Thursday, September 19, 2013


Moto x event 24 of 31

I ordered a Moto-X from Motorola directly last week, and it arrived. Man, what an awesome device! Nice to hold, so far good battery life, and amazing data throughput on T-Mobile's network. The T-Mobile edition of this device is carrier unlocked (tested by putting in my South African Cell-C SIM), so thats a huge win.


I really think this is now the Android device of desire; its devoid of that manufacturer-inspired modification of Android that other manufacturers (ala HTC and Samsung) do, which means those devices lag behind in the software upgrade cycle, and it is sanctioned by the owner of Android. Battery life so far is great, the "Ok, Google now" feature is pretty neat (although like its competitors, I wonder how much it'll get used), and the passive notifications that seem to be all the rage are pretty good (although frankly Samsung beat them to it).


Most important, it feels amazing in the hand, and audio quality is clear and unencumbered, which is what you'd expect from an old-school manufacturer like Motorola. Now if only it supported such a diverse range of LTE bands as the iPhone 5S does, it would be truly unbeatable. Oh well, lets wait until tomorrow when that behemoth hits.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Network locked phones


I and much of the IT industry in South Africa don't give ICASA much credit; there are plenty of complaints about them. But I can admire one thing they did; in 2001, phones that were sold were to be network unlocked.


What a big difference that made. We in South Africa take this for granted, but here in the USA, which you would expect to be a liberal and open market, phones by default are network locked. You have to generally pay more (to be expected), and wait longer (which you wouldn't expect), to get an unlocked phone. This is an incredibly frustrating process, which is usually made harder by the network operators themselves throwing up all kinds of false and artificial barriers. How long you have used the phone on the network, the type of service you have, etc, etc. See this article for an example by T-Mobile.


For once, our regulator did the right thing early.


Update: looks like the Obama administration agrees, according to this article.

Selling your iOS devices

Gazelle logo tm

Well, since the iPhone 5S and 5C were announced, there will be a plethora of older iOS devices available for sale. I have a 5, and my wife has a 4S, and I'd like to use this opportunity to upgrade to the newer devices, primarily to get supported LTE band support. It also never hurts to have the latest/greatest new devices :-)

So what to do with the old devices ? I'm going to give Gazelle a try. Essentially, you tell them what device you have, and they then ship a box to you which you put your device into, and at the other end out pops a cash offer to you. This seems to be the most effective and easy way to trade in your old devices.


I've submitted my requests for two devices, so lets see how the service works.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Google Voice

Google Voice Logo

Call aggregation or simultaneous ring are possible if your carrier plays nicely. Most don't; I'm not sure why, but I'm not familiar with too many companies who have this at the core of their value proposition.


Google Voice does offer this; formerly known as GrandCentral, the service allows you to present a single number, which

  • can receive text messages (SMS) and deliver them to all the capable devices and/or e-mail
  • can receive voice calls, and ring multiple devices allowing you to answer the call on the most convenient one
  • switch from one phone to another mid-call, as well as record calls
  • provides a single voicemail service, which can forward the voice message via e-mail and transcribe it to text
In addition, it allows you to make international calls at lower rates, as a pseudo calling card / VoIP service. I've installed it and will start using it actively, if only to mask my true mobile number and allow for a single voicemail across office and desk phones.


375641 hp laserjet pro 200 color mfp m276nw

I needed an office printer to scan & print, with a document feeder so I wouldn't have to stand in front of it. AirPrint support would be nice, but not essential.


I have always preferred laser to inkjet (generally for cost, speed and longevity reasons), which although up front costs more in the long run is easier and cheaper. I ended up buying the HP M276nw. What a great printer! Its not the cheapest, but setup and configuration was straightforward, and it has a direct scan-to-email feature, which I can PIN lock so that unauthorised users cannot scan things pretending to come from me.


My iOS devices can see it natively and it advertises itself as a Bonjour service, so configuration is literally non-existent.


For the price, excellent features!

Porting in 15 minutes


So back in South Africa, we're used to a number port taking a day or three, and usually failing or breaking. We've all heard the horror stories of the number in limbo, where the port failed or didn't go through. Not having personally experienced that, and ported twice, I was curious to see what the US experience was like.


I had initially taken out a T-Mobile voice and data service, having found their rates to be really good ($50 for unlimited voice, data and text) and more importantly, having a flat $10 service for unlimited land line and SMS to South Africa. But, their coverage in and around Silicon Valley has been average to mediocre, and often I would be without signal when deep inside a shopping centre, restaurant or building.


I decided to port to AT&T,  who have a mobile share plan which I decided to use. What a great experience - the porting that is. 15 minutes, all done :-) Now that is slick.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bank accounts and car leases

So, a tale of good service, and a story that has an undecided ending. 


We opened up bank accounts with Wells Fargo, in the Mountain View downtown. The process, while requiring a lot of processes, was painless and made effortless by the very gracious bank staff. Although it took 2 hours, we left the bank with debit cards and cheque books, ready to transact as locals.


On the car front, things are a little shakier. We rented a Chevrolet Suburban, probably the largest SUV I've ever seen. It's the vehicle on the right in the picture below, taken at a stop at the local Sunnyvale market.



I had arranged to purchase two Volvo's before we left South Africa, an XC60 and an S60. The pick up of the XC was flawless; its a great car, very comfortable and the handover was very efficiently done.



The S was a similar experience, until I parked it after driving it. As I got out of the car, I noticed scratches on the bumper, which I hadn't caused.


Then, after a closer inspection, I noticed scratches on the textile B pillar of the vehicle, which I again didn't cause.


The dealer has been informed, so lets see how they deal with it and rectify the situation.


As an aside, we've also had a lot of fun taking the children to park's, which are plentiful and very well equipped. The kids are loving them :-)


Moving to Silicon Valley, California!

So, if you're wondering why this blog has been a little quiet, its because my wife and I have been executing on a rather bold plan; a move to Silicon Valley!


Work starts tomorrow, Tuesday the 3rd of September. I hope to post more as I settle down and get into the swing of things.