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Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

DECT Cordless Phones

In Tech on August 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm

DECT Cordless phones are the standard. You see them everywhere don’t you just.

The key thing is to remember that the DECT spectrum is 1.8 to 1.9 GHZ depending on the country you are in. The US is in a slightly different spectrum. Anyway, this means the spectrum is dedicated, there is nothing else there but cordless phones. It pays to buy a DECT phone for a couple of reasons:

1. 2.4ghz and 5ghz is an open spectrum and there are wifi devices, bluetoothand microwaves operating at those frequencies. You will find it difficult to operate some of those devices. Take my example, I had Uniden phone and also a wifi hotspot Everytime the phone rang, the wifi would get cut off. It can be very annoying.

2. 1.9ghz will go through concrete walls better than the high ghz frequencies like 2.4 or 5. This is another bonus.

3. The handsets made by most companies are GAP compatible so they can be used with other brand base stations or the same brands added together even if you didn’t buy the multi handset version the first time around.

The 5ghz phones are only good for farms and open spaces where you need the reach of the phone to be long in an unobstructed space, not an obstructed one. DECT is the best for urban areas and will give best range where there are many walls compared to the 5ghz phones.

In terms of GAP phones, Panasonic and Siemens Gigaset are my favourites. I quite hate the Uniden phones for creating those 2.4 nd 5ghz phones in the first place.

You can easily pair any GAP handset to a base station by simply pressing the button on the base for long enough and then using the registration menu on a phone to seek out the base, entering in the PIN and syncing it up. I never knew this, until I read the manual for the phone and it was right at the back. I bought 2 one handset versions of a panasonic cordless and I thought I had to hook both up to the line separately and then answered calls displayed as missed calls on the other. I then registered the second phone to the first base and presto, It worked just like the 2 handset model now.

I hope this helps somebody out in deciding what to buy.

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Switching ISPs in Auckland from Orcon to Vodafone

In Tech on August 8, 2011 at 8:35 pm

First post in a long time.

I recently switched ISPs in auckland and I thought I’d share my thought on this and perhaps give a bit of insight.

The nature of the residential connections is that most companies bundle voice services with data services, so the home phone is bundled with the internet. The only ways around this is to go for naked DSL or to go for wireless providers, which are few and far between. So far as wireless goes, there are the 3G connections from mobile phone providers. There is Woosh, NZWireless, Compass and Callplus have a WiMax system for Whangarei and Auckland city. I’m sure there are a few more regional providers, but that covers all the bases. In terms of fixed wired broadband, Telecom is probably the largest in residential services. It is good to note though that for Auckland at least Vodafone and Orcon are the ones with the unbundled networks at the exchanges. Compass has a few too and Telstra focusses on Wellington and Christchurch on its cable service. Pretty much most of the others piggyback on these networks. This is a good summary, but I’m sure I’m missing some other potential networks.

In recent times, telcos have been increasing the data caps for most users trying to hold on to customers. The recent changes have been sparked by Telecoms change to its bundled packages to 40GB and above. Vodafone struck back with 50% more data increasing their plans to 15GB and 45GB and the options of doubling that. Late last year, Vodafone took out competitive Naked DSL plans, which are probably the best in the market currently. The way they have done it is to offer discounts based on having an on account mobile phone plan. Let’s be honest, we all use our mobile phones enough that we already have our phones on a plan or employers put us on one. Plus mobile phone plans give better value because Vodafone is trying to be competitive in the market relative to the competitors; compared to landlines, which are not competitive compared to VOIP lines. Overall, you could save a lot if you go for a Vodafone naked DSL plan, cell phone plan and a VOIP line from 2Talk. Moving your Sky over to them could help as well, saving you on the MY SKY every month. This would be a triple play style service from Vodafone in an untraditional way. This is precisely what I have done. Orcon, on the other hand, have tried to reinvent themselves a bit with their Genius product. Basically, they are trying to lower the prices of the services they provide perceivably by lowering their costs and not using telecoms landlines, instead providing the phone line over the internet they can provide and likely over their own unbundled network most of the time. In the mean time, their service has not been good. They are so bogged down with the implementation of Genius that they have no time to respond to the calls of existing customers, wait times on the lines are pretty long, at times beyond half an hour. They have neglected their existing customers, sometimes by not offering them the same deals they offer new customers. They even removed unmetered TVNZ Ondemand when they moved to akamai servers. These guys were my previous ISP and I liked them for a long time. There was nothing that was particularly wrong with my service, except they were ripping me off for it. Telstra continues to be a good provider for those in their cable network. Telecom has again hot back with another round of plan upgrades and are doubling data or giving 20GB more. This I’m sure will sent another round of increases by the others, I hope at least.

The only way for the future is to hope that the Ultra fast broadband bill will mean that pricing becomes more competitive. The other way around is if the WiMax spectrum holders actually deploy something that can rival the wired networks. The talk of all-you-can-eat plans if for another day.

Overall, my switch from Orcon to Vodafone ran smoothly and only had an outage for a small period. Just one thing to remember is to give notice in advance by 300 days to Orcon if you are leaving them or they will continue to charge you.

I also think the modem that Vodafone give (HG 556a) is quite nice. The real value in it is when you take a look at Geekzone and find out how to unlock the VOIP capabilities and configure it correctly. It means that I no longer have 3 devices, but just 1. A lot of the cable mess goes away.The device is truly an all in one. It is a modem, router, wireless AP, VOIP ata, print and storage server and 3G router. There are some quirks for VOIP and I’ll outline them below:

Firstly, the message waiting indicator address for 2talk is <phonenumber@2talk.co.nz>. To get the indicator to work right, you have to have no messages in your new or old folder. When a new message arrives, the indicator comes on. To get rid of the indicator, you have to delete messages NOT transfer them. If you transfer them the indicator doesn’t turn off.

Secondly, you can reduce the inter-digit interval to lower the post dial delay. I tried to use a dial plan, but it didn’t work as expected.

It seems to support g 722, i don’t know why, but it does. I use G711a, but G726 is also a great codec if you want a good in between from G729 and G711 and it is typically used in DECT cordless phones, so it may not make much difference if using one.

Overall, that is my account of what is happening in the market and a why I switched and how to make best use of the Vodafone modem for VOIP.

PS3 Hard Drive Upgrade on Slim

In Gaming, Tech on December 9, 2010 at 9:36 am

The Ps3 is one of those comsumer electronics products that DO allow for end user hard drive upgrades. That is one of the advantages it has over some of the other competing products to say the least. The upgrading of the hard drive is documented in your PS3 manual if you have ever had the time to read it. It will obviously not void your warranty or anything like that as long as you do it correctly. If you chew up the screws with an incorrectly sized screw driver than perhaps Sony may sell you some replacements, so be careful with that.

First things first, the hardest part of the upgrade is actually backing up all your data. The PS3 will take any FAT32 formated drive. You won’t be able to use Windows to format a drive larger than 32gb. You may use Mac or Linux or perhaps one of the alternate formating software available for Windows. I’ll presume most people like me want to keep their game saves and also any demos etc they have downloaded and better still have everything back the way it was. PS3 does have a utility built in to do the job and it backs up everything except for a few things which i wouldn’t worry about but you can find out from the manual. If you were wondering whether protected save files do work once restored, then yes they most certainly do work. In fact, it will be like its the same PS3 including all the users, settings even login details for networks and PSN. The utility is found under system settings as backup utility. Please also remember that the backup should only be restored to the original PS3 it was made on. Use the transfer utility if you want to move data to a new PS3. You should also manually save any media files just in case.

Once backed up you can turn off everything and unhook the PS3, place it upside down on a table possibly with a cloth underneath. You will see the little tab you can lift and swivel, under which is a blue screw you need to unscrew. The front faceplate slides off. You then pull out the HDD caddy. There are four screws to take out the HDD. Do in reverse to put it back together. It’s that simple.

Turn on the PS3, it will recognise the HDD is new and the OS is missing. You need to download the latest firmware from the Playstation website and put it into the correct directory structure and plug it into the PS3 and follow the on screen instructions to install it in.

The last step is to restore your backup which will take a while. This is again found under the backup utility.

I have used a Seagate 500GB 5400rpm drive. Of course it is 2.5″ sata II. Although some say that you may use a 7200rpm drive, I thought it would be safe just to use the 5400rpm it came with. If you were wondering which brand was in there, it was Toshiba; however I would think most people prefer Seagate and Western Digital because they sell alot of drives to end users in the form of external and portable drives and they have excellent service compared to the other 3 (Hitachi, Toshiba and Samsung) which sell mainly to other manufacturers. That is not saying that if you got a drive from them you would be at any disadvantage. Sony is known to have used possibly all the brands so far in the various models, so brand is not an issue. On hindsight i think I could have gone with a 640gb drive instead because after installing the OS I remember only having close to 412gb/465gb. Also good to note is the fact that the PS3 will not take any of those 12.5mm drives that WD has made. I guess the largest size at the moment would therefore be 750gb.

As a last note, you should keep the old drive until your warranty expires on the console in case you have to send back the PS3 in which case you need to put back the original drive. Also, that drive if popped back in will work just fine on that PS3 so it will serve as a backup till then as well in case your old drive fails.

All in all, great easy upgrade for my new PlayTV.

The Spray Can

Slow Download of iTunes Movie Rental

In Life, Tech on June 3, 2010 at 10:02 pm

It’s the usual story. I got a little bored and decided that I wanted to watch a movie. Of course I’m not so inclined to rent one from a video library because I then have to go return it the day after. With the added bonus of my larger data cap this month I decided that I would purchase a rental on itunes and then watch it on my T.V using a mini DVI to HDMi cable and adapter.

I managed to download it and watch it in fact on my T.V. Sure, the picture wasn’t very good; even a DVD would quickly outclass it. It was nonetheless an exciting experience; I did manage to use my ipod touch as a remote as well.

My main concern is not how cumbersome it is to watch a rented movie unless you opt for the Apple TV option with HD video from Itunes or how poor the quality of the video is. I wouldn’t even complain about the fact that it still counts towards the data cap. I will complain about the fact that it took me a god awful long time to download it. I calculated at the time based on estimated time of completion and the file size that I was being restricted to downloading the movie to a meager 512kbps. This is pretty shocking because I believe it took well over 7 hours to download it. what I want to know is why? I know for certain that this is not the first time it has happened. I know that the last time it happened, I was on a different ISP altogether. I know it was a similar time to download, so the 512kbps restriction was the same. I know that on both occasions my international bandwidth was capable of a lot more than 512kbps.

It only leads me to the conclusion that somewhere and somehow there is an artificial restriction on the download speed for movies on itunes in New Zealand unless already on the local cache.

The Spray Can

Telecom ditches “Big Time”: Orcon bumps up data caps

In Tech on May 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Ok, so Telecom has ditched its Big time broadband plan. The plan that gave users an all you can eat plan, but with the caveat that their traffic would be shaped.

It is obvious that this was going to be a failure right from the start. This is one of the largest ISPs in New Zealand and it would attract a great number of users to the service. Some more enthusiastic large downloaders included. At some point in time the number of users sharing the bandwidth would just be ridiculous and some even found workarounds to the shaping and this put more strain on the system.

There is of course a better way to this all. In my opinion, there is a better approach to this all. Firstly, instead of offering maximum speeds to users all the time and then capping their data, they could turn the whole thing around. Instead offer a fixed speed and then no data cap. Possibly having say a 512kbs plan for most and this way everyone would be happy because your bill would be fixed and you still got a decent speed. There would then be speed packages higher than that.

The alternative solution is to have every single user on one plan i.e everyone is on the big time plan and all data is always shaped. This idea may work in theory because a lot of users are always going to be light users and only a minority are excessive users and this basically has the effect of balancing things out. The other obvious reason to do this is because access to the internet infrastructure inherently doesn’t have data caps and instead is always based on speed, hence with this system, that pipeline is always in full use.

I also have an opinion against building this new local broadband networks; it is a real waste of money. The international network, specifically, the Southern cross network isn’t up to it. The local speed already exceeds international bandwidth and thus making a network with 100mbps won’t make anything faster or better for us. It would be best to put that money into improving that infrastructure instead.

In an unrelated story, orcon has also today bumped up my data cap by 10gb for free. Hopefully, they will show up on the website soon enough. I was pondering a switch to slingshot, but I no longer have a reason to anymore. Personally, although I like slingshot, they had refused to give me a new line and had asked me to set one up via telecom. Orcon, on the other had signed me up with their new network. Obviously, I have some loyalty to them in this respect, but only as long as they take good care of me.

The Spray Can

Pentium Dual Core is Basically a Core 2 Duo

In Tech on May 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Something quite interesting just struck me. I decided to have a close look at pentium dual cores and their benchmarks specifically.

Ever since the release of the new core i3,i5 and i7 series this year, core 2 duos have been discontinued and the many shops are getting rid of their existing stock. Here in New Zealand, a core 2 duo with a t6500 processor ran around the $1200 mark upto early this year and they continue to do so in some instances.

On the other hand, we have some new pentium dual cores. Late last year saw the introduction of the t4400 and this year we will see the t4500. These seem to be very much the same as the core 2 duos in terms of architecture and it seems that intel is leveraging on that. I always thought that the pentiums would lack a lot of the function so of the core 2 duos, but I find that I am quite wrong. I found from cpubenchmarks and intel’s website that they are quite the same in many terms. The t4400 is quite comparable to the t6600 for example except that t4400 has just 1mb l2 cache where the t6600 has 2mb. From the benchmarks it is quite apparent that this doesn’t make much of a difference in performance. In terms of price, it is possible to pick up a laptop with a t4400 chip for around $850.

That means there is a good price advantage in buying one, especially for those who just need it for basic use and don’t want to shell out the extra for a core i3. It is also a no-brainer that there is no point buying a core 2 duo at a higher price than the new pentiums.

The Spray Can

Macbook Setup

In Life, Tech on May 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm

OK, very sorry for the poor image there, but its been taken from my less then stellar mobile phone camera. Anyway, as you can see its pretty basic in all respects.

I basically got a Maxtor basics HDD; the one with mac sticker on it. There is a belkin 7 port powered usb hub in there as well. You may be able to see the yellow/white Kingston thumb drive sticking up from the top as well. There is the iPod touch. Obviously, the computer you see sitting there is a Macbook (early 2009). It’s been propped up on a book. It also runs Win 7 for all those Info-sys assignments.

Now the main thing here is kinda my take on the usb hub. I believe it’s probably the best thing I ever bought. It is powered so I know that every thing is going to work well and it has so far. It also has those top mounted ports and that makes it easy to plug in USB drives and my iPod for syncing. It’s also got a cable conduit so that all my cables that need to be on the desk stay that way. The hub practically lets me have a docking station. At the moment its got a printer, HDD and a tuner card hooked up to it along with that flash drive. I really do think Belkin make the best usb hubs by far. Some of the others are just so ugly that they can’t be put on the desk comfortably, especially if you are conscious of aesthetics.

I’m still pondering if I should get a stand and separate keyboard and mouse and possibly even a separate monitor. I can’t seem to bring myself to shell out the extra cash for the lot. Perhaps later this year or even the next. There really isn’t much choice if you want to get a mac specific keyboard; you either have to buy the Apple versions or a logitech diNovo. Otherwise, it’s just going to have to be a PC version if you want a cheap one. With stands, there is a dime a dozen. It’s easy to find a custom made one as well that could be made out of wood or plastic or even aluminum and steel. Mice are dime a dozen as well, logitech make some really nice ones and of course there is the magic mouse by Apple. Anyway you cut it, there is a fair price to pay for a decent ergonomic setup.

The Spray Can

Ubuntu 10.04

In Tech, ubuntu on May 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

So if you’re like me and have been away from Linux for a while now, the good news is that Ubuntu 10.04 has been released. This marks a long term service release (LTS). Also of great controversy is the change in the colour scheme from brown/orange to purple/black.

Personally, I’ve installed this on my brother’s notebook. There are a lot of noticeable changes to the whole system. One of the biggest that I have noticed is the installation of restricted drivers for graphics and wireless cards. This has become quite easy as the system will warn you that you need to install them and will do so if you request. Also, the specialized function keys worked straight out of the box and so did suspend. The use of the ext4 file system as default is the second. The system also has started using grub 2.0; however, I am unsure as to when they started doing this. Personally, being quite well versed with legacy grub, it is a bit cumbersome to go to different files to change different things. I much preferred the text file system of changing settings of the old grub. I still find that partitioning the system with gparted is better than waiting for the installer to allow you to do it. The installer still isn’t quite as intuitive and feature rich as gparted in its entirety.

In the more general review, I can safely say that the distro is maturing well. For many new users it can be a far more pleasant experience than previously. I also believe that it can cater for many basic computer user needs with all the in built software that it comes with. The restricted media codecs and flash are also quite easy to install using the medibuntu repository. Sure, I found that flash wasn’t perfect and didn’t perform as expected, but i’m sure they’ll fix that soon enough.

So, let’s recap on linux’s position. You can pretty much install it on a machine and 9/10 times it should all work fine including wifi and graphics even those pesky Broadcom ones. You got all you basic apps all in there, including office productivity software, music, web, email, bit torrent, IM and the list goes on. For all I know my PC can suspend pretty well and this is on a very budget machine, hence I believe that is all good for the most part for all. Linux has got eye-candy in the form of Compiz. It runs very well on net-books with special net-book versions that cater for that market, which includes ubuntu remix and whole bunch of others out there. In terms of peripherals, printers that are compatible with a mac should work since mac and linux use Cups. A range of tuner cards are supported and most other things like webcams should work; obviously with many exceptions. In the more general linux traits side, it still needs no virus protection. It can still manage to kill apps without shutting down. It can still go days without a reboot.

I think Linux in general is at that point where it can succeed as a desktop system. I do believe that many of us out there that use a system mostly for the web and basic things can manage to use linux and especially ubuntu as a distro for everyday use. I do believe that people should give it a try and not be prejudicial towards it. So many people simply dismiss something because they are too afraid of change. That’s what’s got us into this whole Windows monopoly in the first place. We’ve had relative stability with XP, but guess what, the regular cycle for Microsoft is around 3 years and paying the big bucks every time a new version comes out is a really big part of IT costs to big companies and even non-profits and schools despite the volume discounts. Just look at those that bought a Vista PC, they might not want to buy a new computer, but it seems like they should just cause the retail version of the upgrade license for windows 7 runs in the hundreds of dollars. The other issue is of ethics, just think about it, it is ethical for schools to use and force the use of proprietary software. In the end, the answer lies with users, they vote with their choices and so it comes down to them. So, wouldn’t you say, people should know their choices before they make that choice. All the good reason to try Linux, wouldn’t you say?

The Spray Can

Tomizone

In Tech on September 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

So, you want to make money from selling your wifi? Not to worry, now you can. Before, setting up a hotspot where users would pay was very difficult and something that only those who had the time and money would do. Today, it isn’t so had to do at all. In fact, there are a few ways that you can.

Firstly, if you are still a little bit more tech savvy, you could set up a linux server and a capture web portal so that you can bring your clients to a splash page for them to pay you. Most probably and the easiest way would be to get them to buy vouchers from you or alternatively by using paypal. This is the hardest of all the solutions

Secondly, you could tone it down and buy a linux based router, some of the linksys ones come to mind, and install DD-wrt or openWRT and then chillispot. Basically, this solution is no different from the last apart from the fact that you don’t have to have a full computer running all the time.

The third method would be to use something like FON or Tomizone. Tomizone allows paid users while FON doesn’t. Tomizone is also available preinstalled on some routers in NZ and Orcon has some sort of partnership with them too. The D-link 300 router is probably the most popular router that comes with Tomizone. Tomizone is also based on Chillispot and the associated customized firmware; however, you don’t have to worry about the billing, marketing or the pricing. It is all done for you. You get put on a map of all the hotspots Tomizone has and mind you they also do the hotspots in all the Esquires and Starbucks coffee shops in NZ. The price is set to $3 an hour or 60mb, $6.5o a day or 160mb or $30 a week for 1.2GB. It’s either data or time whichever comes first. The hotspot provider gets 50% of that amount and tomizone keeps 50% for itself, but at least they save you all the trouble of setting up and managing your own and not to mention handling the billing. You are allowed to give guest access to people you know. The D-Link 300 also has dual SSID, so you can use one of them while the other is for the hotspot.

I have an unlimited data plan, so I have no data cap. My traffic is shaped and prioritized, so VOIP then HTTP and the like then other things and then P2P. So any thing I sell won’t affect won’t really affect me. Plus, you can set a maximum bandwidth for the hotspot side. So far in the last 1.5 weeks I have made $45. This is not bad considering that the connection only costs me $50 a month. I think the reason for my success is that an AUT building is right behind my apartment and someone buys a pass every now and then.

Overall, very good. At least I got some income going. I wish I thought of this earlier. The money from the first two weeks will practically pay for the router.

The Spray Can

Windows 7 – Free for UoA Students

In Tech on August 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Well well folks. Windows 7 has gone to manufacturing some time this month and has already become available for subscribers to MSDN and to volume license customers. It will be released publically on 22nd October.  Obviously people buying computers with Vista Home premium and above will be eligible to upgrade for free if they purchase a computer after Some time in June.

Why have I said all this?

Well. I have got a copy of the final release and have installed it on my Macbook. Basically, dual booted it.

How have I got a copy?

I got a copy from my university: the university of Auckland. All students doing any of the information systems and operations management courses can get a copy for free along with other software as well. This is the reward for going to one of the leading universities in New Zealand and a top 50 university in the world.

Review

Windows 7 is quite an improvement over its predecessor in quite a few ways. Firstly, it looks and feels slightly better and is move responsive and has a decent boot up speed. It jams well with my mac and all the drivers that Apple included for Windows. I managed to install some games that were meant for XP and Vista without too much trouble and they worked fine. I must say that the annoying UAC thing is much better and overall the system feels much more lightweight and faster.

I really haven’t done much with it yet, but the system is looking hopeful. Commercially, Windows 7 will probably the success that Vista never was. It is good enough to run on a netbook and hat means Buh bye XP. Expect prices of Netbooks to rise as many of them will start to ship with windows 7.

Overall, very pleasing indeed, especially for free!

The Spray Can