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In-flight calling: the travel hell is now hotter

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Dec-2007 08:37

Someone have mercy on air travellers! Many companies (including QANTAS) have announced their trials with in-flight cellular services.

The latest one is Air France and OnAir. According to Wi-Fi Networking News:

The service is limited to text messaging and mobile email for the first half of the six-month trial. In three months, voice service will be enabled, but according to interviews I’ve conducted over the last couple of years, the voice part could be summarily disabled during flights or for the remainder of the trial depending on reception.

Calls may be made only above 10,000 feet (3,000m). OnAir said they have arrangements with several cell carriers—the company’s service is like its own cell carrier in the air—including Orange,  Bouyges Telecom, and SFR. The cost is “comparable” to international calling, and is estimated to be about US$2.50 per  minute in  previous reports and interviews.

I hope this doesn't work well. Really, who needs a twelve hour flight over the Pacific Ocean with 400 people on-board and some folks send and receiving SMS (beep, beep), phones playing noisy horrible ringtones and worse of all - people talking loudly about their big deal, the new house, or whatever is important for them - forgetting there are some people trying to sleep on that big flying tube...

If this comes true I hope airlines indicate in the booking something like "Mobile free flight" so people can choose which flight to take.

Webcam family package giveaway

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Dec-2007 14:00

A quick reminder to point you to our Geekzone LifeCam family pack giveaway this week (running out fast!): you can enter the draw to win two Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 - ideal for families so you can have one and send the other camera to your parents, brother/sister, son/daughter to keep in touch even while distant...

Entries are closing soon...

Join the SocialMediar group on Facebook (and fill the plane too!)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Dec-2007 16:36

If you are involved in social media (on-line, off-line, on the line, whatever) you might want to joing the SocialMediar group on Facebook.

The group was created as an extension of the BarCamp Auckland 2007 and is designed to discuss social-media in New Zealand and how it relates to Advertising, Web, Marketing and most importantly communities.

An interesting mashup is Nigel Parker's suggestion for the the first live meeting: why not on board of an Air New Zealand plane? For this he created a "flight" in the Grab-a-plane promotion: join the "flight" and when it is full it will be in the draw so the entire group can win an airplane for a full day.

BarCamp Auckland 2007 was a success

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Dec-2007 13:30

I got up at 5am to catch the red eye from Wellington to Auckland on a Saturday morning, just to attend the BarCamp Auckland 2007 - and I wasn't disappointed.

Ludwig Wendzich did a great job organising the event. The location was great, and the infrastructure provided was really good - including wireless Internet access, meeting rooms, support, coffee, lunch and a LCD with live Twitter updates.

Whoever wrote he was too young to pull this off was wrong.

I tell you that: if you didn't go to BarCamp Auckland 2007 because of this, then you missed a great deal of technical information and good networking. And the lunch.

I counted about 80 people around there, and attended five sessions throughout the day. Robert O'Callahan presented Mozilla 3.0 - didn't you know parts of the Mozilla development is made in Auckland, good old New Zealand? Now you know.

Mainly the new Firefox 3.0 seems to bring lots of graphics and typography updates, including video - but Robert wasn't able to tell us exactly what happened to the "offline application" framework that was presented to another audience earlier this year during the Kiwi Foo Camp.

Simon Young led a session on using social media for PR work - with some good comments on this. And Nigel Parker ran a session on new Microsoft technologies - hey it's not only Open Source there!

I had the opportunity to meet some Geekzoners during the event, as well as meet old and new friends. Also met a couple of Vodafone New Zealand folks and a Telecom New Zealand guy attending the event. Good to see them there!

By 5pm I was in a cab heading to the airport to fly back home - a long day, but worth it. Certainly coming back for the next one.

You can see pictures on Flickr tagged as BarCampAuckland.

Air New Zealand Grab a plane

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Dec-2007 09:39

Ok, let's get into this game... One of our moderators, Steve Biddle, has created a "Geekzone flight" in the latest Air New Zealand promotion Grab a plane.

You can join the Geekzone flight now - full planes go in the draw to win the flight to anywhere in New Zealand for a full day - for everyone in the plane. The flight plan is Wellington - Dunedin. so if you join the flight, be prepared to depart from Wellington.

You can also create your own flight to other destinations.

Telecom New Zealand: BlackBerry and more Windows Mobile to come in 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Dec-2007 16:59

I am just now back from a media lunch with Telecom New Zealand's Greg McAlister (GM Business Solutions), David Craig (GM Consumer Marketing), Rebecca Earl and Katherine Murphy (both from their PR team).

Before lunch (at the Wellington's famous Logan Brown) we had a brief review of Telecom's performance during 2007. Then we had a few bits of news (and I will quote from my notes):

- The Okta Touch is the fastest selling Windows Mobile device on Telecom ever - with about three times more sales than originally expected.

- The voicemail migration should be completed by January 2008 - a long project, which I remember being involved during early planning stages while working for Unisys New Zealand, until now provider of the Telecom VSP (voice platform).

- The Worldmode service will have some new handsets. If you don't know, "worldmode" are those handsets that can be used on the existing CDMA network and on overseas GSM/3G networks (and by the end of 2008 on the new Telecom network replacing the CDMA EVDO technology).

- Data roaming is coming for Worldmode so that you don't have to use CDMA only - and stuck in countries where there's no CDMA providers.

- The Okta Mondo should be announced next week, the second Worldmode handset from Telecom New Zealand.

- The LG Groove is coming next month - a media-oriented handset with special media keys (it reminds me of those MP3 players) and built-in FM transmitter.

- Telecom New Zealand is working on launching a Worldmode BlackBerry handset. Initially they are working on testing internally at Gen-i, but soon with external clients.

- They are working on a Samsung Blackjack Windows Mobile device codenamed Albero, also to be a Worldmode handset, due to release sometime near the end of Q1 2008.

- A free security software is coming for Yahoo!Xtra (Bubble) users.

- More broadband business plans are coming in addition to currently existing residential plans.

- Telecom New Zealand will move into the business services during 2008 including hosted applications.

In summary, as Greg McAlister said:

Embracing the new opportunities and looking forward to operating as a service provider in the new environment

It seems everyone there is quite happy with Telecom's new CEO, Paul Reynolds. Good luck in 2008...

Data synchronisation on Windows Mobile

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Dec-2007 09:32

Last year I participated in a project where the IT department for this large company (sorry if I can't disclose the company's name) wanted to select a mobile platform.

The upper management wanted BlackBerry devices because they wanted whatever the guy sitting next to them in the airplane had.

The people working in the front wanted a device that could actually be used for something else than just e-mail.

My suggestion was Windows Mobile - mainly because it was the platform that could easily access their private network through a HTTPS VPN proxy they already had in place, and because it would be much easier to deploy e-mail synchronisation with their Exchange Servers through SSL, without having to invest in additional hardware for a BES server.

One year later I still consider this solution the best option. Take in consideration that now Microsoft is coming out with tools that allow Windows Mobile devices to join a domain and IT administrators have the ability to manage those mobile devices as they would manage any other computer on their network.

The recently announced Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 is looking like a great tool for IT administrators to keep an eye on mobile devices inside the organisation.

Now I read this interesting post about database synchronisation betwen mobile devices and server. The platform runs on SQL Server and SQL Server Compact 3.1 using Merger Replication technologies:

I decided to double the number of concurrent Subscribers to 600.  Keep in mind that each Subscriber is equivalant to a Windows Mobile device.  I used 6 servers running 100 Subscribers each to create client load, 3 load-balanced IIS servers, and a separate SQL Server Distributor and Publisher.  With 600 concurrent Subscribers contending for resources, I managed to perform 22,401 syncs per hour which is slightly fewer syncs than I saw when running only 300 Subscribers back in Vegas.  The important story here is that I almost doubled the number of rows I changed and replicated per hour:
  • Rows changed:  13,440,600 per hour  |  322,574,400 per day
  • Data replicated:  1.45 GB per hour  |  34.8 GB per day

Database is a very cool technology and having the ability to "mobilise" data is one of the most important parts of mobility in my view.

New Zealand companies exhibiting at CeBIT Hannover 2008

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Dec-2007 07:40

I just caught a press release from the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise about their next CeBIT Hannover - the largest computer expo in the world.

This will be the fourth year NZTE attends the event with some local technology companies. NZTE is the New Zealand government's national economic development agency.

This year’s theme will focus on enhanced communication between humans and computers. Visitors to the stand will be able to see and work with interactive technologies, see a robot in operation, as well as experience demonstrations of telematic technologies and banking applications.

This is a list with companies and technologies participating this year, from the press release:

Human-Computer Interaction: Technology for all the senses

NextWindow (

NextWindow is a designer and developer of touch screen products, designed for a variety of applications, including after-market touch sensitive overlays to Interactive WhiteBoard touch and annotation. NextWindow will be showing multi-touch capability, and object size recognition, both new functionalities in the large touch screen market.

Massive Software (

Massive Software provides a premier 3D animation system for generating crowd-related visual effects for film and television. The animation and simulation software is used by filmmakers, engineers, architects and robot developers. The company will host Hanson Robotics’ robot Zeno at the show which uses a Massive Software brain to interact with its environment.

Simtrix Ltd (

Simtrix is a leader in research, design, and marketing of breakthrough technologies within the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Simtrix has developed the Swiftpoint device - a radically different computer mouse (or pointing device) that is operated between the index finger and thumb eliminating the need for additional desktop space.

Aranz Scanning Ltd (

Aranz develops and supplies handheld 3D laser surface scanning systems and software for acquiring, processing and quantitative analysis of 3D surface data. Examples of integration projects include a mask making system for creating immobilisation masks for radiotherapy and facilitating a faster and less invasive way to create prosthetics and orthotics than the more traditional casting methods.

Banking: Secure and easy to use solutions for the banking industry

Fronde Anywhere (

Fronde Anywhere offers mobile banking, payment and multi-factor authentication solutions for retail banks and other players in the financial services industry. Its portfolio of user-friendly solutions enables customers to make payments and bank transactions via their mobile device from any location.

Vcomms (

Vcomms offers a new generation of Financial Transaction Network solutions. The company delivers a range of secure wireless connectivity solutions that enable Cash Machine (ATM), Kiosk and Electronic Point Of Sale (EPOS) terminals to connect to transaction processors and banks over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. Vcomms provides solutions to customers in the banking, telecommunications, independent ATM deployer and OEM sectors.

Business Software: Easing the way we work at a mouse-click

Author-it Software Corporation (

Author-it is the complete solution for the creation, management and publication of content across the whole enterprise. From software user assistance and training, to sales proposals, to product manuals, to marketing collateral, to policies and procedures.

Centruflow Ltd (

Centruflow’s world-leading suite of products enables users to visually inspect and understand the data that is important to their business. Centruflow draws pictures that can be easily understood and trusted. It visually connects people to knowledge, linking actions to consequences.

Pivot Ltd (

Pivot offers HR software for remuneration management leading to improved organisational efficiency and employee engagement. Its flagship product – Remuneration Decision Assistant (R.D.A.) manages the critical workflow process of pay reviews through leading edge web-based technology eliminating the more typical spreadsheet or manual processes.

Starsoft Limited (

Starsoft’s EziDoesIT software is an add-in for Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007 which allows users to visually prioritise emails into tasks and then schedule these tasks automatically into the Outlook Calendar according to their priority. The team edition allows managers to maximise work resources for meeting project and task scheduling goals.

Telematics: Technology that shows you the way

Daestra NZ Ltd (

Daestra NZ provides advanced telematic B2B software solutions that will change the way business is done. Its flagship consumer product TracPlus™ showcases Daestra’s technology's ability to seamlessly integrate global tracking across land, sea and air markets in a single solution, regardless of what sensor technology is used.

International Telematics (

International Telematics is a leader in the design and development of telematic hardware and software solutions. This includes GPS tracking, remote vehicle diagnostics (OBDII & CAN), temperature monitoring, managed telematic platforms, accident metrics and driver behaviour.

Imarda (

Imarda is a global company specialising in Telematics hardware products and software solutions for fleet management. Uniquely, Imarda provides complete Telematics solution from end-to-end ensuring the integration of technical compatibility between hardware and software is totally seamless.

Immigration and Employment Service: Living and Working in New Zealand

Hudson Recruitment and Immigration NZ (,

Hudson, a market leader in IT recruitment, and the government authority Immigration New Zealand assist ICT professionals and people from different industries to start a career in New Zealand. Hudson and Immigration NZ are especially looking to recruit IT experts at CeBIT.

New Zealand’s IT industry pavilion at CeBIT

The pavilion situated in Hall 14 Stand G38 is part of an initiative run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). NZTE supports New Zealand’s IT and telecommunications industry in Europe and aims to highlight the technology expertise within New Zealand. NZTE serves as a point of contact for international importers, agents, distributors, traders and investors with innovative companies from New Zealand. There are 39 NZTE branches, including offices in London, UK and Hamburg, Germany.

There is even a NZTE at CeBIT blog where you can get up-to-date information.

Air New Zealand charity auctions closing next week

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Dec-2007 18:12

A quick note to let you know that the Kids at Christmas charity auctions at and sponsored by Air New Zealand, are running until 19 December 2007.

There are more than 80 auctions including "Behind the scenes Tour of Weta workshop", a couple of Big Day out tickets, "Auckland Engineering Base Tour" and "Fly a Boeing 777 simulator".  More items are coming soon.

What about two months of unlimited business class travel around the world for two people? Or Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe cooking dinner at your place?

All money raised goes to Make-A-Wish, StarJam and the Starship Foundation, helping children all over New Zealand.

Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 1: download now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Dec-2007 08:46

Microsoft has released the Office 2007 Service Pack 1 for download now. I am downloading the main file plus the Vision 2007 update - a total of 320 MB.

This is an excerpt from a Q&A with Microsoft Office Product Manager Reed Shaffner:

PressPass: What are you announcing today and what does it mean for customers?
Shaffner: We’re announcing the availability of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, which delivers significant stability, performance and security improvements. These enhancements span the software applications and servers that home and office workers use each day and will make the 2007 Office system an even more robust and effective productivity tool. In essence, SP1 targets the issues that customers told us mattered to them most.

PressPass: What are the main improvements that customers will notice with SP1 for the 2007 Office system?
Shaffner: SP1 provides stability and performance improvements across the 2007 Office system, keying in on customers’ leading productivity concerns, and beefs up security precautions to stay ahead of the latest threats from malicious software and other risks.

Crashes are one of the most frustrating experiences customers have, and the team worked hard with SP1 to make our products more stable. We’ve also included most of the previously-released hotfixes that also help reduce the incidence of crashes in Office applications.

SP1 also provides key fixes and enhancements to make the 2007 Office system more reliable and easier to use. For example, SP1 addresses problems customers have experienced in Outlook 2007 when opening large mail files. It also delivers more accurate presence information in Microsoft Office Communicator to help improve collaboration and communication for customers.

We also did a lot of work to improve the reliability of the 2007 Office system’s server components with SP1.

We know that search is really important to our enterprise customers using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, so we spent a lot of time improving indexing to help make documents and information easier to find. SP1 includes support for AJAX deployments, which should help developers create custom Web Parts for their customers. Finally, SP1 bolsters the robust security standards built into Office 2007 by incorporating the very latest advances in security technology to deliver even greater protection against malware, privacy intrusions and other threats.

SharePoint Server 2007 and other server products are also now compatible with Microsoft Windows Server 2008, giving customers the peace of mind they need to proceed with upgrade plans.

PressPass: How can customers get SP1?
Shaffner: Customers can download SP1 immediately from They can also place an order for a CD at At a later date, we also will provide SP1 through automatic update.

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.

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