Saturday, 20 October 2018

The new 4G router

Well the new modem duly arrived - a Huawei device rebadged by Telstra, unlike my previous unlocked MF910V which was a rebadged ZTE unit.

Physically it's about the same size, but a bit heavier and bulkier, possibly due to a heavier battery being used to give it a longer life.

Fitting the SIM was a bit of a pain - it uses a mini sim and it needs to be slotted into a pretty stiff clip and locked into place, but then that's something you only have to do once.

One nice feature is that it can double as a pager and receive SMS messages - Telstra use this to send you messages about your data running low, or about planned service outages, but there's no reason why you can't use it as a pager substitute.

With my standard connectivity test - look at a UK university's home page - in this case the University of Huddersfield - performance was obviously slower than over our NBN connection but felt comaparable to the performance of our previous ADSL link.

The charger is a standard USB charger but one with the USB slot on the top, not the side meaning it doesn't take up two sockets space on a standard powerboard, which is a nice ergonomic touch.

All that remains to do now is to field test it - something that will have to wait a week or to. In the meantime there's the question as to what to do with my old unlocked device - whether to keep it as a spare or in case of overseas travel, or attempt to sell it ...

Thursday, 18 October 2018

4G routers and family data pools

A year ago I wrote about how we'd been able to get a cheap 4G data connection for our portable router by using Telstra's family data pool feature. Basically we have a 4G router for when we go travelling to let us use our laptops and tablets while we're away to avoid dealing with shitty hotel wifi, or indeed holiday cottages with no internet at all. By using the data pooling feature we could buy a minimal amount of data for the router's contract and use the excess unused data from our phone contracts instead.

Well, the bad news is that Big T doesn't do family data pool contracts any more, and as our initial special offer 12 month contracts were about to expire we had to change contracts - or else carry on as we were but pay silly money (the first one's free but come back to me...).

So we changed.

This of course left our 4G router on a minimal 1GB contract, so that needed a new contract as well.

Naively, I imagined we could just upgrade to a new bring your own device plan, but no you can't do that unless you're a business (or more accurately have a business registration number).

Now, I used to have one of these, as it was the only way I could get paid for some external work that I did, but I closed it down as there's an administrative overhead in keeping it live - basically you have to keep records, file business activity statements and do a business tax return.

None of it is really difficult, you can do most of it yourself, but it's a hassle. So, while I thought about reregistering for thirty seconds, I decided no.

So the bottom line is that Telstra no longer sell ordinary people sim only data plans. Optus and Vodafone still do but there's the problem of their poorer coverage outside of Metro areas. There's also the question of how much data you need.

We basically use it for email, twitter, and web. We don't stream video while we're away, but we do sometimes backup camera SD cards, so waving your hands you could say we use an average of a little under 1GB a day, and our average trip inside Australia is around 10days, or more accurately we have a maximum of 10 days usage - decent free wifi is becoming more common, even in bush cottages.

So basically 10GB a month should do us. Optus and Vodafone charge $30 a month for a 12 month sim only 10GB plan.

Insanely, Telstra charge $29 a  month for a 24 month 10GB plan that includes a new 4G router - basically just a newer version of our existing unit - battery backup is a little better, it's got a nicer control and display panel, but it's essentially the same device.

It's almost as if they have a pile in a warehouse they're trying to get rid of.

So we're getting a new portable 4G router ...

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

ipods in 2018

A long time ago - 2007 - to be exact - I bought myself a 4GB ipod from the Apple store in Cupertino.

And it was a truly excellent device, and one that I used mainly for listening to podcasts.

Light, portable, would fit in a shirt or jacket pocket.

But it was not to last - around about 2012 the rotary switch thingie on the front died, and I stupidly didn't do anything about getting it fixed, and instead variously tried a cheap no name MP3 players, which worked fine for one off recordings of webinars and lectures, but they were all universally a pain to use for podcasts as they had no itunes or other podcast app integration. I also tried  an old tablet with gpodder (too unreliable, too bulky), using my phone (wrong religion, I've always preferred Samsung to Apple), and in the end I decided life was too short, and anyway Apple no longer made ipods (not strictly true - the ipod touch is still hanging on in there and Apple will sell you a nice reconditioned one for a price) -  and yes I could have got myself a cheap refurbished ipad, but I've already got way too many computers.

In the end, I found myself downloading podcasts to a USB stick and playing them back via the soundsystem in the loungeroom.

That wasn't exactly optimal and I still needed something that I could listen to podcasts on over lunch at the project. (Or potting on seedlings.)

So I bought myself a reconditioned ipod off of ebay. That was about eighteen months ago. I never got round to setting up itunes on windows properly, clearing out junk from god knows how long ago, etc, etc., so it languished in a drawer for that long.

Finally however, I've dug it out and configured everything the way I want. And it was worth it.

It may no longer be supported in hardware terms, but the itunes ecology still supports it, it syncs and deletes files sensibly, and basically does everything I want, not too mention the excellent sound quality ...