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Tag Archives: cellphones

It’s been two years and a bit so it was time for a new phone. Although my OPT was showing it’s age, it wasn’t pressing that I update. The usual problems had starting occurring; most notably the beginning loss of battery life, and slowness (especially since I use my S8+ half the time while travelling). But there hasn’t been much hardware advancement that required me to upgrade.

While choosing a phone to upgrade too, I looked around a bit but settled on the 5T. While it has gotten a lot of excellent reviews (great phone for price), what made me buy it is that it is the only major phone on the market that has dual SIM support and community (if I ever need it). I think the only other option was a Huawei which is difficult to buy. I looked at a lot of flagship phones (S8, Pixel2, Essential, etc) and even if they were great, their lack of dual SIM eliminated them as choices.

One advantage of the 5T over the OPT is that both SIMs can be active – meaning you can call out or receive calls on both SIMs at once (on 3G). This was a problem I had previously so I’m glad that it is fixed. Everything else that is relatively important is good enough (camera, Android OS, hardware, etc).

One thing that irks me (although not a fault with OnePlus) is that while the new phone has a NFC, I can’t use Android Pay because I OEM unlocked the bootloader.

Surprisingly, I’m back on a two-year upgrade cycle for my phone. I bought the Nexus 5 in November 2013, and even though I’ve had issues with it and have been thinking about upgrading, I’ve delayed until this past week to get a new phone. I ended up getting a 64GB One Plus Two over my other two choices: Nexus 6P and Moto X Play/Style.

I waited until the Nexus 6P was announced before making my decision. I prefer getting the latest Android OS ASAP (for example, my Nexus 5 is on Marshmallow now but the OPT is still on Lollipop) so I really wanted to buy this phone. The main reason that I didn’t was because it is horrendously ugly – I hate that black bar on the back of the phone. The design just kills it. It was also the most expensive of my three choices by a significant margin.

The Moto X Play/Style was my first alternative but because it was not available for purchase yet in Canada or US, it lost me as a customer. Although the OPT has some significant drawbacks (NFC & not straight from Google), I decided that it was ok. I’m not too worried about lack of NFC. I think wireless charging contributed to the death of my Nexus 5’s battery and if I ever use Android Pay, I’ll probably end up using it via a wearable (and if it really takes off, I’ll get a new phone within 2 years).

The defining feature that made me pick OPT instead of waiting for a Moto X was that the OPT supports dual 4G sim cards. I can’t trust WIND Mobile in the GTA so having an alternative is valuable to me. Also, it would be great for vacation. That was enough to convince me to buy one, and I was able to secure a (free) invite after only a few days. Unfortunately, my equipment for USB type-C and nano sim cards have not arrived yet so I can’t actually use the phone!

Since my N5 isn’t working well, I’ve considered buying a new phone. Strangely, there aren’t a lot of compelling choices. Here’s what I looked at:

  • Nexus 6 – It’s expensive ($750+tax+shipping in Canada) and I wasn’t enthusiastic about it when it was released (doesn’t seem to use its large size well). Also all the problems I have with my N5 would still exist on the N6 AND it would be more expensive to replace if there were issues.
  • Moto X 2014 – It’s pretty hard to get in the frequency band that I want (I have to buy it from Wind, but it seems like they are OOS in a lot of places). Also, it feels like I’m not improving on my N5 as the technology seems about the same.
  • OnePlus One – This is probably the best option as the screen is larger than the N5 (but not N6 size), it’s relatively open, and relatively cheap. Although with the exchange rate, the 64GB version would set me back $500CDN after shipping.
  • Random Chinese model – The first problem is that it won’t work with my carrier. The second is that I would lose all the benefits of being close to Google/AOSP and getting quick updates. I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up yet.

I’ve been curious about what’s been causing my Nexus 5’s battery to bulge. I’m pretty sure the immediate cause is because of overheating around the battery. Overheating from the CPU (due to running video conferencing for too long) caused my laptop’s battery to bulge and I think there’s some sort of chemical reaction in LION batteries around prolonged excessive heat. But what could have caused the overheating?

I do play some games on my cellphone, but I don’t think enough or for long enough periods to cause the overheating (certainly my battery would at least run out if I was playing for that long). The other hypothesis I have is that my phone could be running hot from trying to acquire location, but again that would have caused my battery to run out a lot faster than it would normally do under normal behaviour (and I would have noticed). My last theory is that using my QI chargers caused the problem. I think I recall my phone being hot while being wirelessly charged, and perhaps the prolonged exposure (charging overnight) caused the battery issue.

In any case, this is one time where I don’t like/agree with Google’s design principle of having non-removable batteries (I also would prefer microSD cards instead of cloud storage).

When I bought my Nexus 5, I broke my pattern of going a year and a half between phones. I’ve been pretty happy with my N5, and I haven’t dropped it or anything like that so there wasn’t a reason to buy another new phone (also the Nexus 6 wasn’t very appealing). But all good things must come to an end, even if it’s not 18 months yet – I started having a problem with my N5. It seems that it is pregnant just like my laptop was last year.

I didn’t notice this initially, but rather noticed that my battery life started becoming horrible. This coincided with the Lollipop update, and there have been lots of complaints about Lollipop’s battery usage so originally I thought I had that problem. Then I started getting random shutdowns – sometimes when my phone still had ~50% battery, and almost every time I did high current activities like taking pictures/videos. After doing some more reading, I noticed the bulging battery issue and am pretty sure that is what’s causing my problem.

It’s gotten progressively worse – I think I’m only getting a couple of hours on standby now. If I try and browse on my phone, it’ll randomly shut off after a few pages. I ordered a new battery and hopefully I can replace it; but if not, it’s time for a new phone!

I bought my Nexus 4 in December 2012, and as per my upgrade cycle plan, I was due to upgrade in April 2014. Well that didn’t happen because I just bought the Nexus 5 when it was announced at the end of last month.

In actuality, I bought 2 Nexus 4s, and have been having a lot of trouble with them (due to LG’s hardware design). I shattered the front screen of my first Nexus 4 (my fault) and had to get it replaced. The replacement took a longtime and I don’t think it was the same type of screen (Super AMOLED or whatever) as the colour reproduction seems a bit dark. In the meantime, I had bought another Nexus 4 and had started using that one, so there was no need to use my fixed one (since I would have to move my settings over and what not). My first N4 became a test device (and I installed Paranoid Android on it just to see what the hype was about).

I used my N4#2 for awhile but had a freak accident one day. This one was definitely not my fault. I plugged the phone into the USB cable for charging, and the back glass started cracking over a period of a few minutes. Eventually the entire back was cracked. Aside for some worrisome prickling, I guess I could’ve continued using the phone – except one of the cracks was over the camera lens glass which refracted the light in a funny manner if there was a point of light within the frame.

I lived with this for about four months, but at the same time was looking to see what I would buy next. I liked the MotoX but the off contract price was too expensive. The Nexus5 was reasonably priced (albeit not having any wow/cool factor) so I ended up with that. I actually missed the announcement window by 35 minutes but there were still white backed 32GBs randomly appearing in stock. I wanted a white-backed one, but didn’t really need more than 16GB. But having gone through the inventory scarcity the last time, I just picked that version up. It actually shipped very quickly (estimated Nov 8 but shipped on Nov 2)!

Now that I am no longer playing Glitch in my web browser as they have shut their doors, the spiritual successor to Glitch in my world is Happy Street.

I originally found Happy Street because it was a game that was similar to Animal Crossing – you go on every day, say hi to cute neighbors, and do some menial things. After playing it for about a month, I’d say it is NOT spiritually like Animal Crossing; sure the characters are cute and you do some menial things, but the fact that is 2D (i.e., a street) rather than 3D (a village) makes for a different experience.

But, it is quite close to Glitch. Specifically in that you are farming/collecting items and then crafting items. These items are then used (in addition to coins or the premium currency – flooz) to build and upgrade the shops and activities on your street.

What I found noteworthy about the design of Happy Street is how it uses what I consider as new elements in game design to make the game more compelling, such as:

  1. Instead of hard achievements and an actual story, there are always mini-quests presented to the player to keep them playing
  2. Creating things take real world time (i.e., 4 hours) instead of an arbitrary amount of waiting within the game
  3. Notifications to remind you to revisit the game – but not in an annoying manner. The notifications are to tell you that the item you are crafting is complete, but of course you need to enter the game to build the next thing
  4. Premium currency for in-game items that can be purchased for real money. You can still gain these in-game items without spending real money, but buying premium currency will speed things up. I think the Glitch business model is outdated and this one works better
  5. Social interaction to help your street along – your friends can come and help speed up builds, and there’s a special tech tree (i.e., building) which requires multiple social interactions to complete

I have this techlust for Android gadgets frequently, and I blame the Chinese market for its cheapness – both its price and build. This has caused me to buy a 7″ tablet which wasn’t actually very usable but a kinda fun hacking exercise for a few months. Then I bought a larger 10″ tablet which is still quite servicable and an adequate HTPC replacement (but not really a great living room computer).

Since that purchase, I have been lurking on some Chinese sites looking at phones. Apparently phablets (large phones that are almost 7″ tablet size – think Galaxy Notes) are quite popular in Asia, so Asian manufacturers make lots of them. There are a lot of Samsung clones (S3 or Notes) that look pretty similar (from online screenshots at least) and are sub $200 delivered. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one?

Then there are the “high industrial design quality” phones that have been designed and sold to the Chinese market. If you follow tech blogs, you may recognize some of the manufacturers like Xiaomi or Meizu. I was actually seriously thinking of buying the Jiayu G3 because it’s a 4.5″ Android 4.0 phone for ~$200! Although you must be aware that the Chinese phones are not pentaband and won’t work with the WIND frequency range, so my justification would be that I would use this phone as my “American” phone when I’m in the States.

Strangely but luckily, all this techlust for Android devices disappated after I received my Nexus4. I guess I just wanted good hardware at a good price, and the Chinese way was the easy way to do it (although you don’t always get good stuff).

After a long process, I finally received my Nexus 4 this week. Once I heard that the N4 was released (in a press conference cancelled by Hurricane Sandy), I knew that I was going to buy it (perhaps related to this cycle). I patiently waited till the release date on November 13, with my heart intent on the 8GB version (it’s cheaper and I don’t need that much space anyways). I knew it was going to be popular and so was going to employ my ticket-buying skills & strategy; basically buy it right when it was released.

Well I would do that provided I wasn’t asleep at the time. No one knew when it was going to be released, some said 0h EST, some said 0h PST (3AM EST), some said 9AM EST, some said 9AM PST. It turned out to be 9AM PST which was noon for me. I had been keeping an eye on forums throughout the morning to find out the time, and had checked around 11:30AM in preparation. It turns out that they started selling it a few minutes after I checked, and I didn’t realize until I checked the forums at 11:40. By then, the phones weren’t sold out yet but I could only get as far adding an 8GB to my cart – when I tried to pay I would get an error (and I had prepared by entering all my info into Google Wallet beforehand!)

I had just experienced an event that was shared amongst a lot of other nerds around the world. Google had underestimated the popularity of a cheap phone that had top-of-the-line specifics, both in terms of inventory and their purchasing system. You might say that I was lucky though, because many who had successful orders would end up waiting several weeks to receive their phones as Google dealt with stock issues.

Finally in December, I received an email that N4s were instock and to be sold to Canada in under 2 hours. Using the skills I practiced the last time around, I was able to buy one! I still ran into several errors, and couldn’t buy one for five minutes, but at least I got my order through eventually. Fortunately, the restricted sales to one per account and had a moving shipping window to handle their stock (I ended up in the 1-2 week window).

After a 2 week wait, I received the phone and the first thing I did was to unlock the bootloader and flash CWM recovery. I suppose I should have powered the phone on first because when I tried that afterwards, it ended up hanging on the boot animation. If you run into this problem, to get back into business, you’ll need to wipe the cache and dalvik cache before rebooting.

While the upgrade cycle for my computer has decreased from a 3 year to 7-10 year cycle, the savings in the wallet has gone to a new upgrade cycle – the cellphone upgrade cycle. A lot of people in Canada still have cellphone contracts that subsidize their cellphone upgrade cycle so they only have to pay ~$100 per upgrade, but I prefer saving ~$30 on my cellphone plan every month and buy my phones outright. That means while others can upgrade year or 1.5 years, I am more flexible; but of course I have to pay more money.

My upgrade cycle started when I bought my Nokia E71 in August 2009 (used, $300). I ended up using that for almost exactly a year until I switched to my first Android phone – that one cost $150. Since $150 is half of $300, that phone should last me for about half a year (8 months actually), which it did until I bought a Nexus S in April 2011 for almost $500.

Following that logic, I should use have used the Nexus S for a year and 8 months, which means I’m due for an upgrade in December 2012 – which is just about now. Fortunately, there is an upgrade target, which is the Nexus 4 that just came out. It’ll cost me about $400 which means, according to my new schedule, I won’t need to upgrade my phone until about oh April 2014?

I bought my current phone (a Huawei U8100) a short 8 months ago and I upgraded to a new phone this weekend. I always expected that I wouldn’t use my cheap Chinese android for very long (what’s a Huawei?), especially considering its price (I think it was $180+tax – $20 rebate = $183.40). My phone before that, the E71 cost me $300 and I used that for a year, so 8 months sounds about right :).

I upgraded to Google’s second phone – the Nexus S (constructed by Samsung). It came out at the beginning of this year, and the hardware is (only) a slight upgrade over the the Samsung Galaxy S. I’m not so worried about the hardware (or that it is out of date), but wanted the Nexus S because:

  • It is a stock Google phone with no provider (i.e., Wind/Mobilicty) or manufacturer (Samsung) customizations.
  • It will receive OS upgrades first and promptly (it’s already running Android 2.3.3)
  • It’s a developer phone (like the Nexus One before it)
  • I’m happy with the Android ecosystem and willing to invest more into it
  • It is a considerable hardware upgrade (screen, processing power and storage) on my existing phone

When it was launched, you could go to the Best Buy in the US to buy it for $529. It launched in April in Canada for a variety of prices. Wind is selling it for $525, Mobilicty is selling it for $500 and Koodo is selling it for $425. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it from Koodo because their model doesn’t support AWS. I ended up getting it for $470 ($531.10 incl tax) from a Mobilicity dealer in First Markham. I think I could have negotiated it down to $450 as I heard some dealers (in Ottawa though) were selling it at that price, but I had also heard that the dealer price in Toronto was around $480.

Since I’m familiar with Android, I set it up and it works well. The only thing to mention is that if you are going to root the phone, it will do a complete factory reset and will completely wipe the 16GB internal memory (since there is no microSD slot). So don’t make the mistake like me and do this after you’ve setup your phone or you’ll have to download and customize twice! Rooting will (visibly) void your warranty – there is an actual unlock icon on boot once you’ve rooted.

I had strong intentions of switching to Mobilicity this January, because their plans are just plain cheaper, but never pulled the trigger. I’m still on Wind, but am still conflicted about porting vs not porting. What has changed that prevented me from switching to Mobilicity?

  1. In December, I switched to the 50MB data add-on (+$10/mth), and surprisingly I survived and didn’t go over the limit. Sure I was gone for 2 weeks, but I have a fairly large buffer until my limit. If I can continue with this add-on, then my monthly bill will only be $25 + tax, which is actually a slightly lower price compared to what I would pay on Mobilicity
  2. I looked at the cell phone tower map for Mobilicity, and the closest tower at work is pretty far away (close to Hwy 404/Hwy 7). The closest Wind tower is much closer and I still only get one or two bars of signal, so if I switch to Mobilicity I believe that I won’t get signal at work (a lot of people complain about their Mobilicity signal indoors anyways). What’s the point of a phone/data plan if you don’t get signal?
  3. Wind has expanded their home zone all the way up through Aurora and into Newmarket (ok I will probably never go up there…)

I am also fairly comfortable within my minutes and text limits, so eventually it will come down to whether 50MB of data is enough vs unlimited (or Wind can shift their rates!).

After lurking around some forums, I found that there was a custom ROM for my phone which surely would have better performance than the stock ROM? Well hopefully so. In any case, I didn’t want to upgrade my ROM prior to going on vacation in case it caused unexpected behaviour on my phone.

I didn’t really listen to my own advice, and went ahead and upgraded from my stock ROM yesterday; although I didn’t install a custom ROM, but just the updated version of the stock ROM. It was still a pain and took a long time because upgrading your ROM wipes out all your installed applications and settings. Here’s what I did to get around that:

  1. Rooted my phone (using z4root)
  2. Installed Titanium Backup and backed up all System apps, system data, user apps and user data using a batch operation
  3. Flashed the new firmware
  4. Re-rooted my phone
  5. Add my Google account to get Android market access
  6. Installed Titanium Backup again and used a batch operation to restore all my backups
  7. Used ROM Manager to fix all my permissions (potentially unnecessary, but I thought I needed it to fix my widgets)
  8. Re-added onto my home screen all my widgets since they would not load after restoring from backup

This still took a long time because when restoring from backups, Android would ask for permission to install every single app again. Plus, I’m not sure if I will gain the benefit of the new ROM as I overwrote all the system apps from backups (at least I stayed on the same version of the OS so this was possible).

Even with this shortcut, it took probably 2 hours to get it all done, with lots of manual input. Looks like there is a lot of work in this space to make things easy.

When WIND and Mobilicity launched, the idea was that their entry into the marketplace would stir up the competition and cause Rogers, Bell, Telus to lower their prices. Well they got Rogers to launch Chatr and Bell to re-launch Solo Mobile, but the real competition looks like it is between WIND and Mobilicity itself! This is inherently bad for the industry from a consumer standpoint, because the already-not-profitable entrants are now slashing their own prices to fight each other.

I’m on WIND currently, and I pay $39.55 per month all in. In the 3+ months I’ve been with WIND, I’ve never exceeded my caps or had to use my phone outside of the WIND Home zone. A recently launched Mobilicty plan is causing me to think about porting out to Mobilicity. With Mobilicity, I can get an unlimited local talk+text plan (vs my 100+rollover/50+rollover mins/text I currently have) for $25; but if I prepay for a year, I can get 33% off that rate = $16.50. I can then add unlimited data for $10 (vs $20 for 500MB I currently have) bringing my monthly total to $29.95, or a savings of almost $10!

I have reservations with switching because it will cost me ~$20 for a new SIM card, and the Mobilicity network is not as large as WIND’s (especially towards Niagara). Also there are reports that Mobilicity caps its data rate.

On the other hand, WIND is offering an (unadvertised) plan for $45.20 ($40+tax) which gives unlimited talk+text, calling with North America, global text and data. It’s tempting, given that I used WIND’s data connection extensively, and it is relatively fast and reliable. But the $15/month is a lot for the marginal extra features. If only the package was $10 cheaper, I would stay with WIND.

I’ve had my Android phone for about two months now, and it is good in many ways, but it’s also pretty crappy in several ways. Here’s a list of the issues I have with the Huawei U8100:

  1. The keyboard sucks. I’ve tried some other keyboard replacements, but the stock Android keyboard is the best – although it is still difficult to use. Maybe it’s my general preference for a tactile keyboard, or the touch screen just isn’t that great.
  2. The camera sucks. It’s a fixed focus lens with no flash, and seems to be a slow lens so half the pictures I try to take are blurry. I can’t even get the barcode app to work consistently with the camera.
  3. It’s a bit laggy. That’s probably a function of the CPU and RAM, and it’s something I can live with, but I’d appreciate it if was a bit more snappy.
  4. The headphone sound driver is very poor. The sound coming from the headphone jack sounds like it has been downsampled. It’s worse than listening to the radio.
  5. Some apps aren’t visible on the Android market. I’m not sure whether this is the app developer’s fault (they set filters), the low end hardware on the phone (RAM, resolution) or Google’s fault for not entering the correct hardware configuration. In any case, there are many apps that can’t be found on the Android market.

Even with these complaints, it was still cheap so I’ll live with it!

Update: Apparently it turns out that the headphone jack on the U8100 supports mic as well, so if you connect a normal headphone (i.e., one from your ipod) then the third loop for the mic causes some sort of interference. So to solve this, you could either get a headphone/mic combo connector, or you can start the music first and then connect the headphone.

I’m almost free from Rogers! I’ve been talking about trying to whittle down my prepaid balance for about 2 years, and now I’m down to a balance of $21.61! I’ve made a lot of progress in the past month or two because I’ve been buying a lot of data day passes at $3/day (although now it is discounted to $2/day or $7/week) and because I’ve had a lot of daytime calls related to moving. That is in addition to a few months of the $1 top-up hack until Rogers shut down that loophole earlier this year.

The bad news for me is that my airtime expires today, so I’ll have to top up again. Instead of topping up my usual $20, I’m doing a $10 top-up and switching to a crappy plan. It’s a necessary evil because I really want to get rid of my Rogers account as I’m going to be switching to Wind soon!

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone on a road trip, but we’re going on one now! We’re headed on a winding route through Michigan to Chicago (ok so we just wanted to do some outlet shopping). I haven’t been to Chicago since high school, which is basically like not having gone before so it should be new and refreshing.

I also bought an AT&T sim card on Ebay so that I can take advantage of AT&T’s prepaid data. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to activate my phone in Canada (GoPhone has no roaming in Canada), so hopefully I will find wifi to get things rolling. If so, I’ll be moblogging our trip!

It’s a bit odd to think about your next meal when you’re eating a buffet but that’s kind of the position I’m in. I have all the minutes that I can consume on my cellphone, but I’m already thinking about how to run away from Rogers.

What has spurred me lately to think about showing my customer disloyalty is my lack of a data plan. It makes playing Foursquare quite difficult! The problem is that there is nowhere I can turn to because Rogers/Fido/Bell/Telus all want your firstborn for data access (at least 3 yrs worth). I kind of like paying only $20 a month (or at least less than $60).

I’ve been waiting for WIND mobile to pick up its game. When they launched, they had an unlimited data addon for +$35, which is a bit too expensive, and a Social Blackberry plan for +$10, which only supports a few apps and is thus crippled. Today the game changed because WIND announced a new tier for their data addons. For +$20 you can get 500mb of data, which is plenty (maybe even the +$10 for 50mb is enough).

So I’ve already decided, that my next phone plan will be the $15 Chat + $20 Data for a grand total of $39.55 a month which includes enough minutes and text for me. My current phone has been good to me, but it doesn’t support WIND’s frequencies so I will probably get a BB as well. Now I just need to use up the remaining $60+ in my PayGo, which should take about 2 years. Hopefully that will give WIND the time to get their network in order in Toronto.

I haven’t had a Rogers Sucks blog in awhile, so here’s one. I’ve been researching the cheapest way to get data on my cellphone in the US. I obviously don’t want to sign on to a plan, because I would only be in the States for a couple of days. Since I use GSM, the only two possibilities are basically T-Mobile or AT&T.

T-Mobile doesn’t offer prepaid data (short of some hacking and use of proxies) but AT&T offers a few plans at $4.99 for 1MB or $19.99 for 100MB. When I first found about this, I was annoyed because it seemed like a rip off. I could spend $20USD for data, but that’s the same as I pay for my entire cellphone bill in a month in Canada! But the more I thought about it, the better it sounds.

With Rogers, the only way I can get data access is to pay $2.99 for a Data Day Pass which gives me up to 20MB of data (I pay a $1.99 tax for having a smartphone, otherwise it’ll be $1 day). That works out to 0.15¢ per MB which is a bit better than the 0.20¢ per MB that AT&T offers. Sounds good right? so why am I complaining?

The difference is that my 20MB on Rogers expires within 24 hours. I can’t use up 20MB just by checking email or updating foursquare, and Rogers is betting on that to eat up my $3. AT&T is different, you get 30 days to use up your data, and that would be great for me. Sure $20 is a bit much, but I can check Facebook and use GTalk on the go for an entire month!

I’m not really a fan of the iPhone for a variety of reasons, although I have a small interest in getting one because of the App Store. Well I still have very small interest but it has increased a bit more after hearing about the 4th generation iPhone.

It’s not out yet, or announced, but an Apple engineer lost his prototype in a bar and eventually made its way to Gizmodo after some ca$h changed hands. I’m not so interested about its features but I like the way that they’ve rectangularized the body. It reminds me of my Sony Clié and I find it sleeker than the current design.

Now if it only had a tactile keyboard I’d get it as my next phone.

Now that I don’t have a data plan, and haven’t really gotten very far on using SMS effectively, and don’t moblog as much as I hoped, my phone is rather useless right?

Well no, because it turns out that I have been using my phone a lot. To play games! I downloaded a GBA emulator for Symbian OS and have been playing Final Fantasy 3 (neĆ© VI). I’ve played it in the past, but that was maybe 10 years ago, so it is somewhat fresh again. Plus, I wanted to play something which would last me 60 hours a long time.

Now, my “GBA” truly goes with me everywhere, with the bonus (or is it a bonus?) that it doesn’t cause a big bulge in my pocket. It’s everything a N-Gage should have been!

And yes, there apparently is an app for this too

I should start this post off with the disclaimer that I know there is a perfectly good solution, namely IMAP, that was engineered to solve this problem; but I don’t have a data plan and the point is to try and figure out a way to get a notification when I get an email, with the tools I have available (i.e., unlimited incoming SMS due to a text plan).

The idea is simple. When I get an email, I want to be texted on my phone with the subject, sender, and whatever else from the body that can fit within 160 characters. But the some of the details make this convoluted: 1) Sending SMS is “expensive” so it’s difficult to find a reliable, quick AND free resource to send texts, and 2) I don’t want to share my GMail login with some random provider to retrieve my mail (since it’s my Google Accounts login which is tied to Calendar, Adsense, etc; not to mention just having random people read my private mail).

The first problem has a relatively easy solution, and that is to go through Twitter. I can set my Twitter account to subscribe to another dummy Twitter account that I own. Whenever that dummy account is updated, Twitter can quickly and for free, send a text to my phone. Now I just need to get my mail onto Twitter.

GMail has an RSS feed, and if you embed your login information in the URL, then anything can pull the mail from your account. Also, a Twitter account can be tied to a RSS feed through services like TwitterFeed (which I tried using for FiD). But their service runs on a one-hour delay and I’m not entirely comfortable sharing my info with this third party. Then I found out that FeedBurner has a new FeedBurner Socialize feature which can push RSS updates to a Twitter account. Feedburner is now owned by Google so I feel more comfortable storing my login info there.

With that setup, I can accomplish what I set out to. So to summarize:

  • Grab mail as RSS feed by embedding login data into feed URL
  • Burn feed through FeedBurner and socialize to a new, protected, Twitter account
  • Follow dummy Twitter from main Twitter account and have updates sent to phone.

Now on to the problems. The GMail RSS feed stores the email body preview in a summary element within the feed, instead of the description. This means that when FeedBurner pushes to Twitter, it just pushes the title (and also there is no author etc). I think this can be solved by taking the FeedBurner feed and “fixing” it with Yahoo! Pipes. For some reason, Yahoo! Pipes doesn’t take an authenticated RSS feed as a source (or GMail ignores it on purpose) so you have to use your burned feed. Once the feed is fixed, then you have to burn it a second time in FeedBurner to push to Twitter. This introduces even more polling delay.

Next, the dummy Twitter account ends up polluting your actual Twitter account with updates (i.e., your mail). I don’t know how to solve this yet since there is no filtering mechanism on the main Twitter site. It is actually quite annoying and counter-balances the usefulness of pushing email notifications to my mobile.

Also, I was thinking that it might be good to funnel my mail through to a second, read-only, GMail account in order to protect my login (it might be good to have a second GMail account which shadows my primary account for security purposes anyways). But again this adds more delay.

In summary, it can be done, but it is just not streamlined enough to be of good use.

I was digging through my old stuff on the weekend, and came across my old cellphones. I will probably donate them to Flipswap for environmentally-friendly disposal, but before I do that, let’s take a walk down memory lane!

The Motorola C333 was my second cellphone. It was b/w and no frills, it couldn’t even use Midi ringtones; instead you had to program new rings in by typing in a sequence of notes (mapped to letters). I think I made a site listing ringtone sequences for this phone once-upon-a-time. I also bought new faceplates for this phone, I think a red and a blue one, from Pacific Mall. Eventually I had some battery issues with this phone and had to recharge it constantly.

My third cellphone was the Motorola v66. It was also my first flip phone. I bought this phone when I started my first work term in Seattle for $75USD (including SIM and some air time) from T-Mobile. I called in 2 months later and they gave me the unlock code for the phone so I was able to use it when I moved back to Canada. I liked the form factor of this phone; I think it was thin for its time (much thinner than the v60). It served me well for a long time, until eventually it got a crack in the screen.

Although I was happy with the v66, I kind of wanted a colour phone. So in 2005, when I was back in Seattle, I saw a deal for a Cingular prepaid phone and bought it. The package, including SIM card and Samsung SGH-C207 was only something like $25 USD. I was confident I could unlock it, but it turns out I couldn’t. After trying off-and-on for a few years I eventually bricked the phone!

One thing that I noticed in Japan was the heavy usage of QR Codes on advertisements and what not. These scannable codes weren’t very common in North America but lately I’ve been seeing them used more and more (i.e., Blackberry).

The codes are a quick way to encode some text information, but mostly I see them used to encode a URL. Now that many more people in North America have data-enabled cell phones (but not necessary a good way to type, or are lazy); they can just take a picture of the code and have the page opened automatically. To the right is the QR code for (yay for Google for having an easy way to convert text into QR Code).

The idea itself is fascinating to me because, like a barcode, it is not human readable at all. It just looks like some noise, but you can fit 1000 phone numbers into one QR code!