Rare bouquet for Telstra, selling unlocked iPhone 5

iphone5

It’s rare I pay a compliment to Telstra, they’ve been the source of so much pain over the years, and their domination of the telecommunications market in Australia is akin to Godzilla in a childcare centre, but for once I must give them kudos.

I upgraded my trusty iPhone4 to the new (and very very good) iPhone5s the other day. A key issue for me was unlocking the phone – removing the lock that carriers put on handsets to make sure you can only use the phone on their network. I need my phone to be unlocked so I can swap to my USA SIM card when I’m in America.

In the past unlocking a phone has even incurred a charge – from memory a jaw-aching $100 or $150. But nowadays it’s free – just go to the Unlock page on the Telstra web site. And here’s the massively good and useful news “All iPhone 5 models are already unlocked. “. Nothing for me to do!

It’s one in the eye for telcos in the USA, where they persist selling phones locked to the carrier, with complicated rules about when you can unlock – for example, usually you need to own the handset outright – eg not be paying it off as part of a phone plan contract.

Support medical research – have more helium balloons at birthday parties

up_movie_balloons_house-wide

I was listening to a radio program the other day about threats to the world’s helium suppliers, and was fascinated at the story. Like many people we love having helium balloons for our childrens’ birthday parties but it seemed, at least from the radio report, that this might be rather remarkably going to become a party favourite of the past.

A third of the world’s helium comes from a US Government stockpile in Texas, originally founded in the 1920s as a reserve for airships, and sited near gas fields that have some particularly high percentages of helium in the gas extracted.

It turns out that when natural gas is mined, it  contains traces of helium. However this is often at such a low rate that it is not commercially viable to extract, as a consequence there are only a dozen or so places around the world where helium is mined.

The big commercial problem is that the selling off of the USA’s helium reserves has artificially lowered the price of helium for decades – the price we pay is not a true reflection of the cost of the product. And now the reserve is running out, the world will have to turn to the other sources of helium – and pay the commercially viable cost.

Helium is key to many high tech machines and processes, for example it’s used in the production of semiconductors (those tiny things that make everything from your iPhone to your car work); the production of optic fibre, and the operation of Magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRI) in medicine.

At least one person, an academic in the UK, has suggested banning helium balloons from kids birthday parties, however someone with a better grounding in economics points out the flaw:

Even if the helium reserve does stay open for a few more years, its helium will be sold at much higher prices than before. As a result, average market prices could rise by about 30% in 2014, estimates Richard Clarke, a resources consultant in Oxford, UK. That comes on top of major price rises that have already squeezed research budgets. In 2000, the market price of high-quality helium was roughly £1/m3 (enough to make about 1.35 litres of liquid helium); today it hovers around £4/m3.
So what can be done? Some researchers have suggested banning frivolous uses of helium, such as party balloons. But this accounts for only 8% of global demand, and offers some of the highest profit margins in the market – without birthday balloons, researchers’ helium would likely cost even more.
So there you go, the more helium balloons at your birthday parties, the more you are supporting medical research.

Power up the trenching tool, we’re going to lay our own optic fibre for fast internet to our homes and businesses

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 5.23.41 PM

I heard about B4RN on the radio last night, a fascinating story how a group of residents in rural England became weary waiting for the phone companies to make fast broadband available. Their solution? Lay their own optic fibre to their properties, offering 1Gb download speeds.

The success of the project is completely in the hands of the participants, who can subscribe for the service, and even buy shares to increase the capital available to invest in growing the network.

The purpose of the project is to take a new approach to the ownership, financial and deployment models used traditionally, and still proposed by, telecommunications companies. These models invariably leave rural areas outside of the scope of economic viability for the telecoms companies, and have helped to create the Digital Divide between rural and urban Britain.

You can even sponsor a metre of optic fibre for £5. Apparently when the phone company lays fibre it costs £140 a metre, when you use volunteer community labor, the cost plummets. Plus you can have fibre wherever you darn well like, as opposed to the phone company which uses profit/loss calculations to determine whether the investment is commercially viable. As the CEO of B4RN said in an interview with the BBC:

“…fast broadband is not a luxury now, whether in the town or the country. ‘Farmers are being told they have to fill in forms online,” he says. “If you haven’t got broadband you are severely disadvantaged.'”

If you ever needed any affirmation of the value a community places on proper high speed broadband, B4RN is the model, continuing to undermine the ridiculous politics played with the National Broadband Network in Australia, especially by the Liberal Party with their neutered model of fibre to the node.

If Tony Abbott wins power I suspect you’ll find me out on my street powering up the trenching machine and encouraging my neighbours to come help me lay our own fibre as well.

Piss off affiliate marketers (how come you all live in Thailand?)

uncle-scam

Man I hate these people – yet they like following my blog (really need to figure out why I attract these dicks).

So I see two new blog followers in one day:

How nice someone cares about the rubbish I write, excited I go and check out their web sites. And guess what, both are plugging an affiliate program called Project A.W.O.L. It’s your typical cut and paste with a bit of re-writing to make it seem different.

Joe says:

So I have been getting a lot of questions from people about how I can afford to do so much travelling, or how I have so much time to actually do the things I enjoy in life.

Julian says:

So lately Iv’e been getting a ton of questions from people asking me how I can afford to live a lifestyle by design, travel the world, and have the freedom to do the things I love, with the people I love, by only using my laptop and an internet connection.

Joe says:

The reason why I can travel or do all these things without living on a shoestring budget is because I’m earning my income online from blogging and affiliate marketing.

Julian says:

The reason why I can afford to do all of the things I love without living paycheck to paycheck is because I’m earning my full-time income from affiliate marketing and blogging on the internet.

Previously of course they only shared the secret of their success with close friends, but now they’ve decided they want everyone to be rich.

It’s all lies, and so easily unravelled, even just casually looking at clearly faked income statements.

Joe:

joe

Julian:

julian

Gee, what a coincidence, they both earned EXACTLY THE SAME INCOME for a particular day, we just decided to change the month.

A bit of a Google finds this piece of rubbish with a video:

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His name is ‘Tom’ and he’s ‘coming to you from his house in Thailand’. Which is interesting because Julian just had a fabulous holiday at a rental house in Thailand.

What we had lined up because of the connections and magnitude of the vision that Kam and Glenn have…is that we rented out a $50k/month hillside mansion in Phuket Thailand complete with personal chefs, chauffeurs, yachts, excursions and here’s the best part

…wait for it!

$140,000/month Hollywood film crew filming every single bit of it!

Another coincidence!

Ooh look, Dakota McLean just retired and moved to Thailand thanks to Project A.W.O.L.

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Honestly couldn’t be bothered chasing down any more of this crap.

Sigh.

How a beer fridge caused widespread mobile phone blackouts

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UPDATE:  The guys at TomoNews US have made a cute video about the story!

I’m an avid follower of what I term ‘fragile technology’ stories – and so the idea a beer fridge could cause mobile phone network interference across parts of Wangaratta is fabulous.

Apparently residents in Wangaratta have been experiencing mobile phone network problems for some time. Telstra’s technicians using software tools and then hand-held antennas finally tracked the interference to a beer fridge in a man’s garage.

The fridge is believed to have been interrupting mobile signals in “several neighbourhoods” of the town of 17,000, which lies about 230km from Melbourne.

There’s some discrepancy in the reports as to exactly what part of the fridge caused the interference – one says it was the light globe, another the fridge motor. Apparently nobody is blaming the beer – obviously a major relief for anyone who enjoys a cold beer whilst chatting on their phone.

What is more alarming is the confession by Telstra that the list of devices that can possible intefere with the cellular network is long:

Telstra engineers say any electric spark of a large enough magnitude can generate radio frequency noise that is wide enough to create blackouts on the 850mHz spectrum that carries our mobile voice calls and internet data.

Lamps, TVs, and electronic signs are a problem:

Mr Jennings says an “enormous range” of rogue appliances can cause disruptions. There’s things called mercury vapour lamps which are often used in retail premises, domestic TV installations is a big one, even large electronic advertising signs can cause interference,” he said.

It also seems there’s a big issue with illegal mobile repeaters – to the point I’m wondering how come I don’t have one in my backyard to help out Fiona (who still staggers along with the terrible Vodafone coverage for her iPhone).

“There’s probably a vast number out there that just don’t show up in our network stats but still have some impact on the network.”

Seems there’s a bunch of dodgy web sites out there selling these boosters, including ones specifically targeting us poor Australian saps. Although the idea of going to jail for a zillion years for using a repeater may just dissuade me.

Image:  Simon Lieschke

I’m liking my 40 times faster internet access – please don’t cap me at 25Mbps Mr Abbott

1billion-miles-per-hour

A nice man from BigPond turned up today and installed cable internet for us, so we now have both cable and ADSL internet connected at home. I’ve been running tests using speedtest.net and the difference is remarkable.

Our ADSL is supposed to be ADSL2+, the fastest available, here’s our speed test result (with my Mac connected via ethernet).

bigpond-adsl

And here’s the cable result (with my Mac connected via wi-fi, not even ethernet).

bigpond-cable

The iPads are running around 40Mbps, iPhones around 17Mbps, not quite sure why the phones are a little slower, but to be frank it’s still a lightyear improvement.

The gamers, YouTubers, Apple TVers and other bandwidth sucks in my house are going be like pigs in clover.

Oh, and just to make the political point – I for one am not interested in the slightest at the idea of a maximum of 25Mbps as proposed by the Liberal opposition. Even if my cynicism about the TV lobby is unfounded. Let’s do a count of what devices are online right now (I can hear some of them from my study), by my reckoning:

  • 3 iPhones (including me checking Twitter to avoid working)
  • 3 Macs (including me trying to get some work done)
  • 2 iPads (I hear at least one playing Hi-5 YouTube clips)
  • Playstation with Call of Duty in full battle

And this is a lighter than normal load, our eldest daughter, one of the major net consumers, is not here. Whilst there’s no question we are a geeky household, nobody can tell me we are particularly out of the ordinary these days. Why on earth you would introduce such a low ‘cap’ on the nation’s ability to access the internet is beyond me.

Image: jpctalbot

So Yahoo is buying Tumblr – apparently it’s a terrible idea and a good idea

tumblr-yahoo

I’m really only mildly interested in the news Yahoo is buying Tumblr, although I like the purchase price of $1.1b because it means my flickering hope of striking rich is still alive, just have to find the right idea.

What has interested me is the coverage in the media. Because depending on which commentary you read it’s either a genius move, or a damned stupid one. Yahoo kind of set the trend by promising not to stuff up:

“Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up, Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business”

And off we go…

“paying $1.1 billion for a company with $13 million in revenue seems a little nuts to me”.

Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies

Tumblr generated about $13 million of revenue last year. It also, presumably, lost money. Some pundits glance at these numbers and conclude that obviously the Tumblr deal is just yet another hallucination by idiot managers who don’t understand that they’re paying good money for nothing…..These criticisms are silly.

 on the Yahoo Finance site

Tumblr faces a fundamental problem that starkly differentiates it from Facebook and Twitter. It will probably never grow as larger as either rival, having long catered to an audience of artists and creative types that limit its base to hundreds of millions of people, not billions.

Abram Brown on Forbes.com

To both make money off of Tumblr while not infecting it with the company’s anodyne reputation will be a huge challenge. Here’s hoping Yahoo actually doesn’t screw it up.

Joe Brown on wired.com

One has to applaud Marrisa Mayer’s “go big or go home” move and the notion that Yahoo’s board is standing behind this purchase will (reportedly) full support. A successful integration of Tumblr into Yahoo’s forward-looking strategy could end a losing streak of purchases and fizzled launches which includes Maven Networks and Geocities as well as Livestand and Yahoo 360.

Allen Weiner on businessspectator.com.au

“the more I look at this tie-up, the more it makes sense to me”

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Tumblr’s users are almost universally unhappy with the news that the site might get sold to Yahoo. And they may let their fingers do the talking, and the walking.

Ingrid Lunden on TechCrunch

I give up. I have no idea whether this is a good idea or a bad idea.