Archive for August, 2008

Do pop down to Belgium to buy your fully legal unlocked iPhone!

August 28, 2008

I wrote in “Don’t pop down to Belgium to buy your phone…” that “After a little research, it turns out that Apple has certainly made the Belgian modes SIM-lock free exactly as the Belgian courts require — hard bundling, or koppelverkoop, is illegal in Belgium. However, the new SIMs must come from Belgium. SIM cards from any other country will not work. So, if you’re hoping to drive south of the border and pick yourself up a cheap Belgium SIM-lock free iPhone 3G to use in the Netherlands — or indeed anywhere else in the world, you’d be €600 out of pocket and the unhappy owner of a brick (or some heft roaming charges).”

As Knight points out in the comments, the Belgium iPhones do indeed work with any SIM from any network and any country. What confused me was that Mobistar and Apple said (at the time of writing the post) that the iPhones would not work with SIMs from other countries. Since then, they have taken this notice down from the website. It was either a straight lie in order to prevent consumers from other countries visiting Belgium to buy their iPhones, or since then — perhaps based on a court order — Apple has made their iPhones fully SIM-lock free in Belgium. As Knight also points out, it does leave me with a comparatively rather expensive (and as I write, still SIM-locked) iPhone. <sigh> For our American readers, you’re still looking at around $900-something for a SIM-lock free iPhone. Also note that they are, just as in other countries, very scarce.

Next step: how many mail order Belgium iPhone businesses are we going to see start up? How much more, if anything, will people be willing to pay for a legally unlocked iPhone? Given that some good apps only work with Installer (i.e. only work on a jail-broken iPhone), will some people attach more value to a jail-broken iPhone that a legal one?

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Google’s AdManager comes out of beta to form a real challenge to OpenX

August 26, 2008

If it’s good enough for Google Suggest — Google has recently announced that they their AdManager has moved from private beta to a public release. AdManager is aimed at publishers with small direct sales teams. It includes some nice features out of the box, mostly focussed on tracking directly sold and network-based inventory, then enabling the sale, measurement and provisioning of this. Naturally, there is tight integration with AdSense and multi-lingual support is excellent. There is also reasonable third party network integration. Some of the time in beta testing has led to new features such as time dependent rollout and previewing of ads. A sophisticated inventory management and provisoning system like this is no small investment and it’s a classic Google move to make it free to level the playing field — or to raise the competitive moat to monopoly level, depending on how you look at it. In this case, existing competition gives away its software to advertisers, and makes money, just like Google does, from the advertisers.

It seems unlikely for competition like UK-based OpenAds (now called OpenX) to be running scared. With chairing by former AOL head Jonathan Miller, more than $20 million in backing and an impressive roster of customer names, OpenX may be just looking to take their 30,000 customers into the arms of a competitor. However, Microsoft got hold of Atlas when it acquired aQuantive, so why it would want OpenX is anyone’s guess.

Note that AdManager is fully hosted and a closed proprietary system, unlike OpenX which allows its publishers to host it and to extend its PHP code base. OpenX’s CTO, Scott Switzer has also pointed out that a good number of publishers may not want to add another piece in the Google monopoly puzzle. On the flip side, many small publishers may love the ease of how  software-as-a-service enables them to get live quickly.

Why T-mobile call a SIM lock a SIM lock

August 25, 2008

A few days after purchasing my gorgeous iPhone 3G (and yes, whilst we are still on the subject, I’m still in love with it), I requested a SIM unlock from T-mobile. After a little reading of the terms of conditions, it became clear that this procedure cost €120 but little time: you call ‘em up and they unlock your phone so that you can put whatever SIM you wish in. Or so I thought. On calling, I discovered that the process would take at least two weeks. Ouch. It should be on my doormat by the time I got back from holiday.

I left on holiday and every day eagerly anticipated leaving the gorgeous sunshine of the Algarve for the rain, cloud and generally apathetic climate of the Netherlands, because I would have a regular ray of sunshine in my house: a legal and unlocked iPhone.

Two and half weeks (without data roaming) later I return ready for some of that KPN 3G magic, but there is no post, apart from a stack of bank statements, Economists and Nederlands Tijdschriften voor Geneeskunde (which, I steal from my wife now and again, but can’t hold a candle to either the Economist or just about any of the top 100 of the Social Science Research Network — login required — but, I digress). I once again call T-mobile who inform me that the process can take five or six weeks and due to the unusually heavy sales of the iPhone, yadayadayada…

Another couple of weeks later, having heard nothing and getting pretty exasperated, I once again call the T-mobile service line and wait the obligatory 20 minutes to get to an operator. After she points out that she really needs my mobile number to help and that she can’t see the number I’m calling from for security reasons, I explain that I don’t know this SIM card’s number because I was really hoping to forget it and put my KPN SIM in. Anyhow, we get through some other questions and she explains that my request for a SIM unlock was denied on the 18 July — this is within a couple of days of my original request. Apparently, it can take a while before they hear that a request has been denied. No reason was given, and again, it seems that no reason is expected from T-mobile. The good lady promised to follow up and re-request personally, and that it should ‘only’ take about a week to get the codes — or another refusal.

In my favourite microblogger language: GRRRR. I’m stuck between thinking it’s some dark and nefarious conspiracy from Apple or just general incompetence from T-mobile (less of it’s the network stoopid and more of the stoopid network). As time drags by, I am more and more tempted to go down the old trusted Pwnage route…

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Eating Chinese with Vietnamese

August 24, 2008

Notes from a big Chinese meal with family:

  • My wife’s grandfather is the brother of the mother of the wife of the man who sat next to me. In Vietnam, this is called ‘close family’.
  • Most of my Vietnamese family are way above me intellectually. A few PhDs, a University lecturer or Professor (maths or medicine seem to be favourites), or an all round polyglot are not uncommon. The gentleman next to me made conversation by waxing lyrical about the key differentiators between oriental and occidental meals. In French. (It comes down to alcohol in the end apparently; well, doesn’t everything?) How many times do you hear the word ‘occidental’?
  • Food is eaten quite slowly but it all still goes surprisingly quickly.
  • Two out of three tables have at least one fun portable electronic device: iPhone, PSP or Nintendo DS Lite. Most children are being entertained by one of these whilst the adults eat and drink.
  • Although the most tables of ten are Chinese, there are a number of Dutch, Indians and other big family get-togethers
  • Choice pieces of the meal can be found in strange places. The cabbage that is typically underneath the duck and roast pork soaking up the meat’s juice is ferreted out quickly.
  • Between Totoro, Pokemon and Pixar shorts, Totoro wins in the end, even if it is in the original Japanese.
  • I-spy is the just about the only game to keep 5-year olds conscious when up past their bedtime in a speeding car

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Rejaw or Twitter

August 21, 2008

I have been playing around a little with Rejaw.com and I like it, but I’m (still) much more enamoured with Twitter. If you’re looking for me, I’m Twitter.com/Sugarsteroni (for various historical reasons) and Rejaw/RobinAllenson (for reasons of lack of originality).

To Mangatar or not to mangatar?

August 20, 2008

File under what will they think of next — but still very entertaining. Stop The Manga is a site where twitter users can complain about the worst twitter avatars — commonly called Mangatars. Written by the folks that brought you CakePHP, the site tracks the exploding arguments of whether or not one should have a mangatar, be allowed to have one, and indeed whether anyone really gives two hoots of a lamb’s tail.

iPhone cut and paste coming out

August 20, 2008

Yes, sports fans, the one feature that is missing on an otherwise perfect phone is here.

No, not video capture.

No, camera able to take pictures larger than 2Mb.

… Fine, fine, the one software feature that is missing on an otherwise perfect phone. No, not enabling true background running of tasks, no not — OK, one of a number of fantastic features is coming out. Well, not strictly coming out, but will be available once sufficient iPhone developers have coded the thing. Real copy and pasting between applications is actually here. Magic Pad already allowed copy and pasting within the application, but not between apps. The makers of Magic Pad, Proximi are joining up with a new non-profit open source organisation, OpenClip to show how developers being can use a shared area of the iPhone SDK for copying and pasting. VentureBeat says that WordPress is signed up, although OpenClip do not mention it on the site.

Perhaps best of all for those unfortunate individuals with jaillocked phones who live in perpetual fear that upgrading them will break them, OpenClip should work on 1.x, 2.x, iPhone and iPod Touch too (although participating apps are mostly for 2.x).

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iPhone 2.0.2 firmware update

August 19, 2008

I am the proud owner of a 2.0.2 firmware update. This is why I love twitter these days. it’s just a whole lot more visceral way to surf the ol’ (micro)blogosphere. Check out http://www.twitscoop.com and see what the buzz is — and more often than not it’s just noise. But some of the best noise out there. Last night it was ‘firmware‘. I clicked through the tag cloud to find out it was the 2.0.2 update that everyone was trying and here I am a few hours later with it installed.

There are a good deal of rumours of what it solves — 3G issues (that I’ve never had), reception issues (it’s the network stoopid), security patches and other important tweaks. Apple’s page is about as informative as during the MobileMe outages.

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Netflix or bricks and mortar video shops

August 12, 2008

Now, I have been enamoured of the Netflix model for some time. For those of you living in a cave for the last five years, Netflix is the number one provider of DVDs by post in the US. You pay a fixed fee by month depending on the number of DVDs you want to hire at once. On their website, which includes thousands of possible DVDs, you create your wishlist. Films on your wishlist are sent to you by post until you have your full number of DVDs. You watch what you want and pop them in the postbox when you are done. New titles are sent by return. There are no late fees.

We have two local video shops that I can go to (Videoland and Videoworld), and have been known to frequent both. At both you can buy €100 of credit for €70 (or less). In this way, you can get a video that normally costs €5 for a couple of days for about €3.50. However, if the video is even a few hours late, you pay — through the teeth.

A year or so back, I’d forgotten that I’d hired a video from Videoland. The DVD was stuck there in my cupboard along with all of the DVDs I owned. We went on holiday and came back. At no point did the shop call me up and ask me where the video was. They sat back and raked in the money. When I found it and brought it back, they asked me for €100. I was able to negotiate it down to €60. Ouch. Twenty DVDs right there. It’s sure one great way to lose a customer. But, after a few months of letting the pain die down, I went back — but only because there was no other real choice. Not a great way of running a business.

So, recently I started looking at how I get my hands on the Netflix model here in the Netherlands. There are a few alternatives… but that’s for another post.

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Cross-protocol IM apps for iPhone

August 10, 2008

I’ve been looking for a good iPhone instant messenger app. I looked at both the excellent Mac OS X application Adium and the PC app Trillian. Since I instant message across my different networks (most of my contacts are distributed across Gtalk, Hotmail, Yahoo! and AIM, with the emphasis on the first three), these two were my first port of call. I also enjoy meebo — particularly useful when working through a proxy server, but I find the iPhone interface poor and I also want an app so that I don’t have have to go to a web page each time.

Adium has made it explicit that for a number of reasons, they will not and cannot develop an iPhone app. Bummer. AIM has an iPhone app, that is by all reports excellent but only for AOL IM. My friends are distributed across networks. Trillian only runs on the PC, but Cerulean Studios, creators of Trillian, is currently in alpha testing for Astra. Astra integrates different instant messenging protocols — not just the standard AIM, ICQ, Gtalk, MSN and Y! — but also MySpace and Bonjour. It gives you tabbed IM containers. Lastly, it also gives you a great web interface (a la meebo) which works on the Mac too, a thick PC client and … an iPhone client.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 07 Trillian-For-Iphone
Currently only in alpha… now I just need to wait for an invite.
Note that there are IM apps for the iPhone that work, but you have to move to the dark side and hack your phone. Apollo looks like a great application — which works with AIM, ICQ, .mac and MSN Hotmail — but it requires you to install the Installer. There are widespread reports of your iPhone ‘bricking’, i.e. dying and not working anymore. I have acquaintances with jail broken phones who are still running old iPhone versions, but refuse to upgrade because they live in permanent fear of getting their iPhones bricked. This is one of the biggest reasons I went the legal route to buy and unlock my phone.

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