My window to the world


By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2007 21:22

This is a sneak peek on Yahoo!Xtra, launching 1st March 2007, when Telecom New Zealand's Xtra will part ways with Microsoft's MSN:

Reading the page is an interesting exercise. I wonder how many users connected to Xtra will realise they don't have to adopt Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, and they can keep using Hotmail and Windows Messenger. Or is Xtra going to "recommend" people to change over?

Also it's not like people couldn't use Yahoo! Mail before if they wanted to. So really it's not "good things happen when Xtra meets Yahoo!" by any stretch of imagination (except for the marketing folks at both companies I guess).

What is Microsoft doing after 1st March? It is still a mystery, nothing announced yet. And we are only two weeks away from the changeover date.

What's going to be interesting is to keep an eye on Xtra's rankings. Currently XtraMSN ranks high in New Zealand, but I bet it's because XtraMSN is the default page for Internet Explorer for all machines with locale=NZ. I wonder what's the default page going to be after 1st March, since that is a redirect within Microsoft's domain. Or is there another contract just for the homepage?

Another things is the "priority change". Until now the portal was "XtraMSN", but from 1st March it is going to be "Yahoo!Xtra". Is just because it sounds better, or is the name showing who's the boss?

Where in the world is Mauricio?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 15:07

Just an update if you happen to be in any of the following places:

Auckland, New Zealand (20 - 21 February 2007)
Brisbane, Australia  (28 February 2007)
Sydney, Australia (1 March 2007)
Melbourne, Australia (6 - 7 March)
Seattle, U.S. (10 - 15 March 2007)

I am going around a lot this month and next, participating as a panelist in a seminar with other Google AdSense publishers in New Zealand and Australia, and then attending the Microsoft MVP Summit 2007, with a keynote from Bill Gates.

If you are in any of these places on these dates, let me know and we might have a coffee and chat.

Windows Vista Video competition: keep them coming

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 14:59

I am just reading Nigel Parker's Blog on MSDN, and found out that he is planning to use some of the entries to our (Microsoft and Geekzone) Windows Vista Competition as part of the Microsoft 2007 Technical Briefing in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

Make sure you create a 30 seconds (less or more is ok) video about what you love about using Windows Vista, upload to Soapbox on MSN or YouTube and fill the entry form in our Windows Vista Competition.

You will be in to win some cool prizes, including Microsoft Zune and copies of Windows Vista Ultimate. And be famous during the Tech Brief.

Windows Mobile 6: update or not

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 11:58

One of the things I think is really annoying on Windows Mobile (and I have put this forward to the Microsoft MVP leads and developer teams many times, as others did), is the fact that we users are in the hands of the manufacturers when it comes to updates.

Unlike desktop and laptops running Microsoft Windows software, Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile do not have a Hardware Abstraction Layer (or so we are told). It means that each device needs a very highly fully (insert other adjectives here) customised version of the OS, specific for that hardware.

Things are even crazier with Pocket PC Phone Edition, because the cellular radio requires a step further, including in some cases certification by the mobile operator launching the devices.

Mobile operators are a beastly kind of companies. They need to keep their cellular networks running, they must certifiy devices, they are now Internet providers while until a few years ago they only provided voice services, and more. If they are GSM operator they even have to provide some support to people purchasing never seen before handsets from parallel importers trying to connect and use their services.

Also, if the operator works with CDMA they have to certify each model connected to their network. GSM operators don't have this problem, but they still create their own customised versions of some handsets to guarantee they work with their consumer services  (such as Vodafone live! and T-Mobile Web-n-Walk).

It is really annoying to think you buy some hardware that is still very capable, but in one month will see its resale value going down because of a new software being released.

I am talking about Windows Mobile 6. While most Pocket PC devices out there are very capable of running this new version of mobile operating system, I doubt many companies will release updates for existing hardware.

For example, T-Mobile USA has announced they plan to release an update for their T-Mobile Dash, while T-Mobile Europe says they have no plans on updates for the T-Mobile MDA Mail. Yet those two devices are exactly the same!

Of course all the manufacturers want to push down their new hardware, but very capable Pocket PCs exist that would easily run Windows Mobile 6. Yet we all heard of new devices, but no announcements on upgrades for many of the existing Pocket PC and Smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0.

Sometimes we don't even hear about companies working to release interim updates that fixes problems, even though users try and confirm they work. Consider that creating an update will cost development and testing time, which can be directed into new products.

While new products are exciting - I mean look at the new i-mate Ultimate series! - existing customers are the ones who paid for the companies to get to the point where they can actually create those very cool devices. But it seems they are always left behind.

The i-mate Jasjar, a NZ$2000 3G Pocket PC wannabe mini-laptop, the Apache CDMA Pocket PC, and other Windows Mobile 5.0 are very capable... But people who bought devices in the last two months are screwed. Again.

IMPORTANT: Update your calendar software

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 11:23

Note the U.S. Daylight Saving Time is different this year! This is because of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Why is this so important to be posted here? I am sure a lot of Geekzone readers and people reading my little blog here live in the U.S. If you do not live in the U.S. but have plans to travel to the U.S. soon this is also applicable. If you create an appointment using a timezone in the U.S. and it falls during their DST then you might have problems.
If you rely on your PDA, smartphone, or any other computer for managing your time, be aware that those devices may not have the correct DST information, and all your appointments in the US during a certain period in March 2007 will be shifted by one hour.

You must update your devices with new information. Companies have developed patches for this.

If you use a Windows Mobile device, or Microsoft Outlook, or have an Exchange Server on your company look for more information and read this article. If you or your company runs Microsoft Exchange Servers there is an automatic update for that. There's an automatic update for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. The article has links to a patch for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Windows Mobile Smartphones.

Every step on that article is important.

You don't want to miss your flight, or that important meeting, right? So go and nag your IT department until they apply this patch to their servers, and you have the Outlook and Windows Mobile patch applied. This has to be done everywhere in the world, because if you take your laptop on a trip to the U.S. and change the timezone, the appointment times will be wrong! Same for your mobile device.

I am not sure about patches for Palm OS, Symbian OS, or Apple Mac OS. But they all are bound to have this problem, since the law is just a couple of years old. Check with their support.

For correct DST dates in the U.S. check this article.

Have I strresed this enough now? Go and update.

Novatel Wireless launches new HSDPA/HSUPA products. No support replies yet

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Feb-2007 18:19

Yes, I will keep complaining about this one... Novatel Wireless just issued a press release about their wonderful new line of HSDPA/HSUPA PC cards and Express cards:

Novatel Wireless, Inc. (Nasdaq:NVTL), a leading provider of wireless broadband access solutions, today introduced new, next-generation offerings in its high-speed download packet access/high-speed upload packet access (HSDPA/HSUPA) family of mobile broadband access products. The family of products includes the Merlin X950D ExpressCard, the Ovation MC870D HSDPA USB Modem, the Expedite® EU870D embedded modules and the XUA-1 ExpressCard to USB Adapter.

Introducing new technologies like HSUPA, as well as diversity, equalization and GPS, simplifying installation and designing new form factors for ease-of-use, highly differentiates Novatel Wireless as a company that is tracking the evolving needs of users, OEMs and network operators, and mapping product innovation to those requirements, said Brad Weinert, acting CEO and COO of Novatel Wireless. We will continue to deliver innovative products to the market that support our operators and OEMs increasing requirements, while continuing to offer added value by developing software solutions that take our devices to a new level of functionality for the user.

The Merlin X950D ExpressCard is a next-generation global, tri-band HSUPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS wireless modem. The card can be used in both ExpressCard/34 and 54 slots as well as with Novatel Wireless adapters in PCMCIA and USB slots. Unique to the Merlin X950D, full 2.1 Mbps HSUPA and HSDPA 7.2 Mbps is now a reality. A firmware upgrade will be available to deliver the full 2.1 Mbps HSUPA performance. Mobile users, worldwide, can now enjoy full 3.5G capability in their wireless computing devices as well as utilize the GPS capability offered in the ExpressCard.

I am glad to see their R&D department works fine. It is a shame the Novatel Wireless support is not able to reply a simple question submited through their supports forms, with confirmation e-mail delivered to me.

Shame Vodafone had to use these guys, instead of going with Sierra Wireless, who announced full support for Windows Vista, including WHQL signed drivers ready for all current Sierra Wireless EV-DO cards.

Microsoft Exchange Outlook Voice Access: really cool

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Feb-2007 22:17

I have been doing some tests with Outlook Voice Access, thanks to AnywhereExchange, a New Zealand company that specialises in hosted e-mail solutions.

Thanks to the guys there for creating a mailbox for me to test on their platform. I have tried a few messages in and out of their environment. It works really well.

The Outlook Voice Access is part of the Unified Message Services provided by Microsoft Exchange 2007. Few years back, while at Unisys, I participated at some projects with voice access to mailboxes, but we had to actually create our own repository, etc...

Now everything is taken care off on Microsoft Exchange 2007, and a single mailbox provides storage for e-mail, voice and fax messages. And you can retrieve these from your client (PC, PDA, smartphone) or through your phone.

You give commands using natural language and send replies with your recorded message.

Their SIP softswitch platform is going to be connected to Compass, meaning that thanks to Number Portability (from 1st April in New Zealand) you can have a soft phone with a standard number being diverted to your phone and if busy or no answer have the call diverted to the platform, where any voice mail will be deposited into your mailbox. And you can receive your voice mail as an attachments to e-mails.

Really neat stuff.

The Microsoft Windows Live confusion

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Feb-2007 11:20

Yes, everyone is confused with Windows Live. The main Ideas Live website is not a good starting point to find all the Windows Live services, software, destinations avaialble. So this list with 30 Windows Live services descriptions and screenshots will help you.

Just note that almost all of those are in constant change. It looks like we live in a world of constant Beta Software. I guess developers can always say "Oh, this is a bug, but this is beta...". It just happens that most free services are always "Beta". Are they trying to dig a way out of trouble?

Just yesterday Yahoo! announced Yahoo! Go Mobile was gamma. That's a change, but when are we seeing v 1.0 of any of these things?

I read somewhere a simple question: "why can't people create software like they build bridges?"

Ubuntu 6.10 install on Virtual PC

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Feb-2007 20:27

Today I decided to test Ubuntu on a virtual machine. Ubuntu is a Linux distro, and quite an interesting one. I have installed a copy on an old AMD 2100XP+ machine a year ago, and I was impressed with how fast it installed, and how easily it identified all the devices (USB, network interface, mouse, keyboard, etc).

After installation it wasn't very different from Windows in the sense that it asked for an automatic update of all packages, and that was about 90MB of downloads. But I only used it for a couple of days before reinstalling Windows XP on that box to use as a host for Virtual Server.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to actually try Ubuntu again. This time I decided to install it as a Virtual Machine under Virtual PC. I already have a Windows Vista box running as a host for Virtual Server 2005 R2 with a couple of guest OS, but I decided to run Ubuntu on a Virtual PC because this way I could use it in full screen mode (which can't be done on a Virtual Server).

First I tried downloading it from one the Ubuntu mirrors. Thanks to TelstraClear not peering with other ISPs in New Zealand, the download from would take about five hours, even on my 10Mbps connection at home. At the end it took about 90 minutes to download from Australia.

But since I was looking for some "real" experience, I decided to extend my daily walk with Isabella and visit the local Dick Smith store. I approached one of the guys there and asked simply "Do you have any Linux distribution on CD?"... And the guy just walked straight to a display with Ubuntu and Fedora CDs. I have to say I was actually surprised to find these at the store.

So I paid $9.98 for an Ubuntu CD (which is cool because it comes with both Intel 32 bit and AMD 64 bit versions) and walked away ready for my experience.

Funny thing is, once back home I logged into the #geekzone IRC channel and one of the guys asked "freitasm, why did you buy Ubuntu?"... It just happens that I was recognised at the DSE store and the fact I am trying Ubuntu spread quickly - shock, horror, awe, a Windows users, Microsoft MVP running Linux!

Back to my test, it looks like Ubuntu doesn't like Virtual PC because it runs on 24 bit per pixel and Virtual PC only supports 16 bit per pixel. The system boots from the live cd and the display goes completely distorted. I then tried on Virtual Server, but had the same result.

I did get a recommendation from one of the Geekzone users to look at a page from the Ubuntu website "How to Configure Ubuntu for Microsoft Virtual PC 2004", but even following those recommendation I can't install Ubuntu under Virtual PC. Those instructions are for Ubuntu 6.06, and I have Ubuntu 6.10. Could be that the problem?

I will keep trying a bit more, won't spend too much time on it. I will probably boot from the live CD on an actual PC, but please don't suggest installing the full OS on it, because I don't have a spare box around for testing, and I can't/won't rebuild my laptop.

UPDATE: I've just downloaded Ubuntu 6.06 and it starts perfectly on a virtual machine. It seems Ubuntu 6.10 is the problem. Trying again now.

The Karajoz Great Blend in Wellington

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Feb-2007 11:25

Last (very hot) evening I attended Russell Brown's Karajoz Great Blend at the The Boatshed here in Wellington. It looks like this is the third time this event comes to Wellington, but it's my first time attending it.

What a blast. Beer, wine and free Karajoz Coffee mixed with the extremely hot evening helping a lot of the conversations to flow.

Open source program manager at Google and software evangelist Chris DiBona was the feature guest. He's in New Zealand to network with the local open source community, participate in the Kiwi Foo Camp and have some time with government officials.

The panel examined digital democracy and counted with the participation of Alastair Thompson and British-based Kiwi Rob McKinnon. Thompson is the founder of Wellington-based internet news site Scoop. McKinnon is the brains behind, a website designed to make it easier for Kiwis to keep an eye on our parliament.

The whole series of Karajoz Great Blend events are promoted by Russell Brown’s group weblog site Public Address with the help of Karajoz Coffee Company, Idealog magazine, Hatton Estate Wines and Monteith's Brewing Company (oops, sounds like a TV ad).

Jut before the main talk of the night we had the opportunity to see trash video creators Matt Heath and Chris Strapp of Back of the Y-fame.  The duo showed the audience videos from early work in Dunedin to British TV appearances and a forthcoming feature film, The Devil dared me to.

I always have a laugh when I see Karajoz's posters around. They are really cool (although I think the Italian barista on L'affare is not bad either).


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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