Phones

Vista Goes Bad: Dial-Up or Denial-Up Networking?
6 March 2008 in Phones & Updates and Fixes | Comments (1)

Sigh, some issues in Vista can have strange consequences. About a week and a half ago, I couldn’t my mobile broadband anymore since Vista’s own dial-up networking feature went bonkers. The problem appeared right in the dialing sequence, after showing “Dialing *99#”, the DUN showed “Verifying user name and password”. Right then, wham!: “Vista couldn’t connect to…” error message popped up. That was strange, since the phone’s own Internet applications were able to connect to the net and download mail, websites and podcasts without any hitch.

Shuffle the Cards and Drivers, Please

So, I was thinking the problem was caused by a corrupt driver for my Nokia 6120 Classic. I reinstalled, deleted, reinstalled, rebooted, tried some voodoo, rebooted, and every possible scenario that I tried failed miserably. Testing dialing up using another Vista (64-bit, same edition, SP1 patched) computer everything worked just fine! Testing with a Nokia E90 (Communicator) failed on my own Acer Ferrari, but worked on the other Vista computer.

“What on earth?”, I thought to myself. Trying to connect via “Manage Network Connections” in Vista showed me the problem: Error 31 — A device attached to the system is not functioning. Quite funny, as in reality the drivers were working, the system wasn’t.

The Operating System Attached to the System is not Functioning

Solution: Repair install… sorry, it’s called upgrade install in Vista. I used the excellent guide from Vistax64.com for my endeavors, and it worked this time around. :) You should know that you might want to check that you’ve got 15 gigabytes of free space and a recent backup copy of all of your files before you try to repair install Vista using the upgrade path. Supposedly, if you have installed SP1 and have a pre-SP1 disc, then you can’t use the disc to do do an upgrade reinstall but you have to uninstall SP1 to be able to use it. However, I happened to have a SP1 disc handy, and the upgrade install worked without a hitch using it.

Other than waiting for the upgrade reinstall to complete (took over two hours for me), the system as a whole seemed to function much, much better. Maybe something had gone and broken it self, or Vista was just feeling down from me testing those SP1 release candidates.

HSDPA as Broadband: The 2nd Report
16 January 2008 in Phones | Comments (0)

I dumped my ADSL subscription last year and switched to using solely HSDPA, or as it’s called in marketing speak: mobile broadband. Serving as my modem is a S60 powered Nokia 6120 Classic (which is not be confused with the older model) which I bought for around 250 € at an online store. I will try to document my experiences and experiments with HSDPA surfing in this series which I’ll call “HSDPA as Broadband” in a semi-weekly monthly fashion.

Reboot, Rinse, Retry, Repeat

I have had some problems with the phone not always connecting to HSDPA or the connection seemingly “dropping out” in use. The solution to my problem is to reboot the phone just before I head out onto the Internet. Hence, I would like to suppose that the problem is most likely due to the phone’s firmware (IE. the software that the phone is made up of) having memory leak issues which causes the connection problems.

This doesn’t, however, prevent any spontaneous self-resets which the phone still likes to do whenever it feels like it. :)

For More Speed, Turn Phone Left

A quite interesting thing regarding the inconsistent speeds I was and have been experiencing recently: turning the phone a bit to the left one day seemed to increase the downloads speeds from just 22 kilobytes/second to about 110 kilobytes/second. Now, I don’t have the phone lying down on the table, as this mostly results in it changing from HSDPA to EDGE, but I have it in a penholder which holds the phone vertically and facing the south window in my apartment. This arrangement has been working out fine for the most of the time seeing as the 3G coverage is a bit weaker than it could be where I reside.

Why does turning the phone one way or the other produce better download speeds? My guess is that the 3G cell my phone connects to is a bit to the side of my window and turning the phone to the left a bit more sets the transmitter in more direct line towards that cell. But, really, I can’t say for sure.

Not So Bitten by Bluetooth Right Now

I have finally gotten the phone to connect over Bluetooth, but Nokia has left a big bug in the firmware version that my phone happens to be imagehaving. The connection works for a minute (quite precisely, even) but after that the Bluetooth stack on the phone freezes up which renders the connection useless. This has been discussed on the various Nokia.com forums and it seems there was an update available, but it got pulled due to unknown reasons.

If you want to connect your 6120 over Bluetooth in Windows Vista, then you need to go and configure the Bluetooth modem in Device Manager. Usually, the 6120 will show up as “Standard modem over Bluetooth” under Modems in the device manager. Pull up the properties on that device, and open the Advanced tab. Enter something like:

+CGDCONT=1,”IP“,”internet.saunalahti”

in “Extra initialization commands” replacing internet.saunalahti with you operator’s respective HSDPA/GPRS access point name.

HSDPA as Broadband: Report 1
12 November 2007 in Phones & Reviews | Comments (0)

I dumped my ADSL subscription about a month ago and switched to using solely HSDPA, or as it’s called in marketing speak: mobile broadband. Serving as my modem is a S60 powered Nokia 6120 Classic (which is not be confused with the older model) which I bought for around 250 € at an online store. I will try to document my experiences and experiments with HSDPA surfing in this series which I’ll call “HSDPA as Broadband” in a semi-weekly fashion.

Why bye bye ADSL?

There’s a lot of advertising in Finland currently for what the operators (or “carriers” in North America) are calling “mobile broadband”. The prices are quite low in comparison to ADSL lines:

Operator ADSL/HSDPA Speed (Up/Down) in bps Price
VLP (Finnet) ADSL 2M / 512k 42.00€
Saunalahti ADSL (in Vaasa) 2M / 1M 42.00€
Saunalahti HSDPA 2M / * 29.80€
Saunalahti HSDPA (limited time offer) 2M / * 9.95€

(* = the upstream speed is not mentioned on the linked page, nor have I been able to locate any information on normal uplink speeds in UMTS)

The Nokia 6120 Classic (Source: Nokia)As you can see from the table above, mobile broadband from the operator Saunalahti is priced very attractively even when compared to their ASDL offering. However, I should note that the last in the list (the limited time offer) is a binding offer that binds you to the operator for a year forward. So, you only have to pay 10€ for the same speed as others have to pay 30€ for. This is the offer I took the “risk” in getting, risk meaning that I’m practically chained to the operator for a year onwards. Back in March, when the offer was available, I only had the Nokia N91 which didn’t support HSDPA but I had a similar data plan which cost the same but was limited to 128 bits per second. With the max speed for all UMTS phones being 384 kbps, it was at least more speed gained for the same price.

Then, late this summer, the 6120 Classic was released at a very competitive price and I (sort of) had to buy it. The price was around 250€ and that included a 2 megapixel camera, larger resolution screen (compared to the N91), faster processor, HSDPA, USB mini connector and a too small phone to fit my taste — really, it’s a ridiculously small phone! It’s so small and lightweight that you can really forget that it is in the pocket of the pants you’re wearing, until the vibrating signal on that thing starts vibrating like something you’d have to measure on a Richter scale.

Well, let me just leave the details of the phone for a possible later review. ;-)

At the end of September, I started a slow transition from one alphabet soup to another; saying bye and thanks for the fish to my ADSL operator and hello HSDPA! It wasn’t as easy as I wanted it to be: getting the dial-up to work over Bluetooth wasn’t possible to do in Vista for some strange reason. Using Nokia Suite’s “Connect to the Internet” function over Bluetooth didn’t work a single time and neither did dialing manually via Vista’s own “Connect to a network“. Vista’s own dialer claimed the device was sort of malfunctioning, and Nokia’s own dialer claimed the phone wasn’t connected… which it was. Strangly, getting my older N91 working as a Bluetooth modem in Vista worked after I installed the driver for it (which came via Windows Update, I think) but downloading the 6120′s Vista Bluetooth modem driver from Nokia just didn’t seem to want to work with Vista. Vista claimed again and again that the device wouldn’t start properly.

(I should note here that my old Windows Mobile device Fujitsu Siemens Pocket Loox 720 did manage to connect and surf on the Internets through Bluetooth, but newer Vista won’t do the same. I wonder why that is… :? )

So, I gave up on using Bluetooth for now. Bluetooth was a potential bottleneck for the speed anyway as I only have Bluetooth 1.2 on my Acer Ferrari notebook and not the faster Bluetooth 2.0 EDR. Besides, the 6120 does have a mini USB connector which is simple enough to use and shouldn’t be too much of a bottleneck. Even weirder was the fact that the Nokia dialer didn’t really always work with the 6120 over USB either. It was playing some sort of roulette with the dialing sequence and only sometimes connecting successfully. This led me to use the Vista dialer and I found the Vista dialer more stable and somewhat faster than Nokia’s own implementation.

Using the Vista dialer mostly worked fine, until Windows Update provided a “Nokia USB Modem Driver” update, which silly me installed although I should have known better. I don’t know what the issue with the driver was, but being from the the 5th of October 2007, it was just worthless. I’m waiting for Nokia to release a better driver — not Microsoft since the last fiasco with the driver updates via Windows Update.

Now THERE’S Your Problem!

With the problems of getting connected over and done, it was time to try the surfing experience. I felt amazed at the speed of HSDPA compared to just plain UMTS (3G)! It was speedy and fast and the latest alphas and betas of Opera 9.5 just barely keeping up. :) However, there were some initial strange problems. Every now and then, it seemed like the connection seized to function and this seemed happened the most when I was using Opera. Coincidentally, I noticed that the connection seized when Outlook and Opera were both open and both were downloading emails and websites. Dumbfounded by this remarkable problem, I thought it would be best to check the numbers of connections that I had set Opera to use.

My max connections to server and max total connections settings in Opera were set to 64 and 128 respectively. This was the optimal setting for my previous ADSL connection in the past, but no longer so. I decided to turn the connection settings down to the defaults (8 and 20, again respectively) and tried again. Amazingly, this time around, the connection worked much better and was more stable although both Opera and Outlook were open and running simultaneously. Now, there was my problem! :D

What’s The Catch?

Vaasa is a city quite full of students and it is possible that some have chosen to use mobile broadband as their Internet connection or maybe the HSDPA cell is just a bit too crowded. I believe it is overloaded because someday my HSDPA connection works just fine the whole evening (which is when I’m using it more actively) and someday it works for a minute or two with a lock-up following. However, since the phone is a bit unstable, it should be noted that the lock-ups can be caused by some bug in the phone itself and not necessarily by the network.

Furthermore, the speed varies greatly: one day it is up at 1 Mbit/s and another day it is barely above 100 kbit/s (based on the tests I’ve done using Speedtest.net). Here are some of the speed tests I’ve done in chronological order starting with the latest test (dates are in the format mm/dd/yyyy):

You should also note that the distance isn’t exactly true as the Speedtest.net server believes that I’m in Helsinki (that’s true for the operator, at least) but I’m really in Vaasa which makes the distance to Tallin and Turku much much larger. Also, network traffic might skew the results of the speed test, so take the results lightly.

The operator has stated that they will prioritize traffic from business users which leaves a very likely explanation for the speed variations that I’ve discovered. Another factor in the speed might be the distance and load to the cell that I’m connected to. As far as I’ve been able to discover, the cell is located about 5 km south of my apartment. So, moving further away from the windows in my apartment makes the connection switch from HSDPA into EDGE which is noticeably slower. If someone from Elisa or Saunalahti is reading this, then let me send you this wish for next year: bring more HSDPA 3G cells to northern Vaasa, please? Maybe one of those brand new 900 MHz 3G cells could be installed? ;)

Conclusion

For the first month using HSDPA fully, I’ve been surprised by the speed but also the lack of speed at times. There are some issues with the phone that I’m using as my modem:

  • Vista Bluetooth won’t work with it
  • some lock-ups when using too many concurrent TCP/IP connections in Opera and other applications
  • it switches to EDGE when not close enough to the windows of my apartment

But, overall, HSDPA could be called mobile broadband as soon as the speed is more consistent and cells less crowded by current HSDPA users.

Quick Review of Nokia Music Store (in Beta)
2 November 2007 in Phones & Reviews | Comments (0)

So, Nokia opened their own music store in the UK today. I got some free credits to the store (and surprise access), so I went and took a look around. What I saw was nothing surprising in comparison to other online music stores, but it is a fine, easy-to-use, music store that probably integrate nicely with future Nokia phones in the very near future. The only Achilles heel in the store might just be the transferring bought music to the phone or “multimedia computer”.

Some Specs for the Geeks

The store sells Windows Media encoded music with digital rights management, aka. copy protection at bitrates of 128 or 196 kilobits/second. The store will not work with any other browser than Internet Explorer, so, sorry, no Opera and no Firefox browsers may enter. The IE and WMA requirement also means that if you want to download the songs using your PC, you will have to be running Windows. The store also requires the download of a Nokia Music Bar add-on for IE. This add-on enables previews, purchasing, download management, and playing the bought music directly in the browser. (And, yes, the installation of the add-on works in Windows Vista… probably as well in XP). If you do not use Windows, the only way of buying from the store is on a Nokia phone if it is a N-series phone that supports the store.

The Experience

Signing up for the store is simple and easy. There is a separate field for entering your own mobile phone (Americans: cellphone) number, probably for any purchases done using the phone.

When buying your first song, the store will have you download the add-on for IE. The installation procedure is quite refined, but the download button for the software is a bit obscure. Nevertheless, the installation procedure is simple and works flawlessly. The bonus is that you do not have to restart IE (or Windows) for the software to work. Nice! :)

Next, when your first song has been purchased and downloaded and you try to listen to it, Windows Media will have to download some updates (probably to fix some security holes that enabled the copy protection to be removed from the music) and finally get the license for the music you just bought.

image

Above: The add-on bar required to be installed for IE.

 

The front page is a text book example taken from the other music stores secret books, and I’m thinking of iTunes and the Zune music store. It contains showcases on popular artists, new releases, the stuff. What is also a good feature, almost required now-a-days is a freebie of the week, and the NMS has that checked.

 

image

Above: The front page of Nokia Music Store

 

A feature in NMS that I haven’t seen before is a Music Wall, which basically is a browseble wall of album art.

 

image

Above: Albu… err, I mean, the Music Wall in action.

 

Clicking on any of the album covers will open a small window where you can check out the album and other details.

image

Above: Buying the album or the album cover? Either way, it’s easily done…

 

The front page also is the new house to the recommendations where a famous artist or artists will list their own recommended music.

image

Above: Def Jam CEO Jay-Z is in da house recommending music…. :)

 

Searching for an artist or album or both, is as easy as entering the name(s) in the search boxes in the upper left corner and hitting search. Then you can browse the results by either albums or singles.

image

Above: Some search results browsed by singles.

 

When you’ve bought the album or singles you wanted and want more, then you can hit “Try These” for similar music from other artists.

image

Above: Similar artists to Dallas Superstars.

 

Show Me The Money?

The music industry is all about the money and the NMS has singles sold for 0.80 £ (that’s British pound, if you didn’t know) which is approximately 1.15 € or 1.66 US $. The album pricing is depending on the number of songs in the album, where albums with 10 or more songs cost 8 £ for the whole album. Albums with less than 10 songs are priced per song that the album contains. (This is at least what I’ve noticed, but you mileage may vary…)

image

Above: Daft Punk’s album prices varies according to the number of songs in the album in question.

 

Transferring Music to the Phone

Apparently, the transferring of the music to the phone has to be done via Windows Media Player, which doesn’t give the best experience to anyone. Luckily, this also means that the NMS should be compatible with PlayForSure devices, but you shouldn’t take my word for it. I would like to see a much simpler solution than forcing the user to use the WMP as for doing the transfer themselves.

I couldn’t test the music store on my current Nokia phone since, from what I’ve read, I should have a Nokia N-series device and preferably one of the recently released N81 or N95 8GB. I’ll maybe try that out sometime later when I’ve got time to upgrade my phone.

 

In Summary

The weakest link is Windows Media Player in this music store equation. I would seriously like a better way of transferring the music to the phone than WMP. But, looking at the overall look and function of the store itself, it is looking swell and working well for a beta product. Support for other browsers should be made possible since IE is so old and dated as a web browser.

Let Google Calculator Get the Modulus for You!
25 October 2007 in How-To & Phones & Root | Comments (0)

In a math class this fall, the teacher has some difficulty calculating the modulus of a large exponential. I didn’t have my trusty Texas Instruments calculator with me at that time but tried to calculate the answer using Google on my Nokia phone. I was quite surprised to find the answer by just entering the problem directly into the search field of Google:

8^6 mod 11

or, 8 to the power of 6 modulus 11, which is congruent with 3 (if you needed to know that). This is very useful for calculating the modulus required for encryption problems such as RSA public key and Diffie-Hellman key exchange math problems and times when you don’t have MatLab, Excel or Mathematica at hand. (Or if you only have Opera Mini preloaded on your phone…)

Nokia’s N81 Coming Soon?
2 August 2007 in Phones | Comments (0)

Kevin C. Tofel over at JkOnTheRun found this interesting website in an Google ad: http://www.070829.com/

070829

From the looks of the date in the URL, it would seem like the Nokia N81 will be announced and/or released (maybe…?) on the 29th of August this year. However, the countdown seems to indicate another date in the same week… or I’m just not counting it the right way. :D

Here’s the link to an image of the Nokia N81: http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/10/nokia-n81-and-n82-come-to-light/

I’m really hoping that the N81 will have A2DP Bluetooth profile and the rumored 8GB flash memory, since my N91 didn’t have A2DP and the integrated hard disk can be somewhat slow with Nokia Maps at times…

Whatever happens, we’ll probably hear more quite soon… :)

What’s Up, UMTS?
27 April 2007 in Phones & Root | Comments (0)

After reading about problems with Sonera’s 3G (=UMTS) network in the Helsinki area, I’ve started getting problems with Saunalahti’s (aka. Elisa) UMTS network in Vaasa as of recently.
 It is quite strange this time around, though. People can’t really call me - all right, they can try to call me but they get all kinds of strange error messages or I ”never answer” to their call.
Well, I can’t answer if the phone ain’t ringing, can I? :)

The problem seems to be in the network and not the phone. It is the only reasonable conclusion I can make for when I today went into a store, where they apparently have a GSM repeater, the phone made the switch to GSM as UMTS probably doesn’t have great reception without a repeater there.
Quite soon after the phone went GSM, a phone call came in. Apparently, the caller had tried calling me several times but without any success until now.

I’ve seen this behavior before, but the other way around, I couldn’t call nor send SMS to anyone when I was connected to the UMTS network. Switching to GSM made it all work again. That was the result of a malfunctioning UTMS antenna on the network operator’s behalf, or so they told me. ;)

So, I think I’ll be running on the GSM network for the moment and leave the trials and misbehaviours of the UMTS network alone for a few weeks time… :D (Yes, I’ve sent a report to Saunalahti, but they can take some time to answer to their emails. Large organization and all that makes email answering take some time, I think.)

Nickel Oh Nickel
25 April 2007 in Phones | Comments (0)

Apparently, cell phone manufacturers are not aware of the problem that nickel was andstill is, since I’ve started to notice that the nice looking metal covered phones contain nickel. The first one was a quite popular one over at the North American continent: the Motorola RAZR. The keypad (and perhaps other parts of the phone as well) contains som enickel magnesium alloy. I wonder how many people with nickel allergies were surprised to see that coming, and I would like to know how many more got allergic to nickel. :roll:

Well, seems like Nokia decided to join the nickel party with their 6300 phone. A sweet looking phone that I was considering buying as a gift for a relative, but after doing a Google search for ”nokia 6300 nickel” I don’t think so anymore. The search returned a link to the user’s manual where there’s an very appropriate warning:

Warning: The Navi key (4) in this device may contain nickel. It is not designed for prolonged contact with the skin. Continious exposure to nickel on the skin may lead to nickel allergy.

Nice to see that warning in the user’s manual, but why doesn’t the specifications mention the nickel problem. And don’t Nokia know of what materials the phones are made of anymore. “May contain nickel.” :?

Of what I can recall, nickel has been (almost completely) abolished from being sold in clocks, clothing and jewlery (including those nasty looking piercing things) in Finland, but this prohibitation doesn’t seem to concern phones currently.

I’m so glad that my N91 is made of aluminum and does not belong to the ”may contain nickel“ group. :)

Certificate for University of Vaasa’s E-Mail Server
11 April 2007 in How-To & Phones & Root & Security | Comments (0)

If you, like me, have a Nokia phone (or any other phone or mail program for that matter) and want to use the automatic pull mail feature for getting the e-mail from your University of Vaasa account, then here is the certificate that you will need. Unless you have this certificate installed, you will recieve a certificate error message on the server mail.uwasa.fi everytime you connect to the server because the UoV’s computer center have used their own self-signed certificate on that server.

Download: mail.uwasa.fi Server Certificate

Extract the file withing the zip-file and transfer the .der-file to your phone. Open the file there and allow the import of the certificate into the phone’s certificate list. If the phone asks for which usage areas the cerficate should be used for, select ”Internet”.

How can you do this yourself? Follow the instructions by Kevin Henrikson in “Gmail POP SSL certs for Symbian / Nokia phones“. I have used Opera to easily export the certificate, but the OpenSSL method used by Kevin also works fine. (Plus there seems to be some bug with the export function in the latest version – 9.10 – of Opera, or at least on Windows Vista. Can’t say which one is the faulty one for sure.) The settings for connecting to the UoV mail server can be found here.

Sweet Looking Nokia N95
31 January 2007 in Phones | Comments (0)

The Symbian fans at All About Symbian have gotten their lucky hands on a Nokia N95 and released the first impressions.

I must say, that the N95 is looking sweet: 5 MP camera, WiFi b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, USB, Infrared,GSM, WCDMA, HSDPA, integrated GPS with routing software, 150MB of internal memory and a 3.5 mm audio jack. In other words, holy macaroni! 8O

The camera looks to be having a sligt bluish tint on some of the outdoor pictures, but that might be because the weather is a bit overcast? The noise in the 5 megapixel shots is quite high, but that might be because you have so much crammed into so little (space). (And it is nothing a little median filter pass would fix) But, the 5 MP camera is still so much better than the 2 and 3 megapixel integrated cameras I’ve seen.

As the Engadget Mobile guys put it: “Let’s hit up the good based on AAS’s touchy-feely on the N95 — very good-sounding stereo speakers built into the sides, a diet form factor compared to previous N-series units, every wire-free connectivity option you could ever need, and a 5 Megapixel cam with Zeiss optics and even VGA video capture — what’s not to love?” (Emphasis added by me) Yeah, what is there not to love?

Gah, I need to keep my fingers away from the order button on this one! The order force is strong. :D


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