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First week with the k608i

Posted by mjr 2007-12-12 (permalink)

I got a Sony Ericsson k608i. It's fairly old and I don't like Sony (rootkit distributors that they are), but it was very cheap... if I didn't have the opportunity to use that, I'd've probably got one of 3's 50-quid Skypephones and ignored the Skype bit. I don't really know enough yet to buy smart and I'm not a 3G Power Phoner, so I suspect the bog standard would be good enough for me.

A week on, it works pretty well. 3mail seems to be free to receive and read, so I can set my mail sieve to redirect copies from my heavily-filtered inbox to it and then choose between 10p/mail replies or 50p/day unlimited internet and use mujMail and MIDPssh. Typing on the phone isn't much fun, but it's not too bad.

The speakerphone is good enough that I don't need to carry a headset around with me and some of the free video like animated weather maps are quite fun, but I'm not sure how much I'll use them. I usually have access to a TV, after all. Even larger train stations often have TVs around. 2.50 for unlimited access to BBC One, Three, News24 and itv1 may be useful if there's something I really want to watch, but I'd expect it to eat battery. Also, the video seemed to flake out far too easily when moving on local trains.

The camera seems OK, although I haven't figured out how to make it flash and I've not yet copied pictures off to a bigger screen or a printer. I've got bluetooth working, but I think I also need to install obex. I need more time.

Has anyone got either headsetd or alsa pcm type bluetooth working well? My headset seems to have a very quiet microphone, is slow to start and has been unstable so far.

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Simon asked:

"Is that actual television you get on that? My last phone was a Nokia 6680, which you can supposedly watch TV on. Turns out it's not actual broadcast television but clips which repeat, for example I'd guess the BBC News 24 would just play the headlines on repeat... If you put BBC1 on my old phone and on an actual TV at the same time, they'd be totally different programmes."

Well, the TV page on the 3 site says it's "itv's most popular shows can be viewed on your mobile at the same time as they air on TV" but I've not paid up the money and tried it myself yet, and the local video cell isn't letting me on again (weak signal area and recent storm damage). Which network are you on?

Update: I checked once I had video coverage back. It seems that the BBC ones are definitely a loop-service, with a 20-30 minute disconnect. Yuck.

There are also ad-supported free-to-watch video clips from firms like ITN and a really awful football newsreel from EPL (English Premier League? Isn't it called the Premiership now?)

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Using a mobile phone to replace a laptop on short business trips

Posted by mjr 2007-11-29

I don't feel like carrying the 3kg laptop around on short trips of a day or two any more (I must be getting old), so I'm pondering replacing my ancient Motorola Timeport mobile phone with one that runs Java applications like mujMail and MIDPssh. My servers are mainly ssh2 and IMAP+TLS IIRC.

If it uses bluetooth and I get a headset and a dongle, I think I'll be able to use the headset with the softphone at home too, instead of the cheapo yealink test handset which has stuck around far too long. I'm looking at the Samsung E250 or the Ericsson K608i, for various reasons. I think I'll need to unlock whatever I get, as I hop between Orange and T-Mobile.

Are there gotchas to doing this? How much free software can they run? How have you found mobile-phone travel for hackers, or why do you still carry a laptop everywhere?

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Evgeni Golov, heading for a E51 for christmas comments:

"What about the Nokia E61(i) or E51? The 61s even have a full keyboard. They run Symbian, you get a lot of apps everywhere and it's usually faster than Java ;) The E61i has a cam, the E61 does not - if you don't need one, get the E61, it's much cheaper (about 200E here in germany, the E61i and E51 are about 280Euro)."

Why not Nokia? Well, I've got a bit of a semi-irrational dislike of Nokia because they are the dominant provider, their early phones irritated the hell out of me, they campaign for software patents IIRC and THAT RINGTONE MUST DIE. It's worse than Crazy Frog, but at least Dom Joly made good comedy from it.

Marius Gedminas notes:

"Once I got a Nokia N800 (which fits in a pocket, but is not a phone), I began leaving my laptop at home during short trips."

Thanks for the note. Doesn't N800 need a big pocket?

Erik writes:

"I would buy a smaller laptop, I've seen people using SSH on smart phones and though it's neat it's not really usable. Try eee PC instead, and a really minimal phone ,there are some great small phones now days."

I think I should be seeing an eee PC next week and I'll report back with comments if I do. I forget how much they cost.

Nathan Paul Simons comments:

"I use a Treo 650 and it works reasonably well for me here in the states. Granted, I haven't switched from Cingular since I bought it from them, but it runs pssh and it came with VersaMail; I really haven't bothered to look for another mail client as my only real complaint with VersaMail is it doesn't support aliases (which I use heavily to avoid spam).

I haven't really tested its Java capabilities yet; again, I haven't had a need to. What I find really cool is I can write and run software directly on it with LispMe."

I remember LispMe from the Palm IIIese. I never managed to write big stuff in it, though.

How are you using aliases to avoid spam? I mostly found I got 17 copies of the damn stuff, one to each alias, which negated the other tricks I was doing - I could detect it, but it pushed up the data transfer charges too much.

Jon Åslund reports:

"I bought a Nokia E70 almost for the same reasons you have. I wanted something that wasn't a big laptop, but still usable.

Plus: Very nice keyboard when you flip it open. You can use putty for ssh (very good). It has a decent browser, webkit based. Google maps. You can program it with Python, although I have never done it.

Minus: Low RAM, pictures won't load on big webpages. Very slow. Joystick gets stuck easy after a few weeks and wiggle hell begins.

I use it mainly for ssh, and then it is very very nice, but when you switch programs, browse the web for a while, moving around with the joystick, you feel the bad sides. Not that many other current devices are better on the hardware feel fast part except for the iphone."

I've never liked joysticks for browsing. Something like the lynx numbered- links interface or at least tabbing would be better, wouldn't it?

Michael Maclean comments:

"I haven't any experience with the phones you mention, but I do have a Nokia N95, which runs a variant of Symbian OS. It can run Java apps as well as native ones - there's a port of PuTTY available, which works quite well in my experience. The in-built IMAP client isn't too bad - it does everything I require, including StartTLS on both IMAP and SMTP. The Nokia N and E-series phones are probably worth a look, they are all similar in this regard. I also have a Bluetooth keyboard (a Nokia SU-8W) which lets me type in a relatively sensible fashion. I don't know anything about how much they cost though, mine came with a contract. In case you're wondering, I have no affiliation with Nokia, I just like their kit."

Simon writes:

"I've recently upgraded to the Nokia N95 8Gb which for me, is the best "laptop replacement" phone out there. The killer feature is built-in wifi, of course meaning you don't have to pay through the roof for 3G/GPRS Internet access on the move as long as you can find an open wifi network.

As far as Free software for it goes, don't hold your breath. I've got Putty installed on mine, also mIRGGI an IRC client. Opera Min (especially the latest beta) is a better web browser than the built-in one and with 8Gb of disk space, the phone is also my mp3 player (sadly not been able to get it working with .ogg files as yet but I'm sure there are media players out there for Symbian which support it.) However, Nokia are getting into Open Source so we'll see!

So... if you bought a bluetooth keyboard for it, the Nokia N95 8Gb is definitely laptop replacement material!"

Seems like the N95 might be worth a look, even despite my Nokia reservations above.

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June: paperless billing and post offices

Just got my copy of the Connection for June in the email today. Highlights: expansion of paperless billing and putting savings into a new sustainability fund that will be used to "green" the co-op further; profiles of Emerge, Cycle Training UK, Low Carbon Lifestyle, and Resurgence Magazine; not following BT's introductions of charges for 1571 (£1/month), non-DD payment and late payment (up to £7.50/bill); free line transfers until end of August; new mobile phone services; previously-posted ADSL charging plan changes. (Note: I'm a member of this consumer co-op and my main company is Phone Co-op agent 471 if you'd like to join through us.)

An interesting question is how that new sustainability fund will be allocated. I can't see an answer in this newsletter, but I've signed up for the extra paperless services anyway. I have mixed feelings about that: it may be helping save trees and fuel, but is it also further harming my rural post service by reducing the amount of post sent to me?

Then again, it looks like the government has caused most harm to rural post offices by moving social service payments to banks and slowly reducing the number of services at rural sub-offices, while the Post Office themselves are doing "ludicrous" things like moving main post offices out of historic buildings and into the backs of newsagent chains. I care more about the offices than the delivery service and they don't seem very connected here.

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One of my co-operatives, The Phone Co-op, has set clear monthly data allowances from 5GB to 20GB on its residential ADSL Max packages. If you exceed that, you get emailed (a bit before you hit the limit) and then billed GBP1.50 for each extra gig.

When telling me about this, they wrote

"Unlike other ISPs, we will not impose any other restrictions to your service or how you use it"

which surprised me. Are heavy users still TOS'd off the network by other ISPs?

They also announced a pound a month discount for combining ADSL and line rental, which suits me fine!

I notice that Brane Dump: Wanted: A Telco That Doesn't Suck is roughly where I was a couple of years ago, when BT were raising the line rental and including "free" minutes that I didn't use. I do wonder how you put grocer's apostrophe into Southern Cross. Southern Cros's?

sdf commented:

"i guess they mean they don't use traffic shaping to restrict speed on the usual p2p-ports"

Maybe, but is that within the retail ISP's control or would it be done by the network provider?

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