AACS cracked.. yet again

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 5-May-2007 08:51

If you've been following the AACS copy protection hacks (the copy protection used on Blu Ray and HD-DVD) you'll know that since the first crack appear in early January there has been ongoing battles between the
h8x0rs and the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator.

Several weeks ago it was announced that licence keys for several products  were being revocated as both WinDVD and PowerDVD has been cracked to originally break the AACS copy protection. Revoking these licences and forcing people to upgrade their software should have fixed the problem...

But the h8x0rs are smarter than that. The latest news on the Doom Forums details a firmware hack to the Microsoft external HD-DVD player which involved removing the drive's firmware chip, reading the contents and then soldering it back into the drive. It's something your average DIY consumer won't be doing but it's yet another serious setback for AACS and DRM as a whole.


Vodafone's new website - a lesson in how not to upgrade a corporate website.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 2-May-2007 20:45

Vodafone launched their new website this week.

Essentially they used their old content, added some flash new graphics and well.. they went live with it.

Therein lies the problem. If you employ monkeys and pay them peanuts you get a crap result.

Looking at some of the information on the Vodafone site it looks like this new website was ready to go live towards the end of March but was delayed. The problem is information that was updated on the old Vodafone site since then hasn't been updated on the new site.

Lets have a look at Google's cache of the Vodafone website last week here detailing You Choose. Now look at the new site here

If I was to read this I'd believe that TXT2000 is no longer a Vodafone product on You Choose. TXT1000 is now back! Yippee that respresents great value for money. But hang on here you say it is available. What's the deal?

How about this page here compared to the old cached page here?
According to Vodafone you can now send TXT's to 021/029 numbers as part of your monthy included TXT's. What a shame that's not the case and you'll be charged 20c if you send a TXT to a 021 or 029 number ported to Telecom. Where's the Commerce Commission when you need them? You finally edited the old site to reflect portability, did you run out of peanuts to feed the monkeys to get them to stay and update the new one before you cut over to it?

We can then go and have a look at the rest of the "new" site.

How about Push to Talk? Don't worry the pricing plan expired in 2005 or was that 2006? It's just sooooooo confusing.

Want to download some music? $3.50 sounds expensive for a music download but that's what the site says so it must be true... Or maybe it's the $1.99 listed on this page? I'm getting confused. Are you?

How about looking at roaming? This page links to this URL but unfortunately you get an HTTP/405 if you try it.

I'd list a few more but then I'm about to head off and watch last night's Boston Legal on my PVR.

How can a big multi national telco have such a poor website? These mistakes aren't anything new, the Vodafone website has been a disgrace for a long time. I've posted numerous blog posts in the past and despite Vodafone actually reading them (because mistakes I have pointed out have been fixed very quickly) it's obvious nobody in the company really cares which is a shame really. I'd even offered to proof read the site and look for errors in return for a month's free calling which is a bargain considering my bill is only around $100 but you're obviously not interested. Peanuts must be on special at Pak 'N Save this week. 

Cheap petrol today

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 1-May-2007 08:02

Gull this morning announced a 5c reduction for 12 hours. Not to be outdone Shell have bettered this with 6c per litre off fuel for 12 hours.

Driving past several BP stations on the way to work today I notice they're not interested in offering their customers a better deal which is hardly surprising considering they're always the first to put their prices up and the last to drop them.

Earthquake hits Kent, United Kingdom.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 28-Apr-2007 20:20

Reports of large scale earth tremors approximately 0820 local time have been confirmed as an earthquake registering 4.7 in the richter scale as reported by the USGS.

Sitting here watching Sky News I can't believe how this is turning into the news event of the year in the UK here's a list of the last 30 earthquakes to hit New Zealand over the past few weeks!

Why do Vodafone cripple handsets?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Apr-2007 07:57

Over the past few years most mobile operators have tried to increase their ARPU by offering nice "walled gardens" portals that are easily accessible from their operator branded handsets. Vodafone have probably put the most effort into this and have heavily tied their Vodafone Live! portal into a large range of Live! branded handsets. Over the years this has caused no end of problems with handsets running slower than the original handset firmware, full of bugs (I had 2 x SE T610's replaced until Vodafone admitted their firmware was so buggy they upgraded the firmware) and using up valuable phone memory with useless files and graphics that can't be deleted.

This has been taken a step further with the recent release of the Nokia E65 and N95 - two awesome new Nokia handsets with WiFI and integrated VoIP through a native SIP stack. Vodafone have crippled the N95 firmware and removed the VoIP function from Vodafone branded handsets meaning you lose an important feature of the phone. With the E65 Vodafone have restricted the SIP client so it will always default to the 3G data connection for VoIP meaning you can't use VoIP over the WiFi connection.

Vodafone NZ are yet to release either of these handsets into the local market so we'll have to wait and see what happens here. In the UK there is a huge backlash occuring against Vodafone and the UK Trading Standards are also encouraging users who have a crippled handset to contact them and Nokia service centres are being flooded with users wanting to have their phones flashed with original Nokia firmware. There are also numerous reports

Rather than admitting they have crippled the handset to stop people using cheap VoIP calling using their handsets Vodafone have responded by saying they have removed VoIP "because it doesn't believe it's a mature technology" ... Yeah right!
If you're after one of these handsets do your homework before you have over your money. I purchased an unbranded parallel imported E65 last week and absolutely love it. I would certainly not be giving Vodafone any of my hard earned money for a handset that is crippled with buggy firmware.

Fedex just delivered my Nokia E65

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 20-Apr-2007 13:42

No work for me this afternoon.. The nice Fedex man just delivered my new toy.

Review coming when I've had a few days to play with it!

NZ $ and exporters

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 20-Apr-2007 11:12

One thing that's annoyed me over the past week has been been a continual obsession by the media of the strength of our NZ$ vs the US$ with it currently trading at close to 25 year highs and our exporters pleading poverty.

One thing that nobody seems to have mention is the fact it's only the US$ that is currently weak and that not everything we import into NZ or export is paid for in US$. Against the UK Pound Stirling we're currently around .37, .55 to the Euro and .89 to the Australian dollar. All of these values are pretty typical of where they have been for the past 3-4 years.

Australia is NZ's largest export market, followed by Japan and then the EU. Export or Import deals to most of these countries will typically be paid for in local currencies. If they are paid for in US$ it will be a conversion from local currency to US$ therefore the value of the US$ is irrevelent.

According to the media people are also rushing to book overseas holidays because of the strong NZ$? Maybe if you're heading to the USA this is a good time to go but for the bulk of us who to go Australia or Euope there is virtually no difference between now any any time over the past few years.

£516,778.00 up for grabs

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 19-Apr-2007 12:17

Since I'm a kind and generous person I thought I'd give away some money. I just received this but have no need for the money today so will let somebody else claim my prize. You'll actually get a few $ extra if you're paid out in $US because the current exchange rate of 2.00651 will actually give you $1,036,922.50


I am pleased to inform you of the final announcement that you are one
of our New year winners of the UNITED KINGDOM ONLINE PROMO AWARDS, held
on April 20th, 2007. You have won for your self
a total sum of £516,778.00 POUNDS STERLING and its Equivalent is
$921,201:00 USD.

Please contact Our Officer for your claims by sending to him your
Details Below.

Mr Peter Taylor(OFFICER)


1. Full Names:
2. Address:
3. Age:
4. Sex:
5. Marital Status:
6. Occupation:
7. Phone numbers:
8. Country:

Mr Peter Taylor(OFFICER)

Yours Truly,
Lucy Baines
Co-ordinator(Online Promo Programme)
=======================================================            ONLINE WINNING

I am pleased to inform you of the final announcement that you are one
of our New year winners of the UNITED KINGDOM ONLINE PROMO AWARDS, held
on April 20th, 2007. You have won for your self
a total sum of £516,778.00 POUNDS STERLING and its Equivalent is
$921,201:00 USD.

Please contact Our Officer for your claims by sending to him your
Details Below.

Mr Peter Taylor(OFFICER)


1. Full Names:
2. Address:
3. Age:
4. Sex:
5. Marital Status:
6. Occupation:
7. Phone numbers:
8. Country:

Mr Peter Taylor(OFFICER)

Yours Truly,
Lucy Baines
Co-ordinator(Online Promo Programme)

TelstraClear's Tauranga Unplugged network is no more

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Apr-2007 12:31

Mauricio has posted the press release here

TelstraClear blaming Vodafone is rather interesting. The network is live and from what I understood was very close to being complete. I guess we'll see a bit of a PR war now developeing between both companies over the coming days..

Staying a Vodafone customer can sometimes be difficult.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 9-Apr-2007 20:01

I decided it was about time to go and change my mobile plan and sign up for You Choose, primarily because although I'll still be spending the same it will give me more for my money. I popped into my local Vodafone store at Westfield Queensgate today and asked the friendly staff member what deals were available.

"We have the Choose 60 with the free Motorola V360v on a 12 month contract and free TXT2000 for 12 months"

I said I was interested in a 3G device and that I didn't actually want a new phone because my existing V600i phone which I paid $749 for still worked perfectly well but I wanted the extra 25% airtime and would therefore buy a phone and sell it if there were any deals since they couldn't give me the extra 25% airtime without buying a new phone.

The staff member then pointed out a Motorola 3G device (can't recall exact model) that was normally $399 but was available for $99 which got me interested. He then asked me if I was an existing Vodafone customer to which I said yes. He then asked me if I was on prepay or on account to which I responsed that I was on an account.

"Oh I'm sorry these deals are only available to new customers not resigns"

The response dumbfounded me. Why bother with all the advertising if it's not available to resigns? All this says to me is that we don't value your business and would be happy to see you port your number to Telecom and take your business with you.

So I asked what deals were available to me as an existing customer and he wasn't quite sure if there were any but headed over to a PC to have a look.

First stop was the v.box site. Every must remember v.box right? Vodafone spend loads of money sending all their on account customers out a nice metal plate towards the end of last year with a unique login to thank them for being a Vodafone customer

To say ‘thanks’ for being with Vodafone we’ve given you a v.box with some great offers just for you. Once you receive your combination via TXT, you’ll be able to log in to your v.box and see what great offers we’ve put together for you.

I mentioned the v.box website has had no deals, news or competitions or infact anything worthy of even reading for several months now.. after sending the new password to my phone and logging in it didn't take long before he realised the same thing. Looks like marketing wasted a fair few $$ there, it's no wonder airtime in NZ is so expensive.

He then asked me if I had checked out the hotupgrades.co.nz site to which I responded that I had tried it several times recently and got a mesage saying they were working on the site and to come back soon. He then tried the site himself to be greeted with the same message. Reading the blurb instore this site will offer customers deals for new phones based upon the amount of time they have been a customer and the amount they spend. Sounds like a great idea.. Just a shame it doesn't work.

He seemed a bit embarrased himself by now that nothing seemed to work and asked me how long I'd been a Vodafone customer for to which I responded just over 11 years. His response was that he was sure there would be some deals available for me and said he would try looking up my account on their computer...

2 computers and a CRTL-ALT-DEL later he then came to the conclusion that their was a fault somewhere with the system and he was unable to look up my details at present. After a short discussion he told me to keep trying the website to see what deals where on offer first and to come back into the store at a later date if I couldn't access it and he would see what sort of deal he could do for me.

Now I know I love mocking Vodafone but the simple fact is that most of the time they deserve it. Despite this Vodafone is a brand that I truely admire and to be completely honest is a company I would love to work for because there are so many simple things that could be fixed to make the whole "Vodafone experience" a far more rewarding adventure. My experience today however almost left me lost for words. The guy at the store was great but I'm sure he wasn't happy with what happened.

All I want to do is feel like I'm getting myself a deal. I'm not expecting a free $1000 handset. I'm not even expecting a free handset at all. I honestly don't even want buy a new phone. I just want to sign up for You Choose and get the extra 25% airtime for signing up with a 3G device but somebody decided the phone had to be purchased at the same time as you sign up. Because I was stupid enough to pay $749 buying an unsubsidised V600i within days of the 3G network launch to have the latest and greatest toys I'm effectively being penalised. Vodafone will only give me the extra 25% airtime if I go and buy a new subsidised phone. Why not just give customers the 25% extra airtime if they are already using a Vodafone NZ new 3G device?

How can a company be so dysfunctional and still have customers?

How long will it take before hotupgrades.co.nz actually works?

Do Vodafone actually care about their existing customers?

Will anybody at Vodafone respond to this?

Check in next week for the latest.

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