Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

Using iOS Devices with Wired-Only Hotel Internet

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
I got a call from my brother saying he had searched everywhere and was unable to find instructions on how to use his iPad in his Hotel room when he goes overseas. The WiFi was too expensive, but there is a wired connection in the room that is free. It caught me off guard since all the tech people I hang out with would have know the answer instantly. For those that don’t…Take a small wireless router with you. The Apple Airport Express is small, but you can also get standard consumer brands cheaper. Simply treat the hotel Ethernet jack as the internet and plug it into the WAN/Internet port of the router. Now you have your own private wireless.

Skype for iPhone Enables 3G Calls (& a fee)

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

The free Skype for iPhone (app store) was updated this week to version 2.0.0. Listed as new features are improved start-up time, faster access to the dial pad, enhanced call quality indicator and near CD quality for Skype-to-Skype calls. Oh yeah, and Skype over 3G. This feature has been on everyone’s wish-list since AT&T announced last October that it had “taken the steps necessary so that Apple can enable VoIP applications on iPhone to run on AT&T’s wireless network”. I thought it would be great, but it seems there is a new catch…. starting later this year, it will cost you a “small monthly fee”.

Skype is the popular VoIP software that has always allowed free video, IM, and Skype-to-Skype calls. Calling a standard landline, or mobile numbers, required you to purchase Skype Credits. It appears that is changing. Posts at 9to5 MacMacRumors and Mashable related to this update state that Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G are free through August 2010, but the Skype page in iTunes says “Skype-to-Skype calls on 3G are free until the end of 2010, after which there will be a small monthly fee (operator charges for data will still apply)”. I am not sure which is accurate, but a fee is coming.

I am not going to try and suggest that they can’t, or shouldn’t, charge for using their service, since of course they can. In fact, it would be easy to justify charging for Skype. It is very popular in the tech industry, and podcast world, and it is a great product. My question is, why only for 3G calls?. Is it simply a business decision on their end, or are the wireless providers involved?

Why should it matter to Skype where my bandwidth is coming from? It should not. If I am on DSL or Cable I can make Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls for free, but on the unlimited 3G data plan – I am forced into buying – I have to pay more? If Skype charged a monthly fee for their service, regardless of the connection method, that would actually make more sense. Charging only for 3G access seems like an AT&T charge. I might as well just use my cell minutes. OK, long distance may still come out cheaper on Skype, but the bigger issue is that this will change the image of Skype. Gone is the simple statement “Skype-to-Skype calls are free”. Adding the small italic text “*except over 3G where a small monthly fee is required” kind of kills the flow.

Before someone mentions that Skype is a business, and is free to charge for new features, I know that. Businesses are supposed to try and make profit, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. I don’t see opening a bandwidth option as a new feature. I see it as lifting a carrier mandated restriction, or removing a crippling feature. The other argument I have seen in various forums is that Skype needs to charge to finance their app development. A monthly charge was simply a bad business decision. There were options available to Skype to monetize app development that are more customer friendly than a recurring charge. What they have really done is create incentive to wait and use Skype on a different connection. That is not smart.

How could Skype better monetize the iPhone market? Simple. They could have implemented in-app purchases of Skype Credit. They could have even charged a small fee for the app itself. For me, I will simply wait until I am in front of my computer before I use Skype. The app is off my iPhone.

AT&T, The Bars Are a Lie

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I was at Disneyland in Anaheim, Ca yesterday because my son’s high school marching band was going to be in the parade. Since I help the band by taking photos & video, and I host their website, my plan was to stream the band live for those parents that could not attend. I had been wanting to try one of the new iPhone streaming apps anyway, and this was my chance. I did a quick test of the two major iPhone streaming applications, UStream Broadcaster and Qik. I settled on UStream as my app for the day.

There I am, ready to go with full bars, and 3G, when it happens. UStream can’t log in. Hmmm. I try just browsing and still nothing. I try various other data tests, and still nothing. I decide to reboot the phone and try again.

It boots…

It searches…

It has bars…

and, it has 3G.

I launch UStream and… nothing. The phone has no data ability at all. At this point, and for my final test, I bring up the handy AT&T Mark The Spot app to report the data failure. It won’t send the report at that moment because, well, I have no data (and it can’t get GPS coordinates). The cake was a lie (Portal reference), and so are the symbols telling users that they have full bars, and 3G. As for the video, I ended up recording it, via iPhone, and posting it to the site the next day.

Once I was back home, I brought up the Mark The Spot app and reported the failure. It allows you to specify the location of a problem by placing a pin on the map. I doubt it will have any affect, but it did make me feel better.

If you are wondering why I choose UStream, the audio was better. I will post some comparison clips, and a mini-review, when I get some time.

Cloud Computing – The debate

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I listen to a lot of tech podcasts and lately there seems to be a recurring theme. Someone suggests cloud computing is bad, dangerous or just plain useless, while someone else tries to defend it. It’s like trying to defend vaccines to someone who is fixed in their belief that vaccines are bad. People who think there is too much risk in taking a certain action will never agree with those that think there is too much risk in not taking the action. I want to take a different approach here and look at cloud computing as a tool. Like other tools, it’s use comes with some risk. When you use any tool you are responsible doing so safely, protecting yourself and others from physical harm. When using cloud computing similar issues exist. With cloud computing however it’s your data that needs protecting. Lets start from the top.

According to Wikipedia, Cloud Computing is defined as:

“…the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualised resources as a service over the Internet on a utility basis.”

There is a lot more if you want to read it, but basically the ‘Cloud’ refers to the Internet and the ‘Computing’ refers to the services companies provide there. Many of these services are free. Most of Google’s services or Twitter are examples. Some are pay services, such as hosted email solutions or the remote access products provided by Citrix. In a broad sense, Cloud Computing encompasses the computing services we use over the net as an alternative to using applications installed on our local computer hardware. If you want a bit more detail, Infoworld has an article describing the various types of services provided under the cloud computing banner. However, lets discuss whether cloud computing is a good or bad thing. We will start with some of the disadvantages to cloud computing and then we’ll touch on some of the advantages.

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T-Mobile, Sidekick & Microsoft = Danger – Updated 2x

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Let me start with a note from T-Mobile:

“Sidekick customers, during this service disruption, please DO NOT remove your battery, reset your Sidekick, or allow it to lose power.”

If you haven’t heard, there’s trouble in Sidekick City. The data for T-Mobile’s Sidekick users is stored on the cloud servers of a company called Danger, or I should say was stored there. This weekend, a server glitch (we’ll get to that in a minute) caused an almost certain loss of Sidekick users personal data. That means that contacts, calendar entries, photos and to-do list entries for a lot of people are gone. Did anyone at T-Mobile look at the company’s name? I mean storing important customer data on a company called SOL would not be allowed, right? But Danger is OK simply because it is Microsoft/Danger?

Microsoft acquired Danger in 2008 and, according to PCWorld,  their position is that it was Danger’s technology that failed and not Microsoft Technology. I don’t think there are a lot of Sidekick users thinking that makes it all OK. Most companies have backups, but it appears the company called ‘Danger’ did not. The T-Mobile note continues:

“Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device – such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos – that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low.”

Someone at Microsoft must have wondered “could you have just said Danger instead of Microsoft/Danger”. Not good.

So how could this ‘glitch’ happen?

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