Using a GPRS, 3G or HSDPA Mobile with OS X

So I’ve just moved house and I’m without Internet. It seems I have to pay a total of £384 ($729 USD) for the priviledge this year. Unbelievably only £120 of this is for 16mb no-monthly-limit broadband from Sky, but the rest is on an obscene £124…

So I’ve just moved house and I’m without Internet. It seems I have to pay a total of £384 ($729 USD) for the priviledge this year. Unbelievably only £120 of this is for 16mb no-monthly-limit broadband from Sky, but the rest is on an obscene £124 activation cost to get a BT line set up in this place (I was told it has been 7 years since one was active), the rest is line rental for said line from BT. So that’s all going to take at least a month, because living in a town of several hundred thousand people counts as being “in the sticks” when compared with London, and they just don’t make enough phone engineers…

Either way, I’m currently using my mobile phone with my laptop as a stop-gap and I’m documenting the process as there wasn’t enough information online to get it sorted quickly.

My phone’s HSDPA connection is labelled as “3G+” apparently giving download speeds of up to 7.2mbps. Totally unrealistic, but it definitely feels a lot faster than a 56kb modem, and individual file downloads are certainly in the tens of kilobytes per second.

I found a site containing modem scripts for OS X for a variety of devices (thanks to Ross Barkman for his work). These are very well written, with plenty of automatic re-attempts and checking to save you the hassle of trying out many combinations of dialing numbers, CIDs, access point names, usernames and passwords.

I’m using a Samsung Z720 via USB, although bluetooth works as well. So I opted for the “generic HSDPA script”. There are of course scripts for Nokia, Motorola and other manufacturers as well as a bunch of generic scripts like the one I am currently using. Then I ran through the Network settings in System Preferences, establishing a dial up connection over USB with the following entered into OSX’s Internet Connect wizard:

username: web
password: web
telephone number: internet

Also all header encryption/compression is turned off, and I’ve not specified a proxy server, even though one is specified on the mobile itself.

Normally you see people enter something like *99# or even *99**3# for the telephone number, the latter variation is for people entering a CID (the 3 in this case), but the modem script I’m using takes care of that for you, trying out several combinations, and leaving the telephone field free for you to enter your access point name, which you can get by looking at the settings on your mobile.

On one occaision I had to attempt the dialing a few times before it authenticated. A quick “tail” on /var/log/system.log showed the reason, Vodafone wasn’t happy with my hopping on so frequently and using up a bunch of “config requests” which were apparently maxed out, but a few minutes gap saw to that.

3 (Three) in the UK offer a broadband USB 3G modem for a one off cost of £99, plus £10 a month for a 2Gb limit (also available pay as you go), I think they have other plans with more and less of a limit which varies by price. Vodafone on the other hand offer a less friendly limit of 120mb/month when using your mobile phone, or £1 uper day for 15mb both available on contract or pay as you go. If you go over the limit you start paying by the day. Archaic but do-able.

For now this will do but I wanted to include one quick tip… a freeware application called SurplusMeter. You may remember these from the days of dial-up, you specify your monthly limit, the day the month starts on and it monitors bandwidth, archiving and reporting it to you so that you can keep tabs on usage. All in all an essential app if your operator is still enforcing capped monthly limits or operating a rather strict “fair usage” policy.

Update:

I’ve also got this working on my eee PC (Xandros Linux).

Asus eeePC (Sub Notebook) Review

The other week I picked up an ASUS eeePC Linux based laptop from, believe or not, Toys ‘R’ Us, for an incredible £220 GBP ($429 USD). I have recently started commuting to London on the train with around a 40 minute journey time, so for me this was a p…

The other week I picked up an ASUS eeePC Linux based laptop from, believe or not, Toys ‘R’ Us, for an incredible £220 GBP ($429 USD). I have recently started commuting to London on the train with around a 40 minute journey time, so for me this was a purchase that would save my sanity and hopefully my (considerably more costly) MacBook Pro from being stolen. It’s small enough to have on one knee so don’t worry about a table and I’m currently using it to surf, code in Ruby, read books and watch videos.

The strange thing is it seems to be marketed at kids (Toys ‘R’ Us are one of the few places you can pick it up), it contains some educational software and a dumbed down interface (more on how to change that later). Once you boot into advanced mode, it’s a very capable machine with a familiar looking interface (KDE). So without further ado, here’s some more detailed info.

Asus eee PC

Hardware

This thing is tiny. The LCD is a mere 7 inches, weight is under 1kg. In this shell you can find an Intel 900Mhz processor with hardware accelerated graphics (runs Quake 3 fine), 512MB RAM and a 4GB solid state hard drive (which I have expanded using the built in memory card reader). There’s 3 USB slots for external drives or devices, and of course 802.11b/g WiFi. Battery life is around 3.5 hours.

Asus eee PC - OS

Software

It comes pre-bundled with a lot of good stuff, and no crap. This includes Open Office, Adobe Reader, Firefox and Thunderbird, Skype, Messenger (Pidgin), Anti-Virus, Media Players and converters, eBook readers, image editors, and general utilities for doing most of the things you need to, I was actually suprised at the collection of things it comes with, even compared with OS X. They seem to have identified a lot of common tasks even if some of this is hidden away in the realms of command line programs. I’m going to attempt to run the Flex SDK on there, I think Eclipse might be pushing it but Linux has its fair share of decent text editors.

Operating System

Pre-installed is a branch of Xandros Server 2.0 (which is in turn based on Debian). This means you can use something like Synaptic (sudo synaptic on the Terminal) to install applications and games from the internet. It also means you can generally find help on advanced topics on Xandros or Debian forums. You can install Windows XP from external CD drive or memory stick, but I love the fact that my OS is taking a mere 30MB of ram when idle, and I’ve been wanting to learn a little bit more bash since I last dabbled as a kid. Alternatively there’s an Ubuntu branch.

Help and Community

The eeePC has a thriving community including a Wiki and forum. On there you can find introductory tutorials to Linux, to gaming, installing other operating systems, using mobile phones as modems and so on. There’s something about the little device that seems give its users an affinity with it, and that’s reflected by the sheer amount of blog, forum and wiki content you can find out there. Ease of use is never going to be on par with OS X or Windows, but it’s really not going to affect you unless you are a power user, and then you deserve it. 😉

Conclusions

So as you’ve probably guessed I’m really happy with this. It’s definitely not gonna make a dev machine (unless your an old skool hacker), but it will let you do 90% of what you need when you’re away from your home or office and in my case it’s forcing me to learn some new languages. My recommendation is run out and get one today. 🙂

Subscription Model Should Dominate All Media Consumption

That means iTunes’ current model will be due for some drastic changes, no more downloading things “to keep”. Someone asked me the other day whether I really thought all our media consumption (music, video, insert-other-media-here) would be entirely subsc…

That means iTunes’ current model will be due for some drastic changes, no more downloading things “to keep”. Someone asked me the other day whether I really thought all our media consumption (music, video, insert-other-media-here) would be entirely subscription based in the near future. I gave a definite YES in response.

This is something I’ve had on my mind a few years, and personally I’m of the opinion the only viable solution to the increasingly complex problem of content management and ownership -whilst maintaining the rights of artists and authors- is to consume all of our content as the result of a subscription to a media conglomerate or third party broker.

The stepping stones to this are coming, one at a time. Nokia today announced the “Comes With Music” service, which allows customers purchasing a new device, unlimited free downloads of a million songs from (initially) Universal’s music library. On top of that the downloads will remain accessible and playable after that year is up.

That’s a good first step, and it’s not as if Nokia is the only one providing subscription based music services. But what I’m talking about here is entirely subscription based models, where you don’t ever have a file to “keep”, you just obtain the media when you wish to listen/watch/interact with it. This means that to the company facilitating the transfer, you cease to be a user that has paid for X, Y and Z. Instead you gain a “role”, your role specifying what sort of access to the content library you have, and in what circumstances you can consume that media.

Added to this I very much think that we will completely give up ownership of our content. Not only will we not be able to say “yeah, I own a copy of XYZ”, to me it seems sensible that we will also not be storing our content anywhere near our physical locality.

When speaking about this topic there are always throes of despair from people that are used to owning physical copies of original content, and that’s understandable, many people have grown up collecting music or films on physical media. I imagine you’d get a very different opinion from the current generation of children with regards to the importance of owning content. The BitTorrent/YouTube generation has very little interest in collecting media when its all there, all the time anyway.

The subscription/no-ownership model is a big shift in how you see media. It also requires a great deal of trust in the stability of the companies offering the content, as well as the speed and reliability of your internet connection with regards to whichever device you are using to consume the content. But all in all I think it’s a sensible proposition, and nothing new, but thankfully companies like Nokia are not afraid to dip their toe in the water and examine new ways to deal with media to make the necessary baby-steps toward this goal.

But will the subscription model be successful? I think so, and in other markets it already is. It certainly checks all of the right boxes… To me one of the keys to the success of a new technology or any mechanism that uses technology is that it must make things easier than before (or at the very least bring with it new abilities that far outweigh any new inconveniences.) Related to this the subscription model deals with the problem of piracy in the only way possible, by making it *easier* to consume your content by paying for a subscription, than going through alternative channels.

Does Flash Lite Have a Future?

A popular thread on the Flash Lite mailing list right now is entitled: “Does Flashlite have a future with mobile devices?”. This is very alarming, but a very just question with all things considered…In 2005 I started writing Foundation Flash for Mo…

A popular thread on the Flash Lite mailing list right now is entitled: “Does Flashlite have a future with mobile devices?“. This is very alarming, but a very just question with all things considered…

In 2005 I started writing Foundation Flash for Mobile Devices (Friends of ED). This came about very soon after Flash Lite 1.1 was released, and writing continued right up until the release of Flash Lite 2.1 (we made sure we waited to include it). Before I give my thoughts on Flash Lite and its future, I should probably explain that in the last year I’ve pretty much taken a back seat in the Flash Lite community, and there are many reasons for that. The reality is my attention span is very short and I’ve been too busy keeping up developing prototypes and commercial sites and applications with every new technology, including Flex 2, Papervision3D, Silverlight, WPF and AIR. There are other reasons, but more on that later.

Let’s start by considering this… Do we need a special version of the Flash Player for mobile devices? I’d answer that with a definite “yes” right now. Right now that is.

But I think Flash Lite, in its current form, is not likely to be around for too much longer.

If you take a look at the evolution of computer hardware with regards to the desktop and devices it seems pretty clear that the two are converging in terms of capabilities. Until now desktop computers had vastly superior processors, memory and storage abilities, and it’s true that the size of a computer still has an impact on how powerful we can make it. But that’s changing for two reasons…

First of all hardware components are being manufactured in increasingly smaller sizes, they take less power and have fewer moving parts, if any. This picture helps to illustrate the point. All of this has an impact on what currently limits what devices are capable of, namely power requirements and size.

The second reason is that we are not necessarily pushing hardware as much as we used to, not in most applications. We used to really push the envelope with lower-spec computers, making every byte of RAM count. Now we write a lot of software in high-level languages without even considering the possibility of running out of RAM…. RAM is cheap, disk-space is cheap, and with software being deployed on the web, you might not even need disk space in the first place. So for a wide spectrum of games and applications, computing requirements are not that high, and as such devices are able to run the exact same software as the desktop or surface computers. So for this reason the convergence in capability between desktops and devices is not just about computing power… it’s also about the software requirements, and they are forever shifting.

So let’s take one device in particular… the newly released Nokia N810. If you don’t already know, the N-Series includes Nokia’s power devices, capable of most every-day tasks, some even have hardware accelerated 3D graphics for games or maps. But unlike most Nokias this particular device doesn’t have Flash Lite. Instead it has Flash 9. So it simply skipped Flash Lite all-together. It was able to do this because as well as being up to the challenge in terms of computing power, it is also a device that is up to the task physically, in terms of form factor. Along with WiFi, integrated webcam and an 800×480 pixel screen, it has a touch-screen with stylus input. My last post was on The Future of Mobile Devices, which looked at some of the devices Nokia will be releasing in 2008, and in that post I mentioned that I believe touch-screen with tactile feedback (not stylus pens) would be the norm for most devices in the coming years. What this does is help bridge the final gap between desktop and device, leaving only the screen-size as a concern, and it goes without saying there are solutions being tried in this area too, the N95 for example has TV out, other prototype devices have built in projectors.

Flash Lite has shown that you can quickly adapt something you have made for the desktop and have it running on a handset with minimal changes. In this case the software is moving to meet the capability of devices, but the devices are also moving to meet the software requirements…

Flash Lite3 has FLV support. That’s not because FLV is any better than MP4, but it does help standardise the platform. Taking this to its logical conclusion, and backed up by the gradual quashing of the problems devices currently face, it seems safe to say that Flash Lite is really only there as a stop-gap measure, and a very good one with a very real need right now, but eventually we should expect Flash “X” and AIR to be found on our devices, particularly when form-factors make the very distinction between “device” and “desktop” almost impossible in its own right.

So what I’m saying here is that in answer to the question posed in the title of this post, for now it’s a yes, but for the future it’s a no for me. Not for any other reasons than I believe the gap will be bridged so that two separate Flash Player profiles will not be needed, but you may still have to develop in such a way that it adapts to the target device for the foreseeable future, whilst the current concept of a “device” exists that is.

All of this aside, one thing that still needs addressing is the number of handsets we can realistically target right now. I’m worried that people are being put off of Flash Lite because they consider the channels for distribution too narrow to turn a profit unless you are a one-man band or like taking a gamble. This is increasingly discussed on the list, on IM and brought up by people I meet, particularly now that a few of the original Flash Lite vets are rearing their heads and saying that it’s been a long time since they made anything, and still no sale. It’s also a hot topic with anyone I speak to in the industry (the industry I’m referring to being marketing and digital). Nokia have really embraced Flash Lite, but the others have let it fall by the wayside, with only Sony Ericsson making any sort of effort, whilst remaining at odds with how Nokia go about implementing it. The supported devices page is really very confusing, and we still need a way to ship the player with our applications.

This is a problem, I only hope that things can be improved before the community loses interest. Without developers we end up in a situation similar to where Director ended up (hopefully that is soon to change with D11), albeit for slightly different reasons. My feeling is that the manufacturers and operators have received a lot of love (after all, the operators pay the manufacturers and the manufacturers pay the licenses), but the Flash Lite developers are largely forgotten. They can get all the attention they want if they jump on the Flex and AIR train however. I was speaking to someone the other day who threw a lot into Flash Lite, fully intent on it forming the basis of a business, only to have to change those plans a year or so later. A real shame.

Thoughts on these topics are appreciated.

Nokia Series 60 To Get Flash Video

A press release from Nokia today states:

“Flash Video will be integrated with the Web Browser for S60 … This allows people to view on the go Flash-enabled Web sites and Flash Video, such as YouTube”

Nothing new to many of you, as it’s no doubt th…

A press release from Nokia today states:

“Flash Video will be integrated with the Web Browser for S60 … This allows people to view on the go Flash-enabled Web sites and Flash Video, such as YouTube”

Nothing new to many of you, as it’s no doubt the inclusion of Flash Lite 3 that facilitates this. But it’s nice to see continued commitment to including Flash Lite in future revisions of their software.

Opera Mini v4 Beta 2 Available for Download

Opera have just released beta 2 of their Opera Mini 4 mobile browser. Considered by many the best mobile browser out there. They’ve also published an article on the dev center on designing sites for mobile. There is also a video of Opera Mini 4 in action…

Opera Mini

Opera have just released beta 2 of their Opera Mini 4 mobile browser. Considered by many the best mobile browser out there. They’ve also published an article on the dev center on designing sites for mobile. There is also a video of Opera Mini 4 in action.

Download the beta here.
View the article here.
Play with a live simulator here.

Tasty new Nokia Prism Collection

There was a time when Nokia was the style icon in the mobile industry, the 3210 widely considered one of the best phones of all time (I can’t substantiate that claim), it was good looking, worked flawlessly and was as tough as old boots (if I remember it…

There was a time when Nokia was the style icon in the mobile industry, the 3210 widely considered one of the best phones of all time (I can’t substantiate that claim), it was good looking, worked flawlessly and was as tough as old boots (if I remember it was also the first with Snake). In particular the foray into smartphones has left them looking a little bit… purely functional, leaving the Samsungs and the LGs to take the crown for best looking in the last few years.

Nokia made a few valiant attempts to stay original, but left me personally feeling they had lost some of the quality. Nevertheless they are certainly fighting back with some pretty daring new styles in the Prism range, not to everyone’s tastes, but it shows they are still willing to seek out new directions:

http://www.nokiaprismcollection.com/

The “lighting effects” and the “living wallpaper” (I would guess this is likely Flash Lite) are two features that make this collection stand out from the rest and provide user feedback in a new subtle way that sits well with how we like to use technology in a more passive fashion. The phone itself reminds me of the monolith from 2001… must have then. 🙂

Flash Lite Digital Personal Assistant for Jonnie Walker

Here’s a fantastic execution of an idea for mobile, using Flash Lite. For those up and coming Asian businessmen without a PA of their own, BreakDesign (makers of Dawn of the Fly) have created a digital PA that has a calendar, finds bars, taxis and other…

Here’s a fantastic execution of an idea for mobile, using Flash Lite. For those up and coming Asian businessmen without a PA of their own, BreakDesign (makers of Dawn of the Fly) have created a digital PA that has a calendar, finds bars, taxis and other information.

I’m a big fan of giving a consumer something useful and then branding it. As opposed to giving a consumer something that does something associated with the brand (brand self-love I think they call it). In this case they hit the old golden “sweet spot” and did both. Some brands lend themselves to this naturally, such as Nike with Nike+, sometimes its harder to create something of real value.

Check out the video walkthrough of the application. (available for download soon)

The Popularity of Music Videos on Mobile Devices

No one can really doubt the success of MTV up until now. People like music videos. But I’m left confused when I look at music videos being sold for download on mobile devices such as phones and iPods, and sold at a premium.

Watching music videos on TV…

No one can really doubt the success of MTV up until now. People like music videos. But I’m left confused when I look at music videos being sold for download on mobile devices such as phones and iPods, and sold at a premium.

Watching music videos on TV is something I only do if I’m doing something else at the same time and just want some background (I don’t say background “noise” because I think it’s safe enough to say many people now look for background sound and video at the same time, strange as it may sound). As for actually spending money and downloading a music video to my phone or iPod, with those tiny little screens and in the case of mobile phones, horrible sound quality- is surely the worst possible way you could watch a music video?

iPod Video

It makes sense for content providers to pick music videos to test the waters of mobile download services because even though what you are getting might be considered pretty cheap and nasty, you get around that because the band itself adds value to the proposition through association. The content itself is not really all that much better (and often not as practical) as an mp3, after all, pretty much all of these music videos have had the visuals made for the music, not the other way around. This is all subjective of course.

How popular are the sales of these things? Are they just a stop-gap until some (dare I say) “real” content is available. Many products are showing that there is a market for a variety of quality commercial/free content when the downloads are both paid and free (iTunes in the U.S. has movies and TV shows and Joost has free content everywhere, to name two such entities). In particular I’m enjoying the “iTunes U” offerings, which include free university lectures in video format. I’m of the opinion that music videos will see a serious plummet in popularity as these other types of content become more accessible, but as always, I could be proven wrong; but the way things are heading, having to pay to see them will certainly disappear as with almost all downloaded content, with movies being the last to topple. iTunes claimed back in Q3 of 2006 that it had seen 35 million music video downloads… are you one of these people?… did you feel a little bit ripped off or satisfied?

I haven’t even touched on the cross-over areas of content here, namely trailers and user generated content. I think both of these have more merit and monetary value when it comes to paid downloads. Trailers serve the dual purpose of entertaining and also letting you know if you want to spend more money (and more importantly, time) on going to see a movie, and user generated content is often perfectly designed to entertain for those few seconds. They are also pretty well suited to share with others in social situations.

So what’s the deal with download content for mobile devices? Have we just been testing the water and the purse-strings of those early adopters, or is there a future in music video downloads?

Please feel free to leave votes for or against music videos on mobile devices, and any comments you have on the topic.

Finally – New Slimline Nokia Smartphones

I’m a big fan of Nokia’s smartphones and have stuck to them for my last 3 handsets because I love that I don’t have any compatibility issues with files, programs or syncing to Outlook et al, they just work flawlessly. But I’ve been dissappointed that the…

I’m a big fan of Nokia’s smartphones and have stuck to them for my last 3 handsets because I love that I don’t have any compatibility issues with files, programs or syncing to Outlook et al, they just work flawlessly. But I’ve been dissappointed that they just keep getting bigger and bigger (and slower!), so I almost decided to switch to Sony Ericsson as a result, no-one wants a slow chunk of silicon in their pocket.

It looks like things are changing, and finally Nokia are releasing some slimmed down series 60 devices. Here’s one that obviously takes some cues from the Razr:

nokia

Slimmed down Nokia smartphones