App.net The future or just another twitter wannabe?

Posted on October 13, 2012

Back on 2nd September, after having heard about it on twitter and in tech circles, I finally got around to signing up for app.net. I had briefly checked it out before, but given the $50/year fee hadn’t bothered. Is time around I decided that I wanted my @jjza handle on app.net and that the $50 wasn’t that much of an investment to reserve the name. Since then the price has fallen to a more reasonable $36 and early adopters given an extension to their original subscription period.

App.net is still very much under development and after signing up I didn’t really use it much. Then along came Netbot, a rehashed twitter client specifically for app.net and iOS / iPad and its pretty darn slick. So now I have started using App.net a bit more.

There are still not a lot of users on board, although the numbers are increasing rapidly. At the time I signed up there were around 20 000, I’m not sure of the latest count. This low user base was even more apparent when I had Netbot search my twitter follower list and give me the option of following them on App.net. The results were disappointing but at the same time it was good to see a few familiar faces like Erik Hersman, Paul Jacobson and Steven Fry on there.

App.net is still evolving, new features are being added all the time, and Netbot is a really slick client, I like the 256 character limit rather than the 140 of twitter, though honestly can’t tell you if there are any real benefits. I guess that will be figured out as we to along and for now I will cross post stuff between App.net and twitter until a critical mass of followers emerges.

If you make it over that side, follow me : https://alpha.app.net/jjza

Please share your thoughts on the new platform.

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What are the differences between the iPad 2 and new iPad (for a South African)?

Posted on June 23, 2012

A previous post of mine comparing the iPad and iPad 2 proved to be one of the most visited on the site with over 3500 people reading it. Since the new iPad  (aka iPad 3) has been out for a little while now it made sense to do a follow-up.

When it was announced a big deal was made about the screen, and what an amazing screen it is. However that is not the only difference between the devices. As a very happy iPad 2 wi-fi+3G user I wasn’t going to upgrade, and kept telling myself I didn’t need to as there weren’t really any real differences. The chance came along to get a new iPad at a great price and I took it. Looking back, I didn’t realise all the difference between the two.

Below I explore many of those differences – component by component. Take a look at the bottom of the post for a line by line factual comparison to support the opinions presented. The information (in the table)  is sourced from a number of websites. Source list with links below the table.

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iDrifta unboxing and some initial comments – with lots of pictures

Posted on June 17, 2012

Review of iDrifta here. Unboxing continues below.

I was confused last week when my mom called me to say that a parcel had just been delivered to her house for me. I asked her to open it for me since I wasn’t expecting anything and didn’t have a clue what is was. I was quite delighted when she told me it was an iDrifta. Neither DSTV mobile nor their marketing company had told me there were sending me one for review so it was really an unexpected surprise. This is the second time they have sent me one of their new products to review (the USB Drifta was also provided for review) so thank you once again to DSTV mobile  for being so kinda as to send this through, and for the nice red ribbon and accompanying letter. Just in time for Fathers day :)

This post is the “unboxing”, the review will come later. I called their call centre earlier to activate the device, but now 3 hours later it’s still not activated. I don’t much feel like spending more time on the line to the call centre (that last call was 15m+) so decided to write this up instead and try again with the call centre later. Enjoy this for now, will link to the review later.

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DSTVmobile launch a cute new iDrifta for the iPhone/iPad

Posted on June 01, 2012

Update : DSTV mobile sent me one of these to review. Some of my comments below are inaccurate. Take a look at the “unboxing” post here : Unboxing of iDrifta with lots of pictures and comments. Review can be found here.

 

Today DSTVmobile announced a cute new iDrifta  specifically for the Apple iPhone and iPad devices. The iDrifta is styled to match your iDevice and is diminutive in size compared to the previously available Driftas. The new device seems to be powered directly from the iDevice so no worries about keeping it charged and waiting for when you need it. It comes with an inbuilt Apple dock connector so no cables to fiddle with or lose.

Image “stolen” from the DSTV website

 

Being built specifically for iDevices has both pros and cons. Up to now iPhone/iPad users only had the option of the wi-fi Drifta which didn’t plug directly into the iDevice and required you to connect over wi-fi, losing your internet connection in the process. Since the Drifta client application doesn’t multi task or suspend this wasn’t a big deal. Switching out to check mail or an incoming notification would have killed the client app anyway and you would have to wait 20 to 30 seconds to reload the app and have it pick up signal again, not very practical.

It is doubtful the new iDrifta solves this problem, although you may be able to stay connected to the internet and get your notifications, so switching apps you would have seen a notification and know for sure there is something for your attention.

I often find myself watching sport on the iPad as it has the perfect size screen for DSTVmobile. Any bigger and the picture gets really blocky. Being a bit ADHD I like to do a couple of things at once so after a while I tend to hook the Drifta up to the laptop and surf the net on the iPad. With this new device that flexibility would be lost – you can use it only with the iDevice.

Still, for those who want a Drifta to use on the go with the iPhone or iPad, this looks like a really good option. It will be available in 10 days time from the normal outlets.

As always, officially the device doesn’t support jailbroken iPhone/iPads. It is unclear which version of the Drifta software on the iDevice supports the iDrifta, so the current hacked versions floating around probably won’t work. Buyer beware.

I have sent some questions to Maiyo at DTSVmobile, so hope to provide more information and perhaps do a full review later.

Justin

Press Release below after the jump

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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
pause
netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
pause

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.
C:\Windows\system32>pause
Press any key to continue . . .
C:\Windows\system32>netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
The hosted network stopped.
C:\Windows\system32>pause
Press any key to continue . . .

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

iPad apps I have bought – October 2011

Posted on October 15, 2011

There are thousands of iPad applications. Having had my iPad 2 for only a few weeks and not wanting to spend a whole lot of cash on apps I may not use or really need I have been a bit circumspect when coming around to shelling out for them. Below is a list of apps I have paid for and very brief note on what each does :

  • Numbers (Spreadsheet), V1.4, Developer:Apple $9.99
    • Apple’s spreadsheet program, easy to use, clean interface, so far seems pretty and useful
  • Keynote (Presentations), V1.4, Developer:Apple $9.99
    • Apple’s presentations program, easy to use, clean interface, so far seems pretty and useful. Haven’t used it a whole lot yet but plan to once I have the video out cable.
  • Pages (Word Processor), V1.4, Developer:Apple $9.99
    • Apple’s spreadsheet program, easy to use, clean interface, so far seems pretty and useful. The clean interface and crisp look to it reminds me a lot of Impression from the Acorn RiscOS days.
  • iThoughtsHD (mindmapping), Developer: Craig Scottv2.4 $9.99
    • Mind maps are an essential part of my daily activities, need them to organise my ADHD thoughts. This one is compatible with FreeMind v0.9 which is free software I use a lot on my PC.
  • Penultimate (Note pad software), v3.2, Developer: Cocoa Box Design LLC $1.99
    • Recommended by a number of colleagues, played with it briefly, seems good to take notes, make little sketches. Export in many formats.
  • Data Usage (Data usage monitor), v4.1, Developer: Kartik Patel $0.99
    • Keep track of how much of my monthly 2 gig I have used. Don’t want to run out half way through the month.
  • TuneIn Radio Pro (Streaming radio player/recorder), V2.1, Developer: Synsion Radio Technologies, $0.99
    • Great to listen to, timeshift and record streaming radio stations. Includes 5fm, ECR and Radio 2000 (and 6 other local stations) as well as thousands of international ones.

Must have iPad applications : radio : TuneIn Radio

Posted on October 15, 2011

TuneIn Radio (by Synsion Radio Technologies)  is great internet radio streaming application, has many stations, including nine local stations, with 5fm ECR and Radio 2000 amongst them.

The app does what it needs to, and well. It has the schedules so you can see what’s on and what programming is coming up next. When music is playing it displays the details of the song and artist when available.

A key feature is the time shift recording, the applications keeps recording as you are listening so you can pause and rewind if you miss something and fast forward to get back live. This feature works well. If you pay for the pro version you get to save recordings instead of just doing time shift.

I have mostly used the application to listen to sport. Once your channel is selected and you are listening can switch to another application and keep listening. The multi tasking is a real boon, unlike the DStv drifta application which doesn’t multi task and dies as soon as you switch away. A real pain if you are wanting to check something on the net while listening to the game.

The professional version is just $0.99 and allows you to save the recordings. A worthwhile addition.

Download it here (iTunes SA) or  here (iTunes USA).

Last chance to get your Cell C 3G prepaid bundle at a good price

Posted on October 12, 2011

When Cell C launched their 3G network last year they had some awesome “launch specials” the best 2 of which I considered to be the 2 gig and 5 gig specials. As a reminder, you pay either R1000 or R2000 upfront and then get either 2 gig a month or 5 gig a month, every month for the next year.

I purchased a 2 gig sim for my laptop last year, it expires this month. I have also put one into an Android phone, and into my iPad. Do the maths, that’s 6 gig of mobile data across 3 devices for about R250 per month. No other service provider comes close (yes 8ta does have their contract option R199 a month for 10 gig a month, also a great deal, just can’t split that easily over my devices). I have recommended this Cell C deal to friends, family and the like over the last year and all have been delighted.

Those introductory special offers now come to and end in the next few days, the price goes up significantly as at the 1 November, but the current deals won’t be available after the weekend. So look air it carefully, if your current sim expires in the next month or 3, it will be worth getting another now, or if you are in the market for a new data hungry device (tablet, iPhone, android device) do yourself a favor and get one now.

Once you have made the decision don’t forget your Rica documents and then be prepared to have a little patience, these babies are hard to find. Phone a few Cell C shops and track them down.

Yesterday I spent an hour in the Cell C shop in Carlton, they were so helpful. They had one left in stock, did the sim swap to microsim for the iPad for free, and hunted down a second one. They phoned about five or six other shops to find it, and then did a sim swap from that shop to theirnso I wouldn’t have to go anywhere else, this was customer service above and beyond, they delighted me and deserve much credit for doing good for their brand.

Good luck in hunting down your deals, it is worth it and you won’t be sorry. If you get some spotty cell c coverage, just remember what you would be paying for that same data on Vodacom or MTN, and remember they have their fair share of problems.

Your favourite iPad applications, please share

Posted on October 06, 2011

I have finally succumbed to the temptation and acquired a new iPad 2, 32 gig 3G version. There are so many applications for the device, although the SA app store is really lame. Within all of 3 hours I was ready to jailbreak my device, until I had a USA iTunes account set up and the world opened up. I hear that the Kenya app store (yes Kenya) has benefits. All of the apps (though not the music) is available and you can use your South African credit card. Another post on that soon.

In the meantime, please share details of your favourite applications. I am looking to put a post together so look forward to hearing from you to make that a more interesting post.

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.

Oh?

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.

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