Category Archives: Phones

The trouble with Seesmic for Android

I really like Seesmic for Android, except for this: sometimes when there’s a short period of a poor mobile reception, it gets jammed, despite the signal subsequently improving.

In this case, after going through a poor signal area on my train commute home, I was back in the land of strong 3G and even wifi at home, but still it was stuck, trying to update.

The only way to deal with it appears to be a Forced close then a restart.

Surely it could be tweaked to handle bad connections better?

Pac-Man Championship Edition for mobile

Turns out I don’t need an XBox to play the new(ish) Pac-Man Championship Edition; it’s also available on mobiles.

I’ve had a go of it… great graphics, and the gameplay is a really clever twist on olde Pacman. Very cool. Though oddly the sound doesn’t seem to work…

The problem is the controls. You can either use the phone’s numeric keypad (2/4/6/8 for up/left/right/down… pretty logical)… or the directional buttons. But on my Nokia N95 phone, it’s hard to find the right numerics to direct Pacman, and if you use the directional buttons you’re at constant risk of pressing one of the surrounding buttons, some of which will unceremoniously throw you out of the game.

I expect I’ll get used to it.

Panasonic phone troubleshooting

My Panasonic cordless phone/answering machine (KX-A142 ALM) has been pretty good, though the interface is shocking. Who on earth decided “INT” then “#” should be the sequence to listen to messages?

Anyway, a couple of things were causing me problems.

1. When the clock resets itself, it’s not at all obvious how to set it again.

Eventually I found the manual and did it, but for the record:

  • Press the menu button (the box with horizontal lines in it)
  • Press the Down button until you get to “SETTING BS” (I guess it stands for base station)
  • Press right
  • It’ll say “INPUT CODE”. Rather than input the code… press * to set the time (hh mm), or ** to set the date (dd mm yy)
  • When done, press the menu button again to confirm

2. A couple of days ago it stopped being able to make outgoing calls. It could get a dial tone, but wouldn’t dial.

I fixed this with a reboot, which involves holding the red power button on the handset down for 1+ seconds so it switches off, then again to switch it back on. Voila.

Helpfully, Panasonic has manuals available on their web site.

Nathan's iPhone review

Nathan's gone and bought an iPhone. Reposted with permission from his Melbourne Reviewer blog, here's his review of it.

Okay, so here's my review of the 3g Iphone. Probably showing a tad of bias but stay with me anyway, also I go on a bit, so sorry about that. Also it's not technically Melbourne, but plenty of Melbournians lined up just like me on Friday morning!

I was always an “Apple Hater” and I resisted getting an ipod for a long time, (I had Creative MP3 Players for ages). I couldn't understand using a Mac and thought all those people were nuts.

Now (it's even a shock to me) I figure there is space in the world for both. I've used the Macs that belong to friends. I doubt I'd ever get used to one, but hey if that's what they want to spend their money on then good for them. Anyway last year I got my first Ipod 80gb Video which was great, then switched to an 8gb Nano earlier this year. But Once I saw a first Gen Iphone and played with it, I knew I had to have one.

Was it worth standing for almost three hours in the cold? Well probably not really, considering the very next day I saw them on a shelf of one particular Apple related shop (albeit they are the dealer of a different carrier to my preferred one).

And of course it depends who you are and what you plan on doing with it. For me this is (almost) the perfect device.

The iphone has a lot of strengths, but also a number of weaknesses and annoyances as well.

Strengths. The interface. It is simply a joy to use. The touch screen defines touch screens. I've had two previous Touchscreen PDA's (imate JAMin and Imate JAM), and they are nothing compared to this, and no stylus is required. I was worried about the onscreen keyboard… I needn't have been. It does take a bit of getting used to but after about three days I have no issues with it. Sure, I'm not going to be writing essays or ultra long emails, but it's more than useable, and just as good (if not better) than the touch screen keyboards on other pda's that require a stylus.

Mobile Safari. Internet Browsing is great on the iphone due to two things: The screen size, which lets you see just a little bit more of a real website, and the ability to easily change orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape thanks to the built in accelerometer. You are easily able to view full web pages (not just the mobile versions), pan around them if necessary, and zoom in and out thanks to the two fingers “pinch” gesture.

Safari lets you view PDF's, Excel and Word Documents (up to and including Office 2007). So if someone emails you a PDF, or even a link to one, it is actually readable. All the same rules apply, zoom in, out, scroll up and down, left and right.

Annoyance: Safari doesn't appear to remember logins for forums, websites etc.
Also, famously, it doesn't (yet) support Flash. This was a sore point in the first gen iphone and it's pretty silly that they haven't included it this time round. There are rumours of an iphone version of flash coming out shortly (hopefully).

Safari has full bookmarking capabilities, and complete history capabilities as well, which are easy to use and understand.

There is a feature with like a “lineup” of recently viewed websites with thumbnails of that site, choose the one you want and it loads it up again for you.

Also, bookmarks can be set as icons on the home screen, for instance I use Tram Tracker, and the Mobile Age.

Your Homescreen can have up to 9 separate pages of icons, so you can easily set up your most visited mobile sites for ready access when you are out and about. It's a simple matter of scrolling left and right on the homescreen to access the other available screens. If you want to move icons around or between the home screens, you hold down an icon and then they “jiggle”, letting you move them all around, however you want.

Email. You are able to easily setup an Exchange account (assuming your exchange server/IT area supports the device. I'm perfectly happy not having access to work emails however). Also Gmail works beautifully via IMAP. You can of course use standard POP accounts and the new MobileMe service from Apple (though at $119 a year, you'd need to think seriously before wanting that I think). YahooMail is another option.

When reading emails all the same scrolling rules apply. Weblinks, PDF's and Excel/Word documents all open up as viewable (but not editable). I predict some sort of iphone version of Office if Microsoft can swallow it's pride, or maybe openoffice? Haven't read anything about this but it makes sense.

When composing emails, if you start to enter in a name of someone who has an email registered in your contacts, it's like outlook and automatically suggests a name without having to type in the entire address.

It has a perfectly good Calculator, which in portrait mode is just a standard calculator, and in landscape mode is a fully fledged scientific calculator for those that want one.

The camera is great for happy snaps. Some people complain that a lot of other phones have better cameras, more megapixels etc (the iphone is only 2.0 megapixels). I'm of the view that if you want to take real photos, buy a real camera. This is for happy snaps, and taking photos of people for your contacts (which works well), and if Aliens happen to land, you can take a shot of that too, though people will probably think it's 'shopped.

Google Maps and the A-GPS. This is simply AWESOME, works beautifully. However, it CHEWS through the data, as all data is pulled down from Google's server. If you aren't connected via some free wifi, be careful. Although it can be used for tracking you as you drive/walk etc, this would very easily eat through various available 3G data plans. Be warned, or risk appearing on Today Tonight with a second mortgage, depending on who your carrier is. It's probably best used sparingly for finding simple directions and local businesses etc in whatever area you are in. The A-GPS works great and you

have your position very, very quickly, far better than any other GPS I've used before. I'm hoping for an iphone version of Tom tom or similar, which is rumoured to be in the works.

The Appstore. This is the highlight so far of the iphone 3G. The Appstore was released on the same day and looks very promising. This isn't just a phone, or a PDA… this is a portable touchscreen computer.

There are a number of free apps, some of them good, some of them bad. Some of them are just geekily awesome for those that are into such things.

Some free ones I've downloaded: Phonesaber (also available for N95). Search your feelings, Obiwan! Shazam: Hold your iphone up to a song playing on the radio… it will tell you what the song is, and point you to a link where you can buy it on itunes. Requires data connection, but it actually works.There are Facebook, Twitter and Myspace clients that access cutdown versions of those sites. I've only tried facebook but it seems to work well and you don't get alot of the superfluous stuff that clutters facebook up.

There are heaps of others, and lots and lots of games. I've only tried one or two of the free games (imaze, ball bearing rolling around inside a maze). The reviews I read of the pay games are good though and apparently put other mobile gaming platforms to shame, as far as graphics and sound goes anyway. I'm still to be convinced on controlling games as the game genres seem limited to racing type games where you use the accelerometer to steer.It's obviously early days for the appstore, but I would say we've only scratched the surface of what the device can do.

Ipod… well, not much to say here. You've got all your standard ipod functionality, coverflow is great and very pretty. The headphones have a microphone built in for handsfree phone calls, and the microphone is also a button. one click pauses music, two clicks moves onto the next track. When the phone rings your music fades out and you can then click to answer.
Watching video's is great. Again, the iphone doesn't support divx (come on apple… even xbox360 supports it now). You can however use something like the free “videora” converter to get divx files playable on your iphone. And they are great to watch on the wide screen.

Phone functionality. Well, it is the iPHONE, though reading what I've said so far you'd almost forget you could make calls on it.

It works well, with 3G the calls are of great quality. There is speakerphone functionality as well. you can browse to contacts, make notes, even browse the web while in a call. Finding contacts is easy, contacts have a myriad of fields and options, you can assign separate ringtones to separate contacts. When syncing with itunes on the same PC as Outlook you are able to import all your contacts from there. You can also, for instance, sync all your contacts at work, and then sync your music separately at home.

You can also set up a list of favourite contacts for fast dialling, this is as close as the phone gets to speed dialling.

For those who use it, there is currently no voice dialling. doesn't bother me, but it might bother some.

You can't change SMS/Alert tones. There are some to choose from, but the choice is limited. Hopefully jailbreaking (as I right this, it's due out any moment from what I'm reading) will workaround this.

Ringtones. The Apple way is to buy ringtones from itunes. You can't by default use any of your own music/sounds. But there is a very simple process to create your own ringtones which I won't go into here, but a quick google search should find it online.

No clipboard… no task switching. If you click on a link in email, it opens safari. You then have to go out of safari, and back into email to get back to your message. This has been a sore point among many, but from what I've read it's a fundamental of the operating system that it doesn't do task switching (well, properly anyway).

You can however listen to music and do other things at the same time, so there is at least some multitasking.

The physical unit. Fingerprint city. I got the white one, which doesn't show prints or greasy stains as easily as the black one. But I went straight out and bought myself a skin because I know I'm going to drop it at some point and i want it protected. Also I got a screen protector with the skin. Reading online, lots of people say that you shouldn't need one since the screen is glass, but I'd prefer to have one anyway, it is still easily cleanable. You understand why they give you the cleaning cloth only a few minutes after you first pick the thing up.

You can load copies of photos through itunes from your PC taken with other cameras onto the iphone for backup purposes or to show off pics of babies, cats, tin dogs to your friends when out and about.

It shows up as a camera in Windows Explorer so you can easily import photos to your PC, but like other ipods it does NOT show as mass storage device. Also, syncing (loading of music) is fairly slow.

I won't discuss the merits of all the various plan offerings, as that's a veritable minefield of information. I will just say that you should DEFINITELY do you research on all of the available offerings, and then make up your mind based on what you think your usage will involve. Good luck!

Anyway that's probably about it. Am I happy with the device? Mostly, with one or two little niggles as mentioned. I wanted something where I could use the web (easily) when out and about. I had a Nokia 6120 and it's just not that great at it.

Several of my previous phones have had music players, but none of them were very good. It's great having my music and some videos and my phone in the one unit.

Some people don't want or need all this functionality, and if that's the case, then the iphone isn't for you. Is it overhyped? Of course. But you've got to give it to Apple, I don't think I've seen any ads for iphone on TV but they all lined up on Friday morning anyway. And I've just read that one million units sold since Friday world wide. I guess I'm not the only insane one :)

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The forgotten code

Forgotten the security code for your Nokia phone?

I did. I dug out my old mobile to give my eldest son, and while it would happily accept my old SIM, it wouldn’t accept his new one without the security code.

As long as you can get into the phone, use *#06# to get the IMEI, then feed the number in here to get the “mastercode reset”.

The same site also has facilities for network unlocking phones, but I haven’t needed to try that.

PS. It doesn’t work on a stolen phone, assuming the SIM has been disabled by the owner’s network, as you have to get fully into the phone to get the IMEI and do the reset.

Sync Google Calendar and phone

I really like Google Calendar. Shared calendars, good interface, it’s becoming my calendar of choice. Except of course the calendar I always have with me is in my phone, a Nokia 6230i.

So I was looking for a way to sync them.

Via Outlook would be pretty easy. Nokia have well-established Outlook syncing software, and you could use Google Calendar Sync between GCal and Outlook.

But I don’t use Outlook since switching to Thunderbird. Ideally a solution would sync with Thunderbird Lightning, but it’s not that important.

I went looking for options:

Open source: GCalSync — for Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Blackberry and a few others that run Java. One weakness: does not update entries that have been modified on the phone. Not updated since 2006 though.

Open source: GMobileSync — for Windows Mobile 5.

Open source: PrimoSync — details vague at the moment.

Commercial: CompanionLink (US$29.95, free trial) — for Blackberry, Windows Mobile via Outlook, Palm OS, Apple iPhone

Commerical with some free options: Goosync — the free option is limited to 7 days past, 30 days future, 1 calendar only. I had to refresh my Internet Access Point settings to get it to work. Seems to work okay… the question might be how much the Net access from my phone costs. But it’s handy that it can be initiated any time from the phone, so I’m going with this for now.

Some other options

My Location

Google Maps My Location uses either GPS (if it's available on your phone) or triangulation from the closest towers to show where you are. And yes, it works in Australia.

But it's not as impressive as I first thought. When I tried it initially in the Melbourne CBD (where there are

lots of towers) on my non-GPS-capable Nokia 6230i, it showed the map and pinpointed to within a few hundred metres of where I was at the time, pointing roughly to the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane. Wow!

Alas it turns out that it points to that location wherever I am in greater Melbourne. Oh dear.

Still, at least it got the right city and continent. That's a start.

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Bloody convergence again

Follow up from this rant.

I got so sick of my stupid Dopod 838Pro being incapable of operating like a phone that I decided to have a trial separation. I borrowed a colleague’s mobile phone and thought I’d have a go at using a separate phone and PDA for a while.

The separation didn’t last long… I’m back using my converged device again.

I was amazed at how hard it was to do common tasks with the mobile. For example starting a text message required 5 button presses on the phone compared to 2 on my device. Then entering the message is so much simpler on the Dopod’s Qwerty keyboard. Admittedly I’m out of practice with numberpad texting. Having a large touch screen is a huge advantage for a user interface.

So now I’m stuck with trying to figure out how to make the Dopod behave better as a phone. I’ve uninstalled lots of apps that probably suck a fair bit of cpu. Hopefully that’ll help.

Convergence

I’m not very good at keeping a lot of information in my head at the one time. I have found that I need to record appointments and tasks to make sure I remember them.

So I used to record information in a paper diary. I never had much to record, so I used an A5, week to a page view diary that included a contact section for people’s phone numbers and addresses. However, the problem was that repeating appointments and people’s contact information that carry on from year to year had to be rewritten into a new diary each year.

So I bought a Palm Vx. This worked quite well because it would sync with my computer and display all the information I needed.

Then along came smart phones. I thought this was fantastic because I wouldn’t need to carry a mobile phone as well. Plus I only need to keep phone numbers in one place. Perfect! Right? Rather than having a Phone, diary, music player and GPS unit, you only need one device.

I’ve now owned three devices (O2 Xda II Mini, i-mate JasJar and Dopod 383Pro). They’re all great devices except that they are no good as phones! With my current device, I’d say 50% of the time when I hit the “Answer call” button the call is not actually answered, it just goes off to messagebank. A friend who had a Palm Treo used to answer a call and have to wait for 2.5 seconds until the caller could hear him. The JasJar would take so long to draw the screen when you opened it that you’d invariably miss the call.

All of the devices I’ve had will play music, but the interfaces are frustrating and the sound just isn’t good enough.

It’s so frustrating. I’ve bought a stand along MP3 player (a creative Zen that I’m very happy with). I’m nearly at the point where I’m going to give up and just get a standard mobile phone. Can I diverge any more??

The idea of convergence is just fantastic. However, the reality is dragging a long way behind.

iPhone hype

Many iPhone accessory makers weren’t allowed to lay hands on a real iPhone, and resorted to making models and sending their accessory prototypes to Apple for comments, to make things fit and work.

Meanwhile eBay is already featuring sales of iPhone domain names (iphone-discount-sales.com for only US$59.99!), iPhone email addresses (at Yahoo and Gmail — would you believe the.apple.iphone.source@gmail.com has two bids on it? No, I don’t really believe it either). eBay also lists cases and other accessories, though as noted above, there’s no way of really knowing if they’ll actually fit the phone.

And then there’s the sales of information that will allegedly allow you to make lots of money from iPhones or somehow acquire iPhones and other consumer electronics for free. Does anybody really buy this stuff?

Apple iPhone

Apple has announced the iPhone — which at first glance looks like an iPod (with video) combined with a phone combined with an internet browser (a version of Safari).

Of course, most phones now have similar functionality. This looks like it’ll have a bigger screen (with a soft keyboard — byebye click wheel) and of course Apple’s nice design should mean it’s easier than most phones to use.

With past false-starts like WAP, and the constraints of most existing mobile phone internet browsers, and the cost and geekiness of PDAs, perhaps this will be the thing that brings mobile internet into the mainstream.

And if you’re wondering if it’ll work outside North America, well apparently it will be GSM quadband, so my guess is it’s only a matter of time before it’s widely available throughout the western world.

PS.: Apple’s press release mentions availability: iPhone will be available in the US in June 2007, Europe in late 2007, and Asia in 2008 …

Update Friday: Cisco’s Mark Chandler blogs about the trademark infringement suit

Phone numbering schemes

Raymond Chen writes about the notoriously complicated North American telephone dialling rules.

It would appear that despite the huge population growth over the decades, leading to more than 10,000,000 phones in many major cities (less than that actually, given phone exchange limitations and so on), nobody’s had the guts to change the (xxx) xxx-xxxx phone numbering system that’s been in action over there for the past 50 years. And apart from the issues with cities blowing the limit and getting multiple area codes, they’ve also got problems with cell-phones being tied to regions, rather than being truly nationally mobile.

In Australia we went through short-term pain for long-term gain, migrating from a phone numbering system that was mostly (xx) xxx-xxxx in the big cities (and a lot of variations in rural areas and for mobiles) to being uniformly (xx) xxxx-xxxx, which should allow for plenty of growth over several decades. Perhaps longer if fax machines and dialup modems (and separate lines for them) and even fixed-lines continue to die-off. It’s meant that dialling is pretty consistent.

On the other hand, it has to be pointed out that the North American numbering plan covers some 24 countries and territories, so I appreciate revamping it would be a helluva job.