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Geekzone attracts gripes and smug postings?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-May-2006 21:01

An article on Dominion Post/Infotech today says that
Online forums such as regularly attract gripes and smug postings about customers' findings.

Taken out of context this quote is not a good thing for Geekzone, but you have to read the whole article:
According to the OECD, retail broadband services are widely available and relatively cheap in New Zealand compared to most other developed countries.

However, Telecom has been dogged by accusations that it has under-invested in capacity and that its quality of service falls short.

For more on this, check this thread where users discuss the 3.Mbps ADSL upgrade that doesn't seem to offer 3.5Mbps at all, and the summary of findings on Tony's blog.

Also, check the discussion on Xtra's plans to install monitoring software on user's computers (according to Stuff):
Telecom doesn't plan to give customers access to this data.

How bad is that?

You see why we attract "gripes and smug posting about customers' findings"? Simply because people see Geekzone as the place to talk to other users, exchange information and find what's really going on.

Fewer usenet servers in the world: Xtra to phase out NNTP server

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Apr-2006 08:39

I was reading the nz.comp newsgroup and found out that Xtra (New Zealand's largest ISP, owned by Telecom New Zealand) is planning on phasing out its usenet server (NNTP).

I know ICONZ doesn't have one, and now Xtra. I use but I wonder how many other ISPs don't provide this service.
Apparently Xtra posted a message in all groups on their server, without replication to outside:
For some time Xtra has hosted a complimentary Usenet server.

However, the number of people using this service has steadily declined and there are now only a few hundred regular users.

Because of this decline in popularity, we have decided that, from May 3, we will no longer provide the newsgroup service.

If you'd like to continue using newsgroups, there are other services available such as, or free services such as MSN Forums and Google Groups.

We like to apologise to the small number of regular users who will be affected by this change.

I am waiting for confirmation from someone inside Telecom New Zealand, but if true this is appaling.

Xtra is already blocking POP3 access from outside its network, affecting people travelling and forcing them to use the webmail page or pay for a "secure" access. The ISP is also blocking SMTP servers, forcing people on their network to use their SMTP server, not allowing any other server inside their perimeter - so no home user running their own mailserver.

If this is true, what part of ISP (Internet Service Provider) are they missing?

ActiveWords for Windows Mobile is coming

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Apr-2006 12:11

I use ActiveWords on my Tablet PC and it's a great time saver. It's a mix of handwriting recognition, gestures, shortcuts and macros. You can invoke programs, replace text, automate tasks, etc. Really cool stuff.

The man behind this program is Buzz Bruggeman. I met Buzz in a Microsoft sponsored Windows Vista and session, during the CES 2006. I had exchanged a few e-mails with him before, but should really had spent more time. Now that he is in Seattle, perhaps during the next MVP Summit when I am there again?

A short definition of Buzz Bruggeman? He's a connector. Just read this interview, published on Naked Conversations, a book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.
In the Blogosphere, the Connection King is Buzz Bruggeman, and no one who has met him has ever wondered why he’s called ‘Buzz.’ He works rooms at tech conferences, keeps an ongoing email dialog with scores of people, each of them influential in their own way, totes a bag filled with an array of the latest beta devices and software for distribution to friends and industry insiders. In the case of this book, he connected Microsoft’s Andy Ruff who thought of it and its two authors. He's likely to have been that “informed source” in a recent tech-related article. In short, when you really want to know what’s going on, what’s hot and what’s not in the PC industry, Bruggeman is the go-to guy.

Why am I posting about ActiveWords and Buzz Bruggeman? Because he has just posted on his blog that a version of ActiveWords for Windows Mobile Smartphone is being planned.  And the folks at Omega One are probably going to participate in this project:
The other day I met up with Andy Haslam of Omega One. I was introduce to Andy as a guy who we might team up with to build ActiveWords for Windows Mobile 5 smart phones. We had a great time talking, I learned a lot about the Windows Mobile 5 market, and as in all things, good stuff begins with a conversation.

Good stuff: more smarts on a smart device is what we need!

Xbox 360 Water Balloon Challenge

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Apr-2006 14:43

I do like PC games (mainly Microsoft's Age of Empires II and III, Rise of Nations, Diablo II LoD, CounterStrike and Day of Defeat), but I am not a big console game fan.

However, we have to concede, these guys had lots of fun:

This was the Xbox 360 Water Balloon Challenge, which took place at Sydney's Coogee Beach (Australia) last weekend.
According to the information on this record attempt, 2,951 gamers were involved, with more than 55,000 water balloons being thrown in an fun-fight breaking the previous record set by Spain in 2005, where 2,677 people threw 50,855 balloons).

The event raised more than $15,000 for the Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club.

Apparently there were enthusiast gamers from all over the world. And look at that weather...

Windows Genuine Advantage program expands...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Apr-2006 09:23

Are you using a pirate copy of Microsoft Windows XP, or even unknowingly running a copy that some O&M redistributed without authorisation?

No need to worry, Microsoft will let you know. The company is now pushing an update that will notify users of such copies with nag screens, asking to "legalise" their copies.

I just came to my desktop this morning to find this update waiting to be applied:

According to an article on The Star Online, this update will be deployed to Microsoft Windows users in the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The article also says
The patch takes effect if a PC user has opted to automatically update Windows the moment he goes online. It will also take effect should a PC user manually download the latest Windows updates.

If the OS is an unauthorised copy, a pop-up dialogue box will appear on the Windows login screen, informing the user that his copy of the OS is counterfeit and that he should get a genuine copy.

A notification stating “This copy of Windows is not genuine. You may be a victim of software counterfeiting.” is also permanently “tattooed” to the bottom righthand corner of the same screen.

Another pop-up message which states that “You may be a victim of software counterfeiting. This copy of Windows is not genuine. Click this balloon to resolve now.” will appear at random times whenever the computer is in use.
What's wrong here? First the market. Why not target the Chinese, Singaporean, Thai and South American markets where the piracy is more evident than in these four countries?

Also, as noted in the Geekzone Forums, too little and too late: Windows XP is almost at the end of its life cycle (although support shall be provided way beyond the Windows Vista release date of course).

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 released

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2006 16:54

If you are running the Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Preview then it is time to update to a newer version of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 with some updates and fixes.

The following versions are available now:
- Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)
- Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition
- Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 SP1
- Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows Server 2003 ia64 Edition (Windows Server 2003 for Itanium-based systems)

If you are a developer and not running this yet, I suggest you donwload and install this beta on a test machine to make sure your web-based application runs ok with this new browser.

Also, if your organisation runs Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, then make sure you download this update:
In the upcoming Microsoft Windows Vista Beta 2 release, the Dynamic HTML Editing ActiveX control is being removed from the Internet Explorer browser. As a result, there is functionality missing that Microsoft Exchange Outlook Web Access relies on. This update replaces that deprecated functionality on the Microsoft Exchange servers so that Microsoft Exchange Outlook Web Access continues to function smoothly.

Telstra wants a single Australia-New Zealand telecommunications enviroment

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2006 10:28

Of course Telstra wants a single Australia-New Zealand telecommunications environment. The infrastructure here is already deployed, they can come and lobby for LLU and then start providing services without spending anything in infrastructure.

The telco has told a parliamentary inquiry into the Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) trade agreement there were many benefits in a single market.

Telstra regulatory affairs manager Dr Tony Warren said Australian and New Zealand travellers could save more than $30 million a year in international mobile roaming charges.

Mobile charges could fall from an international roaming rate of up to $2.80 per minute to domestic rates - which vary from 36 cents a minute to $1 a minute depending on the plan.

"You could call Coogee or Bondi by mobile like they were suburbs of Auckland," Dr Warren said in a statement.

Other benefits included savings on the rollout of new technology and networks, a single contract and bill for trans-Tasman businesses, cuts in red tape and a trans-Tasman mobile market with operators offering subscribers seamless service on both sides of the Tasman.

Yeah, right. Like all New Zealanders have a reason to call Bondi...

What worries me is that they might as well pull this one off - just check Air New Zealand and QANTAS. They couldn't merge, but they managed to get to the code share point. Where to from here?

Troubleshooting Direct Push (Windows Mobile and Microsoft Exchange Server)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2006 10:23

If you are an IT administrator you could probably be facing an interesting task at the moment: deploying Microsoft Exchange Server SP2 and making the new Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) work with Windows Mobile devices, including security and Direct Push e-mail to Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphones.

We have quite a collection of articles about this topic here on Geekzone, including configuration tips for Windows Mobile AUTD (the original version deployed with Windows Mobile 2003), an overview of Windows Mobile MSFP, and an end-user view of Windows Mobile Direct Push and other features introduced with AKU2.

If you want more detailed troubleshooting steps for Windows Mobile MSFP, I suggest you check this blog entry Direct push is just a heartbeat away.

Exchange 2003 introduced the Always Up To Date notification feature (AUTD) that kept devices up to date by sending SMS triggers to the device. The triggers were sent from the enterprise as SMTP messages to the SMTP front end at the mobile operator. They were then sent through the SMS gateway as SMS messages to the device. This approach had some limitations since not all mobile operators did the SMTP to SMS conversion. Even when they did, there was latency involved with SMS messages and there were end-to-end reliability issues. Also some mobile operators charged for each incoming SMS message so that added an extra dimension to the cost of staying up to date. To alleviate these issues, Exchange 2003 SP2 introduced Direct Push.

Direct Push is a client initiated HTTP connection to the server where the device opens a connection to the Exchange Server and keeps it alive for a duration known as the heartbeat interval.  Basically the client sets up the connection, chooses the appropriate heartbeat interval and tears down and reestablishes the connection if and when necessary. The server sends notifications about new items over this connection and the client synchronizes to get the new items.

The blog post contains useful information about server configuration, device configuration, log analysis and more. Worth a read if you are an IT administrator planning or running a Microsoft Exchange Server installation.

.Net Code Camp NZ 2006 details

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Apr-2006 20:59

The .Net Code Camp NZ 2006 is happening now (22-23 April) at the Whitireia Community Polytechnic Campus (Porirua).

I am participating this Sunday 23 April of a lunch session entitled From Spare Room to Board Room: Making great ideas into a successful business. Session description and speakers' profiles available here.  

In this discussion Chris Auld, Mauricio Freitas (that's me) & Rod Drury will discuss their successes and learning experiences with their businesses, their plans for the future and where they see IT and software development going. This is an essential session for any budding business leaders wanting to start or grow a business from their passion in software.

Telecom matches Vodafone offer on mobile broadband

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Apr-2006 12:15

Just to confirm that competition is something good for the consumer, an offer comes from Telecom New Zealand, basically matching a similar deal introduced by Vodafone New Zealand a few weeks ago.

In summary Telecom users can get up to 1GB (gigabyte) of cellular data (CDMA EV-DO) for NZ$49/month.

This compares with Vodafone's offering of 1GB on UMTS for the same NZ$49/month.

Other things are similar too: this is a limited time offer, with exipry date set to 9 July 2006 - in both cases.

What is different here? First speed: Telecom's CDMA EV-DO provides a great performance when compared with Vodafone's UMTS technology (and that was shown before). But really, if you are using this for single connections (such as mobile e-mail or FTP) this is not much benefit. But the speed advantage really shines when browsing websites, which is what most people will probably want to do.

After all 1GB/month is more than most New Zealanders use on their dial-up connections (yes, we are a nation of dial-up users), and for this price either option is a great alternative to services such as Woosh, which has been slow in extending coverage and providing better support (according to lots of discussions in our Geekzone Forums).

Another difference: while the Vodafone plan includes a free PC card for use on laptops, the Telecom plan requires users to purchase a card, which is an additional NZ$199. Both Vodafone and Telecom require a 24 month term contract.

While the Vodafone plan applies to new and existing customers, Telecom is offering the deal to new accounts only.

And Telecom is explicitly restricting the use of VoIP software over this connection, exaclty like Vodafone. Interesting, because until now Telecom did not put any restriction in place for this kind of usage.

Which plan is better for you? Really it comes to what are your requirements and since you are locked for 24 months with whatever operator you join make sure you look at this carefully.

If overseas travel is part of your job, then the Vodafone plan should be ok, but remember that data roaming is still charged at exhorbitant prices and not included in the NZ$49 deal. But if you want some good national coverage and perhaps better performance then the Telecom plan is for you.

Of course everything will change in September, when Vodafone New Zealand will launch a new high speed network, based on the HSDPA standard (more on Juha's blog).

The jury is out now.

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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