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Download the Geekzone Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 11:16

One of the many feedbacks we receive from our users regarding the Geekzone forums is "How can I keep up with all the new posts and replies?"

You can of course add each forum's own RSS feed to your feed reader. Or you can go the cool way and add our new Geekzone Gadget for Windows Sidebar to your Windows Vista-based PC running Windows Sidebar.

This gadget will keep an eye in all our forums and show the ones with most recent topics or replies on top of the list. You can then click on a forum name to see the most recent discussions with posts or replies. You will also see a colour coded "meter" showing how busy the forum is.

While this is not the final v1.0 release, it's really close and you can download and use it now. Soon we will have a release with a couple of cosmetic changes - but the main functionality is there.

Also, for v2.0 we are already planning things such as selecting which forums to keep an eye on for you, and the option to post a reply to a discussion directly from the gadget.

If you have suggestions for new features, please post a comment here or in our forums. The software is being developed by the folks from Provoke.

You will need Windows Vista and the Sidebar application to have this gadget installed on your PC. The gadget can be docked or floating on your desktop.

You can find more Windows Sidebar gadgets online. Check the official Windows Vista Sidebar web site or the New Zealand Windows Vista Sidebar web site for some localised gadgets.

Why a Windows Vista Sidebar Gadget, you ask? Well, being a "geek" web site, we found out that about 15% of our users are already running Windows Vista. While we appreciate we have people visiting Geekzone with other platforms, it's just the case of deciding where to start and economically this would make sense. If you are keen to develop a similar gadget for other platforms, contact me and we can discuss.

RSS in plain English

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 10:53

Are you overwhelmed with information overload? Need a quicker way to read the news, interesting stuff, your relatives' blog posts?

You should try RSS feeds. I posted about those before, and you can probably see the orange RSS icon on this page.

To understand what's RSS and how it works (in a very simplified way), check this video from Common Craft:

Visiting the PlanHQ and a review

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 10:13

Just yesterday I was visiting the folks at PlanHQ here in Wellington, to discuss a design update for Geekzone. This morning, by coincidence, I see a review of PlanHQ services at WorkHappy.Net, a blog with resources for entrepreneurs.

PlanHQ is an on-line business plan software, but the team also work with web site design, usability, etc. The team behind it includes Tim Norton (whom I've met a few times including at the Kiwi Foo Camp) and Natalie Ferguson. Also, Rod Drury (of Xero fame) is the company's Chairman.

Unpack your vodem: Vodafone releases support for Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 17:21

Believe it or not, but Google Analytics tells me about 15% of our readers used a Windows Vista-based PC to access Geekzone during March/April 2007.

That's why I get so excited when I see support for Windows Vista rolling out of the door - such as the new, fresh Vodafone vodem drivers for the new operating system.

The vodem is a HSDPA (high speed mobile Internet) USB modem you can use with your PC. For pictures and some speed tests, check out my "Unpacking the Vodem" review.

Vodafone New Zealand promised the drivers for Windows Vista a while ago, and these are now officially available through select stores, while Vodafone sorts out download pages, etc. In the meantime, if you are in New Zealand and you must have it now then post a comment here or contact me and we will arrange for someone at Vodafone New Zealand to get in touch.

UPDATE: I've sent an email with a download link to whoever asked for it. Just be sure to read the instructions. The update must be made from a Windows XP machine, not Windows Vista (go figure!). Vodafone stores should now have this update available. Do not call the customer services because apparently they have no idea what this is about.

Agreement between Vodafone New Zealand and TelstraClear coming to an end?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 08:43

It looks like the agreement allowing TelstraClear to resell Vodafone New Zealand connections under a different area code (029) is coming up for renewal soon. And lots of signs indicate the agreement will not be renewed.

I was alerted to this by a post in our forums, plus an article in the newspaper. I decided to put my ear on the ground and listen for more information. I also asked the parts about the rumours. This is the comment from Vodafone New Zealand:

Commercial Development Manager Tom Chignell says: "TelstraClear is one of many channels we use that sell our services for us, and it's not our practice to comment on business matters between ourselves and our distribution channels.

"Vodafone is committed to an ongoing commercial relationship with TelstraClear.

"We have a variety of mutually beneficial dealings with TelstraClear. As well as acting as a channel for our mobile services, we work cooperatively on the TCF on a range of issues from number portability to llu [Local Loop Unbundling]. We interconnect a huge amount of traffic with them, and we are working very cooperatively with them on the NAD (number administration deed)."

I haven't received a reply from TelstraClear, yet.

But what I've heard from two different sources is alarming. Alarming because it shows how TelstraClear lost the plot: it just happens that TelstraClear was only reselling the Vodafone product (mobile connections). But here comes the catch: the customer base belongs to Vodafone, not TelstraClear.

So even though Vodafone did not provide direct support to customers calling them (in case of need (as I saw reported in our Geekzone forums before), the customers actually belonged to Vodafone.

Of course Vodafone may, or may not, realise how many deals (mainly in the government sector) TelstraClear brought to them. And it looks like they are not afraid of scratching this relationship.

The story leaked to newspapers from TesltraClear's customers since neither company will confirm or deny the stories.

Mobile operators need better customer services to convince the audience

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Apr-2007 07:49

Every time I read our Geekzone forums I believe both Vodafone and Telecom need better customer services, pricing plans that don't confuse the users, flexible help desk hours, and more.

I've just read Seth Godin's post "Just because they say it" and it reflects pretty much what we see in the New Zealand telecommunications market in general:

I get more complaints about the bad customer service provided by cell phone companies than just about any other sort of organization.

We're waiting for the bait and switch, for the service to fade out, to be stuck, once again with a company that doesn't care. It might very well be that this time it's different.

The challenge to a marketer that chooses to enter a market with a miserable history of customer abuse is obvious: you can claim to be better, to be unevil, benevolent even, but people just aren't prepared to believe you. It doesn't fit the consumer's worldview. So, you could be the honest politician or the quality contractor or the direct marketer with no fine print and no spam, but you better be prepared to prove it over and over before we believe you.

Actually we have to consider that it is part of human nature to complain when things are wrong, but you read very little when things are right.

I can't complain about either Vodafone New Zealand or Telecom New Zealand really. I use both as my mobile communications providers and never had a problem.

For my fixed communications I use TelstraClear. They have superb cable modem service, way ahead of the DSL provided in the rest of the country by Telecom New Zealand. But wait time of 45 minutes when calling the help desk... That's the problem. Lucky I only had to do that a couple of times last year - none so far in 2007.

Pirates of the Silicon Valley

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 23-Apr-2007 10:44

The movie Pirates of Silicon Valley (IMDB) is a made for TV story of great figures, and corporations: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp... You will see Noah Wyle as a young Steve Jobs, Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates, Joey Slotnick as Steve Wozniak and John Di Maggio as Steve Ballmer. Worth watching it. You will find out lots. I saw the movie a few years ago on DVD. IF you want to find even more about Apple Inc, read Steve Wozniak's iWoz. I don't know if this is an authorised version, but Google video shows more than 300,000 views already, and the movie has been up for more than four months. Watch Pirates of the Silicon Valley now on Google Video.

A couple of RSS feeds you should read

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Apr-2007 20:38

This is a shameless plug post. I am about to suggest three RSS feeds you should keep an eye on, including the readership numbers (by FeedBurner):

 Geekzone (RSS feed): this is our main feed, with all news, reviews, and some of the top Geekzone Blogs.

 Technozone (RSS feed): this is a special feed based on a network of tech blogs, including some Geekzone Blogs, and a few external blogs we think are interesting.

 Australia/New Zealand MVPs (RSS feed): this is a brand new network, bringing together blogs by Microsoft MVP folks based down under. You will find posts in a wide range of Microsoft technologies and interests.

If you are a Microsoft MVP based in Australia or New Zealand, please post to the mailing list asking to be invited to the network!

Of course you should also subscribe to my own RSS feed.

CDMA EVDO Rev A USB modem coming to Telecom New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Apr-2007 11:08

I've heard from the grapevine that Telecom New Zealand is working towards the launch of a CDMA EVDO Rev A USB modem for May - somewhere between mid to end of the month.

Knowing that Telecom New Zealand currently sells the Sierra Wireless Aircard 595, I would guess the new USB modem will be the Sierra Wireless Aircard 595u:

Since I have no confirmation of the model it's only my guess.

The Sierra Wireless Aircard 595 is the only 3G card that works ok with a Windows Vista 64 bit installation. The Vodafone equivalent is the Novatel produtc,, but there are no drivers for 64 bit yet (and the useless Novatel support doesn't reply to queries on their site).

HTC Announces Windows Mobile 6 updates, but not for your HTC Universal

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Apr-2007 12:21

HTC has announced the roadmap of Windows Mobile 6 updates, according to Engadget. The list includes the HTC Advantage, HTC TyTn, HTC S620, HTC P3300, and the HTC 4350.

Strangely the list does not include the HTC Universal, the 3G-enabled, mini laptop replacement flagship device, top of the line, also known as QTEK 9090 or i-mate Jasjar.

The device is certainly not new, launched back in September 2005. But seeing that it's listed as available from some mobile operators and since this is a business device I would expect to see an update available for it. You can currently find a HTC Universal from Vodafone New Zealand at NZ$1999 (US$ 1500).

The device is more than capable, with fast CPU and ample keyboard for a good messaging experience. And the VGA screen is second to none.

Of course we still haven't heard from the other distributors carrying the HTC Universal in their product line (Dopod, Grundig, i-mate, O2, Orange, SFR, T-Mobile, Vodafone), but since the manufacturer themselves are not going to offer an upgrade path for this device, I guess we won't be seeing one soon.

Again it happens. Even though devices are very capable, users ended up investing a small fortune on something that won't be updated. I know, there are work involved, retro fitting drivers, updating radio stack, etc... But again, it's a really expensive device!

You can find more on "Why can't I upgrade my Windows Mobile device" in an old post in the Windows Mobile team blog.

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.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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