Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Government signs .nz MOU with InternetNZ

May 4th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams has announced:

Communications Minister Amy Adams has welcomed today’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between InternetNZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) on the management of the .nz domain name.

“The agreement will help ensure this important resource continues to be managed in a transparent way that supports the interests of the local internet community and end users of digital services,” says Ms Adams.

The Memorandum of Understanding sets expectations for how InternetNZ will operate the domain name in the interests of New Zealand internet users, and sets out a process for dealing with any concerns between parties.

It provides a clear statement of how the relationship between InternetNZ and MBIE should operate.

“A stable, reliable, and responsive domain name system is a key part of a modern communications infrastructure.

“The success of the .nz domain name lies in consulting with, and being accountable to, New Zealand internet users,” says Ms Adams.

That accountability is key, and I think it is great to have this agreement. In many countries Governments run the country code top level domain or have passed laws dictating how it should be run. In New Zealand, we have an open multi stakeholder approach to Internet policy.

The MOU is here. It is almost unique in the world to have a Government sign an agreement recognising that the country code top level domain should be run in accordance with RFC1591. They have also recognised the seven principles for top level domains that InternetNZ is guided by:

  1. Domain name markets should be competitive.
  2. Choice for registrants should be maintained and expanded.
  3. Domain registrations should be first come, first served.
  4. Parties to domain registrations should be on a level playing field.
  5. Registrant data should be public.
  6. Registry / Registrar operations within a TLD should be split.
  7. TLD policy should be determined by open multi-stakeholder processes

The agreement also increases accountability for InternetNZ by setting out a process any complaints can be heard, and also requiring InternetNZ to regularly test the views of the Internet community on key issues.

It’s really pleasing to be in a country where the Government has such good policies towards the Internet.

  • NB – I am Chair of the .nz Domain Name Commission but wasn’t involved in negotiating the MOU – however I was one of those consulted on its details

A good copyright decision

April 24th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The legal fight over Google’s effort to create a digital library of millions of book is finally over.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge from authors who had argued that the tech giant’s project was “brazen violation of copyright law” — effectively ending the decade-long legal battle in Google’s favor.

Without the Supreme Court taking up the case, a federal appeals court ruling from October, which found the book scanning program fell under the umbrella of fair use, will stand.

Back in 2004, Google started scanning millions of books from major research libraries — creating a vast database from the digitized copies known as Google Books. Users can search Google Books for quotes or keywords, and it will display paragraphs or pages of context for the results from within the books.

The Authors Guild started complaining about the project in 2005, arguing that Google Books had undermined writers by putting their work online for free.

Good to see the decision this is fair use stand. Google was not making the books available for free. They were allowing very small extracts of the books to be found and quoted. This is exactly what fair use is about.

The Solution for Bill and open data

April 21st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Politik reports:

Non-Government organisations joined public servants in a packed all day “hui” intended by Finance Minister Bill English to convince the Government agencies to start sharing the huge volumes of data they hold on New Zealanders.

Mr English wants the data shared so that social services can be directed more specifically towards at risk individuals and groups.

But public servants have been reluctant to share information – perhaps worried that the more they empower the non-Governmental groups, the more they are likely to take over social serviced delivery traditionally undertaken by state agencies.

Not just delivery, but analysis. Open up access to the crime and offending data, and you could well have some dedicated NGOs and charities discover patterns and links which will help with policies to lower reoffending.

But it was clear from a keynote speech from Finance Minister, Bill English, that he is finding pushback from the bureaucracy in supplying the data to the NGO’s.

“Access to data shouldn’t be the exclusive reserve of government – but that’s what it largely is because in many cases access is being decided ad hoc,” he said.

“Iwi, NGOs, and Pasifika – many of you here today – have told us getting information out of departments is not easy.

“It’s a negotiation. Agency by agency. Official by official.

“You’ve told us contracts are entered in to as if each negotiation was the first, with the each negotiation’s success dependent on who you are talking to.”

Mr English said that just saying “no” as an approach to data security had meant we have made only limited use of all the data the Government had gone to the trouble of collecting.

“Data has no value if it is not used,” he said.

“So let’s fix the system.

“Let’s reverse the presumption and make data sharing the norm rather than the exception by clarifying the rules.

“Because, actually, it’s your data.

“Specifically, the data we hold belongs to the people, and the whanau that you are working for and with.

“Some of you here today have spoken of data sovereignty.

“You, as citizens, and collectively as Iwi, Pasifika and NGOs acting on behalf of citizens, own the data held by public agencies.

“We agree with you.”

Great to hear Bill English say this and he has been the champion of open data. But as he notes there is bureaucratic resistance.

The key is indeed reversing the presumption, and here’s how it can be done.

Pass a law (statute or regulation) that says all datasets managed by crown entities and agencies must be made publicly available within five years, with two exceptions:

  • Any details that could identify individuals should be with-held
  • Agencies can apply to Cabinet for exemptions for specific datasets, to opt them out

The idea is to change open data from opt in for agencies to opt out.

Government says no to online voting trial for local body elections

April 19th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Louise Upston announced:

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston has announced that the online voting trial proposed for this year’s local body elections will not proceed as more work is required to ensure a trial meets public and government expectations.

“Public confidence in local elections is fundamentally important. Given real concerns about security and vote integrity, it is too early for a trial,” says Ms Upston.

Too early? I’d accept that in 2000 or even 2006 but not 2016.

I feel very sorry for the local bodies who have invested time and money into this, to be told no by the Government. The whole point of a trial, is to try it.

Fewer and fewer people use the post office. The turnout will continue to decline for local body elections if the Government continues to make it hard for people to vote. So if there is low turnout, blame the Government for saying no.

35% of people in the NZ Election Study said they would choose to vote online if they had the choice. That is for parliamentary elections, and I suspect it would be even higher for local body elections as postal voting is far more insecure than Internet voting.

Fibre and data

April 19th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Seen some interesting data from Chorus:

  • Average monthly usage over all connections is 100GB/mth
  • This is double a year ago and seven times what we did in 2012
  • For fibre connections it is 200 GB/mth
  • Average download speeds are now 26 Mb/s – up from 16 Mb/s a year ago

So in the last year data usage has doubled and download speeds are up 65% or so.

Latest NZ Internet Stats

April 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The 2015 World Internet Project study for NZ is out. Some interesting data:

  • 91% of NZers use the Internet
  • 3% are ex users and 5% have never used the Internet
  • 75% of NZers have accessed the Internet through a laptop, 74% mobile phone, 70% PC, 59% tablet, 22% games console and 17% smart TV
  • 16% of Internet users have a fibre connection
  • Those who do an activity at least weekly are
    • Browse web 91%
    • Social Media 78%
    • Watch videos online 49%
    • Listen to music 44%
    • Watch TV shows online 42%
    • Play games 36%
    • Listen to radio 23%
    • Download films 21%
    • View porn 14%
    • Look at religious sites 11%
    • Gamble 5%
  • Social media use is Facebook 44%, You Tube 27%, Linked In 16%, Instagram 10%, Twitter 9%
  • Sadly only 35% think it is safe to express political opinion online

Telco review

April 17th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

There will be no sudden increases in basic phone and broadband prices after telecommunications regulations get a clean sweep in 2020, the Government has promised.

In a relief for Sky Television, Communications Minister Amy Adams also said she had decided against introducing new regulations governing broadcasting competition, saying broadcasters were “facing more competition than ever”.

Yep. Competition is alive and well with almost a dozen competitors.

The rules that will govern the telecommunications industry will be largely rewritten to reflect the fact that the ultrafast broadband (UFB) network will be largely built by 2020 and will be something of a monopoly.

Adams said proposed the wholesale price of both copper and fibre broadband would be set through a “building blocks” regulatory regime, similar to one that is used to regulate utility pricing in Australia.

The wholesale price of UFB is currently set out in contracts between network builders such as Chorus and the Crown, rather than through regulations.

Some telecommunications retailers have suggested the monthly wholesale price of copper and fibre broadband and phone services could fall by at least $10 a month after the regulatory reset in 2020, meaning cheaper prices for consumers.

Adams clarified she was not assuming the new rules would push up wholesale prices rather than reduce them. “Any time you bring in a new pricing methodology no-one really knows what the outcome of that will be.

This model is basically what most other monopolies have such as airport companies and lines companies. Effectively a maximum rate of return on their assets. It’s not perfect as utilities will then try and inflate their asset base, but it is considerable simpler than the current telco regulation where the Commerce Commission has to wok out the cost of each particular service, and then what the price for it should be.

Regulation is a necessary evil when it comes to monopolies. The best response is to have competition, but when it comes to utilities such as fibre networks,  there is no economic case for competing networks, so hence you need to have some price regulation of a monopoly utility.

FBI uses hackers

April 16th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new information was then used to create a piece of hardware that helped the FBI to crack the iPhone’s four-digit personal identification number without triggering a security feature that would have erased all the data, the individuals said.

A much better idea than requiring Apple to create a back door in their phones.

Two more OMSA complaints dismissed

April 15th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

OMSA has dismissed two complaints against Whale Oil by a Joshua James.

What is interesting is the complainant lied over the details of his complaint, and when asked by a Whale Oil staff member for details of what comments he was upset by, refused to tell him. Instead he complained to OMSA (again refusing to give details).

What this means is this left activist is trying to use the OMSA complaints process to damage a blog he doesn’t like. It had nothing to do with the substance – just an attempt at censorship.

It’s activist like Mr James that makes bloggers cautious of joining a complaints body. The concern that people will try and use it against you as a weapon. This may be why only three blogs have joined so far – Kiwiblog and Whale Oil for OMSA and Pundit for The Press Council.

One solution I’d propose is limiting the number of complaints an individual can make in a year.

NZ Internet getting faster

April 8th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s internet speeds continue to get faster, according to an international report on broadband speeds.

The Akamai State of the Internet December 2015 report found that in the past year average broadband speeds rose from 7.3 Mbps to 9.3 Mbps, representing a 27 per cent increase in speeds for connected New Zealanders.

New Zealand has improved by two places in the rankings since 2014 to now be 41st in the world for average fixed line connection speeds.

Communications Minister Amy Adams said that in 2008, average broadband speeds were around 2.7 Mbps and by the end of last year speeds had tripled.

The decision to go with a fibre to the premises roll-out, rather than fibre to the node and then copper, was an excellent one. Australia has really fallen behind us, and having fibre to the premises future proofs us.

I can’t wait for my home to get fibre – due later this year. We have the old Telstra-Clear cables which are pretty good, but not as good as the fibre in my last place.

New Zealand’s broadband according to Akamai State of the Internet report:
• Average speeds rose from 7.3 Mbps in 2014 to 9.3 Mbps in December 2015
• Peak connection speeds increased to 42.8 Mbps, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year
• The number of New Zealanders with access to broadband speeds over 15 Mbps has almost tripled over the last year
• New Zealand has improved by two places in the rankings since 2014 to now be 41st in the world for average fixed line connection speeds
• Average mobile connection speeds in the last quarter of 2015 were 7.4Mbps
• Peak mobile speeds reached 75.4 Mbps, and 88 per cent of connections were above 4 Mbps.

Most of us can probably remember when speeds were in Kbps not Mbps. Hell I can even recall bps – the old 2400 modems!

Hawaiki Cable is go

April 1st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hawaiki Cable says it has secured the funding to lay a new internet cable between New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

The cable is believed to have a price tag of about $500 million and may mean faster and cheaper access to overseas websites and online services for broadband users.

The company said in a statement that a contract under which United States firm TE SubCom will build the cable came into force on Thursday and construction would now begin.

This is great news. It should lead to greater competition and more resilience (note Southern Cross is effectively two cables so we are already protected from a single cable failure).

There’s been talk and efforts for almost a decade to get a second cable to the US. Great to see it finally happen. Well done to Hawaiki.

Robot pizza delivery

March 22nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Domino’s says it’s working with the Government on a plan to permit robot pizza delivery to hungry New Zealanders.

The government and Domino’s Pizza are working to explore and test driverless pizza delivery options with a four-wheeled unit named DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit).

Minister of Transport Simon Bridges said the use of the robot is an exciting opportunity for New Zealand, which is one of the first countries in the world being considered for testing autonomous pizza delivery.

“DRU is an early prototype, but the fact that New Zealand is being considered as a test site shows we have the right settings to attract innovation.”

New technology and encouraging innovation is a government priority, Bridges said.

“Over the last 12 months I’ve been actively and aggressively promoting New Zealand as a test bed for new transport technology trials. Our enabling laws and regulation means we have the ideal environment to trial all forms of technology,” he said.

Sounds great to me.

Whale Oil wins OMSA appeal

March 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged previously on how Whale Oil won the first ever OMSA decision against a blog.

The complainant appealed the decision and the Appeal Committee has ruled, upholding the original decision.

Good to see self-regulation working well.

Red Alert euthanised

March 8th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

After years as an internet wasteland, the Labour Party’s “Red Alert” blog site looks to have been quietly put out of its misery. Once lauded as the new way for MPs to interact with the public, it soon became a bit of an embarrassment, before being ignored. Now, it appears to be no more.

It started off very well, and I lauded it often. But it lost its way and started to score too many own goals. A pity it wasn’t done better as I like the idea of MPs blogging.

The power of search rankings on candidates

March 6th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Robert Epstein at Aeon writes:

Late in 2012, I began to wonder whether highly ranked search results could be impacting more than consumer choices. Perhaps, I speculated, a top search result could have a small impact on people’s opinions about things. Early in 2013, with my associate Ronald E Robertson of theAmerican Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California, I put this idea to a test by conducting an experiment in which 102 people from the San Diego area were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In one group, people saw search results that favoured one political candidate – that is, results that linked to web pages that made this candidate look better than his or her opponent. In a second group, people saw search rankings that favoured the opposing candidate, and in the third group – the control group – people saw a mix of rankings that favoured neither candidate. The same search results and web pages were used in each group; the only thing that differed for the three groups was the ordering of the search results.

To make our experiment realistic, we used real search results that linked to real web pages. We also used a real election – the 2010 election for the prime minister of Australia. We used a foreign election to make sure that our participants were ‘undecided’. Their lack of familiarity with the candidates assured this. Through advertisements, we also recruited an ethnically diverse group of registered voters over a wide age range in order to match key demographic characteristics of the US voting population.

All participants were first given brief descriptions of the candidates and then asked to rate them in various ways, as well as to indicate which candidate they would vote for; as you might expect, participants initially favoured neither candidate on any of the five measures we used, and the vote was evenly split in all three groups. Then the participants were given up to 15 minutes in which to conduct an online search using ‘Kadoodle’, our mock search engine, which gave them access to five pages of search results that linked to web pages. People could move freely between search results and web pages, just as we do when using Google. When participants completed their search, we asked them to rate the candidates again, and we also asked them again who they would vote for.

We predicted that the opinions and voting preferences of 2 or 3 per cent of the people in the two bias groups – the groups in which people were seeing rankings favouring one candidate – would shift toward that candidate. What we actually found was astonishing. The proportion of people favouring the search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by48.4 per cent, and all five of our measures shifted toward that candidate. What’s more, 75 per cent of the people in the bias groups seemed to have been completely unaware that they were viewing biased search rankings. In the control group, opinions did not shift significantly.

It’s a small sample size but quite an astonishing result. Obviously this is on candidates where nothing else is known on them, but it still shows how powerful search engine results can be.

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Split decisions on Apple vs FBI

March 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A New York judge says the U.S. Justice Department cannot force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data in a routine Brooklyn drug case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled Tuesday (NZ time). The decision follows a California magistrate judge’s order requiring Apple to create software to help the U.S. hack the iPhone of a shooter in the December 2 killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

As different judges have made different rulings it seems inevitable it will be appealed to a Court of Appeals and if they differ, then eventually the Supreme Court.

Australia’s NBN problems

March 2nd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

On Monday, NBNCo, the Government organisation tasked with creating one of Australia’s most ambitious — and at $46 billion, one of its most expensive — pieces of infrastructure, was forced to deny claims the project was heavily behind schedule.

According to Fairfax Media an “internal progress report” said the project was two-thirds short on its benchmark construction timetable, and had only approved connections to 663,000 premises, rather than the 1.4 million planned.

In a statement, the NBNCo said it had met or exceeded every key target for six quarters in a row. This included having 2.6 million homes “ready for service” by year’s end, one million homes using the network and more than $300 million in revenue.

The company said it would not be drawn on “alleged internal documents” but admitted, “this is an incredibly complex project unlike any infrastructure build anywhere in the world.”

The squabbling over how many homes have been connected and how much the project has cost is all a long way from the Coalition’s glittery launch of its NBN policy in 2013.

United on a Sydney stage, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Turnbull promised that the Coalition’s version of the NBN would, by this year, deliver minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second, possibly as much as 100mbps, for just $30 billion. Hardly the kind of coin you find down the back of the sofa, but significantly less than the $44 billion Labor was predicting their system would cost.

“There will be billions of dollars that Labor has wasted that we cannot recover but we will save many billions of dollars, at least $60 billion, by taking the approach we have described,” said Mr Turnbull at the time.

Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) proposal would take that fibre all the way to the home while the Coalition’s cost saving was to be made by cutting back on important chunks of infrastructure. Called fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), Turnbull’s NBN would see the fibre cables — a veritable motorway of data — halting on the street corner. The last leg would take all those tunes, films, images and Skype calls down the picturesque side road of the more limited copper network.

 Amazing it is costing them so much. In NZ we’re getting fibre to around 80% of homes (and almost all schools and businesses) for under $2 billion.

$1.24b on IT!

March 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Super City has spent $1.24 billion on IT since it was formed in 2010 – enough money to pay for the council’s half share of the $2.5 billion city rail link.

Among the benefits, Aucklanders can now register dogs online and access nearly 100,000 e-books, but most online experiences with council are still a grind.

Libraries have also provided an e-magazine service called Zinio since 2013, peaking at 65,060 downloads last August. Popular titles include Woman’s Day, Cuisine andThe Economist.

Other improvements to the council’s IT system, such as booking a hall or swimming lesson online, are not far off, say council chief financial officer Sue Tindal and chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.

Let’s see if I have this right. They’ve spent $1.24 billion. That is $1,024 million on IT and you still can’t do online bookings in 2016.

An Airbnb of the funeral industry?

February 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Death is an inevitably morbid conversation and few people like talking about funerals.

Except for businesswoman-turned-charity founder Jude Mannion.

The former boss of companies such as Elizabeth Arden, Kellogg’s New Zealand and Hallmark has founded funeral browsing website Fresh Funerals, which she equates to an ‘Airbnb of the funeral industry.’

Users of Fresh Funerals fill out a form, specifying how they want their funeral to be conducted. Options include whether the deceased should come home or stay at the funeral home; cremation or burial; and arrangements for a casket.

They are then sent quotes by funeral directors. The website is linked to all funeral homes to enable them to quote.

“You can do it at home, online, for the first time in New Zealand. You don’t have to go to the funeral director’s home where you feel out of your comfort zone. You’re in a really strange place and you’ve got a professional saying, ‘tell me what you want,’” Ms Mannion, the founder of The Robin Hood Foundation NZ says.

“I’m hoping that by sitting at home, drinking a bottle of wine with your brothers and sisters you can discuss in a more relaxed way how you want to do the final send-off for the one you love. We only get to do it once.

I like the concept. It is similar to Builders Crack. Your describe what you want, and let companies compete for the work. You make your selection based on price, quality and reviews.

Funeral Directors Association chief executive Katrina Shanks says there’s not necessarily a demand for a website like Fresh Funerals, though, adding that there’s a lot of information on undertakers’ websites already.

She says funeral arrangements can’t simply be chosen by “ticking a box” because there’s substantial emotional attachment, unlike booking a hotel or Uber.

The industry body has commissioned research asking people what they value most in the funeral process. A lot of the feedback involved compassion and sympathy, which Ms Shanks says can’t be catered to by a website. She says funeral directors have the training to understand those skills.

Not everyone wants the same thing. The great thing about the Internet is it allows different business models, and we’ll find out if they succeed.

A ride sharing app

February 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The developers of a new ride-sharing app are using Auckland’s bus strikes to launch their product.

The Chariot BETA app is now available for download on Google Play. It is designed to connect users with people driving in the same direction and is promising to transform New Zealanders’ commutes.

An Apple version is still in development.

Chief executive and co-founder Thomas Kiefer said it was exciting to launch the app.

“For roughly the price of a bus fare, people who use Chariot will be able to get a ride from, or give a ride to, someone going in the same direction. It is a convenient, affordable, fun and safe way to get to where you need to go,” he said.

Sounds a great idea. I hope they do an Apple version soon. I’d be keen to use it.

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Apple resists USG

February 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports an open letter for Apple CEO Tim Cook:

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Once such a tool exists, governments all over the world will demand they have access to it. Good on Apple for resisting.

Stephen Fry explains why he has left Twitter

February 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stephen Fry on Twitter:

Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane. But now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over.

To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.

It has become a home of permanent outrage aided by a media who do daily stories on the basis that somewhere in the world someone has been offended by what someone else said on Twitter.

It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same.

He is sadly right.

But Stephen, these foul people are a minority! Indeed they are. But I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it. 99.9% of the water may be excrement free, but that doesn’t help. With Twitter, for me at least, the tipping point has been reached and the pollution of the service is now just too much.

I used to love Twitter. Now it is very depressing.

Progress on a new cable

February 13th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments have agreed to work to ensure a new submarine cable is laid across the Pacific, after meeting in Auckland.

The intervention makes it more likely that one of the two existing plans to lay a new cable to and from New Zealand will succeed, according to a Cook Islands minister.

Internet access in the Pacific is expensive and limited. For example, the Cook Islands relies entirely on expensive satellite communications to carry phone calls and internet traffic, Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said.

A “standard” broadband plan in the Cook Islands costing $49 a month comes with a meagre 6 gigabyte data cap – and with 100 millisecond lag, business is stifled and video-gaming has yet to take off.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with delegations from the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and French Polynesia on Thursday to discuss improving internet connectivity in the region.

The ministry has since issued a communique saying officials would present leaders with “solutions for a submarine cable and satellite infrastructure” to improve communications for the islands by August.

New Zealand would “facilitate the planning and development phases of the project”, it said.

Auckland-based Hawaiki hopes to build a $500 million cable linking Australia and New Zealand to the United States via several Pacific Islands, but has had a series of disappointments securing the last remaining $150m it requires.

Another firm, Spain’s Bluesky, aims to build a cable from New Zealand as far as Hawaii, also connecting other islands en route – including American Samoa where it has a subsidiary business.

Brown said representatives from private companies Hawaiki Cable and Bluesky attended the Auckland meeting and it seemed they had the most viable options to improve internet access in the region.

This is good for such a cable will not just link up some Pacific countries, but provide a second cable between NZ and the US.

Another Trade Me rival

January 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A website developer’s 12-year labour of love has just gone live and is taking on Trade Me.

Tim van Ameringen has spent more than 40,000 hours developing, a new low-cost auction and classified website, from his Dairy Flat man cave in North Auckland.

Site looks good,but success is not down to site design.

But it has also meant he’s kept costs down to hundreds of thousands rather than tens of millions like failed auction sites Wheedle and Sella.

This means big wins for users, as most will use the website for free.

It’s free to sign up, free to list products with one photo, and there is no selling fee.

The trouble is most people are not worried about the 8% fee on Trade Me (and yes I’m one of those annoyed at the increase). They worry about getting the maximum price.

Sellers will go to the site where the most buyers are, as more buyers can mean 50%, 60% more for what you sell. And buyers will go to the sites where they can find what they are looking for – ie where the most sellers are.

First mover advantage is huge for auction sites.

His website offers all the same categories except for three; books, electronic media and tickets and memorabilia, which are too difficult to deal with, van Ameringen says. 

Users may also be attracted to the site for its charity element.

Charitable trust Wings of Hope owns 45 per cent of 4tradeit and any profits will be spread back into the community to organisations such as Women’s Refuge.

Without promotion the site is already attracting 1000 users a day and 17 affiliated car dealers have around 1100 vehicles listed.

Van Ameringen is now hoping to attract more users and small businesses.

“If people find it can offer an alternative, then it has served its purpose,”  he says.

2,500 people on there at the moment. I wish it well, but I’m doubtful it will gain meaningful market share.

UPDATE: Some info I have been asked to add on by Tim van Ameringen

Balmoral Marketing/Karapiro spa:
The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust (now named the Wings of Hope Trust) purchased 2 chalets in the original Karapiro Spa development as an investment. The annual return for the investment was advertised as 10%.
When the developer (Henry Holt) went into receivership, Fiona and I were asked by three other investors who had lost their investment to join together and purchase the project from the receivers. Fiona and I agreed to do so, the purchase was made using a new company named Balmoral Marketing Ltd, and Fiona and I became a minority shareholder of this company. Two of the shareholders with a majority shareholding took control of the project. I was hospitalised with pericarditis (a stress related heart issue), and had no personal involvement in the project (we were shut out by secretive majority shareholders).

Approximately two years into the project, the project ran into financial difficulty and the two majority shareholders suggested I take on a Director role in Balmoral Marketing Ltd. I naively agreed to do so on the basis that all activities undertaken by the company would be transparent and best practice. Balmoral Marketing Ltd entered into a funding agreement with Prudential (a Christchurch based finance company) by way of a contributory mortgage for approximately $16.6m; this would have provided sufficient funds to complete the project. Prudential was successful in raising approximately $16.3m. However, due to the legislatively binding timeframe permitted for this type of funding facility to be filled, the end goal of $16.6m was not achieved. Without these funds, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was left with no option but to enter into voluntary receivership. This was one of the most difficult situations I have personally been involved in, knowing the lives that would be affected. Subsequently, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was liquidated, the two majority shareholders were both sentenced to jail for 6 years for their own personal financial dealings, I was absolved from any wrong doing by the liquidator (KPMG), and Fiona and I have since lived a quiet life, with a focus on our family and the building of 4tradeit.    


Wings of Hope Trust:
I originally set up the Wings of Hope Trust (formerly named The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust) for a Therapeutic boating project to help people with disabilities and mental ill health in the Auckland/Waitemata region. My background for 14 years was as the managing director of one of the early community mental health services in the Mt Eden, Auckland. Fiona is an occupational therapist who has a passion for helping people with disabilities. The ASB agreed to fund 50% of the project if the Trust could raise the balance. The Trust was unable to raise the required balance for the project to proceed. The Trust has purchased 45% of the 4tradeit Ltd shares, to be the vehicle for distribution of funds to NZ charities (as generated by the 4tradeit website). Independent Trustees will be added to the Trust when the Trust has a level of funds to distribute. Until this is achieved, there is little incentive for an independent Trustee(s) to invest their time in the Trust.


After reading the posts in this blog, I am a bit embarrassed to confirm that I have spent almost 13 years, and committed the amount of hours discussed … often working 12 to 16 hour days, 6-7 days per week (as hard as this may seem to believe) on the 4tradeit project. Fiona, my children and close friends can vouch for this.
When I started the 4tradeit project, I was 41 and the extent of my computer knowledge was how to use the basics of Microsoft word and excel. I am self-taught, without the benefit of colleagues to collaborate and bounce ideas off, and started without basic understanding of any coding language or of how to make or work with graphics. The original idea I had was to create an internet based search tool, to locate hard drive parts from around the world for an IT company I was a part owner in (Digital Recovery Ltd), hence the name ‘4 trade IT’. When we sold Digital Recovery Ltd, the idea changed to creating a trading website that could be used to raise money for local kiwi charities.

The core 4tradeit software is by a company called Geodesic Solutions. This company (over the last 13 years) has perfected the basic functionality coding required for an online auction to run smoothly. However, aside from the auction functionality, much of the other Geodesic software functionality is boutique and basic in nature. Together with the help of three other programmers, I have built a new ‘Items selling’ addon module called MyStuff. This module alone has taken two years to perfect, and still has some issues we are working on to get the module fully functional as I had envisaged it to work. The software has over 15 such addon modules that we have built.

Most of the issues raised in this blog we have fixed, including a change to new dedicated servers that now cost 20 times the annual cost of the old servers. The website is currently running well with few reported issues, and around 2700 members are enjoying using the website. 

Wheedle reportedly had 17 programmers and went through $18m before they closed down their trading website. I have so far spent $120,000 and my own sweat on 4tradeit, and we have lived on little personal income over the last 13 years. Building 4tradeit has many times felt like a long, fruitless journey, often a foolhardy one, and many time I have wanted to quit (maybe I should have … who knows). Anyway, here we are ….

In flight wifi spreading

January 24th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet-deprived airline passengers take note: Experts believe Qantas and Virgin Australia will be increasingly pressured to offer in-flight Wi-Fi on international routes now that most of their partners and competitors do so.

“American, Delta, and United now offer Wi-Fi on nearly all flights [from Australia] to the United States, but neither Qantas nor Virgin Australia do,” Jason Rabinowitz, data manager for airline product differentiation platform Routehappy, said. “At some point, passenger demand is going to force them to offer it.”

Rabinowitz’s comments came as Routehappy released its annual Global State of In-Flight Wi-Fi report.

Both airlines I used recently in the US had wifi on board. Veyr reasonable prices also – just $8 for an entire flight.

I look forward to Air NZ providing wifi one day. I understand the Pacific Ocean makes it a bit more challenging for them, but in a few years it will be standard on all longer flights and hopefully the shorter ones also.