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At Kiwi Foo Camp 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Feb-2008 10:50

I am in Warkworth (New Zealand) with other 150 technologists, developers, thinkers, writers, entrepreneurs participating in the second Kiwi Foo Camp, organised by O'Reilly's Nat Torkington and his crew.

It is an amazing mix of people and knowledge around here. Radio NZ is broadcasting live from the premises, discussions are going on almost around the clock - and this time we didn't get lost on the way here thanks to... technology (gotta love GPS, Google Maps Mobile and cellular data).

Talking about wireless data we have wireless LAN here, but you can imagine how a crowd of 150 technologists can quickly overload the tubes. So I am using my Telecom data card. I noticed that Telecom New Zealand has upgraded this site to CDMA EVDO since the same time last year, but Vodafone New Zealand still provides the same non-usable GPRS service around here.

The conversations around here are not NDA, but it's a matter of principle to only disclose things if you ask and receive a positive response.

I gotta go now for one of my sessions. Here are a few pictures from the opening:

Welcome Slingshot to Geekzone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2008 13:15

I would like to welcome Slingshot to Geekzone. We have created a Slingshot & CallPlus forum now, with a new user "Slingshot" that will represent Slingshot on the site.

More information on this forum entry.

Reeltime TV halts trading on ASX: legal movie downloads to be affected?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2008 11:38

For a while seemed like the only alternative for legal movie downloads in Australia and New Zealand.

Except that if you visit the site you will find there's a very little catalogue available - with movies that I wouldn't hire for a Tuesday soirée.

Now I see a press release from Reeltime Rentals, an U.S.-based company declaring they have nothing to do with Reeltime Media, an Australian company listed in the ASX. This press release came out because Reeltime (the Australia one) had asked the ASX to suspend trading of its ticker.

The Reeltime Media ASX page says:

Principal activities: Broadband TV Content aggregator and operator - direct from hollywood licensee for movie downloads - both rental and own. Company provides content & operations to ISP, retail and media partners. Company has aggregated content suitable for PC and Set Top Box IPTV delivery. Company also retails games and music via its online website

I don't see a decent on-line movie delivery in New Zealand anytime soon. Do you?

Office 2008 for Mac in stores now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2008 10:42

I just got the announcement from Microsoft that Office 2008 for Mac is available in stores througout New Zealand now.

I received a review copy last week - yes, we do have a couple of Apple Mac machines here at home, believe me we are not all Windows fanboys 100% of the time as some of you like to think - and it looks quite good.

Installation was really easy and the installer had no problems with the previous copy of Office for Mac already in the system. At the end of the install the old copy is automatically removed (if you select the option) and your old Identity files are automatically imported. This is quite important if have a huge email archive and connects to an Exchange Server.

Here's a list of things new and improved (long list):

Suitewide Features
•         Elements Gallery has been introduced as part of Office 2008 for Mac’s new user interface (UI). This new feature emphasises discoverability and gives users quick access to tools and Mac-specific features within applications in an intuitive, visually appealing and simple way. A Mac first!
•         OfficeArt is a powerful graphics engine — also used in the Windows-based Office 2007 products — that provides great cross-platform file fidelity and easy access to stunning visual and graphic effects. The OfficeArt engine runs all the graphics and image manipulation across the Office suite. From the Formatting Palette, users can realise a multitude of professional image effects, such as shadow effects, glows, reflections and stunning 3-D effects. Distortions, blurs, halftones, style and colour adjustments can polish pictures and presentations alike.
•         The Toolbox has been revamped to be a true one-stop destination for some of the most useful tools in Office for Mac. Incorporating the original Office for Mac Toolbox and Formatting Palette into a single user interface, this Mac-only feature will continue to give users instant access to the tools they need, including Object Palette, Animation Settings, Citations and Formula Builder.
•         Modern Themes and Styles in each application help users consistently apply a professional look and feel to documents and presentations.
•         Help Viewer makes it easy to get answers to computing questions.
•         Compatibility Reports allow users to confidently share information and ideas with nearly anyone on any platform. This feature analyses issues that may be problematic on another platform or version of Office and enables automatic fixes for them.
•         Scrapbook provides image and information storage, advanced searching, and direct input into a document. Through cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop functionality, the Scrapbook offers easy access to the most often used information and can be accessed from all four Office 2008 for Mac programs.
•         Unicode support enables input and display of approximately 50 languages in Office 2008 for Mac.
•         Microsoft AutoUpdate notifies users and enables for automatic Office updates when new patches or service releases are available.
•         Microsoft Error Reporting Tool enables users to immediately and anonymously report crashes to Microsoft for analysis and potential fixes.
•         AppleScripting improves and expands the AppleScript dictionary to allow better AppleScript programmability.

Word 2008
•         Document Elements simplifies and automates some of the most common but often difficult and tedious document tasks to help users easily build professional reports and papers. Cover pages, tables of contents, headers, footers and bibliographies can be chosen from a convenient thumbnail gallery, and added with a simple mouse click. A Mac first!
•         Publishing Layout View is a new specialised work space in Word that lets users easily create and edit content-rich documents such as newsletters, flyers and brochures by uncovering desktop publishing layout tools. A Mac first!
•         Dozens of new templates in Word 2008 give users a jump-start to great-looking documents.
•         New WordArt will help users make text more beautiful and artistic.
•         OpenType Ligature Support has been improved to support OpenType in Word 2008 and dramatically improves the text display on many fonts that support ligatures (e.g., Zapfino).
•         Citations is a new function that makes it easy to create citations and bibliographies by allowing one-click switching between styles.
•         Notebook Layout View enables users to quickly take notes, search and flag relevant information, and record audio directly into a Word document designed to look like notebook paper with new customisable work spaces and notebook appearance. It also enables users to add colour-coded tabs for a new level of organisation.
•         A more streamlined Mail Merge process makes it easy to quickly prepare and distribute newsletters, flyers and mailings.

Excel 2008
•         Ledger Sheets enables everyone to use Excel to handle common money-management tasks. Home and small-business users can balance cheque books, track accounts or manage inventory more easily than ever with the help of pre-formulated cells. A Mac first!
•         Increased rows and columns make Excel spreadsheets virtually limitless, with up to 16,000 columns and more than 1 million rows.
•         Formula Builder, found in the Excel 2008 Toolbox, walks users through the steps needed to create the perfect formula for any occasion. A Mac first!
•         Formula AutoComplete provides a drop-down menu for formula options that users can choose from once they have started typing a formula.
•         Building Charts help users easily create modern charts and modify their look and feel with the click of a button. New chart templates utilise the new OfficeArt graphics engine.

PowerPoint 2008
•         SmartArt takes users’ PowerPoint slides from bulleted text into the modern world of graphics to communicate their ideas visually.
•         The Object Palette gives users quick access to shapes, art, symbols and pictures, including iPhoto files.
•         Design templates, animations and transitions include more than 100 design templates, as well as smooth slide transitions and animations.
•         The Custom Layouts tool enables users to create and save customized slide layout templates to the PowerPoint Elements Gallery.
•         Dynamic Guides help users quickly align text and graphics for a crisp, clean slide design.
•         Thumbnail View provides a condensed look that makes it easier to ensure design consistency and improve the flow of a set of slides.
•         Improved Presenter Tools now feature both elapsed and actual time indicators, as well as a notes pane and thumbnail view of the entire presentations — all viewable only by the presenter.
•         New integration support lets users share presentations from a Mac to an iPod by saving as a PNG or JPG file.
•         PowerPoint 2008 takes full advantage of Apple Remote Control technology, allowing users to use the simple six-button functionality to control presentations.

Entourage 2008
•         My Day enables users to track priorities and stay on top of daily activities no matter what application they are working in. My Day is a compact stand-alone application that offers at-a-glance schedule and task viewing without launching Entourage, and lets users colour-code everything to visualise daily priorities. A Mac first!
•         To Do Lists give users an easy way to manage time and tasks more efficiently by displaying all items in one place.
•         Improved Entourage Calendar user interface includes colour-coded categories, status indicators and flexible to-do list management.
•         Junk e-mail and phishing protection is enhanced with new filtering capabilities.
•         Project Centre provides one simple way to view and stay on top of all e-mail messages, files, contacts, meetings and tasks related to a particular project. Users also can share project information with others to help keep them just as organized.
•         Improved Exchange support. Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition feature the following updated features for users in an Exchange environment:
o Out of Office (OOF) Assistant enables Entourage users in Exchange environments to configure their Exchange account to send a custom auto-reply message to senders of incoming e-mail.
o Kerberos Single Sign-on Authentication automatically recognizes and authenticates new network passwords.
o Managed Folders gives IT managers additional tools to help them meet corporate archival policies by supporting Exchange 2007 document retention policies.
o Calendaring improvements include the following:
–        Accept, Tentative and Decline from the calendar. Calendar management actions are more straightforward and consistent with Outlook.
–        Meeting Update and Cancellation Improvements. Organizers will be able to choose whether to update attendees about a change or cancellation and include comments.
–        Meeting Reply, Reply All and Forward. Using Reply, Reply All and Forward, organizers can quickly correspond with meeting participants through e-mail without opening or changing the meeting.
–        Out of Date Invite Detection. Old invites are labelled “out of date,” and the Accept, Tentative and Decline buttons are disabled, leaving only the current invite active.
–        Invite Conflict and Adjacent Banners. When an invite comes in, its banner will indicate if there is an event conflict or if it runs up against another meeting.
–        No Response Requested Support. Entourage 2008 respects No Response Requested invites and will simply create the event on the calendar without sending a response.
–        Support for Availability Web Service. Entourage now takes advantage of the Availability Web Service to allow meeting organizers with permissions to see full free/busy details (location, subject, and status) when scheduling meetings.
–        Exchange 2007 Resource Booking. This new feature enables clients to book resources without requiring additional client overhead and UI complexity.

Apple Mac OS users can grab drivers for their Telecom NZ (CDMA EVDO) data cards

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2008 09:06

I got a tip from Telecom New Zealand telling me that Mac OS X users can now plug the Sierra Wireless data devices (CDMA EVDO) to their Apple computers and get their daily intake of fast cellular data.

Sierra Wireless has added support for Mac OS X to their Watcher software. The software supports the AC597E (Express Card), AC595U (USB) and AC595 (PCMCIA) models.

There's also an updated Windows version (v0.6.0.64) which introduces a new driver, and allows additional VPNs to be added.

Two conferences this week: UP Bloggers Predictions and Kiwi Foo Camp (a.k.a. BaaCamp)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jan-2008 10:49

Today I am attending the UP Bloggers Prediction 2008 - the second installment in this (now) annual event. You can see myself and othe four bloggers making incredible predictions for 2008 - on everything and anything.

Unfortunatelly the venue is now at capacity for seating but you can always stand around the walls.

This Friday 1st February I will be flying up to Auckland to join other local and international guests attending the Kiwi Foo Camp (a.k.a. BaaCamp). This is also the second installment of thi event and I am looking forward to meeting a lot of new people there!

The gigantic Chinese mobile market

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2008 14:39

Just a few days ago I posted that projections point to more than 1.24 billion mobile handsets sold worldwide in 2007. The number is for Nokia and Sony Ericsson only, not counting the other manufacturers.

Now I read a report from Reasearch and Markets saying that thy expect the number of mobile subscribers in China to increase from 540 million (2007) to about 738 million in 2010.

I never managed to get one of these reports ($$$) to read to confirm their claims. But it's not hard to believe the numbers should be pretty close to reality.

BitTorrent traffic is no different from email traffic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2008 08:29

There's something in the air with Slingshot indicating they are planning to shape "manage" peer-to-peer traffic within its network and through to connected networks.

Peer-to-peer (or P2P) is a technology that allows large files such as video and music to be distributed over the network in a very efficient way, with computers sharing pieces of files from different users - or peers.

This is different from a centralised model, because it doesn't need the central server to be always available, and it's faster because it does not consume the total upstream bandwidth from a single central server at once.

Software companies are increasingly using P2P technology to distribute their software and patches, usually in the ISO format, which is a single file image of a DVD or CD contents.

Peer-to-peer traffic is also successfully used for voice-over-IP (VoIP) for example, with Skype being a prime example.

But ISPs don't like P2P. For one because they claim it overloads their network due to the exponential increase in traffic.

So those ISPs try all they can to "manage" or reduce the available bandwidth for P2P applications using special hardware and software that analyses the packets flowing through their networks and throttling the speed.

This is all good if the ISPs provided "unlimited" network traffic in New Zealand. But not many plans offer this option, and most charge users for a limited amount of traffic every month.

What you as a user does with that limited amount is your problem. If you use 50GB with email, or 50GB browsing the web, or 50GB downloading large files it doesn't matter. It is still 50GB.

Now it appears Slingshot wants to go and limit what everyone can do with their Internet connections. The news came in an article on Stuff (ISPs try to turn torrent) and people are confused and not happy with this:

The junior telco [CallPlus] has invested in Cisco equipment that will let it "throttle" the bandwidth available for BitTorrent traffic, sources say.

It is estimated that 60 to 90 per cent of all Internet traffic is now made up of videos, TV shows, music and software that is stored on people's PCs and shared around the world using peer-to-peer services, of which BitTorrent - with 160 million registered users - is the most popular.

CallPlus chief executive Martin Wylie says the company is "always trying to manage the experience of all customers as best we can".

But Mr Moore says the growing popularity of peer-to-peer services has eroded the experience of web browsing for many people over the past two years and ISPs should not be afraid to say they are taking action.

When email was first "liberated" to the masses no one predicted the uptake it would have. And today billions of messages are exchanged every year, and most are spam. ISPs are battling this problem, but they had to increase their infrastructure to cope of the messages. It's natural of their business.

The same goes with P2P. It's just another tool, like email, and it is responsible for most of the traffic on the Internet now, it seems. So it's up to the ISPs to improve their infrastructure to provide the service users want - not to restrict them.

Again, if someone pays for a plan with 50 GB a month, then it is up to me how I use it. The ISPs is going to receive the monthly payment for these 50 GB regardless of kind of traffic - email, web, ftp, newsgroups, P2P.

From the same article:

Mark Rushworth, chief executive of Vodafone-owned ISP ihug, says peer-to-peer services were once the preserve of tech-savvy Internet users but new services such as LimeWire that are easier to use have encouraged take-up by the mass-market.

"Peer-to-peer and people embracing video makes it harder for ISPs to have flat-rate `all you can eat' plans."

If ISPs are serious about providing a service they should charge for it accordingly. A real, unlimited, all you can eat, plan is available from Actrix. It costs $596/month - and I hear it's worth it.

If someone wants something cheaper they should find a plan that allows a base usage and then the purchase of additional data blocks. Two examples of this kind of plan is the Xnet Fusion plan that allows users to buy additional allowance at $1.02 per GB, or th Slingshot Extreme, which provides 6 GB to start with and then users can purchase data blocks - up to blocks of $40 per 50 GB.

But again, these are paid for and should not be limited. Bits are bits and if they are part of an email, web page or anything else it doesn't change their nature.

ISPS shouldn't limit in any way how users put those data blocks to use, regardless of those being additional to a plan or part of an "unlimited" plan. ISPs shouldn't call "unlimited" a plan if they have no intention to offer unlimited utilisation.

If they were driven to offer "unlimited" plans at cheap prices and have no intention on following on their promise, well, they didn't plan well, did they?

How to select a PDA (humour)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jan-2008 09:44

This video shows how you select an appropriate PDA for your use:

Mobile numbers are gigantic compared to PCs

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Jan-2008 20:58

Last week I posted a news item on Geekzone, "Worldwide PC market grows 14% in 2007". And it just happens that both Sony Ericsson and Nokia have released their 2007 reports and the numbers are staggering.

In the PC market report, Gartner tells us 271.2 million PC were sold in 2007. HP was the number one company with 18% of the worldwide market, followed by Dell (14.3%), Acer (8.9%), Lenovo (7.4%) and Toshiba (4%). The research firm counted desk-based PCs, mobile PCs and X86 servers.

Then I looked at the mobile phone industry numbers. Nokia alone reports 1.14 billion units. Sony Ericsson sold about 100 million handsets. Apple alone sold 4 million of its just release Apple iPhone, compared with about 10 million computers sold by Toshiba around the world.

Now we are not talking about other manufacturers such as Sagem, Samsung, Sanyo, Kyocera, HTC, etc...

It puts the whole "content distribution" problem in another level, doesn't it?

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. 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 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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