My window to the world

Playing with OPML: Grazr

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Oct-2006 22:16

This is very interesting: an on-line OPML browser with RSS feed presentation. I am talking about Grazr:
It is very cool. You can enter an URL pointing to an OPML, RSS or even a website address and if there's a feed declaration on the page Grzr will show it here. Think of publishing - documents, manuals, etc. Or simply using as a new feature on your site.



Vodafone: optimise or not?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Oct-2006 20:27

If you connect to Vodafone NZ GPRS network (what, no EDGE?) you know (or have an idea) that its traffic be default goes though the Vodafone Optimiser, a proxy that will compress certain types of traffic - and make images you're trying to download look very, well, ugly.

There are actually some APNs used to direct traffic depending on your needs:

www.vodafone.net.nz is a non-NAT, Optimiser enabled APN
web.vodafone.net.nz is a non-NAT, Optimiser enabled APN
direct.vodafone.net.nz is a NAT, non-Optimiser APN
internet is a non-NAT, non-Optimiser APN (just for testing!)


But what's most interesting is that 3G and HSDPA traffic is no longer sent through the Vodafone Optimiser by default, regardless of APN.

If you really want to use the Vodafone Optimiser, perhaps to squeeze even more out of your $49/GB plan, then you can use a new APN: opt.vodafone.net.nz.

opt.vodafone.net.nz is a non-NAT, Optimiser enabled APN for 3G and HSDPA users






UPDATE: As noted by comments, www and web are the same.



Yet another Personal Area Network technology: Wibree

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Oct-2006 18:45

Thanks, Nokia, that's all we needed. Yet another PAN (Personal Area Network) wireless technology, Wibree, is coming our way.

This what the press release says:

Nokia today introduced Wibree technology as an open industry initiative extending local connectivity to small devices. This new radio technology developed by Nokia Research Center complements other local connectivity technologies, consuming only a fraction of the power compared to other such radio technologies, enabling smaller and less costly implementations and being easy to integrate with Bluetooth solutions. Wibree is the first open technology offering connectivity between mobile devices or Personal Computers, and small, button cell battery power devices such as watches, wireless keyboards, toys and sports sensors. By extending the role mobile devices can play in consumers' lives, this technology increases the growth potential in these market segments.
 
The goal being to have the new technology available to the market as fast as possible, Nokia is defining the Wibree interoperability specification together with a group of leading companies representing semiconductor manufacturers, device vendors and qualification service providers. The technology will be made broadly available to the industry through an open and preferably existing forum enabling wide adoption of the technology. The forum solution is under evaluation and will be defined by the time the specification is finalized. According to the current estimate the first commercial version of the interoperability specification will be available during second quarter of 2007. 
 
Wibree technology complements close range communication with Bluetooth like performance within 0-10 m range and data rate of 1 Mbps. Wibree is optimized for applications requiring extremely low power consumption, small size and low cost. Wibree is implemented either as stand-alone chip or as Bluetooth-Wibree dual-mode chip. The small devices like watches and sports sensors will be based on stand-alone chip whereas Bluetooth devices will take benefit of the dual-mode solution, extending Bluetooth device connectivity to new range of smallest devices.


Whatever happened to Zigbee or Bluetooth? Oh, that's right, Zigbee is supported by Motorola, Bluetooth by Ericsson, so Nokia had to come up with their own standard.

The Wibree website lists "use cases", but at least in one page it refers to these as "profiles", exactly like Bluetooth. Nothing to see here, move along.

Are we going to see another Bluetooth, with its shortcomings in configuration and ease of use, or are we going to see another technology to cause interference with the existing wireless instruments? Yes, Wibree is yet another technology using the unregulated 2.4GHz ISM band (Industrial, Scientific and Medical), like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microwave ovens and many others.

Is just me, or it looks like a lot of wasted development cycle that could be used in some cool project instead?




IBM Forum 06

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Sep-2006 21:42

Today I got an invitation to attend the IBM Forum 06, a roadshow that (here's the official pitch):

Come to where business strategists, technology experts and industry leaders collaborate to innovate. IBM Forum is back for 2006. It aims to provide the inspiration, connections and solutions most relevant to organisations today.

  • Keynote speaker, David Skilling from the NZ Institute, talks about improving New Zealand's future economic performance.
  • Meet with leading business professionals, technical experts and IBM Business Partners.
  • Hear real-life case studies.
  • Attend sessions relevant to your interest, including Security in the Digital Age, Ageing Workforce and Corporate Compliance.
  • See interactive demonstrations, including RFID technology, IP Communications, Collaboration and Information Management.


  • This is a full day event with sessions in Christchurch (5 October), Wellington (9 October) and Auckland (12 October). Parallel to these sessions there is a Demonstration Showcase with interesting technologies on the floor.

    I hope they have some wireless LAN there so I can write about things I see, or at least my Vodafone vodem arrives in time for that. Otherwise I am sure my trusty Telecom NZ Apache will connect me to the world.





    Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging kit

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Sep-2006 09:39

    Some of you know my background in telephony applications. For the last 10 years before moving full time to Geekzone, I worked  as an Integration Architect and Developer at Unisys, on the Communications practice.

    The duties obviously included all sorts of work in the telco area, including design and development of voice-based systems (think voice mail, unified messaging, etc).

    So, when I heard of new Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging applictions, including voice access to Outlook and more, I got all excited.

    ... server-based tools that integrate with desktop and mobile clients to give information workers access to voice, fax, and e-mail data from wherever they are and allows users to use the telephone to manage their email, calendar, and personal contacts.


    I love the idea of mobile clients, and I wonder how well this integrates with Communicator.

    There are now some evaluation kits available to test this functionality. The kit includes an AudioCodes MediaPack 114 FXO VoIP gateway, so you can plug the server to the telephony system - your PBX or other line.



    I'd love to try these here, but they are not listing any APAC distributor and this thing costs US$1000... Microsoft NZ?






    FeedDemon is fast

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Sep-2006 13:03

    Following the upgrade of my NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES) 1.0 to the new 1.4 I installed FeedDemon to try its RSS feed synchronisation capabilities.

    What can I say? It rocks...

    I've used Sharpreader for some time before installing the NGES. The problem was keeping tabs on all feeds (at times more than 500!) while using three different devices: a desktop, a tablet PC and a Windows Mobile Pocket PC.

    The NGES solved the problem by adding Locations, and allowing me to have my feeds served through a web interface, Microsoft Exchange or a PDA-friendly web interface.

    But NGES 1.4 goes even further, adding the API calls available in the public NewsGator service everyone knows. This means that on top of the "locations" I already have here I can now use FeedDemon. And it is fast. And it synchronises well. And I can synchronise my tablet PC and take the content with me, knowing that next time it is on-line it will mark everything accordingly and download new content.



    I could already do this with the Exchange synchronisation. But having ActiveSync set to synchronise 500 feeds to my Pocket PC also meant that it was constantly working, eating the batteries. Or I could have NewsGator Inbox, a Microsoft Outlook Plugin that brings the content to Outlook. It's an option to consider.

    I am now waiting for NewsGator Go! for Windows Mobile to be compatible with NGES. Then it will be really nice.

    You don't need to run your own NGES to have these features. The web-based NewsGator service offers this capability (and more) with some subscription options.

    I wrote a NewsGator Enterprise Server review when I first installed it last year.



    NewsGator Enterprise Server 1.4 up and running

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Sep-2006 22:44

    Today I received a box with my NewsGator Enterprise Server upgrade, from version 1.0 to version 1.4 - thanks guys!

    I just finished installing it. Running a virtual machine is great. I did a full backup of this server (which run Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 in addition to NewsGator) in about 10 minutes. If anything could go wrong I wouldn't be more than 10 minutes away from having my full environment restored.

    Back to NewsGator, lucky it didn't go wrong. Installation was really smooth and with no problem. The install script upgraded my SQL database to the new schema - but I did have to install Microsoft .Net Framework v2 on this server because of the software requirements. No problem with that either.

    The first time I run the software I did have a scary moment - the script threw an error, which now I believe was a timeout (although at the time it was referencing one of the assemblies). After rebooting and a few moments of 100% CPU utilisation, the NewsGator Web News Reader showed up - with a fresh new UI:


    I see the feeds now show the favicon and they are all updated. Perhaps that's why the high CPU usage? Anyway, everything back to normal here and I am now playing around with it.

    Also improved is the PDA-friendly web interface. First it's much faster to load now. And I believe it is so because version 1.4 only outputs links to feeds with updated content, while version 1.0 output links to all feeds, but making them invisible if no new content was available. It also had fixed a small problem with feed counters:


    My next steps are to install NewsGator Inbox and download NewsGator Go! for Windows Mobile. I have FeedDemon installed, but it still tries to access the NewsGator public server, instead of my NGES (even though the configuration file points to my server). I will have to check this later.

    Otherwise, I am happy that this was a painless upgrade - back up and running!






    I love GPRS

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Sep-2006 18:47

    Yes, no kidding. The title is correct. Seriously though, I have two 3G Pocket PCs: an i-mate Jasjar connected to Vodafone NZ WCDMA network, and a TNZ Apache connected to Telecom New Zealand's CDMA 1xEV-DO network.

    My main phone is the Jasjar, because of my old phone number (which I've been using for the last, what, seven years?). It's not the smallest Pocket PC in the world, and obviously you need to have a Bluetooth headset, otherwise you look like a dork with such a huge device hanging from your face during a phone call.

    But you can't beat Telecom New Zealand's CDMA EVDO (for now) data speeds. The Apache is great and I use it frequently as a modem for my tablet PC. I can get speeds between 500Kbps and 800Kpbs (while on the Jasjar it won't pass the 250Kbps mark).

    Of course everyone wants more and more speed. Vodafone has introduced their HSDPA offering, with speeds of up to 1.4Mbps (although the official words is that some centres will have up to 3.6Mbps available, but this is the max theoretical). But that was before devices to access the network were available, and I was probably the only user on a specific cell site.

    Back to the point: GPRS. An ancient packet switched technology, which most companies promised to be "always-on, fast" Internet. Reality sunk in after GPRS became popular. It wasn't always on, because devices would disconnect the data session when an incoming voice call was announced to the handset. It wasn't fast because of its dial-up speed and high latency. And the only applications were WAP portals with almost no content and badly designed applications.

    Moving forward to 2006. We have WCDMA (which some try to call UMTS, but let's have its name here) with max theoretical speeds of up to 384Kbps, CDMA 1xEV-DO with max speeds of 2Mbps but going up to 100+Mbps in a few years, and HSDPA with speeds of 14Mbps in a couple of years. And we still have GPRS, with speeds of up to 42Kbps.

    Why I love it? I just sent my i-mate Jasjar for a special place for a special surgery. In the meantime, I moved its SIM card to my old i-mate Pocket PC Phone (the first i-mate device around here) and I am surprised how fast the device is in comparison to the newer Pocket PCs, even though the newer CPUs are faster, and the devices have more memory.

    I am also surprise on how responsive the GPRS data is flowing. Seriously you can't connect your laptop through this Pocket PC and expect fast speeds. But I have some specific requirements, such as push e-mail and single connection to a server, and for that it serves me well.

    I am using this Pocket PC to connect to my Microsoft Exchange Server for e-mail, calendar and contacts synchronisation. It performs thesse actions while in my Pocket PC, so I really don't care if it takes 20 seconds or 60 seconds. And it does it fast because it is a single connection to a single server.

    Another example of single connection application I am using and surprised me today was RSS feed reading. I run my own Newsgator Enterprise Server, and it serves me with a PDA friendly webpage. Since this is a single connection, basically text only, to a single server, it is actually extremely fast. And that's not WAP, but full HTML. I actually haven't been to a WAP page in years.

    It is like the RIM BlackBerry devices. Most of them are still connected to the GPRS network. And do you notice it? No, because you only know about the e-mails arriving. You probably don't even notice the e-mails flowing to the device. But they are still coming on the slow GPRS network (of course, except on the new latest BlackBerry models coming out now).

    So, yes. I am using GPRS these days on my Pocket PC, and I am enjoying it. Of course when I need to do some serious work, here comes the Apache for some broadband speeds (or some HSDPA in the near future?)

    Horses for courses, as they say...






    Symantec Norton Team is blogging

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Sep-2006 10:52

    Last time I posted about Symantec here in this blog was to let you know that their Security Response Team was blogging.

    I was just visiting the Symantec website to check some product information, and found that there's a new blog up now: the Norton Protection Blog.


    It looks like it's the product team bloging, by the looks of the blogger profiles, which includes VP and managers of products, services and engineering.

    Worth a read, to keep up-to-date with security for your loved computing devices...








    Readwriteweb.com: New Zealand made

    By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Sep-2006 19:09

    I am used to say that part of my job (which is running Geekzone full time) is to read and collect data to crunch into information I can use or share. And everyday I find something interesting.

    For example, it was a big surprise when I found out about readwriteweb.com, since I have a huge list of feeds on my RSS reader and this blog wasn't there - yet. It's now subscribed.


    It was also big surprise to actually find that its author, Richard MacManus, is based just around the corner (well, almost) from me, in Lower Hutt - I am in Johnsonville, both are suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand's capital.

    His blog is an interesting read, bringing lots of information on all things related to web technologies and services (some call this web 2.0, I think it's a bit too much, but this is another discussion). If you read and follow his blog you will notice that things appear on readwriteweb.com first.

    Richard also writes a blog for ZDNet, called web2explorer.

    I met Richard for the first time during the Geekzone 2006 (and yes, we'll have Geekzone 2007). I think his blog is better known overseas than here in New Zealand, so that's why I am writing about it here. Check it out: readwriteweb is one of the top blogs on Technorati!

    I really recommend you subscribe to his feed and read the blog if you have any interest in web technologies, new media, etc... It will be worth your while.






    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:

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