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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Missing calls on the Samsung i600 with a 3G SIM?

I've been having all kinds of problems with my phone since I got my Orange 3G SIM, especially in Central London. I'd find that texts would all come in at once, long after they'd been sent, along with messages about 'missed calls', despite the phone being on the whole time.

Since there are other ways to contact me at work (at least two other phone numbers!) I have been fairly sanguine about it, but when I was expecting a call on Thursday and it never came, I dialled '453' (the free service that tells pay-as-you-go users like me how much credit's left) and, after a long delay trying to connect, three text messages and a missed call notification came through.

My suspicion was that 3G was interfering somehow - or at least reducing the reliability of the phone - and this was borne out by the Orange customer services advisor, who suggested I switch to 2G/GSM operation for normal use (i.e. when I wasn't planning on making data calls).

In summary, then, the i600 on Orange gets very easily confused when both 2G and 3G services are available, and can get stuck in '3G' mode when it's not available; to avoid this, I need to go to the menus:

Start -> Settings -> Phone -> All Calls -> Band Selection

Normally, it'll be on AUTO - in a perfect world, this would happily choose between GSM and 3G (WCDMA). However, it seems that doesn't work, so I was advised to put it to GSM900/1800 for normal use (and that would perhaps also explain why it didn't work in Germany), and select AUTO when I'm surfing.

Whether this oddity is limited to (my!) Orange Samsung SGH-i600 on Orange with a 3G SIM, or extends to i600 on other services, or other Windows Mobile smartphones on Orange, I just don't know, but I thought it was worth sharing my experiences.

I know for a fact the 3G iPhone has had its share of problems with 3G, so perhaps it's simply that fast over-the-air data on mobile phones isn't quite mature yet...

Posted by james at 3:24 PM

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Coffee with the Vobes at Monmouth Coffee House.

This lunchtime I was privileged to enjoy a cup or two of the fine Monmouth blend coffee with Richard Vobes, whose podcast I've been listening over the past few years - in fact, it's one of the first to which I subscribed.

The coffee was wonderful, and so, in fact, was the company - we were fortunate enough to share a table with some professional viola players who certainly had some stories to tell! Since all of us have had brushes with celebrity, it was very entertaining to exchange our experiences.

We had 'flat white' coffees - like a latte, except with only a small amount of the foaming milk on the top - swished into an exquisite pattern, and using the famous and very well-reviewed Monmouth espresso blend.

Time whizzed by, and all too soon it was time to leave - probably for the best, because the caf´┐Ż area was tiny, and there were more people waiting to sit at our table!

If you like your coffee, and want to sit among the delightful aroma of freshly roasted beans drinking the finest brew in London with entertaining people, Monmouth Coffee's the place!

Beautiful pattern in a flat white coffeeThe Vobes and me with the weakest coffee in the place!

Posted by james at 9:34 PM

Skyfire browser for the i600 (and other Windows Mobile 5 Smartphones) comes to the UK

Using the internet on my mobile phone has been functional but frustrating; some sites (like the BBC, Twitter and Facebook) have versions of their pages suitable for mobiles, but on the whole they are extremely basic, and very limited in what they can do.

This is as much a limitation of the devices as anything (and I include the iPhone/iPod touch in this, despite the fact that it's possible to format pages to look really good on its screen) since the display is small and the processor is quite low-powered, but it's still irksome that platform developers (like Adobe with the otherwise almost-ubiquitous Flash) tend not to make a version for current or legacy mobile operating systems. In some respects, phones are considered commodity items; if you want a new operating system (like Windows Mobile 7) you have to buy a new phone.

Pocket Internet Explorer on the i600 is rubbish.

It's possible to install Opera Mini if you're willing to go through the hassle of installing the java engine, or you can buy (as I did) the full version of Opera Mobile, which gives you multiple windows and something approaching a usable browsing experience. But it's still not quite there.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, my HP iPaq hx4700 runs minimo, which is of about an equivalent standard to Opera Mobile, but even that's no longer being supported, in favour of Fennec, which isn't even available for Windows Mobile (yet?)

So you can imagine how pleased I was that - finally - Skyfire beta is now available in the UK, and can easily be installed on my i600!

It promises 'the full web' and, on the whole it delivers it, which is something of an impressive achievement given the small screen it has to do so! There's a mouse cursor, controlled by the direction buttons, to select elements on the page; it can zoom into sections of the screen, and, most importantly display video!

BBC's iPlayer works; justin.tv works; I can even use Facebook and all the silly applications it offers. I've had some trouble playing BBC News clips, and it has to keep turning the screen light back on when I'm watching something (or I have to keep fiddling with the mouse!), but this is honestly the best browsing experience I've had.

I'm intrigued how it works, though - there are some clues here. This is definitely in the top five things to happen to my i600, and I would very much recommend it to anyone else who's got one!

Posted by james at 9:02 PM

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Goings on...

I'd be hard-pressed to write down everything that's been going on over the past few weeks, but I'll have a go at summarising. Firstly, Beth's brother has had his operation; it's one of three that he needs to have, but at least he's embarked on the path to resolving the situation that's caused him to be laid low for the past year.

I don't know if I'd mentioned this, but Beth has also been diagnosed with a fairly rare condition, called "Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome" - once again, it's good that it has been diagnosed, but the road to recovery is a slow and quite bumpy one, since it also involves surgery. We're waiting for an initial hospital appointment to come through, which will doubtless be after Christmas. There's a very interesting video about it here: www.chiariinstitute.com/video-popup.html. Fortunately, Beth has some medication that inhibits the painful spasms she's been getting, so there's some relief in the meantime.

Otherwise, though, we're all doing quite well. I think I've been fighting off a bug for a couple of weeks, culminating in a rather unpleasant headache just behind my sinuses, but in the scheme of things, that's quite minor, isn't it! I think there's been plenty going round at school, especially with the cold weather, so we're trying to stay warm and well.

Christopher had another Cubs sleepover last month, in the Arndale Centre for the NOAH Enterprise homeless charity. We've recently carried out an upgrade on his PC, since he was struggling with an four year old Dell PC bought for a bargain when they made a pricing error. It means he can now play the excellent Portal (probably my favourite computer game ever) and the Spore Creature Creator.

He's also really into design applications like Phun, and more recently Incredibots.

Eleanor has her own computer now, but doesn't use it as much as Christopher plays on his! She's more into dancing about and make-believe, and has taken up after-school drama club, gymnastics and now cheerleading - perfect for burning off all that youthful energy!

We're preparing for Christmas now; I've recently attempted to make some space by Freecycling some of our unwanted things, and, given the amount of gadgetry we've bought this year, and combined with the potential for harder times ahead, it's probably a good idea that 2009 is a "appreciate what we have - and no new tech" year!

This afternoon we decorated the lounge - the Christmas tree's up, and it's started to look - and smell - festive. Yeah - I know, there are eighteen sleeps to go till Christmas, but half of the enjoyment is the anticipation, and it's lovely to see the children light the Advent candles at church every Sunday.

That's about it, really... I update my Twitter feed with interesting site links I find during the course of the day (there's also a handy archive, too) - and I'm trying to get into the habit of using del.icio.us for my 'handy' bookmarks. All this "Web 2.0" stuff is high maintenance!

To close, here is a couple of photos of the children on the green, enjoying the autumn leaves!

Christopher - playing 'Goalie'!
Christopher, playing 'goalie' with Eleanor about to kick the ball (not in shot!)

Eleanor and her home-made flag!
Eleanor and her home-made flag.

Posted by james at 5:38 PM

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