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There are more serious things than Bill Shock: modern telephone fraud

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Feb-2010 12:19

In the last couple of weeks we have seen a series of articles in our mainstream media about "bill shock". A "bill shock" happens when you travel overseas and get a surprisingly large bill on your mobile usage.

I do not have sympathy for people who claim "bill shock" because people know there are roaming charges involved when you travel. When you arrive in another country both Vodafone and Telecom send SMS warning users of different costs for voice and data connections. You signed a contract that says you have to pay for roaming costs.

I don't like the mobile data roaming costs as anyone else. I think our telcos simply make as much as they can - it's unbelievable a mobile operator in the U.S. can give their customers 5GB of mobile data for a fixed price, but charge visitors something that (adding up the margins) comes to $10/MB. The mobile data roaming prices are a joke.

But there's something else that local companies will have worry more and more with the adoption of VoIP solutions - the old telephone fraud.

Just to give you an idea, a company has a digital PBX. For some reason it's not completely secure and some crooks find it. These people then enter their own configuration in this digital PBX and create a "company" to sell cheap calls to China, Korea, South Africa. They sell some calling cards around and publish their "access number". Callers buy these cheap services, call the access number and after the dial tone enter the number they wish to call and get connected - all using the unsuspected company's digital PBX over their VoIP lines.

Companies may find this after a month or so, when the first bills come in. But by then they suffered under a constant stream of outbound calls and have to pay for it.

This is kind of tricks work with new digital PBX systems, but also with older ones. An unsecure route to an outside line, a non-secure voice mail access and things can be done, easily.

This is being discussed on Geekzone here, and shows an interesting series of questions:

  • Should the telco monitor your usage and contact you if patterns change (a la credit card companies?)
  • Should the telco be responsible for a misconfigured VoIP installation that their technicians are not involved with?
  • Should an insurance be required for telephony services now?
  • Should insurance companies charge less from companies using VoIP installed by certified technicians?
  • Should the telco "forgive" the bill and simply pay for the calls that are not their problem in first place?

What do you think?

Windows Mobile 6.5.3 in the wild: advances in User Interface

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Feb-2010 21:12

Microsoft has released a small update to Windows Mobile, its phone operating system. Windows Mobile 6.5.3 is a step ahead in the "facelift" of this smartphone platform, and the latest update brings the following new features:

  • Capacitive touchscreen support
  • Platform to enable multi-touch
  • Touch controls throughout system (no need for stylus)
  • Consistent Navigation
  • Horizontal scroll bar replaces tabs (think settings>system>about screen)
  • Magnifier brings touch support to legacy applications
  • Simplified out-of-box experience with fewer steps
  • Drag and drop icons on Start Screen

I am told the native browser performance has improved, with decrease in page load time,  better memory management, pan & flick gestures smoothed, and zoom & rotation speed increased.

The OS comes with updated runtime tools (.NET CF 3.5, SQL CE 3.1), and support for Arabic read/write document.

The update in itself is a small release but it should bring the venerable operating system closer to current consumer markets. The first handset with the new operating system is the Sony Ericsson Aspen, just announced.

Screenshots below - click for larger versions:


Google YouTube on TelstraClear: is this still affecting you?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Feb-2010 12:09

I have been using TelstraClear cable modem services for many years, in its many different "brands" - Chello, Saturn, TelstraClear - and really enjoy having a plan that provides me with consistently good speeds and reliability (but don't try calling their customer services line).

Digital media in all its different forms is now part of many families every day life. Here at home we are able to rent and buy movies from iTunes at any time and have those quickly delivered to our media center. We have two VoIP lines at home, being completely POTS free. We have 100GB+ of online backup stored at Mozy servers - including all those iTunes movies, music, family photos and short movies captured with our Flip video camera. We have six computers at home, and we work from home.

This is all possible because we subscribe to a TelstraClear 80GB cable modem plan with good download and upload speeds - and frequently go over the cap. I don't mind paying for the service when it provides me with the means to exercise my freedom - freedom of work, freedom of play.

A few years back, Dr Allan Freeth, TelstraClear CEO was quoted as saying "the main result of faster broadband links to the home may be more downloads of pornography and movies rather than improvements to productivity." This was also reported on Computerworld.

That statement made then InternetNZ Executive Director Keith Davidson jump with a release saying "Dr Freeth's view that true high-speed broadband available at home is not important for New Zealand's future is not a view we share. High speed broadband - 100mbps and more - is vital to New Zealand's future" .

So what? The Internet is for Porn (safe for work except for the word "porn"). But try watching this short movie on a TelstraClear connection - even a fast 10Mbps connection - and you might have problems. Actually since just before September last year people started reporting problems when accessing YouTube clips over a TelstraClear connection.

This problem is still going on, and while TelstraClear have very quietly admitted there's a problem, it seems the solution is not coming any time soon.

Could it be that politics of peering are involved in this? Peering is a very sensitive subject within TelstraClear. Dr Allan Freeth remarks were "Peering has become an extremely emotional issue, as noted in the recent Internet NZ report, which also noted there was no evidence of market failure. Our decision was a commercial one - we need to earn a return for the use of our assets. While some people believe the Internet is 'free', I can assure you my shareholder doesn't see it that way. Organisations that have content they want to supply to end users can buy a service from us, which is tied in with the cost of national carriage. This is still more cost effective than international bandwidth."

A lot of an ISP traffic goes to all of Google's properties. YouTube is probably the biggest one of those services and to help reduce traffic, Google does peer locally with larger ISPs. It basically comes to this: Google is clever and wants free (or low cost) distribution of its content. To this end they enter an agreement with larger ISPs and colocate cache boxes.

Of course if your ISP don't have one of these boxes then your traffic to Google's online properties needs to find the content somewhere else. In TelstraClear's case it seems this traffic goes all the way to the US and back.

There are local YouTube caches in New Zealand, with other ISPs. But the problem then is back to the peering camp. It seems TelstraClear rather have a lot of traffic going out over international connections than to have it flowing locally and pay for it to a competitor.

If this is not the case, I'd love to see an explanation from TelstraClear - something I feel they owe their customers. To me it comes down to YouTube access through TelstraClear is crippled and the way the company acts is disrespectful to their paying customers.

Microsoft Developer Survey - win a trip to the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (LAX)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 31-Jan-2010 15:46

Microsoft will start pushing this promotion tomorrow (1st February), but it is already available so if you would like to be in to win an all paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference then read on:

"Microsoft would like to get to know NZ developers better so that we can better cater resources, training and events in the near future. We would like NZ developers to fill in a brief survey. Every completed response will go into a draw for a chance to win an all expense paid trip to the next Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. Terms and conditions apply."

The T&C and survey are here.

Learn about Open Source at LCA 2010 Open Day

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Jan-2010 13:02

On Saturday 23rd January the LCA 2010 will open its doors to the public for LCA 2010 Open Day. Part of the week of, which is happening 18-23 January 2010 (and despite the name this year is based in Wellington, New Zealand), the Open Day will be an opportunity for the general public to learn about free and open source software in a very hands on fashion.
There will be 30+ exhibitors from business, education and community groups demoing some of the software they have written, along with a number of other activities including:
- Activities for kids with the One Laptop per Child laptops in the Little Blu Kids Area
- Demonstrations from the Wellington makerspace group
- 2 New Zealand Electric Cars run with open source software
- 3 sessions about free and open source software
        "Open Source for Newbies" - Cat Allman & Leslie Hawthorn (Google Open Source Office)
        "50 ways to love your project" - Josh Berkus & Selena Deckelmann
        "Geek my car" - Jon Oxer
- And more
Check the PDF poster for this event for more information.
Registration for is still continuing and the organisers expect 600 delegates for the main conference alone (with a split of 40% New Zealand, 40% Australia, and 20% from the Rest of the World).

Prizes for Geekzone Freeview Pizza evenings 2010 rolling in...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jan-2010 12:12

I have just sent out an email to our users in New Zealand inviting them to register for our Geekzone Freeview Pizza evenings 2010 - Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch.

This year events are sponsored by Freeview and Telecom New Zealand. Other sponsors are participating with prizes - full list after the pictures of the swag I am holding here for you...

Mobile handsets, USB modems and SIM cards - courtesy of Telecom New Zealand (four handsets, two USB modems) and Sony Ericsson (three handsets).

Freeview|HD DTR (Digital TV Recorder) and three digital satellite receivers, courtesy of DTVS.

Three EVA2000 courtesy of NETGEAR.

Polycom Communicator courtesy of Asnet Technology.

And here is the complete list (so far):

- 2degreesmobile (three $200 SIM + three $150 SIM or topup if existing customer)
- Air New Zealand (three tickets, one for each event)
- Altaro (21 licenses for Oops!Backup for Windows)
- Asnet Technology (three Polycom Communicator)
- BigHammer (three Kingston 16GB USB DataTraveller)
- Data centre limited (3x 1U colocation plus unlimited bandwidth for one year - you must register your interest at before the meeting, drinks AKL)
- DTV Solutions (Homecast HT9200DTR WLG, three DTVS-1B satellite receivers)
- Microsoft New Zealand (three Windows 7 Ultimate retail)
- NETGEAR (three EVA2000 )
- Nutshell Leather Cases (one leather case matching each of the Telecom handsets below)
- NZ Internet Shop (Aeropress coffee maker WLG)
- (online advertising packages)
- Quay Corporate (24" LCD WLG)
- sniff (drinks AKL/CHC/WLG)
- Sony (three NWZA840 walkman)
- Sony Ericsson (three W705 mobile phones, suitable for XT network)
- Stickemen Studios (concept art for King Fu Funk, Doc Clock, Dragon Master Spell Caster and Shadow Rising videogames)
- Symantec (six copies of Norton Antivirus)
- Telecom New Zealand (two sierra wireless 885u USB mobile broadband modem, two Samsung Ultra Touch S8300T, one Sony Ericsson W995 and one Sony Ericsson W705)

Note that to be in to win the colocation hosting and free bandwidth from Data centre limited you must be register your interest on their site and be present in each evening.

Please consider visiting these sponsors sites to show our appreciation!

AT&T LG eXpo Windows Mobile Phone with pico projector

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Dec-2009 16:18

I have just received the pico projector for my AT&T LG eXpo Windows Mobile phone (previous post here), and is it a nice addon - it basically projects whatever is on the main screen up to 66 inch (diagonal size, from 2.66m), with a resolution of 480x320 pixels.

It's powered by the phone itself, so I guess for longer sessions we will need the phone plugged in for power. It can be used to project presentations from Powerpoint mobile, or training - or any video really, including movies you might have on your device. Any sound comes out of the speakerphone (or your Bluetooth speakers) - I will try and get some external speakers plugged in if possible.

It adds only 50g to the phone and has a manual focus. You slide the lens cover to turn the projector on, and use the camera button to switch between landscape and portrait.

Here are some first pictures of the phone with the pico projector attachment and some projections at daytime - I will try and get a picture of a night time performance later:

Both the AT&T LG eXpo Windows Phone and the pico projector were supplied by AT&T for my review.

AT&T LG eXpo Windows Mobile Phone first impressions

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Dec-2009 16:50

The AT&T LG eXpo Windows Mobile phone was just launched in the U.S. and I already got one here, courtesy of AT&T. First impressions on opening the box: it's smaller than I thought it would be, and lighter too. I haven't tested the whole thing yet (waiting for its unlock code so I can use it on Telecom's XT network) but just using Windows Mobile to browse around the options and it seems to be a very responsive phone.
UPDATE: Very impressed! This is the first Windows Mobile phone I've used that actually shows Internet Explorer Mobile under a good light. Probably because of the fast processor, Internet Explorer mobile actually performs really well on this handset - unlike the HTC Touch Pro 2 which seemed too slow for Internet Explorer mobile.
It's now charging and I will then configure ActiveSync, the fingerprint scanner, and all other options. Some just-out-of-the-box pictures:

Not happy with the outcome of knee vs smartphone

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Dec-2009 11:07

I put the HTC Touch Pro 2 smartphone down while trying to do something inside the car and after moving around I heard a "crack" noise.

Not happy with the outcome. But waiting for a couple of new smartphones to arrive here today (AT&T LG eXpo and HTC Snap) so in the meantime I am using an Acer F900 I have around.

Please fill the Victoria University of Wellington mobile survey

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Dec-2009 08:34

I am told many of you filled the mobile data in business survey but the team at the Victoria University of Wellington still need some more answers to get to the 300 answers (or more) needed to make it statistically correct.

This is a survey on smartphones and mobile data usage and respondents will be in to win $200. It is part of  a Victoria University of Wellington research project on the use of mobile information systems in the workplace.

If you are currently using a mobile device enabled with data capability (e.g. mobile email, mobile Internet, mobile business applications etc) for work purposes, then we invite you to complete a survey questionnaire. It should take you approximately 12 minutes to complete the survey, which is anonymous and will be available until the 25th of December 2009.

By completing the questionnaire you will be entered in draw to win a prize of $200.  Please use the following link to access the survey:

Your participation is important and will help to improve the understanding of the adoption and use of mobile technology.  Should you require any further information about this project, please contact Eusebio Scornavacca at (04) 463 6697 or email  or Professor Sid Huff at (04) 463-5819 or email

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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