Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Great targets for rural broadband

October 7th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

Recognising the ever-increasing demand for high-speed broadband across New Zealand, and its importance to regional growth, the Government has today announced a bold new connectivity target for areas outside the UFB footprint.

Under this target virtually all New Zealanders, regardless of where they live or work, will be able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2025, Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced. …

By 2025, the Government’s vision would see:

  • 99 per cent of New Zealanders able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps (up from 97.8 per cent getting at least 5 Mbps under RBI)

  • The remaining 1 per cent able to access to 10 Mbps (up from dial up or non-existent speeds).

This will be greatly welcomed by those outside the areas where fibre is being laid. Let’s look forward to the death of the last dial up account!


A new direction for TUANZ

October 6th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

TUANZ have announced:

Building on 30 years of representing telecommunications users, TUANZ is setting out in a new strategic direction to ensure New Zealanders can make the most of the digitally connected world.

TUANZ vision is to work collaboratively with industry and government to make sure that by 2020 New Zealand is among the top ten countries for business use of digital technology.[1]

TUANZ Chair Pat O’Connell says TUANZ has always been and will remain an independent and professional organisation that represents the interests of the users of digital technology.

“Our role will continue to be to put the business user at the centre of industry and government decision making in a sector that is going to define our economy for the foreseeable future”, says O’Connell.

This is a sensible new direction for TUANZ.

Since the 1980s TUANZ has been at the forefront of advocating for better deals for businesses and consumers in telecommunications. They’ve played a big role in helping us get to where we are where we pay a fraction of what we used to.

But the major regulatory battles are won. Local loop unbundling is done and dusted. Telecom has had first operational and now structural separation. Mobile phone interconnection rates have fallen away. Competition is not perfect, but our regulatory settings are now pretty good.

So a shift in emphasis from the regulatory issues to usage and technology is sensible.


Keall on the Dotcom case

September 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Keall writes at NBR:

I’ve previously written that Megaupload’s cash-incentive payments would loom large in Kim Dotocom and co’s extradition case.

And so it proved yesterday as the Crown alleged one user of Mr Dotcom’s file sharing service was paid more than $US50,000 as a reward for uploading files that proved popular with Megaupload members.

Files uploaded by user “H” – just one of many to take advantage of the cash-incentive rewards scheme – generated 1.2 million downloads between 2006 and 2011 (the expanded FBI evidence summary covers it in detail here).

The US Department of Justice, plus major Hollywood studios and multinational record labels, say most of the files covered by the cash-incentive scheme were copyrighted works and that Megaupload was rewarding piracy.

This is at the heart of the case, and the argument that Megaupload was not just like Dropbox – because it paid users for sharing content that got widely downloaded.

Mr Dotcom has also pointed out that YouTube gives uploaders of popular files a share of the Google Ad revenue generated by their clip. That could well be construed as an incentive programme. But to get a share of that Google Ad money, you have to be a trusted user. And if, in its vetting process, YouTube notices there is copyright-infringing music (for example, a zany wedding dance clip features a Taylor Swift soundtrack), the service then approaches the artist or rights-holder concerned and offers to either a) take the clip down or b) leave it up but cut them in on the revenue. Megaupload never gave a cent to an artist or rights holder when it generated an alleged $US175 million in membership fees and ad revenue generated around their material.

It is no surprise they were unhappy. It is possible though Megaupload did not breach US law. They certainly knew they were making money through encouraging copyright infringment. But they may hev done just enough to comply with the US MDCA which has a process for dealing with complaints.

Mr Dotcom has also styled Google as a giant piracy machine, saying it makes it easy to find copyright-breaching material, whereas Megaupload featured no search engine or other mechanism to help users find files stored by other members.

But the Crown has already focused on FBI evidence, gatheredthrough intercepted Skype conversations, that the Megaupload crew worked with third parties to make offending content on Megaupload easily discoverable.

Again quite damning.

Tags: ,

The IT Syllabus

September 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Idealog reports:

When Ian McCrae’s teenage son took digital technologies as one of his NCEA subjects, the Orion Health boss was pleased. With a serious IT skills shortage affecting businesses like his, one more student heading towards computer science at university was a bonus.

A few months down the track, McCrae’s view changed. He was shocked to find that instead of learning coding and working on algorithms, his son seemed to be spending his time writing reports – part of a curriculum which sees ICT lumped in with woodwork and sewing, not science and maths.

“I suspect you can do the entire digital tech course without writing a line of code,” McCrae says – correctly, as it turns out.

McCrae says instead of studying topics like coding, algorithms and logical reasoning, his son’s high school digital technology curriculum shares modules with the other tech subjects like hard tech (woodwork and metalwork), soft tech (sewing) and food tech (cooking). These courses involve a lot of lengthy report-writing, which also puts potential IT students off.

Have not meant many techies who like report writing!

“Bright kids coming through the school system are being turned off computing because digital technologies is considered a dumb subject. Clever kids do chemistry or physics, but those naturally lead on to chemistry or physics courses at university, not computer science.”

McCrae argues this is crazy, because IT is where the jobs are – not chemistry. And it leaves companies like Orion Health forced to find their developers overseas, or poach them from other IT companies – companies like Xero, Diligent, Trade Me or Wynyard Group – all of which are themselves struggling to find experienced staff.

They report Trade Me has 1,200 computer science jobs and 22 chemistry jobs!

New Zealand needs to follow the lead of the UK, where major changes to the curriculum have already happened, McCrae says.

In September 2014, the UK became what the Guardian newspaper called “the guinea pig for the most ambitious attempt yet to get kids coding”. Curriculum changes saw ICT (information and communications technology) replaced by “computing”, including coding for children as young as five.


We asked Ian McCrae’s what three IT jobs our kids should be aiming for:

  • Data scientist. The industry is crying out for people that can take all those numbers coming out of the cloud and make sense of them;

  • Mobility expert. No, not walking about. Mobility is all about doing clever stuff for mobile devices;

  • Cyber security guru. McCrae spoke to one US company recently that estimated 80% (yes 80%!) of the traffic to their site is “inappropriate” – ie unwanted or dangerous. There aren’t nearly enough experts blocking all that stuff.

Data science is very cool.

No tag for this post.

An e-mail audio device for driving

September 23rd, 2015 at 2:29 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Kiwi company has developed an app that allows drivers to listen to emails at the wheel. Beweb created the free Speaking Email app after director Mike Nelson got frustrated at being unable to safely read emails on his commute from Auckland’s North Shore to the city.

And though he admits drivers shouldn’t have any distractions, he said banning cellphones while driving wasn’t working. Rather than expecting drivers to ignore their phones, apps should be designed with a “safe-driving” mode.

Sounds like a great app. especially if it could do more than just read out e-mails but also do direct messages, maybe even tweets.

National manager of road policing, Superintendent Steve Greally, said anything that took a person’s attention away from the road was a safety risk.

“If someone is concentrating on an email, they are not likely to be giving their full attention to driving.”

True. So we should ban playing music in the car, listening to talkback radio or having passengers as they may talk to you.


Police co-operation

September 20th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Danish man has been arrested in his home country following allegations he launched a “persistent online attack” targeting an Auckland schoolgirl. 

Police said the 24-year-old was charged with posting private photos online and hacking private computers. 

He was caught in the city of Vejle, in Denmark, and will appear in a Danish court. 

The arrest was the result of a joint investigation between New Zealand Police, the Danish National Cyber Crime Centre and South-East Jutland Police. 

Good to see the Police forces working together on a case like this. He may have thought he could do what he did with impunity as he was in Denmark and his victim in New Zealand.

The man will appear in the Court of Kolding Town in a closed hearing where a pre-trial detention will be requested, the statement said.

Serious stuff if he may be held in jail until the trial.

Tags: ,

Lessig on the Dotcom case

September 20th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One of the world’s leading experts on copyright has reviewed the Kim Dotcom case and says there is no basis for extradition.

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig has weighed into the Megaupload prosecution with a legal opinion which condemns the prosecution case against the filesharing website.

In an opinion released by Dotcom’s lawyers, Professor Lessig said the allegations and evidence made public by the US Department of Justice “do not meet the requirements necessary to support a prima facie case that would be recognised by United States federal law”

Professor Lessig is internationally regarded as an expert in copyright and fair use. He co-founded the nonprofit Creative Commons and has written widely in articles and books on copyright, law and the internet age. The US-based Electronic Freedom Foundation said he had “played a pivotal role in shaping the debate about copyright in the digital age”.

Lawrence Lessig has been a huge force for good in the copyright arena. His affidavit will have considerable influence.

He is of course a witness for the defence, so it is no surprise what he says is there is no case to answer. But that doesn’t mean he is wrong. He is an expert in the copyright arena.

My lay view has always been that the threshold for extradition (which is low) has probably been met, but that an actual trial in the US could go either way.

Tags: ,

WCC votes yes to online voting trial

September 17th, 2015 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

WCC have announced:

This morning Wellington City Council voted yes (7-6) to join an online voting trial for next year’s local body elections.

The Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, says Wellington City Council has shown it is progressive and willing to try online polling in the Smart Capital.

“The proposed pilot for the 2016 election will be a real time exercise with real candidates and a real result,” she says.

“We use online mechanisms as a way of increasing participation in many council processes, from Smokefree issues to our Long Term Plan, so it makes sense for us to participate in the online voting pilot.”

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester, who is also Chairperson for Council’s Governance, Finance and Planning Committee, says it’s all about increasing participation and creating better accessibility for all.

“Wellingtonians are the most tech savvy people in the country, so this city is perfect for this trial to take place. Four out of ten Wellingtonians voted in the last local body elections, so, if this trial means we can get those numbers up then I think it’s well worth exploring further.”

Very pleased to see Wellington join the trial – both because as a resident I’ll get to use it, but more importantly because you need at least one major council involved to make it economic.

Eight Councils have agreed to take part in the trial for next year’s local body elections – with a confirmation vote still needed to be taken by Dunedin City and Marlborough District Councils.

The government will then decide whether the trial will go ahead. That decision will be made by the end of the year.

I hope the Government doesn’t hinder or block the progress made.

Thanks to the Councillors who voted in favour – Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Deputy Mayor Justin Lester, Jo Coughlan, David Lee, Mark Speck, Malcolm Sparrow and Nicola Young.

Tags: ,

Xero flexibility means pay more!

September 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m a very happy user of Xero, but not yet using their payroll as it has been too expensive for me. My business has a high number of staff who work few hours, so payrolls which charge per staff member are very costly as a percentage of wages for me. Hence I remain on MYOB for payroll.

Anyway I got excited to get an e-mail from Xero that said:

More flexible plans
From 19 October Xero plans will be more flexible – giving you more choice than ever. Now you can choose whether you want payroll in your plan and you’ll only be charged for the number of unique employees you post each monthly billing cycle.

More flexible – that should be good news – right?

What are the key changes

  • Payroll is being unbundled from our Standard and Premium plans
  • Customers on our Starter plan can now add payroll
  • Adding payroll will cost +$10 which includes one employee
  • Additional employees will cost +$1 per unique employee per billing cycle

The Premium base plan will be reduced from $75 to $70 per month

So what does this actually mean. Well let’s look at current prices here.

  • Premium 10 $75
  • Premium 20 $85
  • Premium 50 $100
  • Premium 100 $140

So what will these cost under the new flexible plans:

  • Premium with 10 employees $89 (19% more)
  • Premium with 20 employees $99 (16% more)
  • Premium with 50 employees $129 (29% more)
  • Premium with 100 employees $179 (28% more)

Yes the new prices are more flexible and it is useful you can now have payroll for multiple staff with the non premium plans. But if you’re a premium customer, that’s a pretty big increase – disguised as flexibility.  They have grandfathered premium prices until March in recognition as that.

I like Xero as it is normally straight talking. I’m not sure a price increase hidden by flexibility is good for the reputation.

Even with me as a standard user, I’d be paying $14 more a month with this flexibility, as we normally have around 100 employees.

Also it would be nice if Xero broke away from the traditional payroll pricing of charging you per employee, instead of for the service. You don’t pay per general ledger transaction or per invoice for other accounting functions, so why charge per employee?


Philip Matthews on the Twitterati

September 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Philip Matthews writes in Stuff:

It was a Monday morning much like any other. There were jokes to make, news stories to mock, zingers to zing. Twitter was ticking over as it should, running as an infernal engine of bad humour and good information. And then it all went horribly wrong.

I blame the Wiggles. A story appeared on Stuff informing us that two of the Wiggles were now dating. It helps to know that following a lineup reshuffle, there is a woman in the previously all-male band. And that woman was seeing one of the band’s three remaining men. Having just read something about former Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon’s book Girl in a Band, in which a painful relationship breakup led to a sad band breakup, such issues were on my mind.

So I quipped to my Twitter followers, “Why you should never have chicks in the band. Couples break up, then the band breaks up”. And I linked to the Wiggles story. It all seemed fairly innocuous.

Then, out of nowhere: social media outrage.

“When do we call women ‘chicks’? Never!” thundered a male Twitter follower (I have added punctuation to his urgent tweet). A woman I don’t know demanded that I apologise immediately, but I would not.

“You’ve been asked not to use the term, apologise and move on,” she insisted. “Stop trying to defend this.”

Another person informed me, in all seriousness, that women are not poultry. A man compared me to the lowest form of life on the Internet, the “Gamergaters” who had only recently kicked up a sexist stink about women and video games. In all but one case, these attacks came from people I had never met.

It was exciting and utterly absurd. For about half an hour on an ordinary Monday in March, Twitter hell broke loose.

I’ve had a couple of those also. Twitter seems to be a home for permanent outrage. One US magazine actually did a calendar showing for every day of the year, what was causing outrage on Twitter that day.

Sadly the media partly fuel this. They now seem to add to half their stories, some random comments from Twitter.

When I’ve been the centre of abuse on Twitter, I simply turn notifications off and don’t check in for a day or two.

A woman named Adria Richards was in the audience at a technology conference in California when she overheard a couple of dudes making barely audible jokes to each other about “dongles”. It was probably a long day in an airless room. Richards took a picture of the two guys, put it on Twitter and shamed them as inappropriate sexists. One of them was fired as well.

An invasion of privacy. They were not the guest speakers, just in the audience joking to each other. And you had the recent example of the person who published photos of a couple breaking up on a plane, shaming them to a global audience.

I asked Twitter who the Twitterati are and the first answer was “you”. I guess I was asking for that one. But more serious answers followed. They are Left-leaning and self-important, they hunt in packs and devour their own. They are Wellington-based and professional, often posting anonymously because they have government jobs. They are outside the MSM (internet shorthand for “mainstream media”) and critical of it, and they see the worst political crime as being old, white, straight and male. Even if you can’t help being old, white, straight and male.

Not a bad summary. Those of us who fit at least two of those three have privilege and as far as I can tell, this means we must be in a continual state of atonement.

One name kept on coming up: Patrick Gower. Why him? Somehow he had come to embody everything the Twitterati hated. His reports on 3 News are provocative at times and often personalised but he seemed politically neutral. No-one could guess how Gower votes from how he reports. Paul Henry and Mike Hosking seemed much more pro-government.

Was there was something jagged and disruptive about Gower that was breaking up the smoothness of commercial television and was it getting under the skin of the Twitterati?

It didn’t take long to see that he had been winding them up. When other mainstream journalists are called government shills or stooges by the angry Twitter Left, they might ignore it or block it out. But Gower was giving it back to them. Media companies want journalists to be engaged on Twitter and other social platforms but Gower was taking engagement to a whole new level.

I admired it. It was lively stuff but there was an unreality about it all too, as though Gower was just amusing himself while getting on with his real work. Maybe this is what annoyed his Twitter critics so much. Perhaps they sensed that he wasn’t taking it as seriously as they were.

They would criticise his reports. He would reply “Yawn”.

Gower has had huge abuse on Twitter. It used to really impact him. He tried ignoring it but then worked out that you fight fire with fire, and he often will troll the trolls.

Twitter became a hive of “intolerant argument and abuse”, said former political journalist Bill Ralston in a Radio New Zealand discussion after the election. Like Gower, Ralston started some of those arguments as well as being on the receiving end of some of the abuse. But Ralston also thought that the mainstream media looked at Twitter, saw a lot of Left-wing activity and misread the wider electoral mood. In reality, the centrist New Zealand that isn’t on Twitter and doesn’t follow a handful of political bloggers did what it always did.

There is a kind of angry impotence about the Left on Twitter. You saw it when social media noise misled Labour supporters in the UK just as it misled them here. After Labour’s Ed Miliband lost, Helen Lewis in the New Statesmantalked about the Left-wing echo chamber that is social media, which lures the Left into “cosy delusion and dangerous insularity”. You surround yourself with people who think the same.

Many only follow people with views they agree with. Or sometimes they will follow others just so they can abuse them and tell them they’re wrong.

It is much worse on Twitter than Facebook. I’ve blocked probably two people on Facebook but off hand probably 200 to 300 on Twitter for abuse.

Tags: ,

Track your bags

September 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Online travel booking and management company Serko has launched a new bag tracking system aimed at helping travellers to more easily track the location of their luggage.

The system uses a small bluetooth beacon tracker which when synced with the user’s mobile can show where their bag is and when it is on the luggage carousel at airports. Serko chief executive Darrin Grafton said the system was designed to simplify the travel process for its customers.

“With Bag Tracker, Serko Mobile users no longer have to wonder whether their bags have made it on to the plane, or fight queues at the luggage carousel as their Serko Mobile app will now tell them exactly how far away their bags are,” Grafton said.

Sounds great. However if using bluetooth, what is the range? Will be good to know your bags are near the carousel, but will it tell you if they were left behind in another country?

No tag for this post.

New Apple products not that exciting

September 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on the four new Apple products.

  • iPhone 6s
  • iPad Pro
  • Apple TV update
  • Apple Watch new apps

Based on that story, no need to rush out and get them. The iPhone 6 was a pretty big change from the iPhone 5s, and I got one. But the 6s seems to mainly be about extra features when you press instead of tap.

The feature I want is a battery that will last 24 hours of extensive use!


Will Dotcom get an 11th delay?

September 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Court of Appeal judge says the court has been given an “utterly impossible task” in the latest of the many Dotcom cases.

“We are not sure what we are going to do but we are going to do something,” Justice John Wild said, reserving the court’s decision at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.

The hearing to decide whether Kim Dotcom and three of his business associates are eligible to be extradited to the United States is scheduled to start in the District Court on September 21. It is the tenth time the extradition proceedings have been scheduled to be heard.

Grant Illingworth, QC, lawyer for two of Dotcom’s associates, told the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Tuesday the extradition fixture should again be postponed, until it could take place fairly. He said they were wanting “just a few months”.

Dotcom’s lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said all they wanted was time and fair resources to prepare for the hearing.


Yeah sure, just a few more months. And I guarantee you in three more months they’ll find another reason to seek a another delay.

They keep claiming they have not had enough time to prepare. Well think if all the time they spent on seeking delays in the case, they had spent on actually preparing for it!


Hoaxes can do harm

September 3rd, 2015 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The video marketer behind the hoax of the “pregnant” French tourist looking for her baby’s father says he doesn’t regret pretending she was distressed and suicidal.

A video of “Natalie Amyot”, whose real name is Alizee Michel, gained publicity around the world as she pleaded for help to find the Sunshine Coast man described as 180cm tall with blue eyes, blond hair and a tan.

Local social media marketer Andy Sellar was revealed as the mastermind behind the hoax on Wednesday, but not before the video had 870,000 YouTube views.

On Tuesday night, a Facebook page for Natalie Amyot included posts where she claimed to be crying and distressed. In one post she said she was suicidal.

It led to a torrent of responses from Facebook users, with a mixture of concern and abuse being dished out before the page was taken down.

Sellars confirmed it was him, and not Michel, who was controlling the account.

There are very clever hoaxes, and there are ones which are not. This is the latter.

Putting aside the wisdom of the hoax in the first place, this one was pretty appalling because Sellars lied constantly. As people queried the story on Facebook, he lashed out at them for not being sympathetic.

Most human beings are good natured and do respond well to people in distress. But when idiots like Sellars play on that empathy, for a hoax, then it does do harm. When someone really is in trouble, others will be more sceptical in future.

A fake suicidal pregnant girl is not a suitable hoax. He should be ashamed of himself, and his client should sack him.


More on rural broadband

September 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday an e-mail from a friend frustrated with her experience trying to get decent broadband in Tamahere.

On the issue of speeds available, a staffer at Spark has said:

If you look at her article, she states on a number of occasions she “should be getting at least 5Mbps”, including referring to the Chorus website.

however, our understanding is that her property is unfortunately in a ‘dead spot’ on the Chorus broadband network – it is right at the end of a road, which makes it a long distance from the exchange, and according to the Chorus maps there is no guarantee of ANY broadband coverage, let alone at 5+ Mbps.  She also refers to broadband infrastructure improvements with the RBI scheme … but again she is unfortunately just OUTSIDE the scope of these improvements.   


We are doing some more internal checking on this customer’s situation, but from the information we have to date it appears that she is one of those unfortunate customers who is outside the current UFB and RBI schemes, and is located at the very outer limits of the old copper broadband network.  As you know, none of these (UFB, RBI, and Chorus footprint) are within Spark’s control and we (as with any other service provider) can only provide services based on the infrastructure available.   There are a lot of consumers out there in this situation, which is one of the reasons why the Government is pushing ahead with UFB 2.0 and RBI 2.0.

Interestingly Chorus has said they think she should be within the RBI scheme, but that the build there may not be completed by Vodafone until mid 2016.  This has I think been one of the frustrations – the difficulty in finding out what the situation is.

Also Jason Paris, Spark Home, Mobile and Business CEO commented on the original thread:

Thanks for sharing this David. It is a well written story, but I definitely didn’t find it amusing as it is not the experience we want any of our customers to have. I have asked my team to look further into what happened and I will make sure we sort things out for this customer – I would like to apologise for what has obviously been a very frustrating week.

While I don’t know all the details of what happened in this case, I acknowledge the hold times in our call centre queues at the moment are not acceptable, and there are cases where we are not calling customers back in the timeframes they (rightfully) expect. The reason for this is a huge increase in the number and complexity of calls to our customer service teams over the past month – driven by huge demand for and subsequent complexity in delivery of Fibre. The Fibre install process is an industry problem that needs to be addressed with urgency as it not only overloads our fibre team but customers flow across all channels looking for answers – overloading these too. To give you an idea, in a normal month our agents work a total of 11,000 hours per week. In the month of August they did 15,000 hours per week.

These aren’t excuses – just some rationale as to why customer service is my number one priority. We have employed another 90 agents recently, and are recruiting for 100 more. We are putting the microscope on our processes, so when a customer calls us we can solve the problem in that first call wherever possible – so they don’t have to worry about a call-back. We’re also making sure it’s easy for customers to do things online to save them having to call us. It will take us time to sort everything – but the customer service team are doing an incredible job under huge load and we are acting as fast as we can to help give them even more support.

When it comes to broadband speeds, if you are on the copper network one of the most important things influencing your speed is how far your house is from the exchange – it is possible this is the problem for your friend. As Spark does not own the fixed line network, this is unfortunately not something we control, but we can look into and explain the problem to our customers – and this is where we definitely should have done better in the story above.

I understand from Chorus the house is around 5 kms from the nearest exchange, which does mean ADSL speeds will be crap. This is one of the real limitations of copper broadband – the speeds drop massively as you get distance from an exchange or cabinet. That is why the Government has subsidised fibre rollout to 80% of NZ. For those outside the 80%, the rural broadband initiative should help get semi decent speeds, but it is not fully rolled out yet.

A smaller broadband provider has also been in touch, so we’ll see if the situation improves.

Tags: , ,

The Ashley Madison bots

September 2nd, 2015 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Gizmodo has looked even closer at the data from Ashley Madison, and it turns out that not only were they very few women, many of them were bots.

In a summary they have found:

  • 70,000 female bots would take over accounts created by staff, and “chat” to men
  • The bots sent 20,269,675 messages to men and 1,492 to women
  • There were 70,529 female bots and 43 male ones
  • Around two thirds of male users were messaged by a bot and one third chatted up by one
  • At first the bots tried chatting up gay men and had to be programmed to ignore them!
  • There were special bots who would chat to those who paid $250 for a “guaranteed affair”. Once they paid, they were passed to an “affiliate”, probably an escort.
  • Engineers actually looked at a system where women would get paid a commission for getting men to buy credits to talk to them
  • The bots could speak 31 different languages

So really the website was a giant fraud. While the data hack was despicable in that it revealed individual’s data, it has exposed that the website was basically a scam. Not media gave the company masses amount of free publicity, based on the company’s own claims. Perhaps there is a lesson that media should never just promote a company that claims they are successful, without verifying it.

It will be interesting to see if the executives are prosecuted for fraud. There would seem to be a pretty good case for it.


A frustrated broadband user e-mails

August 31st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Got sent by a friend a copy of her e-mail to Amy Adams on her struggle to get rural broadband in Tamahere. It’s rather amusing, and with her permission I’m sharing it here:

Hi Amy

Just wanted to share with you my crusade for the holy grail (holy grail being first world internet speeds):

I live out on xxx in Tamahere, Waikato this has been a well established rural area with a lot more lifestyle blocks being built out here. We are only 7minutes out of the main city area. 

We are hooked up to Sparks Rural Broadband Business unlimited plan. It’s the only broadband that is affordable and that we can get out here. 

  1. A Naïve girl trying to make a difference

My first correspondence starts with trusting the automated voice with putting me in queue for 1hr+ for a ring back. After a solid few hours I get a call. I was currently out running errands. I explained my plight to the “fault and technical issues team” where I got told that it was outside their knowledge to run me through all the troubleshooting steps and that I would have to be put through to the technical team. I informed her that I would not be home for another hr and she said a techy from the technical team will give me a ring around midday. A whole day passed by with no call from Spark. 

  1. Lets fight internet with internet, my experience with live chat

Round two begins a few days following when I was like bugger being put in a queue and leaving a call back to the merchants of chance and fate. I decided to hop on live chat hoping my internet speeds would support such a new age mode of online communication. But to my surprise the internet managed to give me that much. However the Spark live chat gave me nothing much in the way of advice:

00:00:03 Spark : Question:Really slow internet, lucky to get 0.5Mb when we should be getting 5Mb

00:01:10 Chris : ok

00:01:15 Chris : HEy xxx

00:01:23 xxx : Hi, just wanted to be talked through troubleshooting etc in the event you guys need to send a techy out. Our internet is slow and very patchy. 

00:01:32 Chris : can you please confirm the number it’s on?

00:01:50 xxx : yyyyyyyy

00:03:23 Chris : Ok hold the chat and I’ll have someone from the residential team look at this!

00:05:31 xxx : Hi Nicole

00:05:58 Nicole : Hey There xxx. I can see you are having trouble with your internet.What is happening for you?

00:07:58 xxx : Well I moved in here beginning of July, and I’ve known this family for yrs and I know it’s always been rough getting decent internet out here but I recently discovered that given the new work on infrastructure out here we should be gauranteed atleast 5Mb speed. We’re lucky if we get 1Mb and that’s just to the one computer that’s ethernetted, wirelessly connected gets about 0.2Mb

00:10:52 Nicole : Thats not good xxx. This sounds like it is a bit more technical that we originally thought. I can organise for a Specialist to give you a call if you like. 

00:11:19 xxx : Yea I was told some one would call  me at midday…and here I am on here :(

00:11:30 xxx: would be nice if I got a call this time please :)

00:12:38 Nicole : Sure I will organise for someone to call you. They have a 32 min wait at the moment so it shouldn’t take to long. Whats the best number to call you on?

00:13:01 xxx : yyyyyyyy

00:14:45 Nicole : Great thats all booked in. Someone will call you shortly. Is there anything else I can help with?

00:16:41 xxx : no that’s it thank you :) 

00:16:49 Nicole : Great have a good day :)


  1. Troubleshooting with the troublemakers

After an hr I receive a call from the techy to run me through all the troubleshooting. They also ran speed tests on the line to show that it’s showing speeds between 3.3-5Mbps. I reset the modem, try the modem in every known jack point in the house to run speed tests on all of them. Low and behold nothing was wrong on our end. The last and very inconvenient part was to test another modem on our internet or use our modem on a different internet connect to test to see if it was our modem crapping up. Otherwise so sad too bad no techy for you. 


  1. Phoneline outage, the cherry on top of the shitty Spark cake. 

In the meantime our phone lines go down and we get told there’s been an outage in our area since the beginning of August. When we get a techy out to fix our phone lines, Brian the account holder and who I live with also relays issues with our internet, the techy checks our modem and runs a speed test. Essentially confirming what we all thought, it most probably isn’t a fault in the line but just the sad reality of being at the end of the exchange and that pretty much every house on this end would be getting these same shitty speeds. He also told us there is actually a Fibre box installed at the end of our road and that it may be worth investigating into when that would get installed. Even suggest we write a letter to spark….umm lol?


  1. Out of the Broadband pan into the Fibre.

Now we come to the events of today (24th August). I checked on the Chorus website and saw that Fibre was installed but not due to be connected until June 2017. 


So I thought I’d give the RBI angle one more go (currently still on the phone and have been writing this email in between being put on hold. Also had to sort out all the penalties and extra charges they put on my mobile phone account despite them never sending me any bills or warnings or jackshit, I got those penalties waived so I guess they managed to fix at least a couple of their muck ups today, have been on the phone now for 2hrs and counting) So I’ve relayed this message to about 3 different people today: 

“I have been through the ringer and essentially this is the situation. We are part of the RBI. I have confirmation that we should be getting between 3.3-5Mbps and it also shows 5+Mbps on the Chorus RBI map on their website. For the past 2 months I have lived here we have never clocked a speed close to 1Mbps and I want to understand why that is and how you can sink in that much $$ into infrastructure and us not see 1Mbps of a result”


  1. Finally I actually get put through to a “specialised RBI team” what ever that means, so is this salvation? Or just another mirage in the rural broadband desert?

I gave her the same speech, now being able to recite it and multitask checking whats on the news. Crazy about police cocking up the Burdett case!? She says she has to run her own speedtest as she cannot pull up the history of my phone conversation with techy at point 3. As I was put on hold for what I hoped to be the last time in the 2hrs I’ve been on the phone, she comes back to inform me that due to a fault that was just registered on our line scheduled to be fixed today she cannot do a speedtest. After 2hr 10mins on the phone I am waiting for a ring back in order to run said testing to be able to file an “investigation” to get a tech guy out (at this point my brain was fighting as to whether or not I should throw my phone across the room) and I should HOPE to get a call back later today confirming.

I did get a call back pretty quick so pretty stoked about that small victory. They’re going to send a techy out to check the exchange in 24hrs. Let’s see what happens, my bet is that there will be nothing wrong with the exchange and the speed is attributed to congestion and distance. 

  1. What have I learnt?

New Zealand is a 3rd world country where farmers are too stupid to realise they’re getting ripped off, or if they do realise they’re too busy trying to sustain a dying dairy farming industry to be on the phone for hrs at a time, multiple days a week. 

Spark customer service runs a competition to see how many teams you can bounce one issue around on.

Treat them like I treat my one night stands, never EVER expect a call back. Expectations only leads to heartbreak and a possible brain aneurism.

I can last approx. 1hr-1hr20 on the phone before I start swearing at them. 

Please 2degrees come back to my life. 

Sorry if this is harsh and some of it expecting too much of Spark. But after a week of getting no where and talking to about nearly every broadband related team with Spark I have a sore back from being bent over and fucked by bureaucracy. 

A very disgruntled and dismayed New Zealand citizen



No online voting for Auckland

August 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders won’t be able to choose their next council at the click of a mouse.

Local Government Associate Minister Louise Upston confirmed that the country’s biggest city wouldn’t feature in a trial of online voting for next year’s local body elections.

Officials from the Super City are some of the biggest supporters of a digital voting revolution, but Auckland Council’s catchment has been deemed too big.

“A trial that includes all of Auckland and its approximately 1 million electors is simply too large to adequately mitigate these risks,” she said.

I understand the nervousness about having such a big Council s part of the trial, but by excluding Auckland you also run the risk that the trial is uneconomic.

If the Government was willing to contribute towards the costs of a trial, then I think it would be fine to say Auckland is too big to take part. But as the Government has declined to contribute costs, then excluding the largest Council in NZ runs the risk that the trial will not occur.

Stung by a dismal 36 per cent voter turnout in the 2013 elections, Auckland Council has lobbied hard to introduce internet voting.

But its campaign has failed. Applications are now only being sought from smaller councils to provide a range of voting systems.

So far, Porirua, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Matamata-Piako, Selwyn, Marlborough and Whanganui councils have confirmed that they want to be part of the trial.

So four cities and three districts. I’m not sure if they will be able to make it economic. I hope they can, because if there is a sucessful trial, I expect 90% of Councils would then offer an online voting option in future.

Auckland Council bosses are not happy about being sidelined as they consider the council is well placed to take part.

“We were disappointed the Government decided to exclude the council from the online voting trial,” manager democracy services, Marguerite Delbet, said.

The council had been actively working to introduce online voting and this year asked the Government to allow it.

Auckland’s size is a risk, but also a benefit. They have a more well resourced voting unit than most Councils, and I think would have addedvalue to teh trial.

Tags: ,

31 million men and 12,000 women!

August 28th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Annalee Newitz at Gizmodo writes:

When hacker group Impact Team released the Ashley Madison data, they asserted that “thousands” of the women’s profiles were fake. Later, this number got blown up in news storiesthat asserted “90-95%” of them were fake, though nobody put forth any evidence for such an enormous number. So I downloaded the data and analyzed it to find out how many actual women were using Ashley Madison, and who they were.

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.

So basically the website is a huge fraud.  They made hundreds of millions of dollars of of suckers who believed their PR.

The numbers dug up from the hacked data is:

  • Number of male accounts that checked their messages – 20,269,675
  • Number of female accounts that checked their messages – 1,492

So a ratio of around 13,000 to 1!

Either way, we’re left with data that suggests Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.

I wonder how many other sites do this also?


Hotel WiFi in NZ very bad

August 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Blayne Slabbert at Stuff writes:

When staying at a hotel would you rather have Sky TV or free wi-fi? What about a bath big enough for three or free wi-fi?

I would definitely opt for the free wi-fi and I expect I’m not alone. Not only do I want it for free, I want it to be a decent speed.

I think 95% of customers would prefer wi-fi to television. And while nothing is free, the question is whether it should be included in the room charge.

I think it should be. Making you pay extra for Internet is like having a charge for water.  And even worse some of the charges are so high you pay more per day in a hotel than your normal monthly cost.

But many top hotels in New Zealand and around the world still charge for wi-fi and a lot have internet speeds that would be classified as dial-up.

During a recent stay at an international hotel chain, the staff at the front desk told me that it charged $8 an hour to access the internet.

Like being back in 1996!

A website,, helps people find good wi-fi at hotels around the world.

It ranks hotels, including those in New Zealand, getting users to submit speed tests and then ranks them according a star rating.


But according to a survey by management consultants Accenture, free in-room Internet access was ranked the second most important factor after room cost in choosing a hotel.

In NZ I tether my laptop to my phone so not such an issue. But when picking where to stay overseas, wifi cost is a major factor.

Still, I’m hopeful wi-fi will be free and fast in all hotels within a few years and we’ll look back and laugh at the concept of paying extra to access the internet.

I wonder if once upon a time hotels charged you for the electricity you consumed?

It is getting better though. I note that Sky City no longer charges for Internet but has free wireless through the complex. It’s great to be able to just use it without even needing a login. And it is fast – faster than the old paid wifi you used to have.

Tags: ,

Don’t take photos of strangers

August 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

As far as in-flight break-ups go, at least it wasn’t the fuselage.

Rather, it was a relationship that disintegrated on board a delayed flight out of Raleigh, North Carolina, captured in all its devastation by a fellow passenger and broadcast to the world.

When Kelly Keegs live-tweeted the split as her plane sat stranded on the tarmac, it quickly went viral. The saga garnered thousands of retweets as followers hung on every word, and the hashtag #PlaneBreakup became a home base for observers to discuss the unfolding chaos.

I don’t have an issue with people live tweeting something happening in a semi-public place. But I do think it is appalling when you also take a photo of the people involved, and make that public. That humiliates them to all their friends and family, and shames them on a global basis.

Twitter has a very nasty streak to it, where people revel in public shaming.

Tags: ,

NZ Ashley Madison addresses

August 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


Danyl McL blogs:

I downloaded the dump files and took a look at the breakdown of top level addresses. It seems a little unfair that teachers account for about 0.2% of the addresses but close to 100% of the breathless coverage.

Many of the .co addresses are just private email addresses (, so you could claim that the focus is on teachers and public servants because they were stupid enough to use work addresses. But there are also literally thousands of work addresses included in that .co category including, amusingly enough, many from the media companies running these stories about dirty teachers and public servants. If these journos want to know why someone would sign up to one of these sites they should go ask their executives. Why are the teachers ‘exposed’ and not everyone else?

I think that the media have gone way over the top hunting down people who were registered on the site, just because they are a teacher or used a work address.

Unless there is gross hypocrisy involved (ie someone is a family values crusader), then there is no public interest in publishing stories about people who registered for the site.

As Danyl notes, some users are from media companies. Are they going to start doing exposes on their own staff?

Tags: ,

Car Sharing

August 23rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester has urged council to support a car sharing business, which he believes could be the next Xero or TradeMe.

Wellington peer-to-peer car-sharing company Roam will allow car owners to hire out their own vehicle to other people through an online booking system and keyless car entry software on their mobile.

The business plans to market the software and device to car-sharing platforms overseas – either selling or partnering with car manufacturers and car rental companies.

Wellington City Council needed to support export growth potential businesses like Roam, Lester said.

Our cars sit unused for around 95% of the week. I think car sharing will be part of the future, along with driverless cars.

Good to see Justin Lester wanting the Council to be supportive of innovative companies in this space.


NZF MP accuses former youth leader of HDCA breach

August 19th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Critic reports:

NZ First MP Tracey Martin has claimed Curwen Rolinson is in breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed in July. In a blog post, Rolinson, former leader of the NZ First youth wing, accused Martin of undermining party MP Andrew Williams.

Speaking at the University of Otago last week, Martin suggested that Rolinson was in breach of the law as a result of a blog post written on 6 July, four days after the Act was officially made into law. 

“I’ve been working on the Harmful Digital Communications bill and what Curwen [Rolinson] did, what Whaleoil [blogger Cameron Slater] does, that’s harmful digital communications,” said Martin.

The Act states that a person is in breach of the law if they intentionally cause harm to someone on the internet. “A person commits an offence if the person posts a digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim,” the law reads. 

If it causes serious emotional harm. I don’t think criticising an MP falls into that sphere. It would be a very bad thing if MPs truied to silence critics using the HDCA. I doubt they would possibly succeed, but would be a bad look to even threaten or try.

Tags: , ,

The online GST proposal

August 18th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government has published a discussion document about what to do with GST on online purchases. It is here. They key points are:

  • Offshore suppliers will be required to register and return GST if their supplies of services to New Zealand-resident consumers exceed a given threshold in a 12-month period. Submissions are sought on the value of that threshold.
  • In some situations, an electronic marketplace or intermediary may be required to register instead of the principal offshore supplier.

The Government has kicked for touch (for now) the most politically significant issue of the de minimis threshold of $60 GST/fees (or $400 of goods) for collecting GST at the border. That is the issue I am more interested in. If Customs starts seizing my books from Amazon, I’ll be bloody pissed off.

What is proposed in the discussion document is pretty unobjectionable, but that is because they may be unenforceable.

Basically it is saying we’re going to ask overseas e-tailers to agree to register for GST in NZ, and pay us GST.

Some may do so, for reputational reasons. But what if they don’t?

These companies may not have a legal presence in NZ. Will Amazon be banned if they don’t agree to register for and collect GST?

So I’m not sure this will achieve much. It may get some voluntary compliance for reputational reasons, but not too many businesses will rush to pay a voluntary tax. If all OECD Governments agree to pass laws mandating each other’s GST laws must be honoured by their own businesses, then it would be a different matter.

So as I said the big issue for me is the de minimis threshold. There may be a case to reduce it a bit, but if the cost of collecting GST at the border is more than the revenue from it, then the threshold is too low.