My window to the world

The Internet: bad and good according to Jeff Jarvis

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Nov-2009 09:17

Companies are still afraid of jumping on the Internet. People are terrorised their products and services will have bad reviews, or their position won't be heard.

Fear nothing... Watch this video on how to win arguments about the Internet, by Jeff Jarvis:

Migrated to Microsoft Online Services at the end

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Nov-2009 15:48

It was like a dream: I've decided that running an email server was not part of my business, and it was time to move this function out of my infrastructure into a hosted solution.

I won't get into the fine calculations behind this decision (involving my time managing servers, cost of backups, server hardware, hard disk space, etc, etc.) since you can probably find a lot of experts (real ones and self-proclaimed ones) around to explain why it makes sense.

The contenders on the first round were Google Apps Premiere (because I wanted Google Apps Sync for Outlook to keep using Microsoft Outlook) and Microsoft Online Services.

I thought of Google Apps Premiere because it comes from a company that shows innovation in the way it thinks about software - plus a lot of people recommended it. And I thought of Microsoft because it provides a natural path if you are coming from Exchange servers and want to keep the functionality.

Google Apps Money talks, and because of costs I decided back then to go with Google Apps Premiere, which is licensed at US$50/seat per year (note there's a free version as well). Microsoft was a bit more expensive but since then they have announced a price drop for all online services, including those delivered in New Zealand.

Moving my mail service worked ok. But I found a series of problems with Google Apps Premiere synchronization to mobile devices.

After that blog post I was contacted by a Google Sync product manager who asked if it was ok to monitor my mailbox to try and find the root causes of these problems.

After a couple of weeks where nothing was solved I just decided it was time to move on.

You see, when I posted about those problems with Google Apps Premiere synchronization to mobile devices I immediately received emails from some companies offering to host my email services.

Big thanks to the following companies/services and I hope you check them out: Telecom New Zealand with their Telecom BusinessHub, Rackspace with their Rackspace Email Hosting, Microsoft with their Microsoft Online Services. There is also a fourth local company that is working on a hosted email solution but not yet released so I will have to hold it for a while (I will update this post when they go live).

After the failed attempt of using the Google Apps I have moved my email Microsoft Online Services. There are a couple of features that I found interesting. First, when you sign up for the service you can nominate a Partner. This will be your services contact if you ever need anything - the advantage is that you can select someone local to you (or very close). For a service demo/description watch this video.

Another interesting feature is the way accounts are structured. On Google Apps you need an admin account for each domain but you don't have a single account for all services if you have more than one domain (not as in Internet domain but as in business structure).

Microsoft Online ServicesOn Microsoft Online Services you use a Live ID account to "own" the service (and pay for it) through the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal, but delegate domain management to any other account within the domain(s) through the Administration Portal. One Live ID can manage multiple subscriptions, and each domain will have its own manager.

For full disclosure, those companies offered one or another service if I migrated to their offering - migration, support, etc. Microsoft offered to extend my old trial subscription so I could continue using the service and migrate my domains to their service.

What are you doing? Is you company still hosting its own email servers? Are there a plan in place to migrate this kind of function to outside the company? What services have you decided to use? Put in the comments (just no astroturfing spam - if you work for the company be clear about it).

New Zealand government should be ashamed

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Nov-2009 13:31

The New Zealand government should be ashamed of being involved in secret dodgy ACTA negotiations giving away our rights to private interests.

Summary from Acta round five.

Coffee matters: AeroPress Coffee maker

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Nov-2009 18:01

I will take a break from my on going technology theme and get into something that is dear to (almost) everyone in technology: coffee. I like to drink coffee, mostly espresso - which in New Zealand is sometimes called short black, but in some places ordering an espresso can just give you a ristretto.

Anyway,  I used to have an espresso machine at home but lately I have been converted to Nespresso machines. The coffee is actually good, consistent in results and very easy to use. Nespresso uses aluminium capsules filled with coffee grounds, and there are many varieties to choose from. Here is one Nespresso machine (there are many different models) and a capsule:

A lot of people don't like the Nespresso. Many say the coffee in the capsule is stalled and old, but I am not sure many of the critics actually tried the coffee. We don't have a Nespresso store in New Zealand but next time you are in Sydney (King St), stop by their shop there and ask for a free sample.

Anyway, this is not about the Nespresso, but how I posted on my Twitter about making coffee and someone offered me a free trial of their AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker, available in New Zealand through the NZShop.

The AeroPress looks like the well known French Press (or plunger), but it's not. The main difference is that while you let the coffee sit for minutes on a plunger, with the AeroPress you extract it pretty much straight away, creating pressure with a device that looks like a. syringe.

Making coffee is easy: insert a paper filter in the base, use the measure spoon to add ground coffee (in my case I used L'Affare Primo), pour hot water (not boiling), stir for ten seconds, then apply pressure for twenty seconds. Yes, that's it, just check the pictures:

The final picture shows the espresso out of a Nespresso machine on the left and the AeroPress coffee on the right side.

The resulting coffee is good, strong as expected and not too bitter as some espresso. But you won't have any crema on top - some say an espresso will always have crema, so I wouldn't call the coffee out of the AeroPress an espresso, while the manufacturer obviously says it is. Also note because of the size of the device you can't extract directly to a demitasse. I personally drink espresso with nothing else - not even sugar, so I prefer to drink from a demitasse.

Final word: quicker than plunger coffee, stronger but not quite an espresso. Worth having for that quick fix if your office doesn't have a coffee machine.

Telecom New Zealand shows its new logo

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Oct-2009 19:41

As discussed earlier in our Geekzone forums, and posted by Juha on his blog, Telecom New Zealand is introducing a new logo. Juha was quite close by mentioning some of the trademarks he found, so here it is, the new Telecom New Zealand logo (click the image for a large resolution version).
Telecom has not sent out detailed information on this yet - it seems there are some "exclusive" cover by some of the mainstream media outlets involved, but we can all put our minds to think what is this?
Light rays? Optical fiber? Stars?
Obviously we can only imagine - and it seems the idea is that this brand will give each person a different view of the company.
Head over to our ongoing discussion to find some answers. Or add your ideas.

Have you seen this girl (Aisling Symes)?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Oct-2009 13:52

Missing Aisling Symes If you have any information about missing girl Aisling Symes you can contact the New Zealand Police on 0800 4 247 5464 (download pdf poster). The Help Find Aisling Symes website provides more information, videos and pictures that can help you identify the missing two years old.

Aisling Symes went missing on Monday 5th Otober 2009.

You can also join a Missing Aisling Symes Facebook group and spread the links so your friends are aware of this.

Google Apps Premiere and desktop/mobile problems

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Oct-2009 13:28

I was running my own Microsoft Exchange server and decided that it's not my business running email infrastrucutre. Also migrating to new Microsoft Exchange versions required extra server, extra work, maintaning another Windows Server virtual machine was just using memory on the host server, so you get the picture.
The contenders were Microsoft Online or Google Apps Premiere. At the end price won, and as I found out and got confirmed at the New Zealand Clound Computing Summit, cheap is not always best...
Microsoft Online is not bad in cost per user (under NZ$20/user a month) but requires a minimum of five licenses. So this is about NZ$100 a month. Compare this to Google Apps Premiere at US$50/year per seat and you see how easy it is to be lured into the Google service.
I wanted to keep using Microsoft Outlook. I know a lot of people think it's not the greatest email program but it's a great PIM. Google Apps Premiere allows you to use the Google Apps Sync for Outlook (only for Google Apps Premiere accounts) to replicate the behaviour you expect from an Microsoft Exchange server and Outlook combo - synchronisation of email, folders, calendar, contacts.
It works ok. You can even create folders and those are synchronised to the Google Mail server as labels. When you move an email from the Inbox to a folder it's in fact archiving the email and assigning a label to it.
This is one tip: when in this environment you can replicate the server rules functionality but remember to create your rules with the option "Skip Inbox" and "Assign Label" on Google Mail. his way you won't end up with emails showing up in the Inbox list if you ever have to access Google Mail from a web interface.
I live on email. And I consider it very important I get my emails wherever I am. Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync is a great protocol and favoured by businesses. That's why it works on Windows Mobile, S60, iPhone and there are third parties that provide applications to synchronise your device with Microsoft Exchange servers - like RoadSync.
So of course I was excited to see Google Sync for mobile finally supporting email synchronisation, in addition to contacts and calendar. Make sure you uncheck Tasks synchronisation. Google Sync for mobile doesn't support task synchronisation.
Settings for Google Sync for mobile on Windows Mobile Here is another tip: to configure Google Sync for Mobile set your device to synchronise to a Microsoft Exchange server, enter as server address, check the box to use SSL connections, enter your full email address as used in Google Apps Premiere and password. Leave domain empty and it will just work.
Or so I thought. Make sure you have patience. Lots of it. I couldn't find an end to the errors and problems Google Sync for Mobile introduces.
Most of the times synchronisation will start and end with no results at all. What I mean is that you can see in the web interface about 90 new emails. The device will start synchronisation, connect to the servers, request updated folders and end with no emails being actually downloaded to your device. Or sometimes it downloads twenty emails, and if you synchronise manually again you can get the other 70 emails, or get another 30, and so on. Keep synchronising to get all your emails folks!
Or you might configure the software to download emails from the last month to your mobile device and you will find you are lucky if you get the last week. Or the last day. Or whatever Google servers think they want to send to your device.
No this is not a problem with Windows Mobile. It happened with Nokia MfE and RoadSync as well.
Let's now try something more daring. Try deleting some email from Microsoft Outlook. See how it deletes from the web interface instantly, thanks to the Google Apps Sync for Outlook. Then see how these deleted emails that you don't want to ever see again remain on your device. Sometimes you delete ten emails, and only one or two are removed from your device, the rest remaining there, in limbo. Sometimes they are all deleted. Who knows?
Or have you been surprised when you tried to synchronise your Windows Mobile device to only get Contacts and Calendar and no email, with an error code saying "Server cannot be accessed"? Well try again - but this time make sure you don't have folders nested within folders. Things that look natural in Outlook and Microsoft Exchange are "tweaked" within Google Mail - and their synchronisation software is still not up to the task.
For example create a folder called "Customers" and then create subfolders called "Customer A", "Customer B", "Customer C". Then create another folder called "Projects" and continue with "Project A", "Project B", etc.
Google Mail actually create labels like "Customers" then "Customers/Customer A", "Customers/Customer B", "Customers/Customer C", "Projects", "Projects/Project A", "Projects/Project B", etc.
When the client requests the folder list from the Google Servers it seems Google is not replying with the folder list but label list. So when you have an email that should be on "Customer A" folder your mobile device doesn't have it. So the mobile sync software crashes. Hard. No email for you!
Attachments seem to be another problem. It seems Google Sync for Mobile doesn't send information about attached files when synchronising emails to Windows Mobile ActiveSync. The result is that you don't get to see any attachment until you go to work on a desktop.
I also found a problem that only affected Nokia MfE. It seems Google Sync is not sending the correct timezone for all day events to the device and when this happens Nokia MfE assigns the wrong timezone to all day events. I found out the device is not using your local timezone but instead whatever comes without a timezone just gets assigned to "Finland". In this case I have to say bad on Google for not sending the timezone information, and bad on Nokia for assuming that using "Finland" would be a great decision. What about using the device's timezone settings Nokia?
Many people will say "it works for me". But have you actually got to a point where you have multiple end points (Windows Mobile ActiveSync, Nokia MfE, Roadsync, Apple iPhone) that otherwise work when using Microsoft Exchange and just don't work when you change the plumbing (Google Apps)? Are you a purist that think web access is the only way to use it? Are you using multiple folders, synchronising between a desktop client, cloud and mobile device?
And try getting Google Support to actually reply to your emails. Even though you are a paying customer, I didn't get any reply earlier than 48 hours. Unacceptable from a business point of view.
I am sorry, but with Microsoft Exchange it just works. Google still has a long way to go to make this a worthwhile service. In the meantime I am looking to escape from it and get into a hosted Microsoft Exchange service.

UPDATE: Migrated to Microsoft Online at the end.

This is just a test post... Don't worry!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Oct-2009 13:54

map3f31b99f1061I am actually testing the metaweblog API implementation on Geekzone, and using Windows Live Writer to post this blog entry.
As usual Phil (RedJungle, @redjungle on Twitter) did a great job of integrating our custom database and a nice .Net wrapper to allow this magic to happen.
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TelecomONE and werewolves

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Oct-2009 16:26

Last weekend I spent some good time in Warkworth attending Telecom New Zealand's internal unconference, TelecomONE.

This is the second time Telecom people gather to mix with external guests and discuss all things Telecom with no barriers - all under a FrieNDA of course (I think FrieNDA worked ok last year since this year no one from Telecom legal showed up)...

The whole weekend was organised by Neil, and expertly managed by Nat and Jenine. Thank you all of you for your great work.

I know unconferences can be a bit of a culture shock to some people used to structured work, but a couple of evenings playing Werewolf until 3am can break the ice. This is a cartoon one of the guests put on for us:

Also it's important for you to know that external guests were not sponsored to attend the event. Everyone paid their own way up to Warkworth and some (like myself) who did not camp paid their own accommodation as well. Just saying, before someone working for any other company goes around saying I am taking bribes from Telecom. There. Said it.

What is a web browser? Google tells us...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Oct-2009 09:41

A lot of people have no idea how a computer works. You don't need to know exactly how it does it, but it helps if you know what you are using. What is a web browser? Google tells us:

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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