unique visitor counter
Information Echo » Mobile Data

Archive for the 'Mobile Data' Category

Aug 06 2009

Help Lazyweb! Trigger Applescript via incoming IM…?

Published by Mark under Mobile Data, Ponder, Technology

I’m sure that there’s a way to do this that I’m just missing, so perhaps someone can provide some insight.

I have setup a number of Applescripts that will trigger our (web administered) VoIP service to make an outgoing call and patch that call through to one of our cellphones. The idea behind this is that our cellphones have unlimited incoming calls, and being able to trigger what is effectively an outgoing call and make it a (free) incoming call from the perspective of the cellphone opens up great possibilities.

I want to be able to trigger these scripts from an instant message sent from the cellphone.

How to trigger these events is my conundrum. First I figured that I would use specific incoming instant messages (example, “Call Work”) processed by Adium to trigger the related Applescript. Once triggered via the specific message through Adium, the Applescript would go off and do it’s thing, dial the appropriate number on our home VoIP service, patch it through to the cellphone (all of this happens in an instant) and the cellphone would ring and the call is completed. Bingo - outgoing call is completed using free incoming minutes.

The problem I discovered is that Adium has no method of passing arguments or processing the incoming text and triggering Applescripts accordingly. Yes, I can set it up so that an incoming message from a specific IM account triggers the Applescript, but every single received message from that account would trigger it.

I figured I could setup a bunch of “Dummy” IM accounts that could be used accordingly (messages received at each one triggering a related Applescript), but it seems like a backwards way of doing it. Alternatively, triggering the scripts via a received email with specific text would also work, but the delay involved in that whole process (even if I set mail.app to check mail every 1 minute) makes it less then practical.

And yes, simply logging into our VoIP services web based admin panel and triggering the call that way is the simple (and entirely viable) option, but the process of logging in such several times daily, navigating our fairly large directory, and then ensuring you click on the correct number is clunky on a small browser. Being able to trigger the scripts via a keyed IM message would be vastly quicker/easier.

Surely there’s a way to accomplish this? Assume iPhone with internet.

2 responses so far

Jun 26 2009

To sign, or not to sign?

Published by Mark under Mobile Data, Money, Ponder, iPhone

My wife’s cellphone contract is expiring in the next week and we are starting to consider the options. The cellphone industry in Canada has undergone a revolution in the last 12 to 18 months on both the voice and data fronts. No longer does it cost $100 for 200 megabytes of cellular data - quite to the contrary, I now have a data plan which offers me a generous 6 gigabytes for $30 per month and allows laptop tethering, although it’s a promotional plan which has came and went a few times. On the non promotional front it’s a little less of a deal at $30 for only 1 gigabyte, but that’s a whole other story that I really should dedicate an entire new post to.

With the impending entrance of several (big and small) new competitors to the market courtesy of a recent spectrum auction, further shapeups are inevitable, and the incumbents are taking notice - in the last few months even more drastically improved monthly pricing structures have arrived offering Canadians even better deals. Of course, to obtain these new plans and great new handsets consumers must accept a contract term, and with many of the fancier handsets only being remotely affordable with the dreaded new trend of 3-year contracts, and some (such as the iPhone) demanding them (no other option) the carriers have made consumers pay for the lower rates with longer terms. Of course, without paying a hefty early termination fee, the incumbents now have the consumer locked into a long term contract, possibly making then unable or unwilling to move to one of the new competitors regardless of how much the savings could amount to.

In the greater scheme of things I think that the consumer still wins when compared to the realities of years passed, but the long term contracts are troubling to many Canadians, and there is clearly going to be much better deals to be had once the new companies arrive.

I called my wife’s cellphone carrier today to see if they were willing to make us an attractive offer in return for us signing a new contract. What we ended up with, despite the reps insistence that he was offering us a “special”, “very attractive” plan that was “not available to the general public”, it was still rather lacklustre, offering only 200 peak minutes a month, free evenings and weekends, free incoming calls, and a bunch of features which in my opinion amounts to fluff (caller ID, voicemail, unlimited texts) the best rate they could give us was still $35 per month. Not bad, but when I inquired about adding a data plan things got weird. My wife would really only need a few hundred megs per month for a device like the iPhone - really, a 500 megabyte plan would probably suffice. That said, it’s $25 for a 500 megabyte plan, but the 6 gigabyte promotional data plan is currently available again for only $30. Although the latter is a good deal (one which I subscribe to because I enjoy and utilize it), it’s a huge overkill for my wife, yet they were unwilling to offer a significant discount (beyond $5) on the 500 gig plan to make it attractive. Regardless, despite the overkill nature of the 6 gigabyte plan it would be stupid to not pay the extra $5 for it regardless.

In the end all the figures add up rather unattractively. My wife is contemplating getting an iPhone, but the fact that she would be forced into a 3 year contract with only a mildly attractive price plan (equalling over $75 a month after taxes) suddenly dampens her interest.

At this point I’m seriously contemplating just putting things on the back burner for a few months, letting her cellphone plan continue as-is without a contract, and seeing what appears on the horizon with the new carriers. Once the new entrants open up shop (inevitably utilizing GSM) we could contemplate just buying her a used iPhone 3G (which will get cheaper as the 3GS saturates the market and people upgrade) and then hooking her up with the competition instead. Rumors are we can expect to see unlimited minutes and huge (if not unlimited) data for about the same amount of money as she is looking at for 200 minutes and 500 megabytes with her current carrier.

The new few months will be interesting indeed. Bring on the competition, Canada awaits.

One response so far

Jan 24 2009

200 Megs/Day via iPhone

Published by Mark under Mobile Data, Ponder, Technology, iPhone

I was lucky enough (if you consider it lucky compared to unlimited plans elsewhere in the world) to snag a 6-Gig/Month data plan for my iPhone late last summer. After years of struggling with exorbitant mobile data costs and foolish limitations, this was suddenly the “Holy Grail” of data plans. Add to that the fact that it’s a truly free data plan (including tethering) it has actually come in quite handy - while traveling we hook our Macbook to my iPhone and enjoy internet everywhere.

Unsurprisingly the data plan in question was discontinued months later and replaced by an 1-Gig plan for the same amount of money, but that’s a whole other story.

As the months have passed, and having recently upgraded to an iPhone 3G from my original iPhone 2G, I noticed my data consumption was climbing, but after actually resetting my data counter last week at the beginning of my billing cycle I was astounded to discover that I’m actually consuming about 200 megabytes per day.

I sat back and tried to figure out exactly where that amount of data was coming from and it quickly made sense.

Podcast Download: I start my day by downloading a podcast (over 3G) that I listen to daily. I used to download it at home and sync it to my iPhone when I was using my old (drastically slower) 2G iPhone, but with the new found blazing 3G speed, I found it more convenient to just download it on the fly in the morning. Total data: 40-50 Megs daily

VNC: I spend quite a lot of time with an active VNC connection to my iMac at home so that I can monitor a piece of software running there and provide input as required. It’s a long story, but suffice to say I really enjoy the power that VNC provides in allowing me to access my iMac as if I’m sitting in front of it. Total data: ~100 Megs daily

General surfing: The iPhone is a rich surfing experience as anyone who owns one knows. With fast 3G speeds it’s easy to burn a large amount of data very quickly with just plain surfing, catching up on blogs and such. Total data: 10-20 Megs Daily

Webcam: I have a security related IP webcam and various occasionally-updated images (weather, etc) that I monitor throughout the day. With the recent addition of the excellent iPhone application “Cam Viewer Lite” I’m now able to monitor them all in real time directly on my iPhone. It’s handy, but even with light usage it’s a large consumer of bandwidth (especially the realtime IP webcams) I’ve discovered. Total data: 20-30 Megs Daily

The remainder is a bit of data here and there - the weather app, the Facebook app, email, etc.

Quite a lot of my data consumption is purely discretionary and by no means necessary from a personal or work standpoint so I could easily lower it if I needed to, but I subscribe to the “use it if you’ve got it” viewpoint.

It wasn’t that long ago when it would have been technologically impossible or financially crippling to do what I’m doing now without hardly a second thought. Oh how times have changed for the better.

One response so far

Apr 16 2008

My iPhone is now…just a phone.

Published by Mark under Frustration, Mobile Data, Money, Technology, WTF

Today at midnight my promotional unlimited data plan that I’ve been using with my iPhone expires. Since the iPhone isn’t an official handset supported in Canada, those of us who own unlocked ones have always had to struggle to find creative ways to actually get usable amounts of EDGE data at something remotely close to affordable rates.

Knowing that this inevitable outcome was eventually going to arrive I negotiated with my carriers customer relations department (retentions) several months ago and finally received an offer for 1 Gig of data for $45 per month. This was true data, not limited to WAP, or tied to any specific handset - I could use it as a I pleased, either on my iPhone, tethered, or any other handset. $45 per month still seemed like allot of money (meaning my bills would be about $100 per month including my minute plan) but I saw no other better deals on the horizon, so I figured it would have to do.

Yesterday I called retentions again to activate this option effective tomorrow, and I also made an effort to see if there was anything else they would offer me instead.

Having no success on the latter, I concentrated on just getting my agreed to $45 option. The customer service rep said that she had no way to manually credit the $20 per month (since the plan actually costs $65 per month and I was being offered a discounted rate) so she would need to just give me a $240 credit on my bill immediately ($20/12 Months) and then I would be billed the usual rate after my credit is exhausted. Not ideal, but it would have completely paid my bills for a few months, and by agreeing to this I wasn’t being locked into a contract in any way, so theoretically if a more reasonable data plan came along before my credit even ran out, I could jump ship.

The whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth, but what was I to do?

So, the CS agent put me on hold and said she would process the changes. Unfortunately when she came back a few minutes later she informed me that the plan had changed (it is now strictly available on PC Cards) and she could no longer offer it to me. I can’t say I didn’t expect this as I was aware of the changes on this plan having occurred, but reportedly some people were still being offered the option regardless. No longer, I guess.

So, the next obvious question was “What else is available?”. I knew I wasn’t going to like the answer.

Sure enough, the only other offer is the 200 megabyte plan at $100 per months with the same $20 discount being offered. This would leave me paying $80 per month for only 1/5th the amount of data. That was frustrating enough, but dealing with the representative (clearly confused about the differences between Kilobytes, Megabytes, and Gigabytes) who seemed to think that 200 megs was more then 1 gig was even more infuriating. I had to repeatedly explain to her that this new offer was effectively offering me one quarter the amount of data at nearly double the cost, and I’m not sure if she ever totally understood.

Shortly thereafter the whole situation pretty much came to a grinding halt - there was nothing else she could offer me, and I was not willing to pay >$130 per month for the privilege of continuing to have mobile data as well as a minute plan, not to mention that 200 megs per month would be constraining on an iPhone to begin with. I asked her to cancel the data option that was on my package (which after tomorrow would have gone from unlimited to a laughable 12 megs per month) and subsequently put a complete lockout of data on my account to ensure I don’t accidentally use any.

So, as of tomorrow, my iPhone is basically just a glorified telephone with iPod functionality. Unless I’m near WiFi I won’t even have the luxury of email anymore, never mind the web. I’ll probably go back to my data kludge method for the next little while and see if any better options come along that would once again make mobile data affordable, but I’m not keeping my hopes up.

The cellular industry in Canada continues to suck.

One response so far

Apr 12 2008

Mobile data in Canada: On the rant again.

Published by Mark under Frustration, Idiocy, Mobile Data, Technology

A few months ago it looked like the face of mobile data in Canada was finally beginning to change - the media attention that the iPhone garnered both here and south of the border finally woke up Canadians to the reality that we were being hosed. A great deal of very negative media exposure followed that contained blatant comparisons to the cost of mobile data here compared to the USA.

In the weeks and months that followed the cellular carriers began to offer more flexible plans and increased bandwidth limits. It was still expensive, but instead of $100 for 200 megabytes (or as low as 25 megabytes for $90 on some devices) more flexible plans arrived that offered a gig of data for $65. Still vastly more expensive then plans south of the border, but a massive improvement none the less.

I’ve hashed over the former pricing structure before here as well as many of the changes for the better that occured late last year.

However, just when it looked like things were on the path to change, in the last several weeks the only national GSM carrier in all of Canada (Rogers / Fido) suddenly clamped down all over again, but this time it’s gone from simply stupid, to asinine. Despite recently rolling out (to much fanfare) the 3G highspeed data network, it baffles me how anyone could ever expect to actually use it., and they now seem to feel that “unauthorized” data consuming handsets on their network are to be expunged simply by pricing them out of affordability.

Adding insult to injury Rogers/Fido recently introduced what they call an “unlimited” surfing plan, but only on “approved” handsets. Not surprisingly, anything that has a keyboard or even slightly usable browsing capabilities is excluded from this unlimited plan, leaving only traditional handsets with tiny screens and no keyboards able to utilize this plan. They hype the “3G Highspeed Experience!” to everyone on these handsets, but what good is it really?

- The only “Approved” handsets load a crippled WAP (or mangled HTML) version of a website on a tiny screen
- They can load the page in a few seconds, but it takes you 2 minutes to painfully enter the URL to begin with thanks to no keyboard.
- If you dare do anything other then surf WAP website (like using an IM client) they bill you per kilobyte.

Do you have an unlocked handset, like, perhaps an iPhone like me? Sorry, you’re out of luck - you can’t use the unlimited plan, and depending on how you read their new terms of service, you might not even be able to use ANY of their current data plans - you will be stuck paying per kilobyte. My carrier does offer a 1 Gigabyte “PC Card” plan that can (and in the past, did) work on any handset you so desired (so long as you were willing to pay the $65/Month for the privledge) but word is now that they are tracking IMEI’s and enforcing this plan to only actual PC cards, not handsets.

That leaves people like me once again staring $100 per month in the face for a miserable 200 megabytes on my handset.

The word “unlimited” continues to be bantered around in the Canadian cellular market in what is apparently an effort to save face, but it becomes downright laughable when one of the unlimited offerings is only for email, and at that, only to email within certain domains! Quoting from the fine print found here:

Note: Most popular domains include Windows LiveTM Mail, GmailTM and Rogers Yahoo!® and other popular e-mail services.

Unlimited e-mails are available for emails sent and received using Windows Mobile email messaging service with an email account from one of the following supported domains: Windows Live E-mail (Hotmail, Live, MSN), Yahoo.ca, Yahoo.com, Gmail, Sympatico, Videotron, Rogers Yahoo, Telus, Shaw, Cogeco. Usage done with an email account from an unsupported domain or when launching the web browser to access and use any email accounts will be deducted from the bucket of Megabytes (MB) included in your option and will be charged on an MB overage basis thereafter.

Got a friend who uses an ISP email address, or basically anything other then the above options? You pay per kilobyte to email them. Even viewing HTML content sent within an email is billed by the kilobyte, and with extremely small included kilobyte buckets included, a few small webpages can easily exhaust it.

I don’t know what sort of marketing team came up with this pile of crap, but it seems to me that this is simply another lame effort to attach the word “unlimited” to something that hardly is. Yet again, confusing the consumer is the name of the game.

In a few days my current data plan that has served my iPhone needs for 4 months will be expiring, and I really so no viable alternative that will allow me to continue to use mobile data - I will not pay 5 cents per kilobyte for the privledge, and even if I was willing to pay $65 for the one gigabyte option, it seems that now they are forcefully restricting said plan to the PCMCIA data card it’s designed around. With my iPhone usage averaging about 300 to 400 megs per month, this leaves even the $100 for 200 megabyte plan useless for me, not to mention ridiculously priced.

Once again I’m left shaking my head. The cellular industry in Canada remains a bloated monopoly that still focuses on collusion and ripping off the consumer however possible.

7 responses so far

Next »