Sounds music stores in liquidation - blames illegal music downloads

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 22-Nov-2007 07:54

For those who haven't kept up with the news in the past day or so on Tuesday Icon Digital Entertainment who own the Blockbuster Video store and Sounds Music store brands in New Zealand went into voluntary liquidation on Tuesday, the first such company to enter voluntary administration under new laws that came into effect on the 1st November.

What astounds me is that the company seems to only have one explanation for this situation - illegal music downloads are apparently damaging the music business so badly they were unable to continue trading.

What BS!

Somebody tell JB HiFi who are currently in the middle of a huge store rollout program in both New Zealand and Australia that the music industry is suffering and they'll laugh at you. There is plenty of money to be made selling music. If Sounds are so happy to blame illegal music downloads then why aren't they also blaming legal music downloads? The fact that it's illegal in NZ to rip a CD to an iPod leaves people with no choice but to buy music online if they want to legally listen to music on a portable device so logically they don't want to pay for music twice - once for their iPod and again for a CD. And what about their pricing? Who wants to pay $33.99 for a new release CD from a Sounds store when JB HiFi and The Warehouse can sell me the same product for somewehre around the $22 - $25 range? With the $US at it's current level it's also cheaper to buy CD's from the USA and ship them to NZ than to buy product from Sounds.

I'm sorry that your business failed guys but don't go blaming illegal music downloads. They are the least of your problems. Despite illegal downloads existing music company executivies are still waking up each morning and going to work and running extremtly profitable businesses and there are plenty of very music retailers such as JB HiFi who are doing extremely well even with legal music downloads now taking a huge chunk of the music market.

BP leads the way in ripping off Kiwi consumers

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 21-Nov-2007 17:22

The fear of their 12 month unbeaten record of having lead every petrol price increase coming to an end has today lead BP to yet again raise their petrol prices. Not happy with having sold diesel at 4c per litre more than all the other chains for the past 2 weeks they have today increased the price of both petrol and diesel by another 5c per litre with unleaded 91 now selling for 173.9 and diesel for 127.9

A quick survey on my way home shows that no other chains have yet followed.

BP have lead the way in the NZ fuel market and have been first to increase their price every time over the past 12 months. My quick market research shows the only times BP have been first to drop has been on the 6 occasions where their price increase has not been matched by competitors forcing BP to reduce their price.

BP have been selling diesel at 122.9 for over 2 weeks now whereas Shell, Mobil, Challenge and Caltex have all kept their price at 118.9 and not followed BP's increase. BP also raised their petrol prices by 5c per litre over the busy Labour Weekend period, again an increase that all other chains did not follow on.

If you're a BP customer I think you really need to ask yourself why you're supporting a company that takes pride in always being the first to raise prices and typically the last to drop them... Vote with your feet (and wallet) and go elsewhere. Don't give them your money. Boycott BP.

I'm now a VFX convert!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Nov-2007 17:35

I've been trialling VFX's Asterisk support for around a month now and have been so happy with it that today I ported my main phone number from iTalk across to VFX. Since I live in Wellington and have a TelstraClear Cable connection with no requirement for a landline a VoIP phone has been my only landline phone connection for over 18 months now and because of this uptime and voice quality are important to me. 

I'd been happy with iTalk up until their recent platform change which has caused their voice quality to turn to custard and they have also experienced several outages over recent weeks which was the final nail in the coffin. Porting was a painless exercise and so far the customer service from WorldxChange has been superb!

Keep up the good work guys!

KiwiBank - Your marketing sux0rs

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Nov-2007 09:05

This morning while driving into work from Lower Hutt into Wellington we were stuck in slow moving traffic from Maungaraki all the way through to the BP on Hutt Rd. Was there an accident? No. Road works? No. The idiots at KiwiBank had decided to hire a barge with a shipping container it on towed by a tug boat and tow it along side SH2 as a mobile advertising hoarding. This in turn caused a traffic jam as every idiot tried to read the sign.

Great marketing? Maybe. If I could read what it said. The text was so small I couldn't read anything that it said and I've also checked with a few other people who drove in this morning and nobody else knows either because of the size of the text!

Way to go KiwiBank. Waste your money with a billboard nobody can read while holding up the traffic. I certainly won't be moving my accounts any time soon.

Stuff's Poor Journalism

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Nov-2007 06:48

While looking at stuff this morning the headline screamed out at me

"Power outage blamed for 111 malfunction"

You could be mistaken for thinking that there was a failure of the 111 system couldn't you? But no there wasn't, all that happened was that one of the three communications centres for the Police and New Zealand Fire Service suffered a power fault last night which resulted in all calls being diverted to Wellington and all communications with Police and Fire being handled in Wellington. This is something that is planned for and regularly occurs during training for such an event.

There was no malfunction of the 111 service. There was a malfunction in the communication centre that handles Police and Fire communications.

Vodafone Roaming & Corporate Blogging

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 27-Oct-2007 08:09

Some people may think I hate Vodafone. Afterall I've posted numerous blog posts over the years picking holes in their website, IVR, pricing, products and strategies. In reality however Vodafone is a brand that I believe in and feel passionate about and would love to work for. It's just a shame that the Vodafone Group has a whole has never been able to fully take advantage of being a global player in the mobile marketplace and leverage the efficiencies that they should have leveraged from their size.

Over the past week there has been quite an active discussion on Geekzone in regards to Vodafone's new roaming pricing which has resulted in quite a large number of posts. Over at Rod Drury's blog there has been a similair discussion and in both cases many people have disagreed with factors of Vodafone's new policy. I am one of those people and have made my feelings present that I personally disagree with the new charges because of the big increases in roaming costs to Vodafone NZ's biggest roaming destination, Australia. We all know that roaming is a huge money spinners for mobile operators and that's precisely why the EU have mandated price drops among EU mobile operators for roaming calls. It's just a shame that Vodafone's price increase goes against many of the policies of ANZCERTA (NZ's free trade agreement with Australia).

Vodafone could have been leaders in the global roaming market instead of followers. Hutchinson have set the benchmark for everybody else by abandoning the concept of roaming surcharges and if you're a 3 customer roaming on another 3 network anywhere else in the world you have the benefits of paying no surcharges for incoming call forwarding, you can use included minutes and txt messages that are in your monthly bundles with no surcharges and also pay cheap prices for data while roaming (in the case of Vodafone Australia customers you pay A50c per MB while roaming). Why weren't Vodafone first to the market with such an innovative offering? Vodafone market themselves as being the world's largest Mobile Community but several years on from their OneVodafone pitch they are still no closer to being "One Vodafone".

What did impress me however was the response of Paul Brislen, Vodafone's PR man, who was actively posting on both Geekzone and Rod's blog. There are plenty of big NZ companies who are still scared of the internet and who don't seem to believe that being involved in online forums or blogging has a part to play in modern business when I believe that exactly the opposite applies. While it can be hard to defend a company you work for when people are attacking you Paul did a great job of this and while I'm still annoyed by their plans I at least feel better knowing that my comments were seen by somebody who could pass those comments on to the appropiate people and potentially make a difference. I believe that companies being involved in online discussions is fantastic and would love to see more of this in future as I believe that there is absolutely no harm in free and frank discussion in regards to a companies products and services. Do companies really know who their customers are and whether they're happy or simply believe that's the case? The same can be said for corporate blogging. The concept of customer newsletters has been around for decades and yet many companies seem scared of moving into the 21st century and involving the internet and customer discussion as part of their business. Why? One can only wonder...

Good on you Paul (and Alison), hopefully this is a sign of a things to come.

TV3 Sunrise spreading FUD.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 17-Oct-2007 08:27

I turned my TV on a few minutes ago to see James Coleman and Carly Flynn in their office with a woman talking about recycling and energy savings in the office. Along with the usual solutions such as turning off PC's and recycling goods was the claim (while pointing at the Dell LCD monitor) that black pixels use less energy than white pixels so having a black desktop background uses less energy and the woman refers to a site as proof of this. Unfortunately for her (and TV3) she's failed to check the full facts and infact many people listening to this advice will actually be increasing their energy consumption and not saving energy due to the differences between old CRT technology which has to use more power to create whites and LCD technology which has to use more power to create blacks.

Check out this detailed test

In summary

There’s no argument that on CRT monitors, Blackle does reduce the power consumption but it’s not by the 15-watts claimed. We tested the four CRT monitors we could get our hands on and found that only one unit, an older 22-inch Compaq, showed the 15-watts or more power differential.

But with the LCD monitor market penetration worldwide now beyond 75%, it’s the LCD monitor power consumption that’s just as, if not more, important.

The most interesting aspect we found was that of the LCD monitors we tested of size 22-inches or less, all showed an increase in power consumption using Blackle. Beyond the 22-inch mark however, five of the six models showed a fractional decrease in power consumption when using Blackle, except the ViewSonic VX2835wm, which showed a 2.2-watt increase.

For the five that dropped their power consumption, the average drop was 3.16-watts, again, not the 15-watts being suggested.

Just because you heard it on breakfast TV doesn't mean it's true! Smile

When will Vodafone NZ ever sort out their IVR?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Oct-2007 20:36

We all know Vodafone NZ have pretty sloppy systems and it's only thanks to the tireless work put in by fellow GZ readers that their website is accurate. It seems very much a coincidence that once issues are pointed out on here that they are fixed within minutes.

The test now will be to see how long it takes to fix these two issues, afterall one has now existed for 6 months and the other close to a year.

If a customer on You Choose rings 777 for an account balance and has TXT2000 you are told you have "x texts to 021/029 mobiles". Since the 1st of April this year when number portability was introduced into NZ 021 or 029 numbers are no longer guaranteed to be on network calls. Vodafone themselves are stuck in the dark ages and even spokeswoman Alison Skyora had this to say last week when a woman was charged $50 for a call to another 021 phone number that she belived was an on network call but infact was now an off network call to Telecom.

Vodafone head of communications Alison Sykora said her company had publicised the changes involved in portability, but it was ultimately the responsibility of phone owners to tell friends of their switch.

Hello? Anybody home at VF????? Did you publicise the change to your own staff, particularly the person responsible for managing the contact centre so the IVR could be updated? Or does the janitor update the IVR and somebody forgot to stick a message on the cleaners cupboard telling him to update the recording?Your IVR is still telling me I can send free TXT messages to an 021/029 mobile but in reality I'll be charged 20c for that TXT if it's to a ported 021 or 029 mobile. I begin to wonder if anybody at VF even realised portability has actually come into play, afterall they're not even interested in new customers porting to their network unless they want to go on a contract. Want to go on prepay? Nah we're not interested in your business.

Along with the inaccuracies with the TXT2000 balance if you're a customer who has the YourTime 200 addon (200 mins to another VF on network mobile) you're told that you have "x included included nights and weekends national minutes" (yes included is said twice). Most people would assume this means you have x included minutes to call a number anywhere in NZ. In reality it means you have "x minutes to another VF on network mobile" but you're just supposed to know that and actually ignore the voice message.

Way to go VF, still as disfunctional as ever. If this is fixed by Wednesday night I'll be full of praise for you. The fact it's been broken for so long however I doubt it'll be the case.


When is a special not a special? When you're Harvey Norman!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Oct-2007 12:30

While driving to work this morning I couldn't help but notice a Harvey Norman ad on the radio promoting their weekend specials, included in this were Nokia N95's for $300 off. I stopped in Harvey Norman on my way home to pick something else up (I don't actually need a new N95!) and couldn't help but look to see how many they had instock, afterall $300 off is a huge saving. A quick glance at the phone cabinet shows N95's with the Vodafone price tag of $999 and apparently the $300 off is the drop in RRP from $1299 to $999. Considering the drop in RRP was weeks ago this could probably be seen as a case of bait marketing or misleading advertising. Every other retailer will be selling N95's for $999 so there is no saving.

If anybody's up for a bit of a fight this weekend and wants a new phone then stop by your local HN. If you complain to the commerce commission I'm sure you'll get your phone for $699! :-)

New Vodafone works 'round here advertising campaign

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Oct-2007 11:00

Reading the Dominion Post today I couldn't but notice the first ad of a new Vodafone advertising campaign promoting their coverage. It features a satellite image of a location with the world "Vodafone works 'round here" plastered over the top.

How ironic then that this ad features an image of the Kapiti Coast with parts of Paraparaumu Beach and Waikanae - places that Vodafone coverage is abysmal. Vodafone's Waikanae Cellsite on Forest Heights has been a dog since BellSouth first installed it and the Ngarara Site has improved coverage into Waikanae Beach but our holiday house and surrounding area still has terrible coverage both indoor and outdoor.

It also shows a section of SH1 between Paraparaumu and Waikanae where calls are virtually guaranteed to drop, again due to the poor performance of the Forest Heights site.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at