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Archive for the ‘WiFi’ Category

Wifi Stumbling on iPhone 3GS

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WifiTrak for iPhone 3GS

WifiTrak for iPhone 3GS

I’m currently in Santiago, Chile on an extended trip, and trying to “work from the road”. That’s easier said than done, and there are a number of things you’ll be looking for when you’re trying to set up a temporary office in a cafe or other location. One of those things, obviously, is wifi. A lot of places are nice enough to have a sticker on their window, or some other indication that they have wifi available for guests to use, but it can get tiresome walking around peeking in windows trying to find signs of life.

The solution that I’m currently using it to employ my iPhone 3GS as a stumbling device/wifi scanner. I looked around on the iTunes store for a while and the best (99c) application I could find that actually works on the iPhone 3GS, doesn’t require a data connection of some sort, and is a true scanner (not a location-based look-up against known APs) is WifiTrak.

I can turn on WifiTrak and then walk around an area that I know has some cafes etc, and quickly get a scan of all the wifi in the area. It’s easy to spot open/protected APs (although a lot of the protected ones here will give you a password if you ask), and to see relative signal strengths. It automatically sorts the APs located by signal strength, so you get the strongest ones at the top. You can even connect to a network directly from the app which is a nice touch, although I’m not using that since it’s really just for scanning purposes.

Written by Beau Lebens

December 18th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized,WiFi

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Growl Network Notifications

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I use a system wide notification manager called Growl to handle notifications of all sorts of apps on my Mac, including a number of custom scripts and tools. It’s a really neat little system, and even supports handling notification requests across a network. I was working from a cafe today and fired up a little app called Flame to see what was going on in the network around me. It just shows you all Mac machines connected to the same network and tells you what services they are running.

I spotted someone who had the Growl network service active (_growl._tcp.), so I thought I’d give something a try. According to Flame, their computer was called “Brad’s Computer”, and his IP was 192.168.1.148 so I fired up Terminal and entered the following:

$ growlnotify -H 192.168.1.148 -t "Hi Brad" -m "You should really put a password on Growl network notifications"

Obviously it got through and displayed, because some dude freaked out and his eyes went wide while he stared at his screen. I tried not to laugh.

Surprise! πŸ™‚

Written by Beau Lebens

February 5th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Nokia E66 Cellphone Review

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After having to send back the Nokia E71 that I was trialing, WOMWorld was kind enough to also send me an E66 to try out. I’ve been using this handset for about a week now, and I feel like I’ve used it enough to start offering some opinions and details.

Here we go.

This is the first “slider” phone that I’ve ever used (I’ve always had “candy bar” devices before), and I have to say that I didn’t like the slider design much at all. While the ability to simply slide the phone open/closed to unlock/answer calls and lock/end calls was kind of fun, the layers created on the keypad (different heights of keys depending on if they’re “outside” or “inside”) and the requirement to slide the phone before I can really do anything useful outweighed any coolness provided by the slide. In addition to be a slider, this is the first phone I’ve used in over 2 years that had a normal numeric keypad, rather than a full QWERTY keyboard, and apparently I’ve lost all patience of T9. I want my QWERTY. Combined with the slide vs. candy bar issue, this was almost enough to make me stop using the phone altogether.

Once I got over those issues (or rather, ignoring them for now, because I still haven’t gotten over them), I found the OS to be very similar to the E71, although I did notice a snazzy fade effect. When you transition between apps or menus, a neat fading effect is applied to make it less jarring. I don’t remember seeing that on the E71. Other than that the OS seems to be the same, with all the same updates over my E61.

There were 2 more big disappointments for me on this device when compared to the E71 in particular:

  1. The camera was completely buggy. It takes about 11 seconds to load the camera and have it start showing you an image, and when it does, it’s UPSIDE DOWN! I have no idea what’s going on here, I can only assume that this is a genuine bug either in the software or the hardware (camera installed upside down?). Videos and still images are all upside down, rendering the camera feature completely unusable. I looked everywhere for an option that might have been causing this to no avail.
  2. The A-GPS seemed far inferior to that of the E71. I found that it usually gave me a weak level of accuracy (under Google Maps) and that it took longer to update than the E71 did. This is a let-down because the GPS on the E71 was a specific feature that I liked.

OK — I’m not done bashing on this phone yet πŸ™‚ I also didn’t like the external (top) keypad, the one with the main function keys. The keys are flat and there’s hardly any distinction between each key. They are also made from a slick plastic that causes you to slide around when your fingers are slightly sweaty or moist in any way. The E71’s center navigation button was made of a nicer, almost gripping rubber/plastic, as opposed to the button on this E66, which was again the slick plastic. This made it more difficult to navigate around (pressing up/down/center/etc), which is what you spend a lot of time doing on these phones.

There is a simple accelerometer in this handset that’s intended to do something akin to what the iPhone does when you turn it on its side. The problem is that it’s apparently not a very good one, because the handset sometimes takes some convincing to really turn, and even when it does, it’s often a bit of a mess. Not all applications (e.g. Google Mail) seem to support it properly, so you end up with your screen sideways, but your soft-keys still thinking things are in portrait. Basically I think this is a wasted feature as the phone is pretty awkward when held sideways anyway, so there’s not much motivation to use it in that mode.

Obviously, overall, I was much less satisfied with the E66 than I was with the E71. I didn’t even bother setting up synchronization with my laptop because I have no desire to “move in” on this phone properly. I’ll be sending it back as soon as it’s requested. Here’s a few things that using this handset taught me:

  1. I won’t be getting another handset without a QWERTY keyboard (or at least an on-screen keyboard a la iPhone),
  2. I’m not a fan of slider-style handsets,
  3. I’d rather have no GPS at all than have it, and have it be inaccurate (I’ll just get by on cell-tower triangulation thanks),
  4. Little things (like the material used to make keys) make a big difference to your experience with a handset

Verdict: E66, no thanks. E71, yes please.

Written by Beau Lebens

January 23rd, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Nokia E71 NAM Real World Usage Review

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Now that I’ve been using the Nokia E71 NAM for a few weeks, I wanted to post a follow-up review covering some of the more “day-to-day reality” aspects of the phone. I’m going to bullet-point my observations/comments for brevity’s sake, and as with my initial review, any comparisons made here are as compared to my Nokia E61:

The Good

  • The operating system is much snappier and more responsive overall. The phone just feels a lot faster than the E61.
  • The new 5 way navigation key absolutely rocks compared to the little joystick on the E61. The only thing I don’t like is that perhaps the outside edge (“arrows”) could be a little bit wider to make it easier to hit with the end of a finger.
  • Connecting to and using EDGE seems a LOT faster.
  • Wifi connect time and bandwidth/throughout also seems a lot faster.
  • Web pages render and respond a lot quicker (scrolling etc)
  • I like that when the phone is “asleep”, if you hold down on the middle button, the screen shows you a large clock for a brief period (including icons for any messages, missed calls, etc)
  • From the Home Screen, you can start typing the name of a contact and they will appear in a list so you can just select them from right there.
  • You can also dial letters now, which was a frustration of mine with the E61. If, for example, you needed to dial 1800FLOWERS, there was no way to do that on the E61 without figuring out what “FLOWERS” is in numbers, which is hard because you don’t have a normal phone keypad, you have a QWERTY keyboard instead. On the E71 you can dial 1800FLOWERS and it will figure it out.
  • After a quick download of an iSync plugin from Nokia I was able to synchronize my Calendar and Contacts to my Mac Address Book/iCalendar.
  • Google make a version of their Gmail App specifically for Symbian 60 series devices (e.g. the E71) and it’s really slick.
  • Google’s Map application is also available for the E71 and detects and uses the GPS device automatically. It’s awesome. It won’t give you true turn by turn directions, but you can plot out a course using the directions feature on Google Maps, then follow along using the GPS to achieve almost the same result.
  • I also tried out qik (over wifi) and it worked like an absolute charm. Simple set up, easy streaming, decent quality. I was very impressed.

The Not So Good

  • The operating system, although responsive, is still just as confusing/non-user-friendly as it always has been, if not a little more so. The menus have been moved around a little and things have been re-classified to make them even harder to find.
  • I felt like the vibrate feature is a bit weak. I rely a lot on my phone’s vibrate (rather than a loud, obnoxious ring-tone) and found that I quite often missed calls unless I was sitting down (so it was pushed to my leg) or somewhere really quiet where I actually heard my quiet ringtone.
  • It took a lot of poking around in the menu to figure out how to customize the 2 softkeys on the Home screen
  • As usual with recent Nokia phones, to use the voice-dial command you have to master talking like a robot, and can’t just record a voice-tag against a contact and use that.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to customize the middle button (between the volume up/down buttons) at all. That seems like a good button to be a shortcut to the camera.
  • The Automatic Network Selection algorithm on this phone seems to be quite aggressive. I noticed my handset changing quite frequently to another network because my signal got too weak.
  • I tried out Quickoffice, which is included with the handset. It is absolutely painful to try to create even a tiny, simple spreadsheet on πŸ™‚

As a side story, I’ve been quite sick for the past few days, and spent most of my time either on the couch, or in bed. During that time, I used the E71 to browser the web, check email and send SMS messages a lot for 2 days without charging it at all. I was impressed that it stood up to that much usage with wifi, as the E61 tended to drain the battery quite quickly if you stayed connected too long. It was good to have a device like this handy to keep me at least a little bit connected (even if my mind was thoroughly disconnected!).

All in all I’ve been very impressed with the E71 thus far, and will be very sad to have to return it. Everyone else who has seen the phone has been impressed by its design, and by the features I’ve mentioned (usually GPS, internet access, email etc). It’s been described as a “sexy BlackBerry”, an “iPhone with a keyboard” and “sweeeet”, amongst other things. I’d have to agree with all of those descriptions.

Congratulations on another solid phone Nokia – now please spend a little more time on refining the software/UI side of things if you’re hoping to compete with the likes of Apple!

Written by Beau Lebens

January 6th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Nokia E71 NAM First Impressions

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A few weeks ago, I got an email that I almost discarded as spam, asking me if I would like to try out a Nokia phone for a few weeks. As it turns out, the email was completely legitimate, and the offer was genuine. The good folks over at WOMWorld Nokia wanted to send me a Nokia E71 NAM (the NAM is for North AMerica, since there’s a slightly different European version) so that I could try it out and see ifΒ  I liked it. Either way, I was welcome (encouraged) to write about it, talk about it, and generally let people know what I thought of it. This is the first of 2 posts that I will be making about the phone and the experience I had with it. I wanted to do one as a “first impressions” post, and then one at the end of the test period (unfortunately, I have to send it back πŸ™ ) with more detail on my experiences.

Unboxing

I took a few snaps while I was opening the delivery, and of the phone when I first got it, also comparing it to my current Nokia E61 handset. In addition to the handset, they also sent me a Nokia BH-602 bluetooth headset to try out (as you’ll see below).

Unboxing Nokia E71 Unboxing Nokia E71

Side by Side Phone on Phone Action

Exterior

As soon as you lay your eyes on this phone, you’ll see it’s a sexy little number. It’s got a very similar form factor to the iPhone, although obviously there is a full keyboard in play here, so the screen is a lot smaller relatively speaking. Let’s check out a few of the things I noticed immediately:

  1. Uber-hot chroming/shiny-ness all over
  2. Dimpled stainless steel back-cover
  3. Much more compact (read: smaller) keyboard than my E61
  4. New keys! There are new keys which looking at the icons are (L-R): Home, Calendar, Contacts, Mail. The E61 had a weird “menu” key and a Mail key only.
  5. Thinner and narrower, but same height
  6. The screen appears to be slightly smaller (but when you turn it on, it’s crisp and sharp and very bright)
  7. External access to the memory card slot and a mini-USB port
  8. They’ve switched the volume up/down buttons to the other side of the phone
  9. There’s not one, but TWO cameras on the device. One on the back (with an LED flash and a small mirror for “MySpace photos”) and one on the front, I assume for video calls.
  10. The E61’s kinda poky joystick has been replaced with a nice big square key, surrounded by a single, connected directional key for L/R/U/D.

Gettin’ Dirty

Once I’d gotten over how much sexier this handset was than my current one, it was time to play around with it a bit and see if the actual experience of using it lived up to the exterior (never judge a book by its cover and all that).

One of the first things I noticed was that the screen was very crisp, and the colors were sharp. I’m not 100% sold on the font selection on the device, but generally the visual side of things is an improvement over the E61. All the icons got an update, but I actually liked the older, angled versions a bit better. Some of the color selections for highlighting things (black with a red outline?) are a bit odd as well on the theme that was active when I got it.

As far as responsiveness goes, the E71 blows the E61 out of the water. Going back now and comparing the 2 makes it feel like the E61 is running in a bucket of molasses, trapped in a time-warp where everything goes in slow motion. I really can’t stress the difference in speed that’s evident doing anything and everything on the phone. The E71 is quick, smooth, and jumps from task to task without a pause. Even when you leave a bunch of applications running it still seems to handle itself better than the E61 with nothing running.

The keyboard, although smaller than on the E61, actually feels better. It took a little getting used to but the new key style is more responsive and the tactile feedback is much nicer than the squishyness on the E61. There are a few compromises made to get the keyboard smaller though; namely the removal of the right shift key (makes it tricky to do shift+@/x/c because they’re so close). They’ve also moved a few special characters around (or hidden them off in the character selection menu somewhere) which is a pity, because I often use double-quotes (“) and ampersands (&) and both of these got sidelined.

Having a camera back on my phone is a treat that I’d learned to live without. The E61 was an “enterprise” device, so they decided that it didn’t need a camera on it (the E61i released shortly thereafter fixed that mistake), so I haven’t had a cameraphone for almost 2 years now. I was quite surprised with the quality on the camera – it’s decent, but not quite as good as I remembered 3 megapixels to be honest.

Here’s a couple of sample pictures to show you what it can do (click through for full-sized versions). L-R are: Inside, overhead incandescent lighting; Outside, mid morning, natural lighting; At night, with the LED flash only.

Mini Christmas Uphill

Parking Meter

Other than that, a lot of the features are the same or similar to the E61, so I’ll post a bit more of a comparison once I’ve played with it more. I am supposed to return the handset after the new year unfortunately. I already really like it, and am finding myself enjoying it a lot more than my E61.

More to come closer to return-time, stay posted.

Written by Beau Lebens

December 20th, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Flaky AirTunes

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I’m using iTunes 4.7, with a brand new AirPort Express, but I find that the connection between the 2 is a little dodgy. I’m running iTunes on an iBook with OS X 10.3.6, with a built in Airport Extreme card (fully updated), so I would have thought everything would run pretty smoothly.

I find that when I first connect to my AirportExpress (no password/WEP), everything is good for about 2 hours of music, then it suddenly disconnects/stops playing in iTunes. If I try to immediately hit play, nothing happens. I normally have to select ‘Computer’ as the music destination, then give it a second, select my AirPort Express, wait for it to connect, skip to the next track, then press play, wait for it to connect (again?) and then it starts playing again.

Is this a bug? Anyone else seen anything like this?

Oh – and I still haven’t tried out wireless printing πŸ™‚

Written by Beau Lebens

November 28th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

AirPort Express (and AirTunes) in da house

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Apple AirPort Express

Give me an inch and I’ll take a mile.

I got my iBook, so I figured I may as well get some other toys to go with it. Thus the .Mac subscription, and thus the AirPort Express that came in the mail today. I’ve had a chance to play with 2 of it’s 3 features already (3rd later tonight), and so far my official review is: this thing ROCKS!

In case you don’t know, the AirPort Express is an awesome little single-unit adaptor “thing” from Apple that will allow you to do the following;

  1. Create (or extend) a wireless (WiFi) network,
  2. Stream music from iTunes to an external set of speakers (wirelessly)
  3. Print wirelessly to a USB printer

The first thing I tried was setting up a wireless network, since at my office we only have a wired network. I plugged the AirTunes into a power outlet and whacked in a CAT-5 cable. A couple seconds later, it showed up on my iBook as an available network and I was off. The software (AirPort Express Setup Assistant) is easy to use and pretty hard to mess up. Put in a name for the network and the base station (I used the same thing), set your security preferences and you’re off. The only confusion I had was that the process requires 2 passwords – one for WEP (WiFi security) and one for securing the actual base station’s settings. Of course I messed around with a few things and proceeded to lock myself out of the unit, so I also got to try out the reset button which is tucked away at the bottom of it πŸ™‚

With that working, I thought I’d give the audio streaming a shot. It doesn’t get much easier to use kids. You plug some speakers into the bottom of the AirTunes (standard, 3.5mm stereo jack) and then load up iTunes. You will notice a drop-down box at the bottom of the window, right next to the button for loading the graphic equalizer. There should be 2 options in there – ‘Computer’ (play via your speakers) and ‘networkname’ which will be the name of the network you’ve just created, and allows you to play to that network. If you select that option and press play, your wireless speakers should spring into action – simple as that. In case you’re wondering, you don’t need to have the AirPort Express plugged into a wired network for this to work either, as long as the speakers are plugged in and your computer can see the AirTunes, you’re good to go.

Like I said, this thing is pretty awesome. Later on tonight I’ll try out the printing function and see how that goes. I’m already happy, and I can see that this is going to be perfect for my trip which is coming up in a couple weeks where I’ll circumnavigate the globe within a couple weeks, hopefully making good use of wireless all the way!

Written by Beau Lebens

November 23rd, 2004 at 4:00 pm

Given Up On Wireless

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Well, I went ahead and did the Service Pack 2 upgrade for Win XP Pro, and have had nothing but problems recently with my wireless adaptor. I don’t know if it’s directly related or not, but basically my adaptor would drop out and not allow me to get an IP (even though it thought it was connected successfully). Obviously this is a problem for getting internet access.

With no time to waste figuring out what the hell is going on, I’ve disconnected the adaptor and resorted to plugging my desktop directly into my router (ugh – cables!), and I have complete access again. What tells me that it’s the adaptors fault is that my laptop and iPAQ still work just fine, connecting to the same router/cable modem etc.

So now my desktop is back to a cabled connection, but I suppose that kind of makes sense. Somewhere along the line I’ll sort it out, but for now that will have to do.

Written by Beau Lebens

October 25th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

Wireless Developer Network

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The WirelessDevNet is a pretty cool website, and has channels on a bunch of interesting topics, in particular Bluetooth and Location Based Services.

They offer an RSS Feed, but it appears to be for the entire site, and isn’t available per channel. Pity, but still good.

Obviously, it is targetted more towards developers, so if you’re into that sort of thing, then this site might be for you. It contains a lot of articles written locally, as well as pulling in and referencing articles and tutorials from other locations, so it’s a decent ‘landing pad’ for wireless development.

Written by Beau Lebens

July 12th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

Netgear WGR614 Wireless Cable/DSL Router

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When I came over here, I brought my Netgear DG824M, because I figured that it’d be useful, at the very least as a WAP, hooked off whatever I got sorted out with here, if not as my main DSL modem for my connection here. Instead, it turns out that I got cable, and it didn’t work as a WAP for that, because I couldn’t get it to not act as a DHCP server, and have the cable modem do that part of things, and it didn’t like to play otherwise. So – long story short, I bought a new modem!

Netgear WGR614
Having had a good experience with Netgear products so far, I stuck with them for my new modem, and hunted down a WGR614, which I bought from EBuyer.com. Once I get my rebate, it will have been a $35 router – not bad for something that would probably cost $200 in Australia πŸ™‚

Since I previously had difficulty getting WEP to work with my XP machine, and had been running with it turned off (only using MAC-based restrictions), I figured it would be worth a shot to see if I could get it going using this modem. For some reason, it works! I still don’t know why, but when I turned WEP on, entered the generated key on my PC, laptop and iPAQ, everything Just Workedβ„’.

I thought I was doing really well, had my wireless connection to the ‘net via PC, laptop and iPAQ, when I noticed that I was having problems with my PC – every 5 minutes or so, I would lose my connection to the WAP, then it would reconnect. This wouldn’t have been the end of the world (although it was annoying), but half the time my PC would pick up the connection to the other, un-secured network that’s around here, and connect to that instead. Then there was also the obvious problem of if I was doing a download or upload or gaming or something, a connection that consistently drops out every 5 minutes isn’t much use.

I checked Netgear’s support site for the modem, and downloaded the firmware update for it, which I hoped would fix the problem. I applied the update (no need to re-enter any configuration on the modem BTW, it retained all settings), but the problem persisted.

Just in case, I did a Windows Update to see if it would pick up anything. What do you know, there was an update there for Netgear, under the ‘Driver Updates’ section (not listed in ‘Critical Updates and Service Packs’). I installed it, and hey presto, my connection is clean as now. Haven’t had it drop out now in over 12 hours (which is only how long it’s been installed, so it’s never dropped off since installation).

This makes me happy – it means that now I can actually run WEP, which makes me feel better about having wireless, especially knowing there’s another network within range. I have a solid connection, which my iPAQ, PC and laptop can all share, which is relatively secure, and pretty darned fast. I haven’t bothered optimising the position of my WAP, because it has perfect range into my bedroom and onto my balcony, so there’s no need, and hopefully having it under my desk will reduce the overflow into the street and around the place.

Yay Netgear, yay wireless!

Written by Beau Lebens

July 4th, 2004 at 4:00 pm