Unlocked Cell phones

23 October 2007

Walt Mossberg recently wrote that he wanted the cell phone companies to Free My Phone so that he could use whatever phone he wanted, with whatever software he wanted.  There’s a lot of pros and cons about his position in my opinion, but its a debate that I’ll leave aside for now.

There are a lot of us out here that have already freed ourselves from some of the constraints that cell phone companies put on us consumers by buying unlocked GSM phones from Europe.  The upside is that you (usually) get a cool phone with features that many folks around you may not have, and if you don’t like the service at one carrier, you can take your phone over to the other carrier’s store and get new service without the added cost of buying a new phone!  The downsides, however, can be immense:

1.  They cost tons more  US Carriers subsidize some of the cell phone’s cost when they sell it to you. Your $100 phone that’s locked into one carrier can cost you $400-$500 if you buy it unlocked.

2.  You better know how to configure your phone.  If your a tech head like me, this isn’t much of an issue….if not, you may have problems.  Voice calls pretty much work with no configuration at all, but if you want to send a Text Message (AKA SMS Message), you better know the SMSC address/phone number, or your going nowhere. Picture Messages (AKA MMS Messages) get even more fun to configure. And good luck trying to configure the Browser to work right.  Not for the average user.

3. No Support.  If you have a phone that isn’t even here in the US, then don’t even bother calling support if you have an issue.  WAP Gateways, MMS & SMS Message Centers all have some form of device database that they reference when they need to send you a message.  Some they can get off the Internet. Most carriers that I work with maintain this database internally, so if your weird, International phone isn’t there, then you may not get those kinds of services correctly….and good luck to you to get them to add support for your phone.

Cell phone companies have a hard enough time trying to ensure a good customer experience with the number of handsets they already have….I can’t imagine what it would be like if any ‘old handset was allowed on their networks.

So to Walt, I would say:  Be careful what you wish for.

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: OtherStuff |

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) accounced a New SMB Survey today that discusses SMB company’s use of mobile technologies. To me, one stat really stood out: one third of all SMB compaines are or will use VPN technology within the next 12 months. That’s quite a large number of folks! There’s hope for my business yet!

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Opinions, Virtual Office |

Mobile Data with Style!

9 October 2007

Living here in the Redmond Washington area, you get used to a lot of Microsoft vehicles and busses running around. But lately there’s been a new commuter bus that Microsoft has started called ‘The Connector’10-08-07_1726The nice thing about these buses is that they have WiFi service so that you can do your work while commuting to work, power connectors at each seat, and you get to save the environment by not using your car. I haven’t heard what mobile WiFi service they are using or what the speed is like.  Most Microsofties seem to like it.  Wish more companies did that. Its so cool that I decided to try and cause a wreck by snapping a picture of it from my mobile geek truck while driving home from work today.  Maybe I’ll have to get my MS friends to get me on one day so I can blog from The Connector!

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: OtherStuff |

I love the ideal of Starbucks, I really do!  Get something to drink, something to munch on, WiFi so I can get my Email and data while mobile.  It would be the perfect place for us Mobile Data folks, except for one single thing — the music!   its so blasted loud that I can’t use my cell phone…it keeps cutting in the voice activation that I can’t hear the other side of the conversation.  I end up having to IM my clients in order to hold a conversation!

I’m guessing that they are trying to push their side music business, but really….its driving me to other local coffee houses where not only is the WiFi free (although not as secure as T-Mobile WPA service there at Starbucks), but the music is nice and quiet!  Maybe I’ll have to blog from the local Tulley’s from now on.

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: Opinions |

If your like most business users, you have some sort of security device, most commonly known as a ‘firewall’, between your computers at work and the Internet. Its there to keep the bad guys from getting to your data. Trouble is, when your not there and your out and mobile, it also does a really good job at keeping you out too. So there needs to be a way to let you back in (in a secure way) and still keep the bad guys out.

One way to do that is to use some sort of access software. Just do a web search on ‘VPN’ and you will find all sorts of solutions. I might write about that topic in another blog entry in the future.

This one though is about when you are on-site at your customer, and they have some security software blocking your access out to the Internet. Usually this isn’t a bad thing, as they usually have some sort of Proxy Server that allows you a path out of their corporate network. Trouble is, this path almost never allows your VPN software out either. If all you need to do is surf the web, then you just need to set up your web browser for proxy access (Do a web search on your browser…IE or Firefox for example… and “+proxy +server +setup” to find how to do this).

In my case, my business email is on the other side of my firewall, not to mention my client data, so I needed to find away through my client’s proxy server and then be able to get securely through my firewall to my internal network.

My solution was OpenSSH on a server inside my firewall, and a product called Tunnelier from Bitvise. There are many websites out there that describe how to set up OpenSSH. There are also a few commercial packages of SSH for many different operating systems. I used OpenSSH for Linux myself, since I had that on hand and it was already installed.

Tunnelier is software that will “tunnel” Internet connections in a secure and encrypted way over the Internet using one protocol that packages up the real protocol until it gets to your OpenSSH server. Then its unpackaged and sent on to its real destination. The really nice thing about Tunnelier is that I can tell it to go through my client’s Proxy Server first, then over to my firewall and into my OpenSSH server!

Here’s how this all works:

continue reading »

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 | Posted by MobileDataGuy | Categories: HowTos, Virtual Office |