Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

GSM Hacked

Computer security researchers have reported that GSM phones (the cellular protocol used by most of the world — roughly 80% of all cell phones) can be cracked with a relatively small amount of hardware and free Open Source tools.

The weakness exploits the older 64-bit A5/1 algorithm not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm.  However, it should be noted that most GSM providers have been slow to update their networks and do not currently employ the more secure 128-bit encryption standard.

The result is that conversations carried on GSM networks can be overheard and recorded.

No such weaknesses exist in the CDMA protocol; nor would this indicate a potential vulnerability in LTE.

Karsten Nohl, a German computer programmer, claims he demonstrated this weakness (and published the code) to encourage GSM carriers (and manufactures) to take serious the poor security that is currently in place.  ESTI (the standards organization behind GSM) claims that this hack (while legitimate) is too complex and would in fact not give hackers the ability to listen in on phone calls.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 02:00:50.

Donate Your Cell Phone

There are at least three great reasons to donate your old cell phone:

  1. It keeps your handset out of a landfill — generally most organizations will make sure that your old handset is either provided to an individual or family for use or is sent to a recycling center to be handled properly
  2. It will help others, either by having a cell phone available to them, or through the monies that the recycling produces.
  3. It will be tax deductible.

Here are some suggestions for places to donate

US:

Canada:

UK

Originally posted 2010-11-22 02:00:35.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a “discount” cellular provider (apparently a Verizon Wireless MVNO) that offers no-nonsense plans with no contract and low rates for users who only occasionally use their cell phones and the ability to change your plan at will.

Let me underscore that I don’t have any personal experience with Consumer Cellular, so I can’t vouch for their service — so my recommendation is keep a copy of the information from their web page in a PDF and pay with a credit card; that way if you find they don’t live up to their end of the “bargain” just work with your credit card company.

http://www.consumercellular.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-28 02:00:11.

Smart Phones

If you’re looking for a smart phone, you’ve got lots of great choices now.

Whether you’re interested in an Android based phone, a Windows Mobile 6.5 based phone, or holding out for a Windows Mobile 7 based phone you really want to take a look at HTC.

I believe HTC phones are available on all the major US carries, and most all the smaller regional carriers (your selection might vary).  Internationally you can purchase an unlocked GSM version — and several of the HTC handsets are multi-band, multi-format.

HTC innovated the smart phone interface; and the worlds most popular smart phone (the Apple iPhone) appears to have “leveraged” off the work HTC did years before.  What, you thought Apple created that gesture based user interface all by themselves?

HTC built the first Android based phone; HTC released the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (and supplied upgrades for a number of Windows Mobile 6.0 phones); and it looks like HTC will release the first Windows 7 phone (there are already rumors).

Other than the Motorola Droid (which HTC already had shipped a similar phone) HTC phones are the “hot ticket”.

I have an older HTC phone — the 6850, aka Touch Pro — and I love it.  It’s been upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.5 and works well.

A smart phone provides me with the ability to keep my contacts synchronized (without having to attach my phone to my computer), get quick answers on to questions on the Internet, be alerted to email (or read and send email for that matter), use mapping software (or act as a full blown GPS since I have Garmin loaded as well), check fuel prices, check the weather, and tether my laptop when I can’t get a free WiFi signal.  I guess I could use my phone for a multimedia player (video and audio); but that’s not a requirement for me (but you could — and I’ve played with streaming audio and video to my phone, so I wouldn’t be limited by the 8GB flash card I added to it).

Today smart phones are a viable solution for people who want more than just voice communications in their pocket, and don’t want to carry multiple devices.  Over a decade ago my friends and I “dreamed” of a convergence device that would give us PDA, data, and cellular all in one — today that dream is a reality.

Originally posted 2010-01-14 01:00:20.

Goog-rola

What does $12.5 billion get you in today’s economy?

For Google, it just might get them Motorola Mobility.

For me, I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Open Handset Alliance.

Motorola is a very large manufacturer of mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, and tablets) — and it’s roots are over 80 years old.

Google’s CEO Larry Page stated that (at least for the time being) Google intends to run Motorola Mobility as a separate company, and that there will still be the exchange of license fees for Android, and that they will need to bid on manufacturing future Nexus phones just as every other vendor would.

Right…  I believe all that.

My gut tells me this is all subject to change (quickly) that Google will use it’s acquisition of Motorola to change the landscape of Android devices and they won’t be a separate company; while they might not be tightly integrated into Google they will be very coordinated with Google.

One has to wonder, what’s next for Google — a cellular carrier (or maybe a few)…

Originally posted 2011-08-15 10:00:59.

Microsoft MyPhone

I’ve been using Microsoft MyPhone for several months now; and I switched over to it not because it’s something I felt I really needed, but because Windows 7 doesn’t synchronize with Windows Mobile 6.5 devices using the new Windows Sync Center; it requires that I install the Vista (abomination) Device Center which replaced Active-Sync.

Why do I hate Device Center?  Well, I couldn’t really care whether I use the-man-in-the-moon or what ever to sync my phone, all I care is that I not have to use Outlook!  And you guessed it, Device Center will only synchronize with Outlook, Windows Sync Center allows synchronization with a number of sources (including Outlook if you use that POS).

The options I had were use third party synchronization software (which I was forced to use back when I had a Motorola KRZR — and I really didn’t want software to limit what I could sync), use Google (I really don’t want Google to have more of my personal information than they already have, or try MyPhone (not that I’m wild about Microsoft having my personal information; but I know that they’re a clueless company who wouldn’t know what to do with the information even if they realized they had it).

There are many things that MyPhone won’t do, and we might as well get those listed first:

  • It will not download ring tones
  • It will not synchronize to live contact, calendar, etc
  • It will not allow you to backup on your desktop

Things it will do:

  • It will limit you to 200 MB of storage
  • It will synchronize contacts (including pictures, but it does have some limitation with field sizes; so Garmin GPS points are a little problematic)
  • It will synchronize calendar (but it doesn’t allow notes or reminder, you have to enter those on the phone)
  • It will synchronize task lists (again see the above limitations)
  • It will synchronize text messages
  • It will synchronize browser favorites
  • It will synchronize photos
  • It will synchronize videos
  • It will synchronize music
  • It will synchronize documents
  • It will allow for deleting and archiving.
  • It will support multiple phone
  • It will support social networks (well, Live)
  • It will provide your phone’s last known location (last sync)

If you’re willing to pay for enhanced services:

  • It will ring your phone
  • It will provide your phone’s current location
  • It will lock your phone
  • It will erase your phone

Presumably these last services are targeted at lost phone (so you might wait until you’ve lost your phone to pay for the service, and I guess if it can’t do it you might be able to get a refund).

Currently MyPhone only supports Windows Mobile devices (so you can consider it’s something you get when you purchase a Windows Mobile phone), and most current Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 phones already have it pre-installed (but you can easily download it and install it on any Windows Mobile 6, 6.1, or 6.5).

To effectively use MyPhone you should have an unlimited data plan (or it might end up costing you quite a bit of money to do the synchronizations).

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think MyPhone is the best thing since sliced white bread (who came up with that expression — white bread is horrible), but it works, and it works well — and it provides a service for owners of Windows Mobile 6.x that Windows 7 doesn’t (so much for Microsoft’s flagship products, makes you wonder why you have to pay the big bucks for things that don’t work well, and don’t work together).

One of the nice features of MyPhone is that you can use it to sync information to you phone regardless of what desktop operating system you run (I believe synchronizing to Windows Mobile devices still requires a third party [extra cost] product on OS-X; Sync Mate or Missing Sync).

NOTE:  I believe Microsoft considers MyPhone to be part of the Windows Live offerings, but since it doesn’t inter-operate with Windows Live (at least in the current version) I don’t see how anyone can make that claim with a straight face (where do they get these programmers and program managers).

Microsoft MyPhone

Originally posted 2010-03-09 02:00:18.

Toshiba IS02

The Toshiba IS02 is a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 powered smart phone with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a 4.1″ AMOLED touchscreen sporting a 3.2MP digital camera, 384MB RAM, 512MB ROM, business card reader, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi with a GSM quad-band radio and 3G data.

It’s reported to be one of the slimmest WinMo phones available — and it has a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard!

Hopefully Toshiba will export the phone to the American market, and continue to innovate and push the competition.

Toshiba IS02

Originally posted 2010-07-19 02:00:11.

Verizon Wireless

Like most cellular communication companies, Verizon Wireless leaves it up to the consumer to find their billing errors.

Last month I called Verizon Wireless right after the AllTel/Verizon merge was complete; and I told the representative that at the end of the call I would have ONE Verizon account; and that that would be achieved either by combining my two numbers (one previously Verizon, one previously AllTel) into a single account without making any changes to the plans OR terminating the old Verizon account.

Originally Verizon had required all AllTel customer to convert to a Verizon account to make ANY changes to their account, but they softened that policy when they found it was just as easy (and cheaper) for many AllTel customers to switch to another cellular provider than switch their plans to a current Verizon offering (I for instance would have to pay more for what I have and would lose six of my eleven “My Circle” number [that’s the numbers I can call airtime free regardless of the network they’re on] and would have to pay for text messaging and data dongle use [Internet access for my laptop]).

The customer service representative was certain he could combine the accounts, because they’d been told they could; however, after several tries (and munging the information on both accounts) he was unable to combine the accounts and “terminated” the service on my old Verizon phone.

Well, I just received the bill for the service — and interestingly enough I was billed an entire month… not just a few days.  Why?  Well simple, they didn’t terminate the account, they suspended it in order to let it age out to the end of the billing period — of course I had no service from Verizon… well, unless you consider billing a service.

How horrible unethical (and illegal)…

Needless to say I just got off the phone with a Verizon representative and gave him two options — put through a bill adjustment, or I’d file a charge back with my credit card company (don’t think there would have been much of a problem with that).  I’m not sure how he arrived at the “adjustment” figure — but then again, I don’t have an advanced degree in cellular telephone billing mathematics… I seem to be getting about half my billed amount back rather than three quarters — but when they generate another bill I’ll review what they’ve done.

The thing I really hate about having to put so much time and energy into “fixing” problems that companies like this cause (and I believe it’s intentional since they know most people won’t put any effort into fixing these fraudulent charges) is that it costs time (which is money).  So the question is, why isn’t there a law that requires companies to PAY consumers for their time when a consumer invests their time to resolve an issue that a company has caused through no fault of the consumer at say two times what the consumer normally is paid (or at least two times minimum wage).  And, of course, these companies should have to pay 21% interest on any excess charges they’ve made.

Originally posted 2009-08-08 01:00:16.

Sprint 4G Surcharge

So I was looking at Sprint devices, plans and coverage — they have the Samsung Galaxy S 4G handset, and their model includes a slider qwerty keyboard (I really like keyboards on smart phones)… of course we’re talking about Sprint’s network, which has marginal service in this area and no 4G within about 300 miles (and likely no 4G for a very long time any where around here) but the interesting thing is they still insist on charging a $10 4G surcharge for plans on 4G phones even when the phone is used in 3G service areas…

Personally I feel that if a cellular company is going to charge me a surcharge for enhanced speed (and features) that I should be getting those features…

I don’t think I’d be too keen on Sprint for anyone of a number of reasons…

Let’s see, first and foremost would be a horrible experience with Sprint and Sprint’s billing practices when they first started.  And their CEO can keep apologizing about it, but the bottom line is I wouldn’t tend to try Sprint unless they offered me a deal that was just incredible (and charging me for a service I’m likely never to get isn’t a way to make me feel like it’s a deal I can’t refuse).

Then there would be the fact that their service and coverage here is abysmal — even worse than AT&T!!!  In fact, their service is so spotty they actually caution you about it on their web site when you go to browse phones and plans.

Then, they choose WiMax rather than LTE (like the rest of the world).  Though since they’re depending on Clearwire for WiMax services and Clearwire has been showing more and more interest in LTE (and ditching WiMax — which probably doesn’t make Intel happy) who know if Sprint will actually really keep rolling out WiMax or shift to LTE.

Anyway; I like the Galaxy S… but I’m holding out for HTC to make a high end Android phone with a slider and I’d prefer it to be a CDMA/GSM/LTE handset.

Originally posted 2010-10-15 02:00:34.