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IT, mobility, wireless and handheld news



 



Telecommunications monitoring report: Are you being served?

Tue, 23 May 2017 16:54:00 PDT

There’s an untold story behind the 2017 Commerce Commission telecommunications monitoring report. Before we get to that, edited highlights from the official media release: Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale says: "The cost of internet use has dropped over the last year with up to four times the data included at the same price points. 100GB in […](image)



NetValue partners with CRM Provider SugarCRM

Tue, 23 May 2017 01:04:00 PDT

The alliance between NetValue and SugarCRM combines the core skills and capabilities of both organisations to provide best-of-breed CRM capabilities and effective software-integration to the New Zealand agricultural sector.(image)



Terabyte looms as Vocus users download 430GB a month

Thu, 18 May 2017 19:51:00 PDT

Vocus says its fibre broadband customers with unlimited data plans now download an average1 of 430GB a month. The average for all Vocus fibre customers is 425GB. With data use doubling every 12 to 18 months, a terabyte monthly average is in sight. Taryn Hamilton, Vocus Group's general manager of consumer for Orcon and Slingshot […](image)



2degrees tips into profit after seven lean years

Thu, 18 May 2017 14:47:00 PDT

It’s taken seven years, but 2degrees is making money for its shareholders. The company says it made a profit of $13.4 million in 2016. That compares with a loss of $33.1 million a year earlier. Revenue was a shade over $700 million. Fuelling that growth is a fast rise in post-paid mobile customers. That means […](image)



2degrees growth story continues

Tue, 16 May 2017 20:25:00 PDT

2degrees delivered a maiden profit in the year ending December 31, 2016, repeating year-on-year double digit increases in revenue, while doubling the size of its broadband subscriber base.(image)



Symantec Blocks 22 Million Attempted WannaCry Ransomware Attacks Globally

Tue, 16 May 2017 17:41:00 PDT

Real-time sharing of threat intelligence between endpoint and network systems, as well as machine learning technologies, helped ensure endpoint customers were fully protected.(image)



HPE Unveils Computer Built for the Era of Big Data

Tue, 16 May 2017 17:39:00 PDT

Prototype from The Machine research project upends 60 years of innovation and demonstrates the potential for Memory-Driven Computing.(image)



Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review: Beautiful, feature-packed

Tue, 16 May 2017 01:14:00 PDT

Samsung needs a hit phone after the Note 7 debacle. The Galaxy S8 Plus could fit the bill. It is an elegant, slim, feature-packed slab of glass and metal. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus at a glance For: Looks great, feels great Well made, Feature packed. Against: Fixed battery, Fingerprint scanner position, Android 7.0, not 7.1, […](image)



After ten years of mail pain Spark is done with Yahoo

Sun, 14 May 2017 18:12:00 PDT

Spark pitches the move from Yahoo to SMX mail as bringing mail home to New Zealand. While that is clever marketing communications, it doesn’t begin to the tell the whole gory story of the company’s unhappy relationship with Yahoo. Those with long memories may recall Spark moved its mail to Yahoo in 2007. At the […](image)



Warnings from security firms: do not click that link or risk your computer being infected

Sun, 14 May 2017 15:11:00 PDT

Security company Symantec says a number of organisations globally have been affected, the majority of which are in Europe. While this malware slowed down during the weekend, a new variant seems to be already out there. NZTech warns against running unpatched, outdated operating systems.(image)



Pushpay named NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year 2017

Sun, 14 May 2017 14:59:00 PDT

Pushpay Holdings Limited and their team were named PwC NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year and IBM Innovative Company of the Year at the 2017 NZ Hi-Tech Awards on Friday evening.(image)



Huawei P10 Plus review

Fri, 12 May 2017 22:28:00 PDT

Huawei is quickly becoming a household name in the smartphone market. Its Huawei P9 brought in innovations such as dual lenses, Leica partnership for the camera software and hardware while the Huawei Mate 9 brought super-fast processor, AI-based multi-tasking and power management. With the new Huawei P10 this goes even further.(image)



Petcube Play review

Fri, 12 May 2017 21:53:00 PDT

Here's an idea: get a WiFi camera, add something we all know pets love to play with (laser!), overlay a social network for pets and a sleek design. You get Petcube Play.(image)



Passive Optical Lan means fibre to the desktop

Thu, 11 May 2017 22:09:00 PDT

Chorus held a Tech-Week event introducing Passive Optical Lan technology at its Auckland laboratory. Thanks to the government-sponsored UFB roll-out most New Zealand businesses are now on the fibre network. Fibre delivers gigabit internet to offices, factories and other business buildings. It means better, more reliable communications. Done well, fibre delivers productivity gains. In business, [...](image)



Finalists Named for 2017 CIO Awards

Thu, 11 May 2017 01:00:00 PDT

IDC and Conferenz today announced this year's finalists in the CIO Awards which recognise individuals and teams who have shown leadership, innovation and foresight in their contribution to ICT and business.(image)



Google crawling Geekzone HTTPS

Sun, 21 May 2017 21:00:00 PDT

Last week (May 2017) I made the changes to start serving Geekzone over HTTPS (and this blog too). This included removing extra lines of code that dealt with HTTP to HTTPS redirection for some pages (the ones that were always served as HTTPS before the switchover) as well as setting HST header and other changes on the server side.

Immediately after the changes I used Google Webmaster and Bing Webmaster tools to let search engine crawlers know about this change. Pretty happy on how things are going:

Googlebot crawling the new HTTPS domain:

(image)

Search results showing the old HTTP URLs:

(image)

Search results now showing the new HTTPS URLs (the line before the big uptick is the content pages already served over HTTPS, before the whole site changed):

(image) (image)




Geekzone gone full HTTPS

Thu, 18 May 2017 15:38:00 PDT

Last night I switched Geekzone (www.geekzone.co.nz) to full HTTPS support. And slowly traffic over SSL is going up (comparing last six hours overnight vs last month). Up until now we only used SSL for login, registration, private messages and profile pages plus assets (images, CSS and scripts). Now everything is covered. I started using SSL many years ago and wanted to have the site fully served over HTTPS for quite a while. Started by enforcing HTTPS on some content-sensitive pages and moving assets to HTTPS domains, including redirects to ensure clients used the correct schema. Last week I deployed an update for Geekzone mobile to make sure it worked on HTTPS and yesterday I did the same on the full desktop version of the site. Also included in this change is the addition of a "Secure" flag to cookies used on these domains. This ensures cookies only move between the client browser and server when there's a secure connection. If anyone requests http://www.geekzone.co.nz instead of https://www.geekzone.co.nz the server will instruct the browser to redirect to the correct location while the browser knows not to disclose the cookies until the secure connection is established. This is essential to avoid session hijacking (unless of course we talk MITM attacks, of course). Why have all this trouble for a forum? Because we have lots of industry (telcos mainly but other companies around too) people using the site. Account numbers, PIN and passwords are sometimes sent via our private message system (which has been served using the HTTPS schema for quite a while) so it makes sense to extend this to the whole site. In addition to this, for the last few months I have been using ThisData to collect, analyse and understand user behaviour around the site, in real-time, to quickly determine if an account could've been compromised. Up until now we were using it in "read mode" and tracking notifications. Last week I changed the webhook/API to actually start closing sessions and blocking IP addresses if a user confirms a breach occurred. ThisData receives millions of transactions reports (login, logout, forum post, message sent, message read, password change, new registration, avatar change, invalid password, etc) from us every month and uses machine learning to observe and assign a "risk" to each transaction. Based on this risk result our forum software can take different actions to protect our users - like the ones I described in the previous paragraph. I have also added a Geekzone ruleset to the HTTPS Everywhere project. This ensures that browsers using the HTTPS Everywhere add-ons will know to use the HTTPS schema instead of HTTP even if the source explicitly refer to the HTTP version (including references to any Geekzone resource served in non-Geekzone pages). This is important because Cloudflare also uses the same ruleset when doing the automatic HTTPS upgrade for some of their millions of clients around the Internet. We also use other platforms to prevent spammers and scammers joining the site. One or another can sometimes get past all this protection but our moderator team is pretty quick to act and our community is really good at reporting suspicious behaviour. There are lots more to be done, for sure. But it feels good when all this falls into place. Update 20 May: Added HSTS headers now, site listing update on HTTPSWatch NZ.[...]



Television, (re)enhanced: the Samsung QLED range

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 15:11:00 PDT

Television. Been around since the 1930’s, with an evolution that has been interesting and non stop. It wasn’t that long ago we had a Philips K9 TV in the house (no remote – that was an extra $600 in 1984), and in recent years we’ve had the rapid shift towards flat panels and high definition viewing, supported by the content industry. And yet the concept is still remarkably similar: a screen 1 or more gather around for knowledge, entertainment and disconnection with reality. I often wonder if ‘TV’ will actually become more a personal viewing exercise, with viewers opting for a tablet or similar and the comfort of their own environment, rather than the shared experience of many people watching (and the inevitable commentary…. “what is this cr*p”?) I had the privilege of being introduced to Samsung’s new QLED range of Televisions a few days ago. These are due in the NZ market in May 2017 and continue the evolution of LED-LCD display technology, with colours and pictures that are strong, vibrant, bright and a joy to view. The current technology buzz in the TV display world is OLED, which is an early lifecycle technology that emits light (to assemble a display pictures) in a different fashion to the more mainstream LCD TV's. While it’s fascinating to see the evolution of technology and the promises these improvements bring, I tend to focus on how these compare to the here and now. Television is a well penetrated product into most people’s lives, and you’ll find one in most homes and places of work around NZ and the world, and they continue to function day in and out without too much fuss. The switch from the older tube technology to Plasma and subsequently LCD came with the usual hallmarks of new methods; the old technology had better colours, was more fluid and better saturation (so pictures looked more natural and so on), while manufacturing quality of early technology often meant the lifespan of a TV was adjusted from 25 years down to 10, and even 5 for some types until common sense (and sales trends) kicked in. In the range below, the Samsung panels are an evolution of LED technology and not OLED. While that’s interesting, how these panels perform and what they offer is more valuable than what's under the metal/plastic. Declaration: I have 3 Samsung TV’s, acquired between 2007-10. A 27” that had it’s screen die 1 day before the end of the warranty (on boxing day no less), but which Noel Leeming had repaired and is still going strong 10 years later (disappointingly, when you see so many flash new models these days). A 37” with a bezel (the plastic edging around the screen) that has cracked from several house moves), and a little 22” doing duty in the bedroom. All the TV's operate fine, and for me (and I expect a great many people) they will only be replaced when they stop working… meaning the market for Samsung’s new models as always is somebody seeking a replacement for various reasons. The highpoint of features and functions for me is equipment that’s 7-10 years old, meaning anything new will certainly be appealing. I am a researcher and make considered purchases, meaning features, form, function and most importantly for such a major appliance, ability to elegantly mount and position in the house.                 65” glory – Q8C $7,999                       75” of curve and style &ndas[...]



Cyber attacks on NZ small business

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:30:00 PST

In August 2016, Symantec sampled 525 NZ business owners and operators about their perception of cyber security issues; all the businesses employed less than 20 people, and some of the discoveries show that we are woefully behind the eight ball.

Most companies are using some sort of Windows device, half of them using Windows 10 as their main operating system. Only 1 in 5 laptops and mobile devices don�t have some form of logon security, and just a quarter of staff have access to financial data outside their work computer.

The biggest threats � email/phishing scams (70%) and hacking attempts (47%). Interestingly, the threats where staff are consciously being devious are small � 2% internal threats, and a tiny 1% of employees posting stuff they shouldn�t on social media.

As Kiwis, we value our time � the biggest impact from cyber-attacks was down-time and inconvenience.

The two figures that scared me the most were that 70% don�t know if they have any sort of internet security running, and only 57% of businesses are doing automatic or daily backups. Crazy that 4% of responses are doing backups annually (seriously, why bother?) or none.

So how to mitigate the risks? Symantec have five tips:

(image)

More info here.

My thanks to Symantec and Mark Gorrie, the Director of the Norton Business Unit for Symantec, Pacific, for hosting me at lunch yesterday.

(image)



Webstock 2017: think of others

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 02:07:00 PST

I had the good fortune to be allowed to attend Webstock 2017 this year, held in Wellington New Zealand from 13-17 February. This quirky event is growing in popularity and attendance, and this year featured a whole host of presenters covering many topics, from the origin of Emoji�s to empathetic design for the elderly. Nearly all the presenters were from the US, and there were two overwhelming themes that kept repeating and being referenced throughout the event: 1. �We are sorry about what is happening is US Politics. This isn�t who we are�2. �We need to think of everyone � old, young, able bodied, disabled, sight and mobility impaired, rich and poor � when creating for people Resonating in the back of my mind was the phrase �He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata�. It is the people, It is the people, It is the people. I may not be using the phrase in it�s correct setting, but it speaks to what I heard repeatedly throughout the days � by the people, about the people, and for the people. I observed an audience of old and young, multiple races and all genders, and was enthused by the sheer size and participation. This thing is big. REALLY BIG. And it continues to get bigger, which is great for Wellington and great for the design sector in New Zealand. So what were my takeaways from the time? Knowing your audience and being present to what they want to here is crucially important. I heard a few jokes fall flat, and some that were absolutely wrong to be used � a quick websearch if you are interested will reveal my abstract reference. A highlight was Marcin Wichary, a polish chap from Google, who covered topics from charles babbage to the work he did creating the Google Doodle that was Pacman in 2010, and the journey of discovery he went on to recreate this classic game. Warm, enthusiastic about his topic and a genuinely engaging fellow, he touched on a couple of rueful points about never assuming and not bothering to question �why� � as well as not being satisfied until he was, and not giving up until the task was done. It�s a small item, but seeing through any commitment to completion in the modern world takes focus, and I often see failure because people just gave up or lost interest� because they just did. Significant reference was made to Apple�s design aesthetics and their efforts in designing for humans, by many of the presenters. Love or loathe that company, they have made their mark on the western world and continue to set a tone for modern digital experiences that we all live with and don�t appreciate we are. I met with Janine Gianfredi on Thursday night after the show, and caught her presentation on the Friday, about designing US Government services from a startup with the Executive (The White House under President Obama), and taking things to market. Born out of the chaos that was the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (�Obamacare�), Janine referred to the �mission� of getting healthcare for people who historically could�nt. The Federal government set up the national exchange, but required insurance companies in every state to cooperate in creating products and offering to customers � not trivial, and a service that was born from a big government project (many contractors, little focus on end to end experience, and a desire to just ship software even if it sucked) had to be refactored by a smaller team who thought about the users, what they had to do, and how they could improve services. Again. It is the people. The presentation resonated with me, and in [...]



NZ Tech Podcast 321: $3000+ Free Gadgets, One Million Podcast Downloads, US Homeland Security vs Travellers, Banks vs Apple

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:37:00 PST

On NZ Tech Podcast's 6th anniversary we celebrate over a million downloads of the podcast. Topics included Homeland Security vs Travellers, Australian Banks vs Apple, PayPal account risks, Logitech's 4K webcam, Intel Coffee Lake, near Invisible Ma... (more in the full post)(image)



NZ Tech Podcast 314: Meet Quickflix new Hollywood owner, a temptation to share Ransomware, Homes.co.nz update

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 21:40:00 PST

This week on NZ Tech Podcast, Hollywood's Erik Pence discusses Quickflix v2 and Jeremy O'Hanlon shares an update on Homes.co.nz. Also featured - new Ransomware which rewards you for sharing it, Netflix Virtual Reality on Google Daydream, Sky TV/Du... (more in the full post)(image)



NZ Tech Podcast 313: Amazon Go, John Key’s legacy, Goodnest, Media Design School, Network 4 Learning, Uber Eats NZ

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:37:00 PST

This week on NZ Tech Podcast we discussed Amazon Go – the new bricks & mortar supermarket with checkouts. In studio guest James MacAvoy shared about NZ startup Goodnest and how it provides discount access to cleaners, electricians and ... (more in the full post)(image)



Microsoft Ignite New Zealand, Microsoft Surface Studio

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 22:25:00 PDT

Earlier this week I had the chance to attend this year's Microsoft Ignite New Zealand. This was the ninth year I attended the event, previously known as Microsoft TechEd.

Many, many things changed over the years and while Microsoft Ignite is still a technology event at heart, things changed, just the same as Microsoft did over the years.

If you were one of the couple of thousands of attendees you had the chance to learn not only from technical sessions but also from personal development sessions, ones created to let people progress in their careers not only by their geeky prowess but by being better at how these are used in the context of relating to yourself, other people in your job and your life.

If you attended the keynote session you'd have heard from local Microsoft people and international guests who showed how to use technology to "empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more."

The message was powerful and easy to understand: technology for technology sake was hot. Today's technology is used to make lives better. From using Internet of Things and Big Data to make better, intelligent wheelchairs to solving global water challenges with cloud technology.

I had the chance to talk to Microsoft experts from different areas, from Donna Sarkar (MIcrosoft Windows 10 and Windows Insider) to Donovan Brown (on how Microsoft is making DevOps an integral part of its stack) and all of these had the passion make this mission come to life.

During the same week Microsoft announced its new Surface device. A long term project, which goes back to the first Surface concept (remember the Surface table?) this all-in-one computer integrates design and functionality, plus extra accessories that can help developers create new interfaces and experiences, making it a dream - one that will be here in early 2017.

Watch the video below and tell me it's not a work of art?

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BzMLA8YIgG0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">(image)




How one database query can fix HOP cards

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 16:33:00 PDT

From Stuff this morning:

Auckland train commuters were over-charged due to a fault with HOP card machines, but Auckland Transport says it won't issue refunds unless passengers complain.

Commuters at Takanini train station on Wednesday found both tag-on machines on the platform were out of order.

Everyone who caught a train during the outage was charged a penalty fee when they hopped off because they hadn't tagged on.

My mind really boggles with this.

Firstly, why are both tag-on machines down in one location?  They should be independent of each other (different network circuits, power feeds etc), so if one goes down, the other can still operate happily? Also, surely someone is notified when both go down, so a contingency plan can be put in place?

Secondly, why isn�t AT crediting penalties for passengers who didn�t do anything wrong?  The fact that you have to contact them to get a refund is pretty poor customer service. Not the best way to build any confidence in their systems.

I have no idea how their internal database is structured, but to help them out, something along this line should get them started:

SELECT * FROM RailTrip
WHERE TagOffLocation = �Newmarket� AND TaggedOn = False
AND TaggedOffDate BETWEEN �2016-10-13 7:00:00� AND �2016-10-13 9:00:00�

Grab all the rows from the above, loop through em and credit back anyone who is within that criteria.

You�re welcome AT.

(image)



The secret life of mobile batteries - UPDATED 6.10.2016

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 00:29:00 PDT

Smartphone batteries have been in the news recently, in case you haven't been keeping up. On this mornings Jetstar flight the attendant took extra care to call out that Galaxy Note7 users would have to keep their device off - personally if I had one of these mobiles I would be utterly livid. Just not acceptable in 2016. I've used iPhones in my line of work for the last few years as my primary device, and androids only as secondary units. The battery life on Apple phones is enough to drive you to despair at times, and as these things get bigger and pack more in, I can't the situation improving much. I'm not a fan of the bigger screen devices like the 6 and 7 - I think Apple hit the mark perfectly with the iPhone 5 screen size - but you have to use what is reasonably available, and for me that is an iPhone 6. Over the last year or so, the battery life on this device has become steadily more atrocious, but when I asked ServicePlus to have a look (Apple's agent in NZ), the diagnostics were that things were.... ok.... but perhaps remove the facebook app, which is a notorious hog. I did but that didn't really help..... and my experience continued to reflect that my battery must be munted. In the weekend I read an article in Forbes, and the author opined that users should skip the iPhone 7 and just replace the battery in their existing iPhones, waiting for 2018 when the iPhone 8 is released (2017 will bring the iPhone 7S). Forbes article The application Battery Life was mentioned... so I downloaded it and what an interesting app to use. Even though IOS9/10 locked out many of the statistics about the battery that could be read, some elements are still discoverable. Here's what says about my phone tonight: When new, the phone had a battery capacity of 1750Mah. All rechargeable batteries degrade over time, but what is interesting is where mine is at - maximum capacity is now 1100Mah, 37% less than as new. Of course, the iPhone battery meter tells me how much charge is remaining - OF THE DECREASED CAPACITY - meaning the more I use this phone, the faster it appears my battery is draining, when in fact it has degraded seriously to the point of being nearly unusable.  I double checked these readings using a Mac app called CoconutBattery, and it's reports are consistent with the above display. The battery has lost a lot of capacity. So, tricky.  Technically the iPhone battery reading is correct - 396/1100 = 36% charge. But without an app on the iPhone telling me "your battery is screwed bro", I am left wondering. I don't think it should have degraded this rapidly - I used my other devices which are older, and they havent got anywhere near this level of degradation, some of them are 6 years old and constantly being used. I don't know if it's better to be told I only have 396/1750, given I can never recharge the battery back up to 1750.... but it would have been nice to know. The device is 2 years old. Arguing over reasonable life of a battery under CGA feels quite the uphill battle. I do wish Apple did make better tools available that acknowledge the limits of technology and help better manage - although if they did, I expect they would a truckload coming back at the 12 month mark as 'not fit'. Battery Life. CoconutBattery. You wouldn't think batteries are that interesting.... but it's amazing what you can discover.   UPDATE: 6.10.16 Serviceplus repl[...]



Review: Navman MiVUE680

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 05:07:00 PDT

There’s a competition on Geekzone to win this review unit. Click here to enter. Dashcams are not normally a product that I’d review, however when the opportunity came up to do some stunt driving, including a ridiculously tight parallel park, an attempt to jump the car over a ramp, then the actual jump (footage here from outside the car as another perspective), the inner boy-racer in me couldn’t resist. I think dashcams are going to become more standard in cars as the technology matures.  If you’ve ever been involved in an accident, having the actual video footage to help with the police investigation and inevitable insurance claim is gold.  Witness evidence can be debated and argued with; you can’t really dispute the facts when you have the video. The MiVUE680 is a small unit with a 2.7 inch screen on the back (not touch screen) and a wide angle lens capable of 2K full HD video (the MiVUE698 Dual Cam comes with a rear camera as well).  Anyone who’s had a Navman GPS unit will already be familiar with the suction cup mount; the stiff design makes for a secure mount, and not for regular removal of the unit.  It is small enough to mount up behind the rear view mirror, and is supplied with a very long cable for charging via the car’s 12V supply (aka cigarette lighter).  Recordings are saved to a microSD card (not supplied). The most important thing is how do the recordings look?  Below are samples from both day and night driving in Auckland. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/x2cBdaJDOdA" width="580" height="326" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uj1N7He-brg" width="580" height="326" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> As you drive, the dashcam is constantly recording.  Each file lasts around 3 minutes and is 320MB – with the 8GB microSD card I was provided, that’s around an hour and 15 minutes worth of continuous recording time in total. Event recording is triggered when there’s a sudden impact, or you’re driving at high speed, make an aggressive turn or something else that triggers the G sensor.  While the constant recording can be overwritten as you keep driving, the event recording is moved to it’s own separate folder on the SD card.  You can also trigger this manually by pushing a button on the side. The dashcam has lots of other safety features other than video recording which include: Warns you when you are near a fixed speed camera Lane detection warnings Reminders to turn your headlights on if you haven’t Reminders to take regular breaks when driving for long periods of time Warning if you get too close to the car ahead Warning if the car in front of you has moved off and you are still stopped It’s a great little unit which you could easily install then forget about it.  My two issues with it are minor: it should be touch screen, and I felt the buttons down the right hand side were too far away from the indications on the screen, making them hard to match up. My thanks again to Navman for hosting me and providing a unit for review.[...]



Review: Freeview PVR Panasonic DMR-HWT260

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 16:52:00 PDT

This is my review of the Panasonic DMR-HWT260. When I went to buy one, there weren't any reviews so I hope this might fill a gap if you're looking to buy one. Keep in mind when reading this that I've already bought one, and people who own something ... (more in the full post)(image)



Review: Huawei P9

Thu, 09 Jun 2016 16:27:00 PDT

Another year, another nice Huawei phone. Am I becoming a Huawei fanboy? Seems so. The P9, the successor to last year�s P8 which I reviewed, is a gorgeous phone.  It�s a smidgen smaller (I had to look up the specs to just to confirm), and thankfully the power and volume buttons are still in the same place.  Gone is the separate memory card/second SIM slot; this is now integrated into one, and is now on the top left of the phone. P8 on the left; P9 on the right. Headphone socket is now on the bottom (not a fan), taking over what was the second speaker grill.  As a user of the Nexus 6P, it�s nice to see this phone inherit the USB Type-C charging/data port and the fingerprint reader located centrally on the rear of the phone.  Once you get used to unlocking a phone with your fingerprint, everything else seems so antiquated. A lot of the online reviews really don�t like the Emotion UI (EMUI) that Huawei ships with their phones, but I�ve always liked it.  It�s strict around allowing apps to run when the screen is off, and you can force close all apps with just a few taps.  Android is not known for amazing battery life, however with these features, you can extend your time online greatly.  You do need to allow a few apps, such as Google Maps, otherwise it resets everytime the screen switches off. The phone is responsive and quick, and common complaints about the low res screen (when compared to the other similar phones, such as the Samsung S7) weren�t an issue for me.  I think it�s because I�m not after ultra high res on such a small screen (again, compared to my ginormous 6P). The biggest change in hardware is the camera, or cameras (which sit flush with the back of the phone). Huawei have partnered with Leica, and the phone features two 12 megapixel lenses.  The camera app also has a myriad of different camera settings, which are well above the skillset of this simple user. For me, the best phones will take the best photos in low light, and man, does the P9 take some cracker low light photos: The last photo, for me, shows how good the camera is.  On my street at home, at night, with no flash on. Very impressive. Another great offering from Huawei, and a nice upgrade from last year�s model.[...]



Poor man’s automation - WeMO + Limitless LEDs

Sat, 28 May 2016 21:30:00 PDT

Home automation using a common platform such as the Philip�s Hue bulbs or the Wemo switchable plugs and bulbs is reasonably straight forawrd.  I�ve got a mix of Limitless LED light bulbs and Wemo switches, which makes it more complicated, but can be achieved using some custom software. My goal was simple.  My outdoor light, main hallway light and kitchen light are all Limitless bulbs.  The lights in my lounge and behind my main computer are on Wemo switches.  I wanted a solution whereas all these lights would switch on based on sunset, and then switch off again at a specific time.  The reason for the switch off, is if I�m away on holiday, the lights need to turn off on their own; if they are already off, the system would just exit.  Since it�s rare for me to be out really late, I picked 2am as the switch off time. I like this solution because I�m often home after dark, plus if the wife and I are out at a function, we don�t have to fumble around in the dark looking for our house keys.  The added benefit is the security of it looking as though someone is home. The solution I came up with was all reasonable straight forward, but did take a lot of trial and error. Firstly, I needed a machine that was always on at my place.  My newly installed HTPC running Windows 10 would be the perfect candidate.  I could�ve easily achieved this with a low powered PC such as a Raspberry Pi, but I needed a programming language (.net) and platform I was already familiar with. To ease deployment and maintenance, I opted for a console application.  If I was going after always on and super reliable, it would�ve been a Windows service. The process works simply, as follows: At 4pm everyday, using Windows Scheduler, my console app boots up and queries the Sunrise-Sunset API.  This takes a lat/lng parameter, giving me the exact sunset time at my place.  There�s lots of extra info it provides (such as sunrise) but these aren�t required for my application.The reason I like this is it will automatically change the time in summer and winter, meaning no configuring at different times of the year. The console app sleeps until it�s time to run.  When it wakes up, it fires off a UDP packet which the light bridge is listening for to turn the lights on. For the Wemo switches, it connects to each one and fires a SOAP request to switch them on. I was using the library from Barnacules which uses UPNP to find the Wemo switches, but for some reason, it just doesn�t work on Windows 10.  Since I only have the two switches, I set them to reserved IPs in DHCP, so I always know where to send the on/off commands. Once the lights have been switched on, the console app goes to sleep until 2am, where it fires off commands to switch the lights and Wemos off. I log everything to a basic txt file for diagnostic reasons.  If I was being super diligent I�d store this to database. Happy to share the source code with anyone who wants it, just fire me an email, nate at 3bit dot com.[...]