I’m here, really I am

Sad face smiley Its been a while since I made a post here and its all a result of not having an ADSL line at home. Why? Well I moved house at the beginning of December and got the phone line installed as soon as possible. Unfortunately our dear incumbent operator Telkom has decided that ADSL will not be possible on my new line even although the exchange is ADSL enabled and I live less than 500m from the DSLAM. Apparently there is some infrastructure issue which prevents them enabling the ADSL service.

What saddens me even more is that I’ve been on the Neotel consumer test trial waiting list since April this year. I’ve followed up with them but it appears they just don’t want my constructive feedback.


It’s plane stupid

What’s up with the South African airline industry lately? All I see lately are reports of problems and I’m considering staying on the ground for the near future. Just take a look at the following headlines taken from The Times over the last couple of days:

Looking a few months back there seems to be at most one incident reported in South Africa per month, oh and one in Thailand which had some major fatalities.

So how come have we had four incidents in November alone? It doesn’t make me feel too good when the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reports in their annual report for 2006/2007 that there were 174 aviation incidents resulting in 50 fatalities – an average of over 14 incidents per month.

I must say that I’m not surprised that there are so many air incidents when you consider how the airports and airlines are run. Have you ever caught a Kulula flight that wasn’t delayed? I haven’t. Every time I climb onboard a local flight I wonder when last the plane was serviced and how many flights its flown since.

I suppose the air fatalities are nothing compared to the road fatalities but come on, what’s going on here?

[tags]South Africa,airline[/tags]

SQL Server 2008 Compression

Jonathan Allen and Chad Boyd have interest blog posts on the new SQL Server 2008 compression features.

Row level compression drastically reduces the meta-data needed for variable length columns. Instead of storing the length of each field in 2 bytes, it now takes a mere 3 bits. Fields themselves are also smaller. Storing a 1 in an int field now only takes a single byte, though of course larger values may use up to 4 bytes.

In my opinion the new feature shouldn’t really be called compression but rather removal of wasted space. Although the concept of sharing common data from multiple rows in the same page is a form of compression and I suppose where the true value lies. It should make for some really interesting indexing strategies and could even motivate some edge use cases for denormalized data.

I really like the built-in backup compression and the idea that pages will only be compressed when its nearly full. I think the decreased physical data storage I/O will have a significant performance benefit over the CPU performance penalty introduced by the compression and decompression of data.

[tags]SQL Server 2008[/tags]

Uncapped local ADSL, not lekker

Sometimes I wonder whether our local communications regulatory body has a clue or a backbone at all. When the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) eventually released their ADSL Regulations last year there was a requirement on local bandwidth which stated:

Local bandwidth usage shall not be subject to the cap.

According to a recent article our incumbent fixed line operator, Telkom, has taken the liberty to reinterpret the intention of the requirement to their own benefit. According to a supposed recent communication from Telkom to their reseller ISPs they state:

It is recommended that service providers allow local only access to continue even after the blended CAP was consumed by the customer.

What concerns me about a comment like that is the interpretation of a blended cap. I can only assume it means that the cap will be enforced based on both local and international bandwidth usage and thereafter their new product offerings can kick in whereby users will have to pay for usage of local bandwidth. The way I understood the ICASA requirement was that local bandwidth usage will not contribute to any cap on the service at all. So none of this blended cap rubbish, just the ability to use as much or as little local bandwidth for a fixed fee per month.

As some of the major ISPs have pointed out, Telkom’s proposed solution to the ICASA regulation is currently what most service providers are offering through alternate mechanisms. I also know a lot of home users that use seperate local and international ADSL accounts and route local network traffic through relatively inexpensive local accounts to avoid accumulating local usage against an expensive international bandwidth cap.

I can understand that international bandwidth is expensive so lets try and keep as many resources as possible local. The major ISPs already implement transparent HTTP proxy servers and some even offer relatively up-to-date mirror servers, but at the end of the day we need to do more to promote the saying that local is lekker.

I think Telkom has once again missed the boat.

[tags]Telkom,ADSL,broadband,South Africa[/tags]

Expiring VS2008 beta 2 VPCs

Sometimes Microsoft knows how to screw things up. Not only were the Visual Studio 2008 (code-named Orcas) Beta 2 Virtual PC (VPC) images rather excessively large for the average South African developer to download and too big to fit onto a single DVD for community distribution, but now they are expiring on the 1st of November 2007 as well.

Now I was kind of expecting an new release candidate build to emerge for download sometime soon but it seems that the Visual Studio team has no such intention and has instead released updated beta 2 VPC images. Its not clear at this stage as to whether you need to just download the base image or whether you need to download the entire set of VPC images again. Either way the Visual Studio team lied to us when they said we just needed to get the base images once:

These downloads are differencing disks. To use them, you must also download Visual Studio Code Name Orcas Base Image contains the OS and is a one-time download for all the Virtual PC images that lay on top of it.

Why can’t Microsoft simply release a patch for the base image extending the lifetime of the Windows 2003 operating system? Why do they need to release complete new images? I don’t expect that many South Africa users will continue testing the beta 2 bit any longer if release to manufacturing (RTM) is so close. Sorry Microsoft, you’ve just totally screwed up in my humble opinion.

[tags]Visual Studio,South Africa,rant[/tags]

IPTV one step closer for South Africans

TV The US might have landed on the moon but South Africa took a huge leap yesterday when the industry regulator, ICASA, announced that four new pay-TV broadcaster licenses had been awarded to Telkom Media, MultiChoice, On Digital Media and e.sat respectively. An interesting note is that Sentech has withdrawn their application for a license. This means that Telkom Media are still on track for delivering IPTV and what is most likely going to be the first HDTV channels to the South African consumer market.

Telkom Media plans to broadcast at least five new local channels as well as previously unavailable international channels over satellite, cable and the web. The satellite offering will start at about R100 per month for a basic set-top box with a premium DVR (digital video recorder) version available as well. The cable based solution is expected to make use of ADSL 2+ technology which is considered the next generation of ADSL. According to my sources there are currently test trials running ADSL 2+ and the Microsoft MediaRoom IPTV solution. The web solution will offer Web TV, music and video downloads – the only offering that could have an effect on Internet bandwidth cap usage.

So what does this mean for the consumer? I can sum it up in two words – competition and choice. Competition drives down the prices and choice comes in two forms. Firstly the consumer can now can choose which pay-TV broadcaster(s) to use and secondly the IPTV technology makes bundling easier. Currently MultiChoice offers a few satellite bundles but you can’t pick and choose which channels you want and which ones you don’t want. I for one don’t care about the SuperSport channels and as a result I don’t want to have to pay a premium to watch them. Through choice I’m sure Telkom Media will be able to tap into a new market segment that currently cannot afford or is unwilling to pay for a bouquet of channels that are not desirable.

Unfortunately it seems that MultiChoice is really scared now and has already begun securing the rights to content from the six large international studios and therefore securing its monopoly. However I don’t believe that its only the mainstream content that the consumer wants. Surely there are lesser-known content providers out there.

Personally I’m looking forward to being able to watch high-definition TV channels on my TV, aren’t you?

[tags]IPTV,Telkom Media,MultiChoice,Sentech,Microsoft MediaRoom,South Africa,TV[/tags]

Spring is here and its time for a new blog

For the last few years I’ve experimented with various blogging sites. I started off with my very first blog hosted by Blogger, but I wasn’t too impressed by it. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the local dotnet.org.za community site run by Armand du Plessis but I found my home there and have been there ever since. I’ve tried to keep my posts relating to .NET however there is more to life than software development and architecture.

Seeing as I’m such a gaming nut I decided to create an Xbox gaming blog on the XboxBloggers.net community site run by Chris Lotter.

Last month I decided to get with the program and register yet another domain for a dedicated personal blog. And with that my CraigN.NET blog was born. A general blog with commentary about my life, my interests and everything that I find interesting. In terms of content I intend to blog at least once a week on various topics including .NET and Xbox 360 gaming. You can generally expect to read my opinions, and believe me I have enough of them, as well and the occasional bit of technology and product news.