Sick of rip-off mobile phone deals? Of course you are! Read on…

24/09/2015

I have to use my laptop or smartphone a lot when I’m out and about.  I had an Orange (now EE) sim in my phone, and my allocated data ran out in no time.  For my laptop I had a 3 dongle, which wasn’t much better.  3GB per month allocation of data transfer: ok for the occasional thing, but if you need to use your laptop to its full potential and there isn’t a McDonald’s or KFC nearby whose wifi to steal, you’re going nowhere.

So I switched to giffgaff.  My phone was, surprisingly, unlocked, so I could use it with any network’s sim.  And what’s more, my phone (a Sony Xperia) has built-in function to use the phone as a mobile wifi hotspot.  No stupid cables, or dongles.  And the deals are great: I pay £18, which gives me 2000 mins (that’s right, 2 THOUSAND mins) of calls to other mobiles and landlines, and 0800 calls are free, as they should be!  Also UNLIMITED texts, FREE calls to other giffgaff phones, and 6 GB of data (which is a lot for a mobile service provider).  And if you don’t want to go through the hassle of changing your number, you can migrate your current number to giffgaff.

Tempted?  Give it a go.  Click here to get FREE GIFFGAFF SIM CARDS!!  And if you order your free GFiffgaff sim from that link, you will get £5 credit for FREE!!!

Giffgaff… give it a go.  You have nothing to lose but your chains!  You have a world to win!!  (cheers, Groucho)  😉

Giffgaff... so inexpensive, even diabolical infant geniuses use it!

Giffgaff… so inexpensive, even diabolical infant geniuses use it!

Oh, as I’m giving satuph away here, why don’t you treat yourself to a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus – the most brilliant book ever!!! [link] And the first reader to crack the code will get a “wonderful prize”!

See, reading I HATE HATE!!! is educational, fun, AND you get the chance to score yourse3lf kewl swag!!!


Bloody mobile broadband dongles! I hate them!

27/03/2014

I’ve been using mobile broadband for some time. I live in the UK. First of all I used Vodafone’s network, but soon got rid of that as Vodafone charged £10 per GB of data transferred (note: that’s per GB transferred, not per GB downloaded)… it worked out as very expensive. Eventually I switched to 3 (another UK mobile phone/mobile broadband service provider) that charged £15 per GB transferred. Still pricey, but a lot cheaper than Vodafone.

Problem with the dongles is, they are plastic sticks that stick some 7cm out the side of your laptop, and are held in place by the vulnerable USB plug. Laptops are portable devices, often moved around etc, and if the dongle hits something that vulnerable USB plug can easily break. A while ago I suggested to 3’s Twitter account (@ThreeUKSupport) that they should use a different design; eg. a “L” shaped dongle that wouldn’t involve 7cm of plastic sticking out the side of a device putting undue stress on the USB plug (after all the USB plug is designed as a plug, not a strong physical connection). But 3 weren’t at all helpful on this, stating that they had no plans to use a redesigned dongle. Of course, 3 aren’t the only culprits – as far as I can tell all the mobile broadband providers use the stupid vulnerable design. But does that make it right? Of course not! (There are less vulnerable devices available, such as the MiFi routers, but they are not so mainstream and are more expensive than the dongles.)

Anyway, my 3 dongle got damaged – it hit something, the weak USB plug got bent, and now the dongle doesn’t work. I have prepaid credit on the dongle which I can’t use! What to do? I’ve got in touch with 3 on Twitter again, and am still waiting for a response. And what are they going to do? I hate to think. It’d be nice if they gave me a new dongle, maybe with extra credit to make up for my trouble (after all I did warn them about this possibility). But what do you think? Will @ThreeUKSupport be nice? Or will it be a case of TSB (Tough Sh*t Baby)? I hope for the best but expect the worst.

So, what should you do if you need mobile broadband? One solution is to wirelessly tether a smartphone (or tether by wire a 3G “dumbphone”, something I did for a while when I owned a 3G dumbphone). But to tether a smartphone you have to jail-break it. Which voids warranties. Or buy a MiFi router… not as affordable as a dongle. You could creep about with your laptop, taking extra care not to knock the dongle into anything… but is that paranoia how you want to live? No, me neither.  And now they’re rolling out 4G mobile internet devices, they have to take care of their customers better.

We all need to contact our service providers, demanding redesigned, possibly L-shaped dongles (I did that, but my lone voice had no effect… maybe if we all hassled them, maybe they would do something). 3’s Twitter account for customer services is @ThreeUKSupport. Get onto them! We need redesigned dongles or more affordable MiFis. Come on, let’s tell ’em what we think! Surely I’m not the only user to have accidentally trashed his dongle. Am I?

UPDATE 18:37 UST: Well whaddaya know! I was right to expect the worst!  Customer goodwill is worthless as far as 3 are concerned.  I broke their idiotically-designed dongle, with £15 credit on it.  Their answer? “Tough Sh*t Baby”.  They want me to buy a new one!  Bastards…

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T-Mobile make me sick

06/04/2010

I’ve got this deal with T-Mobile: I pay them £x and in return they give me “unlimited” mobile broadband on top of cellphone service.

Only it isn’t unlimited, is it? There’s a “fair use policy”, which isn’t very fair at all. If you look here, you’ll see what these unfair use policies entail: details vary a little from plan to plan, but the upshot is the user has a “maximum allowance” of data transfer – these allowances can be as small as 40MB per day! – and if you exceed this allowance (by using a mobile internet device for its proper purpose – ie accessing the internet) T-Mobile “restricts” your ability to use the web!

Here’s the message you receive if you attempt to access the internet once your allowance is used up:

Notice from T-Mobile

You’ve now exceeded your internet Fair Use Policy

At T-Mobile we want to give you our customers the best service possible.

Our Fair Use Policy (FUP) helps us do this and also means we don’t have to charge any run on rates. We will never ask you to pay more than you agreed, so you’ll always know how much you’re paying and never get an unexpected bill.

Each internet option comes with its own Fair Use Policy. We’ve already sent a text message letting you know you had reached 80% of your FUP, and now you’ve used over 100%.

You will continue to be able to use your internet for unlimited browsing. That means you’ll still be able to browse websites, login to Facebook, check your Hotmail or catch the news on the BBC.

For the time being, however, between 4pm and midnight you won’t be able to do other heavy usage activities such as watching videos or downloading applications. Before 4pm and after midnight your internet service will continue to run as normal.

Your Fair Use Policy duration depends on how you purchase your internet. When your Fair Use Policy begins again, either at the start of the next calendar month or your next purchase, it will be reset to 0 and your service will return to normal.

So “between 4pm and midnight you won’t be able to do other heavy usage activities such as watching videos or downloading applications”… or, indeed, downloading files from remote machines, or any email attachments that T-Mobile classify as “large”, nor can I upload “large” files… and this ridiculous state of affairs will continue until the end of the calendar month – unless, of course, I’d like to pay extra to get a larger “allowance” (though none have a particularly large allowance as far as I can see). And T-Mobile also bans the use of instant messaging over their network. No doubt because the availability of IM would eat away at their lucrative business of selling SMS to teenagers.

Because that’s what all this “fair use” crap is about, of course. The policies are full of bull like “We’ll monitor how much you send and receive each calendar month so that we can protect our network for all our customers”. But what it all means is that T-Mobile can try to guarantee all of their customers a little internet access at the expense of those who need to use the internet a lot.

I realize this is all standard operating policy now with internet service providers, so I shouldn’t complain about T-Mobile in particular. But I will complain about T-Mobile because they’re the bastards who are screwing with me right now! And I’ll also give Vodafone a special mention as I’ve suffered at their hands too. But they are all a bunch of wankers. Seems to me that there’s a cartel in operation, fixing prices amongst themselves so there’s nowhere for a cost-conscious customer to go. And of course, like the flock of stupid sheep we are, we hand over our hard-earned dosh to the robbers when we should be handing them their own heads.

But maybe they’re not all on the take – at least, perhaps some of the thieves are a little less dishonest. Next month I’m going to give 3 a try. They sell prearranged “data allowances” so I can pay, for instance, £15 and get a 3GB allowance. The prices are still outrageous, but maybe I’ll be able to use my mobile devices for their intended purpose – to use the internet while out and about!

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Mobile Broadband on Linux

11/10/2009

Note: There’s more info on this subject here. So take a look if this post doesn’t do it for you.

Be aware that all my experience of this subject is based on Ubuntu. If you use another Linux distro, YMMV. If you’re using Windows or OSX… you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere.

Some time ago I bought a new phone – Sony Ericsson K800i. It’s a 3G phone, so I was pretty stoked: at last I’d be able to get a decent connection speed when linking my PC to the internet through this baby. And I was right: I get between 40 and 100 Kps (320-800 Kbps). Maybe those of you with wired broadband connections think this is dead slow. It probably is, to you. But to someone who’s previously had to depend on a sluggish GPRS connection, my new phone is like amphetamine on crack.

And it is so much easier to connect via this phone than it was through my previous handsets. All I need to do with my K800i is:

1. Press Menu > Settings > Connectivity > USB > USB Internet;

2. Select USB Internet On;

3. Connect phone to PC with USB datacable (the K800i also has bluetooth and infrared, but my computer is not equipped for such things);

4. Select Phone Mode;

and that’s it! The Ubuntu network manager detects the phone and automagically sets up the connection. Sweet or what! (Remember, this is with the Sony Ericsson K800i. Other phones will be different.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always like that. I don’t know if it’s just my phone or what, but connection is very unreliable. It cuts out erratically, and I haven’t found a fix yet. So on bad days I find I have to use wvdial to connect. I’ve described this in detail before – I’m not going to go into it again. Click here to go to the wvdial tutorial.

Thing is, mobile phone service providers have got something against their customers using their cellphones this way. It’s called “tethering”, and it is generally banned in the Terms and Conditions they make you agree to when you get your phone. And some providers actively block tethering. My provider obviously doesn’t block it. But that might change any day.

Why do they dislike tethering? Because they want you to buy a Mobile Broadband USB modem, and pay an inflated rate for mobile internet connection. Rip-off merchants!

Because I wanted another way to connect to the internet other than my phone, I bought one of these USB modems – a Vodafone K3565, aka the Huawei E160X. To connect via this device, Vodafone (UK) charge me £15 per GB of data transferred. This is shockingly expensive compared to what I pay for connection through my cellphone (£2.50 for 5 days’ “unlimited” browsing). But it is a better connection much of the time, when I get Vodafone’s HSDPA signal. Transfer speeds over HSDPA can get as highh as 160 Kps (1280 Kbps). But if I’m in an area with no HSDPA or 3G signal, I get snail’s rate GPRS. Which hurts when you’re paying the con men so much.

It’s also extremely easy to connect an Ubuntu PC to the internet via a Huawei dongle. Similar to the phone: plug it in, wait a short while, and the network manager detects the device and connects. The first time you connect the dongle to the computer, network manager throws up a mobile broadband wizard, which asks you a few questions about your service provider etc. And that’s it. Well, usually that’s it. Sometimes you have to manually edit the settings before it’ll work. But that will depend on whose service you’re using.

Also, I understand that although Huawei devices play nice with Ubuntu, some other manufacturers’ models don’t. If that’s the case for you, wvdial is probably the answer. Again, click here to find out how to use wvdial.

There’s another solution, if you’re having problems: an app called Vodafone Mobile Connect. Don’t let the word “Vodafone” in the name put you off – it actually works with devices on any provider’s networks. I used it for a while very successfully. I can’t give you any real advice about it, as it’s in constant “beta” development. But the only reason I stopped using it was the fact that Ubuntu’s network manager does the job just fine. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re having problems. There are binaries available for many Linux distros.

Well, I think that’s about it. So, let me just wish you the best of luck in connecting to the internet with your device. And I’ll bid you farewell!

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