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Microsoft Windows Live Mesh: the eternal fail

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Mar-2012 13:08

A few years ago Microsoft adopted bought a sync technology and "enhanced" it. Windows Live Mesh turned into Windows Live Sync and then Windows Live Mesh again. Each time that technology changed names I tried it.

I tried it hard to have a successful relationship with Windows Live Mesh. It's imperative that something like this "just works" (TM). I have thousands of files in My Documents, in a development repository, my music and video folders that I want need to keep in sync between my desktop and laptop. That's because the promised sync would allow me to grab the laptop and go, free of my desk.

In every single interaction Microsoft failed to deliver. The latest fail came today when I saw a blog post about Windows Live update, "This minor release includes numerous updates across all of the programs in the Essential package, including Windows Live Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Family Safety, Writer, and Mesh."

It's a minor update. It shouldn't break anything right?


It did break. EVERYTHING.

The folder My Documents is no longer syncing - neither to the cloud nor to my laptop. The folder DevRepository is receiving files from the cloud, where just before the update everything was in sync. Together both folders hold about 4.5GB of data. And Windows Live Mesh is downloading this, even though nothing has changed (well, nothing on my data).

The folders My Pictures, My Videos and Prinstcreen all sync to my laptop only (no cloud involved). As you can see Windows Live Mesh thinks BOTH sides are waiting to receive files, effectively a deadlock, since neither side should have been flagged to update anything and each side is waiting for the other.

It also turned off the option to sync Microsoft Office styles, templates, custom dictionary and email signatures I have in place.

Do the engineers behind this product even bother testing what they release? This is most appalling piece of reckless release software I've ever seen.


Geekzone Freeview Pizza 2012, now with more HP laptops

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Mar-2012 10:21

This week I got confirmation of another sponsor for our Geekzone Freeview Pizza 2012: HP is coming to the party, with three HP mini laptops to giveaway, one for each of the events. Not only received the confirmation, I have already received the laptops:

We have been running these pizza evenings for the last six years, always with great sponsors. These are not geeky evenings, but a time where some of our users can get to meet each other, and put some faces to names and avatars. As in previous years we know of some Geekzone users flying to attend all three events (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) - I will be hosting all three so looking forward to seeing everyone around.

The Geekzone Freeview Pizza 2012 is sponsored by Freeview (pizza), 2degrees mobile (drinks), and Giapo (ice cream in Auckland). Registrations are still open to Geekzone users.

We are still open to other prize sponsors, as usual!

Anything for a page view, and a click: infographics

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Mar-2012 12:26

More and more we see blog posts and Twitter links to "infographics", those snippets of information put together by a hipster graphic designer. And that was ok and fun, until the infographics started being hijacked created by spammers.

You just have to get a small audience to soon be contacted by someone offering you "this infographic that will be interesting to your readers", in exchange of a link.

Even large blogs fall for that, as seen on Fast Company, which posted an infographic from a web site called "Online Graduate Programs" (intentionally not linking). Their blog post post started pointing out something that we already knew from way back, when a sponsored post appeared on RWW in February 2011 with the title "The cost of slow sites: visitors, Revenue and Google Rankings".

A quick look around "Online Graduate Programs" doesn't inspire me much confidence - even the topic chosen for the infographic is a bit distant from the site's topic.

Basically spammers found out that "new media" love page views. Creating infographics with rehashed information collected from different sources, regardless of how current it is, and spamming blog owners to get those published is a cheap way of getting an audience that will click through to their sites.

Yes, I know. Hard to put this concept in some people's heads. But yes, it is spam.

Mobile data roaming costs are too damn high

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 6-Mar-2012 10:08

There is no doubt that mobile data roaming are too high, as evidenced, once again, by someone who was unprepared to turn off mobile data on his mobile while travelling overseas, then runs to the paper, gets the bill wiped, generating a long discussion on Geekzone and some interesting comments on Twitter.

Mobile data roaming charges are too damn high. Taking for example Telecom New Zealand, the telco involved in this case, you can buy 2GB of mobile data on a prepaid plan for NZ$50 for use in New Zealand. This is about NZ$0.02 per megabyte of mobile data at home (using the Telecom New Zealand prices).

Yet, when you travel overseas they charge you NZ$ 4.00 per megabyte while in Australia or USA. This is 163 times more expensive than our local rates. Imagine you are actually going to Germany, where mobile data roaming will cost you NZ$30 per megabyte, or 1228 times more expensive than our local rates, a stunning NZ$ 30,720 per gigabyte. Remember the same gigabyte here in New Zealand would cost you "only" NZ$ 25 on prepaid.

How can this be justified?

I have contacted Telecom New Zealand for a breakdown of mobile data roaming costs. This is their reply:

For all of our international roaming rates, we negotiate rates with the international carriers we have agreements with. The roaming charges that are passed through to our customers are largely determined by the rates that we are charged by these carriers.
There are also other costs associated with enabling international roaming for our customers. For example, with each international carrier, we need to set up appropriate billing systems. We must also establish a signalling arrangement between Telecom and each international carrier that we have an agreement with. 

To keep our international roaming charging simple for our customers to understand, we have five roaming zones set up, based on the frequency that our customers travel to each roaming destination.

The international roaming charges negotiated with international carriers are passed through to customers, but it is not clear how much impact these have in the final pricing. Telecom is planning some actions in this front, alas nothing related to pricing:

The Smartcaps product will provide updates on mobile data usage by sending customers an SMS at up to five chosen dollar-amount thresholds, or unlimited data value can also be requested. Once the chosen threshold is met, roaming usage is stopped until the customer accepts further usage.
In addition, smartphone customers will soon be able to download a new mobile app called XT Telecom Roaming which allows customers to check roaming rates, country codes, and troubleshoot any roaming queries while not impacting their data usage. This app will be available to download for free from the apps store on customers' Android or i-Phone devices before departing New Zealand for their international destination. The app doesn't require data usage to run, so using it overseas will incur no roaming cost to the customer. 

Currently Telecom New Zealand sends a SMS to customers when they first connect to a roaming partner, explaining how much voice, SMS and data costs. If you know how much is the cost per megabyte, and knowing you will have to pay for all and any usage overseas, it is fairly easy to put two and two together and decide either not to use mobile data roaming or seek an alternative method, such as a local SIM card on prepay.

You should not think this is something affecting Telecom New Zealand customers only, as both our other mobile network service providers (Vodafone New Zealand and 2degrees) aren't much behind in terms of prices.

It doesn't look like the New Zealand government is blind to this. Survey results published in June 2011 say this:

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Steven Joyce, says four out of five New Zealand businesses surveyed say the costs of data roaming is prohibitive to their staff doing business in Australia.

The Minister has today released the results of a survey from the Ministry of Economic Development which asked New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses how they stay in touch when travelling across the Tasman.

The survey of 534 New Zealanders travelling to Australia was carried out between July 2010 and January 2011 and informed the decision of the New Zealand and Australian governments to conduct a joint investigation into whether regulatory intervention is required in the trans Tasman roaming market.

The limits placed on staff wanting to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops to access the Internet was one of the significant findings.

Survey findings:

- most New Zealand individuals and business travellers take a mobile phone with them when they travel to Australia, and most New Zealand business travellers take a laptop with them when they travel to Australia;
- both individuals and businesses attempt to limit use of mobile roaming services in Australia, with the main reason being concern about the cost;
- the majority of businesses believe that roaming services contribute to their staff's ability to work effectively while in Australia.

Unfortunately the link from that press release to the full survey results is dead.

Because mobile data roaming involves companies in two different countries, we can't even ask for a regulator to take a stand, because one of the telcos will be out of the regulator's jurisdiction, and the other can just say "that's what I am charged, I am just passing the costs". Anything to change this would require international agreements.

And on that note a trans-Tasman investigation on mobile roaming charges should've released a draft decision by end of 2011, but it's now delayed to mid-2012 with a final report expected not before end of 2012.

Currently EU lawmakers are pushing to have mobile data prices regulated across member countries. Their proposal is to limit mobile data roaming at 0.20 euro per megabyte (still 205 euros per gigabyte) but, you guessed it right, with no visible impact on any country outside the EU.

Sometimes it isn't easy for customers to ditch their mobile number and go with a local replacement in each country they visit. Business people depend on being contactable, families rely on communications. A temporary change of numbers is ok, but if one is going across multiple countries this becomes an inconvenience.

What do you think should be done? Regulation, transparency in costs, customers walking away from roaming?

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Mar-2012 09:12

Overnight Microsoft has made Windows 8 Consumer Preview available for download, in multiple languages. I have downloaded the 64 bit ISO and installed it on a 60 GB virtual HDD under VMWare Player.

Tip: According to their FAQ, if you boot your PC from the media (ISO or USB key) then you will be asked for a product key. In this case use the key NF32V-Q9P3W-7DR7Y-JGWRW-JFCK8.

Installation was quick and had no problems with the virtual environment. You can chose to login using a local account, or your Windows Live Id. When using Windows Live Id your account information is automatically populated and things like Messaging (Windows Live Messenger), Mail, Calendar and Skydrive are ready to use.

You can at any time open Mail and add an Exchange or GMail account - in my case I added my Office 365 Exchange account.

The Weather tile quickly figured out I am in Wellington, New Zealand and is now showing the appropriate information. Bing Maps seems to have a bit of a problem searching locations outside the US though.

The interface works ok even without a touch screen, but it will get some time to get used to the different elements in the UI.

Like Windows Phone, the social permeates through the interface. If you open the People tile you will see all your contacts, pulled from Exchange, GMail, Twitter, Windows Live and going to What's New will show you the latest updates from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Clicking on a person's tile will show you ways to contact the person, latest updates and interactions, exactly like the Windows Phone does.

Obvsiouly, being a Consumer Preview it's advisable not to install this build if you are not comfortable with new technologies and the inherent problems it may carry. Mainly be aware that some hardware may not be supported due to lack of drivers, so if your PC is vital for your daily use consider installing this on spare hardware or virtual machine.

New Zealand SharePoint Conference 2012

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Feb-2012 16:31

Anyone going to the New Zealand SharePoint Conference 2012 in Auckland 28th-29th March 2012? I have been to their previous conferences here in Wellington, and they were always buzzing.

If you are a business leader who wants to know how SharePoint can transform your organisation, or a technical wizard who needs to understand how to make SharePoint hum, this is the key event for 2012.See world-renowned presenters:  SPC 2012 has the greatest concentration of SharePoint knowledge outside Microsoft HQ.  Come and learn from the best in the business.

Hear real customer stories. Follow their journeys and learn from their experiences.

Learn about the hot topics in SharePoint and related technologies.

Participate in extra activities at the events, connect with people and get involved in our great selection of pre and post conference workshops.

Opinion on broadband data caps in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2012 08:50

Long discussion on Twitter involving @PaulBrislen, @SteveBiddle and @plambrechtsen. I will summarise my view on this:

  • I don't like data caps either.
  • Data cap is a symptom. They are not the problem.
  • Find the root cause to fix the problem then data caps go away.

Data caps will disappear when the roadblock is removed. What do you think is the problem?

IDC ANZ predictions for 2012

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2012 14:40

Received this today from IDC. Do you agree?

The following represent the top 10 key ANZ Infrastructure predictions from IDC for 2012. IDC believes these trends will have the biggest commercial impact on the ANZ ICT infrastructure market:

1. Android Smartphones Will Take Over Apple iOS in 2012

2012 will set the stage for an intense client OS battle for smartphones.

2. Apple iPad Will Maintain Its Dominance in the Media Tablets Market

Apple will maintain its dominance in the media tablets market in 2012 despite Android growing at a faster rate of 36.2% year-over-year (YOY) with iOS tailing at 8.8% YOY growth.

3. Windows 8 Will Help the PC Market Stay Resilient in 2012 and Beyond
The release of Windows 8 expected in 2H 2012 will set in motion the extension of personal computing beyond conventional platforms and form factors while also fuelling enterprise mobility.

4. 2012 Will Be the Year Channel Partners Take Managed Print Services to the SMB Market

Channel partners will increase the penetration of Managed Print Service (MPS) in small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) in 2012. IDC expects managed print services (MPS) revenue to increase by 15% in 2012.

5. Client Virtualisation to broaden to mobile virtualisation as a result of BYOD and Consumerisation of IT

IDC believes in 2012, corporate users will introduce more consumer mobile device types than IT could effectively manage.

6. 2012 is the year mobility will come of age in Australia.
Mobility will be at the top of the CIO priority list in 2012, and it can be either in the form of application requirements or hardware device strategies in the workspace. IDC expects commercial media tablets adoption in Australia to rise to over 14.5% of total shipments by 2013.

7. Opportunities in the mining sector for "high performance computing (HPC) in the cloud" will accelerate in 2012.

IDC believes there will be an accelerated deployment of HPC in the cloud by mining and oil and gas organisations in 2012.

8. Server Platform Decisions to Dominate in 2012
IDC believes organisations will increasingly focus on evaluating server platform opportunities for their workloads with a view to minimising costly islands of technology and focusing instead on scalability and reliability.

9. Data Variety Will Become a Manageable Entity Ushering in a New Set of Decision Platforms for Organisations
IDC expects a newer wave of platforms to emerge - both hardware and software - to address the Big Data opportunity.

10. 2012 will be the year enterprises automate their environments en mass.
During 2010-2014, IT employment, now at 35 million, will grow by a factor of 1.3 worldwide. This is a constraint in an industry that will grow by a factor of 1.1 by spending but by more than 2 by devices managed, 5 by information created, and 8 by networked interactions between customers.

Vonage Mobile app for iPhone and Android

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Feb-2012 13:57

Vonage is again moving into the mobile voice space with a new  app that makes it easy to talk and exchange text messages with contacts - either free or for a very low cost. Vonage Mobile is available now as an iPhone calling app or Android calling app. Sadly, no Windows Phone version is available yet.

I was invited to try the mobile app for myself, so I fired my test Android device and installed the Vonage Mobile app from the Android Market.

Vonage Mobile scanned my contacts list, identifying anyone who is already using the mobile app. Those were automatically added to a tab "Free Calls". This means any call I place to these contacts through Vonage Mobile will not be charged by Vonage (mobile data charges apply of course if your mobile is connected to the mobile data network). Since I have my smartphone connected through WiFi, they were virtually free (excuse me if I use stock screenshots, it's a lot easier since I have no way to grab screenshots on my Android).


You can place calls to standard phones as well, and call costs are very low. For example a call to a New Zealand landline costs US$0.022 per minute, a lot less than the NZ$0.49 per minute I would pay if using my mobile plan.

Calls between Vonage Mobile app users are encoded using a HD (High Definition) codec. This means the voice sound is much clearer. So much so that when I tested a call to another Vonage Mobile user I was surprised how different it sounded from those highly compressed low definition standard mobile voice calls.

Text messages are sent between Vonage Mobile users, and the interface is pretty similar to what you'd expect from an instant message app.


Some people on Twitter asked me what makes Vonage Mobile better or different from Skype for example. With Skype you have to add people to your contact list, and you have to remember what's the username/alias someone is using before you call. With Vonage Mobile you can search your contact list from within the app and easily place the call.

Another difference is that Vonage Mobile allows you to topup your account (for standard phone calls) directly from the app, charging your Google Android Market or Apple iTunes accounts directly. And this is without ever leaving the app.

For a limited time Vonage Mobile calls to numbers in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico are free from anywhere in the world.

Users do not need to be a Vonage customer to use the app. All topups are done through the Android Market or iTunes.

When you install the app you will receive a SMS with a code to authenticate your mobile number. This means your mobile number will be used as the Caller ID when calling a landline or mobile.

Download Vonage Mobile now (iPhone calling app or Android calling app) and check it out. Invite your family and friends so you have someone to text or call, then let us know what you think.

This is a sponsored blog post, but I have used the Vonage Mobile app.

More old memory: Burroughs and Unisys

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2012 09:02

I posted a few years ago an entry about an old Burroughs building I found in Petone. That post received many comments from people who worked, either at that building, or worked for Burroughs (and later Unisys) around the world.

My first experience with Burroughs B and A Series computers was in 1986. My LINC training was on a B1714, but work really started on a B6910.

I joined Unisys Brasil in 1989 and in 1997 I moved to Unisys New Zealand, where I worked until 2006. All this time I worked with LINC, and from 1995 my focus was on the telecommunications vertical.

Today I found a couple of videos produced for Burroughs/Unisys in mid 80s showing the Veleiros Plant, in Sao Paulo. Veleiros was not only a manufacturing plant, but a software support centre and the administrative offices for Burroughs (and later Unisys) in Brazil as well.

In 1990 Unisys made a big push to move from being a hardware company to being a services company, while still supplying its specialised mainframe hardware.

While I was assigned to a small office somewhere else in Brazil, working with software projects, I had to visit and work in Veleiros many times.

Both videos below are in Brazilian Portuguese, but you can just watch for the sake of remember this old hardware (and people):

In this video showing the Unisys Engineering and Manufacturing (Veleiros) around 1988 you will see the mainframes and peripherals manufacturing process. Lots of B6900 and A series mainframes, line printers, T27 terminals, magnetic tapes and behind the scenes images showing people putting these together:

This one is a video from 1985 celebrating 100 years of Burroughs:

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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