Data hungry tourist in Australia? Optus $2 Days to the rescue

A couple of months back there were articles about mobile phone roaming charges and I feel the best way to prevent such a problem is to just use a local SIM card. So on my short trip to Melbourne, a couple of months back, I was lucky to have my brother’s Optus prepaid SIM which he had used the Optus $2 Days Prepaid plan which offers:

  • Unlimited National Voice Calls
  • Unlimited Standard SMS/MMS
  • Unlimited Mobile Internet Browsing

This trifecta makes is perfect for practically anybody! The last time I was in Melbourne, I tried Vodafone and the data prices were horrendous (most prepaid plans seem pretty expensive in Australia), so I was very surprised to see unlimited data for $2/day. I’ve tried M1’s and Singtel’s offerings in Singapore and both only offered data: no voice or text.

As with all mobile data, coverage is important: there is no use having unlimited data if there is no reception! Check out any coverage maps to ensure that the place you go indeed has 3G reception (Optus coverage map). Also if there network is congested and saturated with people, it can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, this was not the case with Optus in the CBD area, where I was most of the time.I manged to get consistent 6Mbps download speeds while downloading my podcasts.

Also do remember to read the fine print when signing up for these plans so that you don’t get charge unexpectedly (by wrongly assuming something is free or counted in the deal when it is not). Sadly when you do read the Optus fine print in the Terms & Conditions it says the $2 charges exclude "mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices" which I made sure I didn’t do just in case. Also their Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies to your usage which is basically guarding against ‘excessive usage’ which would probably be detrimental to the general network (i.e. causes congestion for other users)

All in all, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to use my phone without worrying about any caps or running out of credit. I would highly recommend this plan for all those data hungry Twitter / Facebook / Foursquare / Instagram / WhatsApp / Viber / other text alternative apps / general web addicted people out there. Heck if you need a SIM card before you go, I (or you) could ask my brother to borrow the SIM card.

Terms & Conditions of Optus $2 Days (via Optus website)

  • Daily usage fee is $2 and includes unlimited standard national calls, SMS & MMS to Australian GSM mobiles (excluding Pivotel); standard national calls to Australian fixed lines; voicemail retrieval and mobile internet browsing on your handset within Australia. Includes free voicemail deposits within Australia.
  • Excludes premium SMS and content, international and satellite calling and text, international roaming charges, Zoo content usage charges, video calling, 966 calls, mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices. Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies.
  • Timing is based on AEST (the time in Sydney, NSW) regardless of your location. Please adjust your usage to allow for time differences.
  • The usage fee is charged on the first outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS or mobile internet access each day after 12.00.00am AEST. Usage fee is not charged on days when no outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS, voicemail or mobile internet access is made.
  • Unlimited standard national daily calls maximum duration is 24 hours.
  • International calls are charged in increments of up to 10 minutes.
  • Daily usage fee inclusions expire on the earlier of: 1. 11:59:59pm AEST each day; or 2. the time on which you select another offer.
  • If you change from $2 Days to another offer after you have paid your daily usage fee, you will forfeit the benefits available under the Dollar Days offer.
  • Me2U is not available with these offers.
  • Recharge voucher expiry : $10 is 10 days, $15 is 15 days, $20 is 20 days, $30 is 30 days, $40 is 40 days and $50 is 50 days, $70 is 70 days and $100 is 100 days
  • Unused credit rolls over when your next recharge is before your credit expiry.
  • Options for $5, $10, $15 & $20 top-ups are not available. Some handsets are set to seek data automatically (eg email or other apps). This will use the internet and, in some cases, charges will apply.
  • Mobile Internet access requires a compatible handset. Optus may in the future require customers to change their Internet connection settings to be able to access the Internet while on the Dollar Days offers.
  • ^Rollover credit: You must recharge a minimum of 24 hours before your credit expires for rollover to apply.
Advertisements

Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011. RIP

Steve Jobs: 1955 – 2011

Steve Jobs
1955 – 2011

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

If you would like to share your thoughts, memories, and condolences, please email rememberingsteve

Source; Apple – Remembering Steve Jobs

No matter what you think about the man personally, he did great things and did inspire many.

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005


The Crazy Ones Ad

A Message to Brunei Website Owners – Do you value money or people?

Step 1: Build website
Step 2: Fill page will ads
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit?!?!?!

My main issue is ads that seem to fill many Bruneian websites. I understand the need to make money, but when I see multiple and obtrusive ad spots all over your page, it really turns me off. To me, it conveys that you value the money from your advertisers more than you value my experience (as a customer / viewer) on your site. I’m sure everybody is familiar with one of the biggest offenders in Brunei which is BruDirect. Going to the page and I’m greeted with 4 huge ads and no content. I’m not sure how everybody else feels about it, but I for one tend to boycott these sites by not going to them.

I would also like to raise the question as to why so many Brunei websites do this and if there are any globally popular websites that do the same kind of obtrusive ad marketing. I personally can’t name any (perhaps because if I did run into it, I probably boycotting it =p). But either way, I would like to know your thoughts on this matter and, if you would be so kind, do answer the questions below and leave your reply in the comments. Add any additional remarks or comments as you wish.

  1. Do you find ad filled pages in Brudirect ok?
  2. Do you find them annoying?
  3. Do you still read the website?
  4. If you find them annoying and still read the website, why do you put up with it?
  5. How many ads is too much?

Note: I started this post several days back when I ran into a new website (can’t remember the exact URL) that had all those "Your-ad-here" spaces which seemed to litter the page. I’m not against ads as a whole, just website owners who seem it is best to fill the page with all of them. I took some time to let this post sit here so I can simmer down with my utter disdain for the act of ads littering a page. Maybe I’m too idealistic, maybe I just want a better experience when viewing websites or maybe I’m full of it. Let me know in the comments.

I’ve been Ubuntu’d, have you?

Ubuntu Logo

So I have finally made the full time switch to Ubuntu as OS X just doesn’t cut it for me any longer on this 2008 13″ MacBook Pro

Now I will miss things like the OS X trackpad integration and usability, OS X’s easy Internet Sharing and podcast tools such as LadioCast, CamTwist and Soundflower but I can always boot into OS X when it is needed thanks to rEFIt.

Some notable happiness items since I’ve switched from OS X to Ubuntu

  • Home, End, Page Up, Page Down now all work as they are supposed to (or rather as I’m used to)
  • The ease of window management by alt+dragging windows to move them is just so easy
  • Compiz Fusion plugins such as Wobbly windows and Ring Switcher and GUI tweaks/eye candy that I just can’t seem to get enough of. I don’t usually like eye candy for eye candy sake, but I guess it makes me happy (which I guess is what some people get from using OS X, but sadly I’m not one of them)
  • Compiz Fusion plugins such as scale and zoom that mimic OS X’s Expose and desktop zoom are nice usability features to have along with the Opacity plugin that let’s you make any window transparent. I use this quite a bit: to see text in the browser when I have the command lind / terminal full screen
  • The general speed and responsiveness is such a joy
  • Much faster sleep and wake times
  • Upgrade apps or the OS by just “apt-get upgrade” or “apt-get dist-upgrade” is just so convenient

Now not everything is all fine and dandy and some issues are:

  • Battery life taking a hit. This is probably due to Compiz Fusion effects but also that Linux is not typically good at power management.
  • Trackpad usability has taken a step down from OS X (right clicking with 2 fingers works but is not perfect and touch to click has a slightly longer delay than I would like
  • General lack of application support: no SugarSync / Evernote native clients
  • All in all, I think I’m a happier computer user not having to wait all the time for the operating system to catch up to me and beach balling me all the time. I would highly suggest everybody try Ubuntu, even if it is just for the fun of it (you can burn it to a CD or copy it to a USB drive and boot from there without needing to install it).

    Why I Won’t Recommend a *insert-manufacturer-here* Android Phone

    There is nothing worse that seeing a person get new gadget only to be disappointed in it after a while. While this post only covers a few aspects, I hope it helps inform of some things to look out for. This post is targeting more of the mid-range / high-end Android phones for several manufacturers based on some observations I’ve seen repeated over and over again.

    HTC

    • Typically only dual band UMTS support: meaning you may not be able to get 3G when overseas depending on the frequency used. There is nothing worse that having a great phone and not being able to get the maximum potential out of it, just because the manufacturer decided to save a bit of money by not giving you a better radio supporting more frequencies. Acceptable for budget devices, but not for midrange / high-end ones.
    • They seem to make a new flagship phone very quickly after one another or that their flagship phone is not really clear. For other manufacturers the flagship phone is typically the highest-end phone with the most capabilities and it is pretty clear which device it is.
      • Samsung – Galaxy S, Galaxy SII.
      • Sony Ericsson – Xperia X10, Xperia Arc.
      • Motorola – Droid / Milestone, Droid 2, Droid 3

      Based on Wikipedia Announced dates of previous HTC phones which I consider their flagship device:

    Sony Ericsson

    • I won’t recommend higher end phones because they have only 320MB for app storage (Arc, Neo, Pro, Ray). For budget phones like the Xperia Mini or Mini Pro this amount will be pretty good but not for mid-range or high-end phones. I think HTC has solved this problem with their higher end phones, but ask any HTC Desire owner now, and I bet they have been utterly annoyed at the meager 140MB+ free after a factor reset (now only 128MB after the Gingerbread update). Other competitors have at least 1GB, which I think is the absolute minimum acceptable.

    LG

    • Bad support: i.e. no updates. As an owner of the LG Optimus One there was first talk of it not being able to be upgraded to Android 2.3 a.k.a. Gingerbread, but then in December they said it would get the 2.3 upgrade. While it seemed to be rolled out in Romania at the start of July, it is still not available to me. Note that this is their budget phone and according to the Facebook note the higher end models like the Optimus 2X will receive the update only after the Optimus One update is completed. So would this continue in the future? Higher end LG phones get updated after the budget ones?

    Acer

    Any Manufacturer that doesn’t use stock Android

    • This is mainly due to the fact official updates will take longer if they do not use stock Android, meaning that they have customized things such as the launcher or interface (e.g. HTC’s Sense UI, Samsung’s TouchWiz). This is due to the fact that they would have to update their customizations before pushing the upgrade. There was a long delay for the HTC Desire to get Android 2.2 which would aid the lower app storage space by allowing moving apps to the SD card.

    Samsung, Motorola and Huawei are the other main Android manufacturers that I don’t really have any beef against. There is a mention of Samsung breaking some core functionality but that is for any non-stock Android device and so far there doesn’t seem to me much complaints / responses to the post so may be an non-issue or affects a small minority (or people just think Android is broken), but is is something to note.

    All being said and done, while some manufacturers have issues with their devices they can still be recommended based on price and your usage scenarios. Below are some phones I do recommend based on the different price ranges.

    B$200 – B$300: LG Optimus One @ B$250 (a bit old, don’t expect updates)
    B$300 – B$400: Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro @ B$368 (my current budget phone recommendation)
    B$400 – B$500: HTC Chacha @ B$418 (no competition in this price range)
    B$500 – B$600: HTC Desire S @ B$562, Samsung Galaxy S Plus @ B$578 (no flash)
    B$600 – B$700: HTC Incredible S @ B$612, Samsung Galaxy Tab @ B$648 (a tablet and phone and thus bulky)
    B$700 – B$800: HTC Sensation @ B$758
    B$800 – B$900: Samsung Galaxy SII @ B$858

    Corner Geeks 9: Live Streaming setup for Ran8adidas

    Corner Geeks Logo beta 2
    MP3 link (right click > Save Link As…)

    Show Notes

    What we wanted

    • Live streaming of the event
    • Video
      • multiple cameras if possible
      • perhaps one overview shot
      • one on-the-go camera following events like the Twitter hunt. Follow contestants around “Amazing Race” style
    • Sound
      • clean sound from the mixer for opening ceremony / speeches
      • also want to capture atmosphere/sound around the camera
    • Internet
      • need for streaming
      • simplest of them all. 3G dongle
    • Master control at the laptop controllilng the stream / switching audio and video accordingly

    Mobile video

    • DSLR / camcorder approach:
      • Possible but need wireless transmitters making it cumbersome
      • DSLR sensor limited time
    • Keep-it-Simple-Stupid approach:
      • Use smartphones with Wifi and cameras
      • Small, simple, only need wireless access point if needed
      • Possible to attach external microphone to device for interviews
      • Advantages
        • Can move around freely
        • Requires no additional hardware for video capture hardware on computer.
        • Fairly cheap and easy to setup if you already have the devices (more people have smartphones now)
      • Disadvantages
        • Latency
        • Lower quality?
        • Potentially unreliable connection vs wires? Wireless inteference. Network going down?
        • No zoom!
      • Mobile Video apps

        • IP Webcam
          • Android
          • Free
          • Starts a webserver on camera device. Accessible from any computer on the network. View and listen in a browser
        • PocketCam (Desktop software)

          • iOS / Android
          • US$4.99 / BND$6
          • Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
          • Creates video and audio device driver on host. Once connected access like a webcamera and USB mircophone
          • Audio lag!
        • WebCamera
          • iOS / Blackbery / WinMo / Symbian
          • US$2.99 / US$19.95 / US$19.95 / US$9.95
          • Works similar to PocketCam: Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
          • Used iOS version that can take video and photo from camera and it will send it to host computer
        • There are other apps for Android and iOS but many do not provide audio which is what we wanted
      • Multiple Camera feasibility study
        • IP Camera: separate VLC instance for each video and each audio for each camera. Gets complicated very fast
        • Pocket Camera / WebCamera: only one PocketCamera / Webcamera host software allowed to run at one time on one machine
        • Not possible to use multiple cameras using only one app. Mixer and match is possible
        • Needed proper communication between in-the-field camera user and master control

    Sound

    • Input from mixer via line-in on laptop (not don’t have get a USB sound card)
    • LadioCast for audio mixing and piping of audio. Can even monitor sound without sending it to live stream

    Internet

    • Needed wireless coverage
    • Used iPod Touch as a WiFi signal monitor. Activated voice control, tap the wireless signal to hear the strength level (probably there is an app for this but did not explore)
    • To forgoe a 3G router: OS X Internet sharing (Connetify.me for Windows)

    Other things we used

    • Phone holder to tripod mount
    • Tripod: can place camera in certain places. Can extend tripod to get different angles
    • Charging cables! Must remember to charge mobile devices. iPod Touch 4G lasted about 2 hours of streaming

    Final Setup

    • iOS Webcamera easiest to work with
    • CamTwist to add overlays
    • Ladiocast to pipe audio. Connected to mixer when needed. Add microphone from the mobile cameras when interviewing / asking questions
    • Tripod to place camera so no need to be there
    • uStream to send out stream and record it

    Other Considerations

    • Phone upgrades:
    • Have a sign that says, “we’re streaming live”. While recording I was thinking of the implications of this for privacy
    • Have a dedicated chat room to interact with the viewers. At least had a screen of some hashtag that we could sometimes show on twitter.
    • Get better upstream for better video and audio
    • Have a dedicated screen / projector / laptop on our booth showing what’s streaming.