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Legal video, movie and TV downloads and streaming options in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jul-2012 12:39

I have moved the list to Geekzone where it will have a larger audience: Legal video, movie and TV downloads and streaming options in New Zealand.



Legal music downloads and streaming options in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Jul-2012 08:46

I have moved the list to Geekzone where it will have a larger audience: Legal music downloads and streaming options in New Zealand.



Broadband in New Zealand according to OECD: a six month update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Jul-2012 10:30

About six months ago I posted some New Zealand broadband statistics collected from the OECD Broadband portal. These numbers have now been updated by the OECD, and here is the latest numbers after six months:

1. Fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants

December 2011: #17 (26%, 1,138,830 connections)
June 2012: #17 (26.9%, 1,174,790 connections)

Although not a change in position, a very small increase in connections.

2. Wireless broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants

December 2011: #14 (54%, 2,380,709 connections)
June 2012: #9 (67.5, 2.946,260 connections)

What an incredible jump for wireless broadband. This includes 53.7% mobile broadband as part of a mobile plan and 12.9% dedicated mobile data subscriptions. The other connections are satellite and terrestrial fixed wireless.



Could Amazon beat Apple and create the largest MVNO in the world?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Jul-2012 08:48

By now you probably read reports around the web about Amazon's efforts in creating its own smartphone. Articles on Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal say it's being tested.

I'm pretty sure it is. I can't go in details now without risking someone's job, but from little bits and pieces collected around I'd say this has been going on for some time now.

If Amazon continues with its Amazon Kindle Fire ecosystem (and why not?) then it will be an Android-based device. But what I haven't seen yet is any comment on how Amazon's work with telcos from around the world could make it the largest Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) around.

Generally speaking, a MVNO works with a mobile operator to get bulk access to network services and resells these with its own branding and prices.

Amazon, through its Kindle 3G strategy, already has relationships established with almost one mobile operator in each single country in the world.

This is how it works: when you buy a Kindle 3G you receive an eBook reader (or tablet as is the case with the Kindle Fire) with mobile data access enabled and ready to use. You can turn the Kindle 3G on, select a book online from the Amazon store using its browser and have it delivered in seconds, without ever coming close to a computer. This also includes subscriptions - newspapers, magazines and blogs.

At no moment you have to sign a contract with a mobile operator. You don't actually even need to know which mobile operator is your Kindle connecting to, or how much they charge for the content download (mobile data charges are already included in the book price). You don't have to insert a SIM card in your Kindle 3G (there isn't even a visible access to it). It's ready to use out of the box. All you know is that Amazon is sending the book to you "over the air", automatically charged to your Amazon account.

Currently this is for electronic content download only, but there isn't anything preventing Amazon from offering voice services in addition to the existing mobile data they already use. It would make even more sense if these were VoIP over the data network.

Rumours have been around for years now that Apple would like to sells a more complete iPhone package - one that they control without interference from mobile operators. This would even be the force behind Apple's insistence in creating a new nanoSIM card standard.

We don't know if this is the model Amazon will bring to its smartphone. But it would make sense. And it looks like Amazon could beat Apple to the market.



Alan Turing

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Jun-2012 18:38

Today would be Alan Turing's 100th birthday.

Turing was one of the leaders at Bletchley Park, working as a codebreaker during the war, working on the cryptanalysis of German's Enigma machine.  Probably the man who helped England the most when all was but lost to the enemy during WWII, ended up persecuted for its sexual orientation, after the war.

His conviction for indecency cost him his security clearance and job for the Government Communications Headquarters. He was forced to undergo chemical castration. And he commited suicide (although some believe it was an accident).

And to think the top German scientists got free passes to America thanks to Operation Paperclip, while England did nothing but to hunt Turing.

Turing gave us the modern computer, thanks to his design of a stored-program computer.

When I was first introduced to computers, back in early 80s (and I was late to this!) our teacher made a point of showing the class the works of both Turing and Von Neumann.

But most of all, I still believe he is responsible for saving Great Britain's hide during the war. Even with an official apology from PM Gordon Brown (10 September 2009) it's still a shame his name has a record of a conviction for indecency against his name.



Microsoft Surface: coming soon, any time now?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Jun-2012 12:14

Microsoft has announced its own tablet, running on Windows 8 supported by both ARM and Intel Core processors. The specs are not bad either, with 16:9 aspect ratio, 32GB to 129GB memory, USB support.

It looks good, the built-in keyboard and kick-stand together will make it a worthy contender no doubt and certainly a good replacement for many laptops.

Except when you read the press release and it says "coming soon" and "[Surface] will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores."

Microsoft wasted the opportunity to get the world by surprise, with something like "available in the US end of June, in another 20 countries by August and the rest of the world by September".

Apple still knows how to do it.



Are you attending the HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas? I have a discount code for you...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-May-2012 09:00

I am attending HP Discover 2012 Las Vegas (4th - 7th June). This is the second time I am invited to this event, with other bloggers from around the world - this time Ben Kepes will be another Kiwi blogger joining me to hear from HP's management (he blogs about cloud, infrastructure and more at diversity.net.nz).

In my other blog at DiscoveringHP.com I have posted "11 Reasons to Attend HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas".

Have a look at the HP Discover 2012 program for this year's conference and if you (or your company) are planning to attend, use the discount code "BLOG" for US$300 off during registration.

Disclosure: I am attending the conference as a guest, and HP is sponsoring my trip.



HP Cloud Tech Day 2012

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Apr-2012 11:15

Over at discoveringhp,com I am post about the HP Cloud Tech Day Australia 2012. I also use that blog to post about other HP stuff.



Microsoft Windows Live Mesh: the eternal fail

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Mar-2012 13:08

A few years ago Microsoft adopted bought a sync technology and "enhanced" it. Windows Live Mesh turned into Windows Live Sync and then Windows Live Mesh again. Each time that technology changed names I tried it.

I tried it hard to have a successful relationship with Windows Live Mesh. It's imperative that something like this "just works" (TM). I have thousands of files in My Documents, in a development repository, my music and video folders that I want need to keep in sync between my desktop and laptop. That's because the promised sync would allow me to grab the laptop and go, free of my desk.

In every single interaction Microsoft failed to deliver. The latest fail came today when I saw a blog post about Windows Live update, "This minor release includes numerous updates across all of the programs in the Essential package, including Windows Live Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Family Safety, Writer, and Mesh."

It's a minor update. It shouldn't break anything right?

 

It did break. EVERYTHING.

The folder My Documents is no longer syncing - neither to the cloud nor to my laptop. The folder DevRepository is receiving files from the cloud, where just before the update everything was in sync. Together both folders hold about 4.5GB of data. And Windows Live Mesh is downloading this, even though nothing has changed (well, nothing on my data).

The folders My Pictures, My Videos and Prinstcreen all sync to my laptop only (no cloud involved). As you can see Windows Live Mesh thinks BOTH sides are waiting to receive files, effectively a deadlock, since neither side should have been flagged to update anything and each side is waiting for the other.

It also turned off the option to sync Microsoft Office styles, templates, custom dictionary and email signatures I have in place.

Do the engineers behind this product even bother testing what they release? This is most appalling piece of reckless release software I've ever seen.

Unbelievable.



Mobile data roaming costs are too damn high

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Mar-2012 10:08

There is no doubt that mobile data roaming are too high, as evidenced, once again, by someone who was unprepared to turn off mobile data on his mobile while travelling overseas, then runs to the paper, gets the bill wiped, generating a long discussion on Geekzone and some interesting comments on Twitter.

Mobile data roaming charges are too damn high. Taking for example Telecom New Zealand, the telco involved in this case, you can buy 2GB of mobile data on a prepaid plan for NZ$50 for use in New Zealand. This is about NZ$0.02 per megabyte of mobile data at home (using the Telecom New Zealand prices).

Yet, when you travel overseas they charge you NZ$ 4.00 per megabyte while in Australia or USA. This is 163 times more expensive than our local rates. Imagine you are actually going to Germany, where mobile data roaming will cost you NZ$30 per megabyte, or 1228 times more expensive than our local rates, a stunning NZ$ 30,720 per gigabyte. Remember the same gigabyte here in New Zealand would cost you "only" NZ$ 25 on prepaid.

How can this be justified?

I have contacted Telecom New Zealand for a breakdown of mobile data roaming costs. This is their reply:

For all of our international roaming rates, we negotiate rates with the international carriers we have agreements with. The roaming charges that are passed through to our customers are largely determined by the rates that we are charged by these carriers.
 
There are also other costs associated with enabling international roaming for our customers. For example, with each international carrier, we need to set up appropriate billing systems. We must also establish a signalling arrangement between Telecom and each international carrier that we have an agreement with. 

To keep our international roaming charging simple for our customers to understand, we have five roaming zones set up, based on the frequency that our customers travel to each roaming destination.

The international roaming charges negotiated with international carriers are passed through to customers, but it is not clear how much impact these have in the final pricing. Telecom is planning some actions in this front, alas nothing related to pricing:

The Smartcaps product will provide updates on mobile data usage by sending customers an SMS at up to five chosen dollar-amount thresholds, or unlimited data value can also be requested. Once the chosen threshold is met, roaming usage is stopped until the customer accepts further usage.
 
In addition, smartphone customers will soon be able to download a new mobile app called XT Telecom Roaming which allows customers to check roaming rates, country codes, and troubleshoot any roaming queries while not impacting their data usage. This app will be available to download for free from the apps store on customers' Android or i-Phone devices before departing New Zealand for their international destination. The app doesn't require data usage to run, so using it overseas will incur no roaming cost to the customer. 

Currently Telecom New Zealand sends a SMS to customers when they first connect to a roaming partner, explaining how much voice, SMS and data costs. If you know how much is the cost per megabyte, and knowing you will have to pay for all and any usage overseas, it is fairly easy to put two and two together and decide either not to use mobile data roaming or seek an alternative method, such as a local SIM card on prepay.

You should not think this is something affecting Telecom New Zealand customers only, as both our other mobile network service providers (Vodafone New Zealand and 2degrees) aren't much behind in terms of prices.

It doesn't look like the New Zealand government is blind to this. Survey results published in June 2011 say this:

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Steven Joyce, says four out of five New Zealand businesses surveyed say the costs of data roaming is prohibitive to their staff doing business in Australia.

The Minister has today released the results of a survey from the Ministry of Economic Development which asked New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses how they stay in touch when travelling across the Tasman.

The survey of 534 New Zealanders travelling to Australia was carried out between July 2010 and January 2011 and informed the decision of the New Zealand and Australian governments to conduct a joint investigation into whether regulatory intervention is required in the trans Tasman roaming market.

The limits placed on staff wanting to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops to access the Internet was one of the significant findings.

Survey findings:

- most New Zealand individuals and business travellers take a mobile phone with them when they travel to Australia, and most New Zealand business travellers take a laptop with them when they travel to Australia;
- both individuals and businesses attempt to limit use of mobile roaming services in Australia, with the main reason being concern about the cost;
- the majority of businesses believe that roaming services contribute to their staff's ability to work effectively while in Australia.

Unfortunately the link from that press release to the full survey results is dead.

Because mobile data roaming involves companies in two different countries, we can't even ask for a regulator to take a stand, because one of the telcos will be out of the regulator's jurisdiction, and the other can just say "that's what I am charged, I am just passing the costs". Anything to change this would require international agreements.

And on that note a trans-Tasman investigation on mobile roaming charges should've released a draft decision by end of 2011, but it's now delayed to mid-2012 with a final report expected not before end of 2012.

Currently EU lawmakers are pushing to have mobile data prices regulated across member countries. Their proposal is to limit mobile data roaming at 0.20 euro per megabyte (still 205 euros per gigabyte) but, you guessed it right, with no visible impact on any country outside the EU.

Sometimes it isn't easy for customers to ditch their mobile number and go with a local replacement in each country they visit. Business people depend on being contactable, families rely on communications. A temporary change of numbers is ok, but if one is going across multiple countries this becomes an inconvenience.

What do you think should be done? Regulation, transparency in costs, customers walking away from roaming?



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:

Find more about Business Transformation | Enterprise Content Management | Customer Relationship Management


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