1: Gmail address

Getting a Gmail address was easy as I already had a number of existing accounts. I’ve decided to forward everything from everywhere to a single Gmail account and gradually stop using old email addresses.

If you don’t already have a Gmail account, just hop over to gmail.com and sign up – you’re late to the party so you won’t great choice of available names. This doesn’t matter as nobody has to see your Gmail address.

2: Domain name

Again this was straightforward, I chose a .co.nz name because New Zealand is a small country with an uncrowded domain name register which made it easy to get the domain name I wanted. It cost NZ$40 to own billbennett.co.nz, but New Zealand names are renewed annually which is a pain.

3: Host

My existing web host was good enough. There’s a minor technical problem which causes problems elsewhere, but the one I use isn’t expensive and the company is easy to deal with.

I pay NZ$130 a year for 100MB of storage and plenty of bandwidth. You don’t need much of either to handle an email account, so opt for the smallest possible hosting plan unless you aim to use the service for something else.

4: Set-up mail account

My host uses a program called Cpanel. It allows me to manage the site through a web browser. I opened Cpanel and clicked on the Mail icon. A list displayed with a number of options, I chose Add/ Remove/ Manage Accounts. From here I added the email account bill@billbennett.co.nz.

You need to set up a password and a quota at this point – which is an amount of storage space to set aside for email. I’m not planning to keep email on the server, but during the testing stage I set aside 2MB of storage. This was a good move, because I hit a minor snag.

5: Redirect

I struggled  finding out how to redirect email traffic from my host using Cpanel. That’s because I used the Email Domain Forwarding option. While this looks like the right tool – it isn’t.

I then tried, incorrectly, setting up forwarding from Cpanel’s built-in Horde web mail program. The correct tool to use at this point is cryptically listed in the Cpanel/Mail menu as Forwarders.

Here you need to click on Add Forwarder and then enter the new email address followed by the Gmail account where you plan to receive your mail.

6: Tell Gmail about your new address

I did this by logging on to Gmail, clicking the Settings link at the top right of the window and then on the Accounts tab. Here I added the new address, verified it, then made it the default.

It’s a good idea to test your new email address at this point. When I did this I had some problems with the redirecting and found my emails sitting in the Horde web mail inbox on the server at my host.

Now, my next job is to make sure the new address appears everywhere online. This will take some time to fix. I made a good start by Googling my old addresses, but there are hundreds of instances so it’s not going to happen overnight.

From Linux Today in 2000. 

Was it prophetic? Maybe, but the prophet wasn’t me. I interviewed Bob Bishop for a newspaper and wrote this for Linux Today.

The Australian Linux Today website linuxtoday.com.au no longer exists, but there’s this snippet at the parent Linux Today site.

Can Free Software Liberate Poor Countries?

By Bill Bennett, March 2000

During his press conference at Sydney’s Linux Open Source Expo, SGI chief executive Bob Bishop floated an interesting concept. He told journalists Linux is creating a huge amount on interest in countries like Russia, China and India.

Bishop says, “They are adopting Linux because it is open. The low-cost is important, but the openness is more important. People in these countries don’t like the idea of a uni-polar world. Linux is multi-polar.”

He could have added that users in these countries can’t afford the huge license fees demanded by first world software companies. This lesson was brought home to me personally some ten years ago when I met Computer Associates CEO Charles Wang in Wellington, New Zealand.

Piracy on Soviet mainframes

Wang told me he had just returned from the recently dissolved Soviet Union. There he had attended the first conference of Computer Associates users. Some fifty large Russian organisations had met to discuss various aspects of running CA’s software on their antediluvian mainframes.

Apart from their ability to snare the normally crowd-shy Wang to Leningrad there was one other remarkable thing about this meeting – no-one had paid for a software license.

This was odd because CA had annual licensing. The software was designed to stop working if fees were not paid. Because they had plenty of time, good skills but few resources, the Russian programmers found their way past security traps that stop western users from pirating the software.

Not locked in to proprietary software

This kind of ingenuity is likely to see users in these countries make huge progress in an Open Source world. In some cases they are starting with a clean slate. This means they are not already locked into the economics of proprietary software. It’s a situation many in the west might envy – if everything else about lives in those countries wasn’t so difficult.

Bishop says Linux and free software will bring Russia and China back into the global software business. They certainly have world-class programmers. Developers in these countries are starting now on Linux applications – they are barely behind the west in terms of skills or experience. But even if they were, a key aspect of Open Source is that because the code is shared, it creates a much flatter playing field. It’s what Redhat CEO Bob Young describes as a real free market in software.

Open source has another big attraction to users from behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains – it means there are no secret back doors. Bishop says that they fear proprietary operating systems contain backdoors included at the insistence of the US government so that federal agents can snoop. He says, “When you’ve got the source code you can find any back doors and close them.”

Until version 8, Microsoft Internet Explorer has been a necessity not a browser of choice. Explorer is a necessity because a limited number of sites and online services, including Microsoft’s own, are optimised or in some cases restricted to Explorer.

For the past four years Mozilla Firefox has consistently performed better than Internet Explorer. It was always faster and less bloated. Add-ons give Firefox a flexibility older versions of Internet Explorer simply could not match. And, while Microsoft’s browsers were better integrated with Windows and certain key desktop applications, Firefox was still able to deliver a better all round user experience.

In practice I’ve needed to run the two browsers alongside each other. Explorer has always played second fiddle. Can the upgrade to IE8 change that?

What’s good about Internet Explorer 8?

IE8 is fast

IE8 loads pages considerably faster than Firefox 3.0.8. One heavy-duty Web 2.0 page I frequent is ready in around 28 seconds with IE8. The same page takes 52 seconds with Firefox. The difference isn’t always as pronounced, however I did the anal retentive thing and timed a number of pages to discover they all loaded faster with IE8.

Once Firefox loads into memory, it can restart in seconds. But the first load in a session can run to as long as five minutes. That’s just plain awful. In many cases Firefox takes so long to fire up, I wonder if it is loading at all. I often find my self opening two or more instances. IE8 always fires up in seconds. However, there’s a down side to this as we shall see later.

Fabulous developer tools

Developer tools are geeky, but among the best improvements in IE8. Hit F12 and you can view a page’s source code and CSS. This is great for fixing up problems with your own pages. To get similar features in Firefox you need to install the Firebug extension.

Internet Explorer 8 is cleaner than earlier versions

Explorer is now web-standard compliant, has a tidy user interface and most of the time renders pages beautifully with crisp text.

I also like:

  • Colour-coded tabs Open a new tab and its colour will match that of the parent page.
  • Tab grouping Tabs are grouped with their parent tab.
  • Smart address bar Similar to the Firefox’s new address bar, it remembers where you’ve been and your most visited sites.
  • Useful new tabs Open a new tab and you get links to the sites you’re most likely to want to visit.
  • Tab view A quick tab feature allows you to see thumbnails of all open tabs.
  • RSS Internet Explorer does a better job of handling feeds than Firefox.
  • Search bar Sure Firefox has the same feature, but I like the way the IE8 search bar works and I especially like the way it can be used to search the current page as well as the entire Internet.
  • Smooth integration Microsoft gets nervous when people talk about the way its products integrate, but IE8 works smoothly with Windows and Office.  The software also downloads and installs without a hitch.
  • Security See the anti-phishing feature kick in for the first time is impressive.

Bad things about Internet Explorer 8

Within hours of installing and running Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 on my Windows Vista Ultimate system I quickly discovered some negatives. Let’s look at them one by one:

1. Key features simply don’t work or are erratic

There are two pre-installed items on the favorites bar: Suggested Sites and Get More Add-ons. Neither of them work. Clicking either opens a windows that says “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage” and there’s a button labeled Diagnose Connection Problems. This doesn’t happen all the time, just most of the time.

Some basic things simply don’t work at all on some sites. For example I tried joining Chi.mp using IE8, but the Captcha feature didn’t show up making it impossible to use. I had to switch to Firefox to enroll.

While we’re on the subject, Microsoft hasn’t bothered to localize spellings. Outside of North America the word is favourite, not favorite.

2. Crashing

After one month of use I experienced three major Internet Explorer 8 crashes. In each case I’ve had to reboot the machine and lost work because of the crashes. I’m not certain what causes the problems, but there’s something weird happening. I’m running IE8 on a Windows Vista Ultimate system with 2GB of Ram. Firefox has its problems, but it never crashes in such a spectacular and worrying fashion. I’ve also experienced a number of less serious crashes which can be fixed by closing and reopening IE8. Frankly this instability is the biggest barrier to my switching from Firefox to Internet Explorer. Presumably Microsoft will fix up the bugs over the coming weeks, but this does not fill me with confidence.

3. A lot of pages look strange

Internet Explorer 8 may be standards compliant, but it won’t display all the pages you throw at it. Ironically the biggest problem come when you view a page designed for IE7 or IE6. There’s a compatibility button in the address bar to ‘fix’ odd-looking pages by reverting the browser to IE7 mode. Nevertheless some pages still struggle. And curiously the button doesn’t always appear when you need it.

There are other anomalies. For example, if I visit the dashboard at WordPress.com, IE 8 frequently struggles to display the stats graph, even though it shows up perfectly well in Firefox.

4. Unable to automatically reload settings on start-up

One Firefox feature I love is the way it opens up with all the tabs exactly as they were left when you closed down. IE8 doesn’t do this. Apparently it was designed this way.

5. Active X is still a pain in the bum

Sorry Microsoft, I know Active X is your baby, but there’s a good reason everyone whinges about it. Here’s a simple explanation of why it is so awful for non-technical readers.

6. Spell-checking missing in action

Yes I know I’m supposed to be a professional writer and I shouldn’t need a spell checker. Generally I don’t. A spell checker is a way of a avoiding red faces.

And the ugly?

Despite the headline, there’s nothing ugly. I claim poetic licence. Internet Explorer 8 is a good all-round browser. It will meet most people’s needs most of the time. It comes close to meeting mine. I’m certain the majority of users will happily browse away using IE8 without giving the technology a second thought.

However, Internet Explorer’s shortcomings mean, at least until the next iteration or service pack arrives IE8 remains on my machine by necessity for those IE only sites rather than because it is the best browser. If it was more reliable, this decision could change. This is a pity because there is much to love about IE8 – and that’s not something I would ever have said about IE7

ergonomic keyboard

You may wonder why anyone would spend money buying an extra ergonomic keyboard. It seems strange when new PCs come with what look like perfectly decent keyboards.

The answer is that, in some circumstances, computer keyboards are health hazards. They can inflict pain and, in extreme cases, cause long-term physical damage.

But buying a new ergonomic keyboard isn’t straightforward.

Keyboards can hurt you

Typing injuries used to be known RSI (repetitive strain injuries) but are now generally described as occupational overuse syndrome or OOS.

Some people believe the whole business is just a worker compensation rort, but there’s plenty of evidence that keyboard OOS injuries are real. They affects thousands of Australians and New Zealanders every year.

In medical terms the pains might be tendonitis or tenosynovitis.

Both start mildly, with plenty of early warning signs. However, things can quickly turn nasty. In severe cases you could end up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), which is described as a squeezing of the median nerve as it runs into hand.

If you reach this point, you certainly won’t be capable of typing.

Some poorly designed computer keyboards are particularly bad because they cause wrists to twist unnaturally. Of course posture, desk and seating height are important – possibly more important than keyboard design  – it might pay to look at adjusting these before investing in an ergonomic keyboard.

Your mouse may be worse

Ergonomics experts warn PC mice can cause more problems than keyboards. If you do a lot of typing, it’s a good idea to learn keyboard short cuts in order to cut down on mouse use.

New computers usually come with a traditional ‘straight’ keyboard. Some manufacturers might describe these as ergonomic, but generally the term is reserved for keyboards that better accommodate the human body.

One ergonomic improvement is to split the conventional keyboard down the middle and then angle the two halves outward. This is particularly helpful for people with broad shoulders as it enables them to hold their wrists at a more comfortable angle.

People with narrow shoulders often find a straight keyboard is preferable. Most split keyboards come with a fixed angle, but some are adjustable and others can even be broken apart.

Another improvement is to have a raised area in front of the keys where you can rest the heels of the palms of your hands. Many laptops are designed this way – it’s much better than early designs where the keys started at the front of the case. It is possible to buy separate wrist rests; they come in a variety of designs including rubberised material and gel-filled rests.

Other physical designs include specially recessed keys and giving each key more or less travel – that is the distance that it moves up and down. Some people prefer more travel and audible ‘click’; others are comfortable with silence and a softer touch.

A keyboard with the wrong kind of response will affect your productivity.

Spacing is important

You should take care to ensure that the size and spacing of keys is right for the size of your hands.

If you have small hands then smaller keys, bunched fairly closely together will be more comfortable. Some people like small keyboards because they use up less desk space – but it isn’t wise to work in cramped conditions.

Netbook and laptop computers can be a problem. It may pay to add an external keyboard to these computers when working at home.

Beyond QWERTY

There are keyboards that abandon the familiar QWERTY pattern altogether:

  • The Dvorak pattern, which is said to be more efficient and therefore less painful.
  • Chording keyboards allow you to use key combinations to create letters. Since your fingers stay on the same keys all the time there’s less chance of RSI.

The problem with both is that you’ll need to relearn your typing skills and you’ll experience difficulty if you ever work at another computer.

Sometimes the trouble isn’t so much the keyboard as its position on your desk. Generally it should be set slightly lower than the average desk height. Some workplaces use keyboard trays that sit slightly below the desk. The best ones are height adjustable. Most desk trays also allow you to adjust the slope of the keyboard – counter-intuitively experts recommend that if the keyboard slopes at all, it should slope backwards.

Other keyboard trays are detachable and can rest on your lap. A smart alternative is to use a cordless keyboard on your lap.

Watch out for wireless keyboards and mice

Wireless keyboards and mice may be cool. but people typically have far more trouble with cordless devices than with the corded variety. That’s because they are battery-powered and get progressively harder to use as the batteries run down. If you’re experiencing problems, you may be able to solve things quickly simply by moving back to a cord connected mouse and keyboard.

So, is an ergonomic keyboard essential or not?

Yes and no. The most essential thing is to find a comfortable, reliable keyboard. For years I used an ergonomic keyboard and mouse yet still suffered from occasional pains. That’s because they were wireless devices. The pains left for ever when I ditched the wireless keyboard and mouse for the flat, but cabled keyboard that came with my computer and invested $40 in a brand new ergonomic, yet cabled mouse. They’re not as cool as the wireless alternatives, but they are reliable and comfortable. That’s more important.

One last tip; if you’re in serious pain, try voice recognition software. It’s far from perfect and you will need to do some keyboarding, yet it has reached the point where it works well enough to rest sore hands.

Ergonomic Web Sites

Typing injuries

www.tifaq.com/

Includes details on the various alternatives to conventional computer keyboards and why you may want to use them.

British RSI FAQ

www.rsi-uk.org.uk/faq.txt

A bare-bones backgrounder to keyboard injuries and RSI.

Healthy Computing

www.healthycomputing.com

Wide-ranging site looking at a variety of computer health-related issues. There’s a good section on ergonomic issues for kids.

Word 2007 is distracting. There are plenty of low distraction writing tools out there. I’ve used Q10 and Darkroom on my PC. Both are good. I’m told Mac users have something called Bean. I can’t comment, I’ve not had a Mac in five years. And there are web-based alternatives.

I’d like to see is Microsoft Word 2007 tweaked for distraction-free writing. Like it not, Word is the industry standard. As a professional writer, I’m usually expected to turn in copy as Word files. I’m sometimes expected to use Word’s abysmal review and comparison features (don’t get me started).

My problem with Word is that it is massively overpowered for everyday writing. And overpowering to look at.

So what is required?

Get rid of those ribbon bars, the menu bar and the never-required left-right scroll bar. In fact get rid of almost everything. Default to the draft view with standard fonts and a handful of standard styles. Allow for all the Word keyboard commands. Can you see where I’m coming from here?

Whisper this, Microsoft’s Live Writer is almost what I’m after. At least it would be without the screen clutter. I’m writing this with Live Writer now and it’s functionally all I need.

At the end of the 1990s, Linux looked like it could challenge Microsoft Windows as an alternative operating system for everyday PC users.

It has come a long way since then.

Microsoft scored an own goal with the confusing, incomplete and often annoying Windows Vista.

Yet desktop Linux failed to break out beyond a hard-core following of geeky devotees. Windows now faces bigger threats than Linux. Chrome, Android and MacOS are all winning market share from Windows.

Meanwhile, Linux struggles to gain traction.

When desktop Linux was news

A decade ago I wrote for the Australian Linux Today website. At its peak, my posts would be read by tens of thousands and attract hundreds of comments.

Apart from the odd loon, most discussion was informed and intelligent. Internet.com couldn’t make Linux Today pay, at least not in Australia. The parent Linux Today site lives on under the Jupitermedia banner.

The problem with a free operating system

The demise of the Australian Linux Today site was part of the broader problem with Linux and its inability to reach a wider audience. We had bankable traffic, but nobody in the Linux business bought advertising.

That’s because nobody in the Linux business has a marketing budget. That’s because hardly anyone in the Linux business makes money. Which in turn is down to the fact that Linux is given away.

This meant there was no profit to support the kind of thriving media community that follows Microsoft Windows.

There’s not much today either. More to the point, there’s not even the money to fund the kind of activity that underpins planet Google, mobile computing and the world of Web 2.0 websites-cum-services-cum-applications that now threaten to outflank Windows.

Irony of desktop Linux economics

Ironically, Linux or something similar, underpins most Microsoft challengers. And Vista’s annoyances aside, the threat of desktop Linux and open source did much to prod Microsoft into improving its act.

Today the company and its products are massively improved.

Modern Linux distributions are excellent. There’s not much in Vista that the latest version of Ubuntu, 8.10 fails to offer. Kubuntu is possibly better. Fedora is less consumer-friendly, nevertheless a plausible option.

Companies and people freely give their own time and energy to open source projects. That’s great. Long may that continue.

Linux users work at the frontier and continue to pioneer new ideas and technologies that will permeate into the mainstream. But I can’t see Linux ever climbing out of its geeky gravity well and being mainstream. That day has passed.

Linux may find its way under the bonnet (hood if you’re American) of mainstream technologies, it will never be the face of day-to-day computing.

In Why Productivity is Bunk Charlie Gilkey zeros in on the problem with productivity:

… people spend hours and hours finding new ways to be quicker at things they don’t need to be doing in the first place.

Gilkey has more in this vein. On his old, no longer online, about page Gilkey writes his blog is:

… for recovering productivity junkies who have had enough of Getting Things Done and want to start getting things done.

I suspect Gilkey is only part way into the recovery process, there’s a lot of material elsewhere in his blog looking suspiciously like productivity tips.

This was first published in 1987 in The Dominion’s Computer Pages. The Dominion is a daily  newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand (now the Dominion-Post).

The story is dated, but the message rings true even today.

One of the greatest myths of the computer era is the so-called paperless office.

A few years ago, the phrase was all the rage, but you hardly hear of it these days. The reality is that despite years of office automation, human beings still have a love affair with the printed word. That is a word printed on paper in ink.

The only effect office automation has had on the amount of paper in the average office is to increase it substantially. Word-processors and desktop publishing systems are designed to push out ever increasing piles of the stuff. And they are efficient at it.

If the conservationists were serious about reducing the threat to forests they should get to the heart of the matter and attack desktop publishing.

Printer fun

Every time a computer user sends a document to a dot-matrix printer, there is a nasty rasping sound as the printer pins push ink off a ribbon onto another sheet of paper. A hundred thousand sheets of paper make a tree and before long the lumberjack’s saw makes another nasty rasping sound as it chops down yet another tree. A million trees or so make a forest and if we loose too many of those we’ll soon be making a nasty gasping sound as our atmosphere goes down the gurgler.

Of course this is overdramatic, but it is worth remembering that computers don’t do away with paper, they merely increase the rate at which it can be pumped out.

A further problem is that the sheer weight of paper an office worker churns out is taken by management to be a measure of that worker’s productivity.

Paperless failure

This talk of the failure of the paperless office concept is reminiscent of the work of that great scholar C. Northcote Parkinson, the author of Parkinson’s Law.  He wrote simple wisdom in simple English. One day he will recognised as the great philosopher of the twentieth century. For the most part, his contribution to the computer industry is still to be felt.

Parkinson’s law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

I can add to this Bennett’s law, “computer generated paperwork expands so as to fill the in-trays, out-trays, filing cabinets, brief cases and waste paper baskets available for its storage”.

Electronic mail doesn’t help either. I can write about this from bitter experience as an ex-IBM Profs user.

Profs was an office automation tool, which employees mainly use to keep their diaries and send electronic mail notes to one another all around the globe. Profs is good at doing what it sets out to do. But it does little to bring about the paperless office.

My Profs terminal would regularly bleep, a message would appear at the bottom of the screen saying “read your mail”. A few key depressions later I would be informed that a blue Ford Cortina in number two car park has its lights on, or this week’s weasel fancier’s meeting would be held in the staff dining room on Tuesday.

Productivity killer

Gripping stuff maybe, but it certainly never improved my productivity to be interrupted by such vital messages.

It is unfair to single out Profs for criticism, I do so because it is the only office automation system that I have personally been acquainted with. It is reasonable to assume that other manufacturer’s products cause similar reactions in their users.

It isn’t the technology that is at fault as much as the way that it is used.

It may have changed since my day, but I can remember being taught how to use system. There were about five people in the class. We were instructed by a data-processing department guru turned tutor who recommended that we kept a list of all our Profs document numbers handwritten in a notebook.

I’m not kidding here.

Incidentally, these notebooks were available in the stationary stores, but you had to send a Profs note to order one. What’s more, he also told us to get and keep a hard copy of any important messages that we received through the system.

As someone who, after years of exposure to all types of computing, was more than merely computer literate, I was shocked. I questioned the tutor, “are you saying that to keep a record of document numbers we have to write them down on paper?”

“Well,” he answered clearly embarrassed, “it is easier that way.”

“Easier than what?”, I replied curiously.

“It’s too difficult to explain here”, was his cryptic answer.

I could see that this was an unprofitable line of enquiry so I changed tack, “Ok then, why do we need to keep hard copies of our messages when the system is supposed to archive them?”

“Because they might get lost”, the tutor mumbled this as though he was frightened of anyone overhearing.

Somebody else asked the tutor the obvious question, “if they might get lost, what is the point of the system”.

The poor tutor reddened and tactfully changed the subject; “stop asking dumb questions.” The only thing was, they weren’t dumb questions, they were relevant questions, the sort of questions that anyone who needs to work with computers should feel free to ask an employer.

The tutor should have been pleased that employees were concerned about their productivity. He just wanted us to conform to a imposed work-pattern. As it happened things did get lost by the system, but only when the high-priests of the data-processing department were tinkering with the system.

Churning out paper

This might have been an acceptable state of affairs in the days of steam computing when men in white coats scuttled around cathedral-like installations replacing vacuum tubes, but my friends in other workplaces had Apple Macintoshes on their desks and were churning out laser printed piles of paper which were neater than our system could manage.

This not only made my friends look more productive than me, but their refined print styles and fancy founts made them look more creative too.

Expensive IBM 3370 terminals graced our desks. The terminals were connected to a powerful 370 mainframe system with banks of mass storage devices. The whole caboodle cost millions, and contained enough computing power to put a man on the moon, but we still had to resort to notebooks, pens and ream after ream of paper printout if we wanted to use the blasted thing.

To cap it all, we had to employ extra internal mail clerks to deliver all the computer generated paper that we were now efficiently churning out. The office automation system was originally installed to save money by replacing the internal mail system. But to save more money we had a central printer station, and the printed documents were delivered to people’s desks via the internal mail system which in theory was now redundant. Mr Parkinson would have understood.

I complained to my boss, “It is a bit like using a stone-age axe to repair an internal combustion engine.”

He replied, “send me a Profs note about it”.

Mark Neely asks Is ‘Born Global’ the new normal for software start-ups?

Anyone who has played the board game Risk knows the smartest strategy is capture Australasia before setting out to conquer the world. Risk may have been a powerful metaphor in the past but it doesn’t apply to business in the digital age.

When the product you’re exporting weighs nothing and can travel to its destination at the speed of light, geographic barriers are meaningless.

New Zealand tech companies learnt this early. They latched on the Born Global idea earlier than their Australian counterparts. That’s partly because they are further out on the fringe of the global economy. But they were treading down a tried and tested path.

Global only  option for New Zealand start-ups

Unlike Australian firms, New Zealand companies had little choice. The local market is tiny and poor by OECD standards.

Almost every successful NZ business of the last 20 years has exported from day one. The list includes children’s clothes, fashion, biotechnology and booze as well as software and online services.

Most of the economic factors Mark mentions in his post (market size, ex-pat community etc) apply in spades to New Zealand. Here, exports are about 30 percent of GDP. In Australia exports are roughly 20 percent of GDP.

Incidentally, both figures are depressingly low by OECD standards where the average is almost 50 percent of GDP.

Tiny economy, aware of global issues

New Zealand is a tiny economy, but everyone working in it is painfully aware of its relative international insignificance. I’d argue Australian businesses are misled by their seemingly large and buoyant economy and are more complacent about exporting. That Risk strategy looks smarter in Sydney than Timaru.

One significant difference is NZ start-ups don’t tap into overseas investment as much as Australian firms – if this impression is wrong please let me know. Instead our entrepreneurs opt to cash out of their businesses at an earlier stage – in many cases when their business and products are still immature.

I’m not a finance expert, but this tells me New Zealand companies suffer from poor access to venture capital – or if they have access to VC funds, they don’t have access to the right kind of venture capital.