A Statement

Firstly, I’m 100% positive that my resigning from a 5 minute comment spot on Breakfast had nothing to do with Paul’s decision. Secondly, I’ve always stated that my issue was with his comments, not with Paul as a person or a professional (neither of which I’m in any way qualified to comment on). His decision to resign a full-time paid position is hugely more significant than my own, and I’m sure anyone would be horrified if they had to do the same.

Despite all of this, the publicity surrounding the event has allowed many New Zealanders to voice their opinions about race. I’m heartened that the overwhelming majority understand that our vibrant, multicultural society is part of what makes this such a wonderful country. There is no single skin colour or accent that defines a “real New Zealander”.

Now that Paul has left TVNZ, if I should be invited to return to the Breakfast show, I would be happy to do so. However, I appreciate that they may have already set in place alternative plans.

As with the original furore, I’m not going to discuss this in the media, nor make any further comment.

No More Breakfast

Update: If you’re looking for an official statement, here’s one my lovely wife wrote, which is far more articulate than I could ever be:

Paul Henry’s comment made me very uncomfortable as a New Zealander, and I don’t wish to associate, or be associated with people who make such comments. Although I doubt that my actions will in anyway influence someone such as Paul Henry, I do not wish to appear to condone his perspectives by my inaction.

I’ve just sent an email to the producers of TVNZ Breakfast, resigning my post as a regular gadget and tech presenter. It’s something I’ve loved doing more than you can imagine, both in terms of personal promotion, and the steady stream of incredibly cool technology I play with.

Bear in mind that I’ve been blogging about gadgets and tech for 7 or 8 years, and the Breakfast segment is an extension of that, not the cause.

So when I read this morning that a Breakfast presenter has made yet another trolling statement (this time barely veiled racism), I decided I’ve had enough. Previously I’ve had to be circumspect about my responses to his statements, but I’m fucking sick of it. I love our multicultural, vibrant country to death, and anyone who would like to foment racism simply for a laugh or to get more viewers can take a jump.

For the record: I think Paul is an intelligent guy who does an incredibly difficult job making up crap to say for 2.5 hours every morning, with producers talking in his ear. This makes his comments even more abhorrent in my mind: I believe it’s premeditated.

I’ll carry on blogging and reviewing gadgets as I did before Breakfast, but with a clearer conscience. If anyone wants tech or gadget commentary online or on TV, just drop me a line.

And of course if Paul Henry moves on I’d be happy to work with the wonderful team and producers at Breakfast again.

Video: LASERS!

Who doesn’t love lasers? Favourite tool of the James Bond villian, and weapon of choice for Luke Skywalker. Today I took a look at some slightly less awesome laser-based gadgets. Read on to see which ones Dr Evil would love, and which you should give a miss.

Click the image below to see the video:

TVNZ Video Lasers

Item: High Power Laser Pointer
Price: $60 (US$40 + free shipping)
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: Mostly useless, but hours of fun. This high-powered laser pointer will pop black balloons, light dark matches, and cut through black plastic. It’s not a toy, and shouldn’t be used by anyone under 16 without supervision. When you’re not using it to light fires, it might come in handy for pointing out stars or pointing at positions on a large building site.
Item: Laser distance measuring device
Price: $30 (US$21 + free shipping)
Rating: 2 / 5
Info: Using a laser to point our the target, this device actually measures the distance using ultrasonic sound – just like a bat. It’s vaguely accurate, but easily put off by angles, reflections, and just about anything else. I guess you get what you pay for here – $30 is not a lot of money.
Item: Non-contact thermometer
Price: $119
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: If you need to know the temperature of any surface, this device is for you. Point the laser at your target and pull the trigger, and you’ll instantly know the temperature of the surface. Useful if you have a pizza oven, or perhaps if you’re tuning cars or operating machinery. Or even if you just want to have fun like my son – running around the house and measuring the temperature of every surface, from -18degrees in the freezer to +600degrees on the stove element.
Item: Solar powered ‘laser’ alarm clock
Price: $29.90
Rating: 2 / 5
Info: Too lazy to lift your head and check the time? Just hit the button on top of this alarm clock and it will project the time onto the ceiling where you can see it. Otherwise, it’s a cheap solar powered alarm clock.

Prepaid Mobile Data in New Zealand

Smartphones, iPads, and data sticks are incredibly popular, so what does it take to get a SIM card to connect these devices to the internet? Putting aside the multitude of confusing on-account options, we had a look at the prepaid data options from the major players. On the surface it all looks fairly simple, but once you lift the covers things get quite complex.

The main “gotcha” is that even if you pay for data, you might not be able to use it. If you “buy” 512MB from Vodafone or 2Degrees, for example, and don’t use it all within 30 days, you effectively lose the remainder. Telecom does a little better with their optional capped data plans, but you have to know about these to use them, and your prepaid credit still expires after six months. The overall effect is that I can’t be sure that my device will work when I want to use it.

Secondly, if I have multiple devices that use data (a smartphone, a data stick, and an iPad), there’s no way to share the data allowance between these devices. I either need three sim cards, or I have to swap sims between the devices before I use them.

Gripes aside, what can you get from each of the main mobile networks?

 

Vodafone

Telecom

2Degrees

Prepaid Data Options
  • 100MB for $10
  • 512MB for $30
  • 500MB for $29.95
  • 2GB for $59.95
  • 4GB for $79.95
  • 512MB for $20
  • 2GB for $50
  • 10G for $150
Prepaid Data Conditions – Unused data expires 30 days from purchase.
– You can buy additional packs if you run out, or you pay $1 for the first additional 10MB, then $1 for every additional 1MB.
– Data is charged at 10c/MB up to the price cap you choose.
– If you go over your data allowance then you’ll automatically get the same data allowance again for $29.95 (to use in that same calendar month). And after that’s used up, you’ll pay 10c per MB.
– If you use less than your data allowance you’ll be charged for what you use, and your credit balance will roll over to the next calendar month.See Note 1
Only available in “Broadband Zones” only (most of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown).
– Unused data expires in 30 days (for 512MB), 60 days (for 2GB), or 90 days (for 10GB)
– Outside of Broadband Zones, data is $6 for 50MB.

Note 1: Even Telecom themselves seem to be confused about how and when their data expires. The official response from Telecom PR was:
[quote]Unused prepaid data expires one month after purchase. So for example, if I purchased some prepaid data today, Wednesday 18 August, I would get one month from today to use that data before it expires on the 18th of September.[/quote]
…which is actually referring to their “Smartphone Extra” plans, and clearly different to the expiry method explained on their Prepaid Mobile Broadband page. The confusion possibly arises because Telecom’s prepaid data “bundles” are much more like their monthly account bretheren (capped, charged as you use it), and not in fact a pre-allocated bundle of pre-purchased data. John explains it a bit better than me over here.

I’m reminded of how Theresa Gattung said telcos use “confusion as [a] marketing tool“.

General Gotchas and Questions to Ask

There’s really no way to say which network is “best” for your data device, but there are some questions you should ask before choosing a network.

  • Make sure you ask if your device can use 3G data over the entire network. The Apple iPad, for example, doesn’t get great 3G coverage on Vodafone’s network outside of main centres. It still works, but at a snail’s pace.
  • Can you top-up your data from the device if you’ve run out? Devices like the iPad can’t send SMS messages, but 2Degrees have a nifty method for doing this. Otherwise can you call an 0800 number or similar to top-up?
  • If you also want to use the device for calls and text messaging, you’ll need to look into add-ons and allowances for these, and check if your friends are on the same network to get cheaper txt packs.

In Closing

Look, I could go on for days about the shortcomings of individual networks, plans and protocols, but truthfully it’s fantastic that we can turn on a device pretty much anywhere in New Zealand and connect to the internet. You can check-in to your MyFace and twatterbleep from just about anywhere. We’ve come a long way baby.

Video: Smartphone Roundup

With the recent launch of Apple’s iPhone 4, it’s time to do a once-over of the current smartphone market in New Zealand to see if there are any pretenders to the throne. Today on TVNZ Breakfast I took a look at a few of the models available from local carriers.

Click below for the video:

NB: You can get all of these phones either from a carrier like Vodafone or Telecom, or you can get them (usually a bit cheaper) from someone like Parallel Imported. Don’t be too concerned about warranty: Parallel Imported are required by law to provide a 1 year warranty.

Item: Apple iPhone 4
Price: From $1099 (or less with a plan)
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: Despite the highly publicised flaws, the iPhone 4 is still the king of smartphones. The operating system is simple and fast, and there are hundreds of thousands of applications you can buy. The screen is quite incredible, and looks more like printed paper than any device before it. No matter how close you look, without a magnifying glass you won’t be able to spot a pixel. Add in HD Video recording and editing, and this phone doesn’t have any current competitors.
 
Having said that, there are devices nipping at the heels of the iPhone, and if Apple doesn’t provide a serious revision in their next operating system update, Android and Windows Phone 7 will be right there competing for the “best smartphone” title.
Item: Google Nexus One
Price: $979 (or less with a plan)
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: Probably the closest competitor for the iPhone’s title of “best smartphone” would be this Nexus One from Google. Running version 2.2 of Google’s Android operating system, the Nexus One is incredibly fast and much more “open” than the iPhone. This means you can run any compatible applications without special permission, review or oversight. This has obvious upsides and downsides – for example the previous version of the Facebook application for Android would drain your phone’s battery overnight.
Item: Motorola Milestone
Price: $999, or less with a plan
Rating: 3 / 5
Info: The Milestone is built like a brick, and weighs about the same too. I joke, but it is heavier than most other smartphones, perhaps due to the full slide-out keyboard. Running the same Android operating system as the Nexus One, the Milestone is a little bit slower, but will appeal to those that do a lot of texting or emails.The sad fact is, this phone has already been superseded on the overseas market, so I’d think twice before spending $1000 on it.