My window to the world

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...



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).



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.



Do you want news? You cannot handle the news!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2008 10:33

Citizen journalism anyone? CNN has released ireport.com with the tag "Unedited. Unfiltered. News".

Go on. I know you want to read worldwide reports from citizens. Just read these ones from their front page or related news:

- Unexpected level of demand leaves birdfeeder empty
- Thursday lunch report
- My roomate has been stealing my stuff
- Breaking News Ketchup

With this level of "journalism" I rather keep getting my news from FARK.



Norton Online Living Report: digital lifestyle habits

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Feb-2008 12:39

Today I got some information from Symantec and their upcoming Norton Online Living Report (NOLR) study and I thought it would be interesting to share here.

The report is the result of a study on the digital lifestyle habits of adults and children around the globe. It focuses on how people worldwide are conducting personal interactions and connecting emotionally online.

One of the interesting findings from the worldwide study is that parents’ perception of what their children are doing online does not reflect the reality of what their children are doing. For example, in the U.S. parents believe that 6% of their children have been approached online by a stranger, yet 16% of children in the U.S. report they have been approached by a stranger online.

Another interesting point is that about half of adults, and slightly fewer children, have made friends online – and, of those, many (about 60 to 80%) have translated these online friendships to their offline world. 

Here is a snapshot of findings from the Norton Online Living Report:


Norton Online Living Report, Vol. 1, Key Findings

Communicating:
 
•       Many online adults spend at least one hour per month sending text messages from their mobile phones
•       41% of U.S. online adults (constantly, frequently or sometimes) and 46% of U.S. online kids use the Internet to download or watch movies
o       A whopping 97% of Chinese online adults and 96% of Chinese online kids do the same

Socialising:

•       Nearly half of online adults in the U.S. have made friends online, of those users, approximately 60-80% have translated these online friendship to their offline world
•       About half of online adults in the U.S. prefer their online friendships the same amount or more than their offline friendships
•       As many as 4 in 10 (10-44% varying by country) online adults around the world feel confident socialising with strangers online
•       As many as 88% of online children in China have made friends online; nearly three-quarters (74%) of online children in Brazil report the same

Living:

•       Online gaming is enormously popular, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of online adults in the U.S. and more than 9 in 10 (96%) online children in the U.S. playing games
o       Nearly all adults and children online in China (95% and 99%, respectively) play online games
•       China and Brazil lead the countries surveyed in downloading music
o       97% of adults and 98% of children in China download music
o       88% of adults and 89% of children in Brazil download music 
•       About two-thirds (66%) of online adults, and 7 in 10 (70%) online children in the U.S. visit video sharing web sites

Informing:

•       Most online adults spend at least one hour per month both reading news from online sites/blogs
•       More than 9 in 10 online children in the U.S. (94%), Germany (93%), France (93%) and China (93%) research via the internet

Buying:

•       Almost all online users report shopping online at least sometimes
o       Global users have a high degree of confidence making purchases online
•       Nearly half of users in China feel confident sharing personal information; only 5% of online users in Japan feel confident sharing personal information

Banking:
•       Personal finance falls behind commerce as a standard internet activity, but the majority of global online users have handled some of their most basic financial transactions online
o       About 4 in 5 online adults bank or pay bills online at least sometimes
o       China has the highest number of users who bank or pay bills online with nearly 9 in 10 (87%), the U.S. has nearly 8 in 10 (79%) users

Exploring:
•       The majority of online adults (85%) and children (52%) have been a victim of some level of cyber attack (from minor spam emails to major hack attempts) and express concern about online safety
•       More than 8 in 10 online adults are not confident using the internet without security software
•       More than a third (34%) of users in the U.S. have shared credit card information—the highest number globally—while just a little more than 1 in 10 (13%) users in Brazil divulge this information
•       The majority of adult users worldwide have installed security software but few go beyond basic steps, such as changing passwords frequently and surfing only on trusted sites
•       More than a third of adults in all countries visit adult or pornographic web sites, with more than half in Brazil and China doing so

Protecting:
•       While the majority of parents recognise online threats to their children, most underestimate the prevalence of these threats and far fewer are taking actionable steps, such as setting parental controls
•       Many parents and children talk openly about what children are doing online, which perhaps results in their overconfidence that their children are being protected online
•       Most parents believe the internet is not as safe for children as for adults and most children believe the internet is not as safe for themselves as for adults
•       The U.S. and Australia have the highest number of parents who believe the internet is not as safe for children as it is for adults
•       Parents underestimate how often their children are approached by strangers online and encounter cyber pranks, with the U.S., UK and France having the highest number of unaware parents
o       U.S. parents believe that 6% of their children have been approached online by a stranger, yet 16% of children in the U.S. report they have been approached by a stranger online


The Norton Online Living Report survey was conducted online in eight countries (U.S., UK, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, China, and Japan) by Harris Interactive on behalf of Symantec between 12 November and 17 December 2007 among 4,687 adults 18 years of age and older and 2,717 children aged 8 to 17 years old who spend one or more hours online each month. 



Ojo videophone: can you see me now?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Feb-2008 16:41

If you are one of the people who bought an Ojo videophone from Telecom New Zealand (announced down here back in November 2006) then start worrying.

It seems Worldgate is in the path to bankruptcy:


Accordingly, on January 30, 2008, the Company shut down its operations as a first step to winding down its business, which will occur if the Company is not able to secure payment of the monies believed to be owed and/or new financing. The Company continues to explore potential financing opportunities and is also pursuing legal recourse against the customer. Thus, bankruptcy may be coming shortly, which would be another black eye for the VoIP industry...



And just minutes ago I read on Engadget that the service has gone dark.

Is anyone here in New Zealand still using the Ojo through Telecom New Zealand?



You should follow Polar Bear Farm

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Feb-2008 13:07

During the Kiwi Foo Camp 2008 I had a chance to meet Layton Duncan. He's quite active on Geekzone, mainly in the Mac OS X Mobile forum, helping others with their iPhone and iPod touch questions and comments.

He is also involved with Polar Bear Farm and I think you should follow the company.

Why you should follow Polar Bear Farm? Because it's a New Zealand company creating application software for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.

They are the guys behind the PBF Search and PBF ShowTime - this one brings video recording to the Apple iPhone.

I just wanted the guys added more posts to their blog - I know they were shoing off their stuff during the MacWorld but it would b good to hear more of their experience of going to that big show.



TheFreeNet - mesh wi-fi in Wellington metropolitan areas

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Feb-2008 15:30

During the last weekend at Kiwi Foo Camp I came across a very interesting project called The Free Net. Rod Drury went as far as saying this was one of the Best of Foo.

The whole idea is to use accessible wireless mesh repeaters to extend a wireless LAN (wi-fi) network and cover Wellington with free wi-fi. The Meraki solution was adopted by the project because they manufacture a few hardware options including an indoor version (pictured), an outdoor version and an upcoming solar battery-powered outdoor version.

Individuals and companies would "donate" part of their bandwidth to the project. Companies could subsidise this through advertising shown in a narrow bar on top of the webpages visited (I saw that and it's really not a problem).

The project is being initially sponsored by Webstock 2008 and Govis, who are creating a fund with their donations of NZ$5,000 and $9,000 respectively to purchase those devices and donate to individuals and companies who want to start sharing their networks.

This will be a lot of devices, since the Meraki indoors costs only US$49 and the Meraki outdoor costs US$99.

The whole thing is based on a "pay forward" concept where you don't charge others to use your bandwidth while you can use someone else's bandwidth for free.

The project established a 1 GB limit that any MAC address can use during the month which is a lot in a shared model aimed to be used only when you are away from your own network.

Hopefully with more people joining in all the traffic won't be going throug a handful of companies and individuals.

You don't need to donate your bandwidth though. You can donate the space and power required for these devices to run. Providing they are in range to another device then the network will be extended and Internet access will be provided through the shared gateways in the system.

At the end of the day you will be hard pressed to find individuals who can afford sharing their bandwidth in th current New Zealand broadband landscape. In this country there's no concept of "unlimited" bandwidth. People are still being charged in plans that go from a minimum of 1GB (yes, believe me), going through 5GB, 10GB and so on.

We are here on a 80 GB plan, for example, and only use about 60 GB a month. I would be happy to share the other 20 GB but there is currently no way to limit this on the project. You can limit the bandwidth throughput (to say 512 Kbps instead of the native 10 Mbps on my cable conneciton) but you can't limit the number of users.

There are other projects and products that allow people to share their Internet connections around, but none incorporate the mesh aspect of this project which means it does not require every single node to be directly connected to the Internet. You can have a look at FON (not available in New Zealand), Tomizone or Zenbu (both New Zealand-based businesses).

FON allows you to share your connection for free, while using other people's connections for free as well. Or to make it available for free to other people who share their connections, while charging "visitors" that do not share their own connections.

Tomizone and Zenbu both work on the same commercial view. You purchase a router with a modified firmware and can then establish your own hotspot service, charging people for access.

I would be much more inclined to use the FON model for example, to cover the basic connection cost, but wouldn't mind going completely commercial to cover all the costs.

What do you think?



Wikipedia on Vodafone live!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Feb-2008 13:07

If you are in New Zealand and use Vodafone live! services, check the Mobile Wikipedia, developed by Instinct.

The service is a WAP interface to Wikipedia and can be accessed from Vodafone live! > Communities > The Answer Is Here.

A few comments though:

- I tried it using a Palm Treo 500v (screenshot) which is the first Windows Mobile Vodafone live! compatible handset. It all worked ok but the articles themselves were not showing any formatting If you test this with other handsets (Nokia, Sony Ericcson, etc) please leave a comment how the experience goes.

- Why didn't Vodafone use something like "Mobile Wikipedia" in the link, instead of "The Answer Is Here"? It would probably attract more attention.

Good luck with the new service.



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.

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