Category Archives: Phones

Classic videogame ringtones

I’ve switched my ringtone. I wanted something distinctive but not crass and loud. I ended up deciding on the intro theme from Galaga. The text alert tone is the sound from Galaga when you put a coin in.

And it turns out it’s quite easy to do — provided your phone is newer than Josh’s and supports music files (eg MP3, WAV or AAC)… which most from the last couple of years do.

If you run Mame32, it’s got an option to record the sound as you play the game (on the File menu). This saves to a WAV file. Load it up into Sound Recorder and snip away (using Edit / Delete before or after current position). Some other MAME variants may have this feature too.

Some phones will support WAV, but if not (or you want to minimise the file size), convert to MP3 or your preferred format using Bladeenc or any other encoder. Transfer it onto the phone using a cable or IR link, then customise the ringtone and alert sound (on my Nokia it’s via Profile / General / Personalise). Easy!

If you know me in person, please find something else to use, so I know it’s mine going off when I hear it 🙂

Some other classic video game sounds that spring to mind as suitable are the Pacman theme (and dying sound for alerts) and Donkey Kong’s “How high can you jump?” theme (with the jumping barrel sound for the alert).

The 3210 is dead, long live the 5110

Last week, my Nokia 5110 started acting funny – switching itself off, and so forth. The backup phone, a Nokia 3210 was pressed into service. Gotta love those old Nokias, charger compatability is a lovely thing, even if the battery form-factors aren’t the same.

Anyway, I figured out that the dodgy LiI battery I’d upgraded the 5110 with was the cause of the problems, what with the housing seperating into two pieces and all. I figured I’d get around to fixing it and then the 5110 would then be the backup phone.

Owen proceeded to prove that the 3210 wasn’t as well made as the 5110. The 5110 has suffered hundreds of falls during its service life, due to a clumsy owner. The 3210 was destroyed by a 12 month old child dropping it in the carpark of Bunnings. LCD screen cracked, as well as the protective plastic over the screen. And yes, it was in a protective leatherette case.

With zero operational mobile phones left, I discovered I could repair the dodgy battery for a 5110 by filling it with PVA glue and clamping it for 36 hours.

As good as new. But now I don’t have a spare phone.

Review: Nokia 6230i

Nokia 6230i (from Nokia AU web site)Like many people, I don’t just use my phone for making phone calls. It’s a calendar, address book, alarm clock…

In recently upgrading from my old reliable Nokia 6100 to a Nokia 6230i, I’ve added camera, radio and MP3 player to that.

(The 6100 still works fine. It’ll go into storage for when my kids start needing/wanting a mobile.)

Why the 6230i? In my position as tech luddite, I judged it to be a good balance of price (free, that is totally subisidied, on a $30 Telstra business plan, which has very decent call rates, in fact well below what I was previously paying) and features. I wasn’t willing to pay the premium for something super-fancy like the Nokia N-Series, which would have given me 3G. Video phone calls might be fun, but are pretty useless to me. Not worth the extra dosh.

It’s also (unlike some of the camera phones) not much bigger than the 6100, which is pretty titchy. If I’m going to carry a phone with me practically everywhere, it’d better be small. Err, but with a keyboard big enough for my manly adult fingers, and a screen big enough to be productive. Ah, conflicting requirements, but not insurmountable.

I should emphasise that I wasn’t looking for a phone to read emails on, or browse the web with. The 6230i will do both of these, but not well. How much can you fit onto a tiny screen? Not much. If you want to do that, I’d be looking at a proper PDA.

And yes, I wanted another Nokia phone. I know how they work. They’re easy to use, and I’d prefer not to wrestle with an unfamiliar OS. And those I’ve had have been fairly reliable.

It’s worth noting however that the first 6230i I got was faulty. Not in a major way, but the “1” key needed to be pressed quite hard to work. I took it back to the shop for another one.
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Phones and radiation

Last October the FCC approved a new cordless phone technology in the USA. It’s called DECT… yep, the same DECT those of us in Europe and Australia and elsewhere have been using for about a decade.

As it happens there’s been research floating around that identifies DECT as causing tumours. Is it true? A lot of the information is coming out of the anti-mobile phone tower or anti-powerline movements, which the cynic in me says is just speculation. Likewise, much of the research into radiation from GSM and other mobile phones originates with the phone companies. Vested interests galore.

Even the research from elsewhere seems to be inconclusive, since it’s not an easy thing to detect.

My conclusion is: I don’t know. One could dismiss the risks out of hand, but I always have in mind the stories of my mother as a teenager in the 1960s, getting her foot measured in shoe shops by the use of X-rays. What seems like a useful, safe technology now might seem ludicrously dangerous in decades to come.

So I don’t avoid use of my DECT cordless phone and my GSM mobile phone completely, especially since they’re so damn convenient. But nor do I keep a phone bolted to my head all day. Moderation, as with all things, is the key.

CallerID blocking backfires

Every employment agency I’ve come across uses CallerID blocking on their phones. When they phone, it’s a surprise who they are.

I’m not sure why they do that, perhaps it’s to prevent embarrassment when they’re calling candiates on a landline at work… but I can’t think of anyone who would give their work number in their contact details.

So I got a call from an agency. I went through my normal routine of answering a phone, where I announce my name. The agent asked “Is that John Parris?” to which I responded in the negative. “Oh, right, Josh, sorry” says the agent, obviously having misread my name. And before the caller could identify themselves, the call disconnected, no doubt as a function of it being a mobile telephone call. He never called back (perhaps he thought I hung up intentionally), and I couldn’t call him back because I had no idea who/where he was. Let’s face it, they all look and sound the same, so agencies all blur together anyway. I would have thought they’d want to stand out, or at least leave a number they could call back on.

Can anyone suggest why agencies use CallerID blocking?

Emergency 000 vs 112

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between the Australian emergency number 000 and the European standard 112 is, check this Australian Communications Authority document.

In past years 112 had network priority and other advantages that 000 didn’t, including working without a SIM, and when the handset is keypad locked. This is no longer the case, as most handsets and SIMs now sold in Australia have a firmware modification to treat 000 just as well as 112. My own handset, a two-year-old Nokia 6100, will happily accept 112 or 000 even when keylocked. (No, I didn’t press the dial key when trying this.)

The stuff on page 10 reveals just how ignorant of emergency numbers some people are, despite 000 being “it” for decades. Mind you, I’m not sure why they don’t make moves to allow 112 from fixed line phones, for the benefit of overseas visitors.

Oh, there’s also 106 for Telephone Typewriter (TTY) users. So far there’s no SMS-capable emergency number. But it’s notable that an emergency call where the operator can’t hear the caller is diverted to a recorded service allowing the caller to press “55” to indicate an emergency if they can’t talk, allowing the call to be passed back to the operator or police, and CLI to be used to despatch a response. Good thinking, whoever thought that up.

Tony and Daniel on portable device convergence

Tony: Rae actually discovered we can change our phone picture quality to high over the weekend so I’ve fallen in love with my phone all over again.

Daniel: Woo hoo! (Must put my phone contract expiry in my diary. Upgrade to camera phone top priority.)

Tony: The latest crop, the ‘i’ models for Nokia, have 1.5-2 mega pixel cameras now. Very very impressive.

Daniel: So by the time I upgrade, I’ll probably be able to get 3mp, which is what my Real Camera has! But even 2 is plenty for web use.

Tony: When I went to Canada all those years ago I had a 2MP camera and thought it was the bees-knees. I’m leaning more and more towards the phone being the great convergence technology. I can put a 1G SD card in to my phone now to turn it in to a more than adequate MP3 player, it even plays AAC files. A 2MP camera would do just fine for snaps. It already has the calendar feature and all my contacts. I probably won’t get another PocketPC when this one falls over.

Daniel: It makes a lot of sense, because making phone calls is really the killer app for mobile technology. I’ve long taken the view that I’ll carry a phone no matter what, so the more features I can pack in there, the better.

Tony: Exactly. The phone and keys are the two things you always seem to have on you.

Daniel: I might turn this conversation into a GR.

Tony: Cool.

Little Dreams Coming True

At last, one of my longest standing tech dreams has been realised. I can finally sync my phone with Outlook. I know you’ve been able to do this for years but up until today I’ve never had the means to. Two weeks ago I got a great new Nokia 6230 so I purchased a connector cable off Ebay which arrived today. I could have used Bluetooth for my connection but this chews through battery life (more of which shortly) and a cable was cheaper than an IR usb adaptor. Now I have all my contacts and calendar information for the next 12 months wherever I go.

“But surely you had all this in your Ipaq?” I hear you ask. I did, but in an effor to simplify my life and reduce the bulge in my left pocket I am increasingly leaving it home in favour of my Hipster PDA. Another reason for relying less on the iPaq is the Pocket PC version of Microsoft Money never really synched with my desktop version and tracking finances on the go was one of the major reasons I wanted a PDA. Now I simply keep my receipts in my wallet until I get home.

While I love my new phone, I’ve even set it up so I can email photos from it direct to Flickr (see my test shot), I am not impressed with the battery. It advertises 300 hours of standby – I get 48. I’ve tried to get it replaced but am having nightmare time as Optus and Nokia shuffle responsibility. All I want is a new battery and they will never hear from me again.