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Telecom New Zealand to trial offshore contact centre for main customer services

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2008 13:49

I got a little bit of information that will be of interest to some of the readers who use Telecom New Zealand services... It looks like TNZ is planning to run an outsource trial where 10% of its current contact centre handling the main consumer market segment would be handled by TeleTech, an outsource provider based in Manila.

You know, it is the contact centre that answers your call when you dial 123 from your Telecom phone and it gets answered by a Kiwi based in Hamilton.

I have just had a phone call with Mark Watts, who gave me some more information about this project.

It is nothing new really. The Telecom broadband call center is already handled (in part) by the same group in Manila.

There is nothing decided yet about what happens in four months, the time they expect to run this trial for. It could be that nothing changes, part or the entire service is moved offshore.

Telecom staff received some e-mails yesterday announcing the trial, but they made it clear that final decision will be heavily influenced by customer satisfaction results.

When asked how this would be measured, Mark told me an independent research company will follow up with callers who contacted the 123 service and capture the metrics.

I also asked if the overseas staff will have the same powers to access account information and work on it, and Mark assured me they will have all the tools needed to provide the services people are used to.

Sierra Wireless Watcher software for CDMA update

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Feb-2008 11:15

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an update that allowed Mac users to use the Sierra Wireless CDMA cards and USB devices distributed by Telecom New Zealand CDMA on their Mac PCs.

Down in the post there was a short paragraph about version 6.0.64 also being released for Windows users.

I didn't install that at the time - and I should have done that then, because today I got an e-mail from Telecom telling me that this update addresses some known issues and add stability to the overall experience.

More imporantly it fixes an issue when running the Sierra Wireless Watcher under Windows Vista would require you to enter the connection password every time a connection was attempted. Apparently the "Save Password" option now work - off to install it!

The update works with Sierra Wireless AC595 (PCMCIA Datacard), Sierra Wireless AC597E (Express Datacard) and Sierra Wireless AC595U (USB Datacard).

Adding DVBViewer to Windows Vista Media Center

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Feb-2008 12:29

During the last week we managed to get the most excellent DVBViewer running in our Windows Vista Ultimate box (the Apple Mac mini we have in the lounge) as reported in my previous post.

But reality is you don't want to have to always use a keyboard to leave the Windows Media Center interface, manually run the DVBViewer and then use the keyboard again to to get back into the Media Center application. You can automate this sequence with a couple of XML files and other two batch files.

Ideally you would have DVBViewer configured to start in full screen and stay on top. You will also configure a remote control to use instead of a keyboard. This is all done through th Options menu on DVBViewer.

I then read about creating the XML files and use them with the MCE Registration API. Once these are created you can then create a strip and add the tiles to it. This second step involves some registry modifications and I found out that using the MCE Menu Customizer would be faster and error free.

So I have created a couple of XML files that create two applications and entrypoints that you can then add to the Media Center menus - and I am making the files available here.

So these are the steps:

1.Download the file and unzip it in the same folder where DVBViewer is installed - it must be installed on the default folder (\Program files\DVBViewer)

2.Double-click dvbviewermceregister.bat to create the icons which will be added to the "Online Media" strip.

3.If you want these in their own custom strip then download MCE Menu Customizer and execute it - just drag-and-drop the application tiles to the "+" signs and name the strip.

4.Restart the Media Center UI and you are all set.

The "Digital TV" tile kills the Media Center interface and start the DVBViewer. If you have DVBViewer set for fuil screen then you will have your DVB-T channels in a couple of seconds.

You can configure a button on your remote control to exit the DVBViewer application. You can then use the green button to restart the Media Center interface. If you restart the Media Center without closing DVBViewer then you can select the "Stop Digital TV" tile to close it from within the Media Center.

One small user interface problem though: when you select any of those two tiles you will see a warning "You must be connected to the Internet to use this feature". Don't worry - it will go away in a few seconds and I don't really know why it's showing this (yet) since there's no Internet access at all on those two tiles.

If you want to uninstall the tiles, simply double-click the dvbviewermceunregister.bat file to execute it.

Thanks to Koen for his quick reply to a newbie question - I could have found the answer if I read the MSDN links I posted before.

DVB-T in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2008 16:52

Sometime later this year New Zealanders will be able to receive high definition digital TV broadcast thanks to Freeview.

Currently Freeview offers DVB-S services - the "S" means satellite - and while the service is digital it is not high definition TV.

On the other hand the upcoming DVB-T service - where "T" means terrestrial - will broadcast high definition content, but not until later in the year.

If you have the appropriate hardware you are able to get the trial signals for now with standard TV but digital quality.

Since the DVB-T services are on trial now and we have a new Media Center PC in the lounge I decided to try it. Thanks to Fossie's very good "Ultimate New Zealand DTT (DVB-T) Summary/Guide" I managed to configure DVBViewer to use the Hauppage WinTV-HVR 900 USB receiver and capture the signal.

It helped that we have almost line of sight to Mt Kaukau and its Kordia transmitter.

I have the HVR 900 USB stick plugged to my Apple Mac mini running Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (for its Media Center capabilities). The Apple Mac mini hardware supports the DVBViewer running in full screen, decoding H.264 content and using between 40% and 50% CPU - great performance.

The only problem is that Windows Vista Media Center does not support DVB-T in its native mode - at least in New Zealand. If I start a scan it comes empty, while DVBViewer shows fifteen channels.

Microsoft, are you going to have this fixed before launch? I raise my hand to test it!
I don't know why, because the TV setup in Media Center lists Terrrestrial but I guess it doesn't "know" the New Zealand frequencies.

Anyway, you can't simply use the standard software decoders on your system to watch these channel as they are all encoded with the H.264 standard. A good suggestion is to use the Cyberlink H.264 codec - the one built-in their excellent PowerDVD Ultra software for high definition DVD playback. 

Of course when this goes mainstream we should expect to see easy-to-use receivers that won't require things such as" viewers", "codecs", "streamers". But if you are a tech person, a geek - then go ahead and by all means try it. Very good indeed.

Currently the trials have the free to air TV channels in New Zealand, plus the special Kidzone channel. The content is not high definition yet, but the codec is the same, TV One expects to start transmission of high definition content with the Olympic games later this year.

For more good read check "What is Freeview?" by Tony Hughes.

Windows Home Server doing well in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Feb-2008 09:14

An interesting bit of information I found in the Windows Home Server blog:

In order to compare the sales results of a smaller country with a larger country, you need to come up with a relatively simple way to equalize the field of play. So, if you look at Windows Home Server sales divided by the number of households with a broadband connection in each country, you get some interesting results. Here are the current rankings of the top 16 seeds in the Windows Home Server World Cup competition. 
  1. Norway
  2. New Zealand
  3. Denmark
  4. Germany
  5. Switzerland
  6. United Kingdom
  7. United States
  8. Australia
  9. Austria
  10. Canada
  11. South Africa
  12. Sweden
  13. France
  14. Netherlands
  15. China
  16. Japan

This is really cool. Windows Home Server is more than just another file server. It's not a backup on LAN like Apple Time Capsule -it is more than this.

I use Windows Home Server here. Of course I could simply run Windows Server and use shared folders for everything. But with Windows Home Server you get automated daily backups, data redundancy on select folders, and a console that allows you to monitor the status of your network - and with some cool Windows Home Server add-in software you can keep adding functionality.

It also comes with a domain you can use for free so you can access your home server from anywhere with Internet access. You can setup a photo website with the Whiist add-in and have your friends and family see it.

We currently have more than 2 TB (terabytes) of data including digital content and computer backups stored in our home server - and I think it's really cool to actually have that much data stored somewhere always available wherever you are.

Do you want news? You cannot handle the news!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2008 10:33

Citizen journalism anyone? CNN has released with the tag "Unedited. Unfiltered. News".

Go on. I know you want to read worldwide reports from citizens. Just read these ones from their front page or related news:

- Unexpected level of demand leaves birdfeeder empty
- Thursday lunch report
- My roomate has been stealing my stuff
- Breaking News Ketchup

With this level of "journalism" I rather keep getting my news from FARK.

Norton Online Living Report: digital lifestyle habits

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Feb-2008 12:39

Today I got some information from Symantec and their upcoming Norton Online Living Report (NOLR) study and I thought it would be interesting to share here.

The report is the result of a study on the digital lifestyle habits of adults and children around the globe. It focuses on how people worldwide are conducting personal interactions and connecting emotionally online.

One of the interesting findings from the worldwide study is that parents’ perception of what their children are doing online does not reflect the reality of what their children are doing. For example, in the U.S. parents believe that 6% of their children have been approached online by a stranger, yet 16% of children in the U.S. report they have been approached by a stranger online.

Another interesting point is that about half of adults, and slightly fewer children, have made friends online – and, of those, many (about 60 to 80%) have translated these online friendships to their offline world. 

Here is a snapshot of findings from the Norton Online Living Report:

Norton Online Living Report, Vol. 1, Key Findings

•       Many online adults spend at least one hour per month sending text messages from their mobile phones
•       41% of U.S. online adults (constantly, frequently or sometimes) and 46% of U.S. online kids use the Internet to download or watch movies
o       A whopping 97% of Chinese online adults and 96% of Chinese online kids do the same


•       Nearly half of online adults in the U.S. have made friends online, of those users, approximately 60-80% have translated these online friendship to their offline world
•       About half of online adults in the U.S. prefer their online friendships the same amount or more than their offline friendships
•       As many as 4 in 10 (10-44% varying by country) online adults around the world feel confident socialising with strangers online
•       As many as 88% of online children in China have made friends online; nearly three-quarters (74%) of online children in Brazil report the same


•       Online gaming is enormously popular, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of online adults in the U.S. and more than 9 in 10 (96%) online children in the U.S. playing games
o       Nearly all adults and children online in China (95% and 99%, respectively) play online games
•       China and Brazil lead the countries surveyed in downloading music
o       97% of adults and 98% of children in China download music
o       88% of adults and 89% of children in Brazil download music 
•       About two-thirds (66%) of online adults, and 7 in 10 (70%) online children in the U.S. visit video sharing web sites


•       Most online adults spend at least one hour per month both reading news from online sites/blogs
•       More than 9 in 10 online children in the U.S. (94%), Germany (93%), France (93%) and China (93%) research via the internet


•       Almost all online users report shopping online at least sometimes
o       Global users have a high degree of confidence making purchases online
•       Nearly half of users in China feel confident sharing personal information; only 5% of online users in Japan feel confident sharing personal information

•       Personal finance falls behind commerce as a standard internet activity, but the majority of global online users have handled some of their most basic financial transactions online
o       About 4 in 5 online adults bank or pay bills online at least sometimes
o       China has the highest number of users who bank or pay bills online with nearly 9 in 10 (87%), the U.S. has nearly 8 in 10 (79%) users

•       The majority of online adults (85%) and children (52%) have been a victim of some level of cyber attack (from minor spam emails to major hack attempts) and express concern about online safety
•       More than 8 in 10 online adults are not confident using the internet without security software
•       More than a third (34%) of users in the U.S. have shared credit card information—the highest number globally—while just a little more than 1 in 10 (13%) users in Brazil divulge this information
•       The majority of adult users worldwide have installed security software but few go beyond basic steps, such as changing passwords frequently and surfing only on trusted sites
•       More than a third of adults in all countries visit adult or pornographic web sites, with more than half in Brazil and China doing so

•       While the majority of parents recognise online threats to their children, most underestimate the prevalence of these threats and far fewer are taking actionable steps, such as setting parental controls
•       Many parents and children talk openly about what children are doing online, which perhaps results in their overconfidence that their children are being protected online
•       Most parents believe the internet is not as safe for children as for adults and most children believe the internet is not as safe for themselves as for adults
•       The U.S. and Australia have the highest number of parents who believe the internet is not as safe for children as it is for adults
•       Parents underestimate how often their children are approached by strangers online and encounter cyber pranks, with the U.S., UK and France having the highest number of unaware parents
o       U.S. parents believe that 6% of their children have been approached online by a stranger, yet 16% of children in the U.S. report they have been approached by a stranger online

The Norton Online Living Report survey was conducted online in eight countries (U.S., UK, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, China, and Japan) by Harris Interactive on behalf of Symantec between 12 November and 17 December 2007 among 4,687 adults 18 years of age and older and 2,717 children aged 8 to 17 years old who spend one or more hours online each month. 

The irony on a BlackBerry outage

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2008 19:03

Apparently another BlackBerry outage affected North American customers again. The irony is the ad placed in the page where the outage was being reported:

Joining the Hire Things Advisory Board

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2008 12:17

Just as a disclosure, I was invited - and accepted it - to join the Advisory Board of Hire Things. This is coming after years of watching a friend, Peter Torr Smith, creating the company and the service from the ground up, from concept to delivery.

The company wants to grow bigger and stronger, and for that they invited three people so far to be part of this board, with one or two other seats to be filled soon.

As an Advisory Board member I am not an employee, neither have authority within the company. The role is just what the name says - a panel of experts that advise the company management with their knowledge in different sectors.

It is a part time position with probably one or two meetings every month, but it's going to be great to be more involved in this business - an on-line business.

Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1: available now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Feb-2008 05:00

Microsoft has slightly changed its plans on how Windows Vista SP1 will reach users. Instead of a "March release", the company has decided to rethink the way users will have access to this release, so here is the new timetable:

- Beta testers: NOW!
- Volume license: English release now, other languages to follow
- MSDN and TechNet subscribers: sometime mid February
- Download center and Windows Update: sometime from mid March

To start with, if you are planning installing this update, then you should read the list of Hotfixes and Updates in Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

I have downloaded and installed Windows Vista SP1 from Connect (I was involved in the original beta testing).

It wasn't without bumps though.

First I tried the Windows Update method, which requires a special installer downloaded from Connect. It didn't quite like my laptop and wouldn't install. Initially I thought it could be something related to drivers.

As you may know, Microsoft will perform a slow release because some device drivers, the little programs that control your peripherals, aren't working that well with this version. The idea of this slow release to end users is to make sure all PCs are updated with new drivers and then have SP1 installed automatically.

But I knew this shouldn't be a problem on my laptop, which is a "Windows Vista Premium Ready" Acer machine.

So I tried the standalone installer. The update was uneventful - start it and forget it. I did not have to do anythinng and after a couple of reboots the system was updated.

I immediately completed a manual backup to my Windows Home Server, and also created a new restore point "After SP1".

Windows Vista SP1 RTM is available on Connect for download in two flavours - standalone installer and ISO images. These are the files details:

- Windows6.0-KB936330-X86-wave0.exe (434.50 MB)
- Windows6.0-KB936330-X64-wave0.exe  (726.5 MB)
- 6001.18000.080118-1840_iso_client_sp_wave0-FRMCSP0_DVD.iso (1,161.72 MB)

Although I had Windows Vista SP1 RC1 installed on this laptop on a previous build, I am still testing the SP1 RTM. So far so good and I am enjoying this "refresh".

I can confirm then it works fine on an Acer Ferrari 5000 laptop and also on my Apple Mac mini-based Media Center (booting Windows Vista through Bootcamp).

Now to check the odd stuff that wasn't quite right before.

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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