My window to the world

Vodafone VMC and Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Nov-2006 10:19

In a previous post I pointed out that some companies are in a state of "let Vista be in the wild first, then we develop and update", which means they will be late, and impacting businesses around the world.

Some of our Geekzone users around here tried the Vodafone vodem USB device to connect to Vodafone's HSDPA cellular data network with their Windows Vista tablet PC and laptops, and it simply didn't work.

Today I got an official reply from Vodafone New Zealand regarding this issue. The response is

The VMC software for Vista is being developed globally. I can’t give you an exact date for delivery, but it is in development. The upgrade will be available for download from You can register for software updates online.

Microsoft Windows Vista is very close. Consumers won't see it until 2007, but enteprise IT is already planning deployments. I know of at least two large deployment projects in New Zealand. Also Windows Vista will be available to MSDN subscribers seven days after the RTM. So it is possible the final version can be used by business customers and developers as early is the first week of December 2006.

So I guess this settles the question, at least on this software.

Voice activated services: ifbyphone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Nov-2006 23:05

A few years ago (more like back in 2000) I was looking into unified messaging. A single mailbox with voice mail, e-mail, fax and other services. At that time i found lots of such services, some even free, but something was missing in all of those.

The thing was that all services required you to use a Web browser to access the information. But we all know there are more mobile phones in the world than computers. So why not use those devices? The missing element was "voice". Voice activated services, such as text-to-speech and speech recognition are the key to access unified messaging services.

My interest on this subject was mainly because of some of the projects the company I was working for, Unisys, had in progress. Those included voice messaging, unified voice messaging, voicexml etc. I even wrote a sms-to-landline service and our team was involved in deploying a flat menu-based voice mail service. Alas those are things that run on mainframe hardware.

A few years later, I am still curious about those things. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 now provides an unified messaging paradigm (I wrote about it here and here), but not all companies or small businesses run Microsoft Exchange Server.

Today I got a tip about an interesting service, called ifbyphone. I registered to the free trial using my SkypeIn number in San Francisco (you can register from anywhere, but some services seem to be only available in the U.S.) and gave it a work out.

Ok, the flash introduction is a bit cheesy. But you can go over that. The registration requires a 10 digit number, which must map to a U.S number (hence using my SkypeIn number instead of my New Zealand number) and it's painless. You will be automatically assigned an e-mail address within the domain, with webmail access.

You can configure other external e-mail addresses with both POP3 and IMAP server types supported. The service allows you to call the access number and be automatically identified (if you don't block the Caller ID). After entering a PIN you have access to e-mail, headline news, weather alerts, reminders, notes, even RSS feeds you configure into your account.

You can press a menu option number on your keypad at any time, or simply say a command. Speech recognition is vey good, even with my funny accent.

An interesting feature is the e-mail keyword monitoring. You can setup the service to check your mailbox(es) and call your number if an e-mail arrives with any of the keywords. I tried this and it really works. Nice.

The service still needs a bit of polishing. Like some of the live menus play different voices (male and female). I'd like to have all a single voice style, perhaps being able to select via a menu to have one or another? Also all the menus are a bit confusing, but once you find your way around, it's ok.

Of course you can have some of these features if you use a Pocket PC and a program such a Fonix Voice Central. But then you are not using a simple mobile phone.

So there you go. It's what I was looking for, five years ago. Live now.

Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs and Flight Simulator X

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Oct-2006 12:13

The WarChiefs is an expansion pack for one of my favourite games: Age of Empires III. A friend of mine introduced me to the Age of Empires Series years ago, and I have had all titles since then.

One of most interesting things in all those series was the soundtrack. I recommend you visit the official website for Age of Empires III and check the soundtrack accompanying The WarChiefs. It's really cool music. The visual is great, and if you visit the site you can watch the video trailer. As usual great production!

This time gamers will engage in epic warfare in the Americas where they will lead native American civilizations (Sioux, Iriquois and Aztecs) to expand their empire and fight for control of the Americas.

Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs

Other game just released here in New Zealand is the Microsoft Flight Simulator X. For you guys who like fliying, this is a must. Check this screenshot:

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

By the way, if you want some good posts about gaming in general, check geekpulp.


Convergence Oceania 2006 and Connectivity 06

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Oct-2006 11:41

I will be in Auckland on the 7 November, attending the Convergence Oceania 2006, an event organised by the New Zealand Wireless and Broadband Forum.

My plan is to fly in and out the same day. Unfortunately I will be arriving about 9:30am in Auckland, so I am going to miss the keynote speaker, Hon David Cunliffe, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, and the session with Andrew Seybold.

I am just looking at the stands layout, and noticed that both Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand are not listed. Does it mean they won't be there at all?

Also since the organisation has changed from "New Zealand Wireless Forum" to "New Zealand Wireless and Broadband Forum" I am intrigued for the lack of presence of our local ISPs. The main appearance is from technology providers and service integrators.

Where are the broadband (wired and wireless) providers?

If you are planning to attend the Convergence Oceania 2006 event in Auckland, please ping me, and let's have a chat.

I also just received an e-mail invitation to the Connectivity 06, happening 21 - 22 November 2006 in the Christchurch Convention Centre.

This is its third year and the organisation claims it is one of New Zealand’s top trade shows for electronics and software companies. The schedule of events includes trade exhibits from 50 companies from thoughout Australasia, product demonstrations, industry cocktail function, keynote speaker presentations, and lots of networking opportunities.

Registration for business visitors to the trade show are now being taken through the event’s website at

It's a shame I won't be there - great opportunity but my monthly travel budget is not that large, and I have already commited with the tickets to the Auckland show. And I going to miss meeting Chiefie, one of the Geekzone moderators once again.

Dress up your Vodafone vodem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Oct-2006 10:00

Have you received your Unlimited magazine yet? Inserted in the current issue (November 2006) you will find a gift to Vodafone vodem users:

Dress up your Vodafone vodem

This is a set of stickers to dress up your vodem. Check it out. I will apply to my vodem soon.

The Silicon Welly

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Oct-2006 11:44

A lot of talk is going on about our capital city, Wellington (New Zealand) and its relationship with the technology folks establish here - or moving here.

During the last year I've seen people moving here from other places in the country (Chris Auld, Tim Haines, Nic Wise) or from overseas (Nick Randolph), create new companies and sell it to big corporations (Rod Drury's AfterMail, Sam Morgan's Trademe), run startups in stealth mode (Peter Smith) or write about web technologies.

Write about web technologies? Richard MacManus, the guy behind, is based here in the region. And he' posted an interesting short article about Silicon Welly, a nickname for Wellington in this age of high tech development.

Check it out. He even commented about Geekzone 2006.

Give your voice to Vodafone Voice

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Oct-2006 18:07

A lot of people join the Geekzone forums to voice their opinion on matters related to all sorts of geek topics. I just found that there is another way to let your voice out if you are a Vodafone New Zealand customer: Vodafone Voice.

Vodafone Voice

The Vodafone Voice Panel is a group of Vodafone customers.  Panel members have the opportunity to share their opinions about, or their experiences with, Vodafone.

For each survey that you complete, you will be entered into the draw for that specific surveys prize. Prizes include mobile handsets, mobile accessories, cash, or air minutes.

You may be invited to attend focus groups or other special events.

You can propose topics for future surveys that are of interest to you.

I don't know how long this has been running, but it's an interesting initiative.

How many RSS feeds do you read?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Oct-2006 13:26

I keep saying that my job is reading, more than writing. Some people don't believe me, so this is a screenshot that says it all... Check the number of articles read on my aggregator (NewsGator Enterprise Server) in the last 11 months:

Quite a number, isn't it? Currently I am on my all time low number of subscribed feeds, at 309. This number was up to 600 a few months back, but I have been trimming the subscriptions, removing stuff that is no longer interesting, or feeds that have not been updated in the last few months.

What about you? Do you subscribe to RSS feeds, or rather to visit each of your favourite sites, every day?

Vodafone BestMate is out

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Oct-2006 08:37

Vodafone is launching a teaser viral campaign called BestMate, live now. On the welcome page Vodafone tells the world about a new plan called "Supa Prepay" to be launched when the current "Free TXT Weekends" and "Prepay Take10" plans end, at beginning of November 2006.

I haven't seen the whole thing working yet, but it looks like you can nominate a friend and have a quiz invitation sent to his/her mobile via SMS. Your BestMate then visits the site to enter the answers.

You are then in the draw to win a $10,000 trip for two to one of the following destinations: New York, Paris, Rio De Janeiro or the Maldives. The promotion closes 12 November 2006:

Vodafone Bestmate

So, if you receive a SMS inviting you to go the site and answer the quiz, it's not a hoax!

Telecom New Zealand mobile site update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Oct-2006 11:55

Right... Last night, after posting "Telecom New Zealand to enhance mobile content?", I reached for the 24/7 Telecom press people. After a quick chat they realised there was no information about the Telecom New Zealand and Volantis announcement, except from the press release I've received before.

This morning they called me back with an update, and here's the real deal:

The link with Volantis will provide a consistent format for the way content is presented on mobile products, it also stops new code needing to be written for different devices as it is already configured. It also allows us to better manage and support Java applications and future services – whatever they may be.

• Consistent format for presentation across all mobile products
• Improved device (handset layer) adaptation layer, implementation of handsets is now managed via configuration as apposed to code changes
• Caching is enabled closer to the customer which has resulted in pages are presenting more quickly to the customer
• Improved graphical content via a number of sources

It was launched on September 19.

So there you go. All you folks using Telecom New Zealand WAP services should not notice a difference, but the guys at Telecom will certainly have an easier life pushing those updates and content to your handset. I know because a few years back I participated in a project/demo with Volantis software in combination with ATG content management to deliver content over 3G to handsets - that was before 3G was launched down under.

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.

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