Author Topic: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1  (Read 159541 times)

I.P. Daley

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Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« on: February 26, 2014, 11:39:32 PM »
Well, the new and improved abridged Superguide is live!

For the sake of thread sanity, I've learned that it might be best to keep commentary separate from the core guide itself... which is why this is here. If you've got questions, comments, suggestions, or anything else related to the guide? Post it here.

Index

Introduction
Internet Service Providers
Cell Phone Providers
Home Telephone Providers
Home Entertainment
Closing & FAQ

The original Superguide (locked)
« Last Edit: July 24, 2014, 12:31:22 PM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

dragoncar

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2014, 12:00:11 AM »
Is this thread in any way OFFICIAL?

I.P. Daley

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2014, 12:06:18 AM »
Is this thread in any way OFFICIAL?

Maybe, maybe not. I'll have to check with the incredibly redundant Official Department of Officiality first.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

TomTX

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2014, 02:11:02 AM »
Is this thread in any way OFFICIAL?

Maybe, maybe not. I'll have to check with the incredibly redundant Official Department of Officiality first.

Make sure you send an Official Memo of Inquiry by Official Means. They're not big on just "checking" ;)
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I.P. Daley

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 09:13:32 AM »
MVNO Selection

For folks curious to know why I'm so very selective about what MVNOs I wholly approve of in the guide, I recommend you take a look at the latest failed MVNO trainwreck: PrepaYd Wireless.

The thing about it is, there was notice... but instead of doing right by their customers, they threatened lawsuits and didn't notify their customers of the impending shutdown until the day of. For the record, PrepaYd was on the market for less than three years.

When I select MVNOs for actual recommendation, I try to weigh their history, whether they're over-promising on the services they're providing at the prices listed compared to the competition and wholesale pricing, and if they have any unrealistic or dodgy business practices. PrepaYd didn't make the cut for multiple reasons, and now they're playing the blame game and are no more. Lost numbers, unhappy customers... it's ugly.

Even I have been burned when I'd suggested TalkForGood last year, but I learned my lesson. It's why I'm so hesitant about Selectel currently (even though they're on the "honorable mention" list), but they do appear to be genuinely active and expanding, which I hope is good news. They are, however, reaching the same critical cusp with Verizon's MVNO wholesaler program that wound up taking out TFG last year, which is a nine month and 5,000 subscriber deadline. I do genuinely hope they survive this hurdle, because we need a good, stable Verizon MVNO that isn't owned by Carlos Slim, and I don't see any of the other new Verizon MVNOs standing a snowball's chance in Hades of surviving. As such, anyone with Selectel currently? Keep a very close eye on the company and Prepaid Phone News moving forward. If you're currently considering Selectel, maybe hold off a month or two before taking the plunge.

When people mention Lycamobile, the first thing that pops into my mind is their insanely cheap per minute rates... too cheap, in fact one might be tempted to call it a loss-leader. The second thing that pops into my head are these employee comments over at Glassdoor. Yes, they may be established globally, but the US MVNO market's an odd duck, and it's hard to survive in the market unless you know what you're doing. Their pricing structure and advertising approach does not instill confidence in them knowing their market, and employee feedback (as sparse as it it) only reinforces that suspicion.

The point is, there is a great deal of research that I put into these companies, far more than most people realize. When I don't recommend or warn someone off of a company, it's for good reason. If a company does heavy datamining, then it demonstrates that they don't particularly care about their actual customers and only see them as a product and will treat them accordingly... without respect. When companies have draconian terms of service agreements with legal threats of massive financial damage without clear thresholds explaining what triggers that clusterjam, they're clearly over-promising on what they're selling, which is the worst sort of "unlimited" mobile provider you could get mixed up with. When you do business with an MVNO that's owned by an entrepreneur that's effectively created overpriced telecom monopolies all throughout Latin America, can you honestly say their American MVNO properties are going to do right by you as a customer? When you take the time to read their terms of service agreements, and listen to other customers who had them, it ceases to look like a good idea to hitch your wagon to them.

I know I've upset a few people over the years in these forums when I've shot back with these problems after they've enthusiastically come in praising these companies and the money they save. I'm genuinely sorry that your feelings were hurt, but I don't just point out these problems to piss people off. I point them out to help keep others from potentially making a mistake that they may pay for down the road... and I point them out to bring those problems to your attention as a customer as well, so that you may be better informed of the shortcomings and can prepare to better handle yourself if (when) things go sideways. Using MVNOs for your cellular provider does carry a slightly higher risk than dealing with the big four, PrepaYd is a good reminder of this fact... but it doesn't have to be skin of the teeth horror stories, either. There are good companies out there. Stable companies. If you're going to turn to MVNOs to save some money, I want to ensure you actually save some money instead of paying for that savings some other miserable way.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

Jamesqf

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2014, 04:32:50 PM »
Just a few small points that might be worth some expansion.

Ping time: my impression (though I wouldn't know how to go about actually measuring it) is that most web delay isn't in the connection, it's the server at the other end figuring out what to send you (which may include a lot of extraneous junk) and starting it on its way.  Infinite network speeds won't help this much.

Linux ISOs: Download the installer onto a thumb drive, and do a network boot, thus avoiding the download of lots of stuff that you don't plan to install.  Though I WISH that the packagers would someday figure out that I really don't need megabytes of Serbo-Croatian language support files.  Or Hungarian, Thai. or Simplified Chinese, either.

Staring into a light: Adobe Acrobat has a nice 'night mode', with white text on a black background.  Since most of what I read on the tablet are PDFs, this is a big help.  (Manuals & scientific papers are a great help for getting back to sleep when I wake at 3 AM...)

annann

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2014, 04:12:06 PM »
VOIPo and Airvoice

I want to say Thank You for all the information on phones.  It took me a long time to look at my options and decide what to do but I settled on VOIPo for my house phone and Airvoice Wireless for 3 cell phones.

The new VOIPo services is really good and eliminates nearly all the minute usage on 2 of the cell phones.  DH and I are using it whenever possible and only use cell phone minutes when we are both away from home or to call from the house to one of the cells.  It is amazing how few minutes we are using on the cell phones.  I selected Airvoice for a variety of reasons but I particularly like that the unused $ roll over when you do your refills.  We travel and expect to use up many of those minutes when away from home.

My sister (who lives near us) has the 3rd cell phone.  She does not have a house phone at all--she also does not have an internet connection.  But if she needs to make lots of calls, long calls, or thinks she may be on hold for a long time, she can come over and use our house phone.  She already comes when she needs to use the internet.  Her cell phone minute usage will be larger than ours but even if she doesn't change her usage (which she will) this new cell phone will not cost her more than the old one.

Monthly Costs

Old cell phone bill for three phones  $86.00.
New house phone is a bit less than $8.00
Two cells phones for DH and me $20.00
Third cell should run $10-$15

Also with our 2 phones that will roll over $8-$9 per month each, we can let my sister borrow them to run down some of the rollover $ periodically.  With rare exceptions, the only calls we have on our cells are calls to each other so lending her one doesn't keep us from getting our calls.  Meanwhile if we need to use her phone while she is using ours, we just let all her calls go to voice mail while just answering the few calls we make to each other.

I realize it isn't a huge savings but it feels good.  Also while doing all this I was frequently frustrated but now I am extremely pleased that I got through it and it was successful.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2014, 05:26:36 PM »
I am trying to decided between Tmobile and AIO Wireless for my wifes new phone.  Does anyone have any experience with either around Portland OR?  We are on AT&T now and AIO runs of that same network.  My main concern is the quality and reliability of Tmobile in my city.  The price of both are almost the same with a corporate discount on Tmobile. 

Thanks

engineerjourney

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2014, 09:46:47 PM »
So I just activated my first smartphone ever (I am using airvoice).  Can anyone point me towards a good resource for figuring out what apps use/are good?  I downloaded the facebook one then promptly deleted it because it kept trying to run in the background and connect and shit.  I won't be checking facebook on my phone unless I am connected to wireless so I think I will just use the freaking website!  This experience led me to trying to figure out what apps use data, ram, etc when you don't want them to and its soooooooo hard to get good answers. 
I want a way to make lists on my phone that works without access internet/data unless I randomly want to sync it to something like my computer. 
I would like a jigsaw puzzle game that also doesn't need internet/data to work.  This game would probably be enough to pass any down time I have where I am desperate for some entertainment. 
I am still looking into alternative texting apps and trying to figure out what my friends use or would be willing to use. 
Otherwise I really don't want or need much.  My last phone literally made calls and could text so I am so overwhelmed with what this low end smartphone can do (ended up with Blu Dash 4.5, which is plenty fast and powerful for my needs).  Any help with the above or even just a trustworthy resource for sorting through all the apps offered would be really useful to a newb like me.  Thanks!

I.P. Daley

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2014, 08:27:06 PM »
Just a few small points that might be worth some expansion.

Appreciate the feedback, James. All are good points that need a bit more fleshing out perhaps. I guess it goes on the to-do list. :)



I want to say Thank You for all the information on phones.  It took me a long time to look at my options and decide what to do but I settled on VOIPo for my house phone and Airvoice Wireless for 3 cell phones.

Glad to hear that you've been able to make the changes that you have. I know you've switched over to Airvoice already, but given the usage cited on your two core cellphones (not the sister's), you might want to research Pure TalkUSA for those two. $5/handset on their Simple plan gets you 50 minutes of talk time a month per handset, which will be half of what you're paying currently with Airvoice for basically the same monthly level of service. If your sister can get by with the Airvoice $10/month plan on her own phone without supplementing using yours (outside of VOIPo), that might be another $10/month in your pocket. Granted, it's not a huge thing, and having a bit of overkill doesn't hurt much; but if you're finding the Airvoice plans to be that much overkill already, it doesn't hurt to know about your alternative options outside of nothing at all.



I am trying to decided between Tmobile and AIO Wireless for my wifes new phone.

Why does it have to be only T-Mobile or Aio? If AT&T reception works for you, stick with an AT&T MVNO, but if the data habit can be curbed/controlled/kicked, there's far cheaper plans than Aio or T-Mo with your corporate discount... like through Airvoice for example.



Can anyone point me towards a good resource for figuring out what apps use/are good?

Onavo Count will help you identify the data hogs. Stuff like Evernote has offline data modes, as should there be options to restrict data access while on mobile data. The core guide on my site has plenty of application recommendations on SMS replacements and other miscellaneous bits here.

No comment on the puzzle game, outside of suggesting not to use your cellphone as an instant gratification boredom killer - sorry, "for entertainment". Develop some inner psychological badassitude and reap the rewards of mental creativity and personal growth, instead of overwhelming the senses with stimuli that overrides your thinking processes.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

annann

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2014, 07:51:29 PM »
Thanks for your reply.  I actually am surprised by how little we are using the cells.  I will wait to see how things go with my sister.  If we can save her some money by loaning her our phones then it will all work out really well.  If she learns to get all her calling accomplished with $10 a month on Airvoice plus using our home phone and we find that we can travel without using lots of cell phone minutes, then I will consider something that saves us a few more dollars.  When we travel we are nearly always with all our kids and most of our grandchildren and keeping in touch can take up a lot of phone minutes.

Also thank you so much for all this wonderful information.  It took me a lot of time to make decisions with all the help.  I doubt I would ever have moved to less expensive phone service without your help.

engineerjourney

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2014, 08:12:00 PM »
Can anyone point me towards a good resource for figuring out what apps use/are good?

Onavo Count will help you identify the data hogs. Stuff like Evernote has offline data modes, as should there be options to restrict data access while on mobile data. The core guide on my site has plenty of application recommendations on SMS replacements and other miscellaneous bits here.

No comment on the puzzle game, outside of suggesting not to use your cellphone as an instant gratification boredom killer - sorry, "for entertainment". Develop some inner psychological badassitude and reap the rewards of mental creativity and personal growth, instead of overwhelming the senses with stimuli that overrides your thinking processes.
Thanks!!  I feel really stupid but didn't find the default notepad and to-do list that comes with the android system until today... I didn't realize there was a button that showed more than the home page apps, sigh, learning curve.. And don't worry, I won't be relying on my phone for stimulation, a pet peeve of mine is people being buried in their phones while life and actual people exist around them :-)

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2014, 11:40:06 PM »
Thanks!!  I feel really stupid but didn't find the default notepad and to-do list that comes with the android system until today... I didn't realize there was a button that showed more than the home page apps, sigh, learning curve..

Yeah.  Damned things really need a decent user manual.

engineerjourney

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2014, 05:41:56 AM »
Yeah.  Damned things really need a decent user manual.
Glad I am not the only one that thinks so!  My coworkers are definitely laughing at my expense, since I am 26 (and they are around the same age as me) they don't understand how I spent the last 7 years without a smartphone!  I am trying to help them look into other providers since they brag about the 'great deal' they got through Verizon with our company discount... something like $100 for two lines! What a deal! Sigh.. I am so glad I found this forum and someone awesome like I. P. Daley helps out around here or I would be blindly following their example!

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2014, 12:36:39 PM »
...they don't understand how I spent the last 7 years without a smartphone!

Well, if it makes you feel better, I actually do have a dumb phone.  I don't even know if the tablet has phone hardware in it, since I mostly use it for reading stuff like papers & tech manuals, and just download them via WiFi,  But I'd still like an effing manual, just to get rid of things like "Parental Lock" :-(

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2014, 02:33:50 PM »
For those who followed the previous thread, I had MMS working on my iPhone 4S running iOS7.0.4 (and then 7.0.6) on Airvoice Wireless' $10 monthly plan.  Today, I upgraded to iOS 7.1 but am unable to get MMS working again.  I believe the included upgrade of the Carrier settings or Carrier profile (under Settings > General > About) from "AT&T 15.5" to "AT&T 16.0" has something to do with MMS no longer working.  No big deal since we have another iPhone still getting MMS on 7.0.6/Airvoice $30 plan but I wanted to share for those who do not want to lose MMS.

Of course, I am now looking for tips on how to get MMS back in iOS 7.1 :-(

geekette

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2014, 10:28:53 AM »
I was worried about that...

The old way of fixing it (here) no longer works? 

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2014, 12:00:30 PM »
No Geekette, the old way no longer seems to work. I wish I had waited but hopefully there is a way or possibly a jailbreak in the future. What a pain this is!

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2014, 09:45:34 AM »
Thanks so much for your hard work!  I recently switched from Straight Talk to H2O.  Before that, I was paying $60/month for GoPhone!!  Thanks to your guide, I discovered AirVoice's $10 250 minute plan which seems superior to H2O.  Once my current credit with H2O runs out, I will move to AirVoice.  I can't believe I went from paying $65/month after taxes+fees, now to less than $20/month.  I feel bad for everyone else still paying huge bills for postpaid service.

adam

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2014, 12:46:05 PM »
I just had my first problem with PTEL, which started at lunch and is currently ongoing.  Apparently someone turned off the internet while performing an update on the network.  So I have no network.  I asked if there was a notice for this that I missed, and the person I was chatting with in support said no, and they had no idea what was happening until it started happening.

So that's somewhat inconvenient.

On what I hope ends up being a positive note, I think I figured out how to configure the phone to correctly do MMS.  Not that it was a problem before, I would get a notice that someone tried sending me a picture and I would just text them back telling them to email it to me like a civilized person would.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2014, 09:04:50 PM »
@i.p. daley

FutureNine has a referral program.  Since a bunch of people will be forced to leave behind Google Voice soon and will likely be following whatever lead you provide, you should put up a referral link for your F9 account so we can "pay" you for all the work you've done on the SuperGuide and money you've saved us.  Maybe you can get free home phone service for a while.

http://www.future-nine.com/how-to.html#refprog


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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2014, 08:41:28 AM »
@i.p. daley

FutureNine has a referral program.  Since a bunch of people will be forced to leave behind Google Voice soon and will likely be following whatever lead you provide, you should put up a referral link for your F9 account so we can "pay" you for all the work you've done on the SuperGuide and money you've saved us.  Maybe you can get free home phone service for a while.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Tennis Maniac. The truth is, referral programs like this would probably be greatly beneficial to my own financial bottom line, but it's been a question I've wrestled with for quite a while. In reality, it's probably no different than the Amazon referral links I do for products that might help you save money...

...however, referrals on services with recurring bills is where I start having pangs of conscience. It's not that I don't believe in the companies I recommend, I clearly do. My concern is whether the integrity of my recommendation might be questioned once a referral program is placed in the mix, as there will always be the potential to ask the question, "Is he recommending them for the kickbacks or because it's actually a good company?" Granted, a referral payout system like F9's is a little different as I'm being comped service instead of a check with my name on it, but one could still ask the question.

The thing with the Amazon referrals boils down thusly: Amazon carries nearly everything, and I'm carefully picking items for referral income that are not always (and almost never) the most expensive, and it's a one-time cost. From my perspective, it is easier to keep my integrity visible to my readers with a setup such as this. To me, that dynamic changes when I start dealing with service providers directly with kickbacks, or through an outfit like Commission Junction. It even feels like participating in those programs borders on hypocrisy when I highlight the large referral payouts for services like StraighTalk and Republic Wireless as one of the reasons why you see so many "glowing" reviews from other bloggers where there's very little warranted given the realities and contracts of these providers.

I don't know, and I'm open to having my mind changed. If you and others here think I'm just being foolish with this approach, tell me why. If you see the logic to this approach, it'd also be nice to know I'm not just being hyper-critical to the concept. I've toyed with the idea of possibly providing referral and non-referral links right next to each other with these services, but I've been concerned about it possibly adding more confusion than integrity to the situation.

I'd be happy to hear yours and others thoughts on the subject.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 08:45:44 AM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

adam

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2014, 11:23:26 AM »
PTEL Data/MMS network is still down.

geekette

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2014, 11:31:44 AM »
Your help here is quite valuable, so I don't have the tiniest problem with you getting referral bonuses, especially if they're clearly labeled.

I'm trying to buy a cable modem right now (TWC lowered our price but added a modem lease fee - thanks so much).  I went to your shopping hut and found the SB 6121 brown box at $85, which is on TWC's list.  Searching around on Amazon, though, the SB 6121 retail box is currently a little cheaper, at $67.  Then there's the SB 6141 for $82. 

Or we could go old school and buy one identical to our current (leased for $6/month!) SB 4220 - for $10.

And google fiber may be coming our way in a couple years...
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 11:41:45 AM by geekette »

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2014, 11:44:54 AM »
PTEL Data/MMS network is still down.

That's curious, Adam. I've not had a single data interruption these past 24 hours that I've known of, and it is currently working for me (just disabled WiFi on my Nokia to confirm). I'm wondering if it's a regional issue for you, and possibly tied to T-Mobile maintenance in your area?
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

adam

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #25 on: March 19, 2014, 12:01:17 PM »
PTEL Data/MMS network is still down.

That's curious, Adam. I've not had a single data interruption these past 24 hours that I've known of, and it is currently working for me (just disabled WiFi on my Nokia to confirm). I'm wondering if it's a regional issue for you, and possibly tied to T-Mobile maintenance in your area?

This is all I've got:
Mar 19 11:32 AM

Adam

We have contacted our Host Network and been advised they are still working on a resolution. However they have not provided an exact time frame. We ask if may please wait an additional 24 hours.



I figured it was probably regional since I didn't see anything on the internet about TMobile shutting their network down.

edit: PTEL Facebook page put up this yesterday:
Quote
ATT: DATA/MMS services are currently delayed and/or experiencing issues.

We will update you once data is functioning normally again. At this time we do not have an exact ETA. We are waiting for our host network to resolve the issue as this is beyond our control. It seems to be affecting most subscribers on this same host network.

We sincerely apologize and appreciate your patience in this matter as we await a fix.

Thank you!
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 12:07:06 PM by adam »

I.P. Daley

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2014, 01:03:25 PM »
Your help here is quite valuable, so I don't have the tiniest problem with you getting referral bonuses, especially if they're clearly labeled.

I'm trying to buy a cable modem right now (TWC lowered our price but added a modem lease fee - thanks so much).  I went to your shopping hut and found the SB 6121 brown box at $85, which is on TWC's list.  Searching around on Amazon, though, the SB 6121 retail box is currently a little cheaper, at $67.  Then there's the SB 6141 for $82. 
And google fiber may be coming our way in a couple years...

I appreciate it, Geekette. I've also updated the Shopping Hut to list the now cheaper retail SB6121 (brown box used to be cheaper). The problem with the aStore is that you gotta stay on top of listings and availability. I'm not as good at that as I'd like to be. ;)



I figured it was probably regional since I didn't see anything on the internet about TMobile shutting their network down.

Well, it sounds like it's out of the hands of P'tel and it's being worked on, but I guess the moral of this story is that you just need to move to Oklahoma.





...I can't believe I just typed that, even jokingly.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2014, 01:26:54 PM »
Lack of emoticons may make this a little more difficult to get across but:

. .
__



lol

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #28 on: March 19, 2014, 08:09:24 PM »
@i.p. daley

FutureNine has a referral program.  Since a bunch of people will be forced to leave behind Google Voice soon and will likely be following whatever lead you provide, you should put up a referral link for your F9 account so we can "pay" you for all the work you've done on the SuperGuide and money you've saved us.  Maybe you can get free home phone service for a while.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Tennis Maniac. The truth is, referral programs like this would probably be greatly beneficial to my own financial bottom line, but it's been a question I've wrestled with for quite a while. In reality, it's probably no different than the Amazon referral links I do for products that might help you save money...

...however, referrals on services with recurring bills is where I start having pangs of conscience. It's not that I don't believe in the companies I recommend, I clearly do. My concern is whether the integrity of my recommendation might be questioned once a referral program is placed in the mix, as there will always be the potential to ask the question, "Is he recommending them for the kickbacks or because it's actually a good company?" Granted, a referral payout system like F9's is a little different as I'm being comped service instead of a check with my name on it, but one could still ask the question.

The thing with the Amazon referrals boils down thusly: Amazon carries nearly everything, and I'm carefully picking items for referral income that are not always (and almost never) the most expensive, and it's a one-time cost. From my perspective, it is easier to keep my integrity visible to my readers with a setup such as this. To me, that dynamic changes when I start dealing with service providers directly with kickbacks, or through an outfit like Commission Junction. It even feels like participating in those programs borders on hypocrisy when I highlight the large referral payouts for services like StraighTalk and Republic Wireless as one of the reasons why you see so many "glowing" reviews from other bloggers where there's very little warranted given the realities and contracts of these providers.

I don't know, and I'm open to having my mind changed. If you and others here think I'm just being foolish with this approach, tell me why. If you see the logic to this approach, it'd also be nice to know I'm not just being hyper-critical to the concept. I've toyed with the idea of possibly providing referral and non-referral links right next to each other with these services, but I've been concerned about it possibly adding more confusion than integrity to the situation.

I'd be happy to hear yours and others thoughts on the subject.

F9's referral program requires that you pay for the service; therefore you can't benefit from the referrals unless you actually use the service.  I guess you could use that particular service solely because, through referrals, it could be free to you, but why would you use the service if it wasn't good?  Especially a phone service.  MMM provides affiliate links to credit cards and gets a kickback.  I personally don't see the conscience problem if you put a disclaimer as MMM does regarding you benefiting from the referral link.  Post a question in the MMM questions forum and see what sort of response you get.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #29 on: March 24, 2014, 07:55:19 PM »
F9's referral program requires that you pay for the service; therefore you can't benefit from the referrals unless you actually use the service.  I guess you could use that particular service solely because, through referrals, it could be free to you, but why would you use the service if it wasn't good?  Especially a phone service.  MMM provides affiliate links to credit cards and gets a kickback.  I personally don't see the conscience problem if you put a disclaimer as MMM does regarding you benefiting from the referral link.
Just as an FYI for everybody, if you go to Daley's website (linked in his signature at the bottom of each post), you'll see his "Donate" button clearly available in the right-hand sidebar.  I've used it; so should you :-)  It's simpler than a referral kickback, and it's worth more.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #30 on: March 24, 2014, 08:32:37 PM »
I have succumbed into the sirens of adulthood, and have made the conscious decision of purchasing my first own television set. I'm looking for a "best bang for your buck" buy.

It needs at least one HDMI port, a flat-ish screen, and around 40-50 inches of diagonal, preferably with colors. I am ready to wait a couple months for a price drop if necessary. There were 80 inch monstrosities selling at the store for $2,000+ last week, maybe that means that a 50 inch can be had for under $400 by Christmas?

1080p is preferred because I may use it as a computer monitor from time to time. Wifi and other "smart" features are of no interest at all to me.

I've read the wire cutter's cheap TV guide, but this site has a tendency to recommend the higher end products for no reason other than "more 5 star reviews on amazon".

How do I educate myself on the subject?

@Daley, does appending "/?tag=techmeshugana-20" to any amazon url automatically gets you some dollars, or do you need to create them manually somehow?

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #31 on: March 24, 2014, 08:42:19 PM »
Heya folks! Update on the whole Future Nine thing: I exchanged a few words with Nitzan over at F9 over the weekend, and I've decided to go ahead and set up on the whole referral thing with them (and only them for the foreseeable future).

I was also reminded to mention the trial Future 5 package they have offered on new account sign-up (which, honestly, slid under my radar - I don't read the DSLR forums as often as I should).

Quote from: Nitzan Kon
[Future9] Introducing Future 5 - unlimited* service for $5/mo ($60/year).

Hi all,

Following the discussion and great points many of you made (»[Future9] Seeking input/opinions on a new plan..) we have decided to go ahead and launch this plan on a trial basis. If the trial succeeds (financially speaking) we will keep this plan as a permanent option, otherwise we will stop offering it - but existing users will be grandfathered at this price.

What's included:
* Unlimited residential service to the US and Canada - up to 4000 minutes/month (2000 incoming, 2000 outgoing)
* Unused minutes from the last 2 months will offset any overages in the current month
* Minutes beyond the limit will be billed at regular rates (usually 1c/min)
* Incoming Caller ID name included
* Outgoing Caller ID name included, but only in CA/PA/VA/WV/DE/MD.
* Voicemail and all other "standard" features included
* E911 available at an additional cost ($5 setup, then $1/month)

To sign up, please follow these steps:
1. Sign up at »www.future-nine.com/A2BCustomer_UI/signup/ - choose the Future 5 plan at signup.
2. Add $60 to your account - this is a yearly plan.
3. Order a new phone number, or port one in (additional $20 fee applies).
4. BYOD users welcome, but if you do not already own an adapter you can order one for $40 (shipping included). Orders for friends/family also welcome as the adapters come pre-configured.

Terms and conditions:
* Available for new accounts only at this point. Existing accounts not eligible for this offer.
* This plan is intended for individual/family use - business use not allowed. Occasional small-business use allowed but if the majority of your calls are business this plan is not for you.

For anyone interested, my F9 referral link is here.

He also brought up some interesting privacy concerns with the Obihai ATAs, which I'm going to dive into deeper as time permits.

There's also been rumblings and speculation about Google Voice and questions being raised about DID numbers used with and ported into their system after the May deadline. It's all rumors, of course, but it always is when a Google product gets retooled or put on the chopping block. This whole loss of XMPP interoperability might be a bigger change to the service than many people are expecting, and people might want to start considering porting their numbers out sooner than later if the numbers are important. Just keep in mind that Bandwidth.com (the parent company of Republic Wireless and the CLEC of Google Voice) tend to drag their feet on unlocking numbers for porting out by up to 3-4 business days, which can complicate number porting drastically, and the closer we get to the May deadline, the worse it's going to get. Remember, GV has zero tech support, so there's a chance you could lose your DID and your money to port out.

I'll refrain from an "I told you so" chorus on this one, because I've drug my feet on giving money to Google to port my own DIDs out these past two years.



F9's referral program requires that you pay for the service; therefore you can't benefit from the referrals unless you actually use the service.  I guess you could use that particular service solely because, through referrals, it could be free to you, but why would you use the service if it wasn't good?  Especially a phone service.  MMM provides affiliate links to credit cards and gets a kickback.  I personally don't see the conscience problem if you put a disclaimer as MMM does regarding you benefiting from the referral link.
Just as an FYI for everybody, if you go to Daley's website (linked in his signature at the bottom of each post), you'll see his "Donate" button clearly available in the right-hand sidebar.  I've used it; so should you :-)  It's simpler than a referral kickback, and it's worth more.

Thanks, Kevan!
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 09:16:54 PM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #32 on: March 24, 2014, 09:00:55 PM »
I have succumbed into the sirens of adulthood, and have made the conscious decision of purchasing my first own television set. I'm looking for a "best bang for your buck" buy.

It needs at least one HDMI port, a flat-ish screen, and around 40-50 inches of diagonal, preferably with colors. I am ready to wait a couple months for a price drop if necessary. There were 80 inch monstrosities selling at the store for $2,000+ last week, maybe that means that a 50 inch can be had for under $400 by Christmas?

1080p is preferred because I may use it as a computer monitor from time to time. Wifi and other "smart" features are of no interest at all to me.

I've read the wire cutter's cheap TV guide, but this site has a tendency to recommend the higher end products for no reason other than "more 5 star reviews on amazon".

How do I educate myself on the subject?

@Daley, does appending "/?tag=techmeshugana-20" to any amazon url automatically gets you some dollars, or do you need to create them manually somehow?

Usually, the same LCD panel manufacturers you'll trust on the computer monitor end, you'll probably want to skew towards on the TV front, so your Samsungs, your LGs, etc. I've heard a few nice things about the smaller Vizios, but we're personally still rocking a 27" Philips NTSC CRT, so I haven't bought one.

The biggest problem (at any size now) is going to be planned obsolescence and shoddy manufacturing. For those reasons alone, I'd ask how important that 40"+ screen size truly is. I know people love the whole theater experience, but is this going to be an entertainment device or a holy shrine dedicated to Hollywood in the center of your living room? If you aim at the 30"-40", you're going to get better prices that will hurt less when these things die. There's also going to be a bigger selection of cheaper open-box/refurb jobs on this end of the size scale. There's also other positive things about going with a sub-40" screen: less eyestrain. The bigger the screen, the more your eyes have to move to keep up with the action. There's plenty of 1080p screens in this size range, and the pixel density will make it a more effective computer monitor at closer ranges. Just something to mull on.

As to your question regarding Amazon referrals, technically yes. Usually, here's how I structure the URL links with the shortened URL:

Code: [Select]
http://amzn.com/ASINXXXXXX/?tag=techmeshugana-20
It should work on the longer URLs, too.

Thanks for the consideration!
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 09:14:45 PM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #33 on: March 25, 2014, 07:11:33 PM »
Cool, I have a few large-ish purchases planned and would love for you to get a piece of the action.

I tend to agree with you with not giving tv such a big place in our lives, but I admit that I'm a sucker for good drama series and love the big screen. I will try my best to remain at or below 40 inches, though.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2014, 10:24:31 AM »
I have succumbed into the sirens of adulthood, and have made the conscious decision of purchasing my first own television set. I'm looking for a "best bang for your buck" buy.

It needs at least one HDMI port, a flat-ish screen, and around 40-50 inches of diagonal, preferably with colors. I am ready to wait a couple months for a price drop if necessary. There were 80 inch monstrosities selling at the store for $2,000+ last week, maybe that means that a 50 inch can be had for under $400 by Christmas?

1080p is preferred because I may use it as a computer monitor from time to time. Wifi and other "smart" features are of no interest at all to me.

I've read the wire cutter's cheap TV guide, but this site has a tendency to recommend the higher end products for no reason other than "more 5 star reviews on amazon".

How do I educate myself on the subject?

@Daley, does appending "/?tag=techmeshugana-20" to any amazon url automatically gets you some dollars, or do you need to create them manually somehow?

We've been quite happy with this TV.  In fact, a friend of ours went out and bought one after seeing ours.

http://www.amazon.com/LG-Electronics-42LN5400-42-Inch-LED-LCD/dp/B00BB9ORUS

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #35 on: March 29, 2014, 12:14:26 PM »
Router troubleshooting, anyone?  I have a TrendNet TEW-630GR (had it for years).  Worked ok up until a couple of days ago, when the machines on wired connections started giving "network unreachable" message.  Can't even access the router itself, or ping it at 192.168.10.1.  However, I can still use it through the WiFi on my tablet.

So is this something that could be fixable?  (And if so, how?)  Or should I just get a new router?

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #36 on: March 30, 2014, 10:40:11 AM »
In switching to AIO, I cancelled my AT&T service back in February.  I cancelled mid-cycle for that month.  Generally when I've done this in the past, I've been refunded for the days of service I didn't use. 

This time, however, I received no check.  I called AT&T and the rep told me that if you cancel mid-month (even though I'm not under contract), that there is no pro-rated refund given.

Is this true?  It seems a change in policy as I've received a check from them before.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #37 on: March 30, 2014, 04:31:00 PM »
Router troubleshooting, anyone?  I have a TrendNet TEW-630GR (had it for years).  Worked ok up until a couple of days ago, when the machines on wired connections started giving "network unreachable" message.  Can't even access the router itself, or ping it at 192.168.10.1.  However, I can still use it through the WiFi on my tablet.

So is this something that could be fixable?  (And if so, how?)  Or should I just get a new router?

Have you tried doing a hard or factory reset on the device? I'm having difficulty finding a manual for your model exactly, but I suspect the 30/30/30 method would probably work as it does with most routers, stock or third party firmware loaded. If it doesn't recover from the reset to where you can reconfigure it, it's probably dead... but something in my gut's telling me a hard reset and a firmware patch to the latest security release might get you rolling again.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #38 on: March 30, 2014, 05:25:11 PM »
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here.

I've finally decided to go with Future9 for our home phone (1 line) but now don't know what device to go with. In a previous post it was said there's privacy concerns with the Obihai device and in the above link it's said that even the most expensive option is going to break down eventually. How long is "eventually"? It will kind of ruin the cost savings if a new device needs to be purchased every year.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #39 on: March 30, 2014, 05:30:54 PM »
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here.

I've finally decided to go with Future9 for our home phone (1 line) but now don't know what device to go with. In a previous post it was said there's privacy concerns with the Obihai device and in the above link it's said that even the most expensive option is going to break down eventually. How long is "eventually"? It will kind of ruin the cost savings if a new device needs to be purchased every year.

My old, refurbished Linksys PAP2-NA gave me three years. The current Grandstream HT286 is on its second year and still going strong (excuse a bauble earlier in the month that wasn't entirely its fault). Conservatively with even the cheapest built stuff, figure at least 2-3 years. Longer if you have it parked behind a UPS.
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BearDown

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #40 on: March 30, 2014, 05:55:16 PM »
Quote
The companion page, Home Telephone Equipment can be found here.

I've finally decided to go with Future9 for our home phone (1 line) but now don't know what device to go with. In a previous post it was said there's privacy concerns with the Obihai device and in the above link it's said that even the most expensive option is going to break down eventually. How long is "eventually"? It will kind of ruin the cost savings if a new device needs to be purchased every year.

My old, refurbished Linksys PAP2-NA gave me three years. The current Grandstream HT286 is on its second year and still going strong (excuse a bauble earlier in the month that wasn't entirely its fault). Conservatively with even the cheapest built stuff, figure at least 2-3 years. Longer if you have it parked behind a UPS.

In that case, I'll just follow the reviews and go with the OBi100.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #41 on: April 01, 2014, 11:37:05 AM »
Have you tried doing a hard or factory reset on the device? I'm having difficulty finding a manual for your model exactly, but I suspect the 30/30/30 method would probably work as it does with most routers, stock or third party firmware loaded.

The 30/30/30 worked!  I'm surprised, as I can't see how soft/firmware could cause a problem like that (but I'm certainly no expert).  Now for the fun stuff: resetting the WiFi security and typing in the damned MAC->IP address table.  I've saved this to a file, but the reload function never works :-)

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #42 on: April 03, 2014, 04:30:34 PM »
So I ordered a UPS the other day. This is the least cumbersome way I found to plug in both my router and modem on the battery-backed strip (the left strip is battery backed, the right is only surge-protected):



Grmph, stupid little rectangles getting in the way. At least I have no use for the ethernet sockets that are blocked by the top unit.

Can I safely daisy chain both items on a dedicated power strip to free up some space on the UPS or is that a big no no?

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #43 on: April 03, 2014, 05:03:43 PM »
Can I safely daisy chain both items on a dedicated power strip to free up some space on the UPS or is that a big no no?

That's what I did on my end for the networking equipment, it was the only way I could get all the wall warts plugged in.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #44 on: April 03, 2014, 05:09:22 PM »
The 30/30/30 worked!

Excellent to hear! While you're setting everything back up, you might want to check for a firmware update for the thing. IIRC, Trendnet was one of the many router manufacturers with some security vulnerabilities in their firmware these past few months. I know they've had vulnerability issues on a lot of their networked security cameras over the years as well. Might not hurt to check and see if your router maybe supports DD-WRT and migrate to it instead.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #45 on: April 13, 2014, 04:01:07 PM »
I want to say Thank You for all the information on phones.  It took me a long time to look at my options and decide what to do but I settled on VOIPo for my house phone and Airvoice Wireless for 3 cell phones.

Glad to hear that you've been able to make the changes that you have. I know you've switched over to Airvoice already, but given the usage cited on your two core cellphones (not the sister's), you might want to research Pure TalkUSA for those two. $5/handset on their Simple plan gets you 50 minutes of talk time a month per handset, which will be half of what you're paying currently with Airvoice for basically the same monthly level of service. If your sister can get by with the Airvoice $10/month plan on her own phone without supplementing using yours (outside of VOIPo), that might be another $10/month in your pocket. Granted, it's not a huge thing, and having a bit of overkill doesn't hurt much; but if you're finding the Airvoice plans to be that much overkill already, it doesn't hurt to know about your alternative options outside of nothing at all.


A brief follow-up.  My sister is using less than $10 per month.  She occasionally comes to use my VOIP phone especially if she thinks she may be placed "on hold".  She is naturally frugal and is finding it fairly easy to keep her usage down.  The fact that she can add $10 anytime means if something comes up that burns a lot of minutes, it just means she refills early.  Also with the roll-over on minutes she is actually banking some minutes for future needs.

DH and I are not using very many minutes.  I am going to wait a few more month just to be sure we are OK but then I am going to keep one of the $10/month phones with rollover so we will have it for traveling or if the internet goes out and the VOIP phone is not available.  Airvoice also has a $10 pay as you go that gives you 100 minutes for 90 days.  That is 33 minutes a month for $3.33.  We are not using even 33 minutes a month so that will cost us $40 a year versus $120 a year or an $80 savings.

I told my nephew about out new phone plans and he did 2 things.  First he cancelled his home phone because he really did not use it at all--savings=$30 a month.  Then he ported his AT&T cell phone number to Airvoice on the $30 per month unlimited plan.  As he uses no text or data--it is more than enough.  His old plan was $50 a month=savings $20 a month.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #46 on: April 14, 2014, 03:24:06 AM »
DH and I are not using very many minutes.  I am going to wait a few more month just to be sure we are OK but then I am going to keep one of the $10/month phones with rollover so we will have it for traveling or if the internet goes out and the VOIP phone is not available.  Airvoice also has a $10 pay as you go that gives you 100 minutes for 90 days.  That is 33 minutes a month for $3.33.  We are not using even 33 minutes a month so that will cost us $40 a year versus $120 a year or an $80 savings.

I told my nephew about out new phone plans and he did 2 things.  First he cancelled his home phone because he really did not use it at all--savings=$30 a month.  Then he ported his AT&T cell phone number to Airvoice on the $30 per month unlimited plan.  As he uses no text or data--it is more than enough.  His old plan was $50 a month=savings $20 a month.

Just a note on that PAYG plan with Airvoice: There is a $1 per month maintenance fee, so you're technically only getting 23 minutes a month for that $3.33 (effectively 14.3¢/minute/text). When you do the math, there's only a $1.67/month difference between $3.33 and $5 (a true 10¢/minute with 3.3¢/text rates), which brings us back to my PureTalk suggestion. If you're spending the money, you might as well get the most bang for the buck. Use the $5 PureTalk plan on the one line you want to switch to Airvoice PAYG, and switch to the Airvoice PAYG plan on the phone you're wanting to do the Airvoice $10/month plan on to build minutes with. If each phone is using less than 33 minutes, you could probably shift most mobile minute usage onto the single PureTalk 50 minute plan and just let the balance build with the other phone and/or only change Airvoice plans to the larger package as needed.

Your method - baseline $160/year for two cellphones ($10/mo. + $3.33/mo. Airvoice)
My proposed method - baseline $100/year for two cellphones ($5/mo. PureTalk, $3.33/mo. Airvoice)
Added savings of $5/month or $60/year.

...or you could switch both Airvoice phones to their PAYG plan, and just bank the extra minutes buying the $30 top-up first, and either add $30, $20 or $10 top-ups after that point until you have the rolling cushion you're after, or just switch between plans as needed when you travel. Buying a $30, a $20 and $10 credit would give you a year of service for $60 with 510 minutes (11.8¢/minute). Even with 30 min/mo. usage, that still gives you an extra 2.5 hours of talk time banked a year per phone.

Of course, you're truly hitting diminishing returns at this point. There is such a thing as over-optimization, just as there is wasting money on something you don't actually need. Your cell usage is straddling that fine line of need versus want. I mention it again only as a point of consideration to ponder on and present some additional lateral thinking on the subject.

Anyway, fantastic news about the nephew! Thanks for the update.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #47 on: April 15, 2014, 12:31:28 PM »
So I ordered a UPS the other day. This is the least cumbersome way I found to plug in both my router and modem on the battery-backed strip (the left strip is battery backed, the right is only surge-protected):



Grmph, stupid little rectangles getting in the way. At least I have no use for the ethernet sockets that are blocked by the top unit.

Can I safely daisy chain both items on a dedicated power strip to free up some space on the UPS or is that a big no no?

You can buy (or make, but buying is probably cheaper than buying the components) 1 foot long extension cords for this very purpose.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #48 on: April 15, 2014, 12:36:40 PM »
Hey Daley-

Do you know anything about "BYO Wireless"? They're apparently a startup out of Alabama. www.byowireless.com

I have my step-son's old iPhone working through them right now - no data, 100 texts, 100 minutes - for $5 a month. With a $5 off code for your first month at the moment, so it's free. Plus free phone (well, already paid for phone anyway.)

There aren't a lot of carriers willing to do a smart phone without a data plan that I've found - especially not a Verizon iPhone.

I guess they're risky - only opened the doors October 2013.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #49 on: April 15, 2014, 10:07:56 PM »
Do you know anything about "BYO Wireless"? They're apparently a startup out of Alabama.
...
I guess they're risky - only opened the doors October 2013.

Familiar with them, and actually they've only been operational as an MVNO since December 2013, if I recall correctly. The biggest gamble with new Verizon MVNOs is that they have a deadline with a minimum subscriber count to remain operational. Verizon MVNOs are a revolving door of flash-in-the-pan providers who come and go with a predictable nine month cycle. As it stands, Selectel may be the first to survive the initial hump in a long, long time. Search the forums for "Talk4Good" for a bit more info.

This isn't to say that I don't want to see BYO Wireless survive... I really do. Verizon needs more MVNOs other than Page Plus, but Verizon tries really hard not to let that happen.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.