Joining the Mob Mob

- - posted in Ancient Archives

I’ve finally stopped using my pager and got myself a mobile phone. People are usually surprised that I don’t have a mobile phone, they’re such common gadgets and I’m a geek laden with PDAs, digital cameras and so on. So far I really haven’t needed one, and although I’m a techie gadget lover, I’m not keen on paying monthy fees for something I’m not going to use. I’m also not sure about the wisdom of holding quite a powerful radio transmitter to the side of my head, either.

But times change, and as I’m about to move around a lot more I won’t always be near a landline, and broadband connection of some type. My pager is on it’s last legs, and pager services are almost extinct. It’s time to join the mobile masses.

I’ve settled on a T68i from Expansys, with all the trimmings (a poor but cheap and usable camera attachment and a nice bluetooth headset) then connected with Orange Pay As You Go. I was after a decent phone with good Bluetooth and low radiation, and so far I’m very pleased with it.

Bluetooth is an excellent technology, now that it seems to work. It certainly works between a T68i and an iBook - a couple of clicks and it’s all done, with no need to install drivers. The headset was also excellent value, £40 with a travel charger. Strangely Orange sell it online for £160, a markup that’s quite bizarre. Now there’s no need to irradiate my poor brain, whatever the actual danger. Bluetooth is 1500 times weaker than mobile phone signals. Now I’ve just got to get it working with Linux.

WAP2 is… possibly useful. With GPRS it isn’t as utterly crap as the old WAP, but it still lacks any ‘killer application’. MMS is surprisingly good - fun, and with a huge untapped potential. MMS uses open standards such as SMIL. I’m already pondering what neat little hacks I can build around it. The Orange MMS -> Email gateway seems to mangle the mail attachments a bit, but it works. Old SMS also has some project potential - I’ve got some old Jabber projects that I can maybe finish now.

The phone’s UI is OK, but text input is very frustrating. I’m so used to thinking straight to screen (I do c.60wpm thanks to UNIX and MUDs) that even the cunning predictive text method is horribly slow. It can’t be avoided, I suppose.

The only big problem is the cost. This thing eats money. GPRS is a great idea, but £3 to £4 per megabyte is extortion. Net access via GPRS is like the bad old days of clock-watching dialup, but now it’s data-watching. I’d pay £20 a month for all-you-can-eat GPRS, but at the moment it’s for occassionaly use only.