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If discussion forums were like Star Trek

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Mar-2007 08:51

We all know it's a fact that the longer a discussion on any forum, easier it will be to distance the discussion from the original subject, going off-topic. This happens saometimes in our Geekzone forums.

But today I read a funny Star Trek inspired sketch related to off-topic discussions in on-line forums:

Spock: Captain, the ship is about to enter a region of space noted for its intense Hyperbole Storms.

Kirk: Raise Tangent Shields. Ahead full, Mr. Sulu.

Spock: We are entering a Hyperbole Storm, Captain!

Kirk: How did it come up so quickly?

Sulu: Captain! Helm is sluggish! We are having trouble staying on topic!

Kirk: Scotty! Divert warp power to the Tangent Shields!

Spock: Tangent Shields failing!

Scotty: Cap'n! Mah engines cannae take much more of this!

McCoy: Sickbay to Bridge: Jim, we've got dozens of crewmen down here babbling incoherently! You've got to do something about it!

Kirk: We'll do what we can Doctor. Try to get them singing or something. Kirk out.

Spock: Captain, the only possible way out of this storm will involve a cold restart of the topic.

Kirk: Isn't that incredibly dangerous, Spock?

Spock: It is the only logical course for us to take, Captain.

The mainstream media dilemma

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Mar-2007 17:55

Risking the ire of professional journalists, here is an interesting take on why newspapers' credibility (and consequent business) may be in decline. Blame it on "MSM disconnects", according to the Venture Chronicles:

There are two aspects to newspaper media that people in the newspaper business would rather not talk about. The first is that the quality of writing and original research for that matter in many of the top blogs is far superior to newspapers. For example, look at Powerline’s recent coverage of a mini-controversy brewed up by a local reporter over the investiture ceremony for U.S. Attorney Paulose in Minnesota and you will find a well written and well researched piece that thoroughly eviscerates the reporter who did the original story.

Interested in any coverage of important legal decisions, do you really need the NYTimes when the Volokh Conspiracy not only gets the facts right but gives you the perspective of a respected law professor as well? I’ve learned more about the Supreme Court and recent decisions from the SCOTUS Blog than I ever did from a newspaper.

Also note that many journalists are bloggers and the post ends with this:

It occured to me shortly after hitting post on this that I should add a comment about the fact that journalism isn’t itself flawed but rather the business of journalism as it currently exists. I have a great many friends who are writers by trade and they are an impressive lot with instincts and discipline that escape most bloggers, so the notion that everything is going citizen just doesn’t hold up. It’s more subtle than that, there is a fundamental distribution model shift coupled with an economic shift on top of a generational shift that is redefining how people get information.

UPDATE: I had a big rant here, but I was told it wasn't objective enough. And because of that I will leave only the links and excerpts from the blog I am linking to. Apparently criticism goes only one way...

The TelstraClear non-news of the day: Pegasus Town

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Mar-2007 17:30

Today I've got three e-mails with a press release from TelstraClear. Interesting piece of non-news here, and here's why I think so:

Pegasus Town today announced TelstraClear has won an exclusive contract to install telecommunications services.

TelstraClear Chief Executive Dr Allan Freeth says Pegasus Town is an exciting, uniquely innovative concept that will benefit from the company’s triple-play services.

“We’ll deliver a unique InHome triple play TV, Internet and phone line package, working to future proof Pegasus Town homes, business and its community,” says Dr Freeth.

Ok, so there's a private suburban development who will benefit 5,000 residents (about 2,000 residencies) and TelstraClear will be the sole provider there. That limits the choices to the buyer, and we all know what happens when there's no competition, right?

Buit let's hope TelstraClear will deliver something fantastic, so let's keep reading:

Pegasus Town will get free local calling to Christchurch, a dedicated contact centre service and a unique phone number range. A one-off connection fee will provide customers with a broadband modem, TV set top box, boundary and premise cabling and a telephone line connection.

“Pegasus Town businesses will be broadband hungry, needing fast speeds to move large data and image files. With speeds of up to 10 mbps downstream and up to 2 mbps upstream, Pegasus Town will be a fast town. What’s more there’s capacity to increase speeds in the future,” says Infinity Investment Group Chief Executive Bob Robertson.

Oh. I think we should have a dedicated call centre for Wellington, and another one for Christchurch. This would reduce the 45 minute wait when we have to call TelstraClear to report a fault. But let's not be jealous.

And 10Mbps down/2Mbps up? Goodness sake, TelstraClear, I have 10Mbps/2Mbps here in Wellington and have had it for a couple of years already. I am waiting for 25 Mbps here and for a new development I would expect you guys to lay fiber to each one of the houses, and provide 50 Mbps fiber to the premises services

“Another part of the Pegasus Town concept, is its philosophy to live where you play. We didn’t want unsightly satellite dishes and streets being continuously dug up. TelstraClear’s solution fits with this vision,” he says.

So the developers want to micro manage like some towns in the U.S. where residents have to ask the council what colour they can paint their houses, and what style to build?

Sorry, TelstraClear. This is a non-news and you should not be proud of it. You should have really stepped up to the challenge and created the first real broadband heaven in New Zealand. Instead...

Windows Vista VSS annoyance

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Mar-2007 08:23

Every time a program wants to start the Volume Shadow Copy I see these entries in the Windows Event log:

Event ID: 32
Volume Shadow Copy Service error: The VSS Coordinator class is not registered. This may be caused due to a setup failure or as a result of an application's installer or uninstaller.
Instantiating VSS server

Event ID: 8193
Volume Shadow Copy Service error: Unexpected error calling routine CoCreateInstance. hr = 0x80040154.
Instantiating VSS server

There is no documentation at all about these messages. It's been like that since the first time I booted this laptop.

I know the Shadow Copy function is working because I tested with some picture files (right-click a file and select Previous Versions)... But I don't understand why this error shows up when programs want to run backups.

Space Invaders

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Mar-2007 19:22

Oh, good old times of Space Invaders:

Driving and SMS

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Mar-2007 08:45

Last Friday I walked the Wellington CBD up and down, since I had to leave the Geek Mobile for a service at the Chrysler shop here.

This gave me an excellent opportunity to realise something: New Zealand lawmakers should worry less about the anti-smacking bill (hey, it's already illegal to smack someone!) and look at all those mad, stupid, dumb drivers who are behind the steering wheel and sending SMS at the same time, while driving.

I counted many cases of people talking on their mobile phones while driving, but worst of all is to see someone that is looking down to their laps because they are writing a SMS, instead of having the eyes up and on the road ahead.

One of the people I saw yesterday looked like sleeping, because the eyes were looking down... He was at the same time slowing down because there were two cars in front of him... And a red light. I saw at least three people doing the same, in two blocks.

I wonder how many car crashes we have in the heavy morning or evening traffic, thanks to idiots who can't take the time to put their mobile phones away.

The New Zealand Police should worry less about someone doing 10 KM/h over the limit on an empty highway, and pay attention to those idiots in heavy traffic. Oh, and perhaps also look at stupid people who don't stop on STOP and don't indicate either. I think those are more dangerous things than the speed on the open road.

And since we touched the anti-smacking bill... As I said, it's already illegal to use more than reasonable force when disciplining children. This new bill is there to prevent those child abusive parents to use the "reasonable force" defence. But clearly this is already covered. Worst, it will make even moving a children to a timeout place an offence. What's next? Timeout corners will be illegal because some MP will deem those a form of torture?

Naughty HP removing Outlook from Windows Mobile CDs

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Mar-2007 08:00

It is a well established practice in the Windows Mobile market: every Windows Mobile device comes with a CD containing the (current) ActiveSync (or Windows Mobile Device Center for Windows Vista), and a copy of Microsoft Outlook with its corresponding software key.

And that's fair enough, because Windows Mobile devices will only synchronise with Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Exchange Servers.

It seems the Microsoft Mobile and Embedded Division is again giving too much power to the OEM/ODM... I just found through Experience Mobility that HP has decided to skip the Microsoft Outlook from the product CD, forcing users who purchase their HP iPaq to have to go out of their way and also buy Microsoft Outlook, separately:

Microsoft Outlook is not provided on the HP iPAQ Getting Started CD and must be purchased separately from Microsoft. Customers can go to and follow the on-screen instructions to purchase the available version of Microsoft Outlook.

This move is really strange. It looks like coming from a newbie product manager who never dealt with Windows Mobile before and thought that Microsoft Outlook was just a freebie, not a requirement.

Is this a cost reduction decision? Or simply HP making all it's in their power to annoy consumers? Don't they realise this will increase support costs? Are we going to see an equivalent reduction in price of these devices?

My first Pocket PC was a HP iPaq h3970. The second (and one of the best Pocket PC ever!) was the HP iPaq h4150. Since then I played with two other devices and briefly touched their new Windows Mobile Smartphone (not the best thing in the Smartphone world, I have to say).

I completely lost contact with HP in the last two years. The New Zealand subsidiary is not really into the Windows Mobile space and e-mails go unanswered, promises do not turn into reality...

New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 15:20

I have just received information about the upcoming New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference (NZCSRSC) taking place at the University of Waikato in Hamilton (New Zealand), from 10th-13th of April 2007.

Guest speakers include:

- Craig Nevill-Manning (PhD from Waikato) founded Google's first remote engineering center, located in midtown Manhattan, where he is an Engineering Director.
- Nigel Scott, member of the triple Oscar winning sound editing team at Park Road Post.
- Tyrone McAuley is Co-founder/Co-Owner and Technical Director at Sidhe Interactive,
- Prof Ian Foster, Director of the Computation Institute at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, where he is also the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science.

The central goal of NZCSRSC is to foster a lasting community between research students in New Zealand and is being organised by Computer Science students from the University of Waikato. Participants include students graduating in Computer Science, from nine New Zealand universities.

The conference includes student presentations, invited talks, workshops, social events, even a Suits n' Geeks evening!

More information on the official website. for the NZCSRSC... Thanks Craig Anslow  for the tip!

Winfixer invades AOL network

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 15:13

A couple of weeks ago there was a case of an adware/spyware/fake cleaner whatever being spread through the MSN Messenger network. It looks like those guys are at it again, this time infecting AOL pages, according to Spyware Sucks.

Upon visiting a page on AOL Money news the user is automatically redirected to another domain outside the AOL network. This domain will try to load a "scanner" using those pesky messages "You computer is at risk".

The guys insist, and even if you click CANCEL or the [X] button a few times the site still tries to load their "software".

Spyware Sucks has a complete report, including screenshots taken during the whole thing. They go to such extent as to disable the CANCEL button, leaving the user no other option than to click OK or close the browser entirely!

Once again, installing spyware or any other software requires user consent. If you click OK then that's not much that an OS can do. You must pay attention to the messages and not click OK or INSTALL or RUN for anything that pops up out of the blue.

Playstation 3, Xbox 360 One Year

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Mar-2007 08:13

I am not a console game player. I like the games on my PC (Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, Diablo II, Age of Empires) though and very soon Windows Vista users will be able to join the Xbox Live service - even play games together in multiplayer matches!

But the post is not about this new feature. It's about the Playstation 3 launch. I read somewhere that in Australia camera crews went to some places to capture the excitment of this launch, but were greeted by about fourty people, not enough to create a great picture as expected.

In London, though, things were nicer according to the BBC. Everyone in line got a free Sony Bravia 46" HDTV and a taxi home. Yes, way to go!

I didn't hear much about Sony New Zealand doing anything really. I only noticed a few boxes at the door in our local EB. By the number of boxes stacked there, and looking at the price, I am not sure they are flying out like hot cakes.

Back to the Xbox 360 front, the Playstation 3 was launched in New Zealand exactly one year (to the date) after the local Xbox 360 launch. To celebrate, the Xbox 360 PR company sent out to some influencers (yay!) a mysterious green box wrapped in "Xbox 360" tape. I opened it to find a mini chocolate cake with the Xbox 360 logo and one candle.

Happy anniversary!

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!

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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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