Xtra customer no more

, posted: 28-Nov-2006 11:12

Further to the saga I posted about yesterday, I again tried uploading an updated website last night.

Again, trying to upload the same tiny files (1kb up to 48 kb) was constantly failing.  I literally spent hours trying to upload the files.  At one stage the winds seemed to be blowing right and I managed to upload eight or nine files without problems.  However I was completely unable to upload the other files using HTTP Post (through the hosts control panel) or FTP (commandline or not).

This morning I tried again, still no go, so I dumped the files onto a USB key and brought them into work.

I logged onto the control panel front end and selected multiple files to upload, clicked the submit button and viola!  IT JUST WORKS!

So what was the difference?  Simple - Here at work we DONT use Xtra broad(yeah right) band.

I'm not one for complaining much, I tend to live with little problems and work around them, and I'm not one for making dramatic announcements, but the Xtra Go Large plan has caused me to loose sleep (3 hours trying (unsuccessfully) to upload 80kb to a server??), get frustrated and eventually give up.

I'm switching to Orcon.  Bye bye Xtra.  I'm going where I can get the service I'm paying for.

Thanks to Brad for the suggestion!

UMPC's coming to NZ

, posted: 27-Nov-2006 21:39

I just got word from Hugo that he's signed a deal with an unnamed New Zealand distributor to resell UMPC's here in New Zealand.

He wouldn't tell me who it was, but very soon we will be able to buy TabletKiosks, Samsung Q1 UMPC's and Fujitsus Ultra portables.

Interesting.  It will be good to get all the accessories, etc here in NZ... not to mention the ability to buy them here.

Xtra Broadband - it now officially sucks!

, posted: 27-Nov-2006 07:59

I've used Xtra for yearas, their broadband hasn't been too bad for my purposes - sure it hasn't been as fast as Saturn/Telstra's cable connection, but its generally been quite useable.

Until it was unleashed.

The service Xtra broadband has offered since it was unleashed is nothing short of appalling. 

For two days in the week after the "unleashed" it was unusable.  The connection was so slow that it was literally unusable.  Enter a URL wait and it would time out with a DNS error.  On occaission I'd be able to resolve the DNS name but the site would time out having only retrieved the header of the web page.

This was particularly frustrating when you are trying to work from home.  I called the help desk and they told me that the engineers knew about the problem and would contact me via email when it was resolved (yeah right).  A couple of days later and it came back again to a useable state.

I've also been testing a website I've been building lately.  I've had a couple of people testing the work I've done via a DDNS based connection - problem is that the upstream connection speed is at best of variable quality.  Often the page just times out, and on occaision people can actually connect.

Fine - I'm not supposed to be able to run a webserver anyway (although its not like its public).

Yesterday I tried uploading pages for a site up to the production web server (from home to the internet) and the connection again became a problem. One file which was slightly larger (48kb) continually kept timing out.  The other files (varying between 5-7kb) were very slow.

I also want to upload a 10Mb file to the site - but could I do that over Xtra broadband? Not a chance!  Multiple attempts, from a couple of machines failed.  Watching the file upload on the server is like watching grass growing.  After 5 minutes it has uploaded a whopping 32kb to the server!!!

I see that the Consumers institute has some issues with Xtra's traffic management.  I agree completely.  I think that in addition to limiting the upload speed via the router settings, I suspect that they are packet shaping P2P technologies (Foldershare is awful at the moment) and the type of upstream connections (i.e. HTTP GET/Post are fine, but FTP is not).  This quote seems to ring particularly true...
"The Consumers' Institute was also concerned that Xtra's traffic management negated its claims of maximum speeds."

Telecom - I'm over your broad(not) band. 

TELSTRA - I really need a real internet connection - PLEASE PUT COAX TO MY HOUSE!  I'd almost pay for it myself!

If I can't get a decent upstream connection soon, I'll consider switching to a VODEM with HSDPA and ditching my  home phone altogether.

I'm off to find a cafenet connection to upload my files through....

NZ$100 gets you Windows Aero

, posted: 20-Nov-2006 19:48

I've had the RTM release of Vista installed on my home computer for two weeks now. 

It's been running really well, but my computer had an old Radeon 9200SE based video card which only offered DirectX 8.1 support and thus prevented me from getting Windows Aero running on the computer.  So over the weekend I decided to do something about it.  Actually, I'd been thinking about it for a while...

So I had a look around on some of the local sites for something that supported DirectX9 and thus Aero.  Prices are actually not too bad - unless you are a gamer.  For something basic that does work with Aero, you can get them new starting at around NZ$120 (US$65).

Wanting to be cheap, I headed off to TradeMe, where I found a ATI Radeon 9550 with a buy now of $100 (the auction start price was the same as the buy now price), so I bought it.

Today I picked it up and installed it.  Windows Vista detected the card and installed the drivers for it automatically, after a reboot, I increased the screen resolution and turned on Aero.

My Windows Experience rating was sitting at 1.0 due to the gaming graphics of the old card.  The Windows Aero rating was 1.9.  After the upgrade it jumped to 3.3 and 3.5 respectively.  Not stellar, but enough for Aero!

So - if your computer doesn't support Windows Aero, chances are that you are only $100 away from fixing it.  Not only that, but it could be an easy way to increase the Windows Experience rating too.

Tags: , ,

Local coverage and a Vista TIP tip

, posted: 17-Oct-2006 22:05

We've had some local UMPC coverage here in NZ.

Rod did, as did Tim.

I agree with Tim.  This device is great for a secondary PC, I dont use mine for things like coding (painful with a pen), but its great for reading and surfing on.

In Vista there are new controls in the TIP (TIP = Tablet Input Panel) for getting webpages up.  You now have a button for the "http://" and another button for "www.".  If you set your local for NZ you also get ".co" and ".nz" buttons as well as the ".com" button, so to go to a webpage using the TIP you just hit the "http://" and the "www." buttons, write in the domain name and hit the appropriate TLD buttons and you are done.  Simple and nice.

Upgrading the EO to RC2

, posted: 16-Oct-2006 07:49

This weekend I upgraded the EO to RC2 of Windows Vista.

Rather than do a full reinstall I decided to see what the upgrade experience was like since Vista is able to upgrade from RC1 to RC2 and the full install cycle (what again!?) didn't thrill me.

Firstly if you dont know, upgrading Windows Vista is MUCH slower than installing from scratch.  A full install from scratch can be as little as 20-30 mins, where a upgrade may take three hours.  However, the time difference in theory should save the hours of reinstalling applications on the other side.

The upgrade itself went smoothly. No problems encountered at all. 

Once done I noticed that the display drivers had been updated, and that this was a bad thing (800x600 means screen panning on an EO).

I also noticed that the drivers for the buttons had been broken.

In both cases I just installed the drivers from the CD that came with the EO and everything worked as it should.

I was surprised to see that the digitiser didn't break at all.  The calibration seems better after the install than it was before the install.

I also installed RC2 on my home computer (blowing away the really old XP install).

Getting Vista going on the EO

, posted: 30-Sep-2006 12:22

Today I finally got Vista running on my Eo.

I had a crack at it last weekend and ran into some problems, but after some internal discussion and addition testing by the Origami team I've now got it going (thanks guys).

So here is my step by step....

I've used build 5728 (post RC1), but these should work fine on RC1 too.

Start by attaching a USB DVD Drive with the install CD and boot from the DVD to run the installer as per any normal install.

After the install you'll find that sound and bluetooth drivers are loaded.  Vista can support the VX700 chipset, but the final drivers are not yet in Vista.

The first thing I did after the install was complete is install the WiFi drivers.  I downloaded the updated drivers from TabletKiosks website and put them on a USB key.  To install the WiFi drivers you need to run the installer with the Windows XP compatibility flag on and run as administrator.  Plug the USB key into the EO and extract the setup.exe file somewhere.  Right click on the setup.exe file and select properties.  Select the compatibility tab and tick the box to run the program in compatibility mode, then click OK.  Next right click on the setup.exe file and select "Run as Administrator".  Follow the prompts as usual to install the drivers.

Once the WiFi drivers are installed reboot.

After the reboot, you can run windows update to install touch screen drivers and a few other updates that are available on Windows Update.

Once the touch screen is functioning you'll find that the calibration is way off.  When your finger is at the top of the screen the pointer will be about 1cm below it, likewise at the bottom of the screen the pointer will be 1cm above your finger.  You can try to calibrate the screen but you wont be able to touch the crosshairs, and will get feedback to let you know you are too far away from the crosshair.

To fix that, you'll need to run a command prompt as administrator.  Right click on the desktop and choose new -> shortcut.  Enter cmd.exe as the location and name it as CMD or something similar.  Close the wizard.  Then right click on the command prompt and choose "Run as Administrator". 

In the elevated command prompt type "tabcal novalidate", and run through the calibration as normal.  Once done your touch will be precise. 

I particularly like the little mouse that allows you to right click.

To get the buttons running I used the Amtek lifestyle button drivers that came on the CD.  These installed fine.

The display driver that comes from windows update doesn't work with the lifestyle button drivers, but installing the drivers that came with the unit sorted this out and work fine on Vista.

The only minor issue is that when I use the lifestyle button to change the screen brightness I get a UAC prompt, but given I dont use it much, its not much of a problem.  Obviously the touchpack isn't installed so the touchpack driver doesn't do anything either.

So - having done all this, I now have a fully functional EO running Vista build 5728.  The device is pretty snappy - certainly no worse than XP - possibly better, but I haven't loaded any apps yet (apart from Anti-virus).

I hope this helps those of you wanting to setup Vista on your EO.  I think its well worth while :-)

On fingerprint readers and raw grunt

, posted: 27-Aug-2006 07:45

I noticed on the Geekzone page that announces the R2H that Kevin said he'd rather not have the Fingerprint reader, but instead he'd rather have a better CPU and RAM.

On one hand I agree that more RAM and a quicker CPU would be great, but also think that the fingerprint reader is more valuable than it may first appear.

Having now owned a UMPC for over a month, logging on is often quite painful if you want to protect your login with a user name and password.  This is a slate tablet thing in my opinion.  Its great to have the little keyboard that you can tap away at, but if you tend to use larger passwords (which I do) entering a password at every power on by tapping keyboard is quite frustrating.  A fingerprint reader would be a great addition and IMHO should be a must for all UMPC designers.

Having said that - I do agree that more memory in particular is a must.  I've got 512 Mb in mine and its not enough.  I need more.

I have other things I'd like to see improved too many of which will be better in the Vista timeframe, but for now, I'm happy that I've got a form factor that works well for my needs.

My Secret is out - here are my thoughts

, posted: 26-Jul-2006 20:24

Mauricio "leaked" my secret a few days ago - I got an Eo.

So far I love it!

When I cancelled my initial Eo order I had a think about what I wanted to do with it and came up with two primarly scenarios.

Firstly, I've taken to taking lots of notes when I go to meetings, and as wonderful as paper is, I really love OneNote - so much so that it's my favourite Microsoft Application.  Here's why (in a nutshell):
  • Handwrite your notes on a Tablet PC or type them on any PC
  • You can search your handwritten notes
  • You can convert you handwriting to text
  • You can take screen captures without having to load new software
  • You can record audio while taking notes and then playback the audio from the point where you took any particular note (very cool).
  • You can store pretty much anything in it
  • Its file based and works well with Foldershare

So - the Eo for taking notes is great.  My only complaint in this area is that the battery doesn't last all day, and in a device with this form factor I would use it all day if I could.  I do get 2.5 hours out of it under normal use (with the screen backlight turned down a bit), and the extended battery will help too, but going from a Pocket PC you just get used to long batteries - and the scenarios for a UMPC are different than a Laptop or Tablet due to their size.

The other key scenario for me is e-books.  I spend lots of time preparing to lead a Bible Study, and Logos on a UMPC is awesome.  Now I have over 300 books available with me wherever I go.  Very cool and a great time saver.

Also, I got a nice little geek bag for it which means it doesn't even look like I'm carrying a tech toy - which is great - and even drew comments from one of the managers in the Mobile and Embedded Division (nice swag...).

Securing your mobile enterprise with Credant

, posted: 31-May-2006 07:05

I've written a review of Credant Mobile Guardians Enterprise security product.  CMG offers a unified secure environment across Windows Mobile, Palm, Blackberry, Windows desktops and servers.
The article will be published in the August edition of Smartphone and PocketPC Magazine.  If you want to read it, either buy the mag or check out the online version published on Geekzone.

darrylb's profile

Darryl Burling
New Zealand

Officially my homepage on the web is at www.burling.co.nz.

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Software on my Pocket PC

Laridian Pocket Bible
SPB AirIslands
Ilium eWallet
Ilium ListPro