only for sharing files with other people. It's for home LAN management and maintenance, automatic backup with mirroring, easy restore tools, media distribution and more.

But if you keep reading it's clear he doesn't know it:

Before you go bashing me, just remember – I have not tried Home Server, and not many people have!

What I just said could be completely wrong! Home Server could be a huge breakthrough in technology, for all I know! I just think it's too expensive and too limited to Windows XP and Vista.

So you have not tried it and issue an expert opinion anyway?

How was the Yahoo! meets Xtra for you?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Aug-2007 14:38

I was just sent this link with a parody of the "when Y meets X" marketing campaign that bombarded users just before the Yahoo!Xtra announcement:

Windows Home Server arrived!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Aug-2007 08:26

Great Monday morning here... I just received my Microsoft Windows Home Server pack and I will be installing this really soon, replacing the beta version on my previous install.

Why I am so excited? Because Windows Home Server is really different from everything else in the Windows world we've seen before - it's easy to use, it's server grade software, it's an important element in an easy-to-use backup and recovery setup, it can automatically mirror your data across attached drives, and lots more.

Note that I didn't say "it's easy to install"... It's really is, but I see it coming ready to use in bundles with special server hardware, tested and certified. Users who can install any Windows version can install Windows Home Server, but this will be for more "geek" types. Consumers in general will be happy with the option to get a turn key solution - which have been already announced by HP and others.

I currently have a test setup running as a virtual machine, with SlimServer providing streaming services to my Squeezebox and a couple of plugins installed (see my previous post).

Currently Windows Home Server is only available in New Zealand and Australia, but it should be available in the U.S. from next week sometime.

Life threatening flaw in phone system?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Aug-2007 22:51

Today I saw an article on Stuff (which usually remove content after two weeks, so if the link doesn't work blame them) that made me think people can't stop spreading FUD:

Telecom's long-awaited $1.4 billion "next generation network" has a potentially life-threatening flaw - it won't work in a power cut.

The alarming implication of not being able to make emergency 111 calls has rescue services concerned and the government wondering how to ensure phone lines stay open in emergencies.

The revelation comes just months after a revamp of the 111 system and a year after a storm in Canterbury left almost 20,000 homes without power, some for almost two weeks. As a result, Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group worked closely with Telecom to ensure telephone systems would continue working in disasters.

Telecom's new all-digital system is to be phased in over the next five years and will deliver increasingly sophisticated communication services to homes, such as video on demand. But unlike current phone lines it requires a mains-powered "gateway" device in each customer's home.

The article goes on and on with this line. But you can clearly see that the "revamp of the 111 [emergency] system] has nothing to do with the telco.

The story doesn't really explain why they come to this conclusion except that the new system uses a "mains-powered 'gateway' device".

So let's explain what the paper failed to tell you: they are talking about Voice over IP (VoIP). When you use VoIP your voice calls go over the Internet connection, not over the landline.

Wait a minute, doesn't my Internet connection go over the landline anyway? In some cases yes, if you use a technology such as DSL, which uses the same copper wires that transmit circuit switched calls (voice calls) to transmist packet switched (Internet) data.

Sometime soon you will be able to get DSL service without having to rent a landline from Telecom. When this happens you could have your voice calls provided by another company using the copper - or simply use a VoIP service such as Xnet VFX.

Here comes the thing: VoIP requires a small box that will translate the analogue signals from your telephone to the Internet digital standards. And here lies the problem: if there's a power outage, this box won't work.

The solution is to buy a small UPS, a device that sits between this box and the mains, and if the power goes down it will provide energy from its internal battery, for a certain amount of time. Ihave two of these devices here at home - they power my entire home office (two desktops, two laptops, printer, router, cable modem, VoIP gateway). If the power goes down I have about 100 minutes of energy to keep us going. Or I can shutdown my computers and have even more time for the Internet router and VoIP gateway.

If you use a standard landline for your voice calls you won't have this kind of problem. That's because the power for the telephone comes down the copper, direct from the exchange.

The article on Stuff failed to explain all this, instead trying to focus in all the horror that would happen if we lived in a society where everyone uses VoIP and no one has a mobile phone.

Which reminds me that you already have this problem today if you use a cordless phone. That's because if the power goes down your cordless phone is useless. Go on, try it without power and you will see.

Why didn't the Stuff folks wrote an article about the life-threatening flaw of cordless phones?

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.

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