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Working with technology: Bill Gates

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Apr-2006 09:19

There's an interesting article on Fortune magazine (CNN Money) this week, written by Bill Gates, explaining how is his work routine.

What technologies does he use? E-mail. I already knew e-mail is the tool of choice for a lot of Microsofties, and this article is just a confirmation.
The screen on the left has my list of e-mails. On the center screen is usually the specific e-mail I'm reading and responding to. And my browser is on the right-hand screen. This setup gives me the ability to glance and see what new has come in while I'm working on something, and to bring up a link that's related to an e-mail and look at it while the e-mail is still in front of me.

At Microsoft, e-mail is the medium of choice, more than phone calls, documents, blogs, bulletin boards, or even meetings (voicemails and faxes are actually integrated into our e-mail in-boxes).

I get about 100 e-mails a day. We apply filtering to keep it to that level—e-mail comes straight to me from anyone I've ever corresponded with, anyone from Microsoft, Intel, HP, and all the other partner companies, and anyone I know. And I always see a write-up from my assistant of any other e-mail, from companies that aren't on my permission list or individuals I don't know. That way I know what people are praising us for, what they are complaining about, and what they are asking.

We're at the point now where the challenge isn't how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it's ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like "in-box rules" and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.

I also read somewhere today (sorry, missed the link, and it's now gone) that the most used collaboration tool is... e-mail. And collaboration, Bill Gates has to say:
Staying focused is one issue; that's the problem of information overload. The other problem is information underload. Being flooded with information doesn't mean we have the right information or that we're in touch with the right people.

And last, but not least, a very important piece of the whole technology-at-work puzzle:
Another digital tool that has had a big effect on my productivity is desktop search. It has transformed the way I access information on my PC, on servers, and on the Internet. With larger hard drives and increasing bandwidth, I now have gigabytes of information on my PC and servers in the form of e-mails, documents, media files, contact databases, and so on.

Paper is no longer a big part of my day. I get 90% of my news online, and when I go to a meeting and want to jot things down, I bring my Tablet PC. It's fully synchronized with my office machine so I have all the files I need. It also has a note-taking piece of software called OneNote, so all my notes are in digital form.

Interested in participating on a quick test for Telecom New Zealand?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Apr-2006 09:36

I've received an e-mail from Telecom New Zealand, asking for people interested in participating on a usability test of some new parts of the Telecom website.

The test would consist of spending no more than 1 hour going through areas on the mobile internet site that are pre-chosen by 'observers' and then filling in a questionnaire at the end.

This will be held in Welllington on Wednesday 5 April 2006 and has sessions running on the hour from 10am until 4pm. A "thank you" for your help will be a NZ$30 credit on a Telecom mobile or landline of choice.
If anyone here are interested in participating, then please post a comment here and I will e-mail you the the telephone number for contact and confirmation.

What's the White House Staff looking for on Google?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Apr-2006 11:29

One of the Google Circles used as example on the new Google Circle service I wrote about before is the White House IP range.

It looks like the White House Staff is looking for some WMD on Craigslist?

While on that page it is worth looking at other circles. Search for "Apple" and you'll see they are looking for information on "Intel", "anti-trust law music industry", and "cheap cell phone components"... Yeah, right.

Or of course it could just be an April Fools' joke... Check the copyright notice at the bottom of the page (it's not Google) and check the FAQ...

Google Circle White House

Google Circles: finding what others are searching

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Apr-2006 11:23

Google has introduced an interesting new feature, called Google Circles. The FAQ says:
[Google Circles] lets you explore the interests of groups of people around the world, in your hometown, at your workplace, and at your alma mater. For example, check out the Google Circles for Brookline, MA,, and Apple Computer.

Google Circles works by aggregating information from a variety of sources. For example, we record the Internet Protocol (IP) address for every search performed on our servers. While the IP address does not uniquely identify your location, there is a strong relationship between address and a geographic region. From this relationship, trends can be inferred. Similarly, your IP address often identifies you as being affiliated with a particular Internet domain (e.g., This information allows us to provide highly specialized clusters of search behavior which are interesting and useful.

This is a screenshot: Apparently there are only limited "circles" available because I couldn't find anything from "Wellington" or "New Zealand" yet.

Of course it could just be another April Fools joke: check the copyright notice at the bottom of the page (it's not Google) and check the explanation...

What is location these days? Or e-mail, reviews rant

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Apr-2006 11:21

I really try to understand the reasoning behind some companies not replying to e-mails (if you read my rants before you already know I can't)...

Reading comments posted on Tony Hughes's Geekzone Blog, I see some people believe companies do not have to reply to e-mails. For example, this is Bert's opinion on the comments:
I too hate it when companies don't reply to e-mails, but on the other hand: why should they?
I'm listed in the phonebook. Does that mean that everybody should call me?

As an owner of a company I get many letters from people who seek a job. Although I think it's great they actively trying to get a job, I don't have the time to answer those letters. Should I, just because I publish my address?

I also publish my e-mail address so potentional customers can reach me. The number of e-mails I get that are not of interest for me is minimal, so I can answer those too. But the moment answering those e-mails takes to much time, I will probably only answer a selection too.

Ok, this is Bert's take on this case, but in my view companies that are "selling" their product should have the dignity of at least reply to valid inquiries (of course excluding the clearly stupid questions), mainly if these are directed to the media relations department, through their "Contact Us" page.

Come on, why they would call it a "Contact Us" page, and post the link in the media relations page if they have no intention of replying?

Example of companies who have a contact link in the PR page and never replied: the Orange UK; ZVUE Handheld; Slingmedia (ok, this one replied, but only after I found a VP's e-mail address on his personal blog).

Example of local (Australia, NZ) people that even after receiving an e-mail from the USA office (which I received a copy of) asking them to help us with reviews never came back: d-link, frogpad.

So, really, do they deserve to appear in any page if they can't be bothered replying to e-mails?

Some of the companies even replied to me saying "Sorry, you are based in New Zealand and we don't do business there".

Hello! These are the days when where I am located has no influence on a trusted relationship created with the readers: our readers are everywhere. 50% of people reading Geekzone are based in the USA, 35% in New Zealand. Bummer, if a TLD makes a difference. I could just as well have a .COM TLD and still be based whatever I wanted to be, even enjoying a year-long stay in some Pacific Island (guess what? New Zealand is a Pacific Island).

On the other hand some companies contact us for reviews. But as soon as they find out they have to actually send a product, every communication goes silent. What's that? Do these companies think we will publish a review of their products based on the PDF catalogue and a couple of pictures, without actually using their products? Oh my, they are probably used to some low-life publications then...

I still think some companies don't get it.

Geekzone users on the ball with Sky TV

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Mar-2006 20:47

You gotta love the Geekzone community. Users reported in our forums about the Sky TV outage across New Zealand, with some updated reports:

Very good folks, great job finding these things...

Update: a Geekzone Blog is also coming, courtesy of cokemaster:

Update II: a more complete report is now available:

BlackBerry: that's not how it works

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Mar-2006 15:18

Just so that you know, David Geller posted this on (Blackberry - I wish I could love you):

"For example, we were sold on a business plan and told we could use the Blackberry service to read from our corporate email accounts and forward email to our devices - with a slight delay. I'm told it's about 15 minutes, but can be ratcheted down if they detected increased traffic levels. I was also told that if I deleted items on the Blackberry, they'd be deleted on my inbox. Makes sense. I was told the same was true the other way around. That makes even more sense and seems even more critical. After all, you don't want to come back from lunch, sit down at your workstation and delete 50 messages only to find that they're still sitting on your Blackberry later that day."

"Well, guess what? That's not the way it works unless you shell out $5K for their Enterprise version. Yikes. Suddenly the whole experience gets very complicated and very expensive. They already support connecting to your IMAP or POP mailbox. Can't they reconcile deletions bidirectionally? They can. They choose not to."

Of course you have to read the whole post to get the context, but in summary, you only get the benefits if you go for the Enterprise version.

I think more people should read about Windows Mobile and the MSFP.

Techtalkblogs: Australian and New Zealand bloggers

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Mar-2006 17:32

The Techtalkblogs is an interesting collective website, aggregating feeds from Australian and Kiwi bloggers:

TechTalkBlog features up to date and interesting news items from around the Australian and New Zealand technology and blogging community. Yes, it does include New Zealand bloggers (this blog is listed there too), and they should update their FAQ page to state this.

The site offers a way to improve relevance by allowing readers to give an interesting post a big thumbs up by clicking on the Thumbs Up Icon. When you give a Thumbs Up, you are helping the community by helping TechTalkBlogs work out what are the most interesting stories floating around the local blogosphere.

The feed is updated every 2 hours and is always changing. Microsoft is supporting the initiative.

Bitsdujour is coming!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Mar-2006 09:14

There is a new website coming soon (I am told it should be up and running at full force this 29 March): will offer a "one deal a day" software title, offering one product a day, in a limited quantity, at a big discount - and available for download only.

Ellen, one of the persons involved in this new site, tells me it will have Windows software, with the PDA software throw in now and then (she is one of the marketing people at

I am curious to find out the software titles available - I got a hint for the first one, but not the exact title. The only problem is that to get some of the bargains we based in New Zealand will have to be up at night because of the timezone. If it's like some other "one deal a day" sites the stock generally goes very fast early in the day!

Placing free local calls from Telecom New Zealand mobile phones

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2006 13:00

This is a smart move... Telecom New Zealand has announced a new plan called Telecom Freedom, in which calls between a Telecom Mobile and a nominated Telecom landline are free. This is appealing to families: parents will feel safe their kids can call home at any time, even without credit on a prepaid number, and other nice features.

It didn't take long for some people to discover how to hack the system: by installing a VoIP gateway at home (Asterisk PBX nonetheless) and two landlines (with the VoIP system bridging them) it will be possible to call local numbers (from your home base of course) for free from a mobile phone: simply call your home number with the Telecom Freedom option, get a dial tone offered by the VoIP system and dial the number you want to reach.

For the price of some hardware, two landlines and a mobile phone you get this feature. If you are on the streets most of the time and call local numbers a lot, this is an interesting money saving strategy - not that we endorse it.

How long before Telecom New Zealand finds out how to block it?

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.

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