Why Corrections have got it all wrong jamming cellphones.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 23-Aug-2007 10:52

So corrections want to install cellphone jammers in prisons to stop prisoners making calls? This is an issue I spent some time discussing yesterday afternoon with a friend who had done some brief work on cellphone jamming in NZ a while back when corrections first proposed installing equipment into prisons. The technology can work in some circumstances but can also prove unreliable. What it doesn't deal with however is the issue of blocking WiFi signals. With the number of cellphones now with VoIP and WiFi capabilities the move by corrections to install cellphone jamming equipment is going to about as effective as giving somebody a two roadcones to block a road. It will stop some people but anybody who has a brain (ie many prisoners) will realise an exploit to get around the system is dead easy.

Firstly smuggle your WiFi/VoIP capable Nokia phone or Netgear Skype phone into a prison (very easy). Next your mate parks outside with a WiFi AP hooked up to a cellphone (again very easy) and before you know it you're connected to the real world again. Simple isn't it. I wonder why not a single person at corrections was aware of such an exploit? They're going to waste $5 million of taxpayers money on a system that will have exploits from day one.

It reminds me of their stupid system about 10 years ago were prisoners were only able to dial fixed nominated numbers from the prison payphones. They would nominate friend X on number 1234567 and were free to call them. Corrections spent a lot of money implimenting this rock solid system to discover that some smart people realised if you rang your nominated mate he could put his phone on divert to another number and talk to anybody they wanted.

Bruce over at Aarkvark has also posted about the issue of cellphones in prison and has a few comments  in regards to it.

The NZ economy is kaput?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Aug-2007 16:50

Our currency is in meltdown.

Currently falls 3c against the $US in a single day and almost 1.5c against the A$.

My New Years prediction this year was that the NZ economoy would be buggered by October/November and we'd be in a near recession. It looks like it's actually occuring a little earlier.

What's going to happen to house prices and interest rates now when our banks no longer have cheap money to loan? What's going to happen to inflation as the cost of petrol and imported goods starts to sky rocket? 

Petrol prices in NZ

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Aug-2007 08:33

Has anybody else noticed that despite our dollar dropping by 10c compared to the US$ in the past two weeks that the price of unleaded has stayed at 153.9 per litre? I smell something a little fishy here, the main fuel players in NZ normally raise their prices pretty quickly when our dollar starts going downward or oil prices start fluctuating. The only assumption I can make is that they're been ripping us off so much in the past few months they can afford to sustain their current price point.

The Warehouse, The Warehouse, where everyone gets a bargain...Sometimes

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 12-Aug-2007 19:19

We all know that The Warehouse is a retail giant in NZ. It's also a very poorly run company that could certainly benefit with a supermarket chain owning it (both Foodstuffs and Woolworths are interested) because they simply have no idea in the world when it comes to running an efficient retail operation.

I'm sure everybody who reads this will have had many experiences with prices at the till differing from the prices on the product, parimarily because in this day in age The Warehouse are still obsessed by pricing goods with pricing guns - a manual process that uses precious time and is completely unnecessary considering the goods are scanned at checkout anyway!

I couldn't help but notice this U2 Vertigo DVD while I was browing the DVD stands today. Around 15 copies of the DVD had signs of 3 or 4 price stickers on them. Staff have had to waste time pricing goods, repricing them when the price changed, obviously attempt to remove those 2 tags, reprice the DVD at $22.99 and then finally reduce it to $18.99

With inefficient business practices like this it's no wonder the company is performing so poorly.

RIANZ don't really want you to listen to music.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 11-Aug-2007 10:47

I'm sure plenty of people on here would have been following the saga of NZ's updated copyright laws that will probably be passed in the next few months. Amongst other things this update could possibly legalise format shifting a CD to your iPod and recording a TV show on your VCR, providing you delete it within a few days. Keep it any longer (even if you haven't watched it) and you'll be breaking the law.

it was interesting to read the Herald story today and the comments from Campbell Smith, CEO of RIANZ.

Recording Industry Association chief executive Campbell Smith said most companies already turned a blind eye to personal copying, and association members had never taken legal action to prevent people taking copies for personal use.

"I think that's fair. You buy something for your own use and that's how it should be. We are in the business of trying to sell people music, not trying to prevent them doing what is reasonable."

When then did RIANZ then oppose format shifting in all of their submissions to the MED when the initial discussion papers were distributed?

RIANZ strongly opposes the proposal in the Position Paper to introduce a new format shifting exemption into the Act. In RIANZ's view, there is no need or economic justification for the introduction of a format shifting exception for sound recordings. The effect of such an exemption would simply be a green light for wholesale unauthorised copying and would effectively destroy the efforts of the industry within New Zealand to fight existing rampant piracy and educate the public as to the value of copyright. The introduction of such an exemption would send a confusing signal to the public, particularly young people. It would be impossible to convey a message that piracy harms right holders when users would be able to legally make copies of music in their own homes. It would also make taking action against known pirates so much more difficult that it currently is. More importantly, the introduction of a private copying exemption would be completely inconsistent with the government's initiatives to nurture and grow the music industry within New Zealand. Furthermore, the Ministry has not identified an economic justification or sufficient public policy reason for such an exemption and it is difficult to see how then it would satisfy the copyright framework articulated by the Ministry in both the Discussion Paper and the Position Paper.

I won't bother rambling on any more about RIANZ or the big music companies - we know they're dinosaurs stuck in the dark ages who need to get a grip on reality.

Warehouse Stationery's so called specials.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 7-Aug-2007 18:05

Reading the junk mail today I couldn't help but notice Warehouse Stationery are claiming they are "taking a byte out of prices".. Or maybe that should be taking a bite out of your wallet.

Advertised on the front page is a Philips 19" Widescreen Monitor & Philips VOIP 433 Skype phone combo. This is a super special bundle that is advertised for $499 and will save you a whopping $279.

That's a deal almost too good to be true!

Now lets have a look at the going rate elsewhere on Pricespy.co.nz

Philips VOIP433 phones - first 4 prices are $76.50, $77.63, $112.15 and $112.50 (you're too expensive Brad!)

Philips 19" Monitor - first 4 prices are $310.01, $312.75, $313.00 and $325.13

So if you shop elsewhere you can pick up the exact same goods from a single retailer and pay $386.51 - add on freight and credit card surcharge and you'll still save yourself over $100. I'd love to see them explain to the commerce commission exactly how I could save $279 buying the goods at their store.

             "Warehouse Stationery, Why Pay Full Price" 

I didn't realise they were telling me to go elsewhere.

Country of Origin Labelling

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 2-Aug-2007 18:35

I posted a blog entry several weeks ago about Country of Origin Labelling on food which is available here

The Green party have today launched a nationwide campaign calling for compulsary country of origin labelling on food. I am by no means a Green Party fan (I wouldn't vote for them if you paid me) or even a fan of Sue Kedgley but this is an issue that I feel strongly about and I encourage everybody to sign the petition that the Green party have launched. Surely being able to clearly see that a product is NZ Made and being able to support NZ manufacturers isn't an unreasonable request?

The only thing that annoys me about the Green Party campaign is that they seem to specifically mentioning that we should have country of origin labelling so we can avoid products made in China which is just wrong. Just because something is made in China doesn't automatically make it bad. In a few years time they will be a world superpower..

Bollard raises OCR by .25

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 26-Jul-2007 09:22

As expected Reserve Bank Govenor Alan Bollard has just raised the official cash rate by .25% to 8.25%

Country of origin labelling on food

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 17-Jul-2007 11:19

New Zealand and Australia signed a joint memorandum in the mid 90's signalling the creating of ANZFA, an organisation that has since been renamed FSANZ (Food Standards Australia new Zealand) who's responsibility it was to develop and impliment joint food standards in both countries. This is something that's extremely logical and the fact so many suppliers in this part of the world have products in both countries it meant that the development of ingredient and nutritional panels on foods would be easier since both countries would have the same standard. This system has worked very well with the implimentation of compulsary ingredient and nutitional labelling over the past few years.

Over the past couple of years however things have started to go off track, we've had the current saga of the complementary medicines act which is likely to be be passed in Australia and canned in NZ but lets ignore that and focus on other issue where NZ has differed - country of origin labelling on foodstuffs.

In Australia it's soon going to be compulsary to include the country of origin on all food products. While a large percentage of food already mentions this it's was not required by law and companies had no obligation to include this information. All food products will require to have this information on the packaging including fruit & vegetables, meat and seafood. Australia adopted this however our Food Safety Minister Annette King decided this was not in the best interests of NZ on the grounds that it was not a Food Safety issue but simply an issue of consumer information. Several  groups in NZ were strongly against this bill including Federated Farmers who believed there was no need for such labelling. The irony of this is that our own farmers are suffering due to cheap foreign meat being imported into NZ and sold at a retail level with consumers being totally oblivious to this. If meat had to have country of origin labelling you would at least be giving consumers a choice between imported or domestic products. How they could possibly object to a law that would force retailers to show the country of origin of meat completely baffles me.

Recent cases of dodgy Chinese seafood and dodgy toothpaste shows how out of touch Annette King is. Whether these products are safe or not is irrelevant. Consumers have a right to know where their food is manufacturered so they can make appropiate decisions for themselves. Maybe people want to avoid food from a country such as China? Maybe people just want to know if their food is made in NZ so they can support locally made products? Annette King's claim that country of origin labelling was in no way related to food safety has now been proven totally innacurate so it's about time we reviewed this stupid decision not to join Australia in enforcing country of origin labelling.

If you are serious about knowing where your food comes from make sure you write to your local MP and suggest that her stupid decision be over turned. Knowing where our food comes from is a basic right.

Is Ernie Newman for real?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Jun-2007 14:46

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the Dominion Post this morning. According to our out of touch TUANZ CEO Ernie Newman some people are paying 71c per minute for calls from landlines to mobile phones and if you’re to believe Ernie this high cost is a direct result of both Telecom and Vodafone charging excessive rates for call termination.


Termination rates are a major component of retail fixed to mobile calls and a reason we are paying silly prices of 71c per minute for a call from home to a cellphone.


Excuse my language but what the hell are you smoking Ernie?


Both Vodafone and Telecom have cut their interconnection rates considerably over the past few years and the cost of calls from landlines to mobile phones has dropped for many users. The problem has nothing to do with interconnection rates, it’s solely a case of telcos making excessive retail margins on calls from landlines to mobile phones. There are plenty of providers now offering call rates from as low as 25c per minute upwards with many customers now paying somewhere between 30c – 35c per minute for calls. Why is it that Telecom still have a base rate of 71c per minute for calls to mobiles? When this rate was set in the late 80’s the term interconnection agreement didn’t exist as their where no other toll providers and it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that you were able to make non coded calls to mobile phones using a provider other than Telecom. Off the top of my head the interconnection rates were set at around 45c per minute at this time for both Telecom and BellSouth.


I’m sorry Ernie but you’re barking up the wrong tree here and so was the Commerce Commission when they tried to enforce lower interconnection rates. Unlike mobile networks in countries without calling party pays most mobile networks in countries with CPP regard this revenue stream as a very valuable source of income. Cut these interconnection rates and mobile operators simply gather that revenue from other parts of the business by way of higher costs for mobile originated calls so at the end of the day nobody really wins. While mobile operators were forced to cut their interconnection rates there is nobody out there forcing toll providers to cut their margins on calls to mobile phones which is the precise reason Telecom can still get away with charging 71c per minute to call a mobile. Don’t go blaming Vodafone for a problem that has nothing to do with them. Vodafone argued to the Commerce Commission that lowering interconnection rates wouldn’t necessarily result in those savings being passed on to the end consumer and it’s now obvious that this is precisely what has happened. Why not start targeting individual toll providers who are charging excessive rates and who haven’t reduced their rates despite paying lower wholesale prices? They truly are the cause of the problem.



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 stevenbiddle@gmail.com