Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Internet is Full

Very nearly full, anyway. When the core protocol of the Internet, TCP/IP was designed, 4 billion addresses seemed like a ludicrous maximum. It would have been hubris to have designed more in, after all. Oops…

I talked about to this today on Radio New Zealand National. Read on for my speaking notes or listen to what I actually said.


posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mobile phone locking – Not

A few weeks ago I blogged and talked on air about how Vodafone had decided to lock the phones it sells in New Zealand from now on, so they would only work with the Vodafone network, unless you paid Voda another $50.

Today, I’m delighted to be able to say that Vodafone has changed its mind.

Apparently it’s because of customer response. There was a storm of protest from customers who couldn’t see how this was good for them at all, and the Commerce Commission agreed with them.

Well done everyone who complained, and well done to the people at Vodafone for listening.

posted by colin at 12:27 pm  

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paying for software when there are free alternatives

I talked today on Radio New Zealand National about the contrast between pay-for software and software that is free to use. Why would you pay for something you can get for nothing?

I’ve blogged about this before, but this radio programme has some different angles. Read on for my speaker notes, or pull the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Monday, May 19, 2008

They call me Mimi…I don’t know why

Last weekend I was lucky enough to see La Bohème at the St James in Wellington.

I should start by saying that I’m not an opera buff. I go to the ones I’ve heard of, on the grounds that there must be something in their popularity. Usually I have a good time, but I’m very much on the outer of the opera crowd. I tend to think “use it or lose it” – I’m glad there is real opera performed in Wellington, so I should patronise it. And it was on this basis that I bought tickets for La Bohème.


posted by colin at 9:39 pm  

Monday, May 19, 2008

What’s in a name?

…asks Juliet, when she considers that the boy she loves is from the family of her father’s mortal enemy. But names are important. Just look at all the fuss over domain names which I’ve written about many times before.

The importance of names is far wider than that. Look at our personal names. People’s names work differently according to culture – but there is no human culture in which people do not have personal names. The requirement for personal names seems to be built in to us. Now, Richard Westlake has done some research to show that our names are more than just sounds. He has shown that someone whose name is in the first half of the alphabet is twice as likely to be elected to high office than someone whose name is in the second half.

posted by colin at 6:53 pm  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another article on standards

Don Christie, El Presidente of the Open Source Society and blogger on newspaper site Stuff, has written a pretty direct piece about the OOXML standard and processes that led to it. The article was written for and published in the Standards NZ magazine, where it ran next to an article from Microsoft’s Brett Roberts, who is in favour of OOXML.

The Standards NZ magazine is a paper-only publication, but Don has put the text of his article online here. It’s hard-hitting and well worth a read.

Update: Brett’s article is now online as well.

posted by colin at 4:17 pm  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Politics of Broadband

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about why the two main parties are falling over each other to offer to buy us all decent broadband. Read on for my notes and links or listen to the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Locking Mobile Phones

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about Vodafone’s announcement that it will be locking the mobile phones it sells from now on. This is a bad move for consumers in the short run – but it may in the long run break Vodafone’s and Telecom’s hold on the retail phone market. Read on for my speaking notes or down load the podcast. (more…)

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

There’s No Accounting for taste

…or de gustibus non est disputandum as the Latin tag has it. But tasting has been a problem on the Internet for some time now.

Domain name tasting is the practice of buying a domain name, putting up a web site with advertising on it, and not paying for the name when the bill comes in a week later if the advertising doesn’t show a profit.

It works likes this: You think up a name that people might type – it might be close to the name of a popular site – let’s say it’s – then you point it at a website full of ads. You get paid when people click on the ads on the site. Under the rules for domain name purchase there is a so-called “grace period” during which you can cancel your registration for a full refund. So, at the end of the grace period you figure out whether the costs of holding the domain outweigh the ad revenue.

Some registrars in the US are doing something like a million names at a time and canceling 99% or more at the end of the grace period. They can automate the whole thing so it’s pretty much untouched by human hand. Then they just wait for the money to roll in. And it’s a really bad practice because it takes the opportunity of names away form people who might have a valid use for them – John Goggle, for instance – and it places huge loads on the registration systems which pushes up everyone’s costs.

One way to kill this off would be to get rid of the grace period on domain name registration, so all registrations would be immediate and final and paid in full. But the grace period is kind of useful to ordinary users and it’s a shame to see it so abused.

Instead, ICANN looks likely to limit tightly the size of a refund that a registrar can claim in a month, which is quite clever, because this is a game of large numbers and this should stop it. It should also stop the practice of ‘front-running’, where you ask about a particular domain name – only to discover that the registrar you have just asked has automatically registered it on your behalf as soon as you asked, and you can’t register the name using a competing registrar until after the grace period.

None of this has been a major problem for dot nz names, possibly because we have a smaller market than dot com, but mainly I think because we have a strong regulator.

posted by colin at 7:18 am  

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Smart phones

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about smart phones – what one is and how to choose among the different platforms. Read on for my speaking notes or listen to the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

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