Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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28 November 2008

Just one good reason to learn to love the European Union:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Europe backs mobile roaming cap.

The rules put a retail price cap of 11 euro cents (9p) on texts sent while roaming – a substantial cut on the European average of 29 euro cents (24p). The ministers backed a cap of 1 euro per megabyte (83p) on the price of downloading data – though this applies only to the charges operators levy on each other.

23 November 2008

Evernote doesn’t work nearly as well offline as I had hoped – am sticking with it for the moment out of sheer cussedness but it’s less convenient than my old solution. The iPod Touch update that adds podcast downloading wirelessly which I was also looking forward to doesn’t let you automatically add new podcasts you are subscribed to – it only lets you subscribe to new ones or add podcasts manually (and then only if you already have at least one file downloaded for that podcast). The Touch doesn’t have a built in password protection option for files – how dumb is that? (I’m trying out SplashID Lite as a data store for starters). And the new S2 Skypephone which I am thinking of getting as a cheaper alternative to the Nokia 6220 is all very well but as far as I can tell there’s still no way to sync it with one’s address book using my Mac’s iSync (and my memory of the PC syncing software available with the original Skypephone is that it was dire).


30 October 2008
Filed under:Gadgets,Mobile phone and PDA,Wireless at11:15 am

Here in the UK the iPod Touch starts at £169. The iPhone, which has a couple more features and makes phone calls is “free” but to get that deal you have to pay £45 or more a month to the  o2 network (which has exclusive access). I was hoping that the “google phone” might change things – after all, Google charges nothing for the operating system and I thought they might want to price aggressively to challenge Apple in the market but no – the new G1 is also only available on one network and only on tariffs of £40 a month or more.

Is it really still so expensive to build smart phones? I just want something which would cost like an iPod Touch and be available with a £10 a month tariff. The new Skypephone looks OK but I remember the previous model’s PC syncing was crap and its mac syncing was non-existent (see my earlier negative experiences with 3 and the original Skypephone). Guess I’ll have to keep waiting a while longer to replace my increasingly embarassing five year old T610. Unless one of you has any ideas?

13 September 2006

Just found out that the reason my wife’s PC wouldn’t connect to the Internet is that I had entered the WEP password wrongly. But Intel’s software reported a good connection to my router! Would it have been so hard to code in a “physical connection good but password is wrong please try again” dialog box? Billions of blue blistering barnacles!

Later And to compound the annoyance, I nearly thought my connection had broken again but then I realised that if you fix the password on one user account it doesn’t fix it on any of the others. Mightn’t it be a good idea to allow administrators to change all the passwords for wireless access to a given point at the same time?

29 August 2006

After spending much time with a friendly but unable-to-help Dell technician I seem to have figured out the problem with my wife’s laptop myself (or at least found a way around it). It seems that for some reason her wireless driver crashes the whole system when trying to handle WPA encryption but it can handle WEP encryption fine. So we’re using that now. Not too elegant, but if it works don’t mess with it as I said earlier!

16 May 2006

According to this press release from now until the end of the year anyone in (or merely passing through) Canada or the US will be able to use Skype on their computers – or their PDAs for that matter – to call any US or Canadian number.

I have my reservations about Skype – I would be much happier if I could find a VOIP solution that worked well, was open and cross platform but so far I have not found anything that fulfils all three criteria – Skype while not open at least fulfils the other two. I would certainly like it if my friends and family over in North America would all sign up (hint, hint) and let me know they had done so. As an additional incentive, if you have Windows you can even use the latest beta to look in on Adrien while we talk using our webcam…

7 May 2004
Filed under:Humour & Entertainment,Wireless at9:48 am

There are a lot of software engineers with too much time on their hands. First (in 1990) there was “RFC1149”:http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1149.txt – ‘A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers’. Then there was “RFC2549”:http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2549.txt which added quality of service to the protocol. Two years later in Norway it was “tested for the first time”:http://news.com.com/2100-1001-257064.html but took an hour and 42 minutes to transfer a 64-byte packet of information. Finally, in March 2004, by strapping 4Gb of memory cards to each pigeon, researchers managed to transfer data 100 Km using Wi-Fly – pigeon-empowered wireless internet and managed to achieve effective speeds of 2.27 Mbps.

Personally I would rather receive my email in a barrel strapped to a St Bernard dog…

13 March 2004

The Guardian Online produced a report on “Nokia’s Lifeblog software”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1166303,00.html for turning the contents of your picturephone into a life journal. BBC followed up with an article with a few more details – most interestingly the clever idea that the software would automatically match up the pictures you took with your phone and the location where they were taken using the automatic phone location service that mobile phone operators provide. So as well as relying on labels you add yourself you can query your lifeblog software and find all the pictures you took in central London last week.

Before you get too excited it isn’t due to be delivered before the end of June and the first version (“blog” name notwithstanding) does not connect to the Internet but this still represents the first appearance of the next generation of ‘life capture’ software on the mass market.

17 December 2003

An interesting discussion going on at the very insightful “TheFeature”:http://www.thefeature.com/ (which is all about ‘the mobile internet’). It was sparked by an article by “Howard Rheingold”:http://www.rheingold.com/ all about the potential dangers of ubiquitous location-aware devices. Some good points made about the need for sensible default settings (since few people change their defaults) and I pitched in:

Making “off” appear to be the same as “out of network range” is only a social protection as long as the technology doesn’t work reliably. The old phone excuse of “you’re breaking up I’ll call you back” really doesn’t work any more across most of the UK, for example – the network is just too good!

If your boss requires you to be locatable at all times during work hours you may not be able to pretend the technology doesn’t work – so the only protection for the individual against such harassment would be a social taboo against such behaviour – and I don’t think we can guarantee this will happen.

The only way I think this kind of thing can be prevented would be to make it illegal for a workplace to track someone’s location without a strong reason.

28 June 2003

Cory grouses that T-mobile has withdrawn support for the games built into the Sidekick PDA/communicator and in doing so can automatically delete the games from his device at the same time. He extrapolates from this that they would also remove any other data on the device if he ever left their network. I really doubt T-Mobile could or would delete all his personal data from your Sidekick without his permission. But their unilateral removal of the games does go to show just how un-web-like and closed the mobile phone operators want the mobile “Internet” to be…

[Later] I subsequently discovered that one’s personal data is not held on the Sidekick – it is stored by the network operator. So in fact you might indeed lose all your data (at least if you hadn’t backed it up elsewhere somehow) if you stop paying network charges for the device – so you’d end up with a useless lump of plastic even if you’d bought it outright. Pretty disappointing!

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