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In-flight calling: the travel hell is now hotter

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Dec-2007 08:37

Someone have mercy on air travellers! Many companies (including QANTAS) have announced their trials with in-flight cellular services.

The latest one is Air France and OnAir. According to Wi-Fi Networking News:

The service is limited to text messaging and mobile email for the first half of the six-month trial. In three months, voice service will be enabled, but according to interviews I’ve conducted over the last couple of years, the voice part could be summarily disabled during flights or for the remainder of the trial depending on reception.

Calls may be made only above 10,000 feet (3,000m). OnAir said they have arrangements with several cell carriers—the company’s service is like its own cell carrier in the air—including Orange,  Bouyges Telecom, and SFR. The cost is “comparable” to international calling, and is estimated to be about US$2.50 per  minute in  previous reports and interviews.

I hope this doesn't work well. Really, who needs a twelve hour flight over the Pacific Ocean with 400 people on-board and some folks send and receiving SMS (beep, beep), phones playing noisy horrible ringtones and worse of all - people talking loudly about their big deal, the new house, or whatever is important for them - forgetting there are some people trying to sleep on that big flying tube...

If this comes true I hope airlines indicate in the booking something like "Mobile free flight" so people can choose which flight to take.

Webcam family package giveaway

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Dec-2007 14:00

A quick reminder to point you to our Geekzone LifeCam family pack giveaway this week (running out fast!): you can enter the draw to win two Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 - ideal for families so you can have one and send the other camera to your parents, brother/sister, son/daughter to keep in touch even while distant...

Entries are closing soon...

BarCamp Auckland 2007 was a success

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Dec-2007 13:30

I got up at 5am to catch the red eye from Wellington to Auckland on a Saturday morning, just to attend the BarCamp Auckland 2007 - and I wasn't disappointed.

Ludwig Wendzich did a great job organising the event. The location was great, and the infrastructure provided was really good - including wireless Internet access, meeting rooms, support, coffee, lunch and a LCD with live Twitter updates.

Whoever wrote he was too young to pull this off was wrong.

I tell you that: if you didn't go to BarCamp Auckland 2007 because of this, then you missed a great deal of technical information and good networking. And the lunch.

I counted about 80 people around there, and attended five sessions throughout the day. Robert O'Callahan presented Mozilla 3.0 - didn't you know parts of the Mozilla development is made in Auckland, good old New Zealand? Now you know.

Mainly the new Firefox 3.0 seems to bring lots of graphics and typography updates, including video - but Robert wasn't able to tell us exactly what happened to the "offline application" framework that was presented to another audience earlier this year during the Kiwi Foo Camp.

Simon Young led a session on using social media for PR work - with some good comments on this. And Nigel Parker ran a session on new Microsoft technologies - hey it's not only Open Source there!

I had the opportunity to meet some Geekzoners during the event, as well as meet old and new friends. Also met a couple of Vodafone New Zealand folks and a Telecom New Zealand guy attending the event. Good to see them there!

By 5pm I was in a cab heading to the airport to fly back home - a long day, but worth it. Certainly coming back for the next one.

You can see pictures on Flickr tagged as BarCampAuckland.

Telecom New Zealand: BlackBerry and more Windows Mobile to come in 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Dec-2007 16:59

I am just now back from a media lunch with Telecom New Zealand's Greg McAlister (GM Business Solutions), David Craig (GM Consumer Marketing), Rebecca Earl and Katherine Murphy (both from their PR team).

Before lunch (at the Wellington's famous Logan Brown) we had a brief review of Telecom's performance during 2007. Then we had a few bits of news (and I will quote from my notes):

- The Okta Touch is the fastest selling Windows Mobile device on Telecom ever - with about three times more sales than originally expected.

- The voicemail migration should be completed by January 2008 - a long project, which I remember being involved during early planning stages while working for Unisys New Zealand, until now provider of the Telecom VSP (voice platform).

- The Worldmode service will have some new handsets. If you don't know, "worldmode" are those handsets that can be used on the existing CDMA network and on overseas GSM/3G networks (and by the end of 2008 on the new Telecom network replacing the CDMA EVDO technology).

- Data roaming is coming for Worldmode so that you don't have to use CDMA only - and stuck in countries where there's no CDMA providers.

- The Okta Mondo should be announced next week, the second Worldmode handset from Telecom New Zealand.

- The LG Groove is coming next month - a media-oriented handset with special media keys (it reminds me of those MP3 players) and built-in FM transmitter.

- Telecom New Zealand is working on launching a Worldmode BlackBerry handset. Initially they are working on testing internally at Gen-i, but soon with external clients.

- They are working on a Samsung Blackjack Windows Mobile device codenamed Albero, also to be a Worldmode handset, due to release sometime near the end of Q1 2008.

- A free security software is coming for Yahoo!Xtra (Bubble) users.

- More broadband business plans are coming in addition to currently existing residential plans.

- Telecom New Zealand will move into the business services during 2008 including hosted applications.

In summary, as Greg McAlister said:

Embracing the new opportunities and looking forward to operating as a service provider in the new environment

It seems everyone there is quite happy with Telecom's new CEO, Paul Reynolds. Good luck in 2008...

New Zealand companies exhibiting at CeBIT Hannover 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Dec-2007 07:40

I just caught a press release from the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise about their next CeBIT Hannover - the largest computer expo in the world.

This will be the fourth year NZTE attends the event with some local technology companies. NZTE is the New Zealand government's national economic development agency.

This year’s theme will focus on enhanced communication between humans and computers. Visitors to the stand will be able to see and work with interactive technologies, see a robot in operation, as well as experience demonstrations of telematic technologies and banking applications.

This is a list with companies and technologies participating this year, from the press release:

Human-Computer Interaction: Technology for all the senses

NextWindow (

NextWindow is a designer and developer of touch screen products, designed for a variety of applications, including after-market touch sensitive overlays to Interactive WhiteBoard touch and annotation. NextWindow will be showing multi-touch capability, and object size recognition, both new functionalities in the large touch screen market.

Massive Software (

Massive Software provides a premier 3D animation system for generating crowd-related visual effects for film and television. The animation and simulation software is used by filmmakers, engineers, architects and robot developers. The company will host Hanson Robotics’ robot Zeno at the show which uses a Massive Software brain to interact with its environment.

Simtrix Ltd (

Simtrix is a leader in research, design, and marketing of breakthrough technologies within the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Simtrix has developed the Swiftpoint device - a radically different computer mouse (or pointing device) that is operated between the index finger and thumb eliminating the need for additional desktop space.

Aranz Scanning Ltd (

Aranz develops and supplies handheld 3D laser surface scanning systems and software for acquiring, processing and quantitative analysis of 3D surface data. Examples of integration projects include a mask making system for creating immobilisation masks for radiotherapy and facilitating a faster and less invasive way to create prosthetics and orthotics than the more traditional casting methods.

Banking: Secure and easy to use solutions for the banking industry

Fronde Anywhere (

Fronde Anywhere offers mobile banking, payment and multi-factor authentication solutions for retail banks and other players in the financial services industry. Its portfolio of user-friendly solutions enables customers to make payments and bank transactions via their mobile device from any location.

Vcomms (

Vcomms offers a new generation of Financial Transaction Network solutions. The company delivers a range of secure wireless connectivity solutions that enable Cash Machine (ATM), Kiosk and Electronic Point Of Sale (EPOS) terminals to connect to transaction processors and banks over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. Vcomms provides solutions to customers in the banking, telecommunications, independent ATM deployer and OEM sectors.

Business Software: Easing the way we work at a mouse-click

Author-it Software Corporation (

Author-it is the complete solution for the creation, management and publication of content across the whole enterprise. From software user assistance and training, to sales proposals, to product manuals, to marketing collateral, to policies and procedures.

Centruflow Ltd (

Centruflow’s world-leading suite of products enables users to visually inspect and understand the data that is important to their business. Centruflow draws pictures that can be easily understood and trusted. It visually connects people to knowledge, linking actions to consequences.

Pivot Ltd (

Pivot offers HR software for remuneration management leading to improved organisational efficiency and employee engagement. Its flagship product – Remuneration Decision Assistant (R.D.A.) manages the critical workflow process of pay reviews through leading edge web-based technology eliminating the more typical spreadsheet or manual processes.

Starsoft Limited (

Starsoft’s EziDoesIT software is an add-in for Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007 which allows users to visually prioritise emails into tasks and then schedule these tasks automatically into the Outlook Calendar according to their priority. The team edition allows managers to maximise work resources for meeting project and task scheduling goals.

Telematics: Technology that shows you the way

Daestra NZ Ltd (

Daestra NZ provides advanced telematic B2B software solutions that will change the way business is done. Its flagship consumer product TracPlus™ showcases Daestra’s technology's ability to seamlessly integrate global tracking across land, sea and air markets in a single solution, regardless of what sensor technology is used.

International Telematics (

International Telematics is a leader in the design and development of telematic hardware and software solutions. This includes GPS tracking, remote vehicle diagnostics (OBDII & CAN), temperature monitoring, managed telematic platforms, accident metrics and driver behaviour.

Imarda (

Imarda is a global company specialising in Telematics hardware products and software solutions for fleet management. Uniquely, Imarda provides complete Telematics solution from end-to-end ensuring the integration of technical compatibility between hardware and software is totally seamless.

Immigration and Employment Service: Living and Working in New Zealand

Hudson Recruitment and Immigration NZ (,

Hudson, a market leader in IT recruitment, and the government authority Immigration New Zealand assist ICT professionals and people from different industries to start a career in New Zealand. Hudson and Immigration NZ are especially looking to recruit IT experts at CeBIT.

New Zealand’s IT industry pavilion at CeBIT

The pavilion situated in Hall 14 Stand G38 is part of an initiative run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). NZTE supports New Zealand’s IT and telecommunications industry in Europe and aims to highlight the technology expertise within New Zealand. NZTE serves as a point of contact for international importers, agents, distributors, traders and investors with innovative companies from New Zealand. There are 39 NZTE branches, including offices in London, UK and Hamburg, Germany.

There is even a NZTE at CeBIT blog where you can get up-to-date information.

TelstraClear, it is the end of the year - where is the 25 Mbps upgrade?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Dec-2007 16:37

Unless TelstraClear is hiding something, and seeing that they are giving $10 and $20 monthly credits to customers, I don't think we are going to see the promised 25 Mbps upgrade available this side of Christmas.

Shame. I was really looking forward to playing with that... How long we will have to wait now, with network brownout during the holiday?

More giveaways on Geekzone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Dec-2007 15:28

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review of all the giveaways on Geekzone during 2007 - and it is an impressive list. But it just keep going!

Last week we gave away a copy of Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007. This week we are giving away a bundle of Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate and Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 - a BIG prize.

In the coming weeks we have Microsoft Lifecam for laptops, laptop speakers, Xbox 360 games, CoPilot 7 for Windows Mobile, AVG Anti-virus and much more.

Also, one of our Geekzone readers is giving away until Christmas copies of his SpeakMediaASR software. Just check the forum post for this.

Make sure to stop by our Geekzone competition page to see if we have any competition running.

If you have a contact form, answer it...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Dec-2007 11:33

Sometimes I hear people comments such as "but I filled their contact form"... It really doesn't surprise me how companies have "contact us" forms but don't bother answering questions.

A lot of companies (and for some time I had a list of those) have nicely designed websites with beautiful description of their services, brilliant pictures of their products - but they simply don't have anyone who cares to answer questions posted by web visitors that fill the "contact us" forms.

My latest experience? ALK Technologies gave everyone of us attending the Mobius 2007 in Amsterdam a copy of CoPilot 7 for Windows Mobile. It works really well, and I installed it on my Pocket PC to find my way around the city.

But when it comes to answer a simple question I posted through their support contact form... The whole "great software" thing comes down to pretty bad service - and still no answer to a simple question.

When I started Geekzone I sent an e-mail to a technology company with offices in Australia. The e-mail had a Delivery Notification request. I received twenty five notifications - and no reply. That's right. I had the entire office structure, with e-mail addresses of twenty five different people who read my e-mail, and not a single person replied to it.

Because of this -and previous bad experiences with this company's products - I never used them again. And if you read the Geekzone forums you will see that I actively tell people to stay away from them.

Another example of how spending money in technology still looks like an after thought and people still don't take ownership? Take BP New Zealand for example. A few years ago I had some questions regarding their products (at the time their new Ultimate fuel) and filled a "contact us" form.

I instantly received a non-delivery notification because the form script was sending the information to, a non-existing e-mail address.

So BP invested in creating a website, but the outsourced team at Sytec time didn't test it and didn't bother using correct contacts in the form? I wonder if the BP team ever thought how strange people never contacted them through that old website.

Note that this was some years ago. Sytec is now TelstraClear, and the BP website is completely different. But the example stands.

The transistor is 60 years old

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Dec-2007 09:31

During the weekend I received an e-mail from Intel with some interesting tidbits about the Transistor (pictured, Wikipedia, GNU FDL), the building blocks of all sorts of electronic gadgetry.

Transistors are semiconductor devices, used as an amplifier or an electrically controlled switch, invented 60 years ago and some say it is the most important invention of the 20th century.

Transistors have found their way into many devices, but most importantly they are the building blocks of computer chips.

My Intel source tells that as transistors become smaller, we run against some fundamental problems: the smallest parts in a transistor today are only five atoms thick.

So here I list some of the facts:

- Intel’s first chip was the 4004 which came to the market in 1971 – about the same time as the Boeing 747 made its first flight from New York to London. Compared with the 4004, Intel’s new 45nm (nanometer) chips have seen a 200 time  improvement and have become 1.000 time more energy efficient.

- The original transistor built by Bell Labs in 1947 could be held in your hand, while hundreds of the new 45nm transistor can fit on the surface of a single red blood cell.

- The price of a transistor in one of Intel’s new next-generation processors -- codenamed Penryn -- is about 1 millionth the average price of a transistor in 1968.

- It is estimated that about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 transistors are shipped each year.

- You could fit more than 2,000 45nm transistors across the width of a human hair.

- You could fit more than 30 million 45nm transistors onto the head of a pin, which measures approximately 1.5 million nm (1.5 mm) in diametre.

- A 45nm transistor can switch on and off approximately 300 billion times a second. A beam of light travels less than a tenth of an inch during the time it takes a 45nm transistor to switch on and off.

And here is a timeline:

 - 16 December 1947: William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain successfully build the first transistor at Bell Labs.
- 1950: William Shockley develops the bipolar junction transistor, the device most commonly referred to as a transistor by today’s standard.

- 1953: The first commercial device to make use of the transistor is put on the market – the hearing aid. 

- 18 October 1954: The first transistor radio was put on the market and contained just four transistors.

- 1965: Moore’s Law is born when Intel’s Gordon Moore predicts that the number of transistors on a chip will double roughly every year (a decade later, revised to every 2 years) in the future, as stated in an article in Electronics Magazine.

- 1971: Intel launches its first microprocessor – the 4004. The 4004 was 1/8 of an inch by 1/16 of an inch, contained just more than 2,000 transistors and was manufactured with Intel’s 10micron PMOS technology.

- July 18 2006: The Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor launches with the world’s most intricate product design to date, utilising more than 1.72 billion transistors.

Sandy 1 vs 0 Flintstone boy

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Dec-2007 19:35

Always interesting to read a good IT tale, as told by Sandy:

...Slightly annoyed I asked a more technical question: I was interested in what database they were running as he had just told me (i.e. Eduard) he was doing a data migration. Answer to this: "I'm moving data from one database to another using scripts. Oh, is that too technical for you? Do you understand this?"

So I patted his shoulder and told him in the most patronizing way I could muster (I did kind of enjoy calling him little boy) that he had just made a very career limiting move and that it was always a huge mistake to assume women wouldn't understand IT.

I also told him I held an Oracle certification and could code 10 times better than him and if he ever talked down to a woman in IT again I'd kill his career before it had even started (not that I have to power to do that but little Flintstone boy wouldn't know ;-)

Way to go Sandy!

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.

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