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Hard and Fast


Being connected...

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 19-Jan-2013 17:28

I've stopped being surprised at the penetration of smart devices in the lives of people in NZ. I can't recall the last feature phone I saw in active use - you know, the old nokia's which just made calls and texted - and every widget I see now is a shipping, youtubing, app fuelled smart monster slurping data like its so much calling airtime.

It's really clear that the widget is king, and how you connect is becoming so much a simple rate war, with little in the way to differentiate providers. Such is competition I guess.

The fragmented nature of android can't be good. Samsung has nailed the experience, and can premium charge as a result - undercutting Apple but well over LG, HTC and the other dwarves. Meanwhile smartphones are morphing into mega tablets and getting ever bigger.

2013 should be fun, for this part of life anyway!

- Posted using BlogPress



iOS6. Why the noise?

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 22-Sep-2012 19:35

For anyone who follows the Apple industry, the noise around iOS6 and the relative 'yawns' it has introduced compared to previous releases, is odd.

I agree with many observers that the onboard maps app is utter rubbish compared to Google - I'm guessing the USA has got a nice service but the rest of the world? I'm stunned the NZ maps look like low-res ones circa 2004. Good potential there I guess, but shameful. The shot of my place looks like there is dirt on the lens.

But as for the everything else? well, I rather like it. Allow me to explain.

My Ipad2 has been deteriorating over the last 6 months, getting slower and slower, as if an app had a memory leak somewhere. I've always been suspicious of devices which have non-volatile ram in them, as my experience has been that they get slower over time and less responsive. Indeed, I managed to utterly destroy an early Nokia 7650 when I pushed it's onboard email to the limit, filling the memory and killing any opportunity to perform a hard restore - at a time when I worked for O2 and they had the Nokia tools to reflash the phone.

So, I downloaded iOS6 direct to widget - took 4 attempts as the download kept stalling because the huge demand globally had a huge impact on Apples' akamai feeds - but 2GB later it was installing merrily away. And my iPad was restored to factory fresh performance, but with all my content onboard safe. Not one dropped file, not one misconfigured app. This is backup and restore as it should be.

Have I got any other new capabilities? none that really drive me - but I have noticed the WIFI performance and responsiveness of the applications is more inline with the advertising. Visit a URL and it comes up pretty quickly - there is no lag between user action and device reaction. Of course TelstraClear Cable Internet helps.

If maps is important - don't upgrade.

But overall - I've seen nothing but upside in installation.

EDIT

Of course, the missing YouTube app leaves a LOT to be desired and smacks of the pettiness others have commented on regarding Apple vs Google. The app was actually rather good - and I have found nothing similar yet for an iPad that replicates it.


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There is an end to everything, to good things as well

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 23-Jul-2012 22:28

On Sunday night, I went to see the The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final film in the Batman reboot that started with the awesome Batman Begins.

Review of the movie have been mixed and the third movie suffers by virtue of not being able to delight and surprise; expectations from the audience are elevated, and the bar was already set pretty high with the first two movies.

Nonetheless, I highly recommend you discard the negative reviews and the marred launch from the truly awful Colorado tragedy - tell me gun control is not required now - and GO SEE THE MOVIE. Make up your own mind. As a movie experience it's pretty fantastic and well worth slogging through the nearly 3 hour running time; you don't want to have to go the toilet as you'll miss key elements of the third act.

I don't intend this commentary to be a spoiler, but you should stop now in case you think I give away any of the movie.

So in summary, after the events of the first movie - the swell of the criminal world in Begins; the surge and eventual becalming of crime in The Dark Knight, the 3rd movie opens with a city that is calm and at peace and on the rise. Inequity in rife but present, and the city is almost screaming out that it's all about to end, yet no-one is really listening. And into this. Batman emerges as (much) older, mourning and burdened with a worn-down body. He's not the man he used to be - in the first act, it's easy to see how he is both drawn back into the world and seduced at the same time by the stunning Anne Hathaway, playing the role of a 'catwoman' without ever been called that.

The rise of the criminal Bane is breathtaking to behold, and the easy collapse of the calm world without much effort - a poor nod to the effects of finance and banking blandly executed - as is the humbling of our hero and the shattering of everything he thought he was. It hurts to watch - not only from the physical torment, which is pretty brutal - but also the mental shattering that goes with it. Unlike real people who's mind breaks though, Mr Bat recovers quickly enough with lots of press-ups and grim determination.. if only life were really that easy!

Unfortunately, the third act has both some fantastic twists worthy of this movie and carries on the dark vision of the world.. and then ends with the most Disney of endings I never expected to see. All the buildup, all the pain, all the reality about the fragility of life and the futility of men's deep plans.. has such a happy ending I walked out feeling like I'd eaten too many lollies (which I had).

Ah well. Work past that ending, and focus on the events leading up to it, and you have gritty truths on what it means to plan, to age, and to see what you thought was something different, actually unravel quickly and be shown to be nothing more than folly.

Mr Batman speaks to those who have hit 40, and presents a view that is very sharp and very familiar to anyone who's been there and come back. It's a stark reminder for the career minded who focus so much on what they are doing that they are lost inside the monster they create; Batman in his alter-ego, for most folk I would guess their work, business, stage persona or other 'this is me' activity.

Batmans denouement is not his realisation that he is mortal; that's easy. It's the revelation that in the moment he makes all the difference, moments later that difference is gone and the world has moved on, leaving him with breakages that cannot be repaired. He has to do his piece, but he has to step aside and let other's do the same and more. In creating the symbol of hope, in creating the persona to rally around and nurture, he needs to exit and let others carry on.

It's humbling. It's a solid parable for anyone too wrapped in what they do so much they can't get past it.

GO SEE THE MOVIE.

 

 

 



2Degrees prepay price change

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 21-Jul-2012 20:13

I noticed on a tweet (from Steve Biddle, of Biddlecorp) that 2Degrees had changed it's pricing for texting between 2D mobiles.... see here....

http://www.2degreesmobile.co.nz/prepay/topping-up/top-up-and-get

The key sentence being:
**From 6th August 2012 our standard 9 cent text rate will apply to all 2degrees to 2degrees texts.

Fair enough: 2c is an attractive rate but not really one to make profit on, and 9c is still a good rate anyway. With the continuing massive shift towards Mobile Data and WIFI Offload (where you use wifi instead of the carriers mobile network), the use of Apps to communicate means that texting will be going the way of Voice over the next 3 years.

That you get 300 texts bundled in when you make a $30 topup means that most people will never see a charge for texting anyway.

While the 'topup and get' offer remains, and this is the rub for me.

My grumpy moment comes from how I learned of the change. A tweet, from someone I happened to have connected to. Hardly the most common channel of communication.

2Degrees of course are entitled to make changes; they need to make money after all, and it's covered in their T's and C's:

"Notices and Changes to this Agreement and our Plans
(a) We may change this Agreement and/or vary any Service at any time.
(b) Changes will be published on www.2degreesmobile.co.nz. Please check www.2degreesmobile.co.nz regularly for updates as continuing to use the Services after changes have been published will mean that you agree to this Agreement as amended.
(c) We will give you at least 10 working days prior notice, and where possible we will try and give you 30 days prior notice, if any changes we make materially increase our charges or materially reduce the elements of a Service you are using or change this Agreement so that it has a material detrimental effect on you. We will notify you of these changes by publishing them on www.2degreesmobile.co.nz."

Good on them for stating what their policy is, and how they will do it. 

Of course, publishing price changes to the website and classing that as 'giving me notice' is a bit on the nose; if any other service provider like Telecom, Vodafone or TelstraClear, bank, power company or Council took that approach they would feel customer wrath pretty quickly.

I'm guessing there's a bulk email to the customer base coming in the next 5 days (I hope so) from 2Degrees, where they standup and  state 'we've changed the price, and it's gone up'. I really hope that 'we published on the website' doesn't become a way of working, because it's a pretty naff way of treating your customer.

I'm fully expecting that the bundle pricing will change again and continue to become less generous; that's a common market strategy (low prices to attract, end the offer and replace with one that's not so good and hope switching inertia does the rest) I've seen and executed before.

The consolidation and change in the NZ telco industry has only just started; more price changes are coming across the board, and not always downward.

EDIT: Forgot to add, I am a 2Degrees subscriber for voice and data, hence my personal interest!



Apple Airport Express v2

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 17-Jun-2012 14:41

Last week Apple launched the updated version of the Airport Express, updating the original model launched about 3-4 years ago. I've been waiting for this for a while now, and ordered one as soon as I could. Available immediately from Sydney, it shipped quickly but also was damaged in transit by TNT Couriers - which I only discovered because I hit the 'Track Shipment' button in the email I received confirming the order. One quick call to Apple - and a 5 minute wait - and the lovely girl in the contact centre not only dispatched another toot suite, but she also called me back 3 times to let me the replacement was coming, when it would arrive (which is important - I am not always the same place every day, so need to know when packages are arriving) and was I happy when it had arrived. Pretty cool - may not sound like much, or that every consumer company should do that. but the reality is they don't.

I use TelstraClear Cable Internet at home, and for a while have been using an Apple Airport Extreme, with a couple of Airport Express v1 range extenders, to try and provide some semblance of coverage in the house, to all the widgets that need it. This meant that there were more wires, more power bricks and more awkwardly placed devices in the house, all connected together using wireless bridging - which came at the cost of overall performance, and made wireless VOIP a bit more clunkier than it needed to be (the best experience for anything wireless is your device to the wireless router, then out to internet modem. Going device to wireless to wireless to internet modem means performance is affected - things run that much slower.

The new Airport Express is class - it looks like the older Airport Extreme model, except it's shrunk by about 40%, and has amazing range and performance compared to it's bigger brother. Admittedly the Extreme is an older model and has a poorer performing wireless chip, but even so the wider surface area of the older unit led me to reasonably expect it would have better performance. The aerial is bigger I thought - shows what I know. The new unit gives me the same range and performance that required the use of extenders on the older model.

20120616_152404

Picture one: Airport Express v2 just above the black Apple TV. The older Airport Express model is to the right of the Apple TV.
The Airport Extreme is the big unit to the left of everything, along with it's power brick

The new Express has a simple power cable, separate 10/100 WAN and LAN ports, simultaneous dual-band Wifi (up to 802.11n), a USB port for attaching a printer and a 3.5mm headphone jack for connection to a sound system, for streaming audio over AirPlay. I have no idea how much power it draws - but the Extreme draws 20w when running, whereas I suspect this new device draws about 6w, the same as Apple TV, about a quarter of an energy efficient lightbulb. It may not sound like much, but every little helps.

This unit perfectly suits the Cable Internet world and the forthcoming Ultra Fast Broadband network - both of those technologies supply an Ethernet connection into the home, so will plug straight into this great router. Those on DSL connections will need to bridge the router into their modems and do some jiggering around with DHCP settings - the Airport software is pretty good at leading you through what you need to do, but you do need to be familiar with the terminology it uses. This new device reportedly supports up to 50 connected devices - performance seems pretty good, although this sort of test is a bit misleading:

Speedtest

And that's as much as I've experienced so far. The lack of a Gigabit WAN port is interesting but not really that limiting for the next 3 years, and I do wish the Apple software would allow you to configure QOS and other Application level settings, but on the whole it looks good.

I'm still an ardent believer that wireless is the way to providing the better inhome and inpremises experience, and avoiding the need to haul wiring through the building, and as the turnover of WIFI chipsets continued to increase - the next round is 802.11ac, which eventually will be able to hit gigabit speeds - combined with improving aerial design mean that wireless really is a great way to go.

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antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
Wellington
New Zealand


Antonios has been actively employed in the IT & Technology sector since 1991, and has worked on many commercials projects and products in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. Working in product or actively managing programmes of work, he has always focused on building for the end customer, and not just promoting new technologies. Industry experience includes all telecommunications areas for business and private customers, private insurance, loyalty, media, energy and gambling. 

Since 2013, he has been involved with the development and launch of many popular smartphone applications in New Zealand, including

- TAB Mobile
- AMI & State Insurance digital experience
- Fly Buys
- Newshub for web and app
- Genesis Energy & Energy Online
- MyACC for Business

Genuinely passionate about technologies, internet and computing in general, he lives in the city he was born in - Wellington, New Zealand, the creative heart of hub of digital sector for the country.