Connectivity issues

iPhone
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

I was in London today, at a venue on Southwark Street and I was surprised to have connectivity issues, not just with my home iPhone on the Three network, but also with my work phone on Vodafone.

I don’t know why the connections were so poor, certainly both phones had high signal bars. We were on the seventh floor, which I have found isn’t usually an issue, but today, poor bandwidth or sometimes non-existent bandwidth.

It didn’t help matters that the guest wifi wasn’t working either.

All was fine by the time I got to Paddington.

Ten years later, it works….

On this day ten years ago I was trying really hard to read the this QR Code chocolate from that Andy Ramsden, who back then was working at the University of Bath. I think the chocolate was from a QR Codes workshop that Andy was running as part of a JISC programme. Doing a Google search unearthed this paper that he presented at the ALT Conference that same year.

Back then I failed miserably to read the code, despite using lots of different QR Code readers….

So I took a photograph instead and then ate the chocolate.

Chocolate QR Code

I even mentioned this in a blog post a few years ago about QR Codes on Cadbury chocolate bars.

It took a while to scan in the code as the foil packing and colours used on the QR Code made it difficult to capture the code. It reminded me of the chocolate QR Codes that the University of Bath made for the QR Codes project we did a few years back.

I think the issue back then was the contrast between the dark and white chocolate.

Today I wondered a bit….

So I used the in-built QR code reader in my iPhone and checked if it could read the QR code. Years ago you needed a unique app to read QR codes, today the iPhone camera has that feature built in, as do many Android phones.

So could my iPhone read this ten year old QR code, it could…

QR Code reader

Yay!

Alas…. Though the QR Code works the website link it had encoded inside it is now dead and gone….

University of Bath 404

I wonder what it was all about?

Yay, unlimited tethering

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I can’t quite believe it, but I can now use all of my data allowance for tethering on my Three mobile phone contract. There was a 4GB monthly limit before, but now I can use all of my data allowance for tethering, and as I have an unlimited data contract, that means I have unlimited tethering.

Yay!

I was very pleased when I moved to Three in 2015 having been with EE and before that T-Mobile for many (many) years. There were quite a few reasons I moved to Three, the first was that for the previous few years we had been living in broadband hell with a terrible 1Mb/s ADSL pipe. My contact with EE was only 3G and I had had it for a fair while, but even then I reached my 2GB fair use limit quite often. The main challenge though was EE coverage at our house which was fine for phone calls, but 3G only worked when the phone was in certain places in the house!

So with all those reasons I decided to move mobile phone providers to Three. My main requirements were, 4G connectivity and unlimited data.

3G was fine for e-mail and general browsing, but for streaming video, and steady HD video at that a 4G connection was preferable.

Though I don’t mind data limits, I do think having a limit constrains how you use data on a device, turning off updates, 

So I managed to get a SIM only unlimited data contract with Three for just £17 per month, which I thought was very good value for money. The constraint at the time was a 4GB limit for tethering.

I use tethering when travelling, but I also used it at home when I needed some bandwidth, as back then I had a slow ADSL connection, less than 1Mb/s.

I reflected on the arrival of 4G earlier, in 2012 when it was launched in the UK. Back then, the tariffs from EE were quite expensive, £36 per month would get you just 500MB of data. That was one of the key reasons I didn’t upgrade my EE account to 4G (and I didn’t have a 4G device).

So £17 for unlimited 4G data for me seemed like a good deal. After having the phone and contract for a while and running out of data on the odd month, I did decide to get a data booster which gave me an additional 6GB personal hotspot, which at the time cost me an additional £6 per month (now £8 per month). I did that for a few months, before cancelling, as though it was useful, I didn’t think it was value for money.

A couple of years ago, Three changed their unlimited data deal to include 30GB of tethering, I was tempted, but it was a lot more expensive than the £17 per month I was paying. I didn’t think that was worth it for the odd month when I needed more than 4Gb of tethering. I was also on the edge of getting a fibre connection at home, so that was negate the need to tether at home.

Once I had FTTC, streaming video at home became much easier, so less need to use my mobile data contract for streaming. The same was said for the bandwidth for other things such as Skype.

Since I got FTTC I have only run out of tethering a few times, and one of those times it was a mistake. 

Having a limit on tethering meant that when tethering I would try and avoid high bandwidth activities on the laptop and switch to the phone. So now having unlimited tethering means I don’t need to worry anymore.

Yay!

Check out Three mobile contracts.

Where did my hotspot allowance go?

checking my e-mail

When I got my iPhone 6S Plus in 2015, I got a new phone contract and moved providers. The SIM only contract was with Three and came with unlimited data. However this was unlimited on the phone only, there was an allowance for hotspot, which was only 4GB. This was initially problematic as at home we had a very poor ADSL connection, so I would use the hotspot quite often when I was frustrated with my poor connectivity. As a result I would need to keep an eye on my usage. Quite often I would run out. 4GB was generally fine for simple browsing or e-mail, but would quickly run out if I was streaming video.

I did think about increasing the allowance, but the packages available weren’t cheap. Today Three’s unlimited data contract has a 30GB hotspot allowance. Why don’t I upgrade? Well my contract is just £17 a month, the current unlimited data contract is now £30 a month. However since my home broadband was upgraded to fibre I’ve stopped using the hotspot feature at home, reserving it for trips and visits, again mainly for browsing and e-mail. The 4GB allowance has been fine for this kind of internet activity.

A recent trip away to Glasgow made me aware to still carefully check my usage. I was away staying at the Premier Inn which came with free wifi. According to the blurb the free version of the wifi was for browsing and e-mail and the Ultimate version of the wifi was for streaming. Testing the free wifi, I found it worked fine for streaming Netflix. So there I was watching my favourite TV shows on the iPad and though the free wifi wasn’t brilliant, it was working. As I watched the next episode I found the quality had improved, this is alright I thought. Then another episode…

Then I got a SMS from Three saying I had nearly used my hotspot allowance. I was confused, it was only five days since it had reset. Where had my allowance gone? I then noticed that my iPad wasn’t connected to the hotel wifi it was now connected to my iPhone’s hotspot.

What happened was that previously at the Airport I had connected my laptop to the hotspot, but hadn’t turned it off. My iPad was connected to the hotel wifi, however that connection must have stopped or dropped and then the iPad found and connected to the hotspot network automatically. So when the hotel wifi came back it didn’t re-connect. So the quality of the Netflix stream had improved because of the new connection… the downside was that it sucked up all of my hotspot allowance.

Will I upgrade, no, because it was an error and though it may happen again, I am quite content with a 4GB limit.

Snapeeding

Bristol Harbourside

One of my favourite iOS apps that I use on a regular basis is Snapseed. There are certain effects and image adjustments that I use to make images brighter or more dramatic.

The user interface, which I initially found challenging, I now find really simple and easy. I like how it takes advantage of the touch interface of iOS. You can swipe left and right to change the intensity of the filters and up and down to change aspects of those filters.

The one filter I use quite a bit is the HDR filter to add drama.

This is the original image

unaltered image

This is the processed image that has been through Snapseed.

Snapseeded Image

I realise that the HDR effect is somewhat subjective, but for me the key question, is do I like it, if so then I will keep it. There are images I work on that don’t work for me and these don’t get saved or uploaded to social media.

So which tools are you using?

It may not be the battery

iPhone charged

I recently wrote about the battery problems I have been having with my iPhone. A recent incident and a chat in a restaurant has made me rethink the issue. It may not be the age of the battery which is the problem, but the recent iOS software update.

So there I was in the restaurant having taken some photographs of my food (as one does) and the battery life was very low on 5%, so in order to conserve battery life and ensure the phone counted my steps on the way back from the restaurant I turned the phone off. When I turned it back on the battery life was back up to 29% even though I hadn’t charged the phone in between.

So I think in future if I find my battery apparently draining fast, I am going to turn it off and then back on again.

I need the power

glasgow airport

On a recent trip to Glasgow I realised how poor the battery life on my iPhone has become since I got it a couple of years ago. I got my iPhone in October 2015, so is two years old. Generally the battery is okay, but I usually top up the charge at work so don’t notice how poor the battery life is.

iPhone charged

Flying to Glasgow for an afternoon conference, I first drove to the airport and I though I left with a 100% battery charge, I then streamed a podcast over Bluetooth to the car audio system. This has a detrimental impact on battery life that I usually forget about, or more usually I have the iPhone plugged into the car on charge.

Waiting for the call for the gate I did use the phone and then on the flight itself watched a previously downloaded video, whilst the phone was in flight mode. By the time I arrived at Glasgow, the charge was down to 34%.

I was lucky in that the airport bus had USB ports and this allowed me on the trip into the heart of Glasgow get the charge back up to 59%.

As I write this on the iPad with just a 6% charge left on that I can see the phone has dropped back to down to 33% which was probably a combination of using the Maps app for directions, uploading a few photographs to Flickr and the problems with the 4G connection.

I guess the “solution” is to get the battery replaced. In the interim I am now carrying a “power bank” which was a conference freebie.

4G’ing it

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I have now been on Three for nearly six months and I am still pleased with the speed of the connection and reliability of the service.

In some areas I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

Download speeds

There are some days when the connection appears to stall, but this is short lived.

I am on an unlimited data contract with Three. This appears to be a full unlimited contract with no “artificial” limits or throttling.

On my previous original T-Mobile (now EE) contract I would usually use less than 2GB. This was partly down to the speed of the 3G connection. On the Three connection I am now using on average 35GB of data. In at least one month I used in excess of 50GB.

As my home broadband is rather slow, I am now using my iPhone connected to the TV via an HDMI adapter for services such as iPlayer, Netflix and other on demand services (well the ones that work through the adapter). As the connection is quite fast, I am able to stream HD video, which probably explains the high data usage!

Nov – 30GB
Dec – 22GB
Jan – 50GB
Feb – 41GB
Mar – 35GB

Checking the bills I used over 7GB on the 7th January, no idea what was happening that day.

There are some aspects that I find frustrating, however these are more down to limitations imposed by others. For example Apple don’t allow you to download software updates, large app updates, movies and TV shows over mobile data, you have to use WiFi. However as my internet contract is much slower compared to the potential speeds I can get on 4G this means that it can be frustrating when I need to download large files.

In terms of signal, one of the reasons I chose Three was the coverage they have for my home address and over Bristol. In other places it has been somewhat sketchy, but was pleased to get a decent signal in Dublin for a conference (and no roaming charges) other places I wasn’t surprised as it was rather rural.

I will say I wasn’t disappointed with the signal of T-Mobile, especially when they merged with Orange. However the lack of an unlimited data contract on 4G meant that I didn’t see it as an option. Though 3G was okay, I do appreciate the faster speeds you get with 4G.

Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Reducing Roaming Costs

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Last week I was in Dublin for the LILAC 16 conference. The last time I was in Ireland was in 2012. Back then I was on an EE contract and when I arrived at Dublin Airport I tuned flight mode on, on my iPhone as I didn’t want to incur huge roaming charges. There was quite a few press stories (and still are now and again) on people taking their smartphones abroad and racking up huge charges in their phones because of the way modern phones use data. I spent the week using wifi and making the odd call home when needed.

Since then there has been new EU legislation on roaming charges. I also have moved away from EE and have a new contract with Three using an iPhone 6S Plus. The contract gives me unlimited data on the phone as well as unlimited texts and a generous number of minutes, well who uses their phones for making calls these days?

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

Though I have an unlimited plan, there are some restrictions when using my plan abroad.

If you have all-you-can-eat data you can use up to 12GB. If you have all-you-can-eat texts you can send up to 5,000 texts.

So during my visit I was able to easily join the Three Ireland network, make calls, send texts and use data with no problems or worries. Though it has to be said the UCD enduros wifi network was excellent and faster than the Three 3G network, whilst the 3G was faster and more reliable than the hotel network. As I was there only three days, the 12GB allowance was more than enough.

After I got back I got a text from Three. According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.

According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.

Whirling your iPhone around

One of those cinematic moments that sticks out was the bullet-time scenes in The Matrix. Since then the technique has been used in a range of films, and in the past has involved multiple cameras, tracks, lots of tech and timing!

Now with just an iPhone, a piece of string and a plastic glider you can create some amazing videos. Though not as easy it sounds, did require a fair bit of thinking and experimentation. You can see the process in this fun video.