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Juha Saarinen:


The TechEd 2013 bag review

Wed, 04 Sep 2013 04:13:00 PDT

Here we are then, a late look at this year's bag for Microsoft New Zealand's TechEd conference which kicks off next week. Without further ado, this is what it looks like: TechEd delegates will advertise the conference itself (naturally) but also Microsoft Surface and the bag original equipment manufacturer, Targus. It's not clear which variant of Surface Microsoft is referring to, but let's ignore that for now. Having learnt from past bags, Microsoft made sure the logos are indelible, sewed onto the bag as they are. Other than that, the bag's made of the dark grey Komputabaghide man-made material which should last a few years. Pockets? Yes, there are pockets a-plenty. Including some for pens, which is mystifyingly anachronistic as nobody under the age of 45 engages in the arcane art of handwriting any more. Also strange: the smartphone pocket looks too small to house a Microsoft Lumia 1020 RT Home Edition device. As per the last few year's bag-only corporate policy, there was nothing in the bag at all. Not even those chewy silica gel cushions. The bald as Ballmer thing about this year's bag is that it's small. Let me demonstrate with a Dell desktop replacement notebook: Well, that didn't work, did it? No matter which angle I inserted the Dell notebook, it wouldn't fit in. In fact, this year's bag is not good for anything else than tablets. See for yourself: A retina iPad fits perfectly into the bag. In fact, you could squeeze in a bunch more tablets. I didn't have a Surface of any kind to test with, but should fit in too. What this signifies is a new company-wide direction for Microsoft, namely an acceptance that the PC is Dead. The bag is adapted to the Post-PC, cloud computing era with its small size. This could actually be the last-ever TechEd bag if Microsoft manages to ship the new, wearable Windows Goggles (note: not Googles) and Fob 8.2 Professional products that I am not allowed to talk about because… well, you don't really need a bag for those. I am wondering if the bag might not upset HP which has made available an unprecedented amount of delegate deals this year for TechEd. Buy some desktops and laptops by all means, the discounts are fairly good I think. Stuff them into the bag though to take home? Forget it. Won't fit. Things are very different these days. Update Rating. Gotta have that. Thanks for reminding me, @dubdotdash. Rating: 3.5/5 - would've been 4.5/5 with a working USB adapter, and not just a symbol (thanks, Daniel Ballinger, for spotting that). Pros: It's small Cons: It's small. [...]

The problem with VDSL2, part 2

Mon, 26 Aug 2013 05:28:00 PDT

Turns out that it is too early to write off VDSL2 as a less than robust technology, one that's hyper sensitive to cross-talk and interference. As readers of my blog might recall, my VDSL2 connection dropped more than twenty megabit/s in speed despite the line itself being in good condition. Chorus ran a bunch of tests on the line and said the large speed drop was due to other DSL deployments in the same feeder cable that increased the noise or cross-talk, interfering with my connection. This turns out not to be the case. My ISP, Snap Internet, persuaded Chorus to apply the correct settings for my connection and I now have 67 megabits per second down and 10Mbps up again (I could have ~30Mbps if Chorus removed Telecom's old and pointless rate-limit). The connection's back to the 17a profile with more spectrum than 8b. Interestingly enough, the modem now registers substantially fewer errors despite an increased amount of spectrum used. As for the data connection, it's totally stable. Obligatory Speedtest result: Much better. Chorus really needs to fix these sudden speed drops, as I'm not the only one seeing them. They are most likely caused by the Alcatel-Lucent Dynamic Line Management (DLM) feature that Chorus uses and which either does not work properly, or isn't set up right - I can't tell from my end of the connection. Full marks to Snap for pursuing this and having the technical expertise to set it right. Update Daniel Cull asked which configuration setting needs to be err, set, and it's  Spectrum Profile Name: EUBAV-VDSL2-4 This is what the AVM Fritz!Box 7390 reports about the DSL connection on Profile 17a: Update II Back to profile 8b. Alcatel-Lucent and Chorus are working on it, so fingers crossed, not for too long. While they're at it, Chorus should remove the old Telecom-imposed 70Mbps down/10Mbps up rate limit, as per how ADSL2+ is configured - as fast as your line can go. Having 10Mbps up is great, 30Mbps or faster would be even better. [...]

The problem with VDSL2

Sun, 25 Aug 2013 05:09:00 PDT

Update The below isn't correct, and my connection is now back to 67Mbps down. See the new blog post. In May I blogged about my VDSL2 connection dropping down in speed, or rather switching profiles from 17a to 8b, for no apparent reason. At the time, it looked like Alcatel-Lucent's Dynamic Line Management or DLM which Chorus uses on VDSL2 to monitor and adjust line conditions was behind the profile switch which shaved off well over twenty megabit/s download speed (uploads remained the same at 10Mbps). Chorus kindly had a look at the line with an analyser and also sent out a Visionstream techie to physically check it for faults (thanks everyone, appreciate it). Nothing's amiss with the line however, which shows good electrical characteristics. Instead, the profile and speed drop is due to further DSL connections on the same cable as my one, resulting in poorer noise margin. This is the chart Chorus provided that shows how the noise margin on my connection has changed over time: Not quite sure how to read it, to be honest, as it appears to show the noise margin on the downstream frequencies has improved while the upstream has deteriorated but anyway. Apparently my line operates at 63-67Mbps at the cabinet. Signal loss between the cabinet and my place means roughly 22Mbps less download speed according to Chorus. VDSL2 uses plenty more spectrum an ADSL2+, in higher frequencies which in turn are more sensitive to cross-talk or noise. In other words, as long as there are only a few DSL connections on the same cable sheath as your one, it works great. Add more DSL connections, and VDSL2, while still substantially faster than ADSL2+, will shift down to more sedate speeds. This is a shame, and from this you can infer that VDSL2 isn't ever going to be an alternative to fibre-optic as I've heard some people claim. It's too sensitive to interference, and losing a third of speed at random will annoy customers especially since there's no way to restore it. Vectoring, a form of noise cancelling, could in theory sort out the crosstalk problem. It's unlikely to be deployed here though as vectoring requires all VDSL2 lines in a cable from the cabinet to be controlled by the same system which means the technology  can't be used on unbundled copper lines (not very easily at least). Plus, it's an extra cost for the provider and Chorus, which is already spending heaps on UFB fibre. So yeah: fibre would be nice. [...]

Video: Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortman at the IITP Mega breakfast

Thu, 27 Jun 2013 08:13:00 PDT

As the Institute says, Mega is the largest tech startup this year in New Zealand and Dotcom and his associates, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk are worth paying attention to.

Video is just over one hour long.

(object) (embed)


The mysterious Dynamic Line Management on VDSL2

Wed, 29 May 2013 09:08:00 PDT

After a long run on Profile 17a, my VDSL2 connection was dropped down a few weeks ago to Profile 8b by the Dynamic Line Management that Chorus uses. What this means is that the connection, which on 17a would sync at 65Mbps or so down, now syncs at 42Mbps on 8b which uses less spectrum.

Why this happened isn't clear though - you don't get any warning of the profile downgrade, and the connection is terminated and then restarted by the DLM. In my case it happened twice and took about twenty minutes. Prior to the profile downgrade, the connection had been rock-solid with no outages for months.

However, DLM had dropped down the connection before, after power outages in area causing the modem to reboot even though the monitoring system isn't meant to be that aggressive apparently - at the time, Chorus switched off the DLM on my line, but somehow it got turned back on again.

According to the documentation, DLM is a module that is part of Alcatel-Lucent's 5530 NA-C network analyser. It's automated and monitors the phone line to apparently maximise the data rate while "respecting quality and stability needs of a group lines, called a service class."

DLM can clearly shift user connections to lower VDSL2 profiles and also enable interleaving on the line (ugh). I'm not sure it works as intended though and my ISP, Snap says the same. They have customers asking why when their connection appears to be stable it all of a sudden shifts into a much lower gear, causing helpdesk loading.

The problem from a user point of view is that the shift to a lower VDSL2 profile results in a drastic drop in performance, which isn't what anyone would like to see happening. Adding interleaving to the line bumps up the latency too, which also means lowered performance. This is not how you expect the service to behave.

Now, although DLM is meant to be able to adjust the line speed upwards when it figures the connection is stable again, that doesn't seem to happen. According to the documentation, the two bandplan profiles used by Chorus, 8b and 17a, have sixteen service templates or profile hierarchies that guide the transition - presumably between lower and higher speeds - so it is a bit odd that the only thing DLM appears able to do is to drop your connection downwards by a huge jump, and not move it upwards.

I'd be interested to hear more about this. My VDSL2 connection has gone from "awesome" to "pretty good" which is a shame, and there doesn't appear to be any reason why. Does DLM work, or does it need more work - or be turned off completely?

Yeah, I know the answer is a fibre-optic connection. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the UFB will come to my part of Auckland this decade so am interested in getting the best possible performance out of Ye Olde Copper line.

Before anyone suggests otherwise, yes the line is in very good nick, with a new one expertly installed to the house by a Chorus/Visionstream technician.


Two-factor authentication broken

Wed, 22 May 2013 08:52:00 PDT

As Twitter attempts to make it service more secure and possibly facing legal action by Kim Dotcom for patent infringement some security experts say 2FA is basically b0rk3d already.

There's more about it in the story linked to above, but I'm wondering where to next if 2FA now can't be trusted?

And here's Mr Dotcom himself, not talking about his 2FA patent.


Kim Dotcom taking the stage at the launch of Mega. Photo: Juha Saarinen


The problem with naming and shaming

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 02:59:00 PDT

This Tumblr, Dom's laptop is in Iran, did something everyone does at some stage: it named and shamed those who seemed guilty of something.

Long story short: Dom's laptop was stolen and ended up in Iran. Through remote access software, Dom tracked the laptop over the Internet and activated the camera on it. He took pictures of the people he thought had nicked his laptop, and published them.

Except, the people in the pictures weren't the ones who had stolen his laptop.

In Dom's words:

Further news

The innocent new owners of my laptop have been in touch and are mortified about the story and are keen to return the laptop.

Given the huge error of judgement on my part in sharing the story and failing to respect their privacy I have asked them to keep it by means of an apology.

Hope I'm not doing a Dom by posting this reminder (to me as well) that things aren't always what they seem at first glance.


Speaking of prank calls

Sat, 08 Dec 2012 02:37:00 PST

Victor Lewis-Smith applies for a presenter's job at the BBC.

(embed) (image)

Timelapse clip of Brisbane superstorm

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 02:18:00 PST

Apparently, there were over 25,000 lightning strikes in just one day.


By Noelia Ramon.


Fighting with Windows 8

Sat, 24 Nov 2012 01:43:00 PST

Getting used to Windows 8 means learning new ways of doing familiar things. This is fine, provided there's a benefit to be had but unfortunately, Microsoft has made some mystifying choices in Windows 8 that add complexity and effort to completing tasks, instead of the opposite. For instance, I like the ability to use keyboard shortcuts and the ability to start typing a program or file name in Windows 8 to locate it instead of playing the find-the-tile horizontal scroll-o-rama game. The search function in Windows 8 is fast and comprehensive, but defaults to looking in the Apps section. If you look for Windows tools like Device Manager or Windows Update, the search function should have enough smarts to show them in the left-hand side pane, instead of saying "No apps match your search". Search has in fact found Device Manager but as it's in Settings it won't show up to the left unless you select that area instead of Apps. I have no idea why this is considered the right way to display search results in Windows 8. Strangely enough, if you search for Control Panel, it shows up all right, but not the applets in it. While in Control Panel let's say you want to add an Admin user like you would in Windows 7. That's not how it's done Windows 8: you have to use the Metro-style PC Settings to add users instead. OK, so you add the user and then discover there's no way to promote the account to Administrator. This is done in the stripped-down Control Panel applet mentioned above which also has other user management functions. I imagine the change is done to discourage the creation of Admin users, for security reasons. Nevertheless, could user management not be done in one single place? Oh, and futzing around with settings reveals that Windows 8 only seems half-aware of hardware keyboards. You notice this as you get password and other input fields that bring up the large on-screen keyboard even though the hardware one is active at the moment. Next, I wanted to play the horrendously addictive Wordament game, available from the App store for free. Don't install it, as you won't be able to stop playing it. Even though I was logged in with my Microsoft account which is tied in with my Xbox one, Wordament said it had to log into the Xbox service. Fine, do that. Except it timed out after a minute or so with a "we're not sure what went wrong" error message and I was told to sign on via the website. Right, click and the Win8 style version of Internet Explorer starts up and you go to Wait. "The site uses add-ons that require Internet Explorer on the desktop." At this stage, any normal person would get a bit hot under the collar and mutter some nasty words in Redmond's general direction. Not me though. I fired up Internet Explorer on the desktop and logged in to and finally, I could play Wordament. Having to jump through multiple hoops just to play a game didn't try my patience at all. The reason this is happening is due to Microsoft being on a mission to make the web a plug-in free zone. Not all parts of the company read the memo though. Microsoft's Office 365 site pops up the same message. Now, this isn't Microsoft's fault (I think) but Google Chrome on Windows 8 touch-enabled PC doesn't work very well. The device I'm using has a hi-res, 1,920 by 1,080 pixel 11.6" screen so in Desktop mode, things are really small and hard to hit with big fingers. Using the default 125 per cent scaling helps but some things need to be even bigger to work for touch. Unfortunately, scaling to 150 per cent puts screen elements out of whack - and Windows 8 warns you this will happen. Not being able to scale screen element on hi-res displays isn't as bad as it seems because in IE10 I can pinch-zoom to make things bigger and smaller. Chrome however doesn't understand that gesture[...]

Email charges and portability

Sat, 20 Oct 2012 01:35:00 PDT

I'm not sure why Telecom has decided to slap on a $20 a month email charge for people who aren't their customers but who have an address but they have. That's a good chunk of money that you really don't need to hand over to Telecom. If continuity of email service is important to you, set up your own domain. It's really easy, and not very expensive. Even .nz domains that used to be pricey have come down a lot. Get an ISP to host it and shop around, because the cost varies a lot. Use IMAP to make sure you have a local copy of the mail message store and that's pretty much it. No more being held hostage by your provider. There are other ways to do it too, including hosting your own domain to have full control of it. Forget about "email portability" which means you could take your with you to a new provider. That's solution would be far costlier and complex for you than simply getting your own domain. It wouldn't be fully portable either, because may fold at some point in time, taking the domain with it. I am really surprised that Telecom didn't consider how the charge would be seen by the public though. In simple terms, customers trusted Xtra with their communications. Even when they left they didn't cancel their email accounts, but kept them with Xtra. Some do this out of necessity - I've seen Xtra, Clear, and Orcon addresses for instance on stationery, packaging, car livery and in advertisements. Changing all that is a major exercise and inconvenience. There are two ways for an ISP like Xtra to look at this. First, the harsh, straight up business one: these are customers that use your infrastructure for free. They should either pay or get off the network. That's fair enough, but consider the trust: maybe this is an opportunity instead, to win back customers who have gone to other ISPs? Offer them a good deal to get them back. Even if they don't come back, you may get some useful feedback that tells you why they left for another ISP. Xtra has their email addresses after all, and an existing business relationship so it wouldn't be spamming. Update Am told Telecom did just that, and sent out a message to customers with some offers. Will post the email if and when it arrives. Update II And here's the email from Xtra:   Account number: xxxxxx Dear Customer A recent review of our records shows that you no longer have your broadband service with us on the account number listed. When you first signed up to Telecom Broadband on account number xxxxxx you automatically received free access to Premium Services such as an Xtra email address, Telecom Security Suite, Flickr Pro, Yahoo! Mail and 10 Free Sub Accounts. As you've now disconnected the broadband connection on this account, you are no longer eligible for these free Premium Services (including the Xtra email address), so we are writing to tell you about the changes to your account. If you no longer need your Xtra email address and other Premium Services, please ignore this email as you don't need to do anything. To update your details or to select a new plan please complete our online form. Your Xtra email address Unless you contact us your Xtra email account (, which you received free as part of your Telecom Broadband plan will be suspended on 28 November 2012. This means you will be unable to send or receive emails using your Xtra email address, or access Yahoo! Mail. Upon suspension you will have 50 days before your email account will be disconnected permanently and you will no longer be able to access any files, folders or services associated with your Xtra email account. Photos on Flickr If you use Flickr, then you'll know that your Flickr account is linked to your Xtra email. For that reason your Flickr account will al[...]

Patchy UFB coverage for Auckland?

Thu, 27 Sep 2012 05:12:00 PDT

A media release from CIT minister Amy Adams arrived earlier today. It states: Year three ultra-fast broadband deployment plan released Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has welcomed the release of Chorus' year three deployment plan for the rollout of the Government's Ultra-Fast Broadband programme. Chorus today confirmed that work to deploy the UFB network in Feilding, Gisborne, Greymouth, Kapiti, Levin, Pukekohe, Upper Hutt and Waiuku will start between July 2013 and June 2014. Once work has started in the regions covered in Chorus' year three deployment plan, the UFB rollout will have commenced in 32 towns and cities throughout New Zealand. Ms Adams says the deployment plan released today shows good progress is being made on a project that will ultimately transform the New Zealand economy. "The UFB initiative is central to the government's economic growth plan. The Government's broadband policies are a big part of our plans to lift the long-term performance of our economy, create jobs, and boost incomes," Ms Adams says. "The future of broadband is in fibre, and it will bring significant gains for productivity, innovation and global reach." The UFB initiative involves Government investment of $1.35 billion - alongside private sector funding - to roll out fibre to schools, hospitals, and 90 per cent of businesses by 2016, and links to homes and remaining businesses completed by 2019. The Government has a separate $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative to address the specific broadband infrastructure needs of rural New Zealand. It will bring faster broadband to 86 per cent of rural homes and businesses, with peak speeds of at least 5Mbps.  Before the RBI was launched, about 20 per cent of rural homes and businesses had access to 5Mbps, and about half of the rural community used dial-up. No mention of Auckland. What's Chorus doing in our biggest city then? I headed over to and used the err, map there to get an idea of what UFB deployment time line for Auckland might be. Selecting the UFB Zones Layer on the map shows that all of Auckland will be covered, ditto Waiuku and Pukekohe down south. Eastwards, Beachlands, Maretai and bit further north, parts of Waiheke Island. North, Whangapararoa and Orewa will get UFB too. Doesn't say when though. The UFB deployment in Auckland has already started on a modest scale, but when will the city have full coverage? To find out, I deselected the general UFB Zones Layer, and selected the Layers for Year 1, 2 and 3. This is what Chorus' Auckland UFB coverage will look like by June 2015 2014: That's a very different picture, with large swathes of Auckland not being covered by the UFB until well, I don't know when really. Also, the UFB coverage is really patchy. What gives? Update For completeness, here's the Chorus Business Fibre layer too for Auckland: Update II This from Crown Fibre Holdings' fact sheet on the agreement with Chorus: UFB Marketplace The population of the new Auckland Super City is estimated at nearly 1,462,000 people.  This includes more than 24,200 business premises, more than 400 schools and more than 2,500 medical and other healthcare services, as well as more than 1,300 other, mixed used premises. Indicative Build TimeframeAugust 2011 marks the beginning of an eight and a half year build programme. All health premises and schools will be covered by December 2015, with ninety percent of businesses complete then too.  So, eight-and-a-half years to completion in Auckland. The most recent CFH progress report I can find is from April 2012, and has this long term deployment charts: Hard to make out for sure, but it looks like 250,000 premises passed by June next year, just over 400,000 by June 20[...]

IITP Newsline: Software patents special issue

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 06:44:00 PDT

Subscribe to Newsline | IITP Website 7 September 2012 Your weekly dose of ICT news and views   Software patents: We need your helpPaul Matthews, IITP CEO As many of you will be aware, last week Commerce Minister Craig Foss announced a long-overdue progression of the Patents Bill, including changes around the provision removing patentability of software. The announcement contained both good news and bad. The good news is, on the face of it the Bill continues to exclude software from patentability. That's great news for our software industry. The bad news however, is that the newly proposed wording is ambiguous and we believe will lead to considerable confusion and expense to the tech sector - and possibly even the exact opposite outcome as that intended.But there is a solution and we really need your help getting it across the line. Continue Reading   Don't feed the trollsJuha Saarinen, Trollibutor When it comes to software patents, one completely justified question is if the fears put forwards by opponents to that intellectual property protection device are overblown. Could an "alignment with world-wide best practices" as our friends over at NZICT put it really be that bad? To start with, it's hard to see how moving from a clear position - no software patents - to a nebulous one - software can probably be included as part of certain patents - is world-wide best practice.  Continue Reading   Software patents: How you can helpIITP Staff As outlined in this week's featured article, while well meaning we believe the proposed changes to the Patents Bill are not in the interests of the software and technology sector.The alternative wording put forward by lawyer and IITP member Guy Burgess addresses the ambiguous nature of the proposed wording and puts forward what we believe to be a far more appropriate solution; meeting the Government's stated intentions but in a way that is less likely to furnish unpredictable outcomes. So how can you help? Continue Reading   ICT Trends: A Cloud(y) Future or Clear Sky Ahead?Garry Roberton, Senior Lecturer, Wintec Is Cloud Computing a threat or an opportunity? The cloud-shaped representation has been used by telecommunications engineers as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure contained therein for as long as I can remember. Nowadays, the cloud symbol is associated with cloud computing where a user's data, software and computation is entrusted to a remote services platform.So, what impact on ICT jobs is this shift to cloud services going to have/having, both here in NZ and globally? Continue Reading Contributed content is the opinion of the author only, and not necessarily the view of IITP. Featured Upcoming Event TCANZ: New Directions in Tech The Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand presents their 2012 conference with a theme of "New directions in technical communication". We have an exciting line-up of international and local speakers in the field of technical communication. Continue Reading Copyright ? 2012 Institute of IT Professionals NZ Inc. All Rights Reserved. [...]

IITP Newsline: Aussie/DC, Banner Blindness, ICT Trends- skills shortage

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 06:43:00 PDT

Subscribe to Newsline | IITP Website IITP Newsline22 August 2012 Your weekly dose of ICT news and views Featured Article Aussie/DC Juha Saarinen, A man of many contributions There seem to be heaps of how data centres opening up across the ditch lately. Rackspace emailed today to say their Erskine Park, Sydney facility is now officially open for instance, and they're not the only ones. CloudFlare opened a facility last month and I've heard of others coming up too; this year, the total number of data centres in Australia will peak at just under 50,000.I've seen figures in studies pointing to data centre spend in Australia hitting something like A$3 billion this year alone. Continue Reading Contributions "Banner Blindness" effect on homepage bannersby Annika Naschitzki, Optimal Usability As you are probably aware, at Optimal Usability we test a lot of web sites. Quite often we see test subjects overlooking key content or functionality, causing our customers to wonder what's wrong with their designs - or even the test subjects - 'It's there can't you see it?'We hear the term 'banner blindness' referred to quite frequently, and we've often wondered how much this behaviour is specifically related to advertising banners, or how much it applies to homepage sliders, carousels or large homepage content banners and set about finding out! Continue Reading   ICT Trends: Update on the Skills Shortageby Garry Roberton, Senior Lecturer, Wintec An "NZ Part of (Global) IT Skills Shortage Danger" headline in The NZ Herald on 12th July heralded the ministerial keynote at the NetHui internet conference delivered by Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development. He acknowledged the (apparent) current worldwide shortage of ICT skills and challenged everyone involved in the industry to evangelise ICT jobs/careers to students and families.But, is there really a global ICT skills shortage? The overall scene is, at times, quite contrary with several recent contradictory headilines/articles, certainly at first glance. Let's look at it in more detail. Continue Reading   Email IITP Email Newsline editor Want to contribute?Newsline is collaboratively written and we're always looking for new material to publish. Whether it's your views in a guest editorial or "in depth" expert detail, please send your 700-800 word piece to the editor above. [...]

Over 1,000,000 torrents of downloadable books, music and movies

Fri, 10 Aug 2012 06:57:00 PDT

A few days ago, The Internet Archive made it easier and faster to access its material, courtesy of Bittorrent technology. Here's what they say: The Internet Archive is now offering over 1,000,000 torrents including our live music concerts, the Prelinger movie collection, the librivox audio book collection, feature films, old time radio, lots and lots of books, and all new uploads from our patrons into Community collections (with more to follow). That's an amazing amount of material. Finally, Peg-Leg Pedro the Pirate can be watched by anyone. I'd like to contrast that with the submission to MED [4.4MByte scanned PDF) from RIANZ on copyright infringement notice processing fees, in which the rights holder organisation says on page 12, paragraph 63: As noted above, IFPI has used research from comScore to track the usage of P2P services over the period since the law was introduced. Since August 2011 overall P2P use in New Zealand is down 18% but still remains at a very high level with over 700,000 people still engaging in P2P file sharing on a monthly basis. Footnote 10 on the same page tells us a bit more about how comScore's research works: The comScore research measures usage but does not evaluate content so will theoretically measure legal P2P usage as well. However, such use is statistically very small. Let me see if I got this right. comScore doesn't know if the P2P traffic infringes copyright or not, because it doesn't know what it is. Yet somehow or the other, "legal P2P usage" is statistically very small? Since law is made based on the numbers and claims that RIANZ et al put forward, I think it's important to have them verified. The above doesn't make much sense to me. [...]

The Microsoft TechEd 2012 bag review

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 04:09:00 PDT

The days are short and Auckland is in the monsoon season; this means it's TechEd time once more. Well, in a month's time it is, but I am in a position to give you a Community Preview of this year's TechEd bag already.This is what it looks like:Sturdy and sombre. Insanely compartmental. Zipped up tight. Buckled down. Portholed for headphones and lanyards.Yes, those are all things you could say about the TechEd 2012 bag, should you so desire.Microsoft OEM'ed the bag from well-known accessory maker Targus, and it appears to be this model: TSB229AU | 16"Targus Expedition BackpackThe Expedition backpack would appeal to today's mobile professionals with an active lifestyle and a more casual work environment. Combining convenience and comfort with attractive design, this backpack offers ample storage for your laptop computer with screens up to 16" and mobile accessories as well as a built-in rain cover and water resistant bottom. Padded laptop compartment with adjustable strap for screens up to 16" Well-padded back and shoulder straps for extra comfort Quick-access external zippered pocket for personal items 2 large zippered compartments with mesh pockets and space for media gadgets, pens, keys and business cards Convenient front mesh pocket Waist strap for added comfort Headphone porthole Built-in rain cover and water-resistant bottom The TSB229AU is in Microsoft livery, with small blue accents instead if red/grey ones, but I was surprised to see that the Metro design elements had not been carried over to the bag. Sorry, not Metro. we're not allowed to use that anymore, are we? TUIFKAM I mean.As I said, it rains in Auckland at the moment. An awful lot in fact, and I'm sure that TechEd 2012 participants will appreciate water-resistant bottoms and rain covers. The latter is stowed away neatly in a compartment and can be left hanging out as a fashion statement, or turned into to loose-fitting emergency underwear with the help of a pair of scissors.It probably won't work as a parachute for Sky Tower bungee jumps gone wrong however, but I admit I didn't test this functionality.Even though this is a quality bag, I'm tempted to give it a bad review because it's not... very eccentric or creative as some of the past models were. Legacy features such as spaces for pens, keys and business cards are so Windows XP too. There are apps for those, Microsoft.This year, all TechEd participants will receive a surgical RFID headband implant that looks like this:Which is really cool and forces you to attend at least 38 sessions or it will start transmitting painful electrical shocks to your temples at rapid intervals. You must wear it throughout the conference, and during the obligatory TechEd 2012 party, it will blink magically and rainbow coloured in tune to the music.What would've been cool is if MS had made the RFID device NFC enabled too so people could share contact details and files by headbutting each other briefly.Back to the bag. A closer look at the bag reveals its surface:The surface is perfectly pleasant to the touch, especially around the embroidered Microsoft bit.It is not, however, a replacement for The Microsoft Surface which looks like this:Regrettably, I have to report that the bag is totally devoid of such a touch-enabled Surface. In light of the bag having space for media gadgets as per the official specifications, Microsoft's decision to not put a Surface inside it is all the more peculiar.Really though, it's not a bad bag. I expect it will provide years of service, tableted or not. UPDATE Peter Bryant is the real TechEd bag master. His collection from Europe events stretches back to 1994. Wow. If you want to go to T[...]

Do you still use PPTP for your VPN? Don't.

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 07:10:00 PDT

The improbably named Moxie Marlinspike, mastermind of the CloudCracker service, strongly suggests that PPTP really isn't secure anymore.Have a read of his blog entry which explains in great detail why that is the case.The short version:1) All users and providers of PPTP VPN solutions should immediately start migrating to a different VPN protocol. PPTP traffic should be considered unencrypted.2) Enterprises who are depending on the mutual authentication properties of MS-CHAPv2 for connection to their WPA2 Radius servers should immediately start migrating to something else.In many cases, larger enterprises have opted to use IPSEC-PSK over PPTP. While PPTP is now clearly broken, ISEC-PSK is arguably worse than PPTP ever was for a dictionary-based attack vector. PPTP at least requires an attacker to obtain an active network capture in order to employ an offline dictionary attack, while IPSEC-PSK VPNs in aggressive mode will actually hand out hashes to any connecting attacker.In terms of currently available solutions, deploying something securely requires some type of certificate validation. This leaves either an OpenVPN configuration, or IPSEC in certificate rather than PSK mode. Update Unfortunately, Rob Isaac hated this blog post, so I'm stealing these lines from Wikipedia to make him happy again.A specification for PPTP was published as RFC 2637[1] and was developed by a vendor consortium formed by Microsoft, Ascend Communications (today part of Alcatel-Lucent), 3Com, and others. PPTP has not been proposed nor ratified as a standard by the IETF.A PPTP tunnel is instantiated by communication to the peer on TCP port 1723. This TCP connection is then used to initiate and manage a second GREtunnel to the same peer.The PPTP GRE packet format is non standard, including an additional acknowledgement field replacing the typical routingfield in the GRE header. However, like in a normal GRE connection, those modified GRE packets are directly encapsulated into IP packets, and seen as IP protocol number 47.The GRE tunnel is used to carry encapsulated PPP packets, allowing the tunnelling of any protocols that can be carried within PPP, including IP, NetBEUI and IPX.In the Microsoft implementation, the tunneled PPP traffic can be authenticated with PAP, CHAP, Microsoft CHAP V1/V2 or EAP-TLS. The PPP payload is encrypted using Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption (MPPE) when using MSCHAPv1/v2 or EAP-TLS. MPPE is described by RFC 3078. [...]

RIANZ wants to filter your Internet

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 11:48:00 PDT

Yes, that is the case: the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand wants ISPs to install a filter.


That's from the RIANZ submissions to the MED [WARNING: SCANNED PDF] on the fee for processing copyright infringement notices and it reads:

56. Communication with account holders receiving notices has shown a clear and urgent need for IPAPs to provide a voluntary "opt-in" filter system for routers for customers wishing to have a greater degree of control over the usage of their internet connection. This opt-in system could potentially block access to P2P services.

Right. That sounds entirely safe.


FCC’s Measuring Broadband America

Sun, 22 Jul 2012 08:13:00 PDT

Broadband performance is important, and so is monitoring it. However, I'm not convinced that the local contenders, TrueNet and Epitiro provide a great deal of useful information beyond limited snapshots, but the New Zealand regulator, the Commerce Commission still seems to like them. Over the States, the Federal Communications Commission has released the July 2012 "Measuring Broadband America" report which is more what we need: lots of detail, and it talks about different technologies and the effect they have on broadband performance. Plus, the tests are done with large samples over long periods. There's a breakdown of the types of content traversing the Internet such as HTTP data, VoIP and streaming video, which is great. A report along the Measuring Broadband America would be great for New Zealand, so maybe the Commission should have word with FCC and SamKnows which worked on it? Interesting things in the report: US ISPs are becoming better at and more consistent with their delivery of advertised speeds. Yes, that's actually a desired outcome there, unlike in NZ where we go "best-effort service" and pretty much leave it at that, without any performance guarantees. Also interesting: customers in the States are subscribing to faster speeds and getting them. That's one in the eye for those who say 2-3Mbps should be enough for anyone and it's silly to invest in technologies that bring faster broadband. So which technology delivers the most consistent experience and advertised speeds then? This chart from the report say it's fibre-optic networking: Cable is OK, but DSL really doesn't cut the mustard. In terms of consistency, fibre is what you want: DSL, not really, unless you're happy to get only 85 per cent of the advertised speed. [...]

IITP Newsline: Evangelising ICT, Future Shock, Secure Passwords

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 06:21:00 PDT

Subscribe to Newsline | IITP Website IITP Newsline18 July 2012 Your weekly dose of ICT news and views Featured Article Evangelising ICTBen Smith, IITP Projects and Engagement Coordinator New Zealand's first dedicated nationwide ICT Outreach programme, ICT-Connect, is here! ICT-Connect is the IT industry's in-school programme to increase the visibility and desirability of a career in IT for the next generation of IT Professionals.ICT-Connect is one of IITP's cornerstone initiatives for 2012, where we connect IT professionals like you with schools and students considering their future options and evangelise what a career in IT looks like. So what's it all about and how does it work? Continue Reading Contributions Future shockJuha Saarinen, Serial contributor One company not sparing the surprises at the moment is Microsoft. Maybe it's all the gybes about not being as innovative as Apple and being unable to ship stuff in general, but there's a bunch of new stuff coming out of Redmond at the moment.It's fairly radical stuff too. Well, Redmond's own particular flavour of radical, but there's a definite break with the past coming up. Continue Reading   Secure passwords FTWAndy Prow, MD, Aura Information Security I was reading a tweet posted to @IITPnz last week (the Institute's Twiter account) complaining that the IITP's website's password policy was outrageous and TOO HARD. "Really?" I thought.It's actually an age-old question that we at Aura InfoSec are asked all the time, "what's a good password policy, and why do they have to be so hard and complex?". Well I'm glad you asked! Continue Reading IITP Mentoring Programme - sign up now!IITP Mentoring Team We're very pleased to announce the 2012 intake of both Mentors and Mentees for the revised IITP Mentoring Programme across New Zealand. Whether as a mentor or mentee, now's the time to get involved and help shape your professional future.Mentoring is a critical component of professional development for young and old, experienced and new, and we strongly recommend all members consider getting involved. Continue Reading Contributed content is the opinion of the author only, and not necessarily the view of IITP. Featured Upcoming Event ITEX 2012 is here! IITP members save Are you an IT Manager? Do you have responsibility for delivering your company's IT requirements? With four stages, plenary speakers, interactive learning experiences and an expo area to explore, ITEX 2012 is the place to be this November.IITP members: read how you can save 10% on registration. Continue Reading Please see for more events in your area Email IITP Email Newsline editor   Want to contribute?Newsline is collaboratively written and we're always looking for new material to publish. Whether it's your views in a guest editorial or "in depth" expert detail, please send your 700-800 word piece to the editor above. Advertisement ITCP CertificationITCP, or Information Technology Certified Professional, is the professional accreditation of ICT professions in New Zealand Click here for more info Quick Links IITP WebsiteITCP Website   Copyright ? 2012 Institute of IT Professionals NZ Inc. All Rights Reserved. [...]

Make the UFB free

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 04:13:00 PDT

The New Zealand Ultra-Fast Broadband project has several problems. It's over-complicated, slowly deployed and despite being in its first year already, only just over a thousand households have connected to it.Obviously, the uptake figure will increase over the next few years, but let's face it: if ISPs charge $75/month for 30/10Mbps UFB connections with a tiny 30GB of data on year and a half long contracts, it's not going to be that attractive to many people home line bundling notwithstanding.Or, for that matter, $234/month for 100/50Mbps and 1TB of data a month, which is more what you'd want from the UFB.When I see that kind of pricing for relatively low speed and meagre data cap plans, it's clear that everyone involved have lost sight of the reason the UFB is being built with a large public subsidy: to ensure New Zealanders are well-connected. That is, it's not the network per se that's valuable, it's what we and others do with it.If we don't do a whole lot with it, by not taking up UFB service because it's too expensive and/or offers not a great deal more than present DSL connections, that light fantastic fibre network won't be very valuable at all. ISPs that see the UFB as a premium product for the wealthy few miss the point of the new network. It's not about selling connections anymore, it's about connecting as many people and businesses as possible and making money out of that.Interestingly enough, Google faces a similar uptake challenge in Kansas City, US, where it's been rolling out a 1Gps symmetric fibre-optic network to premises since last year.Yes, one gigabit uploads as well as downloads, in a city with a population of under half a million.Kansas City Fibre sounds like an experiment by Google, which is rich enough that it can do such things. And that's cool, really. I'm not sure where things are at with Google fibre in Kansas at this stage but this picture is apparently from the rollout:Picture courtesy of Google's fibre blog.Thought-provoking as usual, Bill St Arnaud, the former chief research officer at Canada's academic network CANARIE points out in his blog that Google is hanging the fibre above the neutral wire on poles. This makes for less clutter, but also drives up costs as it requires expensive, trained work crews and means Google will likely deploy all drops to premises and splice boxes during the initial rollout.Why would Google do that? Well, Bill reckons Google will offer "a basic free high speed Internet [service] to each and every home", perhaps with Google TV bundled. Then there can be paid for premium services on top.That would pull the rug from underneath competing telcos that otherwise would undercut Google with their copper and HFC networks, which have been paid for many years ago - the "sweated assets" as the industry calls them.Bill writes that to get return on investment when building a fibre network, you need around forty per cent take up. If you're competing against paid-for copper, which in theory can be offered for free. then why not do the same with fibre? Copper can't offer anywhere near the same speeds as fibre and is much more expensive to maintain. It can only compete with fibre on customer charges.Apparently, Google needs to make something like US$10 to $20 a month per household to pay for the fibre alone over the next five years, which doesn't sound much but which Bill thinks will be tough to get.I'm not so sure: Google's the opposite of a "dumb pipe" provider. A fibre network for Google is simply a means to an end, and only part of its bu[...]

New Zealand number three in Asia and Oceania for innovation: WIPO

Mon, 02 Jul 2012 11:11:00 PDT

The WIPO Global Innovation Index 2012 that surveyed over 140 countries and economies contains a pleasant surprise: New Zealand ranks third in Asia and Oceania for innovation, after Hong Kong and Singapore.

With apologies for the infographic of course, which is by way of



NZCS Newsline: CIOs, Submarine Cables, ICT Trends and Kiwi PyCon

Wed, 27 Jun 2012 06:46:00 PDT

Subscribe to Newsline | NZCS Website NZCS Newsline28 June 2012 Your weekly dose of ICT news and views This week: Juha Saarinen: See eye see eye oh Paul Brislen: Submarines Garry Roberton: ICT Trends: Looking back, looking forward NZCS ICT-Connect Team: Reminder: ICT-Connect call for Presenters Kiwi PyCon 2012 ICT around town: All the latest ICT-related events in your area Featured Article See eye see eye ohJuha Saarinen Having spent much of Monday and Tuesday this week at the annual CIO Summit in Auckland, I do believe that said C-level creatures are far from extinct. The 2012 bash was apparently the biggest gathering of CIOs in the world (although the IFIP World CIO Forum in China was apparently larger) and it certainly felt busy with 500 or so attendees. I enjoyed the talks too, in which CIOs from all over the world shared their experiences. Tim Campos of Facebook fame rattled off mind-boggling statistics... Continue Reading Contributions SubmarinesPaul Brislen, TUANZ CEO The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that shook Japan on March 11, 2011 was one of the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. It killed over 15,000 people immediately, injured a further 6,000 and an additional 3,000 are listed as "missing". The damage to buildings was immense. Nearly 130,000 buildings were completely destroyed with a further 254,000 reported as "half collapsed" and close to 690,000 more partially damaged. Yet through all of that, Japan's internet access remained intact and operational. How come? Continue Reading   ICT Trends: Looking back, looking forwardby Garry Roberton, Senior Lecturer, Wintec What has changed in the last year? Twelve months ago I began a Newsline article with; "The ratio between availability of ICT graduates versus industry demand significantly impacts the ICT sector and New Zealand as a whole. The trend of both has caused considerable concern in recent years." Recently the headline of an article by Brain Fallow, economics editor for the NZ Herald, caught my attention. It reads "Job ads reveal 'fairly tepid' labour market" and refers to a fall of 2 per cent in the in the A/NZ job ads indicator for April. Continue Reading   Reminder: ICT-Connect call for Presentersby NZCS ICT-Connect Team Keen to help make a difference to the future of New Zealand? In partnership with over 40 companies and organisations, NZCS is very proud to announce the launch ICT-Connect in Schools. And now we need your help!ICT-Connect is the IT industry's in-school programme to increase the visibility and desirability of a career in IT, and we're now calling for Expressions of Interest for those keen to contribute a little time presenting to the next generation in schools. Continue Reading Contributed content is the opinion of the author only, and not necessarily the view of NZCS. Featured Upcoming Event Kiwi PyCon 2012by Kiwi PyCon is a 2 day conference dedicated to the Python programming language. It's an annual event, and is hosted in a different city each year. This year it is in Dunedin at Otago University at the start of September. Continue Reading Please see for more events in your area Email NZCS Email Newsline editor Want to contribute?Newsline is collaboratively written and we're always looking for new material to publish. Whether it's your views in a guest editorial or "in depth" expert detail, please send your 750-1200 word piece to the editor above. [...]

Experience IKEA’s Uppleva TV

Tue, 19 Jun 2012 08:16:00 PDT

Some assembly required, as with all of IKEA's stuff. Uppleva (Experience) comes with a TV, Blu-Ray player, and wireless speakers with a subwoofer all in one integrated packaged. M3 in Sweden thought the furniture bit of the Uppleva that took almost four hours to put together was OK. The rest, such as image quality and the user interface didn't impress M3 very much however, so after spending that much time assembling the set. . . you might not be so happy with your experience.


Once you're done, the result is something like this. wonder if the stuffed birds come with it?



Zune, a DRM nuisance

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 06:05:00 PDT

Microsoft's alternative to iTunes, Zune, looks kind of cool and can be used to upgrade Windows Phone 7 devices. What it isn't good at though is selling stuff for Microsoft and others. There were some movies in the Zune Marketplace that I wanted to check out, as you can get them high definition too but it doesn't look like I'll be able to buy or rent anything. First problem: Zune won't tell you the price up front, not in real money or Microsoft Xbox PacMan things. So you click the Buy or Rent buttons, thinking the price might show up there, and get this screen: "A media usage rights error has occurred." Has it really? Why? How? I haven't even tried to access the movie. All I wanted to know is, how much does it cost? Why can't Zune tell me that without going DRM-ental in the process? Then you try to sort it out by clicking on the web help link at the bottom of the dialog. That takes you to a webpage which in turn redirects you to another site, which Microsoft states "lets you upgrade the security components of your digital media player so you can play protected files on your computer." Let me translate that for you: that page upgrades the Digital Rights Management or copy protection files on your computer. It has absolutely nothing to do with security, and Microsoft should just say so. What's more, it doesn't work: The Upgrade button is greyed out and can't be clicked. Right. Screw you, Microsoft. Life's too short for this rubbish. Someone else can have my money. Update OK, so the problem is fixable. Go to this KB page and don't go through all the steps in the Manually upgrade your security component as Microsoft suggests you reset the Internet Explorer security settings to low. Instead, click on the Fix it for me link and download and run the MSI file. Unfortunately, that doesn't sort out the irritating having to pay with Microsoft Points that you buy separately instead of plain ole dollars, which is a pain and hides the true cost of purchases. Are those Microsoft Points really allowed under the various Fair Trading Acts? [...]