Telecom woes continue
Ah, Telecom. What are we going to do with you? Rub you out and draw you again? Put you in a paper bag and shake up the bits?
Last week the problem was simple - customers were buying JetStream, Telecom's high-speed DSL product, and trying to do more than it could handle. Typical Kiwis, we wanted to see just how far we could push the technology and unfortunately it was being asked to do things it wasn't capable of, like virtual private networks (VPN).
Telecom said the solution was to upgrade to its business product, called IP.Networking, which used DSL but was more robust, had certain minimum service level guarantees and was the answer to the problem of micro-outages that plagued certain JetStream users. IP.Networking doesn't suffer from micro-outages at all, said the chief technical officer, the very personable Murray Milner. Telecom was, of course, offering a more expensive product, but as Milner rightly said, if you want the kind of quality of service you need to run a VPN, you have to pay a bit more. Fair enough.
Then I got an email that said it was all nonsense. The email claimed IP.Networking was just as prone to micro-outages as JetStream and in fact the writer, a Telecom dealer, had done three installations over a period of three months all of which were causing him concern.
Telecom now tells me the dealer was talking out of class and it won't be drawn into a public debate over a private affair. Also, IP.Networking doesn't suffer from micro-outages, they are in fact latency issues. Telecom has said it is working on two separate solutions to the JetStream micro-outages problem but won't go into detail on what the problems are except to say one is being sorted by a software upload on its network and the other is a fix for the modems. Telecom will keep me informed of the network upgrades and I, of course, will let you know as/when etc.
Meanwhile, Australia-based telco analyst Paul Budde called for Telecom to get busy with broadband or risk being left in the dust. The market, which he estimates to be worth $5 billion today, is marked to grow to $15 billion by 2010, but only if broadband is rolled out to the masses. Budde chastised Telecom for its protectionist attitude towards its ISDN market - which gets a similar service to DSL but at a much greater cost. He points to a lack of competition in broadband as the problem.
So will TelstraSaturn's acquisition of Clear provide the impetus for a new round of growth and expansion? Probably not, it seems. TS is supposed to be rolling out fibre to Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland in that order. Wellington is done and work on Christchurch appears to have been halted. Auckland's network, which was supposed to stretch out into the 'burbs, may never be rolled out as the telco focuses on the apparently more lucrative business market.
Where does that leave the residential broadband user? Stuck with either JetStream or Ihug's Ultra satellite technology - both of which charge by the megabyte of traffic. Residential users - nobody wants you.
No guarantees over JetStream fixes - IDGNet
I've got (another) virus called the blues
Yes, it's that time of the week where we go over what particular nasty has been unleashed on us. Today's pest: BadTrans.B, a new nasty with a swift sting in the tail.
Here's the lowdown: worms, such as this one, are transmitted by email. They arrive as attachments. Attachments are bad, mmkay? Say it with me now - I shun your attachment, send it in plain text or not at all.
This worm is particularly nasty because it makes great use of a hole in Microsoft's Outlook Express that lets it launch itself automatically without user intervention. That's right, you don't even need to launch or open the attachment to get infected, you just need to run Outlook with the preview pane open. That's the bottom part of the screen where you can read your email while still seeing the inbox list of email at the top.
This worm doesn't use your address book for targets, but goes after that list of unread emails you have sitting in your inbox. If this happens again, I'm going to populate mine with a list of spammers and let's see how they like them apples.
Sadly, it doesn't stop there. The sting in the tail is quite a nasty one - a keystroke logger that records any user names or passwords typed into certain windows. It sits patiently waiting for a window to open that includes words like "log in" or "password" and then just copies down whatever you type. Then it emails itself off to one of a number of free email accounts, presumably for the nefarious use of the virus writer.
Is it just me or should everyone have learned about viruses by now? I mean, if you don't open attachments ever (and I do mean EVER) without first sending an email to the sender to check on the contents you're safe, right? It's like spam, one of those unpleasant things you have to put up with in your inbox. I delete these things without even opening them and so far so good.
But it does raise the question - is this all Microsoft's fault? It's always a Microsoft product that gets nailed, right? If it's not Outlook it's Internet Information Server or something else. Surely MS should do
something about it?
MS is talking about switching the way it sends out software from defaulting to the wide-open setting to the fully-closed, which should help with some of the problems. But while the vast majority of email users are on one application the whole network is vulnerable. This is one of those occasions when diversity wins through. Perhaps it's time to review your email system?
Isn't technology marvellous? You'd think sending a simple email would be easy, but no. Some of you may have experienced an unusual sensation when reading last week's FryUp - your eyes slowly crossing and uncrossing as you tried to keep up with the formatting.
Sorry, sorry. My fault. As you were.
I blame Windows 2000's new Notepad, WordPerfect 2000, Lotus Notes 5.0, the phase of the moon, the humidity, the end of the week, the impending Christmas rush and the government.
Hopefully this week will be free of typographical whoopsies and since we're switching to a completely new system in the near future it shouldn't happen again.