My window to the world

Windows Home Server and Squeezebox

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Aug-2007 11:47

I have been running Windows Home Server for a while now, currently as a virtual machine, alongside other three virtual machines on the same desktop box I have here.

Now that Windows Home Server is available here in New Zealand and Australia (the rest of the world needs to wait!) and seeing it doesn't look like it will be making into MSDN subscriptions anytime soon, I decided to buy a copy now, and should have it here tomorrow morning.

The plan is to install Windows Home Server as the host OS, and keep running Windows Virtual Server on it, plus a couple of really cool plugins I found through

This will reduce the number of virtual machines on this hardware by one, freeing up 1 GB RAM (out of a total 2.5 GB on this host), which will be enough to run the Windows Home Server as host. The host has an internal 160 GB SATA drive, plus two external drives for a total of 1.45 TB storage, so this should be enough.

I currently run Hamachi Premium on my Windows Home Server, which means I am always in my home LAN, regardless of where I am connected to the Internet.

As part of this master plan I am also getting a Logitech Squeezebox. I have tested the SlimServer software and it works really well under Windows Home Server, and the SoftSqueeze emulator played all my music content and radio, so adding the Squeezebox to the network is not going to be a problem.

Windows Home Server is a great home LAN solution, allowing you to automatically backup your PCs, and keep the content safe by automatically "balancing" the content between your drives. Adding or removing more disc space is easy, and all the "magic" mirroring happens behind the scenes.

Some of the plugins I have installed are the Add Website and Whiist.

If you haven't seen Windows Home Server yet, here are some screenshots:

Why you shouldn't use your ISP's e-mail address

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Aug-2007 10:22

Lance has written a good blog post about why you shouldn't use your ISP-provided e-mail address, instead looking at hosted services, such as GMail, Yahoo!, Windows Live Hotmail - he even refers to our own geekzonemail service!

Of course if you are a geek with a penchant for managing servers, and have a rather large broadband allowance, plus spare hardware then you could run your own e-mail server, with your own domain.

But at least GMail and Windows Live Hotmail provide hosted services for you if you really want to go that way.

Karajoz Great Blend in Wellington again

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 23-Aug-2007 10:21

I just got an invitation and wrote down in my calendar:

It's Karajoz Great Blend Time again, and Public Address has pulled together another fine line-up of intellectual entertainment, news and debate - and we'd like you to join us.

For our penultimate event of 2007, we are taking over The Overseas Terminal in Oriental Bay.

This time we are over-the-moon to present Singapore’s ‘Blogfather’ Lee Kin Mun, or mrbrown to his readers, and web supremo and former head of interactive at the BBC Dr William Cooper.

Joining them onstage and debating all the digital issues known to man will be TVNZ’s Tom Cotter and Radio New Zealand’s Mark Cubey.

If you’ve been to past events you’ll know that the night’s blend of information, debate, discussion and entertainment is not to be missed.

Also, Public Address has convinced its favourite band, Christchurch’s L.E.D.s to venture north, and the night will be fuelled by coffee from Karajoz, Monteith’s beer and wine from Hatton Estate and backed by TVNZ and the British Council.

When and where:
The Karajoz Great Blend
The Overseas Terminal Function Centre
1 Herd Street
Chaffers Marina
Oriental Bay

Thursday 30 August 2007 from 6pm

I've been to a Karajoz Great Blend before and it was heaps of fun. You should try to be there.

Geekzonemail free e-mail FAQ

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 23-Aug-2007 09:54

It's been interesting looking through the numbers since we launched the free Geekzonemail e-mail service (a branded Windows Live Mail service). I am seeing a lot of interest in the service and some comments too. Here are some of my thoughts and notes on this (as a kind of FAQ):

- Is it Windows Live Mail?
Yes, it is. But it's a branded Windows Live Mail address - [youraccount] How cool is that?

- Lots of space?
Yep, 2GB storage available for your e-mails.

- What about security?
The whole infrastructure is provided by the Windows Live service, and we have no access to e-mail contents or other user information. Your account is a valid Windows Live ID, and as such it can be used to identify you to other Windows Live services - including, Live Messenger, etc.

- Do I have to use webmail only?
You can access the service through the webmail interface, or use free Microsoft Outlook Connector to access the service directly from within Microsoft Outlook 2003 or Microsoft Outlook 2007. If you don't have Microsoft Outlook but you have a Windows XP or Windows Vista PC, then you can use the Windows Live Mail client.

- Can I access my e-mails from a mobile phone?
You can use your mobile phone's mobile browser to check your e-mails by visiting

- Is there a push e-mail option?
You bet! You can use the Geekzonemail address to login into Windows Live for Windows Mobile on your Pocket PC or Smartphone running Windows Mobile 6 and you will have an option to receive e-mails as they arrive on your inbox.

Sign up now for

Speaking at Microsoft New Zealand Partner Conference

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Aug-2007 16:39

If you are a Microsoft Partner, don't miss this year's Microsoft New Zealand Connectionz, the local partner conference - I will be speaking there at one of the sessions, about Windows Mobile 6, its new features and more.

You can find a short bio and my picture (the same used here) in the Microsoft New Zealand Parrners Conference speakers page.

New Zealand Telecommunications Market Intelligence Report

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Aug-2007 21:56

From a press release received today:

Research and Markets ( has announced the addition of New Zealand Telecommunications Market Intelligence Report to their offering.

Each extensive Market Intelligence Report includes the following sections: Economic, Social, Political, and Telecoms Indicators; key data presented in tabular form. Regulation; a summary/overview of the market and regulatory climate, followed by synopses of the regulator's powers and other competition or ministerial bodies to which it reports or with which it co-operates. A summary of the regulations in force, a list of differences in the types of available licences and a list of the licences issued. Market Indicators; the available data is presented in tabular form with commentary and graphics. Major Operators; contact data and company information, including ownership, background where relevant for pan-European carriers, licensed activities, scope of activities/services, recent major equipment contracts, summary of network status, references to major subsidiaries, joint ventures, and alliances. Major Manufacturers; contact data and company information including ownership, background where relevant, manufacturing & distribution activities, recent major equipment contracts, references to major subsidiaries, joint ventures, and alliances. Industry Associations; contact data and organisation information covering background where relevant, activities/objectives and references to members.

The New Zealand telecommunications market is arguably one of the most liberalised in the world, with no statutory or legal barriers to entry. Since 1989, any entity with at least 10 customers has been able to register as a network operator. However, there are still relatively few operators in the market and it seems that new entrants have found it very difficult, not to mention downright expensive, to establish network interconnection agreements with the incumbent, Telecom Corporation of New Zealand (TCNZ, or Telecom).

The most potent threat to TCNZ is TelstraClear, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Telstra of Australia. This company owns an extensive national fibre-optic backbone and has licences to build and operate wireless local loop (WLL) and local multipoint distribution service (LMDS) platforms that deliver services directly to customers, but with no legislation in place requiring the incumbent to open access to its local loop, TelstraClear has been unable to grow as fast as it might wish. The same situation now faces New Zealand's remaining new entrants and has had the effect of limiting the roll-out of new networks, including those based on broadband technologies. TelstraClear has also held licences for cellular and third-generation (3G) mobile telecommunications services, but has elected not to enter this market.

A review of the Telecommunications Act of 2001 was initiated in 2004, carried on through 2005, and culminated in the introduction to Parliament of the Telecommunications Amendment Bill in June 2006. The bill was designed to implement the Labour government's pledge to deliver faster, better broadband Internet access, as unveiled in a pre-budget telecommunications stock-take package in May.

In November 2006, a New Zealand government select committee recommended a number of changes aimed at breaking TCNZ's dominance of the telecommunications market. The committee was recommending TCNZ divide its operations into separate divisions in a bid to force the operator to give competitors equal access to its fixed lines, through the implementation of local loop unbundling. The proposed divisions are network access, wholesale and retail. There was speculation the committee would go further, recommending Telecom would have to sell the split-off operations. However, the committee report said operational separation should not include a requirement that the units be sold off as well. The bill was passed in December 2006, becoming the Telecommunications Amendment Act (No. 2) 2006.

Companies Mentioned In This Report Include:

-- TelstraClear
-- CLEAR Communications
-- TelstraSaturn
-- Walker Wireless
-- Econet Wireless
-- Vodafone
-- UnitedNetworks
-- Central and South Auckland and Counties Power
-- Vector Communications
-- Broadcast Communications Limited (BCL)
-- Transmission Holdings Limited (THL)
-- Television New Zealand (TVNZ)

Except for the bits listing "Econet Wireless" which doesn't exist anymore under this name, CLEAR Communications which doesn't exist anymore it sounds interesting (and BCL, according to Steve in the comments).

A shame Research and Markets don't provide reports for review so I can't really give any indication of the quality of this material.

Skype outage caused by Windows Update? Yeah right...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Aug-2007 09:05

Skype had a very long outage this week. Users around the world, for almost 48 hours, couldn't connect to the global telephony network that runs over Internet services.

Skype was updating its status through a blog, with nothing much more than "bear with us" messages.

People started thinking that hackers had infiltrated the network, bringing down essential servers and clients, making the restart harder.

And then comes the "official" Skype explanation for the outage, which makes no sense at all:

On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.

The high number of restarts affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact.

Normally Skype’s peer-to-peer network has an inbuilt ability to self-heal, however, this event revealed a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly. Regrettably, as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days.

Blame Microsoft Windows Update! Call the usual suspects!

But I say this is just some story Skype is seeding... Let's see why:

1.Windows Update by default runs at 3am local time. So even if all Windows-based PCs in the world would restart they would not restart all at the same time, but over a 24 hour "follow the sun" period. The entire Skype user based is spread over 24 time zones, not in a single time zone.

2.Windows Update is delivered every second Tuesday of the month, and has been for the last three years. Why it only happened now?

3.Windows Update starts on Tuesday, and counting the timezones, the last country to reach that time would be here in New Zealand, which happens to be Wednesday morning local time. If the problem happened Thursday as claimed by Skype, this was Friday morning in New Zealand, almost two days after the automatic Windows Update.

So, yes, I think the whole explanation doesn't work.

While a vast number of people use Skype for their PC-to-PC communications, some businesses are actually using the service to create a virtual presence in other markets. I wonder how much business was lost on a 48 hour outage for these companies? Will they trust Skype again?

UPDATE: Skype has posted a new blog entry with comments worth reading:

We don’t blame anyone but ourselves. The Microsoft Update patches were merely a catalyst — a trigger — for a series of events that led to the disruption of Skype, not the root cause of it. And Microsoft has been very helpful and supportive throughout.

The high number of post-update reboots affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources at the time, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact. The self-healing mechanisms of the P2P network upon which Skype’s software runs have worked well in the past. Simply put, every single time Skype has needed to recover from reboots that naturally accompany a routine Windows Update, there hasn’t been a problem.

Unfortunately, this time, for the first time, Skype was unable to rise to the challenge and the reasons for this were exceptional. In this instance, the day’s Skype traffic patterns, combined with the large number of reboots, revealed a previously unseen fault in the P2P network resource allocation algorithm Skype used. Consequently, the P2P network’s self-healing function didn’t work quickly enough. Skype’s peer-to-peer core was not properly tuned to cope with the load and core size changes that occurred on August 16. The reboots resulting from software patching merely served as a catalyst. This combination of factors created a situation where the self-healing needed outside intervention and assistance by our engineers.

Comparing the Telecom AirCard 595U and Vodafone Vodem

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 14:12

Today I've got a Telecom New Zealand-branded Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U (USB CDMA EVDO Rev A modem).

Since I have a similar hardware (Vodafone vodem USB modem) on another network (HSDPA), and since the Vodafone vodem has been providing really poor performance, as my first test I had to compare those two devices.

First impression? I am highly impressed with download speeds when comparing with the HSDPA USB option.

I have a variety of connections available here - Vodafone vodem HSDPA, Vodafone Merlin XU870 HSDPA, Telecom Sierra Wireless CDMA EVDO AirCard 595, and now the new Telecom Sierra Wireless CDMA EVDO AirCard 595U, so I had some experience with mobile data and what to expect from different hardware and network conditions.

I used the vodem with my UMPC because it is a device with USB ports only - no PC Card or Express Card slots. On my laptop I was using the Telecom AirCard 595 because it gave me better performance, coverage and it was the only one working on Windows Vista 64 bit (both the vodem and the XU870 work with 64 bit now, but I am sure Vodafone have not released the drivers to the world yet).

When I first got the Vodafone vodem I could use it from my home office and get an average of 800 Kbps downloads as shown on picture 1 from June 2006:

Since then Vodafone changed something in this area because my voice calls are terribly noisy and mobile data speeds have gone down. How much down? To the bottom, as you can see on picture 2 from today (August 2007):

Wow! Is this a difference or what? It's slower than dialup. This is from the same home office where I tested the same vodem one year ago. See how the network speeds went down? This is consistently the result I get here using the vodem.

Now this is the new Telecom Aircard 595U, on the same UMPC, in the same location, just minutes before I tested the vodem:

No comparison! I just hope Telecom New Zealand manages to actually keep this service when migrating to their new, recently announced HSDPA network. Because on CDMA EVDO it rocks.

To be fair, I tested the Vodafone vodem again, and if though it wouldn't get close to the CDMA speeds, this time it was much better, closer to what I would expect. It also shows how wildly the service fluctuates:

I have talked to someone at Vodafone and we will have this traced to check for cell capacity alarms, etc. I will keep you posted...

That's how it all started: Apple-1 print ad

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 11:28

I found this Apple-1 computer ad through a private group and it's just too good:

Very impressive is the 1 kilobaud interface for cassete and "pseudo-compiled" Apple Basic free! Also note it can be upgraded to 16K RAM, "when they [chips] become available".

It was also known as Apple I.

Do not link to New Zealand Post!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Aug-2007 11:03

I find these Terms And Conditions handed by New Zealand Post pathetic, completely breaking what the Internet is:

You must not create a hyperlink to any of the pages of this website unless we give you our written consent first.

If you create a hypertext link to this website, you are responsible for all direct and indirect consequences of the link. You must indemnify us for all loss we suffer in connection with any link you have created.

I know this is not the first company with this kind of irrelevant content in their T&Cs. But frankly, what a waste of time even thinking of writing this, and then having someone from a legal team analysing it to see if the words "work" together.

You can read more here on the New Zealand Post Terms and Conditions - and guess what? I am not linking to New Zealand Post, I am linking to Google. Take that.

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!

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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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