Saturday, November 30, 2013

Orange UK - I'm Unimpressed

I recently got a cheap Orange PAYG Alcatel One Touch S'Pop, mostly as a way to use up points accrued on my Orange Cash card but also as way to have an "impersonal" phone number (ie, a number that if it ever starts to get heavily spammed, I can bin without too much bother). While the phone is OK (for a £30 Android phone from Argos - I wasn't expecting much), Orange appears to be useless.

The first problem is that I can't register on their site. When you try and register on Orange, you get handed over to EE's website and EE's website unhelpfully throws up

Sorry, we don't recognise this number.

And says that I should call customer services. Where I immediately run into a second problem (which has just gotten worse).

The second, and much, much larger problem is that credit just disappears. The £10 top up that I had to buy with the phone was gone at least a week before the end of it's month long lifespan, even though I had hardly used the phone (the phone wasn't even switched on most of the time). So I loaded 20 minutes of talk time as a reward from my Orange Cash card and while I was able to use it for a few days to make a few short phone calls, it also seems to have disappeared from my account. So today I tried loading another 20 minute reward, and while I have received the text telling me that it has been added, Orange is still refusing to let me make any calls, stating that "you currently have no talk time registered on your account". And without talk time, there's no way to contact Orange Customer Services on the phone, as contacting customer services is a chargeable call.

As I'm unwilling to buy any more credit that is liable to just vanish into thin air before I can contact Customer Services to tell them that credit is just disappearing into thin air, I'll see if @OrangeUK are any help before I bin the SIM card.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Huawei Ascend G 300 from Vodafone

I've had my Nexus One for over two and a half years now and it's served me well. However, the small amount of onboard memory has become more and more painful - sadly not everything can be moved to SD card. So time has come for a replacement.

Basically, what I want something close to the N1 in size and at least as powerful, while being reasonably inexpensive (I like the flexibility of owning a phone without having to take out a long term contract). Huawei's first own branded (as opposed to carrier branded) UK model, the Ascend G 300, seems to fit the bill so I decided to buy one from Vodafone (it's their PAYG model - but it works fine with my Vodafone contract SIM).

It's slightly larger (with a 4" screen) than the N1, but not by a whole lot. The 1Ghz processor has the same clock speed as the N1 though in actual use it feels noticeably faster than the N1 (showing there's more to a processor than just raw clock speed). I know that technically, the Nexus One's AMOLED is superior, but I really can't tell that there's that much of a difference (and I think the G 300's screen is brighter).

It's running not quite stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread - Huawei have made some slight modifications, but nothing particularly objectionable. An update to ICS is promised and is allegedly already out in China. As you would expect there are a handful of Vodafone specific apps and some game demos. While I can't get rid of the demos even though I want to (they're titles that are of absolutely no interest to me), one of the modifications Huawei have made is the ability to have folders in the App menu (somewhat reminiscent of what you can do on Symbian), so they're at least out of the way while they sit there wasting space.

Even though it's got 2.3 it doesn't have 2.3's built-in VOIP support, which is a bit of a shame as I have been using the VOIP support with my Nexus One. Also, this version of the G 300 isn't the NFC enabled one, which would have been fun to play with if not particularly useful at the moment.

Android In The Home: Binatone iHome Phone 2

(I'm going to be taking a look at a couple of "smarthomephone" options, starting with an odd device from Binatone)

I'm going to start this with a notice - it's so flaky that I have to wonder if there is something physically wrong the unit I have.

The Binatone iDECT iHomePhone 2 is possibly one of the oddest telephony gadgets that has come in to my possession. If you were to take the guts out of an old, low end, Android 2.2 smartphone and graft it into the body of a DECT cordless phone you would end up with something a lot like the iHomePhone.

It runs a fairly stock version of Android 2.2 (though there's no market, not even a third party one, let alone Google Play - so apps need to be side loaded), though it does use ADW.Launcher. The screen's resistive and there's a little stylus that slides inside the phone (you're probably not going to need it to make calls, but it is useful when trying to use the keyboard on the 2.8" screen). When compared to Android based mobile phones, the buttons have to be the second most oddest thing about this phone. It has the sort of buttons you would expect to find on a DECT phone - a green "phone" button, a red "end call" button (that doubles as the "home" button), a D Pad (where up and down are volume control and left and right appear to do nothing) and finally the usual Android "menu" and "back" buttons. However, the most oddest thing about this phone is the phone itself - the screen and buttons are on the back of device with the microphone and speaker on the other side (so, compared to practically all mobile phones, you have to turn the phone back to front when you make a call).

It's dock serves as both charging station and DECT base station. As it's GAP compatible, I decided to pair it up to my pre-existing Gigaset DECT base station instead. One of the nice little features is that it uses the standard Android power bars to display DECT signal strength.

The biggest problem I have with the phone isn't the design quirks. It's the fact that it likes to switch itself off for no apparent reason. Especially during calls. Bit of a fail there. Another, lesser, annoyance is that it's a bit slow to ring. Even when using it's own dock as the DECT base station, other phones will have already rung once or twice before it finally starts to ring.

If it wasn't for that fundamental flaw and it's design quirks it's a really interesting idea for a home phone. You can easily export your contacts from an Android mobile phone and load them into the iHomePhone (even the images that I had associated with my contacts came across). After having become so used to using phones with Android it's much easier to use than the other DECT phones in the house.

There's no built-in VOIP support (which isn't exactly surprising, seeing as it's running Froyo and built-in VOIP support didn't come to Android until Gingerbread). I am tempted to try and install Sipdroid. If I do then I'll write up how well it works.

Of the things noticeably missing number one is SMS messaging. I think it's the number one missing feature because it's a feature that both mobile phones (all of them) and even some DECT home phones have. While I doubt that all that many people use landline SMS, it would have been nice if it supported it.

One other other thing noticably missing is a camera. Probably for a best, if only to stop arguments over whether or not it was front facing camera. This does mean that if the Android based home phone of your dreams is also a videophone, then this is not the home phone for you.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Android on the O2 Joggler

A while back I purchased an O2 Joggler off eBay (I missed it in the shops when O2 discontinued it and dropped the price down to £50 - fortunately that was around the going rate for one on eBay when I got mine, so I didn't loose out much).  While out of the box it is still fundamentally flawed, it has long since been hacked into something potentially useful.

For awhile I was running Ubuntu on it, and while it worked it still felt like you really needed to connect a keyboard and mouse to make the most out of it. Recently a build of Android x86 Froyo has come out for it, so I decided to give it a spin. I have to say that after installing Froyo, you realize how the Joggler should have been an Android device from the start.

I'm hoping to get Android running on the internal 1Gb flash (I've got it booting off a 1Gb USB pen drive, so I'm hopeful) and then using a low profile USB drive (something like this) as the "SD Card" (in the worst case, I could just use the low profile drive for both the OS and the SD card).

It's not perfect - videos seems a bit iffy, apparently there are some issues with external speakers and not every app works or works well - but as a small computer for the kitchen it looks like it finally fits the bill.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Google Giveth, Google Taketh Away

Google Giveth

My Nexus One got the Gingerbread update the other week. One of the new features is built in SIP support (which you can find at the bottom of Settings -> Call Settings). It was reasonably straightforward to get it talking to the IP-01 (note to self: remember to click on the "Apply Changes" button in the top right corner after making changes). Sound quality needs a bit of work (I have a feeling some reconfiguration is in order).

I think I'm going to have to look into Locale scripting for turning "Receive incoming calls" on and off (if I'm not at home then there's not much point wasting battery while trying to keep in contact with a server it can't ever see).

One thing worth noting - if you normally don't bother with passwords on your SIP accounts, you'll need to have one on the account you want to use with Android as you currently can't set up a SIP account on the phone without one.

Google Taketh Away

I got an email at the weekend - Gizmo is getting shutdown. Apparently Google think Google Voice in GMail is a more than adequate replacement. I disagree on two counts.

One - the lack of SIP support. My hope is that SIP support for GVoice is coming soon (though you would think they would have gotten that up and running before shutting down Gizmo). After all, it's now built in to Android. It's probably best not to hold your breath though.

Two - US-centricity. Both Gizmo and Grandcentral were international. Google Voice is not. I had to go through hoops to keep my GrandCentral number working with Google Voice while in the UK that I did not have to go through with GrandCentral. Gizmo helped on the international front as it meant I did not need a second US telephone number to use GC and even after the move to GVoice it made things a lot easier. Now I'm going to have to go through even more hoops to keep using the service. I really don't get why Google so often fails when it comes to looking beyond America's borders (it's not just Google Voice where they often fail, but Voice is the poster child for Google's failures in this regard).

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Atcom IP 01 Asterisk Server

Now that I have my VOIP setup up and running again, I've decided to move from running asterisk inside a virtual machine over to a dedicated server. Instead of cobbling together a server out of old computer parts I've gone and bought an Atcom IP-01. It's a tiny (about the same size as a 4 port switch) embedded linux server that not only saves space compared to an old PC, it's low power and silent as well.

The IP-01 is part of a family of asterisks servers, there's the IP-02,04 and 08 - the number reflects the number of FXO/FXS ports that can be installed. The IP-01 has one port and I decided to go with an FXO port.

It has a web based UI (which will be familar to anyone who has used an Asterisk web GUI) as well as SSH and telnet access. If you log in via SSH you're greated by a fairly standard Linux command line - you can attach to the running Asterisk console via asterisk -r, just like any Asterisk install.

The only problem I ran into was that I needed to do a firmware update to get the FXO to work right. Other than that getting it up and running was straightforward.

Friday, July 23, 2010

INQ1 On 3 (with Skype)

Last year I bought an INQ 1 on 3 - mostly because of the "free Skype & Instant Messenger for Life" ads. I played with it for a bit, put it somewhere safe and now that it has resurfaced I thought I would see if the "free Skype for life" claim was remotely true.

The phone itself is a nice enough little feature phone with Skype, MSN, and Facebook apps built in. There's no built in twitter client and the built in client is just a scrobbler (which was disappointing). The Skype client works, but it's a bit limited. You can voice call and IM with other Skype users and if you have Skype credit you can dial out to international numbers - UK phone numbers don't work though. Online Numbers (what Skype In is now called) don't appear to work either. Call quality was good, both Skype to Skype and Skype to Phone.

One interesting thing, I figured that any credit that was on the device would have long expired (it's got to be at least a year since I last used it) but I found that the credit didn't expire. This does mean that I have been unable to put the "free Skype for life" claim though.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sipgate & Gizmo5/Google Voice

I got up and running again without any major issue. As Tesco's voip service no longer exists I even went and bought some credit with sipgate for dial out.

Getting Google Voice and Gizmo 5 back up and running like it was back in the days of Grandcentral was more of a challenge (and I'm not yet happy with the way I've set up Gizmo through FreePBX, but at least I got something working). At first Google Voice wasn't sending calls to Gizmo and then I eventually noticed what appears to have been the problem - unlike Grandcentral, Google Voice won't route to Gizmo if you don't have a "real" phone number located in the US attached to your Voice account. I found this both disappointing (one of Grandcentral's selling points was that you didn't need a real phone) and easily surmountable.