Are Party Pills really more dangerous that Alcohol?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Sep-2007 10:10

The party pill debate and ban imposed by out of touch MP Jim Anderton shows no sign of going away. Liquor outlets in Manukau City have been told over the weekend to stop selling party pills or face losing their liquor licence.

Hello? Anybody home? It's fine to sell one mind altering drug that has strong links to domestic violence, motor vehicle accidents and unlawful behaviour but it's not OK to sell the other?

I don't agree with party bills and have never taken them but am not anti party pills. I have friends who take them regularly and they go out clubbing, don't drink, and have a great time. I have friends who go out, drink, get into fights and spend the next day ill in bed. Which is the better of the two? Alcohol causes far more problems in our society and yet apart from restrictions on it's sale from licenced premises and only to those over 18 no other restrictions exist. We have a teenage drinking culture in NZ that's getting worse by the day (in part because it's not illegal for those under 18 to actually consume alcohol) and levels of domestic voilence that should be shaming us as a country. 

Obviously banning party pills is far more important for our politicians.. Yeah right.

VoIP over WiFi + Dysfunctional hotspot market = ?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 9-Sep-2007 19:43

I purchased a Nokia E65 in April primarily because I wanted to play with the WiFi and VoIP capabilities of this device. So far this had been limited to using my phone at home as a cordless phone and testing it over various connections in NZ. While I was in Australia last month I spent a fair bit of time playing with my Nokia E65 connecting via both Telstra and Azure WiFi hotspots. Connecting to my Asterisk box at home is great, I can make calls as though I’m at home and only be paying for internet charges (around A$6.60 per hour with Azure). Call quality has been perfect using both providers and VoIP over WiFi is a great solution for bypassing the high roaming costs charged by mobile networks. But is it a replacement for your cellphone? The simple answer is no.


We’ve been hearing for years that VoIP over WiFi would kill off cellphones. Anybody who still believes this needs to get a grip on reality and accept that this is nothing but a dream. With the exception of the few large scale WiFi Networks (such as The Cloud in London) WiFi networks just can’t achieve an acceptable level of coverage to ever have a chance of doing this and people don’t want to walk around a city looking for a hotspot that they can use their phone from. Pricing is a significant issue with most hotspots offerering time based charging which may be fine for web browsing but if you want to use a VoIP solution or a instant messenger application then paying hourly rates while your connection is idle can prove rather expensive. Data based charging solves this problem but has the potential to drive down the average hourly revenue generated by a hotspot. In the world of broadband however nobody ever pays their ISP hourly rates for a broadband service so why should the hotspot market be any different? Flat rate charging is possibly the solution to the problem, but more about that later.


Hotspot operators also haven’t yet overcome the most basic of problems – that 99% of hotspots use a web based interface for user authentication. Even if you are in a good coverage area trying to open up a web browser on a small cellphone or PDA screen to enter your login details is just a horrible end user experience. The solution to this is simple – use a protocol such as 802.1x EAP or WISPr to authenticate end users without them having to login manually to the hotspot. EAP simply hasn’t taken off in the hotspot world but Boingo, FON & iPass have all adopted WISPr and and any hotspot that is a partner network supports for these supports WISPr - the problem however is that most hotspots only support WISPr for their Boingo & iPass logins and not their own customer base. I have a piece of  3rd party software on my phone called SmartConnect which supports WISPr for hotspot logins however I’ve so far been unable to test this because neither Azure or Telstra support WISPr for their own user accounts and in New Zealand neither CafeNet or Telecom’s WiFi hotspots support this either. Even Steve from Tomizone has commented  that he would love an application for his new Apple iPhone to automatically connect to a TomiZone Hotspot. Everybody seems to acknowledge that this is a problem but why is a solution taking so long?

Nokia have chosen to support various 802.1x EAP methods of user authentication in their S60 firmware but have so far ignored WISPr. Both iPass and Boingo have also announced Symbian S60 based client software however while iPass issued a press release over a year ago saying that a Symbian S60 client was being launched but trying to get your hands on this is another story. Boingo are currently beta testing a Symbian S60 client which will work with their Boingo Mobile service, a flat rate US$7.95 per month service that offers unlimited VoIP and internet access from a Smartphone or PDA using any of their worldwide hotspots. Looking at it the Boingo Mobile deal has the potential to finally bring VoIP over WiFi to the masses. The Netgear WiFi Skype phone has Boingo software embedded in it and Boingo is trying to establish partnerships with manufacturers to embed their hotspot software into products which allows users to simply stroll up to a Boingo hotspot and their device will automatically connect to the internet with no requirement to manually enter user details. Kodak have had Boingo support in several of their WiFi capable cameras for some time now allowing easy transfer of data from any Boingo hotspot anywhere in the world.


This leads on to the next issue – how do any of the small standalone hotspot operators who are starting up today really think they can make money? Sure, there will always be a market for a hotel or café to have it’s own private WiFi system offering internet access and many of these are probably delivering a tidy profit. As an end user however I want a single login that works when I’m at a hotspot which is exactly what large global networks such as iPass and Boingo are offering. By being an aggregator and partnering with WiFi operators around the world they no longer need to spend large amounts of money rolling out their own hotspots but relying on WiFi network operators to partner with and delivering end users to those partner networks. iPass and Boingo differ significantly in that iPass is a true roaming network where you use your existing ISP’s login to connect to hotspots (and dialup) connections any pay an hourly rate for access. Boingo charges a flat monthly fee for access to the Boingo network with some restrictions in place preventing excess downloads from single hotspots and per minute surcharges that exist on some partner networks.


 I can hear people saying now that this is just rubbish but people said the same thing about roaming between GSM networks in the early days. If companies such as Boingo manage to start embedding their software in large numbers of WiFi devices then choosing to ignore partnering with large scale aggregators such as iPass or Boingo is a decision that’s going to seriously cripple your business and really does kill the whole concept of having affordable internet anywhere and everywhere.


I was going to talk about the concept of Muni WiFi networks and why they’re nothing but a bad business model but I’ll save that for another day..


DSE offering 15% off new iPod models

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Sep-2007 08:43

If you're in the market for a new iPod checkout 

If you preorder a new iPod you'll get 15% off the price this weekend only. No sign of the iPod touch yet though as it's not due for release until late September.

Telecom reduces the cost of landline to mobile calling.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 3-Sep-2007 15:16

Big news from Telecom this afteroon.

Telecom have just announced reductions in their landline to mobile calling rates.

What fantastic news!


That's sensational I hear you say!

I knew that reducing MTR's would make my calls cheaper I hear you say!


Telecom's Anytime rate has now dropped from 71c per minute to 67c per minute!

Is this some kind of April fools joke? Are Telecom trying to star on a Tui billboard?

How can you justify a 4c reduction in your Anytime calling rates when the 71c rate was set 16 years ago when mobile termination rates were set at around 45c per minute? That's MTR's are now 20c per minute and falling and all you can do is cut 4c per minute off? How pathetic.

Dodgy Brother Printers

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 3-Sep-2007 14:06

Reading Stuff this morning I came across a story "Fault dogs NZ printer owners" which talks about the known issues with Brother inkjet printers and fax machines coming up with a Error 41 code indicating a failed printhead. It amazes me that these problems are still continuing and that Brother have done nothing about this. I blogged about this a year ago and yet Brother seem to have done very little despite a known problem with their printers.

It would probably pay to avoid any Brother printers while Brother still want to act like this and try and deny there really is an issue.


Are NSW Police duping the media in the leadup to APEC?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 2-Sep-2007 19:16

Anybody who's followed the news in the past 24 hours would be aware of the APEC conference that is about to start in Sydney. Australian media have also been leading with a story raising security fears for the APEC conference due to the theft of 3 Police radios in recent weeks.,23599,22345160-2,00.html


Now lets look at the radio system used by the NSW Police. It's an APCO 25 digital network that supports encryption with the appropiate radios. Radios are "keyed" with an algorithm to decode the encrypted radio traffic which prevents unauthorised people from listening into the system. One of the best features of APCO 25 over other digital systems is it's OTAR - Over The Air Rekeying. Unlike older digital encryption systems where radios had to be rekeyed by individually programming each radio this system allows rekeying of radios over the common air interface. This means that if a radio is stolen or lost then all of the radios on the network can be rekeyed and the missing radios removed from the system which renders them useless.

Either the NSW Police want the media to feed on this story as added justification for their security crackdown since stolen radios would seem to pose a credible security threat or the NSW Police have idiots running their radio network.

Shane Warne's list of the top 50 greatest cricketers

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 30-Aug-2007 19:55

From The Times in the UK comes Warne's list of top 50 all time cricketers. I guess the big unanswered question will be whether he rates himself as number 1 - he hasn't mentioned himself yet in this countdown and he's already at 20! :-)

Good on ya Warnee, you're still a legend in the making!

Future Proofing your house

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 27-Aug-2007 08:54

Mauricio blogged about Telecom's NGN this morning and the discussed the issue of power failures affecting VoIP. Whereas traditional POTS/PSTN phones are powered by the switch in a VoIP environment your internet connection and phones are powered by your household power which means that if you're not running your equipment on a UPS you face an outage during power cuts.

Telecom's Trinity Project is the replacement of the existing POTS network with a 100% VoIP solution meaning that somewhere within the next 5-7 years every household in the country will be using a VoIP solution for their home phone as the existing NEC NEAX switches are retired. There is no need to replace your existing phone or household wiring as you will be able to continue to use your existing phones and an ATA which will convert your regular phone to function as a VoIP phone. People who do want to upgrade however will be able to use true VoIP phones which will offer enhanced features & functionality.

Anybody who's building a new house or modernising their house should make this Telecom PTC106
 essential reading. If you're building a new house you should be future proofing your house now. If your electrician wants to run regular phone cable and had no idea what the word structured cabling means then find a new one who does. Running structured cabling also doesn't need to cost the earth - I've run cabling in two new houses for friends lately and with a box of cat5e cable only costing around $130 for a 305m box and RG6 cable at less than $1 per metre for triple shielded it's not a huge expense. There are plenty of custom home structured cabling systems available but beware of paying big $$ to get the same solution.

Since I'm 100% VoIP at home I have a patch panel in the hallway cupboard with a 24 port switch, cable modem and Linksys PAP2 all powered off a UPS. I have 12 jackpoints around the house and my Linksys SPA921 VoIP phones and single cordless phone all run off their own standalone plug packs but I will soon be building my own PoE injectors to run my SPA921's since these phones don't support the PoE standard.

Funny of the day

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 26-Aug-2007 18:19

Spotted in the local Countdown supermarket today

Who cares where John Key lives?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 23-Aug-2007 12:07

Honestly, does anybody care?

How about sorting our our 3rd world health system Mr Hodgson instead of wasting all your time being obsessed by everybody else. Companis who obsess themselves about what everybody else is doing rather than focusing on their own ideas normally self destruct and go bust. The current Labour government is heading down that very same path.

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