My window to the world

Speedtest results, Vodafone cable, late 2013

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Dec-2013 15:55

Today I decided to download a movie from Amazon Instant Video, and it came down quite fast. so I decided to go on a round of speedtests*. I am on a Vodafone cable plan (HFC network, 130 Mbps down/10 Mbps up).

Something must have changed because… just look at these numbers:

To Sydney:

To Los Angeles:

To Amsterdam:

And this is to Auckland:

Pretty impressive and well done Vodafone. Now we just need some larger caps at so we can use more of those speeds.

* Yes, I know speedtests aren’t conclusive. External networks have bottlenecks, servers may not have large enough capacity, etc. But it’s a reference as good as any and for what’s worth some of that do reflect in how fast your browsing, streaming and downloading work.



More passwords stolen. Rinse, repeat

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Dec-2013 15:35

A server was found with two million passwords to social network sites, web-based email and other services, including Facebook (318,000), Yahoo! (60,000), Google (54,000), Twitter (21,000) and LinkedIn (8,000).

Passwords seem to come computers in the Netherlands, Thailand, Germany, Singapore and Indonesia.

Those passwords were collected by a network of zombies (botnet) infected with a keylogger, a small program that records whatever a user types into a computer.

This is just another batch of passwords in the public hands. During the last year we’ve seen account information (including encrypted passwords) leaked from Adobe (152 million!), Gawker (532,000), Yahoo! (453,000) and Sony (37,000).

Even if the service you use encrypt passwords there still ways of finding what these are (including statistical analysis and plain brute force). Just look at this blog post “Adobe credentials and the serious insecurity of password hints” to see how easy it can be for someone to find passwords when millions of records are available.

You should change passwords every few weeks or months, and to be on the safe side you should always use different password in each service. Also if your service offers a second form of authentication (a security token, code via SMS or email), then use it.

Troy Hunt has just created a new site called ‘;—have I been pwned? where you can enter your email address to check if it shows up in any of these “treasure chests”.



One of the seven HP Microservers arrived, are you in to win?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Nov-2013 18:55

Just received the prizes for our HP Microserver Gen8 giveaway (including the HP PS1810-8G switch and Windows Server Essentials 2012) and will forward to the winner early next week. Remember there is still time to enter the other competitions listed in this topic here

To our winner Noviota, congratulations!



HP Microserver competition coming soon

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Oct-2013 18:39

Some more information about the HP Microserver Gen8 competition I hinted in my previous blog post: I will soon post a review on Geekzone and we will have one of those to giveaway to our readers.

More importantly, as in previous HP competitions we have MORE THAN one blog giving those away over three weeks - and you will be able to enter in any or all of them for more chances. From the week of 27th October we will start the competition on Geekzone, with other blogs following (two or three per week). Keep an eye on this topic because I will update the schedule later.

In the mean time, here are the participating blogs/forums so you can bookmark them:



Vodafone increases prices on cable plans, adds new tier

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Oct-2013 19:04

Vodafone has increased prices in its cable plans, going up an unbelievable $43.06 (44.88%) in the 150GB plan (130/10 Mbps speeds). They also added a $149 version of the plan with 250GB allowance:

And this is a “naked” service. No phone, no IPTV, or anything else. Compare this $139 for 150GB package to what I’m currently paying for the same service:

 

Why is this hard to swallow? Because Vodafone owns the cable network. It’s an asset, and it’s been deployed since the late 90s. It’s not like they have to pay UFB to a provider such as Chorus. This makes it more bizarre that they push these prices up.

This comes just after the company announced their new “Ultra Fast Broadband TV service”, a bundle of Internet, IPTV and VoIP. Notice though that UFB includes a $30 discount if you have a mobile with the company.

Disappointing that Vodafone has pushed the cable prices up for the 150GB tier, just months after bringing it down from the old TelstraClear prices. Also disappointing that the service has been lately plagued with slowdowns and outages and it took the company two weeks to get things fixed. Also disappointing that Vodafone seems to have a continuous problem with the way their traffic goes to Australia (Australia is becoming a very important CDN and content hub, so we should really push our ISPs to have great connectivity to our neighbours).

As for the new prices, compared to the Orcon $99 unlimited plan, those prices are too damn high.



HP Microserver Gen8 in the house

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Sep-2013 19:18

Exciting. Just got an HP Microserver Gen8 delivered here today plus an 8-port HP PS1810-8G switch. The Microserver Gen8 comes with four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two ethernet ports, ILO and four 3.5” bays.

This weekend I will be installing an OS on this box and playing with options and then posting the review on Geekzone. For the time being here are a few photos:

Oh, did I say I will have one of these to giveaway soon on Geekzone, plus other bloggers from around the world will be running their own competitions? Stay tuned…



HP Tech @ Work Day experience

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Sep-2013 16:20

I was recently invited by HP and Ivy Worldwide to attend the HP Tech @ Work Day in Sydney, Australia. This wasn’t my first experience with Ivy as an enabler of relationships between bloggers and the tech industry, and as usual the team delivered an exceptional value to myself and my audience.

First there was the planning stage. I was contacted with some basic information about the event, who it is aimed at, who from HP would be available on site for us to talk to, and other pieces of relevant information.

Based on this initial contact I was able to ascertain this event was a good fit to both myself and my audience. 

Then comes the support provided by the Ivy Worldwide team, including travel arrangements, accommodation, transportation and other bits and pieces.



The HP Tech @ Work Day in Sydney was an event in a conference format, with a keynote covering the topics of the moment: cloud and big data. From our front row seats we heard insights from David Caspari (Managing Director HP South Pacific), Paul Muller (VP Software Marketing, HP Software) and we had the chance to learn from the experience of people such as Tom Quinn (Chief Technology Officer, News Corp) and Tam Lee (Neuroscientist, Human Technology). 





After the keynote we could chose from three streams of speakers covering infrastructure topics, before we could get everyone in the Bloggers' Lounge for Coffee Talks. Those are small session of 45 minutes to one hour where our group had the opportunity to talk candidly to some of the speakers, going deeper into topics of interest. That's where I found more about things such as the Orion Health and HP Cloud deal announced earlier that same day and what made the company decide to use cloud services, how they plan to use it and more.

At one of these Coffee Talks we had the opportunity to give HP some feedback in how we perceive the HP Cloud message, what our group of bloggers (which included professionals in the IT infrastructure sector) thought could be clearer and how HP could improve their relationship with markets. 

During  these events Ivy Worldwide also arrange for some even more informal meeting time, such as the group dinner arrangement, where all of us including bloggers, HP and Ivy have an opportunity to continue our conversations about the events of the day over a meal that (in some cases) extends for some quite time into the night, all for a good exchange.




HP Tech at Work Day Sydney 2013

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Jul-2013 10:12

Full disclosure: I am attending the HP Tech at Work Day Sydney 2013 as HP guest this week (30th June). HP is covering my trip and accommodation.

Having said that, I have been to previous HP events around the world (Las Vegas, Austin, Houston, Singapore, Sydney) and the content available is right on for the audiences attending. Be it the HP Discover with thousands of tech sessions and hundreds of booths with products from HP and partners for existing customers and prospects, a single day event to show a group of bloggers how HP servers are designed and engineered or even a day to explore HP Cloud, there’s always something for everyone.

I mean, just look at the list of speakers for this year’s event in Sydney. And us bloggers have the extra “coffee talks” private time to talk to these and other people in the industry to gather extra information.

Looking forward to meeting some old friends again and making new ones there.



Yahoo! Wishlist page live now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Jul-2013 10:05

The Yahoo! Wishlist page is live now.

If you are not aware, Yahoo! decided to free up usernames not used over a certain period of time. This means you might be able to get that username (McLovin) instead of "Sorry, this username is taken. Do you want to use McLovin14238576 instead?"

Yes, yes. What a strange move. The first thing it comes to mind is that someone might have used that email address before, so it's "dirty". By dirty I mean it could be subscribed to lots of email lists. Or be the alternative email address accessing some services. For example, think of those services using an email instead of username. People could get an address and go around submitting it to the "Forgot password" forms until hitting one that is worth something - who knows? A NY Times subscription, or access to a porn site.

When I asked about this, Yahoo! commented:


"Our goal with reclaiming inactive Yahoo! IDs is to free-up desirable namespace for our users. We're committed and confident in our ability to do this in a way that's safe, secure and protects our users' data. It's important to note that the vast majority of these inactive Yahoo! IDs don't have a mailbox associated with them. Any personal data and private content associated with these accounts will be deleted and will not be accessible to the new account holder.

“To ensure that these accounts are recycled safely and securely, we're doing several things. We will have a 30-day period between deactivation and before we recycle these IDs for new users. During this time, we'll send bounce back emails alerting senders that the deactivated account no longer exists. We will also unsubscribe these accounts from commercial emails such as newsletters and email alerts, among others. Upon deactivation, we will send notification for these potentially recycled accounts to merchants, e-commerce sites, financial institutions, social networks, email providers and other online properties."



Telstra found to be storing data for USA intelligence agencies

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Jul-2013 13:44

Remember 1997? That’s when Carnivore was in use by the FBI. Soon after we heard rumours of an AT&T Room 641A, where the NSA would have a colocated interception facility that would tap into all communications being handled by that telco. Then all the rage about ECHELON, a SIGINT collection network operated by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States of America).

During those years people were quick to call “paranoid” those who discussed those surveillance systems and frameworks.

It is now 2013 and we start reading more about a secret program called PRISM, that would allow intelligence services access to data stored by technology companies that store and forward communications and data files. Companies allegedly involved all sent out releases saying pretty much “we care deeply about our users privacy and comply with the law.” Those include Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

Despite all the negatives, just yesterday came out more leaked information alleging Microsoft has provided the NSA with encryption keys that would allow them to access encrypted communications in their online properties such as Outlook.com, Hotmail.com and Skype. This is similar to 1999 claims that Microsoft has inserted a public key into the Windows NT operating system allowing intelligence services a backdoor into the platform.

Now come word that Australian Telstra has been working with American authorities since 2001 in a manner not different from AT&T and it famous Room 641A. In essence the telco agreed to store electronic communications data originating or terminating in the USA and going through their Reach network, making this available to US enforcement agencies on demand. The data is available through systems involves not only “metadata” but content of emails, instant messages and voice calls.

Fairfax Media reported that four Australian defence facilities are being used by the US in this intelligence collection programme. Local (Australian) centres are used in a National Security Agency surveillance program codenamed X-Keyscore.

This collaboration seems to be the result of Telstra decision to expand into Asia through Reach. When it came to the point where they needed to negotiate landing rights into USA, the local security agencies made it a requirement the company signed the agreement to collaborate in this data collection in order for a license to be issued.

While no live surveillance is being conducted, the data is available at short notice to US intelligence agencies.

Just recently University of Otago information science Associate Professor Hank Wolfe commented that “Under what was unofficially known as the Five Eyes Alliance, New Zealand and other governments; including the United States, Australia, Canada, and Britain, dealt with internal spying by saying they didn’t do it, but they have all the partners doing it for them and then they share all the information.” Yes, Five Eyes is the evolution of good old ECHELON from the late 90s.

So the questions after this revelation from the other side of the Tasman is really “how much of New Zealand communications are being stored by Telstra and handed over to foreign intelligence agencies?”. Or even “are there any New Zealand ISPs or cable providers involved in a similar deal?”

This all just happens in the middle of discussions involving the New Zealand’s government proposal Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. I suggest you read Thomas Beagle’s GCSB Bill Oral Submission and also his other submission to the GCSB Bill:

The GCSB Act (2003) allowed the GCSB to provide advice and assistance to any public authorities or other entities. However, section 14 made it very clear that this assistance was not to include any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.

The GCSB Bill now explicitly allows the GCSB to perform interceptions of New Zealanders communications on behalf of the Police, SIS or Defence Force.

It also allows the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders for the purpose of maintaining cybersecurity. (The GCSB claims in the Regulatory Impact Statement that it will need to be able to monitor the communications of New Zealanders to detect whether they are being attacked.)

Those changes actually allow the GCSB to perform interceptions of New Zealander's’ communications on behalf of other agencies, something that caused a bit of a problem when they watched over Mr Dotcom, which was later ruled illegal because Mr Dotcom was a New Zealand resident at the time.

I have reached to Southern Cross Cables asking for comments but I don’t expect to hear anything back until Monday at least.



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'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 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.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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