- Wishful Wooshing
- Attention Peoples of Earth
- Where does the time go?
- Wishful Wooshing
Woosh has arrived in my suburb and I'm keen to try it out. Really, I am.
Any service which can offer broadband access for less than the price I currently pay is a welcome addition to the broadband market. The ability to add voice services as well would be the icing on top as it would mean customers would have a choice of whether or not to use Telecom's network at all.
Woosh has been talking up its building of a national network which would turn it into a full competitor to Telecom and its local loop.
But from almost the very first day things just haven't gone well for Woosh. At the press conference announcing both the name and the service we were told that gaming would be a priority for the company. Users would be able to play online games with all the efficiency of any fixed-line service. Latency, the delay between hitting the button and the server responding, would be kept to a minimum and we could be assured that Woosh was taking the gaming market seriously. One of its own technicians was a gamer, we were told, and he'd ensured they were well onto the latency issue.
This was, apparently, not terribly true. Latency is an issue. It's a huge issue. Gamers are specifically told not to buy the Woosh service at the moment because they will get results that are less than stellar and, in some instances, less than dial-up.
Why should you care? Gaming is high-profile use of the internet for "things other than email and surfing" and as such is a good test of whether a service is going to cut the mustard or not. Gamers are typically high-end users of broadband, they spend hours online and they use up as much bandwidth as they possibly can. They're early adopters and in the broadband market you need as many of them on board as you can possibly get.
Woosh can't get them.
Latency's also an issue with voice services. You really don't want to be saying "how are you, Auntie Jean, over" when you're making a phone call, now do you? Take it from me, you do not. Woosh needs to get that sorted and sorted quickly because it's rolling out voice services by the end of 2003. No, by early 2004. By April at the latest. OK, by the third quarter of 2004. Sorry guys but expectation is already there and you're missing the target.
The other issue is coverage. Woosh says it has a large percentage of the Auckland market covered already and is looking at Wellington and Christchurch as well as its Project Probe regions (Northland, Southland, Wairarapa and Canterbury).
The trouble is, most of the customers (editor Anthony excluded) that I've spoken to have had a rotten time of it either getting connected or getting the connection speed.
One user has wires all over his home to connect the modem to the booster antenna to his PC. For a wireless service, he muses, there sure are a lot of wires.
I hope Woosh isn't going to be let down by its technology provider. I hope they can get voice on the service and decent coverage and can start to really make inroads into the broadband market.
But all the time I'm haunted by one particular thought: Telecom has been talking Woosh up as its ultimate competitor. Why is that? Can it be that Telecom knows Woosh is no threat to its stranglehold on the broadband market?
- Attention Peoples of Earth
Once, when I was sitting in a friend's car driving to uni in Hamilton, I saw some junk mail under the windscreen wiper. Craning my neck all I could make out were the words "Attention Peoples of Earth" in bold letters. Before I could reach out and grab it the wind tore it free and it was gone in an instant. I was left wondering whether it was actually a communique from some Vogon invasion fleet or just a piece of sad marketing gone astray.
I am reminded of the message from time to time whenever some company or person fails miserably to communicate in an appropriate or timely fashion.
And so it was this week that Andrew Connell, a pleasant enough chap who just happened to have stumbled across a security flaw in a popular DSL modem, felt obliged to directly email all those users whose names and passwords he'd uncovered to warn them of the danger.
Why did Connell feel the need to do that? Well Dynalink, the company that imports the modems, was taking its own sweet time letting customers know about the problem. Dynalink had put up a link on its website alerting users to the issue, shown them how to install the latest firmware upgrade and had told the ISPs about it and really, that was that.
The ISPs had also put up notices on their websites linking to the Dynalink solution page but, let's be blunt, that's just not good enough.
Connell was skirting with the laws a tad, I feel, when he sent out his email warning users of the flaw and directing them to Dynalink's page. I'm not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination but I'd be nervous that that might represent unauthorised access of a computer system or perhaps a breach of the Privacy Act in some way.
But what else should Connell have done? He'd told the company involved, and they'd responded in what they felt to be the appropriate manner.
I have a Nokia router sitting on my desk and I haven't once looked at the Nokia router homepage, if such a beast exists. I couldn't tell you which version of the firmware I'm running, whether it's secure or not, whether it's the latest version or not. I work on the principle of "if it ain't broke" and I'm sure so do most of us. I spend enough time patching and upgrading every other piece of kit that something with four lights and no buttons is a godsend and I don't mess with it. How am I supposed to know about a serious problem like this if nobody tells me?
David Russell from Consumers Institute tells me that yes, he'd expect more from a vendor, especially when it comes to security matters. When Nokia found its power plugs could leave behind the metal prongs when unplugged, thus potentially electrocuting any user, I must have received dozens of letters from the company as well as a new power cord which someone came round to install for me. That's probably an appropriate response for a life-threatening issue but surely somewhere in between would be appropriate for a security flaw?
Connell says he only received one or two angry responses to the 1000 emails he sent. Most were grateful he'd told them and several asked him to check again once they'd installed the firmware (which he did). He's not after any payment for this, or for his work with Dynalink to show them the problem. Good on him, I say. The computer industry, if not the whole internet, was built by people willing to help out and I would be saddened if they were treated like criminals.
You might like to join in - if you know someone using a Dynalink RTA020 modem, ask them if they've heard of the problem. Dynalink's home page (linked below) has the upgrade.
- Where does the time go?
Why, it seems like only a week since last we spoke and yet I look at the calendar and discover two whole weeks have just simply flown by.
Yeah, sorry about that. I blame Easter, the chocolate overload and flying to Wellington to talk to a group of teachers about the future. It kind of threw me off kilter somewhat.
It's quite scary talking to teachers. I still get the impression they'll give me a grade at the end of the presentation and it'll be a B: Can do Better kind of score.
As it was they were very nice, clapped appropriately, laughed in all the right places and asked questions when we were done.
Better than all that, however, was the presentation before mine. A group of three high school girls have put together a five-minute film about the passage of Venus across the face of the sun and why it was so important to Captain Cook. They researched, filmed and presented the whole thing themselves, they edited it on some of the scariest looking software I've ever seen (and I use Lotus Notes on a daily basis don't forget) and they did all the animation and graphics work themselves.
I have to tell you all I could think while I watched their production was "I'm up next and I've got 22 PowerPoint slides about Moore's Law". It wasn't a pleasant feeling.
They're entered into a competition that should see them jet off to Australia to present their research and film over there. I can't imagine how anyone could top their effort and if and when the film is put up online I'll let you know so you can have a look.
Schools really astound me these days when they embrace ICT with such vehemence. It's marvellous to see and makes me think we're on the right track.