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New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 15:20

I have just received information about the upcoming New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference (NZCSRSC) taking place at the University of Waikato in Hamilton (New Zealand), from 10th-13th of April 2007.

Guest speakers include:

- Craig Nevill-Manning (PhD from Waikato) founded Google's first remote engineering center, located in midtown Manhattan, where he is an Engineering Director.
- Nigel Scott, member of the triple Oscar winning sound editing team at Park Road Post.
- Tyrone McAuley is Co-founder/Co-Owner and Technical Director at Sidhe Interactive,
- Prof Ian Foster, Director of the Computation Institute at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, where he is also the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science.

The central goal of NZCSRSC is to foster a lasting community between research students in New Zealand and is being organised by Computer Science students from the University of Waikato. Participants include students graduating in Computer Science, from nine New Zealand universities.

The conference includes student presentations, invited talks, workshops, social events, even a Suits n' Geeks evening!

More information on the official website. for the NZCSRSC... Thanks Craig Anslow  for the tip!

Winfixer invades AOL network

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 15:13

A couple of weeks ago there was a case of an adware/spyware/fake cleaner whatever being spread through the MSN Messenger network. It looks like those guys are at it again, this time infecting AOL pages, according to Spyware Sucks.

Upon visiting a page on AOL Money news the user is automatically redirected to another domain outside the AOL network. This domain will try to load a "scanner" using those pesky messages "You computer is at risk".

The guys insist, and even if you click CANCEL or the [X] button a few times the site still tries to load their "software".

Spyware Sucks has a complete report, including screenshots taken during the whole thing. They go to such extent as to disable the CANCEL button, leaving the user no other option than to click OK or close the browser entirely!

Once again, installing spyware or any other software requires user consent. If you click OK then that's not much that an OS can do. You must pay attention to the messages and not click OK or INSTALL or RUN for anything that pops up out of the blue.

Playstation 3, Xbox 360 One Year

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 08:13

I am not a console game player. I like the games on my PC (Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, Diablo II, Age of Empires) though and very soon Windows Vista users will be able to join the Xbox Live service - even play games together in multiplayer matches!

But the post is not about this new feature. It's about the Playstation 3 launch. I read somewhere that in Australia camera crews went to some places to capture the excitment of this launch, but were greeted by about fourty people, not enough to create a great picture as expected.

In London, though, things were nicer according to the BBC. Everyone in line got a free Sony Bravia 46" HDTV and a taxi home. Yes, way to go!

I didn't hear much about Sony New Zealand doing anything really. I only noticed a few boxes at the door in our local EB. By the number of boxes stacked there, and looking at the price, I am not sure they are flying out like hot cakes.

Back to the Xbox 360 front, the Playstation 3 was launched in New Zealand exactly one year (to the date) after the local Xbox 360 launch. To celebrate, the Xbox 360 PR company sent out to some influencers (yay!) a mysterious green box wrapped in "Xbox 360" tape. I opened it to find a mini chocolate cake with the Xbox 360 logo and one candle.

Happy anniversary!

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise owns Australian technology during CeBIT

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Mar-2007 13:18

Interesting read at the Australian paper The Age: "We don't stand up to Kiwis"... Apparently the Australian companies exhibiting at the CeBIT 2007 did not have the same kind of exposure the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise agency managed to get for kiwi technology companies:

The dull and dimly lit Australian Pavilion, funded primarily by the Victorian State Government, was squeezed into 81 square metres of floor space in the corner of one of CeBIT's massive exhibit halls. It was dwarfed by New Zealand's 200-square-metre, federally funded installation next door.

Most of the 30 Australian companies represented at the national pavilion were disappointed at being "out-blinged" by the Kiwis.

Jaques Blandin, president of Firmware Technologies, [agreed.] "There's a severe lack of funds in Australia for technology and I don't think the Federal Government really knows what's going on," he said.

The exhibitors praised the Victorian Government for subsidising the installation. Space on the stand cost about $10,000 for non-Victorian exhibitors and less for Victorians, Next was told.

According to The Age, the New Zealand Government also had immigration officers at the installation to attract German IT workers.

Way to go!

Your future broadband: 50Mbps downstream and upstream

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Mar-2007 19:13

Found this through GigaOM today, and got to the press release:

Meet the Man With the Fastest Internet Speed in the Country

ROSEVILLE, Calif., March 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- To the amazement of those watching, Jim Husman zipped around his computer like a Cheetah on the Serengeti as he completely dominated a Quake 3 video game versus other online gamers. The remarkable part was that he did this while simultaneously streaming a high definition movie trailer of Batman Begins, listening to an online radio music stream, checking his e-mail and uploading a massive graphic design file to one of his clients.

How was he able to do this? Husman was the first person to sign up for the fastest residential Internet speed in the country -- SureWest Communications' (NASDAQ: SURW) Internet product of up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) of synchronous hyper-speed. Launched in December 2006 over SureWest's fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) platform, which reaches nearly 100,000 marketable homes in the greater Sacramento, CA region, it is the only service in the United States that delivers 50 Mbps of residential Internet speed both uploading and downloading.

SureWest is able to offer this unmatched Internet speed by delivering 100 Mbps of bi-directional bandwidth to each customer's home on its FTTP platform, leaving room to bundle video and voice services as well. With over 190,000 total marketable homes over its combined copper and fiber Broadband networks, SureWest can offer the 50-meg product to 52 percent of its Broadband service territory.

Great stuff! And it is 50 Mbps DOWN and UP... While I can't complain about my (now really small) 10 Mbps/2Mbps cable service from TelstraClear, I can only hear the people on Telecom's ADSL service crying...

I really hope TelstraClear comes with a 25 Mbps offering soon... Tomorrow is not soon enough now!

TVNZ On Demand is live

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Mar-2007 15:41

DRM? Love DRM? Get more of it then! TVNZ is launching its TVNZ On Demand service, which provides access to library of TV shows, ranging from the last week broadcasts to old kiwi classics.

Users can access the shows in two ways: by streaming the content (which is always free), or downloading the content (which attracts a cost).

Downloaded content is paid for with PlayPoints, which can be purchased in batches of $10, $20, $50 or $100. A 30 minute programme will cost 4 PlayPoints, or  about $2. When you register you get 20 bonus PlayPoints (the site says 10 bonus PlayPoints but my experience was different).

Downloads are fast, and through Akamai servers, but the Download Manager is less than perfect in terms of user interaction. I've downloaded a 23 minute show (30 minutes without the advertising) weighing in 225MB and all worked ok. The first time I tried to play the .WMV file it asked for my user name and password, or offered the option to create an account right there.

The file played on Windows Vista and WMP 11 with no problems at all. The quality was really good even on full screen, and with no artifacts I could see.

When you "purchase" a download you are actually only purchasing the right to watch that specific file on that computer only, and for seven days - no more. A shame, I'd like to be able to have it for longer periods, perhaps do like some music store where you pay a monthly fee, and providing the subscription is current you can access and play any song in the library. This would make a lot of sense. As it is, I can see that a lot of people will be put off of having to pay $50 to buy 12 one hour shows... It can be quite expensive at the end.

To be fair, all streaming shows are free though.

The website is quite nice, and they are going to make some money with advertising I see... Not a problem seeing that somehow they need to pay for the free streaming. But they could put a bit of effort and make that welcome e-mail better looking.

All in all, a great initiative. A shame Telecom New Zealand's plans for IPTV haven't come true yet, even after a couple of years of work on their part. And I do hope the Internet infrastructure in this country is well looked after, because this kind of service will no doubt stress the networks even more...

UPDATE: There is a good discussion about TVNZ On Demand on Geekzone.

The VOCO Clock

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Mar-2007 10:17

This is not exactly high technology but it is one of the most hilarious electronic product I've seen lately: the VOCO Clock.

No, I don't have one here for testing, but if you visit their website you will be able to listen to some of the "wake up call" messages, recorded by Stephen Fry.

You will hear gems such as these:

I'm so sorry to disturb you sir, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree, sir. I believe it is the rotation of the earth which is to blame, sir.

I'm delighted you have survived another night. May I add my own congratulations to the roar of the world's approval? Thank you, sir.

I'm afraid the staff has absconded, sir. And it is my day off. I trust it will not be too onerous to make your own esquisitely sliced toast and perfectly cooked breakfast?

Come come, sir. Let us not be defeated. Let seize the day, and take it roughly from behind. As the Colonel used to say in his unfortunate manner.

The world has been very anxious to hear from you for the last eight hours. Shall I inform the news agencies you are about to rise, sir?

The rising and the shining cannot be postponed indefinetely. Though shining isn't compulsory in this world, the rising eventually is.

Vodafone launches +64home concierge and assistance services for business users

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Mar-2007 11:47

Just got an interesting box here at home, coming from Vodafone New Zealand. Outside it says "Novice travellers dream of foreign lands", and inside it says "Experienced travellers dream of home".

The box is the welcome kit to a new "by invitation only" exclusive service offered by Vodafone to business account holders.

The booklet explains that +64home cardholders can call two special numbers called "Roaming Priority Service" and "Rapid Response".

With Roaming Priority Service travellers are able to contact Vodafone customer services and get into a priority queue for quicker assistance. The number is only available to card holders while in overseas trips - while in New Zealand people should continue to use 777.

The "Rapid Response" service comes in two flavours. "Rapid Response Concierge Services" is similar to some offerings from American Express and other gold or platinum credit cards. In summary is a concierge service for travellers abroad, with 24/7 access to a help line with someone that will the user organise important things from hotel bookings, organising car hires, message relays and even arrange gifts to be sent to someone.

"Rapid Response Medical Information Services" can help the traveller talking to a doctor, arrage a doctor visit, or help with admission to hospital.

The box also comes with a small cologne spray "New Zealand", by Demeter.

UPDATE: I am now unsure of "launch" as it seems this is not a new offering, but just that only now I was "invited". Perhaps because I have a business account and have been all over the world in the last two months?

Telecom CDMA EVDO Rev A speedtest

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Mar-2007 12:41

Last week I got a Sierra Wireless Aircard 595 to connect to Telecom New Zealand's CDMA EVDO Rev A service here in Wellington... Only now I had a chance to use it, since I've been in Australia most of the week.

And here is my first speed test:

That's right! Download speeds of 2668 kb/second (kilobits per second) and uploads of 789 bk/second.

Previously I tested Vodafone New Zealand's HSDPA service with a Merlin XU870 HSDPA card, and got only download speeds of 1400 kb/second down and 80 kb/second up.

Telecom seems to be ahead on the mobile broadband game, again.

MSN NZ versus Yahoo!Xtra

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Mar-2007 10:19

Today is the day when Microsoft and Telecom New Zealand part ways in the on-line portal segment and start their own services.

If you visit the (now defunct) site you are greeted with a message and the option to visit either portal, or

Telecom partnered with Australian Yahoo7 to create their local presence, and is pushing hard on Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Mail, and other tools. Microsoft partnered with Australia PBL and ACP Media to bring the information to the portal, with a small presence from New Zealand's TV3.

The MSN portal looks a bit "dry" at the moment and the Yahoo!Xtra seems more lively, but still has some dead links.

It ill be some time before things get in a position we can see the market share split, but until then I recommend you read a series of Lance's posts on his blog:

Balanced, but I think Yahoo!Xtra seems to have the lead for now...

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!

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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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