My latest little "toy" is a RouterBoard 750. This is a tiny little device -- smaller than a CD case, though a little thicker -- with a little embedded MIPS system plus five 100Mbit Ethernet ports and (I think...) a switching ASIC tucked inside.

It comes running Microtik RouterOS, a heavily-customised Linux. It can basically do just about anything network-wise that you could do on a Linux machine, with a nice little custom shell for configuration and management.

Right now I have a fairly simple setup. The WAN port is connected to my old Billion ADSL unit, which is running in bridged mode. The RB is handling the PPPoE session with my ISP, and as my ISP does native IPv6 I've got the v6 stuff enabled on the RB. This gives me native dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 to all of my home network.

The RB is also running a PPTP session to my Panix v-colo, and it's routing the Pandora /24 down that VPN. So when any device on my home LAN wants to talk to Pandora, it looks like I'm in New York, not Melbourne, and thus...

It's also doing DHCP and DNS for the home network, and it looks like it can do all sorts of neat tricks with packet filtering and routing.

The next two tricks I want to work on are finding some way to make an entire device on my LAN do all its outside communication via that VPN -- so I could tell my AppleTV to pretend it's in New York, opening up lots of possibilities! -- and getting kind of complicated with IPsec/IPIP and BGP to join a local pooled-resources VPN over which all members provide access to their media and similar such.


Jul. 8th, 2011 12:39 pm
Finally got bored enough to watch/listen-to the WWDC keynote from last month yesterday.

There's been lots of press coverage of iTunes Match and the music portion of the iCloud offering, but just in case you've been living under a rock for the past month: music purchased from iTunes will get the same treatment as iOS apps. Buy once, download to any (supported) device as many times as you need to.

iTumes Match is the bit which meant they needed to go negotiate new license terms with the record labels. The deal is that you pay Apple $25/year (if the service is available in your area) and iTunes will check through your library and upload the metadata to iCloud. Any song that matches what they already have in the iTunes catalogue becomes available to you on all your (supported) devices, whether you bought it from iTunes or not. Songs that aren't available from iTunes get uploaded to iCloud.

As a quick aside: Google and Amazon arguably don't need (new) licenses to provide their services, as they're essentially just providing online storage for whatever bytes you care to throw at them. They may well be doing something funky with block-level de-duplication on their end, but it's not the same as what Apple is doing.

The more interesting -- to my mind -- features of iCloud are the bits that aren't getting much press so far. The first is called "Photo Stream", and the deal is that when you take a photo with your iPhone or import a photo into iPhoto on your Mac, it's automatically uploaded to the cloud and synced back down to your other registered devices. Computers (Mac and Windows) keep everything, iOS devices keep the last 1000 photos, and the cloud keeps a rolling 30-day window. To hang on to a specific photo from the photo stream you just move it to an on-device album.

Now, if you've gone all-Apple and are happy taking photos with your iPhone -- which if the Flickr stats Jobs presented are accurate is true for a lot of people -- then this looks like a fantastic deal. No more worrying about backing up your photos or having to copy them around the place to display or edit on other devices. The storage used for this isn't included in the per-user quota.

The other neat-o whizzy feature is document/data storage and sync. The demo case for this is Pages on iOS: make a change to a Pages document on your iPad, the change is automatically pushed to the cloud and synced back to your other registered devices. Open the document on your iPhone (for example) and you go right back to where you were last time you were editing.

They're providing API support for both documents and key/value pairs, so it'll be interesting to see what developers come up with. It seems kind of obvious that almost anything which stores data locally could benefit from this.

So long as you're happy with Apple having access to your data, of course...

This is unlikely to get corporate use, but it does look pretty nifty for individuals and small businesses who don't have any regulatory issues to deal with.

How it handles conflicts and devices going offline remains to be seen. An obvious case would be that you make some edits to a document while you're out of cell coverage. Presumably it queues the uploads for later, but what happens if (say) you turn the phone off because the battery is running low, then make some edits on your iPad before the iPhone has had a chance to push its changes?
With the announcement that Telstra and HTC have decided between them to drop Sense from the Gingerbread update for the original Desire, I've opted to take another look at just what can be done with third-party tools.

This post is going to be a little screen-shot heavy, so I'll put the rest behind a cut.

Read more... )

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the results.
Looks like my wild guess that the N9 hardware was suitable for Windows Phone 7 wasn't too far wrong. "Sea Ray" has been leaked, and it's physically it's pretty much the same as the N9, but with a camera key and the WP7 soft-keys at the bottom.

GSMArena has more info. If you watch the video on the Hungarian source site from the start, Elop also says they're going to use the N9's MeeGo UX in future products -- sounds like maybe WP7 is going to wind up getting some of that swipe-y goodness.
Yesterday Nokia announced their first MeeGo smartphone, the N9. It may well be the last, too, but I'll leave that to one side for a moment.

Hardware-wise there's a lot to like. It's a unibody polycarbonate unit with 3.9" AMOLED display using Nokia's ClearBlack whatsit and a Gorilla Glass front. The radio looks very nice, one of the few penta-band UMTS devices out there (it'll do 3G on 850, 900, 1700, 1900, and 2100). The CPU is reasonable, an ARM A8 at 1GHz, and the GPU is a PowerVR SGX530. It has plenty of memory (1GB of RAM, 16 or 64GB of storage).

Stick a shutter button on it and add a couple of soft-keys on the front at the bottom, and it's pretty much all set to be a Windows Phone 7 unit. So even if you think MeeGo is a complete dead end, the device itself isn't necessarily a waste of their time.

There are a couple of videos demoing the MeeGo interface, and they look pretty slick. What they don't show is the email or messaging applications, or the soft keyboard. Which seems like quite an omission.

There's got to be stuff missing from MeeGo. If it were really feature-complete now, the announced move to WP7 would be completely crazy. Whether you like their decision or not it's unlikely that it was taken lightly.

Given that the hardware work is likely applicable to the longer-term WP7 strategy, leaving this going on the back-burner is not a particularly bad idea for Nokia. It's likely only eating a small proportion of their R&D budget -- bear in mind that Nokia spends a lot on R&D, so even a small slice is still Real Money -- so there's no great harm in letting it roll along. Then if the WP7 gamble doesn't pay off, well, they've got a platform all ready to go.

I doubt I'll be buying one, but the hardware bodes well for the eventual WP7 devices, and the software does look interesting. I'd happily give one a go if I wasn't paying...
A fair while back I gave up on trying to use my Bluetooth headset with the stock HTC Desire build of Android. Then two weeks ago I gave it another bash, and figured out how to make it work reliably.

The basic issue, it turns out, is that the HTC ROM takes much longer to detect and then use the headset, and you must get the order right. Headset powered on first, then enable Bluetooth on the phone, then wait for it to detect the headset, then wait a little longer until you hear a tiny bit of static on the headset, and finally you'll have calls routed to it.

The process takes about a minute, compared to doing the same on other ROMs on the same phone. With CM7 or Oxygen this process is much faster and you can switch on BT or the headset first and it doesn't make much difference.

Disabling this after your call also has to be done correctly. Turn BT off on the phone, wait until the "Headset disconnected" message appears, then turn the headset off. If you don't get it right I've found my Desire sometimes reboots...

I did report this to HTC support a while back but they don't really give a damn.

Now, Skype... The current version of Skype running on the current stock ROM works, mostly, except for one "small" detail: when you trigger the proximity sensor to switch the screen off, then try to get the screen back, the Skype call screen goes black and stays that way until the call is disconnected by the other end. At that point it'll go back to the dialler.

Reported this one to Skype, and they cared even less than HTC. At least HTC could be bothered with more than a canned response which indicated they hadn't even read the message...
When I picked up the original Galaxy Tab on deep discount I stopped using my iPad because the Tab is significantly lighter, smaller, and more convenient for general mobile use.

But a few days ago I re-charged the iPad, bought a book from the iBook store -- something I've not done previously, on the grounds of not wanting to be locked in to using only Apple devices to read, but this was acceptably cheap and disposable -- and yeah, the purchase experience is about as smooth as you would expect from Apple.

Having had the two for a fair while now -- the iPad for about ten months, the Tab for three -- I have a few conclusions:

  1. The iPad is a nicer overall tablet experience. The hardware is slicker, the battery lasts longer, and many applications are explicitly supporting the larger display. iPhone apps work acceptably, too.
  2. The Tab is a much better portable. It'll fit in a large-ish coat pocket with no trouble, and it's the sort of thing you can pull out while waiting at a tram stop to check email or do a little reading, much as you might with a mobile phone.
  3. Android 2.x works okay on a 7" display, and all the apps I've tried have been fine, but very few are really intended to run on such a large screen. This will presumably get better with 3.x and 4.x.
  4. Comparing what's currently available, even Android 2.2 is a more natural multi-tasking platform than iOS 4.3. This will likely change once iOS 5 is released, though Android does allow rather more background functionality if you want or need it.

Removing the iPad from the leather case I bought for it, it stops looking like a clunky old beast and goes back to the "wow, this is a really nice bit of kit!" category.
Been reading up on the new stuff in iOS 5. A few comments.

The notification centre is of course basically a copy of what Android has been doing from the start. That's okay, it seems to be the best way to handle notifications, and they've improved on it a little with the widgets.

The lock-screen notifications are much better than I've seen on any Android devices. The typical lock-screen notification arrangement on Android is an icon in the notification bar and maybe a flashing LED. None of that is interactive -- you unlock the phone and then pull down the notification area.

Reader mode in Mobile Safari is a nice touch. I'll be curious to see just how large a font it really allows, but at least the UI is not indicating an arbitrary three or four sizes. Combined with the existing inverse-mode display this could be very nice for people with shonky vision.

The handling of apps and syncing via iCloud looks good. How much of that functionality will be available outside the US is another question though. Wait and see, I guess.

Using the volume key as a shutter key in the Camera app is encouraging. Maybe they'll include a proper shutter key on the next hardware revision?

I'll most likely be sticking with Android in the longer term, but interesting and useful new things in iOS helps everybody, just like interesting and new things in Android and WP7 helps iOS users.

It's also heartening to see Apple has backed down on the in-app purchasing debacle.
Amaysim have been getting a bit of press over their latest "unlimited" offer. You pay them $39.90, they give you "unlimited" cell phone service.

There are some catches, though, and while it's a vaguely attractive offer you need to be aware of them.

First off, Amaysim is a VMNO using the Optus network. So if your Optus coverage is lousy, your Amaysim coverage will be too. Most of the mobile services available in Australia which aren't the Big Three (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone/3) are actually VMNOs operating on the Optus network, with maybe one or two exceptions who're VMNOs on Vodafone.

Second, there's a huge list of exclusions. You may or may not care about them. They're all outlined in the terms and conditions document, but basically anything that isn't a voice call within Australia to a regular mobile or landline, or a text message within Australia, or picking up voicemail, is excluded. That includes but is not limited to calls to satellite phones (most service charge extra for these), calls to special numbers (including those that are supposed to be free), video calls (not that I've ever seen anyone make one), and a bunch of other stuff.

Third, while the data allowance looks generous at 4GB/month, as best I can make out they're billing that in 1MB chunks per session. They're not really very clear about this, but anecdotal wossname online says a "session" times out after 15 minutes, so if you have your phone collecting email you could easily be eating 4MB/hour when the actual traffic is a couple of kilobytes. At that rate you'd eat 2.8GB of that 4GB in 30 days with very little actually going on. Mind you, a session that really does use a full megabyte is still charged for using a megabyte, so it's not all bad, but it's something to be aware of.

(Incidentally, Boost Mobile is another Optus VMNO with a similar offer, and they do the same with the data blocks. I guess it's just another way to have an impressive marketing spray without too much risk.)

Finally, it's "personal use only". I have no idea if my four-times-a-week calls in to work for a conference call constitute "personal" or "business" use by their lights, and suspect it may simply come down to whether or not they notice what they consider an unusual call pattern that's costing them money. I would guess they're looking into anyone who routinely costs them more than $40/month to service, as that's what I'd be doing in their shoes.
GSM Arena links to a nice video demonstrating Windows Phone 7.1 (Mango) in this article. The descriptions are in Russian, but it's pretty easy to follow along anyway. The card interface for multitasking is an obvious WebOS knock-off, but if it works why not "pay homage"?

Every time I see one of these I feel tempted to pick up a WinPhone. Mobicity has a couple of models for under $400 outright now, which for a smartphone is a pretty good deal. But WP7 has a bunch of stuff that doesn't work quite right here, and while I'd like to hope that Microsoft will fix that in the next release, I wouldn't count on it.

(The Samsung Omnia 7 is probably the most tempting of them, very similar to the i9000 Galaxy S, but with WP7. AU$399.)

Plus Nokia will have their first batch out later this year, and I'm really curious to see what they do with it. Their speciality is making nice reliable phones with excellent cameras, keyboards, and radios, so while I'd have loved to see what they might've been able to do with Android, I'm still very interested to see what happens with their WinPhones.
The devices announced at MWC back in February are finally starting to come on to the market.

I had been thinking that the S-E XPERIA Arc was going to be the best of the bunch. If you want a really good camera in an Android phone and that's the most important thing for you, then it still is, but otherwise it's not entirely ideal. If it'd been released six or twelve months ago it would've been the best thing on the market, so it's still not a bad choice.

For top-end right now I'd go with a Samsung Galaxy S II. It's what I'd be buying if I were upgrading today. Big beautiful screen, Android 2.3, dual-core processor, and a gig of memory so it can handle running a bunch of stuff at once. Really the only drawback I can see is the lack of a shutter key, but almost all Android phones have this problem except the new S-E devices.

For mid-range, either the older Galaxy S or the new S-E XPERIA Neo. The Neo is probably the better bet, it's a newer device so it'll get updates for longer.

The update situation is looking a lot better. Most of the major manufacturers have agreed to do updates for at least 18 months after release. Whether they stick to that is another question entirely, but it's a good start.

If you want to hack your phone, go with a new S-E unit. Everyone else is locking down their bootloaders and not providing any ("legit") way around that. You'll have to buy an unlocked unbranded unsubsidised unit, but at least it's an option. Motorola have said they'll be doing something at some point, but so far S-E are the only ones to have been really explicit about this. HTC used to be great, but their latest phones are locked down.

As tempted as I am by the SGS II my Desire is only a bit over a year old so it's not really justifiable right now. The Desire is due for a 2.3 update soonish, and by the time it's two years old the landscape is going to be different again: I expect S-E will have dual-core phones, and Nokia's WinPhone 7 devices will finally be out. Maybe they'll be flops, but there's potential there.

And the iPhone 5 will have been out a while, so if there's anything genuinely revolutionary in it we'll be starting to see the droid OEMs responding.
This should not be difficult, and it isn't, really, but it's poorly documented outside the horror that is the Oracle support site and I just wasted several hours on it, so figure it may as well get some sort of documentation on the open Web.

Usually when you add a disk to a Solaris system you can just run "cfgadm -al" and you'll see the new disk in the list. You may need to run "cfgadm -c configure [device]" to bring it online, but once you've done that you're all set and can manipulate it as needs be.

However, if you have the fancy LSI MegaRAID controller -- which you likely will if you have more than two spindles -- it takes a bit more faffing about. You can of course reboot the box and go into the poorly named "web" intertface (which has no connection to the Web at all, and is in fact an annoyingly mouse-driven and keyboard-hostile "GUI" which really doesn't work at all well if you're on a different continent to the machine!) but this is sub-optimal.

Theer's also the pre-boot CLI, which is an abomination.

So you want the MegaCli tool, which you can get from Oracle if you have a support contract. It's on the "Drivers & Tools" ISO. It's an 8MB package, but you'll have to download the ~400MB zip file for the full ISO to get it.

The commands you'll want to run are:

./MegaCli -PDList -aALL

Look over the list of physical devices, the new one will be marked "unconfigured". You also want to note the "enclosure" number, every one of these I've touched has used 252 for the internal disks. Let's assume the disk is in adapter 1, enclosure 252, slot 5:

./MegaCli -CfgLdAdd -r0 [252,5] -a1

You should now be able to see the disk in "cfgadm -al", and it should already be "configured".

From here it's just the usual deal. Chances are the disk isn't really ready for Solaris, so assuming it appears as target 2 on controller 0 you'll need to run:

fdisk /dev/rdsk/c0t2d0s2

before you can usefully do much with 'format'. 'fmthard' will probably work without this, but it's best to do it anyway.

The following page is incredibly helpful. Dell PERC is just LSI MegaRAID, so it's all the same:

DELL PERC5/i Integrated (LSI Logic MegaRAID)
– Emergency Cheat Sheet
Looks like one can change which WCDMA frequencies a Tab is using, so even if one has a Telstra model one could in theory use it on say T-Mobile USA.

  1. In the Phone app, enter
    * # * # 1 9 7 3 2 8 6 4 0 # * # *

  2. Menu-key, "Select", "8" (Phone Control)
  3. Menu-key, "Select", "7" (Network Control)
  4. Menu-key, "Select", "2" (Band Selection)
  5. Select which bands you want
  6. Menu-key, "Back"

I have an Optus SIM on the way, will see how it goes on 900. Or maybe even 900/2100, if I can convince it to use the pair. Can't guarantee it'd work with 1700, though that's on the list. Would probably need a T-Mobile SIM in there to even try.
Telstra just cut the price of the 7" Galaxy Tab again. First it was $408, now it's $299. This is the 850/2100 HSPA device, good for the Telstra NextG network, most of Europe, and some AT&T areas. No network locks, no contracts.

Having bought it at $408 I'm very slightly miffed, but it's not a big deal. At $408 I thought it was a good deal, at $299 it's pretty much a steal. Wouldn't be surprised to see some enterprising types buying these then reselling them to Americans and Europeans on eBay...
I don't use an iPhone these days, and I'm doing my e-book reading on a Samsung Galaxy Tab now, so why do I care about Apple's rules about content on iOS devices?

A quick explanation of those rules may prove helpful: if you sell content (either as a subscription or as a purchase) and want an iOS application for your customers to view it then you have to make the same content/service available via in-app purchasing from your iOS application, at the same price as it is available outside the iOS in-app purchase system.

Apple takes a 30% cut of those sales, so either you have to eat the 30% revenue reduction on all sales made via IAP or you have to increase your prices across the board to keep your revenue where it was. My best guess is that any vendor who goes along with this will probably do a bit of both: increasing all your prices to take the 30% cut into account will alienate everyone, but there's a fair chance that your business model just won't survive too many of your customers switching to a channel which costs you 30% of the sale.

My particular area of interest is e-books, but you can expect this to hit other services too even if they're not immediately in the firing line. Hulu Plus, Netflix, the international BBC iPlayer, paid Dropbox subscriptions, there are plenty of possibilities here.

But to take just the e-book space for a moment...

There are a couple of players in this market. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Borders/Kobo, plus the various stores offering Adobe ADE ePub books without their own apps. Oh, and Apple.

If you're Amazon or B&N, you're going to have to think about whether you want to lose that 30% on all IAP sales, or increase prices for everyone, or somehow re-negotiate your distribution deals to take the changed situation into account. Or you can choose to forego the iOS native application entirely and provide a browser-based service for iOS users.

That last option must be looking pretty appealing right now. have shown that it's quite possible to do this in a way which provides offline access to books and with a pretty good reading experience. Their reader isn't perfect, and I still much prefer the Kindle application to reading from, but the deficiencies are probably all solvable.

Doing that puts you at a disadvantage against anyone who'll eat the 30% and do a native application, but on the other hand you get to keep the 30% and can probably compete rather effectively on price. Except when you're competing against Apple, because of course they don't have to find a 30% cut to pay themselves, do they?

There are all sorts of reasons not to buy books from Apple -- being locked-in to iOS devices only, the really lousy range (I just looked for the last three books I bought from Amazon, and none of them are there), the iBook application itself not being all that great (though that's a matter of personal taste) -- but one imagines that pushing Amazon, B&N, and all the other content competitors off iOS is exactly what Apple wants. Why settle for "just" 30% of the purchase revenue when you can have all of it?

iOS is still a great money-maker for developers, if they can get their applications on the platform and if they get lucky and have a hit. But if you're selling a service rather than an application, consider your days on iOS numbered. Even if Apple aren't coming for you now, there's every chance they will be soon enough.
This arrived yesterday afternoon, so I've had it for just on 24 hours. Obviously not long enough for an in-depth review, but some first impressions seem appropriate.

Solid, well built. Slightly smaller than the Kindle 2, though also slightly heavier. Significantly smaller and lighter than the iPad, it's very easy to hold in one hand. The 7" screen makes the keyboard large enough for even my big hands, but small enough to not require too much stretching to type. Can't say much for the Samsung keyboard as I installed the Gingerbread one pretty much right away.

Works very nicely for reading ebooks. Being able to hold it in one hand is a big plus for this. The bundled ebook application is okay, but nothing special. Not being able to disable the page-turn animation is my biggest complaint, though it's also a bit slow to open a book. Kindle and Aldiko work very nicely, though, as does the Comixology Comics app.

Battery drain with the radios on is pretty fast. In that use-case, it's a "charge every night" deal, just like most smartphones. With the radios off it lost 2% of the battery in 12 hours overnight, which isn't too bad. This being Android it's a doddle to set up a simple toggle widget on the home screen to do this, no digging around in menus required.

One bit of weird is that the browser has its own independent screen brightness setting. It's not like it's hidden -- it's on the menu when you hit that button -- but it was rather unexpected. So having the screen dim every time the browser got focus was rather alarming. Disabled that once I found it!

Overall it's pretty nice. The size is just what I wanted -- bigger than a phone, smaller than the iPad and other 10" tablets. Even with the fonts jacked up there's enough content on-screen to be able to read comfortably, even more so than on the Kindle as the Kindle app uses smaller margins than the K2 or even the iPad version.

A few third-party apps are bundled. There's ThinkFree Office, which on a quick poke seems okay but not really something I'd use much. Need For Speed is downloadable for free, not that I much care. Samsung also include Swype and a font manager, which is nice. Telstra put a giant pile of links to things and their own service apps on it, haven't bothered to remove any of them yet. One is a Garmin navigation application, which may be of interest to people who drive. They also included a trial version of Guitar Hero Mobile 5, which is fun.

Happy with the purchase so far. At the original price it was a bit of a rip-off in my view, but at ~AU$400 to buy outright it's a good deal if you know what you're getting into.
So, Telstra just cut the price on the original Galaxy Tab. It's now down to AU$408 to buy outright, no contracts, no faffing about. This is pretty close to my "impulse buy" threshold.

My interest in a tablet is not quite the same as the typical geek toy-hunter. I want something light, pocketable, and significantly bigger than a mobile phone. My primary use for the first-gen WiFi-only iPad I have right now is as an e-reader and occasional email device, and it's too heavy to be comfortable as a reader unless it's propped up. It's also too big to carry unless I'm also carrying a bag.

As best I can tell (looking at GSM Arena) the original Galaxy Tab (380g, Froyo) is the lightest 7" tablet either available or announced. The other 7" devices are the HTC Flyer (420g, running Gingerbread), the Dell Streak 7 (453g, Froyo), and the Blackberry Playbook (425g, running their own OS).

Most of the devices available or announced so far are 9-10", between 600 and 750g. All of the devices officially running Honeycomb are in that range, as are the various iPad models.

The Tab has been rooted and there are a variety of third-party ROMs available. This is not an immediate concern -- Froyo is quite good enough for an e-reader -- but means there's a fair prospect of a stable Honeycomb port down the track. There are already efforts in this direction, with an alpha-quality release barely running now.

The alternatives in this space one can buy Right Now(TM) are the Archos 70 and the Nook Color. Both require hacking to get Market apps, and both lack the standard buttons. The Nook Color is surprisingly heavy for a device its size. I'd been considering both, but with the Tab's price cut in half...

So, is there anything I'm missing here? Any light, pocketable devices announced GSM Arena hasn't noticed?
It's been a while since I last did the math on mobile phone plans, so I just spent way too much of my time going over it all again.

I ignored VHA in this, as their network is currently pretty useless. They have some offers which look attractive on the surface, but there's not much point having an "unlimited" plan if you can't use it.

Went with two (approximate) price-points: $60/month and $100/month, looking at Telstra caps, Telstra pre-paid, Optus caps, and Virgin caps. Virgin runs on the Optus network. There are a bunch of smaller VMNOs running on Optus, but life is too short to dig them all up.

For each I went with the Samsung Galaxy S, as that's a very popular Android phone right now and the sort of device I'd be looking at if I were buying at the moment. The S II will probably attract a bit of a premium when it comes out, but that isn't expected until June at the earliest.

For the Telstra pre-paid, I assumed buying the phone outright from Mobicity. This is the i9000M (the NextG version of the i9000) for $649, amortised over 24 months.

So, the headline numbers, monthly:

Telstra 59 $65611$0.11
Telstra Pre 40$67573$0.12
Virgin 59$59454$0.13
Optus 59$59786$0.08
Telstra 99 $991333$0.07
Telstra Pre 60$871056$0.08
Virgin Topless$890$0
Optus Timeless 99$990$0

It is of course not quite so simple. Some important notes:

  • None of these take flagfalls into account
  • Not taking account of any bonus "limited-time offers"
  • Voicemail access on all but the last two also costs money
  • The Telstra post-paid plans and the last two include unlimited domestic text messages
  • The Telstra pre-paid plans allow you to use the "real" balance (as opposed to the "cap" balance) for international calls
  • The Optus and Virgin plans do not allow you to make international calls with the call credit, you pay extra for those
  • All these plans except the Telstra pre-paids include over a gigabyte of data. The Telstra pre-paids include less data, but it's easy to top that up using your "real" pre-paid balance (rather than the "call credit" balance).
  • The pre-paids do have the advantage of owning the phone outright and not having any contract. Also no network locks, so you can swap the SIM out any time
  • The post-paid plans are all 24-month contracts

My conclusions, assuming you don't have a network preference:

  1. For anything up to ~700 minutes a month, if you don't make (m)any international calls the Optus $59 plan is the best value
  2. Between ~700 and ~1300 minutes per month, the Telstra $99 post-paid is the best bet, unless you're using the cheesy free-bonus-calls deals Optus and Virgin offer. My experience has been that I never use them, and my best guess is that this is true for a lot of people -- otherwise they wouldn't be offered!
  3. Over 1300 minutes per month the Virgin "Topless" is the way to go. It looks to be identical to the Optus "Timeless", but they have a $10/month discount for online orders.

All that said, my money will keep going to Telstra. Even where it's not the best-value option it's still pretty close, and the network coverage is much better even in the city. If you're going into regional areas much then Telstra is the no-brain choice. (Edit: corrected the point re: Telstra plans and international calls.)

My last post was all about what I don't recommend to random people these days: the iPhone.

So, how about something more specific than "Android"?

Of the devices currently available, the two I'd recommend are the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S. Both HTC and Samsung have fairly good track records when it comes to OS updates, and both of these devices are very well-regarded.

I wouldn't recommend the HTC Desire HD simply because it's known to have serious battery-life problems. Likewise the Sony-Ericsson XPERIA X10 variants.

I don't know enough about the LG devices to make a recommendation. Personally, I'd steer clear of the cheapest knock-offs, like the ZTE and Huwei stuff some telcos are rebranding. But if what you're after is super-cheap (and thus you weren't even considering an iPhone in the first place) then they may not be an entirely bad deal. Just don't expect to much more than you'd expect from a cheap feature phone.

The Desire is about a year old now, but still plugging along very nicely -- it's what I'm using, and while the shiny of some of the latest devices is calling to me, I reckon I'll be able to resist the siren song for another year.

If you want or need a physical keyboard, the two to look at are the Motorola Milestone and HTC Desire Z (T-Mobile G2 in the US), though those are probably the only options anyway. Not sure if any Australian telcos are offering these on contract though.

The Milestone is getting a little long in the tooth. I don't know anyone with a Milestone 2, so I'm cautious about recommending it. Motorola haven't been the best with updates, but far from the worst either.

It's harder to give a sensible recommendation on the 2011 batch of devices, because most of them haven't been released yet and those which have haven't been around long enough. But the ones to keep an eye on are the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Sony-Ericsson XPERIA Arc. For a device with a keyboard, the Sony-Ericsson XPERIA Pro is looking pretty good on paper.

Mobile gamers will probably want to check out the Sony-Ericsson XPERIA Play.

The main disadvantage of the first 2011 batch of XPERIA phones is that they're all single-core. This probably won't matter much for a while yet, but at some point the odds are that someone will come up with something really awesome which needs dual-core. My best guess is that this won't become important for at least another year, probably two, so the single-core devices are likely safe enough for this upgrade cycle.

For the particularly technically-inclined user, the newest S-E devices are looking really interesting as S-E have announced they'll be providing a completely legitimate bootloader unlock mechanism. You'll probably have to buy an unbranded device rather than from a telco on contract, but if you were wanting to hack the phone then you'd probably be doing that anyway.
I realise that this is perhaps asking for trouble, but I've got to say it: I can no longer see any reason to be recommending an iPhone over the better Android handsets, not even to "unsophisticated" users.

Comparing like with like, Android handsets no longer have any significant functionality gap. Frankly, they do more. As of 2.2 I think it's fair to say that Android is at the very least feature-comparable with iOS. The higher-end handsets (remember, "comparing like with like") are every bit as well-designed and -built as the iPhone.

It seems that every DST change there are reports like this. The claim is that even with the current iOS release, some users are still experiencing wacky alarm behaviour. Really not acceptable, and it implies a rather unusual lack of attention to detail.

Throw in the downright nasty behaviour Apple is engaging in with respect to e-books and I'm simply not seeing any reason why the iPhone is a better choice absent an established investment in the platform.


Abort, Rephrase, Ignore?

October 2011

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