Posts

  • 3G Coverage in Ireland

    I recently used Twitter to post about my journey on public transport from Kilkenny to Dublin. For people outside of Ireland the total Journey distance was about 90 miles.

    I used only my iPhone on the O2 network and close to 50% of the time it seemed like I had 3G. This was on a train moving at speed, and YouTube played very well with little to no stutter. It did drop to Edge the other half of the time, with about 30% of time I still got speeds web browsing was acceptable on. So in summary: 80% of the time it was possible to surf the web.

    After that Journey I was also on a Dublin Bus, and I had full 3G coverage which comes as little surprise as Dublin Bus only serves densly populated Dublin and it’s environs.

    A few days later I went on a road trip to Athlone, and the coverage on the M4/M6 was not as good as I’d hoped. My theory on why the train was better is the fact on the routes I’ve been on a lot more urban areas are visited, thus the rollout has been very good to densely populated towns, but along motorways which are far away from such places: your sadly out of luck.

    Hutchinson Whampoa (aka 3 Ireland) have recently got the national broadband contract to supply rural areas with 3G coverage, so most of these areas should be covered in the next few years. I should note wireless broadband is hugely needed for mobiles etc,, but a fiber optic service is really what the government should be sticking money into!

    Overall I am very happy to recommend 3G for mobile usage with small devices. People with Laptops should explore their options and try find something else first, like DSL, Cable or fixed point wireless. These can be slightly more expensive then bargain-basement 3G but worth it. As the old adage goes: sometimes you get what you pay for…

  • iPhone 3G Review

    I recently got an iPhone 3G and away from all that Apple mania; I thought I would give an honest review. This is framed in the mindset of all the past Nokia devices (which I have posted about here also) which I have owned.

    Okay so where to start? Well I think a good place would be what I could have bought instead. Strange place for a review; but its good to see what is out there and what I was looking at beforehand.

    1. Nokia XpressMusic 5800 Nokia make great phones; I have stuck to the reliability of Symbian on their earlier phones for quite some time. I love Nokia; they mean reliability when you need your phone most - always a top feature other manufacturers never got quite right. Maybe its part inertia on my part - I can’t really say. Long story short is that this was a major competitor: over the iPhone it has expandability and a lot more hardware features (like RDS Radio), can play a lot more formats also. Downsides: Got terrible reviews for poor Symbian integration with touch; that plectrum looks downright stupid; it is not as sleek as iPhone in form factor (although it is smaller), screen didn’t seem as good to me.
      image

    2. HTC Magic imageFollow up to the HTC Dream or GPhone; this Android device has probably the coolest developer OS around. Lots of activity is going on around Android at the moment; so the first phones to land in the UK and Ireland should be more polished (using next gen Android: CupCake). Their is even rumors it will be adapted and put on net books: possibly making it the standard of mobile devices if given enough time. This will only bring more cool apps in time and reduce Apple’s iTunes Store lead. Downsides: Not available yet; so I couldn’t buy it. Doesn’t have as much apps yet. Isn’t as polished in the software interface as iPhone. All of these can be resolved with time however…

    3. Palm Pre imageI hold out a lot of hope for this! Also Linux based; it promises a cool, open Web developer community as all the apps are online. Web apps need a lot more thought for offline use in my opinion, so I am reserving judgement on this. The interface seems to rock; and developing for it looks super easy… Downsides: not out yet, thus lack of Apps and pricing info.

    4. Some junk WinMob imageSays it all really: a smart-phone but for less than a good plain old non-smartphone. Always made by some obscure Taiwanese outfit - not that is a bad thing; after-all most iPhone parts come from there. For those on a budget this was my last option; but darn cheap; just over €115 for one! I could have bought one for every member of my immediate family for the price of one iPhone: makes you think, doesn’t it?

    On to the review of the iPhone:

    Pros:

    Beautiful Interface:
    It looks amazing: lets be honest. I have never seen a phone look quite this good.

    Fingers:
    imageUsing only your hands is great; lets face it: you cannot forget your hands. You can forget a stylus and even the iPhone itself; but those hands are sticking with ye!

    **Time: **
    I use my phone for time; Apple has it displayed elegantly, in the same place, almost in all the phones’ screens. I love this as I can keep myself aware of what I have to do next… All in glorious 24hr goodness, they way time was meant to be displayed…

    Lots of apps:
    The App store grows bigger every day and all those little useful Apps are really handy.

    **Quick Interface: **
    The software interface is very fast at getting you to where you want to go; to that Twitter application or your Web mail etc.

    Maps and Location based services:
    I have seen the future: and it is the Internet that is location aware. iPhone has taken the first tentative steps in this area with allowing apps to use location; as well as building it into the camera and maps applications.

    Great iPod:
    Apple doesn’t lie on this one. It is a great iPod. The best? I haven’t decided yet… but it’s not far off…

    Safari:
    imageIt is the real web you get on an iPhone. Not only that: it is surprisingly comfortable to navigate with. I haven’t seen a mobile phone device come this close before. The N810 has a great browser with flash; but all round Safari wins on ease of use. I heard the earlier versions were very buggy; maybe I got in just as Safari matured properly.

    Accelerometer:
    Changing the view of applications as you rotate the phone was a masterstroke. Some things just need to be viewed vertically; others horizontally. The iPhone just makes it happen: seamlessly.. no buttons and no fuss. Thumbs up!

    SO-SO

    Camera:
    Not a lot to complain or praise about the camera. It does it’s job… Their is no flash or other trickery other phones have to offer; so any sub-optimal light and the iPhone may as well just not have a camera…

    Cons:

    imageCost:
    Its darned expensive! I bought it contract-free and to say it burned a hole in pocket is an understatement.

    One Inbox:
    Nokia has this one on the button. I don’t care whether its SMS, MMS, E-Mail or a message through telekinesis: put it in one place please… It’s easier to check; and logically it makes more sense to not have to visit ten apps for each. Bonus points for allowing developers to hook in things like Twitter..

    Smudgy:
    It smudges and scratches like nothing I have seen. They tried to make it too shiny; at the cost of usability. I would prefer a grippier, less pretty surface: but I am sure I am in a minority on this. I could probably have even been overheard muttering “Smudgy piece of ****” . Add to any price the cost of a cover…

    **Keyboard: **
    imageYes I know how ugly hardware keyboards look: but they do work. The on-screen keyboard to me: sucks. I much prefer the N810’s on-screen one that I can use with my thumbs. Using my index fingers just doesn’t feel right; and more to the point: all onscreen keyboards are crap. This is a major TODO for any willing iPhone competitor…

    Background Apps:
    This may sound like a minor niggle: it’s not. Only apps you can run in the background is the phone, iPod, Safari and Mail. I don’t even think Safari and Mail are true background apps; in fact I know they aren’t: they suspend when they are not at the forefront.

    Status:
    iPhone OS 3.0 is set to fix notifications; apps will be able to display a number next to their icon. I personally don’t think that is good enough. Is a notification area as seen on other phones (you know for like calendar?) too much to ask? I would prefer that as the idle screen rather than the pretty picture.

    Activation:
    I already feel Apple doesn’t trust me; but to force me to run around trying to find a computer with iTunes to activate the thing (I wasn’t near home) is just pure stupid. Do it over the air (for free; at your expense) or just don’t bother. Fail on this, major fail.

    Rat race jailbreak:
    Apple should just give up.. People are going to crack these no matter what. You only inconvenience your customers (hint: not the networks; us little people) with all this DRM nonsense. EA has it right: do the minimal DRM for contract purposes.
    image

    Pay to release even a free app:
    Its a shame Apple thought 30% markup wasn’t steep enough… But even developer of free applications have to pay $99 to release it on the store. It would be fine if you could get the app another way… This just causes more junk apps to appear at a cost… If they did this on OS X it would be suicide; why not open up the iPhone to free software?
    **
    **
    No 3.5G:
    I expect this was due to power; which is totally forgivable and understandable. But a nice feature would be 3.5G for extra speed; I expect this and 4G (WiMax?) will appear in later models..

  • Eircom Responds...

    Dear,
    [My Name]

    eircom has not agreed to block any Internet sites from being accessed by
    end-users. As part of the settlement of the above proceedings, it was
    agreed that eircom would not oppose an application by the Plaintiffs to
    seek to have eircom block access to the Pirate Bay website. The Music
    Industry will still have to establish, in the normal way that there is
    an appropriate basis for the relief which they seek from the Court.
    eircom is not supporting or consenting to the application. The
    settlement makes no provision for any site other than the Pirate Bay
    website.

    It is important to note that:

    • eircom will not monitor its customer’s activities at any stage.
    • eircom will not implement any form of monitoring equipment or software on its network.
    • eircom will not provide personal details or any information relating to its customers to any third party, including the record companies.

    No personal data will be transferred from eircom to the
    record companies which would enable any customer of eircom to be
    identified. eircom has agreed to keep confidential and will not
    disclose any information concerning its customers to the record
    companies and it will in particular observe in all respects the laws on
    data protection.

    With Thanks
    Thomas Ryan
    Head of eircom Customer Care

  • This post is censored by IRMA

    I always hoped for better for Ireland; but it seems the thieving hand of “rights” organizations which pretend to represent the artist have struck gold. Being able to cajole and bribe the largest Irish Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Eircom; has worked only too well. Although Eircom has said it will only obey by having a court order - it has agreed never to oppose these - which makes it complicit in the act of censorship. My Letter to Our ISP, Eircom, IRMA, EFF:

    Dear [OUR ISP],

    We are a loyal customer of yours. We are writing this because we’re concerned about recent news regarding IRMA (Irish Music Rights Ass.) relationship with your company (the recent letters sent out).

    It would seem that they are seeking to become self-appointed censors of Irish Internet communications. We do not think that a third-party company should be permitted to arbitrarily decide which Internet sites Eircom users; or more importantly any Irish Internet user should be allowed to visit. Will IRMA want to block sites that merely link to copyrightable material, proxy sites that circumvent the block, blogs that criticize its actions? This is a very slippery slope and should be nipped in the bud.

    In the recent high profile case against The Pirate Bay in Sweden; IRMA’s handlers (IFPI, RIAA) have shown their hand: they don’t even understand the underlying technology. John Kennedy, CEO. IFPI:

    Kennedy said he qualified as a lawyer since the 70’s but hasn’t practiced recently. He was asked if he understood BitTorrent. Kennedy said he did, but in “very vague terms.” When the defense lawyers asked more detailed questions, about uTorrent for instance, Kennedy said he’d heard of it but had no idea of the details. It was very clear he knew nothing about any remotely technical issues.

    This is the the kind of people who wish to regulate the Internet. Questions need to be asked that if you follow IRMA’s requested actions does this open you up to legal action for any other kinds of material which rights holders are protective of (Church of Scientology) ? and can you retain common carrier status like An Post; and need warrants issued instead of some rights organisation sending you a vague letter pretending to represent XY&Z ?
    We understand the ‘concern’ about Internet piracy. Artists definitely need to be paid for their hard work. It is an important issue in this day and age, and it must be addressed correctly. Censorship is not the answer. It is avoiding the issue. As has always happened in these cases, it is normal customers who are inconvenienced and have their free speech restricted the most. We need solutions that work, not knee-jerk reactions that are doomed to fail. We recommend you read the EFF’s whitepaper on a better way forward for online music. http://www.eff.org/wp/better-way-forward-voluntary-collective-licensing-music-file-sharing

    There are opportunities here that are being missed. I think it would be for the benefit of both artists and music fans if a solution could be found that combines the technologies developed by the pirates with a fair system for paying artists.

    **There was a very similar case in Italy where ISPs were forced to block The Pirate Bay’s website after pressure from the music industry (the result was that Italian traffic to the site increased by 5%) . The ban was judged illegal in court under European Directive, 2000/31 CE which is also applicable in Ireland. **

    If this ban goes ahead, Eircom and indeed Ireland will have a tarnished image on the world stage as a place where misguided efforts to protect revenue supersede freedom of communication. We would also be strongly considering abandoning our Internet subscription for an ISP who doesn’t cave to these demands, and we imagine many other business’ will too.
    Please, make the right choice. The world is watching. Your decision will have an important impact on the future of the Internet in Ireland.

    Yours faithfully,
    [Footer]

  • Love letter to IRMA's Solicitor

    • This post is a continuation on the previous one. IRMA is the Irish Music Rights Organisation which represents the big four record companies and their bottom line: never the artist. They have recently tried to regulate the Internet and have forced the biggest Irish ISP: Eircom; to use the three strikes rule and boot people off the Internet… No Judge, no Jury, no evidence of a crime.. Just an IP address and a sanction which you cannot contest.

    * I have sent a poignant email to IRMA’s solicitor based on their letter of attack on the ISP’s. If you think any of the language is too harsh by me; please have a look at a sample of the threat letter this solicitor sent out here. This is a legal firm who were suing individuals for thousands of euro; which I would hazard a guess most couldn’t pay. So in my eyes this is a form of legal terrorism; and a joke letter to give this solicitor a heads up that there are people out there like me who read and know the tactics of the Irish Music Rights Organisation; and the parent companies like IFPI, RIAA and the Anit-Piracy Bureau they spring from…. It is my opinion that nothing short of punishment (jail time) for frivolous threat letters should be carried out, plus damages (x10 like they do in their cases) to individuals and companies wrongly stressed out by this. I will compile a blog post of all the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that IRMA has spread soon; and a rebuttal of why their actions may even increase piracy. One thing is for sure; my analysis will be a whole lot cheaper (free) and probably more accurate!

    Note: I have taken out names, but the legal firm and the acting solicitor can be examined in the letter above \^

    Dear [Solicitor for IRMA’s name],

    It is my position that you are morally bankrupt through your actions via IRMA vs. ISP’s. If you need independent advice on how this technology works (I am in Computer Science; but I can explain things slowly; so who knows?) I would be most delighted to help. Please note my hourly rate is at least twice yours; but I’m worth it!

    I look forward to hearing from you in 7 days; lest I contact a credit agency for non-payment. As this email constitutes services rendered by me. But I am willing to trade for legal advice on disbarment of a solicitors firm I know which abuses the law; only because I am a reasonable person!

    Kindest Regards & Love,
    [My Footer]

    PS: This is intended as Humour… only slightly…(joke!). I will publish any response you make on the Internet; so keep this in mind; if you don’t wish it so; don’t respond.


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