- WW 4 Vodafone 4 Eva
- Spam I am
- Local F-root
- WW 4 Vodafone 4 Eva
It's a match made in heaven. Cellphone giant Vodafone has the cash, Walker Wireless has the nous and somewhere in between they're getting cosier and cosier.
WW is busy rolling out its new portable wireless broadband service. Portable rather than mobile because really you don't want to be clearing your spam while you drive to work, do you? So find a nice spot, sit yourself down and do it there, OK? I'll feel much safer on the road.
This is just one of three wireless technologies coming soon to a device near you.
On the one hand you have BCL's AirSpan, which requires an antenna to be fixed to your premises. This is fine, if you don't plan to move. Soon we'll see these patch antennas, kind of like a grey plastic A4 sheet, all over the place, just like Sky satellite dishes are today.
On the other hand there is the ubiquitous Wi-Fi with its "hot spots" approach. Go to your favourite café, enquire as to whether they have a hot spot, buy your frappacino and sit yourself down and log on. Pay by the minute or the megabyte and you're away.
WW's product, formerly known as Ultamo, differs considerably from these two models and could well become the front runner because of those differences. Unlike Wi-Fi you don't have to go to someone else's place to use it and you don't have to find a hot spot. Wi-Fi is great for indoors, say in your own office or the business class lounge at the airport, but I can't really see folk travelling to a hot spot to conduct business or surf the net or whatever. If the hot spot happens to be where you're going, that's fine but otherwise you're out of luck.
WW's service is also portable and that's the real killer. Work can sign me up and I can take the whole service home with me at the end of the day. No more paying for a separate broadband service at home, just one account and a service I can cart around the country with me. Well, I will be able to when the network's fully built - at the moment they're planning to cover half of Auckland, rolling out further on the basis of winning contracts in the government's Project Probe round.
But wait, there's more (OK, that's the last time I'll use that line. Promise). The high-speed data network is only the first iteration from WW. The second stage will be a voice over IP (VoIP) service. That's right, your broadband connection will also enable you to make voice calls on the sly. Expect to pay pennies for the service and nothing more. You'll also have a phone number you can keep for ever and one that could be as simple as your name (John Smith, you may need to get in early for this one). That would be very nice.
The Vodafone relationship is an interesting one. Vodafone world wide has to look to the next generation of cellular technology in a couple of years. It'll move to wideband CDMA if it can get a headstart on development through a project like this; then it'll be very happy. Vodafone has the option of taking an equity stake in WW in the coming months so watch for more on that side of things.
Quote of the day, however, must go to Walker Wireless chair, Rod Ingles, who describes the pricing by saying it will "knock your socks off".
- Spam I am
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write about spam without using war metaphors? The battle is joined, allies against the rising tide, coalition of the billing, yadda yadda yadda. It sounds like some kind of Lord of the Rings prose reject.
Ah well. At least we're finally seeing some high level moves on the matter. Spam is becoming more than just a humorous anecdote (how much do you get a day?), it's a serious problem. Not only does it take up resources, time, effort, network capacity and patience, but it also is becoming more obnoxious. Gone are the days of "please buy my product. I am too stupid to know any better than to annoy my customers", replaced instead by a litany of nasty porn and fraud.
I've heard a couple of good news items about spam this week, and a couple of things that made my eyebrows arch.
The good news is that there's a concerted effort going on at the Ministry of Economic Development to work out the best way to crush the spam problem. All power to you. They're not simply saying "we will bring in laws to block spam" but are taking it more seriously. The ministers of communication are both calling for a high-level discussion paper on the matter and hopefully we should see some action soon.
On top of that, I had an email from a reader who suggested ISPs should do more to block spam. Why not put all emails into a holding pattern if they reach a certain threshold, say 10,000 emails an hour, and send an email requesting confirmation to the source? A fair chunk of my spam comes from an open relay of one kind or another and so no one would reply to the request and the ISP could dump the spam.
InternetNZ executive director Peter Macaulay suggests something similar - why not put a time constraint on mass sendings - the first 100 can go through automatically but each block after that takes longer and longer until the machine gives up.
I spoke to a couple of ISPs about this - ICONZ general manager Sean Weekes says he would love to be able to block spam but you're getting into a tricky area when you start having your ISP act as censor. One man's spam is another man's opportunity, after all. Also, he points out, he has legitimate customers who do send bulk emails and he wouldn't want to lose them. Fair enough. He would sign up for a provision in an ISP code of practice, however, that required all ISPs to act in the same manner. That way nobody risks losing customers.
Ihug also has problems with spam. The time and effort devoted to spam is getting out of control and after paying the international traffic charges to bring the stuff here, most of it gets blocked at the server and simply costs the ISP money. Ihug would also love to see the stuff banished.
This is important because I always believed that ISPs were making money on spam. All that lovely juicy traffic they could bill users for, and if they don't want it well they can jolly well pay to have it filtered. Seems it costs ISPs as well.
On the other side of the equation, I spoke to the head of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Keith Norris. His organisation has a code of practice that demands an opt out option on every email sent.
I don't know about you but I think the last thing you should do is reply to spam saying "please unsubscribe me". Talk about setting yourself up for a fall. However, Norris tells me that a recent US survey says replying to spam does not increase your chances of getting more spam.
We also talked about changing the "opt out" requirement to an "opt in" one. Opt in would mean you as the user would have to actively click on the "yes" box or fill in your email address before getting spam. Actually, it should be "double opt in", where you then have to confirm your choice in an email.
As a ratbag child we used to sign up a kid at school for anything and everything going - religious pamphlets, free vacuum cleaning demonstrations and on one notable occasion a month's supply of adult incontinent nappies (it's OK, he's gone on to be a corporate lawyer). Double opt in would have meant we couldn't do any of that.
Norris says he has no plans to introduce such a requirement and is quite happy with the opt out provision in the code of practice. In fact, he's promoting opt out at a conference of DMA types in Florida later on this month.
InternetNZ's Macaulay raises a good point as well - don't bother trying to target the spammers themselves, who for the most part are simply stupid kids with too much time on their hands. Instead, we should target the companies that pay them to send spam. If they aren't paying the spammers by the million email addresses the spammers aren't going to continue and will turn their attentions elsewhere. Sounds like a great idea to me - the spammers I've spoken to are entirely unrepentant but are definitely in it for the money. Hit them in the wallet and they'll move on.
- Local F-root
It's now firmly stuck in my head as "fruit" rather than F-root thanks to my editor. Onya.
The F-root server is one of 13 domain name servers around the world that tell you where all the domain names are. Without the DNS servers you'd have to know the IP addresses for any domain name you go hunting for and that's just a pain.
Each of the 13 is assigned a letter and our nearest server is the F-root server based in Palo Alto. After a recent attack on the servers that knocked out four of them someone thought it would be a good idea to have several mirrors of the F-root server and so with remarkably little fuss and carry-on, we've got one here. The Aussies don't have one but we do. Ahem.
What does it mean for we end users? Well you probably haven't noticed the speed increase but it's there - it now takes only around 20ms to look up a name and get a reply instead of 200. Nice. It also means we're doing our bit for the stability and support of the internet, which is also great. The internet, after all, is a giant collection of private networks and is kept going not so much by corporate choice but by goodwill.
The F-root mirror here is based at the Auckland Peering Exchange (APE) and is another good example of why having a neutral ground for peering works so well - once you've connected to APE you're automatically connected to all the other ISPs, telcos, corporates and servers that are connected to APE. That means it only took a weekend and several cases of beer to get the F-root installed and connected to the vast majority of the nation's users instead of having to connect each and every ISP individually. Very nice. My hat is off to all concerned. ISC, the company that runs the F-root server in the US, had this to say:
"CityLink will provide connectivity to the Auckland Peering Exchange (APE). FX Networks contributes the server hardware for the name server cluster and Juniper Networks provided its high-performance M-series routing platform. TelstraClear provides collocation and remote management services and 2Day.com will contribute network management services. ISC will operate and manage the server as a mirror of its f-root server."
Now if only I could stop singing "Beans, beans the musical fruit" in my head I'd be fine.