Exactly what is Freeview HD? Freeview is the direction New Zealand broadcast is taking for its free to air channels - those channels you can receive on any TV without having to subscribe to a service. Freeview launched sometime ago as a sattelite (DVB-S) service covering most of the country.
But now it is coming with a "terrestrial" version (DVB-T) which will be initially available in the major centres and brings an even bigger change: high definition (HD) broadcasting.
The service has been in test mode for a few months and you can now buy the set top boxes from major retail stores. The first HD programmes shown in New Zealand was Boston Legal, on TV3. Other TV shows will be coming in this format, and soon some local content will be producted in HD.
What do you need for Freeview | HD? First you will need a receiver. It can be a set top box you buy from retails stores, or a Home Theatre PC (HTPC) with appropriate hardware and software.
You only need a HD TV if you want to see the HD content in full glory - in practice any existingTV will work and show HD shows in standard definition. In the future TV sets will come ready for Freeview | HD so you won't need an external set top box.
As for HTPCs, a warning! Not every "Home Theatre PC" will work 100% and not all those DVB-T cards and USB sticks in retail and auction sites will work without appropriate software.
For HTPCs you will need a state of the art rig, including a good video card, fast CPU and plenty of memory. The video card is an important piece of this, because the best ones will process the decoding on its own hardware, freeing up the computer's CPU for other tasks. If you don't have this combination you might have stuttering sound, synchronisation problems or poor picture quality.
You will also need software and codecs. The software that successfully captured Freeview | HD so far is GB-PVR (free), Media Portal (free) and dvbviewer. These are all for Microsoft Windows and at the moment we don't know of any software for Mac OS that can work with the local DVB-T flavour.
When you buy a DVB-T card or USB stick you should have in mind that most of those don't come with the software needed and you might have to purchase some software to use it. Don't trust people that say the card is 100% DVB-T compatible. It might be compatible with the DVB-T and HD flavour used in the UK or France, or Hong Kong, but the New Zealand service is so new many (if not most) of these cards don't have the software to support this, yet.
Today is the official Freeview HD launch in New Zealand. I will be attending the event (thanks Throng!) and will have the opportunity to get even more information about the service.
When I ported my Vodafone number to Telecom I asked at the store to use an existing account number I have with Telecom. They skipped that bit of my request, but that's ok - thought I could just consolidate the two accounts, since it's a lot of paper that comes every month for an account that is only $2.81/month (an old Xtra email I kept).
Anyway, instead of merging the accounts, it would be easier to simply skip the monthly paper statements and get it electronically on www.telecom.co.nz/yourtelecom.
So I added my mobile phone account - fine. Then proceeed to add the second account through a form request, which requires someone at the Telecom mothership to do for me.
Today I got a reply with these words:
I am unable to process this as the two accounts are in different customer names.
The Your Telecom service is registered via your customer number, you can have multiple accounts under the one customer number, and view these on the Your Telecom service under the one login.
The account number you have provide is not in the same name as your currently registered service, if you would like to view this account on your current login we will require the authority from the account holder to transfer the account and services to your customer number. This will mean you will become the owner of the line and be liable for any charges or changes made to the lines/services.
Both accounts have the same full name. Both accounts have the same address.
Most interesting there are two replies in the same e-mail. One suggests merging the accounts, the other says nothing can be done. Those replies came from two different people on the same case.
No, don't tell me to go back to Vodafone. First because I don't want. And second because it looks like it's an endemic problem with customer services in this country.
This takes me to the point... Customer Services in New Zealand is appaling. Most of the discussions on Geekzone are about customer services. Long wait times on hold, incorrect information provided, wrong service provided.
When are New Zealand companies going to wake up?
The discussion, between two in-house PRs, centred around how to paint those wanting more bandwidth than the 128Kb/sec O2 deems suitable as clearly being "a bunch of techie nerds".
Of course, these are communications professionals, so they wisely discuss how to avoid using that term, or as they put it, find "...a good way of saying they're all geeks".
I wonder which of the New Zealand telcos and ISPs have people working for them that think so highly of their customers.
I have one or two in mind. Your guess? Post in the comments.
This will happen at the same time as the Internet Identity Barcamp. I really recommend you attend this event if you are intested in any of those two topics.
The Barcamp Mobile will be of interest to anyone that live and breath mobile and wireless technologies: web, devices, hacking, services.
Another unconference event to attend is the Barcamp Auckland - 12th July, again like the first Barcamp Auckland in the Botany Downs Secondary College, Auckland.
The first Barcamp Auckland was great - unlike the Mobile Barcamp or the Internet Identity Barcamp, the Auckland Barcamp is not focused on a single area of technology and you will find lots of interesting things being discussed.
We saw 80 people attending the first Barcamp Auckland, and the organisers are looking at having 120 attendees this time.
Both Barcamp Mobile and Barcamp Auckland are happy to receive sponsorship.
I have an opportunity to provide your feedback to the Microsoft team - but only a couple of days so this need to be quick.
I am looking for your feedback in those topics:
- what do you think of this decision?
- what is the impact you think this will have on your customer or developer experience?
- any recommendations on how to make developers aware of this?
I understand Microsoft is planning to contact some tech websites around the world, to distribute information about these changes, FAQs and other material. This is related to the third question above. Do you see this as an effective way of doing it?
Anything else I forgot? Post in the comments here or contact me.
The judges were instructed to select three teams to go to the New Zealand finals, but we couldn't select only three - so at the end we agreed to select four teams to go through. You can get more updated information on the competition on the Microsoft NZ Student blog.
The teams are pictured below, in no particular order:
If you have a question for the team please contact me and I will relay it. I post the answers here in my blog.
As soon as we decided on a date we had people sending SMS, IMs and Twitters to friends, booking flights to Wellington and soon after we announced the Geekzone Pizza evening in our forums we knew this would be big.
Well it is big. We are happy to announce we have now reached our self-imposed limit (and the venue capacity) of 45 confirmed people.
I am also happy to announce that a few companies joined us to sponsor this evening. So here is the list (a couple more may join later and I will update the post, but these are the confirmed ones at the time we closed registrations):
The first to come on board sponsoring the pizza is WorldxChange!
Then in alphabetical order:
3Bit will be present and is sponsoring drinks;
ASUS is giving an ASUS Eee PC (Windows version) away;
Dell is giving a Dell Photo Printer away;
Google is sponsoring drinks - and expect some Google swag on the night;
Microsoft is giving away a couple of copies of Windows Vista Ultimate with SP1 and some other software;
QuayCorp will have a couple of people attending and are giving a Viewsonic vx2235wm widescreen monitor and a HP Deskjet F4185 printer away;
Telecom New Zealand is giving a couple of their mobile broadband express cards away.
As I said, we have a couple of still unconfirmed sponsors, and when or if they confirm I will update this post.
If your company wants to sponsor this evening with a prize, please contact me. I am sure you would get great exposure from this ;)
Microsoft has just announced something that will help this new class of small computer keep running for a few more years - Microsoft has announced that it will extend the availability of Windows XP Home edition for this emerging type of computer referred to as an ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPC).
The extension will run until either 30 June 2010 or one year after general availability of the next version of Windows – whichever is later.
Of course people will ask "what about Windows Vista?". It all come down to requirements it appears. According to David Rayner, Microsoft NZ Windows Platform Marketing Manager:
While Windows Vista provides many benefits, including an easier and more secure user experience, Windows XP Home edition provides an effective solution on these emerging devices from a performance and cost perspective.
ULCPCs are a new and growing class of mobile computers designed for customers interested in complementing their primary Windows-based PCs with additional, lower spec’d computers. These machines vary, but typically have smaller screen sizes and lower-powered processors than more expensive mobile PCs.