My window to the world

Opening the Apple iPod

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Sep-2006 12:37

I just found a website with some interesting information on all technical things Apple iPod related: www.iFixit.com/Guide. The guys there have guides for all Apple laptops and Apple iPod models, including the latest Apple iPod nano and Apple iPod 5G.

Check this picture of the new Apple iPod nano open:


The site also sells repair parts for all those models. Interesting DIY kind of stuff and certainly interesting for those "hard to find" parts.



More Vodafone HSDPA: get discounts on a HSDPA USB modem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Sep-2006 16:53

This just in - but going fast. Vodafone New Zealand has launched a viral campaign to give away a few Vodem HSDPA USB modems, plus discounts for the people not in the top #10 "watchers". Actually only the top 8, because two are booked for auction on Trademe.

All you have to do is to visit http://www.vodem.co.nz and register your name there.

The Vodem is the same modem launched by Vodafone UK. The drivers and software come preloaded in flash memory, so you don't have to fiddle around with CDs for installation. Very handy.

Get in to win some...





Vodafone NZ HSDPA, first speed test

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Sep-2006 13:21

First results just in. I was wrong, it looks like there's HSDPA coverage in Johnsonville. It seems the Sierra Wireless AirCard software does not show a HSDPA icon, only 3G in the status window, so I connected from home (in Johnsonville) and ran this test through speedtest.net (what a cool graphical interface):


The results are 1.4Mbps down, 93Kbps up. I've used the direct.vodafone.net.nz APN, to go around Vodafone's optimiser proxy.

I will now move closer to the mall where reception is better and test from there, while having a coffee.

UPDATE: Testing in Johnsonville the download speed stayed the same, but the upload speed jumped to 340Kbps. Also the dialer software now shows [HS] in the status icon bar. Strange because it wasn't showing before, but the speeds were HSDPA all right...







Vodafone NZ to launch HSDPA on 12 September

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Sep-2006 11:32

By now most of you should know that Vodafone New Zealand will soon be releasing an update to its 3G network (based on WCDMA technologies) to a next level of performance.

The new service, dubbed by Vodafone "3G Broadband" is based on HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Access), an evolution of its current network.

I got word from Vodafone New Zealand that 3G Broadband will be launched 12 September. Same information came from Juha's blog.

I actually have just received an e-mail invitation to join Vodafone New Zealand GM, Russell Stanners, and the Vodafone team on some drinks to celebrate the "go live" of this new network.

"Go live" is just a way to say it. The HSDPA service is actually already available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (the last city where a trial with about 100 users was run).

But just living on an area with 3G coverage is not enough to use this service. It is limited to certain centres only (I can't even access HSDPA here in Johnsonville yet, although the 3G service in general works fine).

But if you are the lucky owner of a HSDPA-enabled device, start using it. I just borrowed a Sierra Wireless AirCard 850 PC Card (max 1.8Mbps) from a friend to use on my Tablet PC for a few days so I will have a better idea before the event happens (no, Vodafone New Zealand have not sent any card or devices to bloggers or media yet).


The information we have is that this new cellular data network will initially allow 1.8Mbps maximum download speeds (I'd expect more like 700Kbps though), with a soon to be released update to 3.6Mbps link. There are some comments coming out of Vodafone New Zealand about a future update that will bring the network to 7.2Mbps speeds. How fast it will go under load is something we still have no idea, but soon we'll learn. For comparison sake, check Telecom New Zealand's CDMA EV-DO future.

Also, you will need new devices. Your current GPRS or 3G VMC (Vodafone Mobile Connect card) will not work with this network. I am told that a USB modem (launched in the UK as Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Modem) will be available here. The cool stuff is that drivers and software are pre-installed in its flash memory, so you can just plug and use it, with no need to handle CDs to install software.

Also coming (but no date set yet) is the Vodafone-branded Palm 750v, a Windows Mobile handheld, and the i-mate JASJAM, both compatible with the new HSDPA network. And a couple of Samsung mobile phones, including one with a cool 3.2 megapixel digital camera.

So, let's see how this works out, come 12 September.

UPDATE: It looks like there's HSDPA coverage here in Johnsonville. Check my first speed test results on Vodafone NZ HSDPA.








CDMA EVDO Rev A, HSDPA and more

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Aug-2006 12:23

Last night I attended the Wellington Wireless Wednesday meeting, organised by the New Zealand Wireless and Broadband Data Forum (and yes there's an Auckland version of these meetings).

It was a full house, and this time the group used the events room at Lone Star Wellington. Great meeting, and Lucent Technologies was running the bar tab.

The main topic was the Telecom New Zealand upcoming introduction of CDMA EVDO Rev A. We had a presentation by Mike Hobby, from Lucent Technologies, who did a pretty good job of explaining the CDMA evolution.

According to Lucent, those are the numbers (down/up) we have defined by the standards:

CDMA EVDO Rev 0: 2.4Mbps/155Kbps
CDMA EVDO Rev A: 3.1Mbps/1.8Mbps
CDMA EVDO Rev B: 73.5Mbps/27Mbps
CDMA EVDO Rev C: 129Mbps/75.6Mbps

In real world CDMA EVDO Rev 0 (which we have here in New Zealand now) provides about 400-600Kbps downstream. He thinks CDMA EVDO Rev A should provide about 600-800Kbps, although in some tests (empty network, close to cell site) they got some pretty good numbers.

Also during the talk it was confirmed that Telecom New Zealand will launch their CDMA EVDO Rev A network by December 2006. This is after the Vodafone New Zealand HSDPA launch, which has just been confirmed for 12 September.

If you are lucky though and have a HSDPA device in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, go on, start using it. I understand the networks is currently up and running.

So what's the HSDPA speeds? Initial deployment is 1.8Mbps/384Kbps, but Vodafone told me they are planning to have it bumped up to 3.6Mbps at launch. This is something to see. Also, as usual, this is the theoretical maximum speed, and as in any other technology only achievable under optimum conditions. A loaded network is a different story, and considering that HSDPA "breathes", in other words, more users means less coverage.

While we are covering, er, coverage... Apparently TUANZ (Telecommunication Users Association NZ) had a meeting just the night before and Vodafone New Zealand was the showcase. Rightly so, because of their HSDPA offering to be soon unveiled. It seems they talked about coverage on that meeting, and someone present in both meetings asked the same question to Telecom: since both claim to cover 99% of the New Zealand population with cellular services, how much is actually covered by 3G services? It seems that Vodafone New Zealand is behind, with 45%, while Telecom New Zealand claims 75%.

And talking about Vodafone New Zealand... I am still to see HSDPA in real life. I had a meeting in Auckland with their business folks and a nice demo, and two lunches here in Wellington with people involved on these deployments or equipment. So far I only heard the promises, but no one could come forward and say "Here, take this HSDPA card and try it and let people know what you think".

Back to Telecom New Zealand. An interesting comment from Mike Hobby, about WCDMA LTE (which is supposed to come after HSDPA and HSUPA), is that it would use the same technologies as CDMA EV-DO Rev C (which is not ratified yet). So, in essence, sometime in the future, WCDMA and CDMA EV can join? Interesting to see what happens.

Anyway, last night Telecom New Zealand gave away a CDMA EV-DO Rev A card to a lucky person in the audience, plus some free data. They must be getting close to testing this soon.





Even more required tools for Windows Admins: WebDrive

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Aug-2006 18:17

This is part III of a series of posts showing some of the software tools I use on a daily basis. While I previously covered system maintenance tools and private networking before, this time it's a file management tool: WebDrive.

This small tool is a perfect utility for file operations over a network, with the ability to connect to FTP and SFTP servers, WebDAV servers and to the .Mac iDisk service.

What's more important about it? The program does so in a transparent way, and actually maps a drive letter to the server. When used over a private network such as a VPN tunnel or Hamachi, then you have a nice and secure way of accesing your server and copy files from and to it.


As a bonus, WebDrive maps can be used from the command line, making it perfect for scheduling backup operations from scripts for example.

Not a free software, but an important tool on my desktop.




I am looking for a fast wireless access point router

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Aug-2006 18:11

We currently have a Belkin F5D7230-4 here, and although it's a great device (been up 24/7 for the last few years, and another Belkin before that went 24/7 for at least 3 years) I feel like it could deliver a bit more performance.

We have a 10Mbps cable-modem connection here, with my Windows XP Pro desktop, a second Windows XP Pro desktop running Virtual Server with a Windows Server 2003 guest OS, a tablet PC, an Apple iMac and a couple of Pocket PCs. Of those, only the tablet PC and Pocket PCs connect via Wi-Fi. And visitors' devices of course. All other PCs are connected via ethernet.

I also would like to have a better control of its firewall, such as better logging, to know what's going on, alarms, etc. If possible some intrusion detection too.

So, if you have any suggestions I'd like to hear (or read). I don't mind another Belkin, I am happy with the brand, but please no D-Link models - any!







Brace yourself: more e-mail campaigns on its way to New Zealanders!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Aug-2006 10:08

An interesting read on NZ Herald today... We found out that Onecard, the loyalty programme run by supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises here in New Zealand (read Woolworths and Foodtown) is now selling e-mail addreses from their database.

The article tells us how marketers can "rent" information for email campaigns from the 1.5 million-name database.

Progressive Enterprises' loyalty programme manager, Bridget Lamont, said companies previously ran traditional direct marketing campaigns using the data, but email gave an additional, low-cost channel.
 
The company had email addresses for about 15 per cent of Onecard members, but was aiming to collect more.

"It cost us a fraction of a traditional direct marketing campaign," said Lamont.


I imagine they probably have a fineprint somewhere in the registration form with something such as "from time to time we will contact you with offers from selected partners" or something along these lines. But this is scary, because an e-mail blitz campaign is much cheaper than voice calls, so companies will probably jump to the opportunity of having a cheap way to flood consumers with their "special offers".

You should either not give up your e-mail address on these forms, or use a spam-catch e-mail and simply disregard these things.



Please make Firefox more user friendly

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Aug-2006 09:10

I, like many other PC users, tend to use the most adequate tool for a computer task. Sometimes may not be the best one, but if it performs well, why bother with something else?

Now, a lot of people advocate Firefox. And while it is a good looking browser, and in some respects safer than other alternatives, I don't necessarily want to use it. So I keep with Internet Explorer (by the way, I just installed Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 and it is a slick browser). 

This week I decided to have Firefox open on my second monitor. You see, even though IE7 seems to do all I need, it still fails to work with some "web 2.0" applications and the only way I could use that was by running Firefox.

And while there, I thought, why not have it showing my server's stats? Easy, just connect to LogMeIn IT Reach (which I talked about before) and... Oh, wait... It needs to install an extension. The yellow bar came out say something like "to install extensions, click the Options button and enable this option".

The button was there. But not the option. I thought I've seen this option before, and rightly disabled it. But where is it to enable again?

Nowehere to be found. So, it took me, an IT professional, about 5 minutes to figure out there was no option anywhere in the menus on Firefox to enable this. And off to Google, where I found all about the "about:config" page.




It's like a regedit for Firefox. Hidden. Away from users. And taking my control of my experience away from me. How non-user friendly was that?

Removing an important option from the menus and burying somewhere hard to find. Security by obscurity? And why the instructions Firefox itself gives me on how to enable installation are not accurate? The yellow bar should not reference the options if it's not there.

After double-clicking the appropriate option, I was able to finally install the proper extension for LogMeIn to work.

Is this kind of little things that makes me go away from an otherwise nice piece of software.

UPDATE: on an IRC chat someone pointed to me this was an oversight, and the software is still Beta. Forgive me, but a Beta software that claims to have an important part of the browser market should not be beta, but considered production. Some people are not here to test applications, but to work with them.





Nick Randolph's new book: Professional Visual Studio 2005

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Aug-2006 15:57

Nick Randolph from Perth, Australia is currently in Wellington, New Zealand on a six month contract. He's also a fellow Microsoft MVP (his competency is Visual Developer - Device Application Development, while mine is Mobile Devices) and is already integrated into the Wellington user group crowd (plus attends my Wednesday coffee meetings at Astoria).

He's also an author and his latest book Professional Visual Studio 2005 (co-authored with Andrew Parsons) is available from Amazon:



He's the guy on the right side on the cover. Well done, Nick! You can find more on Nick Randolph's blog.




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!

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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.

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