Hands on with the Blackberry 10 that is coming early next year (Febuary 2013)

Posted on September 22, 2012

Last week I was invited to attend a Blackberry function for a “key few” top clients in the country. I accepted reluctantly as others from my employer couldn’t make the event. I guess I had written off Blackberry and on the day of the event our organisation announced that employees for the first time had the choice of getting iPhone’s or Galaxy SIII’s instead of Blackberries.

I have been using a Blackberry for almost as far back as I can remember, for probably the last 10 years at least. The first was a rather clunky device with a physical scroll wheel on the side, a version 7200 or something like that. Since then I have been through many versions, from the diminutive phone-like Pearl through two version of the Bold (9000 and 9900) with an 8520 for a 4 month period in-between the last two.

Blackberry has always served me well when it came to “business” functions like email, contacts and calendar. Over the last 3 years it has also significantly improved in the “social” area as BBM took off like wildfire to replace the increasingly unstable MXIT and as Twitter and Facebook were integrated. Even as I have carried an iPad and various Nokia and Windows phones the Blackberry was still my favourite twitter client as it worked so much better in low signal and erratic signal areas.

In the last 6 months Blackberry has been in a lot of trouble per the global press. The devices were no longer cool, the network had it’s fair share of problems, the Blackberry 10 was delayed. The Playbook tablet was released prematurely with buggy feature deprived software, and looked clunky in comparison to the iPad and Galaxy tablets.

On the way to the event I even tweeted out to my few hundred followers that I was going to this event, using what I though would be my last Blackberry.

The event was at the DaVinci in Sandton. Nice venue. It was in the evening and started a little late. A simple affair, some cocktail tables set up in a room with food and drinks being served. The event started a little late as the key guests were delayed at their previous engagement. The opportunity was taken to catch up with some old acquaintances and make a few more. The mood was a little downbeat with people just wanting to get home.

The entourage arrived. The global executive team. Thorsten Heins (President and CEO), Frank Boulben (Chief Marketing Officer), Carlo Chiarello (Executive Vice President), supported by the South African team, including newly appointed Southern Africa CEO Alexandra Zagury.

Frank came across to our table, introduced himself, pulled a Blackberry 10 all touch device out of his pocket and without much fanfare proceeded to give us a very hands on half hour demo of the device and what it can do. This was so much more effective than any Powerpoint video or presentation and was a masterstroke.

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Using your Windows 7 Laptop as a mobile hotspot #in

Posted on February 07, 2012

Summary : This provides a way to share a connection (wired or 3G) from your laptop via wireless to other devices such as iPads, tablets or mobile phones.

Since I bought my iPad i don’t use my laptop (running Windows 7 Professional) as frequently, especially while travelling. I take the laptop with because there are some things that just don’t work as well on the iPad, but most nights the iPad allows me to check mail, read websites and just do enough of what needs being done. Both my laptop and iPad have a Cell C 2Gig / month prepaid card in them. As a result of the above usage patterns I am finding that in the last 2 months I have used up my allocation on the iPad by the end of the month while having unused bandwidth “lost” on the laptop.

I started looking around for a way to be able to share the bandwidth between the two more dynamically. There are hardware options to get a mobile hotspot, and these are available for as little as R700, however, this is yet another device to carry around and I already have too many, so for now that wasn’t the best option.

Google pointed me to a few software hotspots, I downloaded a few, but they all had limitations (such as only the “Pro” version being able to share a 3G connection) or wanted payment, which for software I hadn’t heard of and couldn’t test I wasn’t keen on.

After a little more searching I found the good news that Windows 7 has the functionality built-in. The only downside is that there is no GUI for this functionality. It requires a couple of DOS commands to be entered at the command prompt. No worries though, they can be scripted into a batch file which you can keep on your desktop and then just run as required (though it must be run as administrator).

The specific commands required are :

netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=AAA key=BBB
netsh wlan start hostednetwork
netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

Note that the specific name of the connection you are creating must be inserted in the first line where I have AAA and your chosen key replaces the BBB.

Create a batch file (wifihotspot.bat) on your desktop, cut and paste in the above lines, edit the batch file, replacing the names with your choice. That is it. You should now be able to run the batch file (as administrator) and share your connection. To do so, just right-click on the batch file, select Run as administrator and away you go. Simple and effective.

The pause statements are to show you the status after the network is set up, and then to allow you to leave the batch window open until you want to shut down the network, press a key and it’s off. If you prefer you could split this into two separate batch files for an “on” and “off”.

On my machine I get the following responses when running the batch file:

C:\Windows\system32>netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=AAA key=BBB
The hosted network mode has been set to allow.
The SSID of the hosted network has been successfully changed.
The user key passphrase of the hosted network has been successfully changed.
C:\Windows\system32>netsh wlan start hostednetwork
The hosted network started.
Press any key to continue . . .
C:\Windows\system32>netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
The hosted network stopped.
Press any key to continue . . .

Enjoy, and please share any enhancements, improvements or problems being experienced.

Temporary mobile internet access in Spain (Valencia)

Posted on November 10, 2011

Getting access to the Internet when travelling can sometimes be easy ( when the hotels provide free wifi) and other times prove to be tricky and expensive, especially when using roaming access from your cell phone.

Ahead of the current trip to Valencia, Spain I did some research and found a few options for prepaid 3G access. All the cell providers had options, including Vodafone and Yoigo.

In practice life was not so easy, the language barrier and shop assistants who were not into playing charades left me without access after going into numerous shops.

Finally I came across some websites who suggested Carrefour. I headed across to the closest one (near the city of arts and sciences) found a slightly more helpful assistant and picked up a Carrefour Movil prepaid Internet sim for 5 euros. They accepted my South African drivers license as ID since my passport was at the hotel. The SIM has no credit preloaded, so I loaded on another 10 euro. This gives 100 meg of data a day for 1 euro a day, and uncapped 128k speeds after the 100 meg.

At first the SIM didn’t work, but after manually creating an APN with “carrefourinternet” as the APN and all worked great. Mobile hotspot on Android 2.2 meant access could be shared between the iPad Laptop and other mobile devices. 100 meg gets used up quickly but the uncapped 128k works well enough and we are getting through about 250meg a day. For 1 euro that’s a bargain and much better value than the 20 euro a day fee at the hotel (only HTTP browsing is free).

Whenever travelling, try get a local prepaid SIM, you will certainly save yourself a packet.

An overlooked difference between iPad 1 and 2 (for us in SA anyway) #in

Posted on March 26, 2011

After Cell C launched their really awesome speedstick/whoosh deal (R1000 for 2 gig of data for 12 months – 24 gig in total) way back when, I wondered why they didn’t bundle it up with the iPad and get some publicity for their really good data deals. It was only in the middle of Feb when Gus Silber (@gussilber) pointed out to me on Twitter that the iPad 1 isn’t compatible with the 900MHz UMTS 3G that the penny dropped.

Up to that point I had been eyeing out the iPad thinking I really would like to get one – and planning to pop one of those juicy Cell C data cards into it. Plan foiled. Drat. Suddenly the Samsung Galaxy Tablet looked a bit more appealing, and yes, perhaps I’ve been drinking some of that Apple coolaid, but I wasn’t much taken with that option.

Roll on the iPad 2.

With its improvements :

  • Thinner (down from 13.4mm to 8.8mm)
  • Lighter (WiFi + 3G version is down from 730g to 613g)
  • Faster Processor (1GHz single-core A4 chip vs dual-core 1GHz A5 chip)
  • Faster Graphics (Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR SGX 543MP – up to 9 times faster) (See www.anandtech.com)

Shiny new benefits :

  • Front-facing VGA camera
  • Rear-facing 720p camera
  • Gyroscope
  • Optional new case attached by magnets
  • Optional HDMI output dongle

So far it all sounds dandy. Yeah, its smaller, faster, better makes coffee and puts hair on your chest.  Lots to look at and smile about but nothing to make me reach into my wallet. To have such a toy and not be able to consume media with it just undermines the whole purpose. And yes, I could use WiFi in the house over the ADSL connection, but that isn’t the point.

Then while reading one of the reviews (Thanks ZDNet) came the shocker. While WiFi and Bluetooth remain the same (802.11 a/b/g/n and 2.1 + EDR respectively), the 3G radio has been upgraded.


The original iPad featured EDGE plus triband HSPA while the iPad 2 features EDGE plus quadband UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) for the AT&T versions.

There is the magic number. 900 UMTS. We are in the game baby. This thing will work with Cell C’s  4gs (3.5G) service. Suddenly my key sticking point for not getting one of these is gone. And I want it. Now :)

I am surprised this has been so under-reported here in SA. This really is a key change for us, and a game-changer for me.  I wonder if the discounted prices currently available on the iPads will be carried over to the new iPads when they arrive on our shores? ?  (They were touted as being the permanent new price rather than discounted price?) Wishful thinking I know, but one can dream. R5000 for the 3G 16 gig would be the sweet spot. Come on Digicape (http://www.digicape.co.za/ipad/ipad.html) make us smile.

Link to MyBroadband post on the same topic : link

Update : Thanks Dimitri for clearing up any confusion on this and confirming that the Cell C 3G service does indeed run at 3G (rather just Edge as some have reported) speeds on the iPad 2. Just beware of coverage in outlying areas. Still, at R86/month for 2gig of data per month for a year (paid as R1000 upfront), that is a really awesome data deal. A whole lot better (still) than any of the competition are offering. And since it is prepaid, no nasty bill shock as you can’t go over the monthly limit.

Update 2 : 8ta vs Cell C  and my winner is …. 

8ta have also launched their super-duper data deal. R199 a month (on 24 month contract – yuck) gives you 10 Gig of data goodness to use and abuse with your iPad. That’s a lot of data for not a huge payment. Personally, I’m sticking to Cell C for now. At R86/month (on the R1000 prepaid option) for 2 Gig, I pay around a third of the 8ta price and get 20% of the data. Yes R43/Gig is quite a bit more than R20/Gig. Compared to where we were a year ago, this is a buyers market. Try to take advantage of that without getting tied in too long.

Update 3 : The “new’ iPad is here, thoughts and comparisons with iPad 2 here.

Wardriving on mobile phones

Posted on June 06, 2010

I was vaguely wondering if there is software to do war driving on the Blackberry Bold 9000. It has the GPS and WiFi so technically it should be possible. Google didn’t reveal much other than a few other people asking the same question. I did however come across a guy in Greece who had found software to do the exercise on Nokia Symbian S3 devices (N95, E71) etc.

You can read about Sascha’s experiences here, and find the Barbelo tool here. The tool is a bit dated, perhaps there are others which do a better job?

Hopefully I will find time to give it a try over the next week or two and will post back more results then.

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